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Diodor

Levels in RPGs - a new twist

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All the RPGs, good or bad, original or cloned share the obsession for constant character growth, also known as leveling. The mechanism is generally simple: slay x monsters, pay some money, the player''s level increases, along with his stats. I believe getting rid of this system should be almost a holy grail of RPG design. The problem is without the ever increasing power of their character the RPG players will never get hooked. I''m trying to create a system where the player''s power still increases, and by the same amount as before but without suffering from the walking tank syndrome. I propose that the levels stop being a measurement of how tough the player is, but instead a measure of how highly does the world think of the player. Levels would be a formal recognition of one''s deeds. This system creates a lot of space for improvement. Different lands may have different leveling systems, and a player may be a +27 knight at home, but totally unknown somewhere else. Having great levels could potentially create disadvantages too, and the player may even try to hide his level (a +27 knight among thieves will be happy to be thought of as a beggar). And the best of this system is that levels can be won, lost and regained with a lot more ease, allowing for a more dynamic gameplay, and a better plot. Having a greater level should increase the player''s power comparably with the increase current levels systems give. Monsters should rather run from a fight (or be considerably less willing to enter a fight, and more likely to run if the fight starts badly), well paid quests would spring from anywhere, everyone would jump to his help, recruiting NPCs for certain missions would be cheaper, as would be buying and repairing items. The king himself may ask the player''s character for advice on military issues etc.

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Just a question. Does the player know he is a 27 level knight? If so then what is different between this and any other levelling game?

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crydee:what diodor wants to say is that you''re not a 27 lvl knight, you''re only being seen as one by other ppl. For example, if you kill few chickens you could gain level from 1 to 2, but if you kill few ogres you could gain level from 1 to 5. Noone is interested in your real str/dex/... stats.

diodor:pretty nice idea actually, pretty nice indeed

With best regards,
Mirek Czerwiñski
http://kris.top.pl/~kherin/

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yeah... i''ve got a few ideas kinda like this implemented in the
game my team is working on..
at first we wanted to make each NPC have a ''likeness''
property.. depending on the npc''s reactions/interactions with
the character, their property will get lower or higher..
so you''d effectively be able to "make friends" with npcs..
this, however, proved a bit too complex for our current project
so we''re saving the idea for the next game
for this game, instead we''re using a "town likeness" property.
so instead of having each npc have a reaction based on their
relationship with the character, we have do it on a ''town-level''.
each npc has 10 different things they could say to the character
(based on whatever situation is at hand)..
kinda like a ''1-10'' rating.. because if your likeness rating is
low, you''ll get response #1 which is pretty harsh, uncaring, ect.
if they dont know you, you''ll likely get response #5 which
is neutral.
in our game we have various side quests and tasks that can
help to build the likeness rating up.

-eldee
;another space monkey;

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i dont like that idea.

i dont think its too believable to be so well known that i can punch you untill you die.

Romancing Saga games had no real levelling. you would just occasionally get stat bonuses

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The problem I see with this is that you're using the wrong stat. What you're using is a sort of "reaction" system, but has nothing to do with your physical strength. Say that your ST score allows you to lift 300 lbs in your "home land"... that doesn't change just because you go elsewhere... regardless of what others THINK your ST score is, you can still lift 300 lbs. Unfortunately, it's also pretty easy to tell the difference between someone who can lift 300 lbs, and someone who can lift 100 by physical appearance alone (in humans, anyway

I plan to implement a reaction system similar to the one you're suggesting. My stats/skills themselves will increase independently of this, though (the more you use your sword, the better you get at it. The more you lift weight greater than you should, the greater your ST gets, etc -- I've made several posts about ways I plan to handle this).

In my case, there will be several reactions included:

Appearance: This is the "initial reaction"... if you go up to an arrogant knight, and you have a low ST, they'll probably be rude to you. If you have some of appearance disadvantage (you're ugly or hideous or something), this too will add into that initial reaction.

