Difficulty Balance and Level Grinding

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Ragpuppy87, Jul 12, 2019.

  1. Ragpuppy87

    Ragpuppy87 Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Idaho, United States
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    So, after a whole lot of trial and error, I have about figured out a decent difficulty balance in my game.
    (I hope...)

    One of the few remaining issues I have is level grinding. I'm trying to avoid having that be necessary until the final dungeon, where I do have a relative difficulty spike in mind. Being the final dungeon I feel that it's allowed.

    Other than that I'm wondering how much I should consider grinding in the rest of the game. By which I mean the following.

    I have overworld enemies in my game. Player touches them, and a random battle occurs.
    Now, personally in RPG's with overworld enemies, I'm the type of player to clear out every enemy on screen before moving on to the next map.

    I realize this may not be standard play for the average player. I'm wondering what is. If a map has 8 enemies on it, how much should the player be required to battle to stand a chance against the dungeon boss?

    Is clearing out all of them considered level grinding or should that definition be reserved for repeatedly battling all enemies, exiting the map, and then reentering and repeating the process. The latter is what I consider the "grinding". But that may be just me.

    I'm wondering how much leeway to give the player one way or another regarding the amount of enemies in a dungeon vs. how much you should actually battle to be able to proceed.
     
    #1
  2. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

    Messages:
    11,609
    Likes Received:
    11,598
    Location:
    USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Some players do consider fights optional if you put them on the map as visible. What I did was I did a compromise of setting my game assuming the player fought 50% of the enemies on the map. That allows them to dodge some, but still need to fight a few.

    Though if you have your bosses give EXP you could just see if you can beat your game without doing a single fight but the mandatory ones. I tried that for my game, and...it was doable, though it was tough when I got to the end and was about 20 levels underleveled. So if your game *can* be beat (maybe with a good strategy and/or some luck) with no optional fights at all, I'd say it's probably set up just fine.
     
    #2
  3. Animebryan

    Animebryan Feels like I'm slowly dying! Veteran

    Messages:
    327
    Likes Received:
    140
    Location:
    Marysville, CA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    As a completionist who grinds to max stats & levels in RPGs, I can honestly say that beating all the map enemies at least once is considered normal & is a safe bet at being strong enough to take on each boss. Its when you find yourself constantly resetting the enemies & fighting over & over either for exp, money or item drops, that referred to as grinding. Just make sure the difficulty spike isn't too big.
     
    #3
    Ragpuppy87 likes this.
  4. Heirukichi

    Heirukichi Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    381
    Location:
    Italy
    First Language:
    Italian
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I completely agree with what bgillisp said. The good game is the game that allows the player to just barely made it without grinding at all (it must be difficult, otherwise levels are useless), has an average difficulty if you beat around 40-60% of the enemies and is easy if you beat them all.

    There are various reasons for this, you can check them in the list below.
    • If the player can beat the game without grinding at all, it means that you are not forcing the player to grind; as long as at least one available strategy allows the player to beat the game without grinding, any player who does not want to grind can adopt that strategy.
    • Beating an average amount of enemies gives the player an average difficulty without annoying him or her by forcing fights that could be skipped.
    • Beating every single enemy in the game is something that takes time. Give a reward to players who take a long time exploring your game and allow them to feel that it was worth it. Eventually add one or two hidden bosses that only those who kill every enemy in the game can find, this way the reward is something more than just being overpowered.
     
    #4
    Ragpuppy87 likes this.
  5. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

    Messages:
    4,150
    Likes Received:
    4,585
    Location:
    Riftverse
    First Language:
    Indonesian
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    This is a simple yet hard topic. Because game balance is subjective to everyone. The better bet is just to make a demo of your project and send it to someone to evaluate. Depends on what kind of people they are, the feedback is going to be various. Casuals who want to steamroll everything may find it difficult, the hardcore grinder may find it easier. So the first question is, which is your target audience?

    If you're making a visible enemy, and you find yourself always clear them before moving on, is there any reward worth getting? And by that, it isn't just level up. Probably you will unlock something awesome that is just not standard learn a skill at level x. For example, stat allocation or skill tree. Or upgrade material or anything. Or is it just out of completionism? I'm the kind of person who does something out of reward in the game, not a completionist, and I believe there're people like me out there. Are you targetting to this kind of people?

    I don't think there's a shame on putting "grinding is mandatory". It just turns off some people who don't like grinding, but some people DO overleveled in a game and "accidentally" make the game too easy for them. If you like something, I believe there're people who like the same as you do, somewhere.

    Speaking of personal experience, always think that the boss you think is alright, is actually not alright. I had a test run once that I tackled the first boss of my game at level 3 without breaking a sweat, and I thought that would give my player a good time. Turned out someone chose to fight it at level 2, skipping the grinding. Even though grinding to level 3 doesn't require much grinding at all. You just walk straight ahead, encounter some, don't escape, and that will give you level 3. In the end, I nerfed the boss a little bit in the normal difficulty (but keeping it the same in harder difficulty) and putting an easier mid-boss for EXP to bump my player at least to level 3.

    But my always thing to go is making a mark that this boss should be beatable at level x, then adjust the encounter exp based on it. Assume it's a straight path, not getting lost, never escape the battle (people who got lost probably get battle more often than in straight path). A little over or under leveled I will think about it later.
     
    #5
  6. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

    Messages:
    11,609
    Likes Received:
    11,598
    Location:
    USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    There is one approach I did in my game too to tackle the overleveled issue. Basically every zone in my game I set a level for the monsters there and if the player is significantly higher level than the monsters, the monsters will run from you instead of chase you. You can still corner them if you wish to fight them, but this way if you are at level 45 and back in a zone where the monsters are level 22 and you could sneeze and KO them, they will stay away from you.

