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How many dimensions of progression can a game have?

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One thing I love about games is a deep sense of progression. What I call a dimension of progression is a variety of mechanics which form a distinct gameplay. For a dimension to be nested in another one, the outcome of its execution must be persisted in an upper dimension which may be fed as input to its next execution. In that sense, Starcraft has 1D progression because a match has a distinct gameplay which forms the dimension, and the depth ends here because the outcome of the match will never affect the next one.

void play_starcraft()
{
	while (matchProgression < MATCH_END) {
		++matchProgression; // 1st level of progression
	}
}

In other words, Starcraft experience is stored in memory as an array of matches: matches[].

 

Xcom campaigns have 2D progression because a battle may affect the next one. Loosing a soldier in this battle will lower your effective strength in the next.

void play_xcom()
{
	while (campaignProgression < CAMPAIGN_END) {
		++campaignProgression; // 1st level progression
      
		while (battleProgression < BATTLE_END) {
				++battleProgression; // 2nd level progression
		}
	}
}

Xcom experience is stored as an array of campaigns which is an array of battles: campaigns[battles[]].

 

Did you ever play a game with a 3rd or 4th dimension of progression? What are they? Do you prefer games with more or less dimensions of progression? In xcom, were you ever disappointed than all the effort you put in defeating the aliens would suddenly vanish at the end? What if you could capture planets and have: planets[campaigns[battles[]]] ? I'm sure a lot of people thought about it, does such a game already exists?

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Posted (edited)

Normally this is called a layered approach. Minecraft is a great example of just how far you can take this and how you can use it to build a looping progress mechanic.

The reason why it's considered layers on not dimensions is because these parts of the games are linked in series. For example in XCOM to advance the campaign you do need to play the battles.

 

A dimension approach would be something where the one play style doesn't effect the other.

For example in 2D adding a value to X doesn't advance you on the Y axis. Dimension are independent, but by using both you can get to points where you want to be.

Visual novels are more of a Dimension type of games. If you want to unlock some special parts of the stories you need to do something with one character, then something else with a other character; yet you can also just progress the game by just focusing on one character.

 

Most common layers is often only 2-3 and often is combined with a story dimension tree.

The only limits to both is physical. How many layers or dimensions can you make in 1-3 years, it's all about how much money and time you can spend planing it all out.

If your a immortal with unlimited time you could add unlimited dimensions or layers to a game; or at least to the point where the game fills your computer with data.

Edited by Scouting Ninja

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There are quite a few RPG games out there, such as those from Bioware, that use a multiple axis system for player progression in their Star Wars, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and other games.

For example in Dragon Age, characters can become "hardened" or "softened", becoming more cruel/amoral or more kind/sympathetic based on decisions made, dialog choices increase or decrease various scales for an agreeable/disagreeable axis, a charismatic/stoic axis, and aggressive/peaceful axis, high/low approval by certain groups like the dwarf nation or approval by the royal courts, and so on.  Some quests and some dialog options are related to the different values, such as options available or rare item gifts from others if you have high charisma, or the ability to bully others into compliance or giving rare items if you are aggressive or cruel.

In their games there are multiple endings depending on your choices in the game. There are 8 different endings in Mass Effect 3. Dragon Age 3 has a bunch of options depending on quests and the character axis, with over 50 different clips to choose from based on the various axis, such as four storyline clips based on royal court approval, three different options depending on if one party member was hardened/softened/neutral, six different options based on if another party member made patterns of various choices during gameplay, etc.

It isn't just Bioware's games. The Fallout series, Nier series, Chrono Trigger, Resident Evil, and others all provide assorted layers depending on how you play the game and decisions you make throughout.

Many "visual novel" games have a wide range of emotion/attribute layers as well.

 

These attribute layers don't change gameplay directly, but they do affect story options, affect the availability of certain quests or certain rare items, dialog options, and game endings.  Many people replay the games to see different options, making characters cruel and aggressive, making them good yet harsh in applying the law, making characters neutral, or pacifists, or whatever attribute layers the game provides.

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Table top designers called this concept "future".  A single scenario "has no future", while a chain of scenarios forming a campaign "has a future".  This has a big impact on the psychology of the player.  When a game has no future then the player seeks to expend all of their resources over the course of that one game/scenario.  When there is a future the players will conserve for the future.  So, for example, if a player has 12 missiles to fire and no means of reloading them between scenarios then they will be hesitant to use missiles.  In a scenario with no future, they've got 12 missiles to use in that fight.  Of course, having a future can be used in many interesting ways at a strategic level.  It also often goes a long way in creating balance.  A very long way.  Some games can be very hard to balance for the very reason that they "have no future".

This is one of those subjects that can be discussed endlessly, and I have only barely scratched the surface of the difference between a game that has a future and one that does not.

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Hey OP,

Not sure that XCom is 2D progression because you have also have your science to progress and your soldiers to train up as well as the overall story that you're going through as well as your base building. Seems like that's already a 5D game?

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