Starting Equipment: Random, Preset, or Chosen by the player?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Traveling Bard, Sep 4, 2019.

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Starting Equipment: Random, Preset, or Chosen by the player?

  1. Random

    1 vote(s)
    6.3%
  2. Preset

    14 vote(s)
    87.5%
  3. Chosen

    1 vote(s)
    6.3%
  4. Random/Chosen mix 1

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Random/Chosen mix 2

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Traveling Bard

    Traveling Bard The Bard Veteran

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    I'm making a game where you select heroes to form teams and then run through quick 15-20 minute adventures where you defeat monsters, overcome skill challenges, and vanquish powerful bosses. That said, I'm having trouble deciding the best way to handle starting equipment for these adventure runs. Here are some ideas:

    Random (Current): I have a pool of equipment that increases stats but these stats might not be relevant to specific heroes. The player, at the start of the run, will get a random piece of equipment for each of their heroes.

    Preset: Specific starting equipment that is relevant per hero, no random equipment pull or choice. Just ready to go.

    Chosen: Give the player x gold for them to spend in a low level starting shop before the adventure begins to equip their characters as they see fit or forego the equipment for useful items.

    Random/Chosen mix 1: Let the player choose. Perhaps 2x random gear per hero if they are willing to go random or 1 gold (a piece of low level gear costs 1 gold) per hero to spend at a starting shop.

    Random/Chosen mix 2: If the random gear is too much of an advantage perhaps lower it to just the normal random pull but let the players know that there are weapons/armor that could randomly drop that is not sold in stores.

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    "random" might cause the players to lose several matches before they find their footing..... because, whatever they might learn from one match, won't help them the next time they play.

    "chosen" might cause the players to always pick one item and never pick another..... because, commodity, preference, unbalanced stats, whatever reason.

    "preset" should be the choice, and let the players pick the hero instead of the equipment.
    that'd shift the balance focus to team synergy and enemy balance rather than equipment balance.
    just make sure to make a couple of troll scenarios just for the odd case that the players pick each the same hero, so the wave has an advantage they can't fight.

    once the game has been picked up by a few players and they start knowing the ins and outs of each combination, you can release a randomizer scenario, because the players would know how to manage random by then.
    the one case where you can start with "random", is if the selection of items is limited (5 or 6, tops), and very iconic (one melee, one long range, one area damage, one heal, etc)
    I'm a frequent player of Team Fortress 2, and the Mann Vs Machine mode has the Nightmare wave with close to 1000 enemies to fight. Mid way through it, you fight 99 Spies that spawn always from where you can't see, they one-hit you, they can go invisible, and you have to destroy 5 incoming tanks. That's that game's "troll wave". In the odd case that the team decides to go all Engineer to manage the insane number of enemies, there's that wave that outright negates Engineers and their buildings, so the tanks push right through.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
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  3. M.I.A.

    M.I.A. Goofball Extraordinaire Veteran

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    from a design perspective, I feel it's best to start the party members with their initial equipment. This can queue the player in as to what kind of equipment the characters can use. Say the player starts with a Knight... and we all figure Knights can equip Swords, right? What if Knights can also equip Axes? Start the Knight off with a cheap Axe. This can immediately give the player an intuitive head's up that the Knight can use more than just Swords. :)

    -MIA
     
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  4. NinjaKittyProductions

    NinjaKittyProductions Professional Murder Hobos Veteran

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    I would have to say preset is one of the more favorable options. Heroes or hero-like would typically already have a type of gear that they would favor over others: sword and board vs big 2H-Weapon, leather vs heavy armor, caster off-hand vs shield. A hero should already be equipped with what he needs to start his adventure.

    Random gear start would be an okay option if they player got to choose the class of the hero after the equipment was assigned. That way if they start a warrior and get a mage weapon, they won't feel gypped.
     
