Balancing MaxMP & MP Regen & MP Cost

Frostorm

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Hello fellow RM devs, let's discuss balancing a player's choice of increasing their Mana pool vs increasing Mana regeneration or reducing the Mana cost of their spells. Obviously thelonger the battle goes on, the more valuable MP Then is, and vise versa. How do you guys value each of these bonuses relative to one another?:kaohi:

Edit: Added MP Cost reduction to the discussion.
 
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Animebryan

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The problem with MP & magic users is that once a magic user's MP runs out, they become completely useless & are too weak physically to offer any real help in battles. Increased MP only means it takes longer before they run out & become useless. But with MP Regen, they'll eventually be able to cast again, you just need to wait & stall for time, while protecting them before they get killed.

However, it depends on whether the MP Regen is either a flat rate number or % based. Because if it's % based, then the larger the Max MP, the more you regain per turn, making them mutually important.
 

Zerothedarklord

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In my game, magic user's have a magical attack that is based on the staff they have equipped, which deals magic damage (therefore it scales off their intelligence rather than strength, allowing it to deal a little bit of damage), and it also restores MP. In my specific case, I made it so that it restores 3% MaxMP when they attack.
 

Frostorm

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However, it depends on whether the MP Regen is either a flat rate number or % based. Because if it's % based, then the larger the Max MP, the more you regain per turn, making them mutually important.
This is an important distinction. What do you guys usually use? Flat or %?

In my game, magic user's have a magical attack that is based on the staff they have equipped, which deals magic damage (therefore it scales off their intelligence rather than strength, allowing it to deal a little bit of damage), and it also restores MP. In my specific case, I made it so that it restores 3% MaxMP when they attack.
So they only get the 3% MP if they do a basic/normal attack? I made mine so that all Staffs grant 4% MP Regen and Wands (1-handed version of a Staff) grant 2%. This would be passive in my case. Now if the player does decide to go the 1-hand route (whether it's a sword or wand or w/e) they'll have their offhand free to equip either a Tome or an Orb or even another Wand. Tomes reduce MP Costs, Orbs grant MaxMP, and Wands grant MP Regen as I mention earlier.

Btw, I've updated the thread title to include MP Cost.
 
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Dr. Delibird

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MP is a resource and so I think of it the same way I do potions or any other resources I give my players. All design decisions you make should take into account MP and so if you want players to be conservative with MP you design around it or if you want to encourage lots of MP use you design around it as well.

Having higher MP pool vs a regenerating pool of MP should only ever matter to the player if your game is designed around BOTH being possible which is not an easy thing to balance as the two paths generally have different design decisions associated with them
 

Frostorm

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Having higher MP pool vs a regenerating pool of MP should only ever matter to the player if your game is designed around BOTH being possible which is not an easy thing to balance as the two paths generally have different design decisions associated with them
This is precisely the question I hope to get answered in this discussion. I think giving the player "side-grades" with different bonuses makes for a more interesting game. I want to offer all 3 options: +MaxMP, +MP Regen, & -MP Cost so the player can explore various builds.

For instance, what difference would there be when it comes to +MaxMP vs -MP Cost?
 

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So they only get the 3% MP if they do a basic/normal attack? I made mine so that all Staffs grant 4% MP Regen and Wands (1-handed version of a Staff) grant 2%. This would be passive in my case. Now if the player does decide to go the 1-hand route (whether it's a sword or wand or w/e) they'll have their offhand free to equip either a Tome or an Orb or even another Wand. Tomes reduce MP Costs, Orbs grant MaxMP, and Wands grant MP Regen as I mention earlier.
that's correct, you're only going to be using their normal attack if you are silenced or out of MP, so it is beneficial.
 

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Yeah, I forgot to bring up the MP Cost factor, which plays a major role. The thing about MP Regen is that if you give the player too much MP Regen, they essentially have unlimited MP which defeats the purpose of having a limited amount. One game that comes to mind is FFX. One of the best auto abilities you can put on a weapon for a magic user is One MP Cost. Ironically, there's another auto ability that can be placed on armor called Break MP Limit, which can increase your Max MP from 999, to 9999!

