Stacking effects - Balance vs Exploit

Should states be able to Stack infinitely?

  • Yes, always, because lol

  • Yes, but only under certain conditions (explain)

  • I don't know, it could go either way, man

  • No, it breaks the game, even if it takes 99 turns to get there

  • No, because I don't like stacking effects


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Milennin

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I've been thinking about this one, but not really coming to any conclusion on it. The concept of effects that stacks during combat, and whether or not they should be limited. For example, you have a skill with an additional effect that upgrades the max HP on a character by 10% (resetting only upon death or after the battle ends). This theoretically allows the character to hit the max HP cap during an encounter, but realistically speaking, nobody would ever bother (or at least, I'd hope not, for the sake of their sanity). Mainly because encounters tend to end within a couple of turns, and bosses maybe go on for 10-15 turns max, making it unlikely for the stacks to build up to a point where they'd become problematic for the game's balance.

In "normal" gameplay, you'd have these stacking abilities get to points where they grant a good bonus, which is what you intend as developer. Would you say it's better to set a cap on the stack based on what you'd expect the player to realistically get to, or allow them to stack indefinitely? Is it worth it to reward the player that stalls an encounter for 50+ turns to feel like a god for a turn before ending it, or is it better to just limit the stacks to say, a 10-turn stack?

In my previous game, RTP, I have several abilities that can build up infinite stacks of power, but in "normal" gameplay they'd never get to that point where you'd say they break the balance of the game. Infinite stacking in that game is never the optimal solution, but it's a possible strategy under certain conditions and with enough patience. Now that I'm creating a new combat system that allows for effect stacking again, I'm wondering how people feel about this mechanic, and what everyone's thoughts/preferences are on the matter.
 

Wavelength

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If your main concern is players stalling out already-decided battles so they can see how high they can push the numbers... let them! There's no harm in doing so and some players (myself included) find this really fun.

If the main concern is that state stacking could make a battle trivial when that battle would otherwise be challenging, that's when you should consider caps on the number of stacks.
  • For example, consider a 50% boost to a character's DEF: With a multiplicative damage formula (e.g. (100 + a.atk * 40) / (b.def + 10) ) this would probably be OK because each stack would decrease the damage geometrically (e.g. 150-100-67-46-etc.), whereas with an additive damage system (e.g. 100 + a.atk * 4 - b.def * 2) you would risk DEF getting high enough with 2 or 3 buffs to completely no-sell most attacks. If the DEF boost has a long duration (or lasts the entire battle), you may need to cap it to like 2 stacks.
  • Similarly, consider a state that recovered 5% of the user's HP whenever damaged. If most bosses have the ability to one-shot a character, there's no need to cap this state's stacks, but if most bosses are tuned to, say, deal only 25% of a character's HP in damage, 5 stacks of this state would make battle completely trivial. Unless it's so difficult to get 5 stacks of a state on a character while surviving what the boss is throwing in the first 5 turns (in which case a curbstomp auto-win is a just reward for accomplishing this feat), I would say limit the stacks to 3 for that state.
Most states, however, don't require caps in most circumstances. A DoT state probably doesn't need a cap unless you don't want to make poison-and-stall into a valid strategy. An ATK boost probably doesn't need a cap unless you find it's breaking battle balance wide open only when stacking 3 or more of the boost (as opposed to using 3 different stat boosts or using one boost then using damage skills).

My general M.O. for this type of thing, if I'm allowing stacking states in my game in the first place, would be to allow infinite stacking for all states, and then do a lot of playtesting where I try all kinds of wacky tactics. If a certain state seems to really blow the balance out of the water during that testing, or feels very abusable, then I would introduce a cap for that particular state.

P.S. - Your poll has some bad wording in it. The Yes options imply there should be a limit and therefore no infinite stacking (correct), whereas the No options ("breaks the game" and "I don't like stacking") are also cries against infinite stacking (incorrect). We need an option for something along the lines of "No, Infinite stacking is great".
 

Trihan

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I agree pretty much wholesale with what Wavelength said. If the player is in a position where they're *able* to stall out for the number of turns required to hit that maximum, they could have beaten it in the "normal" number of turns anyway and letting them play the system like that isn't harming anyone.
 

gstv87

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I'd put a twist to it for the lulz: if a character does attain that ultimate level, write a transcendence arc.
as in, Frodo going to Valinor for having endured and survived the Ring.
nobody would see it coming.
 

Milennin

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If your main concern is players stalling out already-decided battles so they can see how high they can push the numbers... let them! There's no harm in doing so and some players (myself included) find this really fun.
This tends to be my philosophy too, to be honest, which is why I let them uncapped on RTP. But simultaneously, I could see developers put caps on their stacks just to be safe.


P.S. - Your poll has some bad wording in it. The Yes options imply there should be a limit and therefore no infinite stacking (correct), whereas the No options ("breaks the game" and "I don't like stacking") are also cries against infinite stacking (incorrect). We need an option for something along the lines of "No, Infinite stacking is great".
Oof, yeah. I don't know if I can still edit it. I checked, but it doesn't seem like it.
 

jonthefox

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Different skills with the same effect should definitely stack. You otherwise run the risk of skills interfering with each other in usefulness, and besides, it's fun to find cool and powerful combos by using different skills together for a really DEF heavy tank, or a really MAT heavy caster, etc..

