Other methods of stat progression?

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EXP level up! Copy and paste for a game that is considered RPG! So a lot of RPG games have the classical, you gain exp, you level up and all your stats go up, alongside this level up system is the ability to equip armor and weapons to further increases that stats of our character.

But you see this in a lot of RPG games, where it's not a bad system, it's something that we all came to be familiar with and something that we enjoy doing.

Now sometimes what makes an RPG game stand out for me is that it didn't have an exp gain/ level up system.

Examples being Final Fantasy 2. You don't gain exp when defeating enemies, in fact, your stats increase depending on what actions or conditions happen in battle. So if your character does nothing but attack, attack, attack all the time, but if they cast spells there magic stat goes up. Back when this game came out that, to me, was a brilliant way to gain stats for your characters.

Another one was Dark Chronicles 2. When you get to a new area and build up a town, once you reach a condition of building the town, you can go to the future and find the chest which increases your HP where your attack is based on upgrading your weapons.

So what other methods of stat progression have you encountered in other video games and have you implanted your own system that doesn't rely on leveling up?
 

Poryg

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But the problem is, there ain't that many choices if you simplify it.
Items that give perma stat boost.
Skills that give perma stat boost.
Body condition system (either one way - using something improves you in it, or two way - neglecting something makes you worse in it)
Points
Forced progression (you have fixed things you gain as you progress)
And that's about it. These are pretty much all (or almost all) major categories usable in games. For example in Oblivion you have a condition system on skills and stat points for stats. In Shadow flare and many other rpgs you have forced progression for stats and stat points for skills. In some games you have absolutely no progression, you can only gain power temporarily from equipping items.
 

EpicFILE

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In my Realm Crosser project, there's no level.
But players can raise their stats by trading an item called Yin Medal to dark entities.

I don't put levels there because it's a very short game. :D
 

Failivrin

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Level Up raises all stats simultaneously. Typical alternatives focus on raising stats individually, and the developer must work hard to ensure balance.
Some games present stat boosts in little bundles each time you defeat an opponent. For example, if you beat a monster with high HP you get an HP boost. If you beat a monster with high DEF, you get a DEF boost.
This system is easy to balance if the player doesn't have a wide range of stats. For complex stat arrangements it can be used to supplement Level Up, like the Effort Value system in Pokemon.
 

velan235

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I have the same problem , wanted to make thread but this one appear so I will monitor this thread instead.

I have problem with how you reward the player outside of exp ? gold is a good alternative but isn't that already present on every JRPG ? I want to ditch exp-level but still reward player so they can go "okay , I'm gonna complete these random encounters"

I really liked mana khemia stats progression , where you gain stats from unlocking crafting item (example , you create iron sword, it open up "atk+5 , def+5 , HP+20" to the swordsman character, then you spent AP to apply those bonuses to the swordsman) , but it got supported by it's crafting mechanic (similar to DC2 with building town -> future)
 

Canini

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I did a game prototype a while ago where you do level up normally, but only from doing quests, never battles. It did not work too well but I do believe the idea had merit.
 

Chaos Avian

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An idea I had for a project of mine was to forgo EXP entirely and use JP instead. I would however, rename JP as EXP and when you had accumulated enough EXP you would then spend it on stats and skills. To give a sense of progression, I would have the stat increases increase their cost the more you upgraded it so increasing the amount of EXP that enemies give makes more sense.

For example, to increase ATK would cost 50, to increase it again it would cost 75 (25 point increments), that way you would be less inclined to pour all of your EXP into ATK and get one shot by an enemy you couldn't one shot.
 

Maliki79

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My game implements @Chaos Avian s idea. I still have levels, but they only serve as multipliers for the JP the pcs earn.
As an aside, switching to this had the side effect of making my game extra difficult if the stats aren't distributed well. Balancing is a chore!
 

Adventurer_inc.

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A not-so-unique approach that I'm starting to see and not getting tired of are Character Titles as an equipment that only one character can equip. Aside from the oblivious stat boost, the titles also provide a short story about a character. It is really thought-provoking when gaining a title such as "the murder" or "ill-fated" when you skim through a quest.
 

