Oppinion on leveling mechanic

SeraphGaming

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So I have been working on a game for around 2 years. One of the mechanics that I am still half and half on is my level / progression mechanic. I originally designed the game to function on the classic DnD milestone mechanic. The way this works is you do not actually gain xp from fights. In order to achieve a level up you must complete some scenario (usually a quest). Currently fighting mobs is still pivotal in the game in order to obtain resources for crafting as well as money for supplies. My question to all of you is do you think this is a bad idea? What I mean is does this mechanic sound interesting enough to play an entire campaign through. Currently at a moderate pace my testers have been clocking in almost 30 hours and I am nowhere near the end of the story. Half of them are enjoying the progression mechanic but some others have preferred a traditional RPG leveling experience. Let me know how you feel about this. Also try to stay away from the classic "you should make the game how you want!" comment, as I would like this game to be enjoyed by more people than just myself :)

Thanks!

Edit: I forgot to mention with my current skill system, fighting mobs also grants SP which is used to improve our skills. Not sure if that changes anyone opinion.
 

alice_gristle

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I'm all for getting xp only from completing scenarios, but it does make me want to skip fights as much as possible... kinda like playin' Fallout as a pacifist and only levellin' because you convince everybody else to do the work for you. :biggrin: So that kinda mechanic, for me, doesn't mesh perfectly with fighting monsters, even though I do like it.

On the other hand, if I get moneys and SP from fights, that's fine and dandy too... but then I see less point for xp. I mean, my dudes get richer and progress in their skills already, so xp and levelling feels redundant on top of that. Soo... maybe remove xp and levelling instead?
 

SeraphGaming

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I'm all for getting xp only from completing scenarios, but it does make me want to skip fights as much as possible... kinda like playin' Fallout as a pacifist and only levellin' because you convince everybody else to do the work for you. :biggrin: So that kinda mechanic, for me, doesn't mesh perfectly with fighting monsters, even though I do like it.

On the other hand, if I get moneys and SP from fights, that's fine and dandy too... but then I see less point for xp. I mean, my dudes get richer and progress in their skills already, so xp and levelling feels redundant on top of that. Soo... maybe remove xp and levelling instead?

I totally agree with what you are saying. What I ended up doing (because I felt similarly) is that levels actually work as a fame system. Depending on the characters level interactions and dialogue change as well as certain sidequest availability because you are a higher level, and therefore completed more quests and are more well known. It is entirely possible to beat the game at level 1 and have better stats than a level 99 strictly because you grind-ed mobs for materials. That being said I obviously have most of the best gear and uniques locked behind some level quests. No-one is going to hire a nobody to slay the mythical dragon in the mountains haha. My idea is that levels are more fame system since they are tied to quests and interactions now.
 

Mr. Detective

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So similar to Lightning Returns, huh? Doesn't sound too bad, as long as I am rewarded well enough for fighting enemies.
 

SeraphGaming

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So similar to Lightning Returns, huh? Doesn't sound too bad, as long as I am rewarded well enough for fighting enemies.

it is kind of similar. I tried to mix what I liked about DnD campaigns with what I love about jrpgs. The idea of having a hero that gradually takes on more epic quests and is more famous depending on past exploits is something that always made sense to me. I recently have a played a few jrpgs where no matter how strong my character was the story never reflected that and it felt so wrong.

Enemies will be necessary to fight for materials. These materials are used for selling to make money that you can buy equipment, or you can craft things yourself. Also there is a base building mechanic which is used as a gold sync with benefits that way. My goal is for people who like to grind and 100% games like myself will be rewarded in ways that won't ruin the game for people who hate doing. Killing mobs is not necessary but rewarding.
 

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I think it sounds fine, but if most of your EXP is being given by quests outside the mandatory, main quest, you have to be very careful to teach players (and continue to make it visually apparent) that they will need to do some sidequests to earn power (this is not really how the dynamics work in most JRPGs), and you should also be careful to balance your battle system in a way that players who have done, say, 40% of the sidequests, and players who have done 90% of them, will both be challenged and engaged by any mandatory storyline battles they come across but also will not find them impossible. Tough balance to hit.
 

