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flexibility versus progression, how to reconcile?

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One game design aspect I've been struggling with is how flexible to make the Character Class selection.   In my case, the Character Class is not Druid, Mage etc but rather which Starship class (Scout, Frigate, etc).


The initial version of the game is 2 teams of 20 players each, it is a 2d space combat MOBA game for mobile inspired by League of Legends and Netrek.


The design issue is that I am trying to support two goals that seem to contradict to some degree. 


#1 - flexibly : Players should be able to join and leave a game in progress at will, as well as choose any Starship class they want (as long as it is available for their race, and isn't a unique slot that is already taken such as the Starbase).   (eg: Netrek, TF2) 


#2 - progression : (eg MOBAs/LoL) :  you will be able to level up during the game, as well as increase your abilities through items over time.


Should you be allowed to start as a one Class (for example a Scout), and later in the game change your class to another (a Frigate)?   Netrek allows you to do this by Retrofitting at no cost on your home base and it works fine, LoL doesn't allow this.


Should new players who join the game exactly inherit the previous players Character Class and items?  


Should I allow players in the game to retrofit to another Character Class?



Here's my current thinking on these:


 - During the game, any player can retrofit to another starship type, but only at home base and only by selling all their items first (which in many cases they would want to do anyway to get items more suitable for their new starship type).   However, selling items is done at the typical discount versus buying a new item of 20%.    So if you had 8,000 minerals worth of items before, once you liquidate them you will have an empty inventory with 6,400 minerals.    Also, they lose 10% of their Experience Points (which may reduce their level slightly).


 - The same math applies to a new player who joins the game.  The player begins the game with an empty inventory, and their minerals that are available for them to spend on items are whatever the previous player had worth of items minus 20%.  They will start with 10% less XP than the previous player.



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I feel that you could separate the starship class and the ability to pilot a given class of starship.


The skillset to pilot a starship would be different from class to class, thus a player should work to improve other skills to pilot another class of starship.


Then the player would have a cargo bay allowing to park a limited number of starships.

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You've hit something important here:

There are many choices and there is no "best" solution, there may not even be a satisfying one, or it may be even the wrong problem to solve. All you can get here is an opinion of a user.

The reason why there is no clear good choice is, you are not sure where to go with the game, what effects these decisions have, or even both. Don't be ashamed for that, I am not too sure what effects your current solutions have either, that's why probably neither of us is a professional game developer.

You can get a clearer and maybe better solution if you analyse those two things, but I am not sure it is the right problem to solve.


A MOBA game's core aestetic is competition, the core reason why somebody plays such a game. On the other hand, most good mobile games I know of are more towards casual gaming. Which they kind of need to be with the limited human input and in general shorter play sittings than a Console/PC game.

So bringing a hardcore competitive game to casual gaming is where I think you are struggling at. If it is too casual, it may be not the experience you envisioned. If it is too much like a moba game, it's not suitable for a mobile game.


I guess you are envisioning a LoL on mobiles with a different setting. This is probably impossible with the current mobile devices and it's playerbase.

Maybe a good way to start this is to think of how you can bring competition in casual gaming, something a player will probably only play 10 minutes in one sitting.

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You understand the problem completely, as you say this relates to a more fundamental issue of casual versus competitive gaming.


I'll admit I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too here.   In addition to the important issues you raise in terms of hardcore-ness, overall, the mobile platform is currently by far much more a venue for casual gaming than competitive gaming.   I do want my game to be a casual game first, and competitive second -- but still to support competitive play as it is a MOBA after all.   I'm trying to thread the needle here, making the game somewhat more casual than LoL but ideally that retains decent competitive play potential.


One other idea I'll throw out (also inspired by LoL) is to support another game mode.  Much like LoL supports a Draft mode, as well as a separate Ranked mode (which is draft but your ELO is visible), I was thinking of supporting Ranked games too (eventually, not for the initial release).


Ranked games would involve the Admirals, upon game start, taking turns picking the various Starships.  Unlike Normal game mode, in Ranked game mode there will be heavy penalties for leaving the game (say 5 games lost).  Players who leave the game leave their team down 1 slot, which with 20 slots is not as bad as when 1 player out of your 5 in LoL leaves but still not good.  Alternatively, a replacement player could join the game in progress as long as they owned the exact Starship that was missing, but this opens up a can on worms (the initial concern being how to calculate ELO fairly for players who only partially play a game, the second being the complexities involved in Queuing).



During the Ranked draft process that occurs at the beginning of the game, Admirals' choices would be limited by what starships players on their team owned (purchased with actual money/currency), but I would imagine most players playing these kinds of Ranked games would probably own many of the Starships, just as in LoL people playing ranked games invariably own at least half the champions.  


Good feedback, thanks!







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<p>Why dont you split the game into two modes, one where there are replacements for leaving players and one where there arent. The second could be used for competitive gaming and the first for casual. It should only require for an aditional queue and disabling the posibility of a player joining mid game. If you leave in the no replacement mode there should be a penalization though (ELO, time before you can play again in that mode, reputation, w/e).</p>
<p>Edit: you could use reputation to sort the queue making higher reputation players to be placed in-game faster. (just a thought)</p> Edited by Gava

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