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freakytapir last won the day on May 23

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About freakytapir

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  1. Healing and status effects

    Once again a slightly more philosophical article devoid of maths. Seeing as I am starting my masters thesis in a week, now is the time for this. What purpose does healing serve in a traditional RPG? Summarised to it's bare core, it is an attrition mechanic. The one stick by which all others are measured. Enemies deal damage, we deal spend MP to negate this damage, when this MP runs out, we die or retreat out of the dungeon. The same counts for boss battles. The boss damages us, and if everything is going well, we spend 1 or 2 characters' MP and negate the boss' damage, thereby perpetuating a steady state where damage from the boss equals our healing output, and putting upon us on a deadline : defeat this boss before the healing MP runs out. Even in MMO's, the only measure for "Will we defeat this boss" is : does the healer outpace or match the boss' damage output. Execution is a big part of it in these games ( Being a healer in WoW is not easy), but it is a case of execution , not of choice. But then , what is introduced ? Healing items, a way to trade gold for health. The same games that are stingy on MP items are also the ones to shower you in healing items. But MP healing ? No, that is insanely expensive or non-purchasable. I despise this linearity. The solution I pose is a heavy usage of debuffs/status effects. Do I heal the poison or the HP damage done by the poison ? Is healing HP or dispelling the Defence debuff better ? Those are choices. Especially if there are follow-up attacks or combos ( Feeding frenzy deals extra damage to bleeding targets, Haste accelerates poison damage ...). This does require that status effects are an equal and immediate danger as HP damage. In many RPGs this is not the case. Poison that deals 10 % HP damage ? Boring. Now 25 % , that gets peoples attention. I really liked Persona 5 over this. Harsh statuses you could not ignore, but also where not a death sentence. Sure, Despair decimated your MP and killed you in 3 turns, but you could react to it.Bonus point for having them also open you up to bonus damage from nuclear or psychic damage if inflicted with a mental or physical or mental ailment. It generates play beyond "spam highest damage/cheapest spell " every turn. I really believe the 300 % damage boosts to this damage shouldn't have been locked to the ultra hard mode, but that's how it is. First a look from the players' point of view. If I can cast fire and deal 50 damage, or poison that deals 10 hp/round, why even give me the choice of casting poison, especially if the poison only has an X % chance of hitting, and the fire is nearly a guarantee. Blindness ? Useless. SIlence ? Please. The solution I pose: have all status debuffs also deal damage, while also having enemies deal a truckload of damage. If I have to choose between "Fire" that deals 50 damage, and poison that deals 30 HP and has a 75 ~100% chance of inflicting poison that will deal 20 hp/turn, that is a choice. Next on the list : move healing from attrition to the tactical space in even random encounters. Having 100 HP and an enemy dealing 5 damage leaves healing in the boring attrition realm. Now having 100 HP and having the enemy deal 40~60 damage per hit, now that actually moves healing into the tactical space, something usually reserved for boss battles. Can I kill these enemies before I die ? Let's see. Now, boss battles. If I can just blind the boss, doesn't that take away most of the challenge ? Here I propose a different solution. Have a anti-boss version of each status effect. Blind on a trash mob gives 75 % miss chance, but on a boss, it gives 25 % miss chance. Still significant, but not an autowin. Preserve the utility of debuffers even during boss battles, they already get benched enough. Have the anti-boss version of silence give a 25 % failure chance to spells instead of a 100 % prevention of spellcasting. Shorten the duration from 3~5 to 1~2 rounds. Just make all skills inflict both, and have regular mobs be immune to the anti-boss version, and vice versa. Poison on bosses can be 2~5 % HP, confuse only works 20% of the time, and so on... This also pertains to boss attack patterns. Have your boss throw something around besides pure damage. Maybe he throws a defense debuff and a medium damaging move ( Small point : bosses should have multiple turns as standard, because he is stuck fighting a team that gets 4-5 actions/turn) the round before he sweeps the board. That generates play. Do we heal , remove the debuff or just guard with the entire team ? Can I ignore silence on my mage or not ? But don't have the boss just throw these around randomly. Have them be part of his attack pattern. That is the hard and fast rule: generate play, generate choices. My long and winding point up to now is simple to summarise : 1. Make healing something more than Damage in vs healing out. Use status effects and debuffs. Even Bosses should throw antidotes sometimes. 2. Make enemy moves require counters, but offer multiple options on how to counter. No single item or skill should be the sole solution. Check in next time for a numerical analysis.
  2. the Grind

