Eliminating XP. Character growth by item and equipment ONLY

duty

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Seeking community input on the potential pitfalls of abandoning XP rewards and level based character progression.

Without XP and character levels, the player can only improve party member parameters and acquire new combat skills by equipping better gear.

I imagine that the consequence of only awarding currency and items at the end of a battle makes random encounters intolerable.

Traditionally, the party always needs XP, so any opportunity to gain XP is a good opportunity. However, the player does not always need to loot, particularly if they have already purchased or found the best gear for the current area.

The player likely prefers to see upcoming battles and avoid them, necessitating visual representation of battles on the map. These visible encounters can be stationary barriers to block access to paths and treasure chests, or moving hazards for the player to navigate around.

I'm hoping that the decreased incentive for monster stomping is replaced by an increased incentive to explore for better loot - and that avoiding battles while exploring is an entertaining challenge.

The more I ponder cutting XP and levels, the more it feels that the XP tradition is a hindrance. Removing it solves issues like grinding, balancing dungeons and battles to party capability (you'll know what gear and stats the player likely has), and fine tuning encounter rates.

It feels like such a good idea, that I'm wondering what I'm missing.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments?
 

TheoAllen

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EXP is a separate "currency" for getting stronger. Whereas if you decide that the progression means different equipment, I would assume that it means buying new gear with your money. And money could be used to buy consumables and other non-permanent things. In another word, you don't need to worry about running out of exp (read: anything you gained from battles) while buying new items.

Not to mention, various types of gear you could pick for, IDK, maybe you decided that "it's good that to defeat the enemy, you need the correct gear" which end up being grindy in the end. While EXP gives you a straight path of getting stronger by simply level up.

EDIT:
@CEO1234 that's a support question, not design question.
 

Kupotepo

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I just copy @TheoAllen is XP is just name of the currency of level progression. You can name @duty lol as your leveling currency if you would like too.

Anyhow, I played the card random skill dungeon game. The character is not increasing level during the exploration, but after the character dies.

I think I know what you are thinking. In many RPG mobile games, the characters can only get level up by the items called crystals or shades. The player have to collect and the player chooses the characters increase the levels.

My absolute opinion [ironic]: the first, it is fun, but later you have collect more and more then it becomes chores. Now, you have to pick the characters to you went to level up.

As long as you made the system not complicated and save the room for the player stress. Because you might want to introduce another one, another one, and another one.
 
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duty

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"it's good that to defeat the enemy, you need the correct gear" which end up being grindy in the end
Nearly the logic I had in mind. "It's good that to defeat the enemy efficiently, you need the correct gear".

And I agree that obtaining that gear would be a grind if shop purchases are the primary mechanism for getting that gear. Gear for currency creates other complications, as you pointed out:

I would assume that it means buying new gear with your money. And money could be used to buy consumables and other non-permanent things.
That leaves combat rewards, quest rewards, and treasure chests as remaining gear distribution methods.

Combat and quest rewards are arguably just as grindy as mob mashing for money.

So, perhaps the next logical step is to have more gear as a reward for venturing off the beaten path.
 

Sword_of_Dusk

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Something like this is how character progression works in Riviera: The Promised Land. There are no traditional levels in the game, and instead you improve characters by gaining EXP for your equipment by using them. Once you've mastered a piece of equipment by filling its EXP gauge, you learn a new Overdrive skill, and get a stat boost.

It's a fun system, imo, but the game suffered a bit from requiring you to repeatedly engage in practice battles in order to master equipment and gain stat boosts in order to keep up with the enemies. If you just tried to progress normally, fighting only the required battles in your way, you'd end up very weak in comparison to later foes. Balancing the system a bit would definitely lead to some fun times in an RPG Maker game that applied it to its gameplay.
 

Dororo

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I don't see the point into creating a level progression if you can dodge all combats. I mean, you grow for that as a reward.
And if you can pass the monster door anyway, why collect stuff?
So, in the end, is more linear than neutral grinding, forcing you to actually explore the map to find all loot and then hopefully pass the monster door. Rinse and repeat.
For me is no. Much better FFIX slot system- loot teach you skills, levelling up grow the number of skill slots.
 

duty

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In many RPG mobile games, the characters can only get level up by the items called crystals or shades. The player have to collect and the player chooses the characters increase the levels.
Not exactly. Level up items feel like XP with extra steps.

I was thinking of something that's more like the Legend of Zelda or Paper Mario: Origami King. The party's combat effectiveness is driven entirely by what's equipped, as opposed to the use of a consumable enhancement item.
 

Kupotepo

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@duty, ok. Sorry for my confusion and have to walk me through.

I mean yes if you would like just balancing the weapons and equipments. That is ok whatever flow you boat. I do not see the problem like balancing any stats and skills.;)

I mean you see many people here just let players allow to escape 100% the normal monsters except block that option of boss fight.

I think people have many reasons to avoid the battle. 1. Take too long 2. Try to solve the puzzle, so it is a distraction. 3. Unbalanced battle system. That is what people here said in the survey @Frostorm created lol.
 