SeraphGaming

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I think it sounds fine, but if most of your EXP is being given by quests outside the mandatory, main quest, you have to be very careful to teach players (and continue to make it visually apparent) that they will need to do some sidequests to earn power (this is not really how the dynamics work in most JRPGs), and you should also be careful to balance your battle system in a way that players who have done, say, 40% of the sidequests, and players who have done 90% of them, will both be challenged and engaged by any mandatory storyline battles they come across but also will not find them impossible. Tough balance to hit.

The balance for boss fights was actually surprising simple. I have a different fight that triggers depending on the current main characters stats. Again level does not equate to fighting power per se. So if the character is level 80 but did not upgrade their gear via hunting and crafting it is totally possible that a level 40 who did lots of grinding and crafting will fight a harder boss and be much stronger. The game is difficult to begin with and that is how I wanted it. The "tutorial island" in the beginning of the game does a pretty good job of laying out the features. So far my testers have not had a problem with balance.

I am currently looking into actually renaming level into fame. A good comparison is actually the recent game of Cyberpunk. In that game you have Character level and Street Cred level. Street Cred lets you buy more stuff and unlock more cool things but does not directly increase power level.

My alternative is always to introduce a seperate fame mechanic which can be obtained by completing quests that is independent of levels entirely.

Thanks so much for your input! :)
 

TheoAllen

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I will answer from a different perspective, battle, and the exp. It depends on how fun or crucial killing the enemy is.

For example, in a real-time action/battle system, killing enemies does not always yield an exp. But you do it either because it's fun to hack/shot them or simply because if you don't do it, it may become a nuisance. Or maybe because it is part of the mission (kill em all).

Personally, I'm used to it. As long as the game introduces me from the start. i.e, you don't level up by killing enemies, but by doing other things. Some people prefer being rewarded by doing so. because that will motivate them to engage more with the encounter. By having exp tied to battle, they could engage the battle over and over despite if it's boring because they know they will gain something.
 

Scorps

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I like that system. I played to many rpgs where I had to grind exp through easy repetitive fights. It always felt like busywork to me, just there to extend game time. If the exp is given through quests, i can focus on them and don't have to take a break to go bully some goblins behind a woodshed.
 

Aesica

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When you think about it, what really is the difference between XP, materials for crafting, SP (earned from fighting battles), and other resources? They all ultimately have the same goal--grow the player numbers bigger.

In most RPGs, those really just serve as the incentive for players to actually engage in battles, and the more of those you use, the more you have to somehow balance them all against each other because one of them is going to end up as the progress bottleneck while the rest fill up in excess. Is gold scarce? Then players are probably overleveling as they grind for it. Is gold plentiful? Then XP is the obvious progress gate. Do you have XP and SP, both earned from battle together? The progress gate is now whichever of the two is scarcer.

Now if you remove all of that from battles and instead give stuff like XP and SP through questing and exploration, is there still a reason for players to even engage in battles?

Edit: For perspective, my current game (the main project, anyway) uses XP, SP, and gold. SP is awarded upon level up only as a means to let players choose skills rather than get static skills at preset levels. Also, I abhor crafting so that's not even present. That means, the only two things I really have to balance against each other are gold and XP, which makes things a lot easier.
 
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Wavelength

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When you think about it, what really is the difference between XP, materials for crafting, SP (earned from fighting battles), and other resources? They all ultimately have the same goal--grow the player numbers bigger.
One of the interesting differences is whether the numbers grow bigger in a "permanent" (increase to character stats) or "equippable" (increase to equipment stats) sense. That has some gameplay implications (for example you could choose to save some materials by skipping an entire tier of equipment), but it also just has a large difference in framing and feel - I for one find it much more satisfying to watch my character grow permanently stronger than to simply upgrade their gear, even if it means the same power difference in practice (and I'd also rather see them learn a basic attack that deals 50% more damage than simply have their ATK be upgraded by enough points to deal 50% more damage).
 

Tai_MT

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My immediate question when anyone proposes a system is, "How can I break this?"

I'm fortunate in that I usually know the quickest and easiest way.

For your system...

Hold up, let me grind these low level mobs for a little while to earn enough materials to get a ton of money or to make equipment. Then, let me use that equipment to pass all your main story quests or even sidequests with as little difficulty as possible.

