To Grind or Not to Grind... That is the question

cane_danko

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Well it is more of a choice that I see. In my game (which a demo will be out soon hopefully) there comes to a point where the game opens up to a more non-linear path. Which even before then the game can seem challenging depending. My question I guess is how challenging can I make it for someone who skips all side-quests and relies heavily on treasure loot (rather than buying healing items and such). I know some people get all crazy if they enter a new place and get destroyed by a new group of enemies even when they have not taken the time to prepare properly. Part of what I am wanting to for my game is to make the player strategize alot before they have actually stepped into the dungeon. As far as grinding experience I do remember alot of games that required you to do this. I know that this is far from ideal. If... theoretically... there is a point in the game that... the player has

prior knowledge of... that he/she needs to hone their skills (i.e. upcoming battle or war) would it not be

both rewarding and immersive to actually take time to prepare themselves by getting stronger and making whatever other preparations they can? I want to know where to balance between this mentality as well as the power gamer mentality (who love to grind because they love repetition.) Just thoughts and ideas and please. :D
 

Engr. Adiktuzmiko

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You can do things like add warnings before a dungeon, or make it in a way that even if you skip side quests you'd still reach that dungeon in a level that is "just right" for the dungeon.
 

Dreadshadow

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Ok here comes the deal.

If you have a slow safe pace of the game for some time, and things change dramatically, you are risking disappointing or enraging a player.

In the begining, you teach the player how things work.  Then when the game goes on, new mechanics can emerge, with an easy  tutorial and a gaming period to get used to it. If a player gets used to a gameplay and then tell the player "You know sunny? Forget what you just learned, the game style is changing now" then you got a problem. Although depending on the concept of the game,

that is possible to work out. For example a horror game can have safe rooms and later on it can betray you, by not being safe anywhere. "Run run run run!" It works, cause it's horror. The concept is a good excuse.

The safe way is something like this:

1] Introduce the basics!

Allow a liitle grinding, make level up curve though ultra hard to be farmed.

Monster XP and EXP curve is the key on that. Balance it.

You have to do your math!

And you have to do a LOT of math and game testing on that.

2] If you have more mechanics, introduce new mechanics gradually.

Give the player time to get used to it, before adding something new.

3] Guess what! If you make a sandbox, a somewhat "open world", there will be dangers out there.

Your game will not be an infinite life sandbox, right?

a] Allow a safe path for the player

b] Allow grinding path

c] Add side quests

d] Make it possible to return to special uber super duper greater gargantuan epic bosses.

e] Make a point system that creates differend endings accoridng to what the player did.

All from [a] to [e] can be considered a new mechanic. So rule #2 applies here.

When the player is about to do something stupid, WARN THE PLAYER NOT TO.

Plus add frequent save points at least at the begining of the open world.

Thus:

a] Grinding and "i wanna do a lot" gamers enjoy the game.

b] Scenario driven gamers pass the safe path and will choose what to do (to see extra events after the main ending). 

c] RPG veterans will love a challenging battle, they know though that a warning was not there for no reason. They will come bacj to defeat the special uber super duper greater gargantuan epic boss.

Imagine you play your game. Better yet playtest it.

Can you exploit it? No? Good!

Is it boring? No? Good! Now ask more people...

I hope this helped you.

Cheers
 
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If you have a dungeon, you could divide it into rooms whereas the deeper you go, the harder the battles becomes.

For instance, in the first rooms, troops will come in 1s as it would allow the player to defeat them and determine how strong they are.

In the later rooms, the monsters can appear bigger or come in greater numbers.
 

whitesphere

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I think it is fair and reasonable to say "The party must prepare before venturing into a dungeon."    However, the party needs to have less difficult areas, say around the town, where it can get stronger/earn more gold to be able to get the best equipment and get to a proper level to brave the dungeons.

I don't think it's reasonable to say "The party must prepare a particular way for this dungeon," without hinting at or telling the player outright what to do.  I agree, if they are getting ready for a war, they need to prepare.  But maybe a seasoned veteran can give them some advice so the party doesn't go into it blindly.  Granted, RPG veterans will know this means "Buy the best equipment, level up and buy a lot of healing potions."  

But, if there are completely unexpected dangers, like, say Paralysis or Poison, maybe the veteran could hint or say so.  The idea is the veteran can give new RPG players a leg up so they don't go off to war and get slaughtered, without knowing what they did wrong.

To me, the most important thing is:  Make it as hard as possible for a player to get into an un-recoverable situation in their save file. Nothing is more frustrating than, say, forgetting to buy key equipment, then being stuck where your party can't help but die.  And that condition being in the savefile.  This might cost players hours of effort as they have to restart from the beginning.

Now, it's fine to slaughter the party if they forget to prepare before entering a dungeon.  Or if they didn't grind enough.  But if so, I'd turn off the ability to save until it's far enough in the dungeon that they clearly have prepared enough to survive down there.  So I'd only have key save points in dungeons.

The idea is:  It's one thing to say "OK, my party got slaughtered.  I need to go back out and grind."  It's another thing to say "OK, my party got slaughtered.  But I can't get my party to escape!  Now I'm screwed!"   

If they have gone to war, maybe they raid an enemy's storage building, to get the needed equipment.

Just make sure the difficulty increases steadily, without sudden jumps, in the main plot.  Side quests can be as hard as you'd like, but their risk should correlate to their reward.  And, again, it's good for the player to have warning if a quest is going to be extremely difficult.
 
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cane_danko

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Wow guys you have brought up some interesting points! I am very suprised to see everyone is open minded about grinding in single player rpgs. For me having fights too easy where the player just breezes through just to reach one plot point and the next takes away from the game so I am glad you guys see that there is a need for some form of "grinding" in the context I am talking about. And I agree that there needs to be balance in the game. Not just in the mechanics (i.e. strength of enemies and how much experience/reward is granted) but in the flow and pace of the game. I guess what I am looking for as answers is how do we as developers expand on the formula of how much do we require the player to go out of their way to continue the "main story" or if we can even allow this at all without offending alot of players and killing the immersion factor. Kind of feel like Goldilocks trying to decide what is just right. 
 

whitesphere

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I think the best way to expand on that formula is to have the main "story" be an entire set of events. Doing a task or not doing it will have effects throughout the game world.  For example:  Killing the king starts a war with the orcs, but saving the king and bringing peace to the orcs means an Orc can join you later, after the now peaceful orcs migrate to another country...

I'm trying to do that in my current game --- to keep "But Thou Must!" to a minimum.  There are definite things that must be done, but I avert the "But Thou Must!" by having several very different ways to solve the problem.  Each solution has different effects later in the game.   The above is one example.

Having multiple branches through the game, especially if these branches cause effects much later, gives a much more interesting feel to the game.

I think it's good to avoid "fetch quests" where the main plot waits for, say, the party to fetch 5 Bugbear ears.  Any task for the main plot should feel like it advances the main plot.  Or at least accomplishes something beyond "Force party to grind here."  I'd rather say "A Bugbear ate the key to the mines"  Then the key being a random drop which happens once...

Chrono Trigger is an excellent example.  Every task in the main plot is meaningful and brings you closer to your goal.  There is definite grinding, but not a ton..
 

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