Trade-off Bonuses vs Purely Positive Bonuses

Frostorm

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Ok, so I'm going through a bit of a design deliberation with myself regarding bonuses on armor. Initially, I had cloth gear decrease MCR (mana cost rate) as well as TCR (tp charge rate) as a trade-off. In contrast, leather gear would increase MCR as well as TCR, which basically makes it the counterpart to cloth gear. Now, the alternative would be to simply make cloth decrease MCR w/o decreasing TCR. Likewise, leather would increase TCR w/o increasing MCR. I don't want to get into why these do what they do in regards to MCR/TCR since that will be covered in the lore. I'm just focusing on the design mechanics of the armor. The 1st option (trade-off) would elicit more of a thoughtful consideration for which type of armor to equip, whereas option 2 (purely positive) means the player wouldn't worry have to worry about potential drawbacks. I also wanted to mention that mail would basically be neutral, neither increasing nor decreasing MCR/TCR. Plate as well, but that has its own drawbacks. So, which option should I go with, and why?

Btw, my initial intent was to make cloth a caster's armor, while leather would be a melee's (or archer's) armor. Mail would be for hybrids. Mail armor in this sense isn't automatically higher armor than leather btw (but often can be) since it includes stuff like Brigandines, Scale Mail, and Hauberks. Due to a fantasy setting, cloth armor would include stuff like "Runewool" or "Spellsilk". Likewise, leather armor would include various hides of fantasy beasts like "Dragonhide". This is why I mentioned leather to not always having a lower armor rating than mail armor (though on average it is lower).
 

TheoAllen

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This kind of question can actually be answered by "Test yourself, see the balance, gather feedback from your player, see their behavior". Because both can work and both need context to see which is better. Or maybe you could just put both for various different scenarios.

But let's say we are just theorycrafting as for now.
Your previous armor has +50 magic attack and +50 attack
Your next armor has a +100 attack.
In this case, the real drawback is your next armor doesn't have +50 attack.
Like, "I'm not going to have that special effect if I equipped a different armor"

In your case, not having mp cost reduced when switching to different armor is already a drawback on its own. Because when the player already comfortable with the reduced mp cost, now they cast the skill with the original mp cost because they switched to a different armor, it feels like a drawback already.
 

Frostorm

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Ah, I see what you mean, in essence, its an opportunity cost. Guess I'll just have to playtest both methods and see which "feels" better.

Btw, I assume to meant to say this right?
In this case, the real drawback is your next armor doesn't have +50 magic attack.
 

KakonComp

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When making my own stuff, I tend to have all my armor focus on one positive over another, so closer to your non decreasing alternative. The player then picks what positive attribute best suits the build they're going for.

The only time I'd give something a drawback is when something can be abused otherwise, like armor that raises critical hit rate to 50+ percent, but also inhibits sight and has a middling chance to cause misses in a game where nothing else would normally miss.

I'm not saying one is better than the other, just giving my own preference. In the first example, I'd pick something with no drawbacks, even if it forgoes having positive effects added to it. More so when it more often than not gives a defense boost, even if it's small or not always the case.
 

TheoAllen

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Btw, I assume to meant to say this right?
Yeah, I made a lot of typos lately and it's embarrassing. Especially when I helped ppl and made a supposedly perfect code solution, it just doesn't work because of a typo.
 

Frostorm

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When making my own stuff, I tend to have all my armor focus on one positive over another, so closer to your non decreasing alternative. The player then picks what positive attribute best suits the build they're going for.
Yea, I noticed most people tend to dislike the trade-off approach. I just hope that these 2 armor types will be different enough with just the positive bonuses alone.

Yeah, I made a lot of typos lately and it's embarrassing. Especially when I helped ppl and made a supposedly perfect code solution, it just doesn't work because of a typo.
Lol, it's all good, we all make mistakes. I was able to understand your message, that's the important part.
 

KakonComp

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I actually like your example, and it opens people up to focusing on one over the other, possibly performing better than someone who would initially scoff a having a stat negatively affected.

It all depends on how it plays, for sure.
 

Wavelength

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Moved to Game Mechanics Design.

I don't think that either approach is necessarily bad, but one might be better than the other depending on other dynamics you have going on in the way you are building characters' combat kits, and in general I'd say that "purely positive bonuses" is probably the better way to construct it seven out of ten times.

The biggest potential issue with using "tradeoff bonuses" like better MCR but worse TCR is that it tends to pigeonhole characters into one type of skill or the other, instead of using the entire diversity of the kit that they supposedly have. If you're gaining way less TP than usual, you won't be able to work all the TP skills into interesting combos and gambits. Now, if you don't have anything else that's already pushing them toward a certain playstyle (like stats or their skill-learn list), maybe that's something that you want to do - encourage the player to pick one or the other to specialize in. But as a rule of thumb I like keeping as many viable options as possible available to the player in combat.

