Anthony Xue

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@Trihan I'm completely with you here, even though @Tai_MT makes it look as if I'm not :wink:. And this is true not only of the narrative, but other checks as well. Just as an example, how much gameplay sense makes a Spot Secret Doors check that openly announces it has failed?

@Tai_MT Your essay assumes a lot. In particular, your assumption that I'm "confusing abstraction and hard numbers" and that using numbers for Speechcraft is "stupid" is a) somewhat condescending and b) makes no sense at all - if reducing a complex conversation to a single numbers check is not abstraction, then nothing is. But if that is your style of discussion, I'll play along.

First of all, I never said that with sufficient Speechcraft, people are supposed to be able to run around and solve 80% of NPC-based challenges by just clicking the respective options in dialogues. The Bioware games do this all the time, and I also think it sucks, for the same reason as you - basically, it forces you to reserve a bunch of skill points for your main character just for these dialogue-based skills. It would make much more sense if you would actually have to roleplay your way through a dialogue tree with answers that may or may not impress the opposite, with a sufficient Speechcraft skill maybe indicating which answers might have an effect (and then it could still be up to you whether you might want to bribe someone, provoke them into combat or try to intimidate them) and any previous interaction you may have had with that NPC or your general reputation, as you have listed up, affecting whether the respective lines could be successful. So, all fine here.

However, all of this holds true only for crafted dialogue. I'm currently working on my encounter system, which will allow you to interact with your enemies even in standard encounters before sending everyone to battle (or not). For these standard encounters, I simply don't want to craft extensive dialogue trees, and I suspect players wouldn't want to have to move through one either every time. This means I need an abstraction to keep the game moving fast. Therefore - Speechcraft, with additional influences by reputation and other factors. This is what I call abstraction, and this has nothing to do with me confusing anything.

The Fallout and Deus Ex games you cite fail as examples because they are each single-character games. If you only have one character to work with, the "I want to access as much of the games as possible" reasoning indeed forces you down very similar roads all the time. But we are talking about party-based games here, and there it makes sense to have specialists for various tasks. This also defines the characters and sets them apart from each other.

I've also explicitly stated I'm not a friend of grinding endlessly to pump up skill scores. Furthermore, this only comes into play if battles are your main way of awarding XP. If you get XP for picking locks, disarming traps, discovering new areas etc. as well, I'd say things are fine.

And as for caring about numbers vs caring about character relations - I don't see why you can't have both. Yes, I'm in the process of creating a dungeon crawler, but that doesn't mean I'm throwing things like story, conversation, reputation and interpersonal relation out of the window. As for you, are you creating a game without character progression, i.e. growing numbers? This is an honest question. I just think that watching your characters growing in their abilities, being able to face ever greater challenges - not only on the battlefield - is one of the most fun parts of RPGs, but maybe we just strongly differ here.
 
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Ninjakillzu

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Since my game is heavily inspired by tabletop games, I definitely use this. I have a skill system related to main attributes. Certain dialogue options need a certain number of points in Persuasion or Intimidation skills, using computer commands requires Computer Use, repairing objects requires Repair, etc. There are also certain interactions during side quests and map exploration that uses skills and attributes for success. In order to succeed at ones of these skill or attribute checks, you need at least the base value required to pass.
 

Tai_MT

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@Tai_MT makes it look as if I'm not :wink:. And this is true not only of the narrative, but other checks as well. Just as an example, how much gameplay sense makes a Spot Secret Doors check that openly announces it has failed?

This is most of my issue with Skill Checks. Not that they announce the failure. But, they also announce success conditions. Not only that, but even if they're "hidden", then you have guides that pop up from other players telling you how to access those "hidden checks".

This isn't typically an issue for some players. But, anyone who even remotely counts themselves as some sort of "completionist" is now forced into making their stats exactly what the game wants in order to get the optimal path and accessing the most content (Even Fallout 1 and earlier CRPG's fall hard to this issue. These are tactics that worked in an age where few people had the internet and it was difficult to look things up... but in the age of the internet... these are kind of... obsolete).

@Tai_MT Your essay assumes a lot. In particular, your assumption that I'm "confusing abstraction and hard numbers" and that using numbers for Speechcraft is "stupid" is a) somewhat condescending and b) makes no sense at all - if reducing a complex conversation to a single numbers check is not abstraction, then nothing is. But if that is your style of discussion, I'll play along.

You are confusing abstraction and hard numbers. Speechcraft is an abstract concept. If you assign a solid number to it, it is no longer "an abstract concept". At least, not in any meaningful way you would use that assigned number.

Meanwhile, combat is an abstraction and the numbers associated only further to serve the abstraction. That is, the numbers don't matter all that much unless they're in "extremes" (like a 95% miss rate, or your Attack Power is 5x what it should be for where you are). The difference between 25 damage and 30 damage may not even exist, because it doesn't change the abstraction. But, if that 30 damage means it takes 1 less hit to kill an enemy, then the number suddenly matters.

Assigning a number to "Speechcraft" really only works if you're going to use it in the same abstract way combat uses its numbers. That is... in an abstract way and not as a strict "gate". And no, I don't mean, "percentage chance" either (this invites savescumming).

Generally speaking, it's bad practice to assign skill checks as they are taking abstract numbers and making them "concrete".

Besides, there are other ways to have your "skill checks" in games without ever needing to rely on stats to begin with. I don't see a reason to rely on stats for a "skill check" in any circumstance. Especially since there are far better options available.

In my opinion, a "skill check" as it is currently designed and understood is an obsolete tool. A throwback to when devs didn't have the tools or creativity to make the system better, more immersive, and more satisfying to the player.

First of all, I never said that with sufficient Speechcraft, people are supposed to be able to run around and solve 80% of NPC-based challenges by just clicking the respective options in dialogues.
You don't have to. This is literally how every game that has skillchecks works. Speechcraft or not. Every game currently on the market works exactly like this.

You don't have to say it yourself, I'm citing reality.

Even if the values are "hidden from the player", they still work exactly like this. Even if the values are "a percentage chance", there is still a definite number that once attained will always result in 100% success.

Ideally, for me, I would prefer there not be a "speechcraft" skill at all. I would prefer a line of "Charisma" abilities which would help you navigate dialogue better. Ability to read body language. Ability to read personality types. Whether a person is lying to you or not with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Etcetera. Things which might prompt you to make different choices in dialogue by just reading the character. Likewise, I would also prefer if NPC's took your previous actions into account for these things as well. Maybe even options that never work. Like say... a character into following the rules and the law would never take a bribe from you or be able to be convinced to let you into an area you're not supposed to be in.

How these abilities might work would just be in popping up the relevant information on the screen during dialogue: "X looks a little nervous and doesn't make eye contact", "X looks like they are trying pretty hard to dress up and look good", "X has used a tell of scratching their ear as they end their statement, they are probably lying to you".

This is how I would prefer skillchecks be used. I need just enough information to make an informed decision about how to reasonably navigate the conversation, situation, or event. Don't tell me, "you need 55 Strength to be able to move this rock".

I find such things to be silly and stupid and annoying. They're also very immersion breaking.

If something is an abstraction, leave it as an abstraction. Don't assign concrete values and thresholds for it.

However, all of this holds true only for crafted dialogue. I'm currently working on my encounter system, which will allow you to interact with your enemies even in standard encounters before sending everyone to battle (or not). For these standard encounters, I simply don't want to craft extensive dialogue trees, and I suspect players wouldn't want to have to move through one either every time. This means I need an abstraction to keep the game moving fast. Therefore - Speechcraft, with additional influences by reputation and other factors. This is what I call abstraction, and this has nothing to do with me confusing anything.

I'm not sure what this looks like as you haven't given all that much information here. So, allow me to make some baseless assumptions on what I picture it does based on your description (sorry, I know this is going to be unfair and probably pretty wrong, but it's all I've got, so bare with me).

It sounds like you're using some kind of speechcraft abstraction in order to gain an advantage or something in combat. Maybe surprise attacks, or inflicting states on the enemy or something. This is fair enough if you are indeed using the number next to "speechcraft" as an abstraction. Say, for example, it's abstracted much like "Capture Rate" of a Pokemon using a Pokeball. There are means to improve odds, but they're minor chances even with improvement most of the time. You might get lucky once in a while, but not always.

But, if that number is being used as an absolute. If it has a threshold... Then there's no need for it to even exist at all. You could literally just say, "player's level is X, so it always works" and get the same result. No need to even waste a stat for such a thing.