Fame and Reputation: How well known you are also affects your reaction (initial and otherwise). If you're butt ugly, but your well known as the guy who saved the princess, the princess one is more than likely to outweigh the ugliness (OK, so I've seen "Shrek" one too many times)

Eloquence: Your character can have "speech"-type skills and advantages, which aid in the communication. I've never much liked the idea of the "Charisma" stat, so I've got to be wary of screwing myself up by basically creating a clone of that stat through skill, but there needs to be something included from this.

These are just a few things that determine how people react to you. If I go to a new town, obviously the stuff I've done in the last town will probably not be known (I'm hoping, however, to set it up so that, unlike other games, people besides myself actually travel from town to town, so the news could spread to the land over time -- whether I do that through some generic "cheat" means, or through actual salesmen or something is still up for grabs)

Of course, if you want your stats to change drastically, you could always implement the Superman "Yellow Sun/Red Sun" concept, where something "in the air" affects your stats, but that's kind of cheating (and if your Strength is 50 in town A, and it gets lowered to 20 in town B, where you proceed to up it to 30, what is it now in town A? Still 50 (which makes no sense), or is it now 75?)

-Chris

Edited by - crouilla on January 12, 2002 1:05:24 PM

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If you take away character advancement from RPGs, doesn''t that change it from an RPG into an Adventure game?

(Note: I am using the definition of RPG the way the general public uses it, which is not the way a lot of people here would like it to be used.)

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I''m planning on doing what you''re talking about with fame/renoun. I''ll still have levels, but they''ll be more of a guage (somewhat arbitrary, but still a guage) of a character''s abilities. You''ll get more levels by concentrating on single skills, but you''ll be more vulnerable to variance in enemies.

Example: A mage who uses only his cold-based spells will do well against heat-based enemies, but when the enemy is immune to cold, he will run into the same problem as a warrior who only learns to use a sword will when he faces an archer at 400 feet. Neither is well suited to his new environment and will suffer for it potentially. A person who studied a wide variety of skills would be better suited to both scenarios, though he would not necessarily be as powerful overall.

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quote:
Original post by Ronin_54
Hmmm.... Fallout?

-Maarten Leeuwrik
"Some people when faced with the end of a journey simply decide to begin anew I guess."



My thoughts exactly...

I think the problem with the ''walking tank'' syndrome is purely poor game design and/or not enough play testing. In the real world people do become more proficient with time/practice so to an extent ''levelling'' is realistic (albeit exaggerated, but hey... it''s a game!). In a game that''s designed to not have a true end it''s important to cap the levelling at some point and make sure there will always be areas where the player will be challenged. For instance, a level 30 fighter is still going to be in a pretty hairy situation if he''s up against three Dragons at once!

Your reaction system idea (although it is very similar to Fallout''s) is good but not as a substitute for character advancement. Part of the fun of RPG''s is watching your character grow stronger and stronger, it''s one of the reasons people play them.

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I was thinking about this, and thought to myself, are stats just in an rpg because of past technological limitations?

If your character''s muscles visually expanded as he got stronger, his general speed increases as he got faster, people respect him much more as he becomes more intelligent etc, do we really NEED stats to represent these things anymore? Is the primary draw of the word RPG, the numerical stat? Would a newbie rpg''er be drawn to an rpg because there are 100 stats you can look at?

I think the old d''n''d system of numerical stats should be left behind. It just puts off any newcomers, and makes a game into a math lesson rather than what d''n''d at its heart aimed to be, adventuring.

This is my goal for my game. I don''t want stat comparing, it''s meant for board games and that''s where it should stay.

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I am taking a similar approach myself. All of the characters, the pc as well as the npc''s, have a prestige method associated with them which takes as an argument the character he is talking with. This prestige function adds up the value of land holdings and past deeds of the character in question, but only includes the deeds/property of the other character''s home city, since those are the ones that will have any personal meaning to the other character.

We differ in that I consider this a completely seperate character attribute from combat ability. I''m only using this for non-combat character interactions. My combat system is a typical turn-based system, but I''m trying to take the focus off of combat anyway and have more politically-oriented game goals.