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  5. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    I'm gonna go off the board and make a different suggestion to you. Since it sounds like your game is designed to be played multiple times and have some degree of randomness in the things you eventually get, I recommend starting the party with no equipment. This might seem like an odd choice at first, but it has a few advantages over any of the options you're considering:
    • It streamlines away the hassle of first un-equipping (and presumably selling) your starting equipment to put on your new equipment; it also streamlines away the need to compare your starting equips vs. the early equips you pick up.
    • It makes it feel cooler and more important when you acquire your first equips for characters during the game - it feels like an entirely new tool rather than just an upgrade.
    • It avoids biasing the player toward putting a certain type of equip on each character for the whole game (whatever type they started with, in the case of Preset or maybe Random).
    You can bump the characters' starting stats up, if necessary, to make up for the lack of starting equipment, and then bump the stats of all equipment down by approximately the same amount, since even an equip that only gives a couple of points will be useful in comparison to nothing!
     
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  6. Restart

    Restart Veteran Veteran

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    A common way of adding replay value is to have preset equipment, but unlocking sidegrades between adventures which you select at character creation.

    So for instance, the fighter defaults to a sword and wooden shield, but if you get some sort of special treasure or whatever mid-adventure, from then on you can choose to start with a two-handed sword instead.

    Or swap out the starting healing spell on the priest for a buff, or things like that.
     
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  7. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    introducing specific weapons, can also be a way of "starting with no equipment", and "starting with default items".
    if all weapons of the same type do the same damage, then that'd be the baseline, which is the same thing to say as "they do 0 damage" (or 1, or whatever the minimum)

    say you have two characters that hit single targets, one at short range, and one at long range, they both do the same damage, they both hit at range and not up close, and both do the same damage over time.
    if you take that set and balance it to the rest of the party, then the whole party is doing the same base damage, except maybe one hits at melee range, one at short range, one at long range, one in a small area, etc.... and in the end, the DOT for the whole party is the same.

    the one point that needs to be clarified, is if the characters need to always have one weapon equipped.
    if that's the case, then "no weapon" means "default weapon", as long as "default weapon" is an item that can't be traded or lost.
     
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  8. Restart

    Restart Veteran Veteran

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    That isn't much of a streamlining, considering that in RPGM it takes exactly the same number of clicks to replace equipment as it does to equipment into an empty slot.

    And you're gonna be comparing all equipment you pick up against what you currently have anyway, so the only thing starting out nude does is decrease the number of comparisons steps by one across the course of the entire game.
     
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  9. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    This is absolutely true, if there aren't other types of weapons that are equippable at that first ("starting") tier, and the player can't (or generally won't) sell their starting gear.

    I do find the "start with nothing" to be more appealing framing in most cases than the "start with fixed gear", though, for the reasons I expressed above.

    ===

    That's not the case in some games/engines, though.

    In a short, highly-replayable, gameplay-focused game like the one mentioned in the OP, reducing the comparisons the player must make by one per equip slot per character per playthrough absolutely does matter and does contribute to a smoother play experience. In a Final Fantasy-length epic where you generally just play through once, I agree it matters much less.
     
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
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  10. Restart

    Restart Veteran Veteran

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    If we're talking a non-RPM engine, trying to zoom in on a single comparison check per game is premature before the mechanics for equipment management in general have even been decided upon.

    A lot of roguelites will autoequip strict upgrades, for instance, and have no inventory at all, and have no method for selling equipment.

    Without any details on the system's bigger picture, trying to do micro-level finetuning is counterproductive
     
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  11. Soryuju

    Soryuju Combat Balance Enthusiast Veteran

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    I voted for preset, for many of the reasons discussed above.

    I can see advantages to both the preset equipment and no starting equipment options, and it really does just hinge on the specifics of your system. Just to throw out some miscellaneous thoughts here:

    - As @Wavelength has already pointed out, starting with no equipment could potentially streamline your player’s early experience and help maintain the pace of the game. While equipping something in an empty slot and switching equipment may take the same amount of time, if the player has the option of selling their starting equipment at shops, that would create some extra slowdown for each character and piece of preset equipment. Just taking out starting equipment and giving them a little extra cash to start with would improve your game’s pacing in this case. Or alternatively, just don’t allow starting gear to be sold (or make it sell for 0).