Likewise, all that "concrete" number will ever do is force your players to grind the levels to always get the bonus before combat anyway. It won't even make the mechanic all the interesting as "failure" will basically never come into play.

But, again, based on what you've said, this is what I imagine your system currently looks like.

The Fallout and Deus Ex games you cite fail as examples because they are each single-character games. If you only have one character to work with, the "I want to access as much of the games as possible" reasoning indeed forces you down very similar roads all the time. But we are talking about party-based games here, and there it makes sense to have specialists for various tasks. This also defines the characters and sets them apart from each other.

Well, I mean, if you want me to cite Wasteland 3 as an example of forcing this on players as well, I can... It means you have to dedicate a slot in your party SPECIFICALLY to a small set of skills to access everything in the game. You have to have someone who will spend all their time lockpicking. Someone who will spend all their time hacking. Someone who will spend all their time crafting. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. It just means everyone who plays is literally going to have the exact same party no matter what. At which point... why is there even a choice who can learn what skills when everyone is going to play exactly the same? You may as well ditch the illusion of "choice" at that point and just assign specific members of the party to the rolls and then ditch the "skillchecks", since the player was never going to fail any of them to begin with since they were going to hyper-specialize those members of their party anyway.

It's sort of silly when you look at the bigger picture and consider player behavior rather than, "what I want in my game" and thinking no further ahead. If you have a system where players can choose what skills go up so they can do those skills better, almost all players are going to "optimize". That is, take the skills required to access as much of the game, XP, and loot as possible. It doesn't matter if you have a single character RPG or a party RPG.

See, here's the major problem with "skillchecks": It's a system designed for an MMO. What we have are people trying to insert an MMO system into a singleplayer game who don't understand why that system works in an MMO and what purpose it even serves in that MMO.

"Skillchecks" are literally taken from the original MMOs: Tabletops. They work in Tabletops because everyone makes the character they want and then the DM makes an experience custom to whatever the party is. There is no way to spec a character or even party to "be able to access all the content", because the content is whatever the DM decides it is for that session. No thief with Lockpicking? You might never run into locks except in places where the DM just doesn't want you to be. Thief with Lockpicking? You might run into all sorts of locks with all sorts of difficulties so that character can do what they're designed to do.

But, in a singleplayer game? There's a finite amount of content. You're going to build a character to access as much of that content as possible. Or, you're going to build a party to access most of that content (if you can't do all of it). Put simply, skillchecks don't work in a singleplayer environment because they were never designed for it.

Skillchecks were designed with multiple players in mind who can come together to tackle the obstacles together, using their unique skillsets. If it's just one player designing one character or multiple characters to tackle all the challenges... Then everyone is going to make the exact same character with the exact same stats. At which point... why do the skillchecks exist at all? Or the illusion of choice for the player in picking their stats and skills?

I've also explicitly stated I'm not a friend of grinding endlessly to pump up skill scores. Furthermore, this only comes into play if battles are your main way of awarding XP. If you get XP for picking locks, disarming traps, discovering new areas etc. as well, I'd say things are fine.

And this is exactly how those systems work. Even if you get XP for picking locks, disarming traps, and everything else. You're still going to grind to be able to pick the better locks, disarm the tougher traps, and discover the new areas. You'll still grind for those sick and slick skillpoints to be able to do those jobs better and break the game.

That's what skillchecks do. This is why you don't use them in singleplayer games and leave them to their MMO purposes.

And as for caring about numbers vs caring about character relations - I don't see why you can't have both. Yes, I'm in the process of creating a dungeon crawler, but that doesn't mean I'm throwing things like story, conversation, reputation and interpersonal relation out of the window. As for you, are you creating a game without character progression, i.e. growing numbers? This is an honest question. I just think that watching your characters growing in their abilities, being able to face ever greater challenges - not only on the battlefield - is one of the most fun parts of RPGs, but maybe we just strongly differ here.

I have character progression. It is tied strictly to the narrative, however. If you want stat points, you go do a quest. The quest gives you an item which will raise a stat point by whatever amount it raises, and you pick who gets it. Likewise, specific quests improve the existing skills in combat to make them more powerful.

The way to "immediate power" is simply to purchase new equipment. Everything else is "indirect power". You don't gain stats from leveling up at all.

Likewise, most combat is solved by using the correct equipment, correct skills, and knowing the gimmicks and tricks. Stats are useful in ending combat faster, but are not the primary means of winning. Can you go back to Level 1 area and curb stomp early enemies with your stats at 100? You sure can! Will you want to? Maybe. Combat is designed in such a way that the player is meant to spend 4 actions or so to learn the best way to eliminate each new enemy while any enemy they've already encountered and figured out can be eliminated in 1 or 2 actions.

I primarily rely on "gimmicks" and "strategy" rather than "bigger numbers". Each regular encounter teaches the player something. Each boss is a test on on those lessons as well as teaches the player a new "trump card".
 

Tiamat-86

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all of this is just reminding me of how much i hated HMs in pokemon.
these are basically just a skill check of 0-1.
0 you dont have the skill and cant explore every detour.
1 you do have the skill and your not restricted.
forced to make 2 useless characters just to explore all options.

same is true for all other stat checks.
need STR to push a rock = forced to have a WAR in the party.
need to have CHR for dialog option = forced to have a bard.
need high INT for side puzzle = forced to have a wizard.
need high DEX for lockpicking = forced to have a THF.

thats your whole main party right there. doesnt leave a whole lot of options for party freedom unless you want to go through every location multipul times with different party members.
it just makes an illusion of difficulty and forces players to grind characters they dont really care about.

every stat check should also have a hard check option.
for every lock theres lockpicking, or just find the key (search the desk or pickpocket/kill specific guard)
if you have high insight sure you might have a dialog option "you seem worried." which then unlocks a quest to find missing person and bring them back.
but if you dont have a high insight you could still unlock the quest by finding a note "bob and i are eloping, dont try and find us. goodbye father"
now that exact same quest just took a whole different turn, shes not missing she ran away, he's not concerned he's controlling. these could then also change the dialog when you do find the person.
possibly using it as a method to fill out world lore. that region probably has arranged marriages.
i could already see this example sidequest having 3 outcomes/reward possibilities.
now the game has replay value instead of grinding requirements.
 
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TheGentlemanLoser

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whoah :LZSooo: TRIHAN holy shnikes...I remember you!

@Tai_MT
Otherwise, I don't really believe in a "stat check" system for RPG's. It's weird to think, "Okay, I have 58 Speechcraft, so I can't select the option, but if I just had 59 Speechcraft, I could!". Like... what does that even mean? What is the differecne between 58 and 59 other than some arbitrary number?

The difference is that after you level up or "cheat" by using a stat/skill boosting item (i.e. the magazines in Fallout games) you can get from 58 to well over 59. Both leveling up and coming back later are very satisfying to a great majority of players, albeit for different reasons.

I much prefer some of the older games where if you have the ability, it works no matter what. You picked up the skill to punch through walls? Okay, you can punch through all walls. You picked up the skill to mind control someone into agreeing with you? Okay, they'll always do what you ask them to do.

Whoa! Those are some really skewed examples. Like for punching through walls, sure, although y'know like, some walls are made of glass, some walls are made of wood, others of concrete, others of metal, so I can also seeing it having around five levels, but it'd work fine as an "on or off" binary too.

"Mind Control Anyone" doesn't work as a skill even conceptually in any game design I can think of. Being able to mind control ANYONE into doing ANYTHING independent of ANY other factors?

I can't think of any game with a double digit number of humanoid characters you can interact with it would be remotely possible to program that way. Also you lose the "this guy is so powerful/strong-willed he can resist my mind control, so I'd better do what he wants or find a way to kill him" aspect which again, is something most players enjoy.

I'm not really a fan of a game trying to dictate to me a specific stat that I need to do something specific. All that makes me want to do, as a player, is min/max my character so that I can do everything.

I'm not sure you understand what min/maxing actually is? Like, if you have a problem with needing to have your character be good at something in order to accomplish tasks related to that ability, then it's the RPG genre you have a problem with at its core. "Characters are good at some things and less good at others" is the basic premise of the RPG genre, and some characters being better at some things than they are at others != min-maxing. Min-maxing happens in poorly designed or abused game systems where by being terrible at several things that are accidentally less important, you can be unreasonably great at things that just flat-out matter more. And even that some people seem to enjoy so...

e: wow, looking at the sheer amount you've written on the topic, I'm afraid I don't have the time or energy to really meaningfully engage with a majority of your arguments. I would implore you to remember that the way you enjoy playing a game isn't the only way a game is enjoyable to play, though; other people aren't having "badwrongfun".

