Tai_MT

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@Basileus


Yeah, the crafting systems in Skyrim were... annoying for me.  Heck, on my new playthrough, they remain annoying.  It quite literally handicaps you in the game if you do not take AT LEAST ONE of the crafting professions and max it out.  Plus, there's the added incentive to always take Enchanting because it's useful across any class you play.  I like them "okay", but without putting any significant coin or time investment into the skills, they're basically worthless.  I've never really had an issue with finding empty soul gems, however, and I went out of my way to find a vendor who sold a weapon with Soul Trap just so I could slot it onto a bow for my current thief character.  My bows get about 960 shots of soul trap out of them before they need a recharge (which means I usually upgrade to the next bow before ever running out of shots).


Honestly, the only things I've ever purchased in Elder Scrolls games were things like spells or crafting components.  It's too easy to make a lot of money by simply picking up everything dead people are carrying, bringing it back to town, and selling it, then going back and getting more of it from the dungeon you just cleared.  Even early game when you're only encountering fur armor... that 20GP a piece for any item of it adds up QUICKLY.


Oh, and I guess I buy Grand Soul Gems with Grand Souls in them so I can get the most out of the equipment I'm wearing.  Beyond that, the systems are an exercise in tedium.  Likewise, leveling up anything in the magic schools is an exercise in tedium due to how boring it is.  The spells don't scale up with level at all.  Not like your weapons do.  Being a mage of any kind in Skyrim is pretty much an exercise in futility.


Also, a "murder hobo" is basically just someone who dungeon crawls in D&D.  They don't care about quests, usually.  They don't really buy anything.  They don't really accumulate possessions.  They want their loot and they want to kill any and everything with it, while being homeless.  It's... an interesting way to play D&D.  Honestly, I'd be amused if you actually played Oblivion that way.


Personally, in Oblivion, I just ran around and raised my skills.  At least, until I got access to more stuff in the game (like more spells, so I could craft my own, which I loved doing).  I did craft a lot of potions though... which was a good way to break the economy in Oblivion.  Because potions always sold high, even if they were useless... and you could obtain so many ingredients for free in pretty much any inhabited area.


As for your point about grind in battle systems...  That's basically been my point all along.  If it doesn't respect your time or effort, then it's pure grind, and it's not fun.  It's why I like it to be optional.  If I can maybe get two or three extra levels here, just for the sake of having the extra stat bump for the next section of main story... I'll sometimes do that.  Or, maybe I just want all the new equipment, even if I won't use it all, so I'll go kill some monsters for some cash.  But, foisting that gameplay on a player and telling them that it HAS to be done in order to gain ANY progression...  That is a terrible sin from any game dev.  The best example of that is simply Destiny right now.  It's a game I haven't played in two years, but it was a game I only sank 100 hours into in the three years it was out.  You could probably even use Runescape, an MMO, as a poster child for grind and why it's bad.


But, even if your combat is really fun... I'm probably not going to hit max level.  Nor will I care about it.  I won't care about going back to beginner areas and fighting the old monsters.  Especially if the only way to defeat them is the same tactics I used the first time I encountered them.  Because now, those encounters aren't going to be respecting my time investment.
 

Basileus

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I did full Murder-Hobo runs of both Morrowind and Oblivion.


I set out as soon as possible with as little as possible...which usually meant absolutely nothing. Then I would find a bandit cave or something, take one of the spare weapons lying about and club all of the bandits to death and take anything of value. Then I would just wander the landscape admiring the view, picking ingredients to make potions, and entering any caves and dungeons I found using only what I found in said dungeons. The entire time shunning all society and not taking a single quest for a single person or doing anything even remotely productive.


Like some kind of homicidal, axe-swinging, potion-swigging item hoarding hobo.


It was a blast.
 