Titanhex

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This should provide feedback.

Leveling up is merely a feedback loop in a game.
It tells you how you're doing, and that you're doing something correctly.
It encourages a player to repeat an action, and is a reward system.

That's why you liked the FF2 system. It was the same, a feedback system. It was just more intuitive, as the feedback more closely mirrored the player's actions, which is why you found it brilliant.
Developers don't like those system though because they're difficult to balance, thus the scarcity of them.

They're often tied to Power-Fantasy games. The player's main goal is to accumulate enough standing power to overcome their obstacle. This is in contrast with horror games, which often encourage players to solve problems in the absence of power.

In truth, you can replace any leveling and XP system with any other feedback system. In games of climbing power, increasing some number visually to the player is generally the best way to illustrate growth.

@Canini idea had merit because it provided a reward system through quests. However, I imagine the game had more mechanics it wanted the player to explore, and without a reward system to encourage that exploration the players actions feel hollow and discourages their dive beyond questing.
 

JtheDuelist

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@Martin_Arcainess I do know that in the Monster Hunter series, you don't level up to get stronger- your stats are solely based on your equipment, and some of the series' harder quests may even ask you to go completely armorless and without talismans (talismans and armor provide various abilities, such as being able to see exactly where the big monsters are without using a Paintball on said monsters, boosting elemental damage, use raw meat as if it were cooked, or my favorite- make poisonous or even potentially deadly mushrooms as if they were beneificial items) for the entire hunt, which makes you rely on strategy alone, like take a weapon that also boosts Defense, or bring items that temporarily boost HP, Defense, or Stamina. Monster Hunter's mix of RPG elements, hack-and-slash elements, and strategy make it a staple of my gaming library.
 

Matseb2611

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The system I prefer to implement in many of my more recent games is the skill points system that players get as reward for completing quests (both main and side ones). So as they make progress in the game, they gain skill points which they can spend to unlock certain skills, whether combat-related or out-of-combat ones (like charisma, hacking, lockpicking, etc). This way no grinding is ever necessary.

Another system I quite like is more along the idea of as the player gets further in the game, they encounter better gear for their characters. To make this interesting, it requires an interesting enchantment-based system, where you can enchant your weapons, armour, and trinkets with additional bonuses, and perhaps those get better and better the further you get, and perhaps there is a limited number of enchantment slots on gear, and perhaps late game gear has more slots you can attach enchantments onto, making you exponentially more powerful.
Another good alternative for this is to have individual gear pieces level up or improve either as they're used more or via some material the player gets for slaying enemies.
 

Hercanic

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I did a game prototype a while ago where you do level up normally, but only from doing quests, never battles. It did not work too well but I do believe the idea had merit.
Ever play Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines? The designers went with your approach as well, because they wanted stealth and dialogue to be just as valid to solving quests as killing everything. Regardless of your methods, because your XP only comes from quest completions, you can approach obstacles however you want without feeling like you lost something.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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@Hercanic makes sense and has a good example. I appreciate when games give you experience for more than just battling, such as quest completion or in-game achievements.
 

Countyoungblood

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Breath of fire 3 had a pretty neat leveling system in that characters would gain different stat boosts on leveling up dependant on who the made their master.

Some masters had stat requirements or required some quest to reach.
So many levels gained under a master would teach skills.

Could be thought of as a bit of both worlds between spending stat points and being assigned points automatically.
 

HeathRiley

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Level up is pretty tried and true. It makes sense to people. The problem comes with; does a level up
mean much, and are there no other ways to become stronger?

Most games also offer weapons and armor to go between the levels and offer another way for stat
progression. Often times there are things a player can rank up in or advance outside of battle that
can effect them.

You can aid a city and then a new merchant has new weapons. You can use a certain skill or weapon
type long enough that the skill gets stronger, they get a perk, or learn a new skill. Armor can be
powered up with augments that you can earn by crafting, defeating monsters, or purchasing.
In the Final Fantasy XIV MMO your old gear becomes Materia with stat bonuses that you augment
your gear with.

