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coute21

Cool Feature to Add a Little Challenge or Pain in the Buttocks

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Hello GameDev people. I'm new here. I signed up because I'm getting into game designing and I had a question that I wanted to discuss with people.

 

Alright. What do you guys think qualifies as a fun / interesting feature about a game that really isn't or barely beneficial to the player (but mostly detrimental) just added to create some challenge to the game? (You know as opposed to a feature that is just a pain in the butt that people will want to hack / patch the game to remove.)

 

An example will help explain what I mean here more easily. Like in the Dragon Age games, after a character was defeated in battle, they would pop back up again and start regaining their health if you manage to defeat all the enemies around you. However, they'd have an injury that lowered their stats or hindered their battling abilities in some way. (At least think this is an accurate description, it's been a while.)

 

You can easily remove the injury with an injury-removal potion (or something) or take them somewhere in the city to have them healed or something (I forget). But if you don't have any of these methods available, the injuries just start piling up if they keep getting beaten and they become more and more inept at killing things.

 

Do you think this is a good idea or do you think that they should have just made the battles harder to add more challenge and dropped this pain in the butt feature? What features like these do you think make good challenges and which should just be left out because they don't add anything and just inconvenience the player?

 

I know there's probably no right answer for this; I just want your opinions about some general rules on how to decide what challenges people will like and what they'll want to kick you in the nuts for.

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If there is no failure penalty, there is little sense of fulfillment on success.  Knowing that you AVOIDED the penalty is a great reward.  Using the example you cited, I thought the idea of injuries in Dragon Age was great.  If all players just resurrected after fights with no consequences the player would have no motivation to keep them alive.  With that system, you move low health players away from the fight or try to heal them.  It makes surviving fights without any KOs much more rewarding.

 

Of course, like everything in life, the key is finding the sweet spot for player punishment.  Sometimes just having to reload a game is punishment enough and sometimes you need to go full Dark Souls and make the player want to throw her console out the window.

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I wonder, if you're unfortunate enough to have no ability to be healed and you keep acquiring injuries, what happens when you're in the middle of nowhere unable to avoid combat and you are completely useless against anything around you?

If all it takes to heal an injury is a potion, what's the point when I just make sure I carry them with me wherever I go? Or if I run out and the injury is in the way of enjoying the game, why not just reload?

I haven't played Dragon Age but I played Fallout: New Vegas and I selected the mode where you had to either have a doctors kit on you to heal a major injury or you talked to a doctor somewhere. I don't remember it being fun or really adding much to the game. What I do remember most was putting up with the blinding (and annoying) effects of a concussion over and over. I don't really remember limping around with a broken leg or dealing with a broken arm. I don't remember if that's just because those happened rarely and I'd just heal right away or if those injuries made the game so difficult or unplayable that I would just reload if I didn't have a doctor's kit.

I say that if you're going to have a system that involves injuries, you have to make sure that the game doesn't become unplayable or too annoying and you have to make sure that the player is generally ok with coping with the injuries until such time they can be looked after (or can otherwise replace the character depending on your game). I'd also recommend against treatment options to become so mundane that any injuries become irrelevant because they're so easy to deal with.

Maybe one way to deal with this is to expand your options for treatment such that you don't always have the same treatment option available but you have something that you can do for the time being. For example, maybe you run out of bandages but can somehow sacrifice your uniform or armor to make bandages, the sterility of which may or may not be an issue. Maybe leaves from a tree make a good bandage and actually have healing properties or maybe they irritate the wound further. Maybe a splint you need for a broken bone isn't available but you could lash together something using weapons you have on hand (making them unusable for combat).

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I have to say the majority of features you add to a game that you've never experienced yourself (other then in your mind). You won't know the greatness of the idea until you prototype the idea. If you're eloquent enough you might find someone you can pitch the idea to and get feedback enough to know if the feature is worth creating a prototype. Otherwise just keep spinning it around in your head while you build it. Pretty sure if you ask the Egyptian that designed Senet, they'd tell you that they had to play plenty of times with stones in the sand before spending the time carving a proper board. 

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I was just using the injury debuff in Dragon Age as an example but you guys do bring up good points. I personally don't see the system as bad or needing to be removed but like kseh pointed out, it mostly affects the people that are not very good at the game. The players who're bad at the game find the battles getting harder and harder as they go on because of the injuries their party members are sustaining. Those who are good at the game don't have this problem. Even if a member in their party does go down, they can just bring up their menu and use one of the potions that they picked up earlier from a drop. Since this player doesn't use them often, he/she has plenty stored up. They usually don’t even have to buy a single one of these potions throughout the whole game. So the system presents a lot of additional challenge for the unskilled or unexperienced player but poses as just a minor annoyance (having to bring up the inventory in the rare event one of their party is defeated) to the good or experienced players.