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HumanNinjaToo

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It seems to me that without levels giving parameter boosts, and making it completely a system of equipment to give parameter boosts, you're just needing to balance the game in a different way. It really depends a lot on how you would have the encounter system set up, but it seems more straightforward (and in some ways easier) to control player progression through a level up system. Doing something outside the norm would probably be welcomed by most players, I just think it would require more work on the dev's part to balance properly. If done well, I think it could be a great way to change things up.
 

CraneSoft

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There is a dungeon crawler I played that have levels but doesn't use XP, instead you gain levels and new abilities by clearing event battles and bosses instead, thus the whole difficulty entirely hinges on equipment you find and the skills you acquire. There are random encounters but they serve no real purpose besides providing money and item drops. The game ended up being fun in a way where I had to explore as not to miss the any important equipment as I can't grind and brute-forcing my way through the bosses, and the tougher fights are puzzle-like as a result, but since player strength level is fixed, it is actually easier to balance things around as long as you don't add stuff like customizable equipment and item crafting that could give a player parameter boosts like a level up, which defeats the whole purpose of abolishing grindable levels.
 

KakonComp

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I plan on using levels in my first MZ game, but normally I don't use them and either make both skills and stats completely dependent on equipment, or do away with shops and use currency to buy stat ups and skills similar to games like Onimusha or Dark Souls.

I like how rewarding loot feels when doing the above, doubly so when it drops like candy and all the enemies are pinatas. Even with levels,I doubt I'd change my usual design philosophy on equipment.

I've never used permanent stat increase items outside of a leveling system.
 

CraneSoft

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@TheoAllen I can't name the game here as it is not an RM game AND it's that kind of game (yeah..) not for your average person. Though you can search with the following as reference:

The 2nd game by Tunnel No.73 on Steam
 

Icenick

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I think it can work nicely. The most exciting aspects of rpg games is getting a new powerful piece of gear or grinding those last levels to learn a much wanted ability or skill.
I would suggest having gear customizable and not simply each town a copy of your current gear with better stats.
I like yanfly augment system because I use "orbs" to place in gear to increase stats. Later progression of game gives better orbs.
Players can choose to keep a chest piece with a unique ability or forgo it to equip a chest with many orb slots to upgrade base stats.
 

Aesica

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I've played a few "levelless" games and one that even cut out all rewards from battles to "discourage grinding." I think it went too far because doing so made the battles feel like a complete waste of time. Who wants to deal with battles that have no value?

Now, for the 1 map challenge, I've been making a side project game that also cuts exp and levels out of the equation, using gear and certain in-game event sequences to grow the player's power. To add a sense of progression by completing battles, the enemy drops are used to create weapons, armor, and useful items. Not sure if this is the best approach, but that 10 event limit is pretty rough to work with, and exp/levels didn't make a lot of sense for a short game with an android as the protagonist.

I guess the tl;dr is that if you're going to take away levels, you need something to make the fights worthwhile. People like rewards and watching their numbers go up, but if battles don't do either of those sufficiently, people are going to hate dealing with them.
 

kyonides

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IMHO eliminating XP by replacing it with armor stats is... incomplete. You make it a rush for buying the most expensive armor available out there. It doesn't look different from grinding. Do you have an alternate method to let the player get boosts?
 

duty

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IMHO eliminating XP by replacing it with armor stats is... incomplete. You make it a rush for buying the most expensive armor available out there.
It's probably a good idea to make the best gear a reward for exploration and as an award for particularly difficult battles.

Do you suppose that shops should have a limited supply of equipment, and focus on consumables, instead?

If the player can buy their way to end-game stats, then you're correct that the XP grind has been replaced by a currency grind.
 

kyonides

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Dunno for sure but perhaps some transformations or job changes might do the trick. Perhaps even offering them a chance to get better skills might taunt them into accepting some odd quests that award them with anything you can think off except for experience.

It'd end up being a strife for gaining merits so to say.
 

FoxIt

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Honestly, this question comes down to "what does an exp system do and why would you want it?"

In terms of design, a basic levelling system does one thing: incentivize the player to fight.

On top of this, levels are very rewarding and very easily implemented, the problems however are that it can lead to massive variance between the stats of players which makes rigorous balancing difficult. It also isn't too interesting (though it doesn't need to be imo)

The biggest problem is the swingy nature of levelling, the easiest fix imo would be to just change levelling to have a significantly lower impact, however lowering growths too much can be volatile and make levelling obsolete.
The best workaround to this I've seen is in Trails in the Sky or the Kiseki series. In these games, the amount of exp you gain decreases if you're higher-levelled, and it's pretty heavy handed in these games (halved exp per level you're over), starting trails in the sky sc they added increased exp for lower-levelled party members so as to reduce grinding.
This incentivized players to fight stuff when they got to a new area as you'd want to at least do a couple of encounters while the enemies were higher-levelled while limiting grinding as a whole because the game significantly cuts exp gains when too high-levelled.
The goal of rewards as a whole is to incentivize players to fight stuff, if you want players to fight stuff you reward them for doing so. If not, then you don't reward them and cut out systems like EXP.
 

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