On a semi-on-topic note,
quote:
All the RPGs, good or bad, original or cloned share the obsession for constant character growth, also known as leveling.

quote:
If you take away character advancement from RPGs, doesn''t that change it from an RPG into an Adventure game?

I have to disagree with the underlying assumption of both these statements that character == physical ability. When you''re asked what kind of a person somebody is, do answer with how much he can bench or your estimate of his ability with weapons? Of course not, you say stuff like "he''s shy, he''s honest, he can hold a grudge". I''m not picking on Diodor or Kylotan, I just want to make the point that CRPG''s , IMHO, should move away the widespread falsehood of using physical prowess as the definition of character if they are setting their sights on incorporating real role-playing.

Sean


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Everyone,

Once again, my favorite topic returns! I totally agree with Diodor''s premise that leveling in RPGs turns attention away from roleplaying in favor of mechanical advancement. My favored solution, and the one I''m sticking to, is Zero-Sum advancement in which the character''s distribution of talent changes as he does different things, but the overall ability pool remains constant. I''ve mentioned this one so often that I ought to write up the technical details and post it to my web page, so I can direct people to it every time this topic comes up.

I like Diodor''s idea of renown changing the way people react to you, and I even rather like the idea that your renown makes you more powerful (although it only makes sense in settings where reality is subjective, so belief impacts the physical world, or some other weird thing is going on). In my opinion, any idea that pulls the focus toward RP and away from mechanics is OK.

---------------------------------------------------
-SpittingTrashcan

You can''t have "civilization" without "civil".

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quote:
Original post by Garott
I was thinking about this, and thought to myself, are stats just in an rpg because of past technological limitations?

If your character''s muscles visually expanded as he got stronger, his general speed increases as he got faster, people respect him much more as he becomes more intelligent etc, do we really NEED stats to represent these things anymore? Is the primary draw of the word RPG, the numerical stat? Would a newbie rpg''er be drawn to an rpg because there are 100 stats you can look at?

I think the old d''n''d system of numerical stats should be left behind. It just puts off any newcomers, and makes a game into a math lesson rather than what d''n''d at its heart aimed to be, adventuring.

This is my goal for my game. I don''t want stat comparing, it''s meant for board games and that''s where it should stay.




I agree with you, hidding the stats would help a lot to suspend disbelief.

Taking this idea a bit farther, making everything believable and hidding everything that doesnt make sense if you were in real life.

No numbers. Not for hp, mp, damage, etc...

I would try to represent money graphically and make money rare, also have lots of different currencies. ie: 17897$ could be represented like this: seven pieces of copper, nine pieces of silver, eight pieces of gold, three pieces of platinum, two ruby (which are worth approx two platinum pieces each) and one uber-rare gem that is worth a damn lot.

No interface, no minimaps (You need minimaps? then you''ll have to buy a parchement, a quill and learn to draw a map.

No menus.

Very little text (use voice instead!).

No full motion videos as it break you from immersion (use complex in-game scripts instead).

Strip virtually everything that kill immersion!

Hey, someone will release a quickly hacked tool to retrieve the underlying numbers used in the game 3 days after your game will be out. But what are you going to do! If he wants to kill the game for himself...

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quote:
Original post by hpox

Hey, someone will release a quickly hacked tool to retrieve the underlying numbers used in the game 3 days after your game will be out. But what are you going to do! If he wants to kill the game for himself...



I used to do a lot of game hacking myself , and I know if someone is determined enough to bother, it''s because they''re finding a major limitation within the game. Now as a game maker, I''d hate someone to do that to my game but like you say, it''s down to them.

quote:
Original post by hpox

Very little text (use voice instead!).




I like all your ideas except one, the voice acting. How difficult and expensive would this become, I''m talking quality voice acting like in Planescape:Torment and Baldur''s Gate, to have every line of dialogue voiced? Also lip-synching would be a major factor aswell. I''ll stick to text for now.