 

Now addressing what RedBaron5 said, one could argue that there is already enough incentive to keep party members in the battle. When one of them goes down, many battles become much harder or impossible to beat, especially on the harder difficulties. This incentive is apparent for both the unexperienced and experienced players. The question is whether there needs to be more incentive and the type of incentive that the injury system provides and whether that adds something positive to the experience. It obviously has added something positive to RedBaron5's experience and that's great but when designing games you have to think about all your players as a whole, no? There are also other, positive alternative options for adding incentive to and providing better satisfaction when you keep all characters alive that could have been implemented, such as an EXP or gold bonus or maybe a small increase in the relationship bar for all party members...wait no, that's a horrible idea as some players actually want to get certain characters to hate them. But you get my point.

 

In my opinion, the injury system would have been better left out of the normal and easy difficulties and implemented only in the harder difficulties. People who play on the harder difficulties are more likely to be experienced players that like to sit paused before a battle and plan out the best course of action before proceeding. Adding injuries to that mix and reducing the number of potion drops or making it more difficult to get them adds more incentive to keeping the characters alive and would add additional challenge to people that want to be challenged. Then the less experienced player or the casual player who just wants to rush into every battle, spam their party's best moves, and never even touch the "set traps" button in their thieves' arsenal won't be hindered by the injury system in the normal and easy difficulty.

Again, this is just my humble opinion and how I'd have done it had I had such decision making power over the game. The people at BioWare are waaay better designers than I am.

 

It is a challenge indeed to decide whether or not to implement a punishment feature and how to handle it so that it does not take fun away from the game. You could argue that some games do not have these kind of features at all. I would say the Sims doesn't really have any punishment systems. Sure, a character can die if you don't feed him but plenty of people set their characters on fire and kill them intentionally. Since you make up your own goals for that game, you make up your own punishments too! If a player's goal is to collect one hundred gravestones then a lot of the apparent challenges in that game become assets for achieving that goal. And no one can say that that player’s goals are less valid than any other player’s.

 

There’s also a game on DS called Fossil Fighters that I’d like to use as an example. I don’t know if any of you have played it though; it’s aimed at small children. Although the game is overall very easy a few of the battles can be challenging. However there is only on negative “punishment” feature in the entire game: breaking fossils. If you find a rare fossil, you can completely ruin it if you are not careful when cleaning it. This is especially devastating with rare fossils. The designers could have done several things with this feature. They could have gave you a second chance to clean the fossil (I don’t remember 100% but I’m pretty sure you could not re-do fossil cleaning in that game), removed the feature all together, or they could have given you positive incentives for cleaning the fossil instead. (Again I’m not saying that they should have done any of these things nor am I saying I don’t like this feature or that it’s bad.)

 

I remember reading an older player’s comment on the game saying that he’d often hand the game to his younger sibling to play because other than the fossil breaking, there was nothing that the kid could do to negatively impact his game. If anything, letting his sibling play would only benefit him as his monsters would level up and he’d get some new fossils, dinos, and/or items.

 

More and more I am seeing the importance of taking your target audience in consideration when you are deciding this matter.

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You absolutely want to consider your target audience when deciding on your design but don't confuse that with trying to satisfy every imaginable type of player.

There's a particular experience that you have in mind for players of your game and any elements you add should work towards that experience (or at least get you as close as possible). Any injury, death, or punishment system (or lack of one) is going to have its flaws and hopefully being aware of those flaws will result in creativity and innovation. But it's probably better to just get the experience close enough to what you want, flaws and all, than to spend a lifetime getting everything perfect.
 

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I had a game design conversation with an artist friend a few months back, where I mentioned that I'd like an MMO that rewarded the long-term players with stat bonuses if they've gotten that high without dying or with only dying a few times.

 

The artist correctly pointed out that I'd be making the game less interesting for the players that are already good at the game, by making them more powerful, when instead the people who actually need the help (those dying alot) my idea would be overlooking. I thought it was a very good bit of insight.

 

As a game goes on, challenge needs to increase, not decrease, to keep the game interesting - but in most MMOs the only thing that increases is the amount of time it costs to do what you have already been doing since the beginning of the game (grinding). 

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