    I try to balance my game so that if you just finish the dungeon you will be able to take the boss, if you know what you are doing. Additional grinding is there to move the difficulty needle just a bit in your favor. As i said, I want the grinding to be convenient but optional. I do have quite steep xp curves. You can overlevel by a bit, but not by much. Once the enemies are 2-3 levels beneath you they stop being worth anything. Grinding for gear is also quite useless, as each piece of gear is at best a sidegrade, not an upgrade. The ice sword makes your attacks deal ice damage, but not necessarily more damage.(For this game, where I want to prioritize character strength above gear strength). If I built it right, the player should always be able to blaze new content. Reached level 13 ? great, wanna finish the last 10-13 dungeon , or attempt the first 13-16 dungeon ? Then again , sometimes you need to disengage and just kill some enemies, and I want that to be worth something.
  3. the Grind

    Weirdly enough this sounds like the FF XIII system. For all the faults the game had, it prevented overgrinding. You could accumulate xp(CP) but you couldn't spend it until you had passed the act/boss. But I remain steadfast, if the player wants to overlevel, go ahead.
  4. the Grind

    Sorry for the late reply out of nowhere (Uni is in break and I have a month of lazing about). In my current game, after a linear intro, dungeons come in groups of 3, each contributing about a lvl, but no forced order between the ones in a group. So you'll enter the lvl 10-13 dungeons at level 10, finish the first one at lvl 11, enter the second one at 11 and finish at level 12, enter the last one at 12, and finish at 13, while each dungeon is about level 11-12 in difficulty. Someone wants to grind in the first dungeon until he is lvl 12-13 ? Fine by me, but he ain't getting far due to the exponential xp curve. I allow grinding between boundaries. The main point , I believe is giving decent rewards per combat, but less "mash attack to win" battles. I would rather have the combats take twice as long, enabling a strategy better than mash attack, but give twice the number of xp. Off course scaling through the game. As the game progresses combat length and complexity increases. Level 1 combat : 1-2 turns, level 50 combat : 4-5 turns. This also ties into my aim of making buffs something you cast regularly instead of being a boss battle only thing. A thing I've been contemplating is a "hunt" or "roundup" skill that gives intentionally harder encounters, still using the enemies fought in the area, that spawn instantly or in series for the area, but xp bonusses/item drops if you finish them.
  5. RPG with no levelling / stat growth?

    As i said more eloquently in one of my earlier blog posts, I believe level grinding is a way to put control in the hands of the player, letting him decide exactly how hard he wants the game to be. It also allows things like minimum level runs and such, increasing replayability. I heavily believe in the mantra " Everyone finishes, but few achieve greatness." Let evryone see the main ending, but lock extra achievements and true endings behind a skill gate. That said, the people talking about Zelda (I'm assuming old school Zelda in this, not BotW and its ilk) in this thread, remember, the things you found weren't power upgrades per sé, they where more like sidegrades. Opening up possibilities that where previously unattainable. Is the boomerang better than the sword ? Sometimes. Differences in kind feel different than differences in scale. That said, even zelda has explicit leveling in the gaining of hearts. Personally, in my current game stat boosts come from leveling, but each weapon has a reason to use it. For example, guns deal less base damage, but ignore defense, while big two handers are worse against single targets but deal more damage to groups. Dragon armor ? Fine, you get fire resistance and fire breath attack, but ice weakness. Robe vs full plate is a question of magic defence vs physical defence. The amulet that prevents silence ? Good luck at any stealth attempts. The one thing i see in removing leveling is easier balancing, as you decrease variability.
  6. RPG with no levelling / stat growth?