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You know what, I mostly agree with you about crafting systems.  In general, if I'm looking for at an MMO to try and one of the first things they advertise is a crafting system, I will run away immediately.  But I think Gust's crafting systems are an exception to the rule.  They are not always 100% perfect, but they absolutely add to the fun instead of detract from it, which I feel a lot of other crafting systems do.  It's not so much any aspect of the crafting system itself, but the dungeons are presented in such a way that items are easy enough to come by.  And it's generally optional.  You can blitz through the game and still manage to complete a few crafting projects with items you found without really trying, but if you do run into something you want to craft and you need the item for it, it's generally pretty easy to remember or guess where to find it (or, you know, internet).  And when you do need to hunt down crafting materials, the Role Play is generally good that you feel like you should have to hunt down materials.  If you need a material like flour or milk, you can generally buy that from the store, while rare items like dragon scales require adventuring.  


I mentioned it before, but I would absolutely recommend Gust RPGs for entertaining battle systems too.  They are not tactical or action, but they are probably the most fun variation of a "standard" RPG battle that I have ever seen.  Yanfly has recreated a lot of Gust RPG mechanics with his plugins, so unlike Disgaea and Star Ocean, you could actually recreate such a think in RPGMaker.  
 

Dr. Delibird

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@Tai_MT "In reality, most people change in desiring grind in a video game when they grow up, get jobs, have families, and no longer have endless hours of the day or week to devote to it."


 I just want to say that it can get pretty dangerous using blanket statements about most people, especially when the evidence is anecdotal at best. At the peak of my graphic design course I was maybe able to have an hour at most to be able to play games a day if I was lucky. Despite that fact I spent all those collective chunks of time farming for 2 perfect Bee shields (one with corossive immunity and one with fire immunity). The tree ent farming run in DLC 4 was, and still is, a nice and relaxing task that requires the equivelant effort of "mash A to win" (maybe a little more effort tbh). I could have just as easily made tones of tangible progress on another character that I still have yet to complete UVHM with but that would have required more brain power than I was willing to offer after a long day at TAFE and of studying and of doing assignments. My point is that an individuals desire to grind is not nescicarily linked to that amount of available time they have. I mean I have who works every day of the week except every second weekend and he (somehow, I seriously think he must be able to control time) seems to be able to poor plenty of hours into Destiny (he is admitadely adicted) AND work on his game project of which, for contexts sake, he is making from the ground up. On the other hand I have a friend who is super bored and she currently doesn't have a job, she use to play a lot of MMOs but gets bored easily now once she reaches "end game" tiers of play. I just refuse to believe that somebodies wants, in terms of grind, are linked to their age/employment status/whether or not they have a family or even the ammount of time that there is available to them. Maybe those are factors for you but I just think it is quite dangerous to make a blanket statement that assumes everybody else would adapt to the way your life is setup the same way you have.
 

Milennin

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I agree. Even when I don't have much free time, I don't necessarily mind having to grind, as it can be a relaxing way to pass the time while making progress towards something in a game I like playing. (Recent Pokémon Sun & Moon are a good example.)
 

Tai_MT

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@Dr. Delibird


People use blanket statements all the time.  Why is it suddenly bad for people to use "blanket statements" when they find they disagree with them?  I've never understood this concept.  It's like the whole "No True Scotsman" argument.  Blanket Statement:  "All Police are there to protect you".  Except, that's not true.  If you're a criminal, they're there to arrest you.  Or, if they're corrupt.  But, it's a blanket statement people would tend to agree with, because it's universally accepted as their job.  Another blanket statement:  "Nazis are evil".  Except, not all of them were.  Some were good people who wanted nothing to do with the terrible things that went on under their regime.  But, again, universally accepted that they were the "badguys".  This broad generalization extends to pretty much every facet of human life.  Frankly, blanket statements are the way humanity simplifies life and establishes "norms" for operating in life.