@Ninjakillzu: my game development Spirit of '76, also an "open world" cyberpunk RPG (although I wouldn't describe it as "open world" as I'm intentionally trying to create only a very small "sandbox" because I'm a lone developer and I know from experience that populating a LARGE sandbox is impossible for me to do on my own, and the core plot is more important than in many open world RPGs, but a sandbox is technically still a sandbox even if it's small). The OOB skill system in my game right now sounds like a streamlined--actually, I prefer the word "stripped down"--version of what you've got in your game. In my case your "Computer Use" and "Repair" skills I've abstracted down to one skill called "Hacking" that covers both, and your "Persuasion" and "Intimidation" skills I've merged into one skill called "Persuasion". This isn't better or worse than your approach, to be clear, I just thought it was an interesting distinction. I think my game is probably more limited in scope than yours as it uses character classes and has "only" four of them the PC can belong to.

@Tiamat-86 the second half of your post contains what is to me very sound game design advice/best practices
 
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Anthony Xue

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every stat check should also have a hard check option.
for every lock theres lockpicking, or just find the key (search the desk or pickpocket/kill specific guard)
if you have high insight sure you might have a dialog option "you seem worried." which then unlocks a quest to find missing person and bring them back.

Thank you. Basically my point - if there's a door with a stat-/skill-based lock, I would like to be able to

- pick the lock (Pick Locks skill, maybe enhanced by special one-use dwarven lockpicks)
- break the door (Strength check, maybe enhanced with Strength potion)
- cast a spell (Knock, maybe from a scroll that can be purchased from a wandering mage)
- or just open it with the correct key.

(That's something I very much liked in the Dark Disciples II RPG toolkit, which had all of these integrated in Door Events by default. In RPG Maker, I have to build such an event completely on my own.)

One slight addition I would like to make is that I'd say it makes a difference whether a stat-/skill-based blockade (be it a lock, a rock, a trap or whatever) blocks a path or a destination. If it blocks a path, it's not necessary to have all of those options for the same blockade - just build different paths, even if it means that a player doesn't necessarily see all paths then (hey, replay value!). Things only become critical with quest-relevant destinations, which should be possible to reach for a player no matter what.

And this is exactly how those systems work. Even if you get XP for picking locks, disarming traps, and everything else. You're still going to grind to be able to pick the better locks, disarm the tougher traps, and discover the new areas. You'll still grind for those sick and slick skillpoints to be able to do those jobs better and break the game.

[...]

Likewise, most combat is solved by using the correct equipment, correct skills, and knowing the gimmicks and tricks.

I fail to see how this is a "better" barrier gameplay than a stat check. Whether you have to develop your characters' stats in a certain way or you have to acquire and use the "correct" equipment in a certain way does not fundamentally make a difference in terms of player choice. And if you assume that XP grind is required to bring up the skills to a certain level, I will just as well have to assume that gold grind is required to purchase the "correct" equipment, making things equal in player effort as well. You cannot essentially tell me "no, in my game it's all based on the narrative" and at the same time go "in your game it's all about mindless grinding, because that's what MMOs do" without even considering that progress in my game might work differently. I appreciate strong opinions, but at the point when they're brought across as "the law", they aren't going to produce any new insights.

Except that we should probably avoid each other's games, but who knows :stickytongue:
 

Tai_MT

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I fail to see how this is a "better" barrier gameplay than a stat check.

Probably because I didn't add any details and left it as vague as possible. The underlying concept is that "any team can overcome any challenge". Bring a team of all mages and you can still tackle every combat encounter. You might have to swap out some gear to do it, but it's possible.

Whether you have to develop your characters' stats in a certain way or you have to acquire and use the "correct" equipment in a certain way does not fundamentally make a difference in terms of player choice.

The problem you're having here is that you assume "correct equipment" is some form of hard stat check. It really isn't. Quick and short rundown of the systems in place:

3 Attack stats, 3 Defense stats. Attack, Speed, Magic. Defense, Reflex, Magic Defense. Each character has their own initial stat spread in these attributes to make them good at some things and worse at others. This can be changed through your own stat distribution, but that isn't always a smart idea as each character is designed for a few "builds".

Each "Build" essentially is how their "Skills" can be optimized. The thief utilizes mostly Speed and Reflex in place of each of its skills so if you dump a ton of items that increase "Magic" into them, you are essentially wasting those points. This ability to put points into a stat that doesn't necessarily help the character is why the largest stat bumps come from equipment. Still, if you dump points into Magic Defense on the Thief, it isn't wasted. You can also dump stats into the Thief's "attack" stat if you only plan on using their weapons to fight instead of their skills.

Each attack has an "element" associated with it. Slashing, Bashing, Piercing, Fire, Water, Lightning, Strength, Speed, Magic. Each weapon does one of these damage types and each skill does one of these damage types. Each enemy is weak to 3 of these elements, strong or immune to 3 others, and neutral to the rest. Boss monsters drop down to 2 in most instances.

Each weapon is designed to create interesting options in combat and not every character has access to every weapon. Each armor piece is designed to create strengths and weaknesses and not every character has access to every piece of it. For example, you could throw "Plate Mail" on your character and get a heavy resistance to "Slashing" and "Bashing" type attacks, but Piercing attacks will still connect and anything with "Magic" in it will do double the damage to you. Likewise, Plate Mail will give you a significant boost to your "Defense" stat, but also drop your "Reflex" stat. You'll be able to take heavy physical hits, but if you go up against an enemy that's faster than you and uses "Speed" as their skill stat, they will wreck you pretty quickly.

Each "state" in the game is uniquely powerful and useful to inflict on enemies. They are also powerful when inflicted on the player, so they need to be cured quickly in most instances. Almost every enemy is weak to at least 3 states, immune to 3 others, and then have the standard "chance" to have anything else inflicted on them. Boss monsters drop down to 2 in most instances.

So what does all this look like in practice?

Let's say you have an Earth Elemental to fight. It's got high Defense, low Reflex. Characters that utilize the "Speed" stat will do a lot of damage to it. Characters with a lot of "Defense" will be practically immune to it. You can increase the Defense stat through just swapping out equipment or through increasing it with the stat items you get from doing quests. You can also swap out characters to high defense ones before the area you fight the Earth Elemental in. But, you can also hit it with Bashing weapons to inflict a lot of damage on it. In fact, if you have a Silver or Lead made Bashing weapon, you can exponentially increase the damage done against it with that weapon. But, maybe you don't have someone with Bashing in your party, so you have to rely on other elemental weaknesses. You could hit it with Water. Maybe you have a weapon with the "Water" element on it. Or, you just have a Mage that can cast Water spells. Or, failing that, you just have "Magic" element skills/equipment that will put it down and it doesn't really matter what else those skills are. But, let's say you just don't have ANY of those options available. Let's say you've managed to just make every bad decision there is and your party just has no way to manage this enemy covered above. Well, then you have states. You could paralyze the Earth Elemental which keeps it from ever moving again in combat (incurable without a skill or consumable). Or, you could charm it so it attacks itself or its own party. You could even put it to Sleep so that it has a small chance of waking up each time it takes damage. You could whittle it down with what you have.

But, then there's the last option. The very last option.

Maybe, the enemy is just too weak for your party because your stats are too high, so none of the above really matters all that much. You can just hit "attack" and it dies. Why? Because you've already cleared this area and this monster is no longer any sort of real threat to you.

And if you assume that XP grind is required to bring up the skills to a certain level, I will just as well have to assume that gold grind is required to purchase the "correct" equipment, making things equal in player effort as well.

Inexperienced and terrible players will have to "gold grind". Anyone else who learns each lesson being taught really won't have to grind for any gold what-so-ever. The primary sink for Gold in my game isn't equipment. It is Consumables. Which are the only way to heal up outside of using an Inn. No Dedicated Healers in my game and nobody learns a "Cure" type spell. Use a Consumable to fix your mistakes, and play better to make fewer mistakes.