    - If your starting equipment provides only stat increases to the characters, then it may or may not be serving a worthwhile purpose to have it in your game. However, if your starting equipment provides any effects beyond simple stat boosts, you’d lose these by removing the starting equipment. Including these extra effects on other equipment or making them inherent to the characters would change the balance of your game. So if you’re using passive effects/triggers to differentiate different weapon/armor types, I’d keep to preset gear.

    - If each type of character can only use one type of equipment per slot (e.g. your Priest can only use a Staff and can only wear Robes), then including preset equipment makes it easy for new players to identify and remember which characters can use which pieces of equipment. This becomes more valuable if you have a large number of different characters, and less valuable if your characters can each equip many types of equipment in each equip slot.

    - You could splice the preset equipment and no-equip options by just filling certain equip slots at the start. Maybe each character starts with a weapon but no armor. This hybrid option could be considered alongside how many types of equipment the character can use in each slot, as discussed above. If each character can use three types of weapons but only one type of armor per slot, it could be reasonable to start them with basic armor and then let them find weapons as they progress.

    - As more general advice, I personally wouldn’t make it possible for each character to set too many different types of equipment in each equip slot. You want the decisions which your game creates to be interesting and meaningful, but you also want to keep the pool of options small so that players can choose efficiently and feel confident about their choice afterward. If the player needs to regularly examine and distribute a large selection of equipment across all their characters, it’s going to hurt the game’s pacing. As such, I’d generally recommend limiting how many equipment options each character has in a game like this and keeping the overlap between different characters low. However, ignore this advice if you want to encourage your players to choose and stack multiple identical characters (e.g. you want a player to be able to choose a party of mostly/only Wizards), since this will create an unnecessary scarcity of equipment.

    @Restart
    I agree that trying to talk about theoretical mechanics in the context of specific projects here often feels kind of pointless. It’s basically never feasible to properly lay out all the interlocking systems of a project in development for people here to critique, so everyone is working with imperfect information from the start. And even with perfect information, we’d probably still misjudge the full impact of our suggestions more often than not. Personally, I try to lay out a pretty broad spread of considerations for people asking the questions and then let them make the final call. It’s never a perfect method, but I hope it at least helps people find a direction which they like. And talking about games is fun, so useless or not, I’m probably just going to keep at it.
     
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  12. Traveling Bard

    Traveling Bard The Bard Veteran

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    I want to thank everyone for their responses! It's been helpful. I realize that without showing my game to you that the information you have is imperfect. In very broad terms, here is what I'm working with. In my game, damage is dealt generally by rolling a 6 sided die, adding the appropriate stat for the skill being used, and subtracting the damage by the target's stat of the same type.

    An example character with a Strength of 3 uses a Strength based skill to attack a slime with a Strength of 2. Damage = (random(1-6) + 3) - 2. There are additional stats called Bonus Atk & Bonus Def that add or subtract damage regardless of the stat being used, the downside being that Bonus Atk & Def aren't used in skill challenges.

    A typical hero initially might have stats like this:
    HP 12 STR 3 DEX 3 MAG 3 Bonus Atk 0 Bonus Def 0

    Equipment, as it is at the moment, typically raises a single stat (though there are some that will increase an additional stat to a much lower degree in some cases). Each run is 4 cycles. A cycle consists of monsters & skill challenges with a boss at the end. The last cycle has a final boss at the end specific to the quest or hero. After a cycle is defeated a character levels up, can increase a stat of their choice by 1, and visit a shop. Equipment that drops after each encounter or is sold at the shop is separated into level pools. Level 1 gear increases a stat by 1, Level 2 gear increases a stat by 2, and so on with some variation.