    I also had some stacks just not show up as well if you were way overleveled. Some monsters just decided to hide under the rocks and wait for you to leave.

    I actually had some fun with this too, even added some scenes like this if you were too overleveled when you entered an area.


    Basically with some creativity and a level check of the party level when they enter an area you can easily do something like this and keep the visual enemies under control.
     
    #6
    Ragpuppy87 and Wavelength like this.
  7. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    3,909
    Likes Received:
    3,278
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    It depends on a lot of factors, such as how fun your battles are (fun battles means that players will be more likely to "grind" because they want to fight stuff) and how difficult it is to avoid combat on maps (harder to avoid means that players will be more likely to "grind" by winding up in battles along the way).

    Ultimately, because it will probably be different for everyone, you can't know exactly what level your player's characters will be in this kind of system, so your goal should be to give yourself a wide balance target to hit, rather than trying to hit that target exactly. Good ways that you can give yourself a wide balance target against unknown amounts of grinding/leveling include making the EXP curve steep (having each level require a LOT more Exp than the last level to obtain, and having enemies in each area award a lot more Exp than the last area), giving relatively small stat bonuses for Level-Ups (giving more power to equipment that is gated by area and/or to the characters' base Level 1 stats), and loading more EXP into bosses and less into encounters. There are a lot of other things you can do to give yourself a wide balance target for combat in general; I mention several of them here.

    P.S. @bgillisp Very cute scene!!
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
    #7
    Ragpuppy87 likes this.
  8. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

    Messages:
    1,544
    Likes Received:
    2,778
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    Like Theo said it's a very subjective matter and every game and genres have different viewpoints. Personally, in a RPG with overworld monsters on the map that trigger battles upon touching them, I usually fight about 50% of the monsters in a room (like bgillisp). But then again, that also depends on the room's size and the number of enemies in it.

    Also, it also depends on your battle:
    • Is it fun and interactive?
    • How long is your normal battle? 30 seconds? 5 minutes?
    • How hard are regular battles compared to the boss battle?
    • How much of a reward do the player gain from a battle?
    So boring battles, longer battles, harder battles advocates for less battles, and very rewarding battles (exp, money, or drops) advocates for more battles.
     
    #8
    Ragpuppy87 likes this.
  9. Ragpuppy87

    Ragpuppy87 Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    76
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Idaho, United States
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I actually had something like this in mind! Glad I was on the right track!

    I was actually throwing the idea around in my head of once a certain level is reached the enemies in a certain area would simply be auto defeated on the map screen when you touch them. Similar to Earthbound. The experience and money normally earned would be halved by doing this.

    EDIT: Oops. Just realized I double posted.... Sorry.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 12, 2019
    #9
  10. slimmmeiske2

    slimmmeiske2 Little Red Riding Hood Moderator

    Messages:
    5,203
    Likes Received:
    3,935
    Location:
    Belgium
    First Language:
    Dutch
    Primarily Uses:
    RMXP
    @Ragpuppy87 I merged your posts together. If you want to quote more than one person, you can use the Multiquote button/+Quote all posts and then insert them below. Alternatively you can just use @ their username, like I did at the beginning of this post.
     
    #10
  11. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

    Messages:
    677
    Likes Received:
    612
    Location:
    SW5GMW 4xVHk
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    As someone who greatly prefers visible encounters over invisible RNG encounters, my approach ensuring that the player doesn't just skip everything without annoying the crap out of them with unavoidable, heat-seeking foes that respawn after every transition is to have two different types of foes on the map:
    • One-time, fixed-location foes. This type of foe stands in choke points and is generally needs to be killed to get past, but once it's dead, it's dead forever and will never be in the way again.
    • Respawning foes that wander around. These foes wander around (but don't chase you because I kind of hate that) and disappear once defeated, but only until you transition to another map. While they always could end up wandering into a choke point, I don't plan on positioning them in ways where they can easily do this.
    Then, I just have to balance around the player fighting only the static foes and everything should work out.
     
    #11
    Ragpuppy87 likes this.
  12. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    3,909
    Likes Received:
    3,278
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Be careful with a feature like this. There are times it can be welcome, but other times it will actually be a detriment.

    If you are using it to control the player's level, then I would recommend giving a chance of money and drops, but no EXP. Even at Half EXP, instantly defeating enemies means that it would be more efficient in most games than actually grinding those monsters. It might be OK if the EXP Curve is sharp enough, but would still be a somewhat unsatisfying way to grind.

    If you are using it to "skip" hard-to-evade battles that have become so easy (due to being overleveled) that they are not engaging anymore, you could consider using an approach similar to @bgillisp (which some professional games have also opted for, such as Tales of Graces) - once you are clearly overleveled against the foes in an area, they will run from you (preferably at low speed) instead of toward you. Therefore, the player won't have to get in any battles they don't consider fun, but if they actually enjoy stomping those lower-level monsters (I tend to, personally), or if they are looking to grind for something specific, they'll be able to do that by chasing the visible encounter down.

    Paper Mario also had an interesting system where if you succeeded in an action check on the map (such as kicking a Koopa shell into the wandering encounter on the map), you'd either damage the monsters in that encounter, or (if you are overleveled compared to the encounter that you'd receive 0 EXP in their scaling EXP system) destroy that encounter outright similar to what you're describing from Earthbound, awarding some gold. Not sure how relevant this mechanic is to your own game, but it did feel really satisfying.
     
    #12
    Ragpuppy87 and MushroomCake28 like this.

Share This Page