The primary loop of the game is the player picks up a Quest, gathers intel on the quest (so they know the easiest way to tackle the content), make sure they have enough Consumables on hand to deal with any mistakes, and then set out to the location to do the deed. The first few fights in the new location will be the "rough" portion, where the player is subjected to whatever tricks and tactics I can think up to hurt them, they figure out ways to overcome those tricks and tactics, figure out ways they can use those same tricks and tactics themselves, and then no longer have an issue in the location until the boss monster. Each location usually contains treasure of equipment and some other nice little items the player might want (with few of them being money or consumables), and the boss usually drops some sort of gear or guards some sort of gear. The player gets their stat items from completing the Quest, and decide how to use them. The player then returns to the HUB area for the quest reward.

You cannot essentially tell me "no, in my game it's all based on the narrative" and at the same time go "in your game it's all about mindless grinding, because that's what MMOs do" without even considering that progress in my game might work differently.

My game is based on narrative. Can't get around that. New Equipment and Stat Points are locked behind Quests. Combat is less about what stats you have and more about how you approach it.

As for your game... I know very little about your game. The only assumptions I can make are the ones I've already prefaced before. Also, yes, that's exactly what those systems do. Create mindless grind. Why? They're designed specifically to do that in a singleplayer game. They're MMO systems. When you introduce an MMO system into a singleplayer experience, this is exactly what happens. Pointless and mind-numbing grind. This is fact. You cannot get around it just because you wish it weren't so.

Game devs would be better served by studying PLAYER BEHAVIOR and PLAYER PSYCHOLOGY rather than "how a system is put together" and "how can I implement something I enjoy into a game?". Devs are better served by analyzing why they do the things they do in games, why their friends do those things, why other video game players do those things, and then figuring out how to deal with that. "Fun" does not happen just because you manage to make something "functional". "Fun" doesn't happen just because you think implementing something automatically makes it fun.

Fun is a coalescence of mood, activity, and synergy in the correct blend to create a unique experience. An experience that is memorable.

What does that mean for my game? I have no idea. My game might not be fun at all. Granted, I am having fun, and playtests have resulted in the correct behavior from my players... But is that fun? Maybe? Probably not? I don't know. I'm doing all sorts of new things in my game. Cutting my own path through the jungle. I prefer to innovate rather than to engage in "tried and true" methods. I want to see things nobody else has seen. Try things nobody has ever bothered to try before. I want to fail on my own merits rather than because I did the exact same thing someone else did, but didn't implement it properly.

Will my game be fun? I don't know. I hope so. I don't hold out hope that it will. My expectation is that it will fail in such a spectacular fashion that I will learn a lot from it. My actual hope is that even if it does fail, it gives other devs new ideas to work with and maybe they can refine what I've done in order to create an even better experience.

I appreciate strong opinions, but at the point when they're brought across as "the law", they aren't going to produce any new insights.

Except that we should probably avoid each other's games, but who knows :stickytongue:

Except that they are "new insights" for most devs. These are things most devs (even on these forums) have never considered before. I bet you never even knew that the "stat check" mechanic was created and designed for MMO's to begin with. I bet you never even thought about why it might not work in a singleplayer environment. I'd wager you never even considered what it does to player behavior.

Facts are facts and don't really care about what a dev thinks or wants to believe. If you do X, you get result Y.

My specialty is analysis of play. More specifically... probably something close to "player psychology". If I want a player to do something, I know how to get them to do it. If I want a player to avoid a behavior, I know how to entice them to stop doing it.

It sounds grandiose and impressive (or like something to brag about), but it isn't. It's little more than just taking the time to understand someone else's point of view and consider the world from their perspective. It's a mix of empathy and the ability to put yourself into their shoes. Anyone can do it, provided they care enough to try. Few devs do it.

Why do few devs do it? Because we're Creatives. Our worlds begin and end with us. Designing a book, a movie, a song, a painting, a game... it's all out expressing OURSELVES and not about what the audience sees. Creatives have a difficult time putting themselves into the shoes of someone else, unless they can already relate to that person. Even if they can relate, they seldom take the time to do except in a way to think about themselves instead of the other person.

The problem is that we're game designers. We can't think that way. We can't go along the dangerous road of, "I'm creating my vision and the audience be darned". Games aren't worth anything unless your audience tells you they are. Your grand and sweeping vision is meaningless unless your audience discovers their own meaning within it. It is meaningless if the player does not enjoy their time with it. It is meaningless if it does the same thing every other game on the market does.

A video game only works if it is designed from the perspective of "this is for my audience" rather than "this is for me".

This is the type of design I specialize in.

This design is also how most of my posts take shape. They're intended to teach you something and make you think. To make you consider points of view that aren't already in your head. My posts are designed for the audience and not for myself. Designed that way in the hopes that the audience will learn something new from the advice given, even if they don't agree with it.

EDIT:

@TheGentlemanLoser

Sorry, didn't see your post until after I'd made a reply.

I prefer instead of stat checks, you have just the binary way of things working. If you have the skill, it works on all instances where it should work. If you have walls that can be punched through, just getting the skill to punch through walls works on every single one of those. No need to level it up. No need to have it do "Tiers". I have the skill, it works. Same of "mind control". If I have it, it works on anyone who can be mind-controlled. I don't need to invest points into it to make it more effective.

My examples are vague so I didn't have to go into the exact detail. Mostly because they are examples. The "stat checks" we use in games can be handled the exact same way with the "binary" option of just having skills. This eliminates the tedious grind and also allows players to "come back later for their power fantasy" if they want to.

Maybe you just didn't have "punch through walls" when you were here earlier, but now you do, so you can punch through those walls and do those things. Maybe you didn't have "Hack Security Systems" last time you were here, so you had to stealth, but now you do, so you can turn them all against the guards this time. There's no need to have "stat checks" for these things or these moments.

There really isn't. The stat check is "arbitrary" in most instances. It is likewise fairly useless and nonsensical in almost any iteration.

Let me put it this way:

It is more engaging to have things work in the style of most Zelda games than it is to have them in the style of tabletops done digitally. That is, if you have the skill/ability to do something, you always have it and can always use it. Got Roc's Feather? You can always jump gaps. Got Iron Boots? You can always push down stuck switches on the floor and sink to the bottom of bodies of water. On or off. It's more engaging than having skills like:
Jump: 15/33 (Failure!)
Strength: 18/15 (Success!)

A stat check, by and large, grinds the game to halt. If a player sees one they can't pass, their immediate thought is usually, "how can I level up quickly to get the required points for this?" unless it's pretty far out of reach at which point they go, "can I put off this quest until a much later time when I have the stats?". You might have a few players who think, "okay, I can't do this, is there another option?", but that's sort of "few and far between". it is likewise easy to accomplish this same line of thinking by using the binary option rather than an arbitrary stat check.

Granted, it requires more work from the dev... but it feels better to the player in most instances. Tends to feel more immersive as well.

Finally, yes I know exactly what min/maxing is. A system that requires stat checks makes me want to min/max. If any of my stats can come into play at any time for a random check, then I will seek to maximize all of them to get all the options available and pass all the skillchecks. This is what having a skillcheck does to most players. If they can't max out the skills on a single character, they will hyper specialize their entire party to max out those skills (like in the case of Wasteland 3, where it's more beneficial to create a custom party rather than take on any of the NPC's as party members).

Fallout 3 was actually my first experience with this form of min/maxing. When any stat could come into play for anything I might do, I went out of my way to max out every skill to 100 as quickly as possible as well as my entire "SPECIAL" stats. Then, I watched all my friends do the same. Then, I saw how many guides existed that helped new players do the same, and how many comments those got. From that point forward, I began paying more attention to how players engaged with these sorts of systems, and yeah... most of them do exactly this. If they need a random stat at a specific amount, they put off the content until they have it (if they can) and generally seek to max out every stat they can, just in case it comes up.

Why do players do this?

Because it is less important about being able to pass the content than it is about having the options to pass it. Players don't care that they can unlock the door in 5 ways. They care that they have, at any one time, 5 ways to open that door and they can PICK which of those ways they want to use. If you can open that door no matter what, 'cause you have at least one of those options, then the door may as well be binary to you. Can it be opened? Yes/No. The fact that it has so many options to open it, indicates to a player that some methods of opening that door are going to inherently be BETTER than other options. Or rather, might cater to how the player wants to tackle area better.

Stat checks, by and large, exist as a binary option. Succeed/Fail. In those cases, they don't need to exist. Replace them with skills that make the option succeed no matter what.

Now, if your stat checks aren't "Succeed/Fail" and are instead measures of success or failure and do different things based on where those stats are... then they make sense. Maybe this door requires 57 Stealth to open it silently. But, maybe if you have 50 stealth, you can still open it and not raise the alarm of ALL the guards. Or, maybe if you have more than 57 stealth, you can walk through it and pretend you're supposed to be there and the guards will interact with you as if you're a new employee instead. Etcetera.