It's sort of similar to other games I've played where the devs went out of their way "gimp" leveling up. That is, the higher your level, the stronger the enemies (level scaling mechanics are something I absolutely LOVE to break, because they're so easy and are usually not thought through by the devs who implement them).

In the case of your game, it's going to depend on how much power I'm getting for each thing. If I'm getting more power out of SP and Equipment than I would with a level up... I'm going to prioritize grinding that sweet sweet cash and SP over doing your quests and then completely curb-stomping any difficulty you ever had planned for the combat system. But, if I get more power out of leveling up and the equipment and SP are just "extras", then I'm going to largely ignore any combat I don't have to participate in and knock out as many sidequests as humanly possible in order to overpower your combat system and ruin any difficulty you had planned for it.

I've gotten pretty good at exploiting such systems. I have no problem optimizing the fun out of your game if it makes your game easy to play.

Heck, I spent my first 8 hours in Dragon Age Inquisition just looking for exploits and tricks to allow me to kill the Dragon in the first area. A feat I accomplished being THREE levels under the Dragon, with garbage starter gear and it was my first time in the area (I'd been nowhere else and done nothing else in the story). Granted, I was playing on "Normal" difficulty, but I'd have done that regardless of how difficult the game was, it might've just taken me longer to figure out how to cheese the game.

But, you know, that's neither here nor there. I break systems for fun. If your system has a flaw, I'll find it, exploit it, and remove all intended difficulty and gameplay. I often do it within the confines of what you've designed as well (without using glitches or bugs).
 

Frogboy

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@Tai_MT
If I ever finish my engine and make the game I've been wanting to make, I'm totally asking you to play it. You're probably one of the few who would be really up for the challenge.
 

Tai_MT

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@Frogboy If you're giving me an invitation to try my best to break your game, I accept. Sounds like fun. :D
 

Milennin

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But, you know, that's neither here nor there. I break systems for fun. If your system has a flaw, I'll find it, exploit it, and remove all intended difficulty and gameplay. I often do it within the confines of what you've designed as well (without using glitches or bugs).
If a game's number one objective is to give players a fun time playing it (which I'd assume is every game's primary objective), I'd say it's still achieving that if you "break" its systems to make it easier to play as long as you have fun doing it.
For my games, I like to provide a challenge, but it means nothing if players have no fun playing it. I'd rather have a player enjoy messing around trying to find exploits to cheese the game, than to have them get frustrated on something I designed to be challenging in a "normal" playthrough.
 

Tai_MT

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If a game's number one objective is to give players a fun time playing it (which I'd assume is every game's primary objective), I'd say it's still achieving that if you "break" its systems to make it easier to play as long as you have fun doing it.
For my games, I like to provide a challenge, but it means nothing if players have no fun playing it. I'd rather have a player enjoy messing around trying to find exploits to cheese the game, than to have them get frustrated on something I designed to be challenging in a "normal" playthrough.

Well, personally, it sort of depends. If I break your game, then I can have no more fun with it. I broke it. Nothing left to break. Then, there's also no difficulty in your game anymore to provide me a reasonable challenge, which I would also find fun.

It sort of works like this for me:

"Can I break this? Let's try all these ways to break it, including common oversights."
"Yep, that broke it. Is the rest of the game still fun?"
"Nope, turns out the game wasn't designed to be that fun if you could break the difficulty..."

Or

"Nope, that didn't break it. Is the rest of the game fun even if I couldn't break it?"

Breaking game as entertainment for me only lasts so long as the duration it takes me to break it. The act of the game being broken isn't really that fun for me (I'm not even sure this makes sense. I like the challenge of breaking a game to make it easy, but the game then being easy isn't fun, because it's no longer a challenge. I like the challenge because it engages me and my mind.). So, if I break your game and all difficulty went out the window... your game has nothing left to offer me in terms of reasons to play it (unless you've got a good story... good characters... an interesting world to interact with... etcetera).

This is usually why I don't finish a great many games. At some point, the difficulty drops down to practically nothing, or I broke the game so it's practically nothing, and it doesn't have any other redeeming feature to keep me playing. Granted, there are other reasons I don't finish a game, but this is among the most common reason. Once the game is rendered fairly easy, all combat becomes "a slog", and since almost every game is 95% combat... well...
 

