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suliman

Progression in racing game: keep money and upgrades between races?

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Hi

Im designing a arcade topdown racing game in the tradition of rock and roll racing (SNES), super cars 2 (AMIGA, PC) etc. You run a "campaign" of linked races, and you can upgrade, buy weapons and gadgets etc. There is both powerups on the tracks and stuff you can buy inbetween races. This is set in space with lasers and small spacecrafts but the logic is the same.

How to hadle progress/upgrades/investments? If the player earn money from success (getting a good placement in a race), the player who starts off well will be able to buy better upgrades and weapons and it will be even harder for the other player to catch up later in the campaign (two players and many AI are allowed in the game). This is how it's done in super cars but im not sure it's good design. Some ideas could be:

1. Upgrades are persistant between races for the entire campaign, but each player get the same amount of money/resources no matter how well they do in the races.

2. Like above, but each player gets some fixed points/money to invest in each race for upgrades/configration/weapons: next race the crafts are reset. So you can try out a completely different loadout each race or build something you have already tried out.

If you can choose different vehicles I get even more options:) I could replace some upgrades (like "better engine"/higher speed) with just having different vehicles: "shiptype X" may move faster, but cost more so less money left to stock up on missiles for the race ahead.

Thoughts?

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Suggestion: make the AI get better also, even without money or winning races, so the difficult scales up in the championship. The player car will feel faster after some races, but the races will still feel challenging.

For two player modes, make them a team, so they share some of the profit of winning. The one who finishes a race before the other gets a bit more money, but the second also gets something. So they have a reason to cooperate. Gives all racers (AI and players) some money after each race, so they can at least buy some upgrades or powerups between races (and you can justify why the AI is getting better).

Try to make the upgrades marginally better (but better, nonetheless). An upgrade from engine 1 to engine 2 gives 3% more acceleration, not 10%, which would quickly create the imbalance you're talking. You can try also to make upgrades expensive, so the player have to get good positions in 3 or 4 races to have enough money to a certain upgrade (adjust this for the number of races your game have).

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Hello,

Unfortunately the problem of catching up a stronger player is a problem which comes up pretty easily. Do you like something like a "negative-feedback" reward system?

It's a system where you give more reward to those which are the weakest. In this case you would give more points (necessary to progress the campaign) to the strongest drivers, but more money to the weakest, giving them an advantage for the upcoming races. This should keep things balanced on the long run.

 

Another idea is to make money persistent and upgrades consumable so the player has to choose wisely if/when buy upgrades. Also, making upgrades expensive like TerraSkilll said, you will make the players even more careful over these decisions.

 

Hope you like this.

Bye!

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Consumable upgrades is the same as my suggestion 2 i guess (buy upgrades/weapons for each race).

Having upgrades weak or very expensive (=player gets less upgrades) just makes upgrades less impactful, which is not very fun for an arcade game (but would make sense in a simulation). It's halfway to just removing upgrades alltogether. You want to feel the difference when getting something new.

Giving the loosing player a boost by giving him/her more money might work yes, but it's a bit strange lore-wise :) Then it would make more sense to give all players the same upgrade-resources like i suggested (maybe just call it "time" as in "time spent in workshop" to upgrade and improve your vehicle").

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You seem to have covered many of the bases you need, so I would tell you to just test them. Get a idea and roughly implement it, or even do the maths in Excel (or any other software), and check the outcome in the long run.

Which upgrade options do you have? Just max speed? Health/resistance to damage? Or steering? Acceleration? Boost (if theres one) ? Ratio of shielding from hits (which reduces speed)?

You also talks about weapons. Can some of them be consumable, and others upgradeable? For example, a seeking missile can be single use, but a machine gun can have its damage upgraded. These variables will determine the options you have.

You can also give conflicting choices. A powerful engine can be heavy, so the car has better max speed but not great acceleration or handling. So the player feels the progression but don't get really overpowered. If the player has to choose, they will try different aproaches and see which ones they like more.

 

8 hours ago, suliman said:

Having upgrades weak or very expensive (=player gets less upgrades) just makes upgrades less impactful, which is not very fun for an arcade game (but would make sense in a simulation)

Why not? Top Gear on the SNES did that, and it worked reasonably well, altough its kind of unbalanced from middle to end, becoming easier to get better than the others racers as the game goes on. It depends on how many races there are in the game. If its a long championship (40 races or more), small incremental upgrades work better. If its short, the upgrades need to be more powerfull.

You want impactful upgrades which, by definition, makes the player noticeably better than the others, but you also want to keep the game balanced and challenging. Without making other racers also get better, I see no way of doing that. Thats not saying they need to get the same upgrades as the player. But give them something to counter the player. For example, if the player gets better armor (25% better), give the enemies more fire power (10% more damage). The player will feel more resistant, but will not be very much more resistant . And you don't need to tell that to the player. If they don't do the math, they problably won't notice. They just need to feel.

 

8 hours ago, suliman said:

Giving the loosing player a boost by giving him/her more money might work yes, but it's a bit strange lore-wise

Is it necessary to integrate the lore to the mechanics? If that is what you really, then don't give the loosing players money, but call it sponsoring money  (such as real F1 racing teams work - they get money, even if they're not the winners, so they can run in the next races). They need to get better somehow, after all. Make a cutscene where a enemy player boasts on how theyr engineer make the engine better (and makes that enemy better in the next races). Its a harder approach, because now you have more things to worry about.

In the end, theres no single answer. Balancing this kind of game is hard and takes time. You need to change the variable and test the results, until you get a good enough. Trying to get the perfect system can take ages, so I wouldn't try that.

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