Examples of Non-Experience based Level grinds?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Roguedeus, May 29, 2019.

  1. Roguedeus

    Roguedeus It's never too late to procrastinate... Veteran

    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    106
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    I am looking for examples of mechanics, or a list of RPG's (Western or JRPG), that are turn based like RPGMaker but manage to pull off non-exp grind leveling, while maintaining the same basic feeling of progression it provides. (Taking for granted that Levels are necessary and not all grinding is bad)

    I have considered a hybrid approach, where Levels are gained one way but provide only a soft cap on Parameters, and actual Parameter progression is handled a separate way (mostly through equipment crafting).

    I've also considered a purely ParamPlus route, where levels represent hierarchy progression in world terms (how important you are compared to others), and had a separate more granular Power rating that I'd use for things traditionally left to levels.

    But, I keep finding myself returning to the simplicity of auto progression through experience level grinding. With a smattering of optional choices thrown in via Job Point mechanics.

    Trouble is, I am pretty ignorant regarding the world of JRPG's as a whole. I was never heavily into console and mobile gaming and missed out on most of the lions share of the niche titles so many here know so well. Thus, I'd really appreciate any suggestions, so I might look up some examples.

    Also, if you have some suggestions on how to manage a non-exp leveling mechanic work (not whether levels are necessary, or experience is necessary), I'd really appreciate it. The more this is hashed out, the more likely good ideas will emerge.
     
    #1
  2. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

    Messages:
    11,767
    Likes Received:
    11,798
    Location:
    USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Well, you could probably do what I did, which is set it so that about 50% of your stats come from levels and 50% from equipment. For example, at level 1 most of my character stats are between 15 - 25, and at level 50 most of my characters are between 40 - 70 in stats now, but equipment can give you another from 5 points of ATK to 150 points of ATK.
     
    #2
  3. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,710
    Likes Received:
    725
    First Language:
    Spanish
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    you could clamp the experience dropped by enemies to be calculated relative to the character's level.
    more than one or two levels above the enemy, no XP received.
    that'd prevent farming and encourage progression, although *grinding* is more related to *the need to farm XP* rather than *the convenience of earning higher XP*.
    if there's no *need* to farm it because there's seemingly no milestone *to achieve*, then the player will likely not worry about it.

    skill trees, pricey items, level-dependent quests, gear-dependent enemies.... all of that breeds grinding.
     
    #3
  4. JtheDuelist

    JtheDuelist Just a dev who actually got a game finished Veteran

    Messages:
    1,150
    Likes Received:
    1,413
    Location:
    RMW Forums, Granvia, or Askr
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    Of course, you can go the Monster Hunter route, where ALL of your stats are solely based on your equipment, any armor skills, and whatever item buffs you have- where there is absolutely no thing as a level... Well, there is the Hunter Rank which determines what quests you can go on, but that is about the only "level" stat in the game.
     
    #4
    Roguedeus likes this.
  5. Roguedeus

    Roguedeus It's never too late to procrastinate... Veteran

    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    106
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    Thanks for the quick replies. ;)

    That seems what most JRPG's go for really. Levels default to a backup minimum-power level, that the player can grind out if they are a bit under powered and lack access to new gear.

    I actually wrote a plugin that scales all experience by relative level, keeping the leveling curve flat. In other words, if it set to require 100 equal level enemies to level, it will require that all the way through the game. Of course, -1 level might require 150, then 200 per level etc... +1 levels might require only 75... etc... Thing is, It felt boring. There is a lesson that idle games can teach us when it comes to the idea that people just like to see numbers get bigger. ;)

    I started a build where that was the case... it is actually one of the examples I gave above (if its not obvious sorry). Only that I use actual Class Levels as Soft Caps for parameters using Yanfly's Param Control plugins.

    I am really heavily leaning towards that route. I also really like the idea of a narrative lite RPG. I lean towards rogue-lite elements and open-ish world content, and Equipment progression works well for that.