If you want to use stat checks, my suggestion is that you don't use them in a "binary" way. Which is, you know, the way everyone is using them and wants to use them. If your stat check is binary, it doesn't even need to exist. Especially since it destroys a ton of gameplay and immersion. Just turn it into a skill, save yourself the headache of trying to balance things, and be done with it.
 
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alice_gristle

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What does that mean for my game? I have no idea. My game might not be fun at all. Granted, I am having fun, and playtests have resulted in the correct behavior from my players... But is that fun? Maybe? Probably not? I don't know. I'm doing all sorts of new things in my game. Cutting my own path through the jungle. I prefer to innovate rather than to engage in "tried and true" methods. I want to see things nobody else has seen. Try things nobody has ever bothered to try before. I want to fail on my own merits rather than because I did the exact same thing someone else did, but didn't implement it properly.

Will my game be fun? I don't know. I hope so. I don't hold out hope that it will. My expectation is that it will fail in such a spectacular fashion that I will learn a lot from it. My actual hope is that even if it does fail, it gives other devs new ideas to work with and maybe they can refine what I've done in order to create an even better experience.

:biggrin: Duuuude, I wanna play your game!
 

Trihan

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There is another way to implement this: do it, but *don't tell the player*.

Conditionally add extra dialogue options/new actions if the player's stats meet the requirement, but present them as if they're just part of the choices the player would have had anyway. Unless they're playing through the game for a second time, they probably won't notice anything.
 

Aesica

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No, I'd never use something like that in a game because I'd rather de-emphasize the stats outside of planning battle strategies. I do make use of different dialog options happening when different characters are in the party, but that's as far as I go with it.
 

Frostorm

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I bet you never even knew that the "stat check" mechanic was created and designed for MMO's to begin with.
There's no way that can be true... Tabletop RPGs (e.g Dungeons & Dragons) have utilized stat checks long before the 1st MMO ever came into existence. If we look back in time, we can see that D&D 1st Edition came out in 1974. D&D has a few stat check mechanics, one of which is called "saving throws", which combines an RNG component to the stat check mechanic. Now let us look at the MMORPG side. The term "MMORPG" was coined by Richard Garriott in 1997 to describe Ultima Online, which he created. Of course, there were online games that predated 1997's Ultima Online, but we have a rather specific set of requirements for this discussion. They are as follows:
  • Massively Multiplayer - This means the game is designed for a large player base, simultaneously. So traditional multiplayer games, such as Super Smash Bros, which allows 4 players, or even its 16 player mode, don't qualify as "Massively Multiplayer", they are simply "Multiplayer". MMOs typically support a player base in the 3 digits (but often way more).
  • Online - This is simple, it just means it's an online game. Whether this includes games running on a local network is up for debate, but I'm leaning towards "no" in that regard.
  • RPG - A Role Playing Game... pretty self-explanatory. I'm sure everyone on these forums knows what an RPG is since, ya know, we're all using RPG Maker lol.
  • Stat Checks - The game references some parameter of the player character (i.e. stats, skills, attributes, or w/e label the dev decides to use) to see if that figure meets or exceeds a certain threshold in order for a certain thing to happen.
The 1st networked game, and thus predecessor to online games, that I could find was Maze War, which was released in 1974 (or 1973?). But of course, that's not a true online game, nor is it an RPG (it's a FPS), and it most certainly doesn't feature stat checks. It would take many more years for a game that fulfills all of the above criteria to be released. Thus, I think it's safe to say that the "stat check" mechanic did NOT originate from MMOs.

Now, back to the subject of Stat Checks in general... I have different opinions depending on where it is used. I basically split it into 2 categories: Narrative and Non-narrative. Narrative refers to stuff like dialogue options. In this case, I'm not really a fan of stat checks at all, but if implemented, I like @Trihan's suggestion: "do it, but *don't tell the player*".

For all other things, such as picking a lock, moving an object, noticing something hidden, etc... I'd argue against removing the numerical aspect of it. The reasoning is simple: Different obstacles have different difficulties. So, Lock A might require 36, but Lock B might require 54, and so on. Anyway, that's my reasoning for keeping it numerical while using them in a "binary" way.

Now, I do like the idea of a sliding scale of success/failure. It would require quite a bit of work, I reckon, especially if you want to do this across the board w/ every check in the game lol. I think it would provide for a really immersive experience if it was thoroughly implemented though.

However, I realized something after reading everyone's posts in this thread. Namely, should there be a difference between "stat checks" and "skill checks"? And by "skill checks", I don't mean whether a character has a certain skill or not. What I mean is making a distinction between "this Lock requires 20 Dexterity" vs "this Lock requires 20 Lockpicking". The former is directly tied to a character's base stats, while the latter is an extrapolation of stats, skills, and/or a combination thereof.
 

TheGentlemanLoser

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Finally, yes I know exactly what min/maxing is.

Yeah, no.

Fallout 3 was actually my first experience with this form of min/maxing. When any stat could come into play for anything I might do, I went out of my way to max out every skill to 100 as quickly as possible as well as my entire "SPECIAL" stats. Then, I watched all my friends do the same. Then, I saw how many guides existed that helped new players do the same, and how many comments those got. From that point forward, I began paying more attention to how players engaged with these sorts of systems, and yeah... most of them do exactly this. If they need a random stat at a specific amount, they put off the content until they have it (if they can) and generally seek to max out every stat they can, just in case it comes up.

okay like you LITERALLY don't understand what min/maxing means. that's just MAXING, dude (in the gender neutral sense), there's no MINIMUM involved there. you're literally just grinding until you're great at everything. min/maxing would be making a character that looks like this:

Strength: 1
Perception: 3
Endurance: 4
Charisma: 10
Intelligence: 10
Agility: 10
Luck: 1

making a character that is terrible at skills they'll never use (like melee weapons), has just barely enough to get by in stats that are mandatorily important for everyone but don't do what they want their character to excel at (i.e. perception or endurance), and the highest possible scores i.e. charisma 10 and intelligence 10, as the bonus from the former and the skill points from the latter will let them get to Speech 100 by level 4 or 5!

in poorly designed games (like cyberpunk 2077) a hyper-specialized character that is terrible at most things will always feel more efficacious and powerful than a character that is reasonably well-rounded or a jack of all trains. what you're describing is an ace of all trades produced through excessive grinding.

I'm not sure you have a healthy relationship with failure (at least in games) if your response to a failure state was to joyously grind until failure at anything was no longer possible for you. That is not, I can say with some confidence, what most people do.

what you're talking about isn't min-maxing, it's grinding. just grinding. terminology can be important.

There's no way that can be true... Tabletop RPGs (e.g Dungeons & Dragons) have utilized stat checks long before the 1st MMO ever came into existence. If we look back in time, we can see that D&D 1st Edition came out in 1974. D&D has a few stat check mechanics, one of which is called "saving throws", which combines an RNG component to the stat check mechanic. Now let us look at the MMORPG side. The term "MMORPG" was coined by Richard Garriott in 1997 to describe Ultima Online, which he created..

Thank you for correcting this so I didn't have to lol. Honestly that was so wrong I thought it might be trolling and was hesitant to engage.

However, I realized something after reading everyone's posts in this thread. Namely, should there be a difference between "stat checks" and "skill checks"? And by "skill checks", I don't mean whether a character has a certain skill or not. What I mean is making a distinction between "this Lock requires 20 Dexterity" vs "this Lock requires 20 Lockpicking". The former is directly tied to a character's base stats, while the latter is an extrapolation of stats, skills, and/or a combination thereof

I firmly believe there's no right or wrong answer to this question in either video games or tabletop games, but itseems worth noting that at least AAA type RPGs (which is to say uh...Bethesda) seem to me moving in the direction of attribute checks only* out of a desire for (in my opinion, OVER) simplification to reach the LCD demo, with Skyrim removing all of the game's attributes (TES had more than fallout to start!) and leaving only skills, and removing MANY of those, while IIRC Fallout 4 literally eliminated all of the skills* in the game, leaving only stats and perks.

*This isn't to be confused with GOOD & NECESSARY CONSOLIDATION of skills, like how Fallout New Vegas merged Small Guns and Big Guns into just GUNS, and how D&D 5 merged "Hide" and "Move Silently" from D&D 3.Pathfinder into "Stealth" and likewise "Listen" and "Spot" from same into "Perception".
 