But once you have One MP Cost & have 999MP, that means you don't need Break MP Limit & One MP Cost is an easier ability to acquire than BMP Limit, which makes it's existance completely redundant from a developer's perspective. While there's nothing wrong with making it possible to have such a broken setup, it should be earned & not possible until late game (2/3 or 3/4). As the old saying goes, Everything in Moderation
 

Frostorm

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The thing about MP Regen is that if you give the player too much MP Regen, they essentially have unlimited MP which defeats the purpose of having a limited amount.
That's why I only have 3 sources of passive MP Regen in the entire game. 1st are the caster weapons I mentioned (Staff = +4% & Wand = +2%). The 2nd is from the passive bonus from leveling up Tiers of Hydromancy, which grants +1% per tier (max Tier5 = +5%). Lastly, there's a passive in Hematurgy (Blood Magic & Vampire stuff) that grants +3% MP Regen only while you're at 100% HP. I guess if the player were to combine all 3 sources (which would result in certain opportunity costs) they could obtain +12% MP Regen, which I admit is quite a bit... Of course, as soon as they get hurt or their HP isn't topped off, then it'll go down to +9%.

So how much MP Regen would you guys say is too much? Btw, Mana is very tight in general for my game. At the start of the game, you'll only have enough MP to cast 2 spells, then you're OOM. I basically make it so that if you want to be a competent caster, you'll have to build your character w/ casting in mind. In other words, a non-caster character trying to do magic wouldn't be viable. So those sources of MP Regen I mentioned are designed for such builds.
 

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How much is too much is based on MP Costs, particularly the costs of the most effective offensive skills. If your strongest All Target spell costs 30-50 MP & the player's MP Regen is at least 30 MP or more, you essentially have Infinite MP. The flat amount that's actually regenerated probably should never exceed about 10 MP/turn.
 

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I don't care too much for the MP type systems of the vintage rpgs. I think TP makes a better resource for wizards as MP. They should have some cantrips, spells, or a normal attack that works off intelligence that generates mp and does decent damage or utility, and have their mp generate each turn and with these cantrips. The better spells cost mp. Think Battle Chasers...Fighters used to have no abilities and the old system used mp to balance that.
 

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@Celestrium, that's similar to an idea I had pondered. Using TP for commonly-used battle skills, and MP for field-based or potent skills. It's reassuring to see that my idea already exists elsewhere and works.
 

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Not certain why there's so much hate for the basic "there's only so much MP before this character is useless" way of making skills and classes.

Take Pokemon as an example. It is easily the MOST successful turn-based battle system in circulation and every attack has its own MP pool. Once your party member is out of MP, it's fairly useless.

The player should have the strategic wherewithal to manage its resources appropriately so the party members don't run dry.

The developer should have the strategic wherewithal to design dungeons and encounters that don't full exhaust wisely managed MP pools.
 

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Hello fellow RM devs, let's discuss balancing a player's choice of increasing their Mana pool vs increasing Mana regeneration or reducing the Mana cost of their spells. Obviously the longer the battle goes on, the more valuable MP Then is, and vise versa. How do you guys value each of these bonuses relative to one another?:kaohi:
For balancing +X Max MP against +Y each-turn MP Regen (assuming that MP is fully restored after every fight - otherwise this comparison is very difficult to make mathematically and you have to go by feel), you can start by estimating how many turns your average "challenging" battle will be, and multiplying that by Y to get the amount of extra MP each one will give you during the course of the fight. However, the first few turns of combat are usually the most important, and having MP in your back pocket can be more valuable than getting it at a slow drip, so (especially if your Max MP pools are only enough to cast 2-3 spells) you probably want to multiply the value of X by somewhere from 1.5 to 2. From there, you can usually compare the two totals (X and Y) and make a fair assumption that the bigger total is the more useful bonus.


For MP Cost Reduction vs. Max MP, I generally prefer Max MP from a quality-of-life standpoint (not necessarily talking balance) unless the Cost Reduction is on a State that's applied by a spell or whatever, rather than attached to Equipment or permanent bonuses. Why? Because your current MP amount is already something that's going to fluctuate during the course of a dungeon, and if your MP costs are fluctuating a lot as well, it's going to be very hard for the player to think to themselves "Will my mage be able to afford Spell A and Spell C" while figuring out what action to assign their Warrior. If you keep Spell Costs as constant as possible, it becomes a much easier calculation - the player can just look over to the Mage's MP gauge and compare it to the spell costs they've been using all game.


To be honest though, I've found it nearly impossible to make a MP system that encourages careful, strategic play and is also never frustrating. That's why I switched to a system that almost exclusively relies on Cooldowns to gate characters' use of skills, and while that has come with issues of it own, I'm actually really happy with the dynamic that it has brought into my game and I couldn't be happier about the switch.
 

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The MP design largely depends on what you're trying to do.