But, if you want to discuss this particular blanket statement then I urge you to look at the word "most".  As in, not everyone.  As in, the majority.  To cite you in return, you're using anecdotal evidence yourself to try to prove my anecdotal evidence wrong... when in fact my own anecdotal evidence does not say "all", merely "most".  Every adult I know (I count only people above 25 as adults since maturity levels in today's society are far lower than they've ever been, and most "kids" don't turn into adults until after they've gotten out of college and learned about the real world, and had to take on adult responsibilities).  Honestly, though, the vast majority of people who engage in "grind" of the variety in games like Destiny are people under 25 without kids, without jobs, without a significant other.  That doesn't mean all of them.  It simply means most of them.


At age 31, I can honestly say that I sometimes engage in grind myself.  When it's optional, I enjoy spending the odd hour or two just doing something mindless for a little bit.  Grinding out Job Points in Final Fantasy V, Gaining an extra level or two in Pokémon, farming rainbow blocks in Terraria, etcetera.  I do not enjoy the forced grind of games like Destiny or Runescape or Dragon Quest, however.  Their time investment is too significant for everything I have to do in a day.  I get up, I go to work for 9 hours, I come home and I have to cook supper, do chores myself (take out trash, vacuum, etcetera), then eat my supper (which, if I'm lucky I get to play a game while I do this, if I feel like playing a game while I eat), then go to bed at a reasonable time (usually anywhere from 10 to midnight) so that I'm not dead tired the next day.  I might get 2 hours of gaming every night.  During a weekend, I get significantly more time to game, but with the amount of games I actually want to play, I don't have time to waste with enforced grind.  I don't enjoy wasting my time in a single game when I could've completed two other games in that same amount of time and had the satisfaction of completing them.


But, that's me.  That's what I like, personally.  Other people may simply just not have time to grind with all their day to day.  Some may just crave more cerebral gameplay.  Usually, that whole "I must grind" thing just breaks down in terms of efficiency when you've got all the adult concerns to deal with.  Can you realistically grind for great loot when you've only got two hours to play, a day?  If you're lucky?


It just is what it is.


For me, as long as grind isn't "necessary" to gameplay, I don't mind engaging in it from time to time.  I'd wager a lot of people feel that way.  The problem is basically just the Skinner Box.  As in, random rewards for pulling a lever over and over and over again.  Usually, you get nothing, but you get something frequent enough to make you addicted to pulling that lever.  I'm against that psychological trickery.  I'm against game devs making it and using it as a means of hiding how bad they are at their job and how terrible their game is as a whole.


What I desire is for devs to concentrate on making their gameplay fun and not resorting to psychological tricks to get people to keep playing, long after the point they've stopped having fun.  Just design fun games.  That's all any dev should want.  To design a game that is fun.  Not a game designed to milk your time and money from you.  Not a game designed to push DLC purchases.  Or designed to push micro-transactions.  Games that push these things are usually loaded with that kind of grind.
 

Arithmetician

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A well-paced game will usually not force players to go out of their way with grinding to defeat story bosses.  That is, if the player fights the majority of the random encounters along the way, they should be prepared for the boss - though it should still be challenging at that stage.  I might not balance with the expectation that the player fights every single battle, as in a long dungeon slog these can deplete your resources (even while they help you gain levels and skills), and random encounters do eventually get tedious when you've faced X enemy for the nth time.  But the "grinding" will be done as the player naturally progresses.  That said, the player is also free to do additional grinding to further level up their jobs/skills/character levels / get gold for equipment, etc., and doing so will make a challenging boss significantly easier. 


When it comes to superbosses, don't force players to mindlessly grind the same enemies over and over again to stand a chance of successfully challenging them.  Reward their progression with progress through a bonus dungeon, sufficiently long to accomplish any appropriate grinding, and with increasingly difficult enemies that challenge the player, being sure to vary the types of enemies that appear as one progresses through the dungeon.  