Milennin

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This is usually why I don't finish a great many games. At some point, the difficulty drops down to practically nothing, or I broke the game so it's practically nothing, and it doesn't have any other redeeming feature to keep me playing. Granted, there are other reasons I don't finish a game, but this is among the most common reason. Once the game is rendered fairly easy, all combat becomes "a slog", and since almost every game is 95% combat... well...
You don't finish them, because you go in with the intention of breaking them, because that's where your main source of entertainment lies. Finishing the game without being bored after having broken the game only comes secondary to you.

"Breaking" a game doesn't even necessarily mean to exploit it. You can over-level by grinding a lot in RPG's, and in turn "break" the game by cheesing every challenge with stats alone. Considering grinding for levels is a way for developers to allow bad players to finish challenging content; doing so as a player who's good enough at the game to not require the extra levels from grinding, obviously results in a boring game. Because fun in gameplay, to most people, comes from overcoming challenges, not from facerolling everything in sight (which is fun, but only in small doses).

If a game can be broken because it's bugged or badly balanced, then that's on the designer. If it can be "broken" through intended gameplay design, then it's on the player. "Breaking" a game because it has the intended option for you to grind up levels to ease the challenge, and then complain the game is boring and too easy because you spent 10 hours grinding trash mobs before going in, then that's on you, not the game.
 

Tai_MT

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You don't finish them, because you go in with the intention of breaking them, because that's where your main source of entertainment lies. Finishing the game without being bored after having broken the game only comes secondary to you.

Not really. My main source of entertainment from games is as follows:
1. Good story.
2. Good characters.
3. Challenging, but fair, gameplay.
4. Breaking the game.

I start most games with the intent of playing them "as normal". The problem lies largely in the first three issues being... non-existent. Or, they dangle something I see as "necessary to get as quickly as possible" in front of me, and so I go break the game to get it.

Breaking a game is something I enjoy doing, but it isn't my primary motivation to play them. It's just... well... notoriously easy to do to most games because most devs... well... kind of do things very badly.

So, if your game has a boring story, uninteresting characters, your gameplay is boring, repetitive, or uninteresting... I go break your game as the source of fun I'll have with it.

Then, once your game is broken... There's nothing left in your game to have fun with.

"Breaking" a game doesn't even necessarily mean to exploit it. You can over-level by grinding a lot in RPG's, and in turn "break" the game by cheesing every challenge with stats alone. Considering grinding for levels is a way for developers to allow bad players to finish challenging content; doing so as a player who's good enough at the game to not require the extra levels from grinding, obviously results in a boring game. Because fun in gameplay, to most people, comes from overcoming challenges, not from facerolling everything in sight (which is fun, but only in small doses).

If a game can be broken because it's bugged or badly balanced, then that's on the designer. If it can be "broken" through intended gameplay design, then it's on the player. "Breaking" a game because it has the intended option for you to grind up levels to ease the challenge, and then complain the game is boring and too easy because you spent 10 hours grinding trash mobs before going in, then that's on you, not the game.

I would make the opposite argument. It's very "basic" and "uninspired" and non-creative to have a combat system that relies entirely on stats. Such systems are inherently designed for grind. If your combat system is based entirely on stats... you just have a terrible combat system.

Engaging combat systems rely more heavily on player skill than stats of their characters and equipment. Boring combat systems rely heavily on stats and stat sticks.

It is inherently bad design if your game can be steamrolled by just having more stats. Likewise, the argument of "it exists so players who aren't good enough at the game can still just brute force it" indicates very bad design. If your player can and DOES brute force the "challenge" of your game, you screwed up somewhere. You didn't sign post properly, you forced an over-reliance on stats, you allowed there to be an over-reliance of stats, you made your combat not that engaging so players weren't doing it that much because it wasn't fun, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are games that revolve around stats and there are games that make that fun. However, the primary fun of those games isn't usually in "overcoming challenges". It is usually in a massive skill tree, lots of different builds for characters, customization, getting small increments of power at regular intervals, and other things. The primary gameplay loop of games that revolve around stats and remain fun, isn't anything to do with combat in most cases.

However, if you're making an RPG and your combat is so boring that players aren't engaging in it much, are actively breaking it in order to render it easier, or are overleveling as a means of bypassing it... That says your combat is badly designed and you didn't design it for "fun" only for "functionality". At which point, you've become an EA Executive.
 

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