How to Baseline Mechanics/Stats?

Acturis

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Are there any techniques or recommendations to establishing a baseline for mechanics? An example would be how high to make the physical attack, developing fomulas for TP style moves to give a decent return on TP invested without going over/underboard, setting HP to be within the range of tolerance, that sort of thing.

I ask because I am working on my first game and I don't want to push the heroes into a realm where they over over powered or under powered.
 

Skunk

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This is one of the most asked questions when it comes to developing an RPG.
What you need to research is "balancing".
Making it so as your players level up, their stats don't do anything crazy and level up to level 10 after defeating 7 spiders...
The best thing to do is pay attention to the way they balance commercial RPG's like final fantasy and chrono trigger.

There is no right or wrong answer, the only fact of the matter is play testing battles is the best and most realistic way to balance your party.
 

Tai_MT

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The "baseline" for any stats or mechanics are what you want them to be. The basic method I use to do so is to decide how many hits I want a party member to die in (or even the whole party) and how many hits any given enemy should die in. Balancing things like TP and MP around damage is simple enough. That just depends on how often you want players spamming those Skills and/or how quickly and easily you want both to be regenerated.

You can, after all ,have an enemy do 1 HP damage to you every single hit and if you've got 10 HP, that's ten hits it'll take to kill you. You can use low numbers or high numbers.

You need to figure out what kind of game you're trying to make and what you're trying to accomplish in your combat system to begin with. What do you want your combat to look like? How do you want your players interacting with it? What kind of mechanics are you trying to use and what purpose do they serve? What do they change?

That being said, there's not really any "standard" way to SET balance, only standard ways to MAINTAIN the balance you've set. Ideally, you just create monsters and skills that don't require a player to grind for levels in order to beat them. That's pretty much it.

You will be doing a lot of playtesting. Lots of battles against every single enemy with every single piece of equipment (or most of the equipment). That playtesting will help you maintain the balance you've decided to set.
 

Skunk

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A super easy way to do it would be expanding fractions.
Start with a system of low numbers and you can multiply all stats by the same number in order to have a beefier looking party.
 

Rinobi

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My advice: Create your enemies first. Start with your conflict, design around overcoming that conflict.
 

acidhedz

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I like to start easy, then bounce the difficulty up every new area, till towards the end of the game you feel like you're sneaking though by the skin'o'your teeth.
I like to make battles hard, then make sure it's always possible to win. I don't want to kill the player, just make them feel like they could have lost. So I don't worry about balance much. I make my baddies too strong on purpose to start with, then tweak things to be easier for the player as I play test.
But I grew up with (s)NES games, and they were about as fair as a hanging judge. Your mileage may vary.
Anyhoo, I have a low threshold for irritation, so I figure if I can beat something without getting annoyed, most players should be able to.
So like everyone else is saying, make some stuff then play test, play test, play test. And then play test some more. And when you get done with the play testing, play test it again. I don't consider a game done till I've played through the whole thing at least once, just like a player would.

As for stats...
My last game has six PCs active in the party at once before you're half way done. Some enemies fight solo, some in groups. And I wanted combat focused on skills instead of gear.
Missing even one character (none are hard to find), you'd probably not be able to finish the game. Without play testing enemies can be too weak solo, or too strong in groups. And I had to tweak the skills to make sure none were too weak, or too strong at any point in the game. Or too difficult to use, etc.

I don't know about starting with the battles first, I'm a writer so I think the story should come first, but you should figure out the overall feel you want for combat (gameplay in general really) sooner, rather than later. Then use that as a guideline for how to create your baseline and mechanics.
 

Learis

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Also make sure your moves have a set purpose that is not completely overwridden by another move.

ex) fireball: Cost 10mp damage 10
laser blast: Cost 10mp damage 20

If a character has both these moves, then it's pointless to have the fireball. Make sure your moves have their unique purposes, their strengths and weaknesses.
 

jade_angel

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A point in favor of not making your numbers too small, is that larger numbers give some room for granularity. Also, since the numbers are mostly being juggled by the computer and only grasped in general terms by the player, the difficulty of multiplying and dividing large numbers is much less of a factor than it would be in a tabletop game.

Four-digit numbers do seem to be a sweet spot of a kind - the "max is 9999" convention may have come from Final Fantasy (specifically FF 4, the max was generally 999 in the previous three), but it's stuck around because it hits the sweet spot between having enough granularity to provide a lot of design space while not being so large as to be awkward. Three-digit numbers aren't bad either (see Chrono Trigger, Robotrek, FF1-3, most DQ games), but can pose some slight problems if you have a ton of different gear and skills that need to be distinguished.

Another minor wrinkle is that the default implementation for Defense is the direct damage reduction model, which strongly incentivizes single large hits over multiple small ones. For example, if an opponent has 10 Defense, which reduces the damage from each hit by 10, then 5 hits for 10 damage each will deal 0, while one hit for 50 damage will deal 40. If that poses issues, there are a bunch of plugins that can refactor defense scaling to work around that, if you want to.
 

Acturis

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First off, thank you everyone for your input, you all have given me a great deal of insight on the steps I need to take to balancing my game.