The Sealed Temple did this well in FFV.   It had plenty of different zones with distinct enemies in each, plenty of AP awards to help master key jobs and enough EXP to gain ample levels.  It may take 7-10 hours to complete, but it isn't boring, with one constantly advancing through it (though admittedly there is a bit of backtracking involved, both mandatory and from getting confused by its vast layout and network of warp points).  And the boss at the end, Enuo, doesn't require absurdly high levels (I beat him at Lvl. 57 on my first play through but then Lvl. 44 on the second, while previously I had defeated the final boss at 43 and 37 on my two playthroughs), while still being reasonably challenging. 


Now in contrast, FF Dimensions uses a job system very much like FFV, but it's postgame is not nearly as good.  You can just challenge three different superbosses in the arena.  Now, they gradually get stronger, and you get to earn legendary weapons or extra job points for beating them, which will make things a bit easier, but if you find yourself needing to grind for more levels or abilities, the best place you have is the final dungeon, which means the same enemies over and over again solely for the sake of grinding so you can get the skills you need to reasonably defeat these superbosses 
 
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Aoi Ninami

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"A well-designed game will let you beat the Final Boss at Level 1 or Level 100". 


If this is true in any game you are playing, then that game is not an RPG. By definition this implies that the entire Character Level and progression system is worthless and serves no actual purpose. How can you expect to even challenge the Final Boss if you have not yet learned any skills? Is there no difference in your stats at Level 1 and Level 100? The reason that a progression system exists in the first place is because an RPG does not care about your skill as a player. It only cares about the skill of the character the player is controlling.



As a side note, it's worth pointing out that this is totally not true. For example, in FF9 you can take on any encounter, even the optional superboss, at Level 1. Higher levels do make a difference to your stats, but you can compensate for that by strategy, preparation, and quick thinking in response to random events. All these are important aspects of "skill" that a standard RPG should care about. One of the key ways in which games are fun and satisfying is that they reward skilled play and let the player feel good about achievements that not everyone would be able to get.
 

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(...)


I know Skyrim, and Skyrim is an insane skill grind for most skills.



About Skyrim, I like how the game let the player know  the entire perk tree to tease the player and encourage him/her to keep grinding. In other words, the game makes clear that the player will become stronger if he grinds.
 

Basileus

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I've never played FF IX before. How on Earth does a Level 1 Final Fantasy character not just die in 1 hit to the final boss? Wouldn't you have almost no HP and no damage at low levels? Is it like the...questionable...level scaling system in FF VIII where the game as a whole is actually easier at Level 1 and leveling just screws you over? Or are you referring to a character that is Level 1 but has end game weapons and armor? Because that sounds like Character Levels just don't matter and only gear does, so the distribution of gear is the actual progression system with a leveling system tacked on for show.


I'm not really a fan of systems like that. See: TV Tropes - Empty Levels.


@Crabs


Yeah, being able to see the Perk Trees in Skyrim was pretty fun. It gives the player a good taste of the awesome things to come and provides a nice motivation to work for them. I guess it probably wouldn't work in every game though. I kind of liked the Fallout variation where you could see perks that could be gained at level up, but could still be pleasantly surprised when you earn a perk during/after combat or a quest for performing various feats. The surprise rewards are also fun and encourage the player to try new things and mess around to see if there are any other rewards out there.
 

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@Basileus


Dragon Age Origins and Tree of Savior explores the idea of "surprise features" really well. Both has "secret skills combinations".


Secret features are cool because not only the game rewards the player's effort by giving a new content he/she didn't expect. But it also gives the feeling of power and satisfaction for finding something secret.


I think it's a really powerful and smart method to encourage the player to keep playing the game on situations when the game gets slow-paced (like grind walls).
 