Tai_MT

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@Frostorm You're too hung up on the definitions rather than the mechanics. To the point that it's literally blinded you to the point I already made twice and you didn't address.

It is an MMO mechanic and even in D&D, it's an MMO mechanic. MMO being the genre rather than the literal definition. Though, if we're honest here... you can play D&D with several hundred people in a session if you want so... you're splitting hairs and engaging in semantics for the sake of it.

It works in D&D and in MMO's because you only have control of your own character. You can only make the character you want to make and are exceptionally limited. Other human players have to make up for your shortcomings. Which means, you'll have to work with other players to tackle the content. I did already explain this once, but I've explained it again for you.

It's an MMO mechanic. Or a "multiplayer" mechanic if you prefer to ignore that you can play Tabletops as an MMO if you like. Put simply, it does not work in a singleplayer environment and likely never will. Mostly because those implementing it have no idea why it exists and what its purpose is... and are implementing as "rule of cool" rather than for any other reason.

@TheGentlemanLoser

Thank you for clarifying that you have no idea what "mix/max" means. It literally means, "maximize strengths, minimize weaknesses". That is to say... maxing out all the stats possible.

Urban Dictionary: min/max

That's the third definition I found to pull, but probably the most comprehensive. They all say the same thing.

Also, not sure where you got the "unhealthy relationship with failure". I guess you don't study player behavior much? Or you assume everyone plays games exactly like you do? Not sure. But, there are reasons "save scumming" was even coined. Namely, a lot of players do it. Players, if given the opportunity, will "optimize the fun" right out of your game. That is, do the most boring crap imaginable to avoid failure and difficulty at any and every cost. Why? It's the most efficient way to play. Doesn't matter if you don't like it. Doesn't even matter if you don't play that way. Pretty much everyone else is and does.

What you're talking about is "enforced grind". That is, game systems that exist which enforce grind in order for a player to achieve success. If that success is optional, the grind is still enforced. Likewise, each "path" through the game would have an "optimal" solution, so the player is going to want that at every opportunity. That's your players "optimizing the fun" out of your game.

Think about that for a moment. Not in context of a stat check, but in any other game system that exists.

Just for fun, let's use typical "morality" systems. Most players play as "the good guy". That is... goody two-shoes. If they can't get "the best possible ending", they usually get annoyed or upset. This even works with reputation. Players don't want to lose rep. They don't want to gain evil points when they don't mean to. They want to be everyone's best friend and the paragon of virtue and light. This is just a microcosm of how players interact with games.

Video games, by and large, are an escape. Most players want to escape the drudgery of real life when they play games. They are there to engage in a fantasy that makes them feel good about themselves or shuts out the world they interact with every day for a few hours. "Failure" has nothing to do with it. Fun has everything to do with it. Very few games on the planet make "failure" fun in any way. In all the thousands of games I've played, only Dwarf Fortress has ever made losing fun for me (which is probably where that tagline comes from).

Very few people are masochistic enough to enjoy failure in video games. In fact, a lot of game developers these days go out of their way to keep players from failing as a result.

That's not to say I agree with the "failure avoidance" nonsense of current devs, but you do have to keep in mind that people aren't playing games to fail. They're playing games to win as much as possible. Get as powerful as possible. Do as much content as possible. Get as much loot as possible. If you have stat checks that can be beaten by grinding up your stats, or by having a diverse roster of all the same characters everyone else will use... Then what has your game accomplished?

There's also a reason most "stat checks" and "skill checks" have gone out of favor in the industry and most players aren't clamoring for them back. There's a reason it's really only Bethesda still bothering to muck about with them. Well, and some Indie games. Mostly ones trying emulate CRPG's from the bygone era.

Players will optimize the fun out of your game. Implementing stat checks and skill checks just ensures they will do exactly this. They will grind to beat your skill checks and stat checks. Not because it's fun, but because it's the optimal way to play.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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I'd pondered something stat-check-adjacent before? For New Vegas's skills, there's no percentage-based roll to determine success. You either have the proper skill rank, or you don't. However, this also feels a pain to translate into RPG Maker.

For a JRPG-esque version, why not have it be "you have this passive skill or you don't"? Like a thief having that one skill in FF5 that lets you see where invisible passages through walls are? I could see a separate category of skills called Exploratory or something, which are only ever "used" when checked for in NPC or map interactions.
 

Frostorm

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@Tai_MT That just means you have a strange definition of "MMO". If you had simply said "multiplayer", then fine. But don't go applying your strange definition of MMO when it doesn't align w/ everyone else's. That only creates confusion. "MMO" has a very specific definition, and it's certainly not the same genre as tabletop RPGs. The "O" in MMO means Online, as in it uses internet (or a local network at the very least). Tabletop games don't use internet, if that wasn't obvious. Nobody considers D&D an MMORPG. So please use the correct terms/definitions in the future so as to not mislead people. There's a distinction between multiplayer vs massively multiplayer online (MMO) vs massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG).

As far as D&D sessions with "hundreds of players" go, that's a very small minority. And I'm going to use an argument you've used in the past. Namely, if something occurs in such a small subset of the population, we can basically ignore it since we're making games for the masses, and not a tiny niche segment. After all, we want our games to reach as many players as possible, do we not?

It's like saying "oranges are red" when you meant to say "apples are red". Even if you were referring to apples, the fact that you said oranges will cause people to think of oranges.

Or a "multiplayer" mechanic if you prefer
See? You could've said that from the very beginning and saved readers, such as @TheGentlemanLoser, the confusion.

Edit: Since "min/maxing" was brought up, I have a question I'd like to ask everyone. I know that some players love min/maxing while others abhor it. Let's say we have a game that features character customization. Is it still considered "min/maxing" if the majority of "optimized" builds are equally viable/OP? Let's say out of 100 possible build combinations, 90 of them are "overpowered". Would such a game deter people who dislike min/maxing in general?
 
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Tai_MT

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@Frostorm I guess you never heard of Roll20? Fantasy Grounds? :D Or even basic message boards? D&D and Tabletops can be played online and often are. They still count.

The problem is that you wanted to turn the discussion into one about semantics. Wanted to prove me wrong on the basis of a definition which is... pretty loose to begin with.

After all, games like "Warframe" are considered MMO's when they don't allow more than 4 people into any one game session and the only thing that makes them "Massive" is the "potential" for playing with more than 4 players... or running into more than 4 at a "HUB", which is basically a glorified chatroom.

Your argument isn't about oranges being red. It's really more like this:

"Oranges are orange in color."
"No, Oranges are more of a Gamboge color."

The point is that a stat check/skill check system was created in order to facility an "MMO" type environment. One in which you only have your own character and their massive amount of limitations to work with. One in which it has to synergize with other human players in order to create the experience. Whether that's in your group of 4 friends, or you go to official games across the country with that same character and play with randoms all the time (Yes, D&D has such a system and has had it for quite some time). The system was created for this sort of usage. It wouldn't work in a singleplayer setting at all.

Are there ways to make it work? Yeah, probably. If we think hard enough about how to make it work for a singleplayer environment, there's likely a pretty interesting and unique solution. The problem is that nobody here is trying to make it work. They want to implement it "as is". Broken and everything. Nonsensical and everything. They want to implement it in a way in which it is complicated and convoluted rather than the simple way which would literally do the exact same thing they're trying.

If your "Check" results in a binary result, then the check doesn't need to exist and needs to only be a binary action. On or off. Success or Fail. You don't need to have Speechcraft 58 to fail when you needed 59. There's no sense in mucking about with your stats or skills for a binary result. Just give the player an ability in which they succeed if they have it and fail if they don't.

Now, if you're using the "Checks" for multiple results and outcomes (and I don't mean you use magic instead of strength), then it makes sense to have them be a number and have that number determine the outcome. After all, this is often how it works in tabletops. You picked the lock! But, you damaged your lockpick in the process... Though, you would probably have to pair these systems with some sort of "auto-save" feature after each result to keep players from Savescumming (and they will!).

As for your question about Min/maxing...

I don't know. That's what my game is based on. Nearly every viable build is designed to be "overpowered" in some way. It opens up the toolkit to allow me to do far more with it in combat than I would otherwise. That is, I don't have to hold back. I can seriously think up ways to literally try to wipe my players and give them a Game Over. If players can hit my bosses with Poison that kills the boss in 5 turns, it means I get to do some pretty punishing things to them as well and have to think up ways the enemies can prevent that or come back from it without making everything immune to the state. Likewise, if you've seen my posts on the Skills in the game (in particular, the one where I mention my Tank Skills), you get to realize how utterly broken those skills are and can be.