    Somehow, I feel that all this dancing around leveling up just to wind up with a "time goes in, power comes out" system to be a really roundabout way of reinventing the wheel. Not dissing, just pointing out.
  7. the Grind

    I see grinding, if optional, as a player choice, where he trades skill for time. The old " Let everyone finish, but only the chosen achieve glory ". I want everyone to see the final boss in my game, and complete the main plot. Now, the bonus dungeons and true ending ? Those you'll have to work for. Grinding is also a handy developer tool. By putting in some small grind barriers, you can make sure the player isn't too hopelessly under or overlevelled for the next story bit. There is also something relaxing about just sitting down and doing some relaxed grinding. Some nights you're not up to the razor's edge of difficulty and just want to play something for a couple of hours before falling asleep. It's the equivalent of watching some trashy movie because you're too tired to think.
  8. Balance Part 2, Randomness

    There can still be some randomness in small ways: will this move do 100 or 120 damage? Or in enemy behavior: will he cast ice or fire next turn ? And on who ? Randomness is a spice, not a main ingredient.
  9. the Grind

    The grind Why do we grind ? (Not the dance, or the dating app) Why do we kill trash mob after trash mob to get those levels, those crafting components ? Why do we inflict ourselves with this ? There are 4 reasons as far as I see it. 1. Because we like it 2. Because we want that reward 3. Because we have to 4. Because we feel like or think we have to 1. Because we like it Sometimes the grind is fun. There are entire games based around killing monster X , just to get the better gear, to kill bigger and better creatures. Examples of these would be Monster hunter and Diablo 2 and 3. There is no grinding to get to the gameplay, the gameplay is the grind. 2. Because we want the reward Sometimes the rewards are worth it, even if the grind is a bit dull. Grinding points in the battle arena to get that omnislash, collecting 20 dragonscales to get that dragon armour, capturing 10 of each bird, so we can fight some special boss. Killing a 100 dragons to get an achievement. We don't necessarily want the grind, we want what the grind gives us. 3. Because we have to We just killed the boss of the first dungeon, we're all level 3, but the next area has all enemies at level 7, so grinding we have to do. The boss wipes us in one turn , so a grinding we go. The recommended level for the next storyquest is 10, but we're at 8 ? You got it, the grind (or badly constructed sidequest time). I have to collect 3 broken keys, but the rats only drop them 1/5th of the time? That's a grinding. 4. Because we feel we have to. The enemies are kicking our ass? Better start grinding,(instead of learning the game mechanics) no matter that we're already overlevelled for the current area. I ranked them because I really feel that there is a descending order of desirability here. As we move down the list, we start to remove player choice and enjoyment. What separates the first 2 for example? The difference between intrinsic and extrtinsic rewards. An intrinsic one is where we do something for the sake of doing it, an extrinsic one is where we do something because we get something else from it. It can make the same activity feel vastly different from eachother, just by virtue of why we do it. It's the difference between playing tennis because I like playing tennis vs playing tennis because I'm trying to lose weight. The difference between #2 and #3 is one of choice. If I chose to grind for that better sword or whatever, I won't actually feel resentment over it, but if I need that sword to progress, I now HAVE to grind. If it is possible but hard to finish the quest underlevelled I feel as if I chose or did not choose to grind, and I will feel better doing it if I do it. Now the distinction between 3 and 4 is one of communication to the player. If the designer really intended me to grind between each main story mission , and is upfront about that, sure, I might be able to stomach that. But if I grind from level 10 to 15 only to later find out I wasn't supposed to go there yet, or there was some hidden weakness to all these enemies I had no way of finding out on my own, you can be sure I will be pissed off. Now we have looked at it from the player side, how about we put or developpers hats on , and look at it from our side. Why and when do we want player or do not want players to grind ? A couple of points and counterpoints: a. + If we designed our game around it - Artificially lengthens game time b. + Each combat is fun to play - We eventually buttonmash through each combat. c. + It smoothes out our Difficulty curve - Can make the game too easy I feel like each of these sentiments can be classified along 2 axes A. How much we want to allow the player to grind B. How necessary it is. It leads us to 4 situations: 1. We want to allow players to grind, and we require it 2. We don't want to have our players grind, but it is also unnecessary 3. We allow our players to grind, but it is unnecessary 4. We don't want to have our players easily and convenently grind, but it is necessary Not all of these lead to equally fun gameplay, but I'm going to discuss what a designer might do to facilitate these kind of games. 1. If we require them to grind, and want to enable them, we should make the grind as accessible as possible, and eliminate down time. A quickly back to town skill/item, a lure skill, some places with intentionally high monster density, some Hard, but very rewarding enemies (think metal slimes). Maybe have a training arena where the player can just pick an enemy and fight it. Or maybe just an actual arena, like in kingdom hearts. It cut most of the story beats for just a neverending onslaught of enemies in everchanging troop composition. Have the grind be part of the fun. Now there are some pitfalls here. I do not advise to make the grind brainless and easy. Convenient? Yes! Easy? No! My solution to this is simple: have rewards for enemies below the characters level quickly drop off, either with exponential XP curves, or an actual reduced XP recieved if the enemy is too low level. Maybe even rewards for grinding against higher level enemies. A big enemy and troop variety is a big must too. If I'm going to be fighting a 100 battles in this area, I want to have at least 8 enemies in at least 25 troops/configurations. 