In terms of using the same skill repeatedly to stack up...well, that gets more complicated to consider. Kind of depends on too many factors about the type of game and combat to give a definitive answer, but above posters made some good points.
 

Wavelength

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Oof, yeah. I don't know if I can still edit it. I checked, but it doesn't seem like it.
I'm pretty sure you can - it's either a button on the poll itself or you need to go to the full editor... but in either case, I can edit it as a mod. I changed the question being asked in a way that the answers now all make sense (IMO), and reset all the votes (just 2) since anything from before now was answering a different question. If you want to edit it further and can't find the way to, just PM me with the changes you want :)
 

TheoAllen

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Aside from the reason that the stack cap is for the balance and depends on how the game is designed, hear me out.

From what I've seen, something is capped because it is a multiplayer game. To make it fair to other players due to the design decision. Then it also promotes other combinations. So you don't go buff the same thing all over again. Figuring out how to combine those stuff makes the battle more interesting than using the same buff and stack it all over again.

I'm wondering how people feel about this mechanic, and what everyone's thoughts/preferences are on the matter.
I don't mind unlimited stack, but here is what I did.

The first stack would have the biggest boost. Then the second stack and forth would have a diminishing return. In my opinion, that would create a sense that "more stack is just optional, but get at least one stack is a must".

I made a skill that boosts the user's next damage by 50% by spending a turn (it works in my design). He is able to stack the buff if he used the same skill. Guess what, the next stack would only boost +10%, so two stacks are only 60%. Not worth your time boosting the stack, but if you have an extra turn to spend and he did not need to do anything, you get a little bonus.

If I recall correctly, I also made stacking burn DoT the same. 40% damage based on the actor's attack, then the next stack, would only give you 15% more damage and so on. Is it worth going after the stack? Yeah, probably not.

Now, for something that is limited by the cap, it usually for something that is broken and/or has a linear increment without a diminishing return. For example, I have an actor that has a buff to increase his attack based on up to 15% total party attack stats. The stack goes like 5/10/15. If I go beyond that number, it's simply broken.

In short
Uncapped = An effect that has a diminishing return and won't be worth your time. However, if turned out you can not do other things but add more stack to it, then you should be rewarded.
Capped = Linear increment, and something that generally most effective at the maximum stack and you can build the effect stack faster.
 
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RachelTheSeeker

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Stacking? Sure. Without cost? Nope. I prefer all status effects to be state-based, not the de/buffs in VX Ace, MV and MZ. Because of this, it's harder to abuse. And even with the time it'll take to apply all the buffs, I feel that great power should have great consequence.

Though it's dark fantasy, Dark Souls does bestow a downside to its buffs. Iron Flesh makes you slow and heavy; Power Within is a DoT for 100% of your health; Carthus Beacon requires consecutive hits to maintain. A sorcerer's illusory buffs of Spook, Hidden Body and Chameleon can fail a player if they're not careful, and might not fool human invaders (or invadees). Interestingly only miracles don't have buffs with penalties, kinda fitting compared to the flawed protections that pyromancy and sorcery offer.

In other words, even if you had multiple spells and stacked them, you'd carry all the boons but also all the flaws. If you have the time to dump all the buffs on a character, it becomes high-risk, high-reward play. I'd take this all-or-nothing strategy over turning a character with turns to spare into an invincible juggernaut any day.

One combo that comes to mind for my own WIP is what I call "Rageziya". My fiery monk Raziya has a ripoff of something inspired by Power Within: she can boost her ATK and AGI by 150%, but will lose 20% HP over time for five turns. I may or may not also force Raziya to auto-attack like a Berserk state, hence the name. When the bard Nazreen joins, she's got a buff of her own that adds 150% ATK and DEF.

I'd like the numbers to be tight, so double ATK could matter, let alone any boosts to critical chance. If both Raziya's rage and Nazreen's inspiration are applied, the lioness could be a combat monster... but without outside support, is a huge danger to herself and the player's efforts. If it's just a raging Raziya left, a battle is thus left in RNGesus' hands at best.
 
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Aesica

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Stack infinitely? Jesus no. They only lead to game-breaking nonsense, such as using the Temper, Saber, Invisibility, etc spells in FF1 over and over. After about 5 uses of Invisibility you're immune to any physical damage. After about 5 uses of Saber/Temper, you're ready to 1-2 hit the boss. That's just dumb.

That said, I'm okay with stacking bonuses of different types to deal heavy damage or greatly reduce damage, in fact my main project kind of expects you to do that. For example, you can do the following:
  1. Find an enemy weak to lightning.
  2. Apply the Wet status, increasing lightning damage further (10 rounds)
  3. Reduce its def/mdf (5 rounds)
  4. Reduce its resistance to lightning (not the same as Wet, every element has one) (5 rounds)
  5. Reduce its physical and/or magical resistance (5 rounds, a bit rarer)
  6. Apply Stagger, increasing the next attack's damage against that foe by 100%
  7. Buff user's atk/mat
  8. Cast Lightning, enjoy huge number :D
But should you be able to, say, just spam the lightning resistance debuff (item 4) over and over for a stacking debuff? Heck no, that's dumb.
 

lazymouse

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It really depends on what mechanics your game is dependent or whether it will break the game or not. There is a lot of factors to consider.
 

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