@Skunk : Thanks for the proper term of balancing and pointing me in the right direction. I'm currently researching the FF series because I am very familiar with that series. I am also looking up expanding fractions because, admittedly, my math is currently weak. It has been over a decade since I took a math course and my current job does not require any significant math :/

@Tai_MT : The kind of game/combat I am working towards in the long run is a RWBY style game where the players will have a good use of TPs. I am debating getting rid of MP and converting it to an expendable item through the use of 'dust' but that may be untenable (limited code experience applies here). Regardless, I want to give the players a feel of the show where about every 3rd move or so is a special technique.

@Rinobi : That is a good point, as I stated above, I am trying to make this like the RWBY series. That means the starting encounters should be a lot of low level minions to maim and kill while the higher level encounters are solo baddies required 4 PCs to vanquish.

@acidhedz : I like the scaling difficulty as it'll allow players to get accustomed to the combat system and make those major encounters truly rewarding. How did you make the skills the focal point of your game if you don't mind me asking? Did you simply increase the amount of damage the skills or was another method (like summoning additional bodies to absorb damage)?

@Learis : Thanks man, that is a very solid point to make. I'm actually running into that difficulty right now as I'm mapping out skills for these characters. An example is Yang from RWBY. I know the series has her use her shotgun gauntlet to deliver massive single blast as well as a devastating kick for signature moves. My thought here was to distinguish the two by having the blast bypass armor while the kick could have a knock-back effect. Do you think there'd be any issue with separate character have similar skills that overlap (i.e. each character having a move that focuses on a single baddie while another move would focus on AoE)?

@jade_angel : That granularity and sweet spot advice is fantastic, now I just need to combine that with the balancing research and I should have my levels set. I was looking at breaking down my game into manageable chunks with each game mirroring the RWBY chapters by level. So chapter 1 will cap PCs at level 10, chapter 2 (if I make a chapter 2) at 20, and so forth. With 9999 being max damage, any recommendations on how to scale that back form max level (and saying expanding fractions like above is perfectly acceptable :p )?
 

acidhedz

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Hmmmm... I didn't just do one thing, so I'll try to properly explain it.

The game has 6 characters with a different class each.
Jack Hoth, The Hashassin, whose skills do damage based on Attack, Agility and Luck. With a focus on DoT effects.
Titties McBewbs, The Toasty Meister, whose skills do damage based on Magick Attack and Attack. Some of her skills cause herself power burn (a DoT).
Cutie Cake, The Fairy, who is the healer and has light based magick spells to do most of his damage.
THAT GUY!, The Marked Marksman whose skills do damage based on attack and agility.
Sidekick McNobody, The Meatshield, who has attack based damage, but most of his strong skills unbalance him so his Def gets reduced for 2-4 turns.
And McDoogle, The Wizzard, who starts with wind spells, and the player can buy a variety of others depending on how they want to spec him out. The most powerful damage dealing spells also cause him power burn.
Spells always do damage based on magic attack, so they also scale with level, like other skills.

So, out of the 6, only ones' skill damage is based only on attack, so he's the only one with a high attack stat.

I then made the baddies good and tough, and with powerful attacks of their own. If you don't find ways to bog them down and stop them from using their skills, they will stomp you.
The further into the game you go, the less basic attacks will damage. Even with the best weapons in the game, towards the end you wont do much damage that way. So you have to use your skills, or you will die.
You have to do crowd control, while setting up combos with debuffs and buffs, and getting your SP (instead of TP) up to use your best attacks. Spells do consistent, but not incredibly high damage. Unless you use the aforementioned spells, that also hurt the caster to use.

I also made it so most skills use both MP and SP.

The idea being to force the player to make cost-effect calls for every character, in every turn.

With the stats, I started at roughly the same level as the main character's baseline stats, then added a few points for each new enemy.
First enemy in the game is Bruce, and he has 200HP, 1MP, 22Atk, 14Def, 1Matk, 1Mdef, 14 agi, and 14 luk.
The final boss has 75,000HP, 785MP, 490Atk, 490Def, 490Matk, 455Def, 200Agi, and 200Luck.
Then I tweaked them based on whether or not they used spells. Made them stronger or weaker based on the numbers they'd be fighting with, so you don't end up fighting a group that are all as strong as the solo dude you just went up against.
Gave them any abilities I thought they should have, and playtested to see if I needed to tweak stats because of them.
At the end I playtested through the whole game to see how a player would have to deal with everything, and tweaked everything again as I went.
For example, I put money bags in that give a random amount of money, instead of flat drops. But about 4 areas in I felt I wasn't getting enough money, so I increased the amount each type of bag gives, and added in a couple of bigger ones.
I also felt it was way too hard to get weapons and armor, so I made everything cheaper and added extra drops.
Combat balance isn't just about enemy stats, it's also about the resources the player has to work with. I wasn't giving out enough cash to let a player stay stocked up on items, and buy new gear. So I increased the amount of money, made things more affordable, and made it more possible to get some gear from drops.

While it isn't a gear based game, those few extra stat points do make a difference.
For a game where gear is more important, it's just as important to make sure they can get it.
 
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