In Lost Odyssey you would attach your characters together to learn their skills, and this could be done
in many different ways, affecting your stats/abilities. Disgaea games let you go into a dungeon that
is made from your gear, and when you complete floors in this dungeon your gear becomes stronger.

If your game is about battling, I believe that should be a large portion of how your stats progress,
but don't let that limit you. Gear, side dungeons, and quests are great ways to give a player a
feeling of progress, freedom, and achievement.
 

Zarsla

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In my game you gain levels through quests. The amount of points the party gets is dependent on how much trust the area has in the party in realtion to the base amount of points the party can get. Many quests will also give you items or gold, and depending on the number of rewards you'll have to pick between them, inculding points.

Now if you really want to powerhouse through the game you can just do the main storyline quests, and you'll be able to just gain a rank(what I call levels) by going through each quest. However you'll miss most of the fun stuff, and you'll play through the game with basic equipment, stats and skills. You also just get gold & levels and that's it.

If you pick to go sidequest route, it works like you'll get what I describe earlier about quests over all.

You can also get points by doing any of the following:.
-playing mini-games
-solving puzzles
-through points giving items

Levels will affect what sidequests are given, as well as affect the strength of monsters, and of course base stats,(base stats grow small, Max HP grows 25 per level, MAX MP by 15, and the rest grow by 5).

However just as points can be gained through other means so can stats including Max HP and Max MP, theese means inculde:
-playing mini-games
-solving puzzles
-through stat giving items

So you can control in what ways your chatacters grow. Not to mention, you can go on side quests which can increase you're stats.
 

Lord Balen

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I'm new here, and just started with RPG Maker, but decided to work out the leveling system before anything else.

I believe what we're all referring to is the sense of character progression. Or rather, trying to find a unique one that feels both rewarding and meaningful.
To be fair, character progression can come from many different aspects of a game, whether it be through XP, Story, Battles, Quests, Equipment, Abilities or otherwise. The balance between all of these elements is important to consider when discussing any of them.

The standard Level Up system works but is boring if other elements of the game don't make up for the lack of options. For example, a linear story with a linear leveling system, basic combat, and simple equipment would be underwhelming overall unless the story happened to be epic enough to compensate. On the other hand, a game with multiple endings and meaningful player interactions or a crafting system can make do with simple Level Up mechanics, since other areas of the game provide the much-needed depth.

With that said, the stat system I've created has hidden the complexity of stat distribution by simplifying it to 4 primary stats (parameters which the player can add points to) and 2 secondary stats that are derivative of the other 4. This actively gives the player choice at every level, but not to the point of over-saturation where choices would feel empty or daunting.
In addition to each stat uniquely affecting battle parameters, equipment will have stat requirements, which makes leveling choices meaningful and rewarding.

TL:DR:
- Unique or at least interesting set of mechanics
- Meaningful and rewarding choices
- Balance between all elements of the game

Game Leveling Mechanics to consider:

- Persona Series - the Player Character has 5 stats to level up independently by participating in specific tasks or events. This in turn unlocks access to new interactions as well as affects teammate abilities in battle, among other things.

- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance - Job system as well as a skill learning system based on equipment.

- Super Mario RPG - Upon leveling, allows the player to choose from a set of "stat boost bonuses".
 
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Basileus

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@Chaos Avian
This is also the system used in Dark Souls. Killing an enemy grants the player Souls. The player can use these Souls at any Bonfire (save point) to increase one of their stats. Doing so increases their Soul Level by 1, and each upgrade costs more the higher your Soul Level. So you can buy 5 increases to Strength, each costing more than the last, but if you want to put your 5th point in Endurance it will cost the same as if you were getting another upgrade to Strength. This gives the stat increases the same exponential curve as traditional leveling but makes each increase the player's choice instead of something random. It's good for letting the player increase the key stats for their intended built early while making it difficult to be a God by maxing out everything.

As for traditional Level Ups, I think it's important to consider why Level Ups exist in the first place and what they are supposed to represent.

Tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons are the basis for most RPGs, especially Western RPGs but including JRPGs since most JRPGs are based on Dragon Quest which was inspired by Ultima and Wizardry. The reason that stats and skills exist at all is so the players (and the DM) can determine what a character can and cannot do - i.e. how effective they are at their profession. In classic D&D levels went into your class, so you could go from being a 4th Level Rogue to a 5th Level Rogue, or multi-class by taking that level and putting it into Wizard to be a 4th Level Rogue, 1st Level Wizard. All classes at the same level get the same bonuses per level and the base attributes (STR, DEx, etc.) don't increase per level so the focus is on the skill points, Feats, and spells characters can select at each level. These choices allow for fun customization while the boring class bonuses provide a baseline improvement to the character's abilities so the player is always getting more effective even if they make sub-optimal choices.

Dragon Quest, the godfather of all JRPGs, didn't have the capacity on the NES to implement the skill system and replaced skill-point spending with increases to base attributes each level. Since many DQ games play like a pre-made campaign of D&D with the party members being like pre-rolled characters, the party members are usually given a pre-set class instead of letting the player choose. Since the stat gains per level up are supposed to reflect what that class is good at, and since the player can't select the class, this ends up meaning most of a character's stat gains are automatic and fairly predictable. Later DQIII added a class change system and many later JRPGs based on it have added skill systems back in to help give the player some choices to make each level up - heck, even DQ9 had a skill system that gave you points to spend each level to unlock bonuses like new abilities when equipping certain types of weapons or permanent stat bonuses.

Western RPGs like Elder Scrolls and Fallout tend to have originated on PC and were able to keep a lot of tabletop things like skill systems and putting a greater focus on making your character instead of playing a pre-rolled one. Games like Elder Scrolls and Fallout had attributes (i.e. Fallout's classic S.P.E.C.I.A.L. stats) but put more focus on raising skills than on raising base attributes. Elder Scrolls games tend to be centered on using skills to gain levels in that skill and only gain character levels after leveling X number of skills, so there isn't really a lot to do at level up since you already got the skill gains just getting there (Morrowind and Oblivion let players increase their attributes with bonuses based on which skills were increased to earn that level, while Skyrim removed attributes and added the perk system). Fallout games use the generic EXP system like many tabletop games and JRPGs so the player gains skill points to spend each level up in addition to selecting perks, but their base attributes tend to be more static.

A good leveling system needs to take into account:

1. What does your player actually do to earn their levels?
2. What numbers do they even have that meaningfully affect gameplay?
3. Is there some lore that could help tie progression in skills/attributes to the story/setting?
4. Should gaining a level give the player choices to make, or is the level the reward for their actions?

If your leveling system is meant to reward choices, then find out what choices you are giving the player and determine what a good reward would be. If it is there to allow the player to make choices, then you need to determine what kind of number increases and effects can give them to variety of choices you want.
 

XIIIthHarbinger

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I am working on such a system at the conceptual level on one of my side/proof of concept projects, I don't intend to implement it in primary project because it's nowhere near ready, & I would have to change to much even if I get it to the point where I think it functions as it should. I might implement it in the follow up game to my primary project, if it get it to where I want it.

What I was considering was rather than a standard leveling system, a playstyle based character growth system. Think what Molyneux said Fable was going to be before it was released.

Essentially I use variables assigned to various skills, as the skills are used the variable effected by the skill is increased. In my primary project I am already using it for class trees.

For example, in my primary project when a character using a warhammer based skill, they increase variables "(default character name) combat" +1, "(default character name) two handed" +1, "(default character name) Arcane, Light, or Heavy" +1 depending upon what kind of armor they are wearing. These numerous variables, thirteen in all for each character, are then measured against each other in the "promotion" common event, to determine if a character has earned a promotion, & if so to what class. With each promotion granting bonuses to base & ex parameters to what the character already has.

What I am working on in my side project, is rather than having a few promotions throughout the whole game, each "level" as it were serving as its own mini-promotion, based on play style. With various variables determining the stat growth for each "level". As determined by prefered armor style, prefered weapon type, prefered magic type, & whether they use combat techniques more or spells more.

It's a long way from being implementable, & good deal of math to work through regarding "leveling" curves & all of that, not to mention there is still the question of balancing the enemies against it, without a traditional leveling system. I'll probably put more work on it, the next time I take a break from my primary project, over after my primary is done.
 

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