    I am still left wondering if there isn't some unrealized alternative.
     
    #5
  6. Tiamat-86

    Tiamat-86 old jrpg gamer Veteran

    Messages:
    263
    Likes Received:
    109
    First Language:
    english
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    slightly more player friendly approach to the monster hunter system. levels are granted with main story questline. kinda like a military promotion system. this is more friendly because it allows you to at least function when you suddenly jump to a higher level area (like 2nd continent) and you don't have the funds or materials for new gear or any way to get back (because you get the boat later on)
    so 80% of your stats is based on equipment and buffs. while 20%(the bare minimum to survive just outside of town) is given though levels tied to main quest progress
     
    #6
    Roguedeus likes this.
  7. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

    Messages:
    1,614
    Likes Received:
    2,872
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    There's the FF2 approach (although I personally dislike it) if you want to remove experience, keep parameters, but "remove" levels. In FF2, your parameters could increase after a battle depending on what you did in battle. If you used a lot of physical attacks, your physical attack stat might go up, and if you received a lot of magical damage, your magical defense might go up.

    And there's the equipment way, which is fairly more popular and easier to do. So basically, if you make equipment the main way to boost your parameters, that would remove the need for levels (could still be used for HP/MP, or slight parameter boost), thus traditional exp grinding.
     
    #7
    Roguedeus likes this.
  8. Roguedeus

    Roguedeus It's never too late to procrastinate... Veteran

    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    106
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    It would definitely be worth trying if you're going with a Narrative heavy type game. But I am less inclined to that sort of thing. All my past attempts have left me cringing due to several factors, not the least of which is my inexperience with excessive dialogue. I am great at circumstance, plot, and character... not so great at jibber jabber. ;)

    In other words, I am avoiding forcing the player into bottlenecks of Quest/Narrative nature.

    Yeah, I found FF2 a bit unsatisfying that way. I am all for repetition, but the good often satisfying and largely optional kind. In that respect I have embraced Yanfly's Mastery Levels plugin to add some depth to individual skills without requiring alternate versions of the same one. Making heavy use of Skill Core lunatic note tags. (Amongst others) That is the extent of encouraging people to spam specific actions for any reason other than they want too.

    It seems that "Levels as Parameter Caps" + "Equipment Progression" is the going favorite.

    No one has any examples of alternative leveling mechanics that aren't exp grinds?
     
    #8
    MushroomCake28 likes this.
  9. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

    Messages:
    11,767
    Likes Received:
    11,798
    Location:
    USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    The thing is you can very the level + equipment in so many ways. For instance, there is a huge difference if you let level ups take you from stats of 20 to 999 and equipment only add 1 - 50 points vs level ups take you from 1 to 10 and equipment adds 1 - 50 points. Plus damage formulas can add even more to this. In fact, you can use level as part of the damage formula, as long as you make sure monsters have a level stat, as they don't by default, so a plug-in is needed for that.

    The only other progression I've heard of was used in Shadowrun, which granted you points to spend when you completed quests. There was no other way to level up other than via those points. Though the game did have slightly better equipment as the game progressed too, but most of the power came from the Karma points (as they called them) you gained when you completed quests. So you could try say awarding EXP at quest end, and no other time. Though then you would run into the issue of why are you fighting, and your would have to deal with players thinking all battles are pointless.

    Oh...Jagged Alliance did something different too, where you had skills which went up via training or use, and in the course of a game the average merc would gain 10 points to skills, so a 68 marksmanship would probably end near 78, and so on. Health almost never improved, and could even drop permanently if you let the merc take critical injuries. As a result most of your progression was via equipment, but even that only went so far if you had a marksmanship of 35. If interested in this more maybe grab a copy of Jagged Alliance 2 (it's the same system as 1, and better done) on gog or steam and check it out? Or read some FAQ's to see more on how they handled it?