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Ultima01

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@Basileus

How on Earth does a Level 1 Final Fantasy character not just die in 1 hit to the final boss? Wouldn't you have almost no HP and no damage at low levels? Is it like the...questionable...level scaling system in FF VIII where the game as a whole is actually easier at Level 1 and leveling just screws you over? Or are you referring to a character that is Level 1 but has end game weapons and armor? Because that sounds like Character Levels just don't matter and only gear does, so the distribution of gear is the actual progression system with a leveling system tacked on for show.



Two things

  1. If he's talking about Ozma, the fight is less Empty Levels, and more AI Roulette.
  2. Equipment teaches your characters abilities.  So in Final Fantasy IX, abilities can be gained at level 1, if you're diligent not to gain levels.

EDIT:


Wow, I just got into another edit war with myself, didn't I?
 
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Lord Semaj

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Final Fantasy 9 is not the only Final Fantasy game, nor the only JRPG, that you can beat at level 1.  There used to be tons of level 1 challenge youtube videos showing that stuff.


It works because all the stats you need come from items and buffs.  Your gear gives you massive amounts of stats, your level just gives you even more stats.  Buffs and items and the way damage is calculated can all factor into a tough but manageable boss battle.  There's even a boss where the game is won by dotting the enemy with poison then spamming Phoenix Down on fallen party members.  Eventually you win.  A lot of money in lvl 1 challenges goes toward consumables.


Final Fantasy 8 is probably the simplest example.  You can junction spells to your character to boost stats.  But if you just farm spells by going on and off screen, you can get extremely high stats and autoattack your way through much of the game.  Junctioning can even give you completely immunity to status effects or damage absorbtion so that Fire elemental boss does no damage to you.  The GFs themselves that provide junctioning have tons of abilities to unlock, not by leveling but through ability points, and they themselves are MASSIVELY overpowered damage dealers.
 

Basileus

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@Lord Semaj


I can kind of see how that works, but I can't say I've played many games like that myself. I'm a bit confused how the player would gain abilities by using items in battle without also gaining enough experience to just level up like normal. But I can see a player plugging along - probably getting lucky at times - and eventually getting equipment that has high enough stats to make up for their pitifully low level.


I have no problem at all with "low level runs", but I can't say I'm a fan of a game where "Level 1 runs" are possible without exploits. If the bosses can be beaten with just the stats gained from weapons and armor, and the player can acquire enough skills like stat buffs, poison, revive, etc. without leveling, the the game really should not have a leveling system in the first place. That feels like having a leveling system for the sake of having a leveling system. 


FF8 just felt terrible to me. The game actually punishes you for leveling by scaling the enemies to your level, but in many cases the enemies scale harder than you do (probably to keep the Junction System mandatory). I feel like FF8 is an example where the game could have just eliminated character levels altogether and only used the Junction System to gain stats. The Draw mechanic to gain spell uses without actually killing monsters, combined with the Card mechanic to defeat monsters without killing them and gaining exp also renders the entire concept of a leveling system pointless. I don't mind alternate ways to win fights, but when one method has such heavy rewards and the other mostly just punishes you it feels like it would save everyone's time and effort to only include the 1 method you actually want players to use.


I'd like to see more progression systems that are more than just "kill lots of monsters" but I believe that any good game should still require the player to actually progress in said progression system before it is possible to beat the game. If the Devs want the player to grind levels, then the player should be required to gain lots of levels to beat bosses. If the Devs want the player to grind skills from weapons, then the player should be required to use lots of weapons and not just the few that have actually useful skills. If the Devs want the player to gain stacks of spell uses and link them to their stats to gain big stat boosts, then the player should be required to get lots of spell stacks from interesting sources instead of just getting infinite spells from a single enemy that can't threaten them. If in any game there is no real difference between a player at the start of the game and a player at the end of the game, then the progression system has failed horribly.
 

Lord Semaj

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There IS a difference usually.  The thing is, the difference makes the game easier, not doable.  You don't NEED Cure 3 to win a boss fight if you clutch the heals, use potions and megalixirs, buff your party's defense using items instead of abilities, and guard when you need to survive a one shot.  The boss fights tend to have a very specific pattern that most gamers just blindly blitz through on the first try.  But level 1 gamers work their butts off defeating the same boss with lots of planning in advance.