There are also the two questions of whether the other types of armor (for example Mail) can be equipped by everyone, including the mages who would "normally" be equipping cloth, and whether the plate and cloth offer similar stats to each other when equipped. The more that the armors are available to all classes/characters and the more they offer more stats, the more I would lean into having tradeoff bonuses to further differentiate them. The less they are widely available to classes and the less their stats are alike, the more I would lean into positive bonuses only, so that you could choose to bolster certain stats without having to automatically take a penalty in a certain kind of resource.

The TL;DR is to get a good sense of how flexible, specialized, or pigeonholed you want your characters' roles to be in combat, and to use mechanics like this as a lever in balance with other mechanics to achieve that exact amount of specialization.
 

gstv87

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if you were to give the player all positive choices, they'd end up with all theirs stats to 999.
and I mean, truly pure positive choices.... everything that there is to possibly offer them, you give to them.

you can't do that, because the game would be boring, not to mention lame.
so, you establish a limit at design time... you cut stuff out, you not-give them some choices.
that's your negative trade-off.

everything is a trade-off, even if it's not shown.
in one case, you allow some feedback from the player by allowing them to choose where to place that trade-off, and in the other you establish that trade-off de facto.

in the de facto case, you always start at the lowest possible minimum, and by allowing a set number of bonuses, you establish the highest possible maximum.
everything in between (the sum of everything, everywhere), would never get to make everything the absolute maximum, because you don't allow it.
in the free choice case, you have to start at the mid point, otherwise a value too low would put the player at a disadvantage, and a value too high would be exploitable.
 

Wavelength

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if you were to give the player all positive choices, they'd end up with all theirs stats to 999.
and I mean, truly pure positive choices.... everything that there is to possibly offer them, you give to them.
Maybe it was a matter of imprecise language, but the question is about whether the only tradeoff in equipment should be opportunity costs, or whether there should also be direct penalties that certain types of equipment provide to compensate for bigger specialized bonuses.
 

duty

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Is this for a game with a classless character progression system, or do the characters have established roles/classes from the start?

Are there other ways to manipulate a character's MCR and TCR?

If this is a mostly classless progression system without other methods to modify a character's MCR and TCR, then I concur with @TheoAllen and @KakonComp.

The absence of a bonus is a great enough opportunity cost without a penalty. It's also going to make your equip screen potentially less busy with less modifiers per piece of equipment.

If your game has focused roles/classes, I'd wonder why a player would put cloth on an archer or leather on a caster. Balance is nice from a design perspective, but there are not a lot of incentives to play "average man" when the same character could be truly excellent at one thing or another. There's nothing necessarily wrong with having casters only equip cloth or archers only equip leather.

Penalties may make sense if MCR and TCR bonuses are plentiful from other sources, and you want to drive the player to specialization. The penalties are a disincentive to mix and match the materials.
 

Cyberhawk

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It would really depend on the game's balance. Hard to say what hasn't been said already without actually like playing any of it. I typically never really gone into making only two armour types with those kind of tradeoffs specifically.
 

Frostorm

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@Wavelength Thank you for the move. Since the protag in my game is a blank slate character, the player has access to a wide array of skill trees and is able to equip all armor types: Cloth, Leather, Mail & Plate. Since you mentioned this as a possible factor, I'm leaning towards having Cloth & Leather have the trade-offs I mentioned. Mail would be the neutral one, as would Plate, but Plate has its own penalties (i.e. -Speed). As a classless, or rather, build-your-own class type game, the player can choose to be more caster-like or more melee-like or even hybridize. As for how plentiful the MCR/TCR bonuses & penalties are, Head, Hand, and Feet slots give a ±5% to MCR/TCR while the Body slot is ±10%. This totals to ±25% if the player decides to wear all one type of armor.

However, what if a player wears some cloth and some leather? Using the trade-off approach, the bonuses would just cancel each other out. But using the purely positive approach, the player would retain the respective bonuses, just less than if they were wearing all 1 type of armor. Thoughts?

Oh right, there is 1 more possible source of MCR/TCR modification in the game. Tomes (a 1-handed "weapon") also decrease MCR and don't touch TCR in any way. Likewise, Light (i.e. daggers, claws, etc) weapons increase TCR and don't affect MCR.

If your game has focused roles/classes, I'd wonder why a player would put cloth on an archer or leather on a caster. Balance is nice from a design perspective, but there are not a lot of incentives to play "average man" when the same character could be truly excellent at one thing or another.
I think there's great incentive to play "average man" or more accurately, a hybrid. It comes down to synergy with magical & physical, which I've made a point to accentuate in my game. Even the Archery skill tree has a passive that adds the char's INT to their ranged damage, for example. In regards to focused roles/classes, my game doesn't have strict classes but does have skill trees that the player can spend points in any combination they wish. So, I'm not sure if this counts as "focused roles/classes" or not.