    And if you want to see a system that was almost all level up based and little equipment, Wizardry 7 and 8 from the 90's, or Might and Magic 4 and 5. There equipment matters a little, but your levels mean a whole lot more than the equipment. In fact my best fighter in Wizardry 8 last time I played it (earlier this year) was my bare handed Monk who blasted with Psionics, then kicked anyone who got too close.
     
    #9
    Roguedeus likes this.
  10. Milennin

    Milennin "With a bang and a boom!" Veteran

    Messages:
    2,155
    Likes Received:
    1,208
    Location:
    Fiore
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    My last game has a level-up after ever encounter, but encounters are limited. No respawns or random encounters.
     
    #10
  11. Tiamat-86

    Tiamat-86 old jrpg gamer Veteran

    Messages:
    263
    Likes Received:
    109
    First Language:
    english
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    theres also the D&D approach. levels dont effect stats its only used to unlock new skills, and equipment is only very small improvements like 1-3.
    or theres the no levels but stats can be increased though items or some other means (like dragon quest's STR/VIT seeds or spending job points for stats.)
    i remember seeing something before of a way to have the job point method have an increasing cost after each purchase.

    edit: the D&D thing would require class parameters plugin so they stay the same value as level increases
     
    #11
    Roguedeus likes this.
  12. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

    Messages:
    1,614
    Likes Received:
    2,872
    Location:
    Montreal, Canada
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    If you can code or are willing to commission someone, there is literally an infinity of ways to go about it. Imagination really is your only limit (and hardware lol). If can't code or aren't willing to spend money on commissions, perhaps looking at the available plugins might guide you. There are still tons of free to use plugins, so I'm sure you can find something interesting there.
     
    #12
  13. Roguedeus

    Roguedeus It's never too late to procrastinate... Veteran

    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    106
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look into some Lets Play videos and see what I can discover.

    I am currently re-re-reworking an adaptation of the "Levels as Parameter Caps" + "Equipment Progression" where Levels are Trained for a cost, Job Points are only awarded from exceptionally difficult Battles (i.e. Bosses) or Quests, and all other content (random encounters, etc...) are merely opportunities for resource gathering (GP, Crafting Mats, etc...).

    Also I am actually using YEP_BaseParamControl in conjunction with a few other related Plugins, to Soft Cap Actor Parameters, but leaving all Class based Parameters with no level curve at all, in the tool set. It may seem odd. But I really am trying to totally decouple levels from direct Param Progression entirely.

    19_0528a.JPG

    Coding (JavaScript) is not much of a problem for me these days, unless it has to do with GUI. Currently I am brain storming to see if there are actual examples available of functional alternatives, or if I have overlooked something. :)
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
    #13
    MushroomCake28 likes this.
  14. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,059
    Likes Received:
    3,386
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    I would highly recommend checking out some mobile games that aren't directly RPGs but give you a party of characters to build and manage. They tend to have intricate leveling systems that don't make use of EXP. Most of the time you need to grind/collect items (generally gained from one-time in-game accomplishments, or from daily quests, which regulates the speed at which players can gain power) of a certain type to build up a certain character; sometimes there are multiple types of items for different types of upgrades. Two mobile games I'm into lately are Grand Chase Mobile and Match Land.

    As far as console/PC games, the only one that comes to mind immediately for me is Dark Cloud 2. Most of your power scaling comes from upgrading your weapons over the course of the game (with a variety of different orbs that you get from dismantling items); there are also items you can find after you complete side missions, which increase characters' HP or Defense.
     
    #14
    Roguedeus likes this.
  15. Roguedeus

    Roguedeus It's never too late to procrastinate... Veteran

    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    106
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    Thank you for the suggestions.

    The only one of note, I have tried over the years, is Tower Keepers (Exp is a currency you spend to level up). But I did't play it long before the timers killed it for me.

    Looked into Dark Cloud 2. The Synthesis mechanic appears to be a basic dismantle gear into upgrades that you apply to other gear. Are there any nuances that set it apart?