2. If it is not necessary and we want to discourage it, there are multiple solutions. One is the presence of only a limited number of enemies per level, but this then becomes a game of find all enemies before continueing, making the player grind nonetheless. A slightly better solution is to only give a slight boost per level gained, combined with a steep xp curve. If it is not worth it, they will quickly stop doing it. Having the enemies level along with the player certainly discourages levelling ( looking at you FFVIII!), this will often lead to player frustration. A good solution, if used in moderation is to have regular enemis give very little xp, and the boss then give a very large amount. If the enemies give 5xp, but the boss gives 500 xp, I'm not going to waste my time. A slightly different solution is to have a time limit to your quests. A clean solution is to just have the player quickly reach maximum level (like in guildwars), or gate level progress behind game progress(FF XIII style). Whatever you do in this situation , you have to be fair to the player. If you don't want him to grind, then he should be able to beat your game without grinding. 3. If grinding is unnecessary, but you still want to allow the players to do it, you have mainly the same things as in situation 1. But, there is a question. If they do not have to, why would a player grind in your game ? One reason is that they want to choose their own difficulty in the game. Why don't they just lower the difficulty then ? There is player pride : I beat the game on hard! (after overgrinding each area, untill the game was as easy as it was on normal)!. It is the reason I stopped picking the harder difficulties in persona. The only thing they make me do is grind more. Instead I just play on normal, but avoid overlevelling. My experience is better then going on very hard and just grinding. It is also often the result of locking achievements or good endings behind a difficulty level barrier. A good reason I find are optional bosses. The ultima and omega weapons of final fantasy, the elizabeth/margaret/twins of persona, the high level hunts in FF XII/XIII, the battle arena in FFX. If the player makes the main game too easy on himself by grinding, but he still knows where to find a challenge when he wants one, thats better. Another fine one might be comsetics. I did not have to grind for that teddy bear armour, or the pink armour paint, but I wanted to. In short, If grinding isn't needed, but you still want to reward the player for it, give them a nice reward to go for. Final fantasy often falls into this camp? I dont have to grind to finish the main game, but the grind is there if I want it. 4. The grind is/looks necessary, but I don't want the player to do it easily. This is a weird case of it either being intentional, or the result of bad gamedesign. Let's split the 2 cases. a. I did this intentionally. Sometimes, grinding makes a character way stronger, and is necessary to progress, but you don't want the player to have an easy time doing it. This often results in the game directly fighting the player, trying to kill him. The most known example I could give are roguelikes, where each enemy you fight could be your last, but you still have to level up to fight the final boss. A nice example of the oppressive system this entails is seen in darkest dungeon. A game where you have to level your heroes, but each one also has permadeath, and even if you don't die, you might wind up paranoid, sadistic, or suicidal permanently. b. Oops, an accident This is mostly caused by wrong playtesting, or just wrong design decisions. Some examples: You limited the encounters in an area, but the boss is actually unbeatable at the level you can get, because of a last minute xp per enemy change. You make the enemies level along with the player, but you also insert random chance based "collect 10 bear asses that drop 10 % of the time" quests in there. You have weapon durability, but encounters don't cover the repair costs But whatever you choose, make sure you gave it some thought. Do I care if the player grinds, do I want him to, what happens if he does ? In my current game, I'm going for the grinding optional, but if you do, I want to make it as easy on you as possible. I'll have the hunt/safari/battle royal skills, that spawn 1/5/10 random encounters in a row, with rewards if you finish them all, but no healing/resting in between, so grinding is convenient if you want to. I combine this with a custom xp curve that takes a heavy jump after each chapter end, so players can grind a bit, but are still doing the final dungeon of each chapter at the desired difficulty. for example, lv 8 to 9 costs 90 xp, lvl 9 to 10 costs 100 xp, but 10 to 11 costs 150 xp and 11 to 12 costs 200, 12 to 13 is 300 xp. The xp per enemy has equivalent jumps. Level 9 enemies might give 5 xp, but lvl 12 enemies give 20 xp. So staying at the right level is actually the best way to level up. This combined with an ever flattening power curve means that every level is worth less than the one after it, percentage wise. level 1 to 2 sees you getting from strength 1 to strength 4, increasing your damage 4 fold. level 20 to 21 increases the same stat from 400 to 441, a 10 % increase in stat, and a 20 % increase in damage. At level 50 this is 2500 to 2600, and a damage increase of 8%. For clarity, my stats are level(+/-1)², and damage is about att²/defense, so against an equal level enemy, this amounts to damage=attack stat (or lvl²). This means that I can have a tight control over player progression in the beginning, but later on I can allow the game to open up, and to have a bit of non linearity. Leveling will also only get you so far. The customisation options for the characters are locked behind dungeon completion, and not raw levelling. Anyway, opinions ?
  10. Balance Part 2, Randomness