If the player is meant to be steadily losing resources over the course of a dungeon as an "Endurance" type gameplay mechanic, then large MP pools are sort of mandatory. Especially if the player is meant to be blowing spells every single combat encounter just to be effective.

But, if the player is meant to be saving casts and only using them on strategic targets, then you can have a much smaller MP pool to force the player into this play style.

For balancing purposes, I use "how many casts?" as the default. A baseline Mage (level 1, no modifiers, no bonuses) can cast their basic spells about 10 times before needing a refuel (they cost 3 MP with a max pool of 30 MP). The player is then expected to use a recovery item to get their MP back.

Now, if the Mage levels up one of their spells to the second Tier, the cost of that spell is now 6 MP. Now, that skill can only be casted 5 times before you need to refuel.

The most basic "MP Gain" item (item that gives a character more Max MP) only give 5 MP (1.6 more casts of Tier 1 spells and 0.8 more Tier 2 casts). It's not enough for a single cast. You have to use two of these to get 1 extra cast out of the Tier 2 spells. Since my characters only gain stats through these items that permanently raise them, you have to expend the Max MP items on your mages that you want to cast more often. Now, a Tier 2 Max MP item gives 10 MP to the character (3.3 more casts of Tier 1 spells and 1.6 extra casts of a Tier 2 spell).

The basic balancing is already apparent here. Tier 1 items give extra casts of Tier 1 skills. Tier 2 items give extra casts of Tier 2 skills.

Except, Tier 2 skills replace Tier 1 skills. Replace all your Tier 1 skills and you only have Tier 2 skills that do a ton of damage, but cost more to recharge.

The player is effectively trading more power for less casts.

I also don't really have "MP Regen" used all that much. The strongest I have is 8% MP regen, but it costs MP to use that skill, and it's single-target (so you're spending MP to gain it back and if your Max MP isn't high enough, it's possible to get back less MP than you blew on the cast of the skill).

Instead of "MP Regen", I have a skill that costs no MP for my Mage characters. It costs nothing to cast, is a straight "Magic - Magic Defense = Damage" skill and can be used in place of spending MP on baseline monsters. It's not as powerful as the casted spells (no bonus damage), but leaves the Mages highly effective even if you are out of MP and MP restoring items.

Sure, you can't cast Super Ultra Mega Death Flare 9000 any more than 3 times before you've blown all your MP, but the bonus damage on it is 100. Using the 0 MP skill, it does the same damage, minus 100. And no elemental effects. Or buffs. Or debuffs. Or states.

With MP being a strategic resource to manage for the player and getting more being "every so often" rather than "every level up", the player is forced to either use the skills against specific enemies or save it for boss fights. It is also helpful that most of the design around mages is predicated on making those spell casts insanely powerful or insanely useful so that the player WANTS to use them.

But, that's the basis of balancing MP, MP Regen, and MP cost. How many casts do my players get before they need to refill?

MP Cost Reduction items only exist on the rarest and most difficult to obtain equipment in my game. It effectively breaks the primary point of MP in my game to have them, so it must be earned. This is also true of MP Regen, which is a little more common, but not all that useful. MP Regen on equipment never gets better than 5%, and it requires 5% of your HP each turn to do it. Most other items never really get above 2% MP Regen. Plus, by the time you get most of them, your spells are costing upwards of 50-100 MP a cast anyway. The MP Regen provides "longevity" in battle, but can't be relied on in any way to restore you to full MP in a timely manner (Yep, even if you stack 2% MP Regen in all 6 equipment slots. Even at 12% MP Regen a turn, you would need 1,200 Max MP to be able to have 0 MP loss per cast of 100 MP spells). MP Regen just effectively "increases the amount of spells that can be casted before hitting 0" and that's pretty much it.

But, anyway, balance of these things is based entirely on what you want the player to be doing with MP.
 

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Not certain why there's so much hate for the basic "there's only so much MP before this character is useless" way of making skills and classes.

Take Pokemon as an example. It is easily the MOST successful turn-based battle system in circulation and every attack has its own MP pool. Once your party member is out of MP, it's fairly useless.

The player should have the strategic wherewithal to manage its resources appropriately so the party members don't run dry.

The developer should have the strategic wherewithal to design dungeons and encounters that don't full exhaust wisely managed MP pools.
Because you can't strategically manage resources when you don't know what's ahead of you. You go into a cave, and you have zero indication of how many encounters you're going to be having before you get to exit and refill MP. The best you can do is use MP as sparcely as you can, while spending enough to not get killed. No refills doesn't reward thoughtful gameplay, it just disincentivices you to be using your resources more than you can get away with at a minimum level needed to survive.
 

