Automatic vs. Manual stat increase on level ups

jkweath

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My experience browsing RPG boards, especially from games like the Diablo series, is that many RPG gamers like having a manual stat allocation system to customize their characters with - when implemented properly, it adds depth and replayability. I still remember a lot of Diablo 3 players, back when the game first came out, were enraged that Blizzard removed manual stat customization - despite Diablo 2's system being "figured out" at that point (put enough points into Strength and Dexterity for equipment, all other stats into Vitality, anything else was a waste)

That being said, implementing a good manual stat allocation system is a daunting task for a single game developer, so it's understandable to stick with automatic stat allocation or a mix of automatic and manual.

Many may not consider that, in a way, equipment is a form of "manual stat allocation". If, for example, you have a character that can equip plate armor, leather or cloth - with Plate giving lots of armor and HP, Leather giving some agility and luck, and Cloth with magic power and magic defense - that sort of system gives players that sense of customization and depth that is lacking from an automatic stat allocation system. IMO that's good enough.
 

Frozen_Phoenix

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If you have a lot of characters, then go automatic. If you have few characters (less or equal to a party), go with manual.
 

Wavelength

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I think that in a larger game system that's designed to be compatible with it, and if you're a really good gameplay designer who can foresee all of the conceptual balance issues that can come about from overspecialization, Manual Stat Increases are going to be a lot of fun. It lets the player mold their character's combat role to the way they view the character's personality (in a great way that the easy switching of Equips doesn't quite achieve), it gives the player a higher sense of agency, and as long as the player doesn't need to do too many repetitive things on these menus over the course of the game, it can be a fun activity in itself.

With that being said, most indie games and even many AAA games make a mistake somewhere along the way that turns a potentially cool feature into an absolute mess. 90% of the time, the game would have been better without it. Here are some of the most common pitfalls:
  • The system rewards overspecialization, i.e. dumping all points a character ever earns into one or two stats.
  • The system can "trap" players, e.g. some stats mean almost nothing to a certain character which makes for wasted points.
  • It is too obvious which stat boosts should be given to which characters; the decisions the player makes aren't interesting.
  • The player's selection of stats will greatly reduce the set of skills or tactics that will actually be feasible for that character in combat (in a way that feels unsatisfying or restrictive).
  • The system is unclear about what any stats will do for a character in combat.
  • The stat boosts that the system awards don't have enough impact on combat.
  • Stats don't feel like they have much impact on combat (even if they actually do).
  • The system rewards stat points far too frequently, turning it into a chore for the player to go to the menu and choose stats to level up for each character.
So, I love Manual Stat Increase systems but it's so dam important for it to be the right designer and the right game or it's going to be a disaster.
 

MaGicBush

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I'm a bit late to this party, but I'll add my 2 cents. As others have said manual stats are always the way to go. Most gamers, myself included, like the extra options. In fact I'd go as far to say I mostly wont play games that have automatic stat growth anymore. I don't feel as engaged with my character if I don't get to choose how it evolves through out a game. I know personally my projects going forward will always use a manual stat system, or a hands on system like the elder scroll games(use what you want and it levels up).
 

Wavelength

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I'm a bit late to this party, but I'll add my 2 cents. As others have said manual stats are always the way to go. Most gamers, myself included, like the extra options. In fact I'd go as far to say I mostly wont play games that have automatic stat growth anymore. I don't feel as engaged with my character if I don't get to choose how it evolves through out a game. I know personally my projects going forward will always use a manual stat system, or a hands on system like the elder scroll games(use what you want and it levels up).
Can you name the "others" who have said that manual stats are always the way to go? I just read through every single post in this topic, and I didn't read one (besides yours) that said that manual stat upgrades are always better! :p

A plurality of the responses so far have indicated that manual, automatic, or combination stat upgrade systems work better for different types of games. And even people who have advocated for manual stat increases as a general principle (I'm one of them) have couched it with conditions that indicate it's not strictly better than automatic.
 

MaGicBush

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Can you name the "others" who have said that manual stats are always the way to go? I just read through every single post in this topic, and I didn't read one (besides yours) that said that manual stat upgrades are always better! :p

A plurality of the responses so far have indicated that manual, automatic, or combination stat upgrade systems work better for different types of games. And even people who have advocated for manual stat increases as a general principle (I'm one of them) have couched it with conditions that indicate it's not strictly better than automatic.
Jkweaths post is what I was referring to, and every gamer in general. Not just this community, and I will be honest I just glanced through and saw his post about most Rpg gamers preferring manual and his reference to blizzard games. He is right though in that blizzard games have million of fan's, as does bethesda with the elder scrolls and fallout games.

Saying that I do agree with him also that as a indie dev that can be hard to take the time to do it right. If done right it's preferable to most.
 
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Wavelength

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Jkweaths post is what I was referring to, and every gamer in general. Not just this community, and I will be honest I just glanced through and saw his post about most Rpg gamers preferring manual and his reference to blizzard games. He is right though in that blizzard games have million of fan's, as does bethesda with the elder scrolls and fallout games.

Saying that I do agree with him also that as a indie dev that can be hard to take the time to do it right. If done right it's preferable to most.
Ah, gotcha. I'd point out that Jkweath's post also mentions that manual stat increases might not be a smart choice for single-dev games, and also may be reasonably replaced with automatic increases alongside highly diverse equipment choices (creating what may be an equally good experience with less inherent risk).

Be really careful about talking about "every gamer in general". Sorry if that sounds like I'm talking down - after all, I've made this mistake in my own designs before, and while my assumptions were certainly valid about a certain type of gamer that was like myself, they failed to hold true about the wider universe of gamers. Yes, the Diablo and Fallout series have millions of fans and they have highly flexible character stats, but the Tales of and Paper Mario series also have millions of fans and their character stats are far less flexible (with automatic increases at level up as the backbone of their systems).

Then there are mobile gamers, who are just weird. *grins*
 

Milennin

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He is right though in that blizzard games have million of fan's, as does bethesda with the elder scrolls and fallout games.

Saying that I do agree with him also that as a indie dev that can be hard to take the time to do it right. If done right it's preferable to most.
Diablo and Elder Scrolls also play very differently from the type of RPG made in RPG Maker. They're not very comparable games. Distributing stats or building characters in those games also greatly vary in the way you play those characters, unlike in RPG Maker, where you get choices between... defence to get his less. Or attack, to hit more. Those are not engaging choices to make.

Then there are mobile gamers, who are just weird. *grins*
And yet, there are mobile games with deep and interesting mechanics, that are far superior to the vast majority of RPG Maker games.
 

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