# Alternatives to tiered gear

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I've been trying to solve this design conundrum for a while but have yet to come up with a solid solution. I have craftable weapons/armor in my game. Most games I've played that have craftable weapons generally follow a tier system - a system which I don't like on a personal level, as well as in the context of my game design.

My characters are 2d, with 100s of frames of animation for each set of armor, so while I already have multiple armor sets, they are time consuming to make.  As far as from a design stance - I don't like how tiered systems make items obsolete - either to be used as merchant fodder, or just end up in the trash bin.

While I don't really like obvious tiers, it seems they are unavoidable in at least some sense. Players like to acquire more powerful equipment - so whether i hide the tier with upgrade requirements or pull some other chicanery, there will still be a tier somewhere. However, I'd like to at least reduce the feeling of having junk-items.

Just some game info if it matters: Sidescroller, sci-fi setting, light survival elements

Here are the solutions I've mulled so far:

-ability to reduce obsolete equipment to base components  - i.e. you can take your crappy pistol and convert it into metal to be used in something else.

possible issue: This method might not be helpful because it will take away the incentive to collect resources. May as well just search for loot and grind it into base components. It will also still require a tier system, just with a softened material cost.

-"specialty" equipment with permanent upgrades - for example, the "SMG" may be upgradeable along 3 paths - accuracy, damage, or status focuses (or mixes)  which may give you a reason to keep 2 different SMGs for different purposes. Likewise, there'd be a type of armor that is a tank-style armor which becomes more tankey with upgrades.

possible issue: there seems there'd be a need to visually represent modified equipment. Not as big of a deal with weapons, but since armor has 100's of frames, it means making a slightly altered version - which requires as many frames as a completely new one (unless there's just a generic color swap.. which would feel generic) The second issue is that some players may simply stick with one armor set - especially after upgrading Armor A1 to A10 and all their other armor is still B1, C1, etc.

-quasi-tiered equipment - instead of following a straight tier system (armor C > armor B > armor A), follow a quasi-tier which places 2-3 items on the same level, with different effects.  i.e.: ( armor B1 == armor B2 > armor A1 == armor A2). The ability to craft the different tiers would be unlocked either by progression or an expenditure of a lot of resources.

issue: it's still a tier system, which instead of making 1 armor/item obsolete at a time, it makes 2-3 items obsolete at once.

-skill based crafting + component reduction - give the players rpg-esque skills and have the skills + randomness determine the quality of the item that is crafted. Outside of this, base items would each have a speciality/purpose. Higher crafting skills just gives you a better version. To avoid the obsolete-item problem, I'd allow old items to be reduced and yield 50%-75% of their cost in materials.

possible issue : while it will link the player's time investment more directly to their equipment, this doesn't allow for much in the way of tiered resources. Since the player is just re-crafting an item, it's cost will have to be the same as it was previously. This will prevent me from allowing "ultimate" versions crafted from unique or hard-to-get components - unless i go back to a tier in some capacity.

-Mods : all basic equipment would only require basic components and are essentially balanced. After the initial resources are invested, further investment would generally be dumped into interchangeable mods for items. You can plug in a +5% damage mod into any of your weapons, or +5% defense into any armor. Of course some would be better for others, but it would allow some experimentation.

possible issue: may take a bit of the thrill away of finding new more powerful items.

So if you've read all of this - my thanks. Any opinions or suggestions are very welcome. Personally, I'm learning toward either upgrades or mods.

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The basic reason for tiers to exist is to keep the player interested in new gear.  If the player's first armor is the best armor in the game, then the player has no motivation for crafting any new armor past this first armor.  So in order to eliminate tiers, you need to somehow find a different solution for this problem.

Possible solutions:

• Offer a wide variety of different items that all go into different "slots".  Instead of giving the player a whole bunch of armors to craft that replace each other, give her a separate helmet, torso armor, arm armor, leg armor, hand armor, etc..
• Make equipment breakable so that the player has to craft the same armor over and over again.
• Equipment upgrades instead of new equipment.  Let the player work on her one armor throughout the whole game, constantly adding new improvements.
• Explicitly make crafting an early-game mechanic that becomes meaningless when the player has crafted her first armor, and give the player new things to do in the mid- and late game.
• Make the process of crafting armor so convoluted that the game is mostly over by the time the player has managed to craft her first armor.

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7 hours ago, sage12 said:

My characters are 2d, with 100s of frames of animation for each set of armor, so while I already have multiple armor sets, they are time consuming to make.

A lot of games just recolour the same items for tiers / variations for armour, swords, arrows, etc. This can be done quickly in any image program, or at run time (also less images to store/load, not that important for most 2D games these days).

7 hours ago, sage12 said:

While I don't really like obvious tiers, it seems they are unavoidable in at least some sense.﻿﻿ Players like to acquire more powerful equipment - so whether i hide the tier with upgrade requirements or pull some other chicanery, there will still be a tier somewhere. However, I'd like to at least reduce the feeling of having junk-items.

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Games such as the Diablo franchise, Path of Exile or most hack n slash games for that matter actually reuse the same items a lot throughout the game by adding random stats to the items.

You could have items be better or worse than one another based on their base stats, however finding an item which is worse could potentially have stats which increase it's effectiveness. For example, let's say you have an Rifle which has the following base stats:

• 20 Rate of fire
• 50 Damage

Then you find a lesser rifle which has these base stats:

• 15 Rate of fire
• 45 Damage

What could make the latter weapon more desirable is the additional stats such as +5 damage, +10 accuracy rating etc. While the other weapon is better at it's base, finding a better quality of a lesser weapon would still make it more efficient. That being said, you would be on a lookout for a better quality of the better weapon.

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I think similar to what flowr said I've seen games where even basic items have some tiny chance of yielding a special component when junked. This may be due to hidden stats. A weapon based on the special components will have some interesting point of difference. However because junking that special item may not yield the special component, the player may be loathe to junk a special weapon to try to make one mega-weapon, and just keep upgrading it. Therefore they may end up with many similar weapons that they keep and upgrade due to certain special attributes or combos thereof. The basic weapons are still valued for their junk potential to use as upgrades.

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