Since items make up a sizable part of your stats in any game, your equipment lets you JUST survive the boss's attacks and the fights can last up to an HOUR with your pitiful dmg output.
 
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RHachicho

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Well .. honestly .. I think a certain amount of grinding is necessary in most rpg types. Trying to make a fairly standard rpg without grinding is sort of like trying to make a FPS without it being necessary to aim ..


Some things in the genre you just can't escape .. people been trying for years .. sometimes it works okay .. More often than not it's more annoying than the grinding it replaced .. Most of the time I've ended up wishing they just stuck to grinding.


The "gameplay" of an rpg is not it's strong suit. It's just not the focus of the genre. Any rpg I feel lives and dies on it's story. People will grind for days to get to the best story but they wont so much as fight 1 random mob if the story is lame.


So the best way forward I feel is to make the grinding feel meaningful. There are many ways to approach this. Let me talk about mine.


Crafting system requires farming items from random mobs : There are NO weapon/armor/acc drops in my game. Everything is crafted or upgraded. That way instead of looking at the xp bar fill up they are always working towards that next piece of equipment. By the time they make everything they want. The grinding is done.


I personally don't like the idea of putting all the xp in quests because frankly it makes fighting monsters feel like MORE of a chore not less of one. Previously you got juicy xp and items for fighting a mob .. Now you get bog all xp and a health pot or 2 .. It's just not the same.


Another cool trick is the Random Better encounter. You all probably know what I'm talking about. FF7 did this trick really well. There was always one encounter in a pool that had


significantly better rewards than any of the others. And players would always hope for that encounter. Now on average this didn't really effect the grind. But players felt good when they got that "special" encounter. Funny how the brain works.
 

HexMozart88

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There definitely does need to be some grinding. It can't be avoided. But, just make it like Pokemon where there are designated areas to grind, rather than just turning your encounter rate to every 5 steps. That annoys me so much because I'd get spammed with four battles at once and be at like two HP but then have another battle before I can get to the inn. I've found similar problems with a lot of games I've beta tested. The encounter rate is too high and I always end up dying because I run out of potions and can't make it to an inn.   
 

Dr. Delibird

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@HexMozart88, to be fair, pokemon has had it's fair share of locations that are not optional and have too many encounters both ahead of you and behind you once you get to the half way point (rocky tunnel for example). That being said I know what it is you are talking about and pokemon has gotten much better with their mandatory caves and such over the years.
 

Basileus

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I agree, the fights themselves need to have a reward. If each combat encounter is meaningless because all of the gold/exp comes from completing quests, then combat as a whole will only be a road block to impede the player from completing the quests in a timely fashion. It's possible to make the quests involve combat but this skirts dangerously close to "Bring me 30 boar pelts".


If there is combat in the game at all, then each and every combat encounter needs a reward to feel meaningful. Traditionally, this has been in the form of gold/exp to move the player along the game's progression system. But if anyone has alternatives to that which still let combat be meaningful and impactful I'd be interested to hear any ideas.
 

Dr. Delibird

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@Basileus not quite a complete alternative but FF XIII did away with granting money for most (if not all, haven't played it in a while) and instead gave items and CP only. Now what made this take on battle rewards feel worth my while is that the CP you gained would then be spent in the Crystarium and spending those points felt very much rewarding imho. That being said that games poor pacing meant you wouldn't find value in most battles as you couldn't spend any of that CP until you where at least a couple of hours in but that is no fault of the system like I said. I am personally trying to combine a system similar to the Crystarium one I mentioned with small aspects from other games progression systems so that the player is being rewarded after every battle except for maybe once in a blue moon when they get nothing simply by chance of none of the experience-like "bars" being "full" (so to speak).
 

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