Anyway, players are given customization to such a degree that they're sort of "meant" to be attempting to break the game. Knowing that they're trying to break the game and my combat, I don't have to be shackled to "balance" all that much. Or, at least, it's a smaller concern than most devs have on it. If the player can walk into a boss fight and drop their Ultimate on the boss to kill them instantly... well, it gives me a lot of fun options for punishing that behavior or stopping it in its tracks, or subverting the expectations of the player.

I think most players, in general, enjoy the "power fantasy" of games. The challenge is fantastic, but it is a measure of "how far we've come" in terms of gameplay. Enemies and situations that used to pose a problem now are easily steamrolled. The Infinity +1 Sword has no meaning if you weren't curbstomped about a dozen times on your way to getting it. Especially if it one shots everything in the game. Min/maxing is often the player's response to challenge. Their power level is limited, so they seek power in order to make future fights a little easier. Or, a lot easier. Everyone min/maxes to some degree. The only difference is in how obsessive some players get about it. After all, if you didn't min/max in a game, you wouldn't be equipping the best equipment you have access to, right? You wouldn't equip the +52 sword, you'd equip the +27 sword instead. But, you don't. Because you're min/maxing. A player hopelessly obsessed with making every single number as large as possible in every game they play is a "Min/Maxer". That is to say, they're totally obsessed with the concept of never having a weakness. Most of these players end up in games like "Call of Duty" however, or on professional teams playing MOBA games for money (or battle royales like PubG). They care more about "being the best" than having any meaningful interaction with the game itself.

To me, your question doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Every player is a min/maxer to some degree. Every player seeks to break your game in some way to make it easier on them, even if they know it will be boring as a result. Otherwise, they would only play the most minimal amount of content required to finish your game. They'd be the lowest level possible. Have the least useful equipment possible. Have no real synergies or strategies in the game. They wouldn't care about doing any of your side content for extra XP, Currency, or Loot.

The natural state of players and probably of humanity is to "min/max". Minimize our weaknesses and losses as much as we possibly can through any means we can... and maximize our gains so that we get the most we can out of any endeavor we engage in. Usually, we title it "efficiency" though. Psychologists often phrase it as "cost avoidance". It amounts to the same thing.

Each and every single one of us are min/maxers. Even if we have some who say they abhor it and don't like it, they still engage in it as frequently as the rest of us. Even if a game doesn't ask them to do so. If you weren't, you'd use the +27 Sword instead. But, nope, you're here like the rest of us with your +52 Sword.

The only "min/maxing" that should be avoided in game dev terms is the kind in which is exceptionally difficult for regular players to do so. That is, it becomes "a job you don't get paid for" in order to engage in. Pokemon and it's online combat is a prime example. MOBAs of any kind (especially League of Legends) is another great example of this sort of "bad" min/maxing.

Or, the tl;dr version: Min/max that promotes elitism or boring gameplay loops should be avoided. Min/max that enhances the player's enjoyment of the game should be embraced.
 

Pootscooter

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@Frostorm I guess you never heard of Roll20? Fantasy Grounds? :D Or even basic message boards? D&D and Tabletops can be played online and often are. They still count.
Lol, except none of those predate D&D 1e. Good luck finding an MMO released before 1974. Go on, I'll wait... :rolleyes:
 

Frostorm

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I don't know. That's what my game is based on. Nearly every viable build is designed to be "overpowered" in some way. It opens up the toolkit to allow me to do far more with it in combat than I would otherwise. That is, I don't have to hold back.
Yep, that's precisely the type of game I was referring to. A game where most of the possible builds are "meta" builds, except they aren't since they're all equally overpowered. This allows us to balance the encounters under the assumption that the player will be using an OP build. So my question was really targeting players that dislike "meta". Basically, I often hear people claim deep customization is bad because it inevitably leads to the presence of said "meta" builds. Or, put it this way... Let's say we have 2 gamers: Bob & Joe.

Bob is an avid theorycrafter and loves to min/max. He finds reward in putting in the effort and "doing his homework" to create a truly synergistic and powerful build. For him, theorycrafting out of combat or outside of the game is as fun as the combat or playing the game itself, if not more so. For Bob, the game's combat is pretty much just there to provide confirmation of his build's viability/OP-ness.

Joe, on the other hand, is like Bob's opposite. He detests theorycrafting and dislikes the idea of having to do "research" in order to obtain a viable build. He'd rather just spend his points as he plays in a way that aligns w/ his roleplaying fantasy. Thus, he prefers games that are well-balanced and aren't ripe w/ "meta" builds.

So can we design a game that can bridge these 2 players/playstyles? Like, if we have a game with an abundance of build synergies so that nearly every build combination results in being "overpowered", could it satisfy both Bob & Joe? Since most of the builds are equally OP, we can argue that the game is actually well-balanced. But if that's the case, would Bob still enjoy this game if the effort he puts into theorycrafting his build only yields a result similar (in potency, not playstyle) to most other builds? And would Joe enjoy this game for its balance, or would he be deterred by the apparent theorycrafty nature of the game's customizability? Since the game offers deep customization and many opportunities for synergy, Joe might assume that certain build combinations must be superior to others (thus requiring "research" to be good), despite actually being very well-balanced.

And yea, I understand that all gamers are "min/maxers" to some extent. But there's a distinction between hardcore min/maxers, like Bob, and casual min/maxers, like Joe.

Whoops, apologies for getting off-topic there. But on the topic of stat checks, I have a question regarding the aversion of using a numerical system in favor of a success/fail system instead. Basically, if a game's stat check mechanic doesn't use numbers, how can you have various difficulties for different checks? Let's say a game doesn't check the player's Dexterity or Lockpicking level but checks whether they have a Lockpick (item) or the Lockpicking skill instead. How can you make it so Chest A is more difficult to open than Chest B? With a numerical system, each Chest can be assigned a threshold the player needs to meet in order to open it. E.g. Lockpicking 12 for Chest A and Lockpicking 30 for Chest B. If the game is only checking whether the player has the corresponding item/skill, wouldn't both chests be forced to be the same "difficulty"?
 
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Tai_MT

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@Frostorm

In regards to theorycrafting... it largely will depend on how the game itself is designed. I can't speak for others (or really even for myself as I'm in dangerously uncharted territory with my own game), but I think if you are designing an overpowered system in which "theorycrafting" the OP build really isn't a thing... then it probably isn't going to matter to the players who don't want to engage with that. I'm one of those players that doesn't like to play a video game like I'm studying for a High School test and memorizing facts and figures and formulas.

To that end, I've sort of designed the game around that particular player since I've noticed they're "less frequent" in terms of gamers than your "hardcore min/maxers" (I call them dudebro min/maxers, but that's my own slur).

Basically, all my players need to create an "overpowered build" is just to do the things they might enjoy. Each class is designed in such a way to be used in two or three different ways by me. But, there's enough versatility in there for other players to figure out builds I didn't think of and capitalize on that sort of creativity and inventiveness. Is there a method to creating a build that tackles absolutely every challenge? Yes and no. I require the player "swap out" armor at the very minimum for each kind of enemy in order to remain "combat ready". Everything else though? Up to the player to decide how to use.

There are "optimal" options. I don't think it's possible to design a game without those in some fashion or other. My goal has been in simply "hiding" those optimal things as much as possible, or obfuscating them. A player really super hardcore into examining stats and formulas and outcomes and enemies will find an optimal solution to dishing out as much damage as possible. But, the standard player who doesn't care about any of that? Well, they just see a series of choices that exist simply to cater to the way the player wants to play. Do you take the Wand which does no damage, but inflicts "[Element] Weakness" on the enemy in order to set up other characters or set up a second turn cast of that spell? Or, do you take an Orb that does elemental damage and has a chance to reflect magic cast at you? Do you use the very high powered Battle Axe to kill enemies quickly, but has a good chance to miss without the proper equipment and accessories? Or, do you take the Halberd which evens out all of your stats so that you can better defend against almost any threat? Do you level up Fire to inflict Burn more often on enemies, or to do more initial damage on enemies per cast? Do you level up Second Wind to increase the Defense Buff you get for 3 turns after using it, or do you level it up to increase the percentage of health healed to you each cast?