    Heroes all have unique abilities but I divide them into STR, DEX, and MAG heroes.
    -STR heroes have passives that increase stats of the party & typically have more HP.
    -DEX heroes have passives or abilities that change the rules of the game a bit (double gold, enhance individual gear, user finds items instead of attack, etc) and have middling stats overall.
    -MAG heroes have passives & abilities that support the party (target can ignore all damage for a turn, minor aoe heal or damage, reduce the challenge rating of all skill challenges, etc) and have weaker stats & low HP.

    There are 9 heroes & 3 of each type. My vision is to allow the creation of parties of 4 with various mixes for tackling various party quests.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
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  13. Aesica

    Aesica undefined Veteran

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    Preset all the way.

    To someone just starting out, I don't want them to have to worry about potentially picking the "wrong" gear or getting screwed by RNG. There will be plenty of chances to custom tailor each character's gear later on, once they're used to the game's mechanics, stats, etc. Besides, starting gear is supposed to be mostly trash anyway, so choosing starting gear is a pretty uninteresting choice.
     
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  14. gstv87

    gstv87 Veteran Veteran

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    having been playing Orcs Must Die 2 recently, I must say, this applies.
    you start with a number of traps to choose from, and most of them are valid choices, but they become totally useless towards the end unless you upgrade them, which is never clearly explained to the player.
    every level ends with "good! you beat it! here's a new trap!"..... me: "great... ok... new trap.... how does THIS one fit into the set of other weapons I have? how do I test it without screwing up the balance I already have? I don't know this trap! How do I use it? Where is it used?"
    OMD 1, starts you with one weapon, and two traps, no upgrades available, right into the fray.
    I beat OMD 1 in my first play through.
     
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  15. Eric_SD-RPG-Studio

    Eric_SD-RPG-Studio Writer - Developer Veteran

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    I think there aren't really a general rule of thumb. It's just depend on each game. If your game is a story-driven game then the starting equipment much match the characters. Doesn't really make sense if a peasant boy in a small town equipped with a shiny Golden Sword.
     
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  16. Black Pagan

    Black Pagan Veteran Veteran

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    I like Games which make us start with Random Equipment, Its adds to replay value, So I picked Random. Even in my games, I always add that "Random" Factor in the beginning, Pretty fun i would say !
     
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  17. atoms

    atoms Veteran Veteran

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    I really don't mind as long as

    1. If you don't pick either "Present", then there is a shop right at the beginning, one of the first things in the game.
    2. You can get easily or/and already have enough money to purchase something useful when you have access to this first shop.
    3. After doing #1 and #2, when you are presented with the first enemy or an enemy in a dungeon, if the first dungeon is the case, you are balanced enough to win.

    Alternatively, I can accept fighting some enemies before that shop if they are used as a tutorial and you can wipe them out no matter what your starting equipment is.

    Why do I say this? Because you need to make sure the player is not stressed over being way too weak by random equipment or a lack of balance.

    I voted for "Chosen" but then read "Present" properly so "Present" gets my vote, but rule #1, #2 and #3, or the alternate route I said, and I'm happy with anything else you do with starting equipment, so long the game still balances fairly after.

    Now with "Present", if you have starting equipment on each character and you start with many characters, I agree fully it can quickly get the player mind to think what character equips what with what class and which stats/etc they benefit from.

    That is a nice setup to introduce things that I believe works best.

    The idea you have a lot of money with no equipment is a bit risky on a super beginner player, because they might spend all that money on certain equipment for certain characters and have none left without realizing it too late, but otherwise, maybe with a option for a beginner player to be given a tip yes/no and a quick note to the player to spend that money carefully if yes, I think it would work very well.

    I know with simply a single character and not a full party that might sound like a no-brainer though, but even then depending on the customize options it may be useful to have the option to read a strategic beginners advice note.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019 at 4:56 AM
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