    Jagged Alliance reminded me of X-Com in many ways. Your crews stats increased based on mission use/consequence and Gear was most progression, but not very customizable.
     
    #15
  16. Tiamat-86

    Tiamat-86 old jrpg gamer Veteran

    Messages:
    263
    Likes Received:
    109
    First Language:
    english
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    paper mario - badges
    metroid - ETanks and ammo expansions
    megaman - basicly blue magic and ETanks

    basicly translates to...
    stats = items and events
    skills = accessories/attachments and bosses
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2019
    #16
    Roguedeus likes this.
  17. Roguedeus

    Roguedeus It's never too late to procrastinate... Veteran

    Messages:
    524
    Likes Received:
    106
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    N/A
    Thanks for that! I had totally forgotten about MegaMan, and I'll look at Paper Mario.

    Oddly enough, a recent development in my project has left me thinking I may end up going with a somewhat similar approach to the way MegaMan managed challenges.

    Having said that, I am not really looking to Action games or Platformers as inspiration. I'd like to stick to the core RPG genre, or at worst other Turn Based mechanics where stat progression is paramount.

    I understand why they are relevant, but twitch reflex and timing is the lions share of their mechanics and doesn't really apply to JPG's, other than Quick Time Events in battle and such, which aren't at all remotely appealing to me.
     
    #17
  18. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

    Messages:
    711
    Likes Received:
    666
    Location:
    SW5GMW 4xVHk
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    SaGa Frontier is a cornucopia of alternative growth-without-experience mechanics, with each differing by race:
    • Humans: After reach battle, has a chance to gain various stats. Possibly based on how strong the foes were compared to the person gaining the stats. There is some lean toward what you use (use magic, gain magic stats for example) but unlike the older gameboy SaGa games, you can gain other stats too. It's actually similar to the FF2 approach mentioned above, but a lot more evolved.
    • Mystics: Similar to Humans, but only a few certain stats such as HP, WP/JP (two variants of MP) and maybe a few others have a chance to grow after each battle. The rest they gain by absorbing defeated foes into special pseudo-equipment--doing so also conveys new abilities that last until a new foe is absorbed into the same piece of pseudo-equipment.
    • Monsters: A system almost entirely unique to SaGa games, a monster party member can absorb skills from a defeated monster. When key skills are absorbed, the monster will change form into a new type based on which key skills they have. The act of changing form also conveys a small increase to a few stats, but I don't recall which.
    • Robots: They gain skills by "downloading" them from defeated enemy robots. For stats, they have a set of base stats, and any growth is based entirely on equipped items.
     
    #18
    Roguedeus likes this.
  19. Umbreon

    Umbreon Furry Veteran

    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    19
    Location:
    France
    First Language:
    French
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    The FFX sphere grid is the best alternative solution I know. It allows the player to specialize fully as he or she sees fit, while allowing brutal stats evolutions by showing the player how to achieve them while giving him or her the satisfying feeling of quickly rising to a new level. Nothing replaces the feeling of doubling the damage you do just with a +4 in strength.
    This must be coupled correctly with the damage formulas, of course.
     
    #19
    Roguedeus likes this.
  20. Tiamat-86

    Tiamat-86 old jrpg gamer Veteran

    Messages:
    263
    Likes Received:
    109
    First Language:
    english
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    FFX true endgame required the grid to be almost maxed out though giving very little disparity between stats. only character skills. (wakka LB is OP)

    edit: that being said. there is also games out there where you dont change weapons or stats, only gain new abilities. you could have a fake progression feeling by having lower level enemies be the 1s with higher stats(lowest HP). so higher level enemies with lower defense and higher and HP simply appear stronger.
    but realy all ur grinding is new skills

    double edit: a few games (FF1 comes instantly to mind) you simply bought new skills from a shop. this is realy easy to do items with a blank state to mark learner followd by common event to find person with the state check if have skill or can even learn it, n teach a skill if they need it still. return item to inventory if they cant learn it
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
    #20
    Roguedeus likes this.

Share This Page