A standard player not looking to get involved in the theorycrafting just sees choices. Lots of choices to make. This is the intent. Choose the playstyle for each of your party members and utilize those strengths to do overpowered things while the monsters and bosses do nasty and overpowered things back to you. Meanwhile, the hardcore players will find plenty of numbers and mechanics in there to just get crazy with their builds if they truly want to.

For me, the key was just in the design of the system. Unless you absolutely suck at every video game you've ever played... almost anything you do will result in you killing enemies in 1 to 2 hits and only boss fights being a "true challenge". The result difference in the playstyles is exactly the same. If an enemy has 50 HP and a hit from the standard player hits for 65 damage while the hit from the hardcore player lands 150 damage... what is the real difference? One player gets to feel good about putting all the extra effort in to hardcore min/max, while the other player gets to feel good about the personal choices they made in roleplaying and having the system justify those choices.

In cases like that, I think the "outcome" is what is most important. In this case, the two player groups actually have overlap. The "standard" players just want to play the game and have their choices justified to them through combat. The "hardcore" players just want to exploit the system as much as possible and break everything they can. Winning serves this purpose and all that has to really change is just how that system is presented to the players.

Anyway, that's probably enough rambling about my game. It's neither here nor there and likely won't work exactly as I intend anyway. Early playtests with small groups has the players getting out of it what I want, but these are... very limited observations with friends and family. Biased results, if you will.

Still, I think the theory holds true. You just need to change how the system is presented to both groups of players and understand that their goals might not be "mutually exclusive" in any way. In fact, you could likely accomplish the same level of satisfaction for both players with using the same solution and the same outcome.

Onward to your question about stat checks!

Honestly, if they're a binary system, you just need to treat them like real life skills. Sort of.

If a person knows how to pick a lock, it's reasonable that they could pick any lock that can be picked. All that it might take in real life is "time to do so". All any real world "skill" would indicate is that if you're skilled in it, you do it faster. Or, maybe you don't damage your tools that much or at all when you do it.

But, if you're just looking for easy sets of Binaries for lockpicking, here's some examples I thought up off the top of my head:

1. Tumbler Locks Skill (lockpicking at its most basic)
2. Pin Locks Skill (this is likely a substitute for locks that require a specific key or a skeleton key)
3. Combination Locks Skill (for safes and maybe some easy vault doors)
4. Multi-Layer Security Skill (for locks that use multiple devices for security, like using one of each of the first three options)
5. Structural Weakness Exploitation (for situations in which you would probably need to drill into the safe or something similar).
6. Electronic Counter-Measures Knowledge (for anything that requires biometics or card readers and the like, this could even require the player engage in some "prep work" to trick some of these systems, since they aren't hacking them, they are unlocking them by tricking the counter measures into believing it was opened legitimately).

You could do this with nearly any real "stat check" in a game. Maybe you don't need 6 "Passive Abilities" for this, you could likely get by with 3 or so, but I think this is a better option than mucking about with the stats. After all, you could even require some "prep work" in some of these locks which could lead to better designed quests or more interesting dungeons. It may not be enough to be able to fool the combination locks, you need to also need to find a device to help you hear into it, or maybe you need to find a screwdriver or something to pop the dial off. Who knows? But, as long as you had the equipment and the actual ability to tackle the challenge, you succeed in doing so.

If all we're using stat checks in games for is a binary state, then I don't see why you couldn't just bestow the "ability" on the player to let them succeed automatically. I don't know why we have to involve leveling up or anything in the process. Seems unnecessarily convoluted for the sake of it. It likewise has all sorts of drawbacks to muck about with player experience. It's easier that if you just have a binary roadblock in the game, it's easily bypassed by making the bypass method simple.

Actually, that might be a better way to think about "stat checks". Think of them in terms of "roadblocks" in games. This is inherently what they are. Imagine if you couldn't leave Starter Town without an Attack stat of 35. This means you would have to be level 7 to leave it, or pay for the equipment to push your stat that high. This is what a lot of "stat checks" are when used in a binary fashion. Even if those "checks" are for optional methods to do things or optional content or even optional loot. They are roadblocks. Roadblocks that aren't easily solved by just completing a section of the story. These are roadblocks that can only be cleared through probably grinding or some other convoluted way to get your stat or skill up to the required level.

But, if the roadblock is cleared as easily as say... Missiles on a Pink door in Metroid... Doesn't that feel a LOT better to a player? "I can't open this pink door without Missiles. I'll come back when I have Missiles". It certainly feels a lot better than, "I can't open this door until I have more than 300 Health and have found at least 10 Missile Capacity Upgrades", doesn't it?

That's my experience and my perspective. There's no need to impose arbitrary limits on a roadblock with only binary options.

Finally, your comment on D&D.

Sorry, it doesn't track. D&D in inherently an MMO just in its design. In a big city, people used to advertise on real life message boards to join groups. Or, through the newspaper. Looking for players for their games. Who you played with this week might be different than who you play with next week. You take your character with you as well and don't always roll up a new one.

The rulesets for the game were designed with this in mind. That you could take your character from game to game (this is actually listed in the history of D&D and why it was created, so go look it up sometime :D ) and wouldn't lose progress. You wouldn't be "reset to zero" with each new game. You could take that character from story to story, group to group, and continue your own personal adventure.

Probably the actual world's first MMO without the "MMO" title and without "internet" to exist. The precursor to it, if you will. The inspiration for it. All the rules revolving around that aspect of the game. Even the modules and settings work this way.

I realize that the history of the world might be sort of short for most people on these forums... but it's worth remembering that just because a game wasn't initially invented in the age of the internet, doesn't mean it wasn't designed as an MMO.

It's important to understand where things come from and why they exist as they did. It's not so important to try to argue semantics in order to try to prove yourself right.

D&D was designed as an MMO. There's a reason so many games adopted its rules and traditions. There's a reason it continues to work today. There's a reason you can translate the D&D 1e rules to things like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds so quickly and easily.

It was designed as an MMO. Everything in it was designed to cater to THAT experience. It is nonsensical to try to pull the MMO systems out of an MMO type game and try to plug them into a singleplayer game.

It's sort of like those singleplayer games that require an online connection to work. It's sort of annoying and angers anyone who understands why people are doing it and why it's bad to do it.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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On the debate between Tai_MT and Frostorm, I have all this to say. Barely related, but a personal pet peeve for a while.

Theory means absolutely, positivity jack-flippin'-squat if you don't back it up with practice.

Frostorm, I have seen you post theory thread after theory thread for a couple months now on your game. Problem is that you aren't using that precious time to make even a demo, let alone a design document, and much less a blasted game that can be tested through play. I'd probably be using more coarse language if it was allowed here to describe my frustrations, but minced oaths will have to do.

I make similar mistakes about making games all the time. Not the perfect representation of my OCs? Waste time. Buy assets. I want better graphics to match this free, non-8-bit music? Waste time. Buy more assets. Oh, my game isn't going to be worth it, or won't feel like a JRPG, unless I pad the experience down with excessive scripts, adventures, dungeons, sidequests, items, equipment, skills and/or monsters? WASTE TIME. But this time, instead of buying even more assets? Create a design document and plan and daydream and handwring and get really effin' angry and frustrated with myself that I'm NOT. MAKING. A GAME.

Actions speak louder than words. Wanna know how I've actually made games over the past couple years? Game jams. They've forced me to cobble together what I could, to cut content, and to think of answers for stuff I'd never considered. That's creating any long-term project in a timely fashion, especially with a deadline.

There's so, so much you can't account for when making a game without actually doing it. It took me 8+ years to actually create one (1) game with my OC, and I'm still learning from experience. It feels like you want to have this perfect theorycraft before any and all progress is made on the actual game. Not only that, but that tried-and-true game mechanics for a JRPG just aren't good enough. Which is of course not true, as plenty of JRPGs -- traditional or not -- have made them work and put their own spin on the formula.

If I'm being a jerk, it's because I don't want you to keep making the same mistakes I'm prone to. Take this and any advice with a grain of salt, as I'm a pantser who's better off making episodic, short-length, self-contained anything in a persistent cast of characters and settings. But please mull it over. Especially before you make another thread. I like yapping about game design ideas and theory like anyone here, but... wow.
 

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Nevermind.
I found a book about game localization. It costs R$708,00 on Amazon. ;_;
I really wish my game was far enough along for it to be actually playable beyond certain aspects. I think I've crafted a really fun battle system thanks to ATB, fighting game, and Boost point mechanics.

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