I do want to note that, even though I designed hybrids to be viable, I didn't make non-hybrids less viable as a result. They all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Currently, my biggest issue with the trade-off approach is when the player equips some leather and some cloth, resulting in the bonuses canceling each other out.
 
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KakonComp

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I think at that point it depends on how you want the player to min/max their characters.
On top of what you've already said, I wonder what other types of gains these pieces of equipment might have. Will there be something that makes a player think twice before going all cloth or leather for it's damage potential?

Like, a piece of heavy platemail that's made for both defense and magic power for something like a paladin. Or, a piece of armor that sacrifices a usual stat it's known for in order to put those points into the effectiveness of another one.

Just throwing some things out there.
 

Frostorm

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On top of what you've already said, I wonder what other types of gains these pieces of equipment might have. Will there be something that makes a player think twice before going all cloth or leather for it's damage potential?
Well, this is how I have it set up... Basically, cloth can be made from a variety of different threads, each with their own bonuses that benefit casters in some way. One thing they do have in common is that they all increase MDF. Leather, on the other hand, are made from the hides of various beasts/monsters so each type will have unique bonuses depending on the source species of the leather, but the bonuses will generally benefit physical instead of magical. They all increase DEF as a common denominator though. Mail is what you pick if you don't want to specialize or want to play it safe or just want more plain jane bonuses. Generally grants more DEF than leather, but can also increase MDF depending on the metal used, such as Mithril. On the other hand, mail made of Adamantium is also good for tanking if you don't want to incur the penalties of plate armor.
 

KakonComp

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Sounds like there's a lot of choice between each type of armor then. I'd love to eventually see how it all works in action with the systems you have in place.

So basically main ingredients of what goes into the armor will influence what's raised beyond the innate bonuses/penalties inherent in them?
 

AfroKat

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I'm playing SMT 4 Apocalypse now and their is certain choices in armor that resemble yours.

In my game I'm going Physical Build just in case there's no effective magic, I can always slam them with physical attacks, not to mention my other 2-3 members use magic so if an enemy is relisant I'm screwed. Onto equips:

Weapons just raise normal attack damage and base Str, so I always want to upgrade it if I have the moneys

Guns do gun damage and I don't care for that, so once I got a gun that hits all enemies, I'm never gonna upgrade it because idc about the damage. Then you can by bullets for the gun. I can get magical bullets, OR a paralyzing bullet. And since my other members do magical damage of course I choose the status effects bullet. Since the % to inflict the ailment doesn't change with a new bullet that deals the same effect, I never upgrade my Gun past 5th hr (currently 30hrs in).

Helmets offer HP and most of the time resistance to one element, later helmets offer several resistances but one weakness. In this game if you get hit by a weakness the enemy "smirks" enabling them to almost always Crit and apply a secondary effect on some skills. So at a certain point I stop upgrading my helmet because losing that HP isn't worth the chance of getting hit by my weakness, into Smirk and death.

Armor is more of the same, but raises luk/magic. And idc about magic so I just upgrade the one that raises my luk the most.

Pants raise agility and HP. because you allocate your stat points I put them all in Str/Luk to hit harder and crit more. Agility is a forethought because you always get 4 actions a turn, me acting before my other party members don't offer anything for me, not to mention they can buff themselves and me so I hit harder. So I almost never upgrade pants because it's a waste of money.

So as you can see most tradeoffs in this game aren't worth it for me. I practically ignore the equipment process because how detrimental it can be, and how I don't need half the stats. That's something else to consider for you. If your armor lowers TP rate, but he's a mage, he doesn't care and just goes full MP reduction armor etc etc etc
 

Frostorm

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So basically main ingredients of what goes into the armor will influence what's raised beyond the innate bonuses/penalties inherent in them?
Yes, especially since crafting is a thing in my game. There's even a long-term story quest-line for crafting.

If your armor lowers TP rate, but he's a mage, he doesn't care and just goes full MP reduction armor etc etc etc
Yes, exactly! That's the part I was going for. A caster won't mind the decreased TCR and similarly, a pure physical won't mind the increased MCR. I do make sure all the primary stats are useful though.
 

Wavelength

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However, what if a player wears some cloth and some leather? Using the trade-off approach, the bonuses would just cancel each other out. But using the purely positive approach, the player would retain the respective bonuses, just less than if they were wearing all 1 type of armor. Thoughts
Both of these consequences seem reasonable from a design sense. In the trade-off approach, the player is saying "I want to toe the line between opting into MP and opting into TP". In the purely positive approach, the player is saying "Gaining each of these resources is important to me". And it's very intuitive in both cases, with the split between cloth and leather equips.
 

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When not locked to a specific type of armor then the trade off approach works well, imo.
 

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