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quote:
Original post by Sean99
I have to disagree with the underlying assumption of both these statements that character == physical ability. When you''re asked what kind of a person somebody is, do answer with how much he can bench or your estimate of his ability with weapons? Of course not, you say stuff like "he''s shy, he''s honest, he can hold a grudge". I''m not picking on Diodor or Kylotan, I just want to make the point that CRPG''s , IMHO, should move away the widespread falsehood of using physical prowess as the definition of character if they are setting their sights on incorporating real role-playing.

I don''t think most RPGs are setting their sights on such a thing, that''s my point I doubt there''s anything beyond a very niche interest in "real roleplaying" in single-player games anyway. And you can still do such a thing if the game has lots of stats.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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Hpox: I think that''s the kind of idealism that SOUNDS good on paper, but in practice falls shorts of expectations. I believe letting the players see stats is very much a design feature, that is pretty much universal in computer RPGs. The reward element of CRPGs *IS* a big factor not to be taken lightly or discounted. Not only, it lets players decide more accurately the development of their characters. Hell, games like Diablo 1&2 are based very much on the advancement/reward of levelling up... in addition to actioney elements.
That said, the best done menu/interface for seeing stats I''ve ever seen comes from Fallout 1 and 2. Instead of been almost arbitary numbers figure and abbreviations, it gives a decent explantion of every skill/attribute you click on. I think this is the kind of quality/polish game designers should focus on to justify the idea of visible stats.

As far as stats in general goes, you definetly use them, because they''re the easiest to control the balance with. Essentially just tables - which are easy to deal with. Hidden or not, they''ll be in CRPGs for a long time.

Also, the other suggestions you propose, DOES make for a more ''immersive'' experience. But they also make for a more FUSTRATING experience, which is NEVER a good design feature. As it stands, the very nature of the control scheme and the viewing format DESTROYS any chance of a real immersive experience. But regardless an utterly realistic experience in the case of RPGs (some genres DO benefit.. like driving games...) is never a good design decision. Because then you''d have to go into the bad old days of managing food... which was one of those things I hated as a kid.

As for the original poster: I think if you watch action movies and see what ''stats'' they focus on you''ll be able to reach somesort of satisfying conclusion... if not I''ll give it to you here: level advancement should stop been so arbitary, and increase in powers should focus more on the ability to hit while not been hit... instead of increases in HP. But even then, you''ll need to carefully balance it -> you''ll realise how fustrating it is when your level 30 character is hit once for death, after dodging around for 30 minutes...

Zaptruder

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Everyone,

I must say I agree strongly with hpox on the immersive interface issue. And such an interface can be implemented without becoming annoying... ever played Grim Fandango? Every piece of text was voice-acted, and there were never any menus or icons on screen. The character''s head acted as a pointer: he''d look at nearby interesting objects, to show that something could be said or done about them. The inventory was the character''s jacket, out of which he''d draw and store various things.

Now Grim Fandango was an "adventure game," not a "role-playing game." But in my opinion it involved more actual playing of a role than many RPGs: you controlled what your character said and did, and followed him on the course of his life. And the methods used in Grim Fandango could in my opinion be applied to more traditional RPGs with great success.

Imagine: instead of worrying about what "level" you are or what your "attack bonus" is, you send your character to practice at the local gym until he''s gotten strong and quick (a process you need not supervise), then go out for a bit of adventure confident that your strength training has given you a physical edge over most problems. Or send him to the library to study chemistry... his muscles may weaken a little, but he''ll gain skills necessary to create useful compounds. Just a simple conceptual example, but I think it can be seen how this could work.

One point on which I must disagree with hpox, however, is the issue of voice acting. The issue is not quality but repetition. Even the best acted lines get pretty boring after you hear them the 700th time, and unless you want to record innumerable variations on "Hi, how are you?" you''ll run into repetition eventually. In order to reduce the annoyance factor, include "subtitles" and the ability to turn the voice acting off.

Just my humble opinions.


---------------------------------------------------
-SpittingTrashcan

You can''t have "civilization" without "civil".

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Voice acting on a large scale needs a good deal of money...

hell, the only RPG that''s done it in my recall, is FFX... and that deals with the more repetitive voice elements by NOT doing them at all... (i.e. villagers)

Zaptruder

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