    It seems we are in agreement. Big randomness has no place in most story driven RPG's, because each time we reoload, we kind of break the story a bit. Small randomness, sure, but the player always needs to feel as if he has a fighting chance besides reloading. That's why I am a fan of medium term consequences. He has a bad encounter and has to spend more MP then usual ? That's a bit sad, but as MP regenerates slowly in my game, he can just be a bit cheap on MP the next 2-3 combats and be back where he was. He has consequence, but he isn't royally screwed. What I am trying to say is that the difference between the all-nuts situation and the total screwover shouldn't be as big. Getting a high potion or ether from a chest isn't a reload offence, but getting a potion or a megalixir, that might be reload worthy. It surely makes balancing a nightmare. Do I balance this fight assuming the player did or did not steal that ultima sword from the last boss? Bt that is a whole other bucket full of problems.
  11. Balance Part 2, Randomness

    What I am advocating is the elimination of the need to save scum. If a challenge can be beaten by save scumming alone, it is not a challenge and should be cut. If I can only beat the boss if he does not use his super move, then why is that super move there ? Certainly if I fail as a player, sure punish me, but if the game decides to go Back attack => ultima => ultima =>I'm dead! then no, I should not suffer permanent consequences for that. I have the same problem with stealing from bosses if it is random. The only thing this does is make me hit steal for an indeterminate number of rounds, and reload the boss if I did not steal the ultima sword by the time I beat him. A point against save points : If your game is playable on mobile, you have to account that the player might only be able to play for 10-15 minutes. Some of these things might be fine in roguelikes, nut not every RPG has to be that.
  12. Balance Part 2, Randomness

    The main difference I see between rogue likes and standard RPG is the length of the concequence. Most RPG's are designed to be played all the way through in one go, so a random screwing over (last lock-pick breaking, having to use that super item) has a way longer consequence than in in a rogue-like, and to avoid that, we will often just reload ( which is what I am trying to prevent here). You fail in a rogue-like ? Well, better luck next time. If you fail in a regular RPG and have to burn through a valuable item, or yyou didn't get that super item from the locked chest, well, your save file is now forever a little worse because you don't have that super item.
  13. Balance Part 2, Randomness

    Ok, just informing , I am going to reply to this, but I need some time.
  14. Balance Part 2, Randomness

    Aah, the roguelike. I agree with you there, the randomness is part of the fun there. But a good roguelike uses the randomness to set the stage, not to determine the result, as you say. On the lockpick issue : why have breakable lockpicks at all ? Just say that this is a lockpicking lv 5 or higher lock. Have it depend on the skills of the characters. You didn't buy the lockpick skill ? No treasure for you! Breakable lockpicks map to one of 2 problems : either they are too bountiful/cheap and might as well be infinite, or they are so rare as to never be used (the megalixir conundrum), or people start saving before opening a chest seeing what's inside and reload if they don't like what's inside.
  15. That feeling you get when you write a fully rambling blog post, but decide to post it anyway.