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@Milennin that's a difficult balancing act. How far do you have to go as a developer to protect the player from itself?

If the game is developed well, it should be difficult for the player to squeak through the dungeon without the MP usage.
 

Milennin

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@Milennin that's a difficult balancing act. How far do you have to go as a developer to protect the player from itself?

If the game is developed well, it should be difficult for the player to squeak through the dungeon without the MP usage.
I mean, sure, it's up to the developer. In commercial games, I trust developers to have a decent sense of balancing, but my experience with playing RPG Maker games is so all over the place, I can't trust the game to let everything be OK when I play as I normally would in an RPG.
The less information the player has available to them, the less informed their choices are going to be. If you tell the player there's a cave ahead and no way to get MP back while inside it, there's no informed choice to make, but to trust the developer to not mess up the game's balancing. Not to say that kind of design can't be done, but the more potential ways you allow for players to mess up, the bigger the responsibility of the developer is to ensure chances that happens are as small as they can be.
This is why I prefer to have in-battle MP regen, because it gives control to the player and lets them manage their own resources, instead of having to blindly trust the game to not throw too many encounters at them before the next checkpoint.
 

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This is going to be a long one.
Personally, I like to use both MP and TP in my magic system. I tie the higher tier spells to use both MP and TP so the player can't simply spam the most powerful spells constantly. The caster essentially has to gather enough focus during the battle before they can prepare the spell for use. I think of it in terms of preparing a magic field in which the spell can be created. This sort of thing doesn't just instantly happen, it takes time and preparation.

That being said, balancing MP is going to be more difficult the more leverage systems you add to it. Each method is its own way of trying to control the amount of magic capability a character has, and if you have several systems in place designed to make magic either more or less usable, they are all going to be battling each other for control. If, however, these separate systems are all controlling different aspects of the system and have their own role to play, then implementing multiple systems can be very beneficial.

- Max MP is a good way to control how strong of a spell the caster can manage. If the spell is too powerful for them to handle, they won't be able to muster the amount of mana necessary to cast it. However, a very proficient caster could manage to cast a high level spell multiple times and still continue to perform without becoming too drained.

- Mana regeneration is a great way to give your casters a recovery rate so they can continue to cast spells over time. I have seen many systems with and without this factor work successfully. It all comes down to how you want to handle the magic in your world. If you plan on having your casters only able to regenerate mana during rest, then this option is likely not what you're looking for. If you want your casters able to continue to use spells throughout even lengthy battles of drawn out dungeons while giving the player the option to use items or not, this is a good balancing mechanic. (People like me are extremely item stingy, and appreciate mana regen.)

- Reduced MP cost is a good mechanic to show a caster's level of proficiency in magic. I can see a mage who has used a spell a hundred times or more being able to find ways to cut down on the amount of mana needed to cast the spell. This does, however, compete with the Max MP method for control over how many spells you would like your casters to be able to use before they exhaust themselves. Having reduced MP cost can be abused to the point where magic is no longer an issue due to spells being free to cast, though if it is managed well, it can be worked in to set reasonable cast limits.

Each method has its pros and cons, and each method can work with the other. It's up to vigorous testing to really find a balance that you deem acceptable.

Now that that long rant is over, I've got a couple of things to add:

Personally, I will almost always value reduced MP cost and MP regen over an increase in max MP. My reasoning is the more I can squeeze out of my already existing mana pool, the more valuable each point becomes, and the faster I can regenerate it, the more valuable my caster becomes.
This all comes down to how the numbers crunch, of course. If the mana pool increase will grant more casts than the reduced spell cost, then an increase in max MP it is.

In terms of reducing mana costs, flat rate reductions and percentile reductions are two different beasts. If your low tier spells cost something like 3 mana and you reduce spell costs by 10%, that's not going to do anything for a low level mage. But a flat rate reduction of 1 bringing that cast down to 2 mana is a huge difference to a low level mage, but pretty much completely useless to a high level mage, who is presumably casting higher level spells costing 50+ mana a spell. In that case, the percentile reduction is a much greater value.
With this in mind, combining the two should be handled with caution. I always recommend making sure the flat rate reductions are done before the percentile reductions, otherwise you will likely end up with spells that cost 0 mana, assuming you grant bonuses large enough for this to be feasible. Which brings me to probably the most important aspect of this whole thing:

- Deciding on what the maximum amount of reductions is considered acceptable is the biggest point that should be focused on should you include cost reductions, be they percentile, flat, or a combination of the two.

- Deciding on how effective regen is at each stage of the game is the biggest point that should be focused on should you decide to implement this. Calculate how many casts a caster is capable of at level 10, level 30, level 50, and so on due to regen, and make sure the balance is acceptable for the place the player should be at in the game at that time.

- Deciding on how much magic you want your players to have at their disposal is the biggest point that should be focused on when considering Max MP pools, as well as spell costs.

- And lastly, always triple check how well all of the systems you plan to implement work together before you decide you are happy with the results. Extensively test to see if everything works within your expectations at all different points of the game, stress test the limits of the mechanics you've put in place, and aim to break them as much as you possibly can. If the results are still satisfactory, give another person a go at abusing the systems and see if they manage to use it in a way that you don't find acceptable.

Sometimes, having a system that feels slightly broken is a great way to make the player feel empowered. Personally, I always enjoy it when I find a way to make my character so strong they take 0 damage or they one-punch a boss that's supposed to be challenging. But whether that comes from the fruits of labor the player has put in or from something game breaking that had been overlooked makes a huge difference on its impact, in my opinion.

Thank you for reading this through. I hope my opinions and thoughts have been helpful.
 

Tai_MT

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Because you can't strategically manage resources when you don't know what's ahead of you. You go into a cave, and you have zero indication of how many encounters you're going to be having before you get to exit and refill MP. The best you can do is use MP as sparcely as you can, while spending enough to not get killed. No refills doesn't reward thoughtful gameplay, it just disincentivices you to be using your resources more than you can get away with at a minimum level needed to survive.

So... minor problem with this. Just a minor one.

MP Restoring items are cheap in almost every RPG and Currency is given out in vast quantities.

If you don't have a means to refill your MP in the middle of a dungeon... you're kind of a garbage player. As in... you lack the ability to connect the dots between "I have 20,000 currency I'm not using and probably never will use... My MP is finite... I don't know how much of it I'll need for the next dungeon... I should buy some MP restoring items just in case I need them for the dungeon."

The major issue is that most devs have let players get "complacent" and rendered most RPG's as "easymode". That is, players don't need to buy consumables and never will... and when it turns out they should buy consumables to extend their resources, they get a lil' bit angry that the game requires them to do that. After all, they should have enough HP and MP to get through the dungeon without having to restore HP or MP! They shouldn't have to work that hard to complete a dungeon! If it's too hard, it's a roadblock! I had to go grind out 5 more levels to do this because I wasn't smart enough to bring consumables, and so the game is FORCING ME TO GRIND!

In reality, a lot of game devs design their games in such a way that gamers have grown soft and complacent. They aren't expected to make any intelligent decisions. They aren't expected to have to think about anything. They aren't expected to have to do anything in a tactical fashion. They aren't expected to have critical thinking skills. They're really not expected to even get a Game Over.

Heck, personally... With games that people have said are "hard", I've managed to beat with a lower overall level just through the purchasing of consumables. I beat a good chunk of FFX and one of the "hardest fights in the game" against Yunalesca because... wait for it...

I had a ton of consumables that kept me in the fight. The fight was tedious and not difficult at all for me.

Heck, it's how I ended up beating a lot of the older (and much more difficult) Pokemon games. My strategy involved saving every piece of currency I got in the game (spending only what I needed for Pokeballs to catch everything along the way), collecting every item on every route and not using them... and then when I hit the Elite Four, buying the items that restored health and removed status ailments as well as revives. Even when I was 10+ levels under the champion, I'd just "run out the game" through constant revives until the guy ran out of PP or there was an opening. Everything else was just, "exploit type weaknesses for one-hit KO's" and "put the party member who can exploit most weaknesses of this area up front and never swap them out". Much of the time, you could "grind to a couple levels above the route" and then just take out every trainer on the route while running from all wild battles and remain pretty safe (which is always why I find it funny that people think Nuzlocke is difficult... it's literally the easiest, but most tedious way to play a Pokemon game).

Players don't use consumables anymore and they should. If they did and devs knew they did, gameplay in almost every RPG would actually get a lot more difficult and more interesting.

Anyway, to get back to the topic at hand...

It's less about knowing how much MP you'll need for the dungeon and how much you're allotted before you need a restore. If you have a pool of 200 MP and each cast is only 5 MP of your attack spells... yeah, you're probably not going to need a consumable at all in the dungeon no matter how sloppy you play. But, if you have a pool of 30 MP and each cast is 3 MP... you'll want to spend your casts more wisely, even if you can refill the MP easily with consumables.
 

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