Utility Scaling

Wavelength

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Recently, I've been really enamored with the idea of Utility Scaling.

For those unfamiliar with the term - Utility Scaling is where a skill has some effect besides damage or healing, and the power of that effect scales with one (or more) of the skill user's stats.

A few examples of skills with Utility Scaling:
  • A Mage casts a Stoneskin spell on an ally, boosting their DEF. The higher the mage's MAG, the higher the percentage boost will be.
  • A Shaman puts an enemy to sleep with a curse. The higher the shaman's MAG, the longer the Sleep will last. (Perhaps the enemy's MDF also affects the length of the Sleep status.)
  • A Warrior takes a defensive stance, granting them a damage-absorbing shield that lasts a short time. The higher the Warrior's LUK, the more damage the shield can take before breaking.
  • An Assassin uses a movement skill to instantly jump a distance on the battlefield. The higher the Assassin's AGI, the further the Assassin is allowed to jump.
  • An Alchemist uses a skill that creates Potions. The higher the Alchemist's LUK, the more potions will be created.
  • A Priest lays their hands on an ally to turn their debuffs into buffs. The higher the Priest's ATK, the stronger the new buffs will be on that ally.
I see Utility Scaling in very few games, but when I do, I feel it always contributes to high-quality gameplay (except of course where it is not well-balanced). Among its benefits are allowing utility skills (and the characters that use them) to remain relevant even at very high stat levels, offering additional design levers for balance, and potentially opening up more nuanced choices in how player's build their characters.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on Utility Scaling! Freeform discussion's always best, but if you're looking for a few questions to get your gears spinning:
  • Have you seen Utility Scaling in games you've played - or have you tried using it in your own games?
  • What are some of the coolest Utility Scaling skills you've ever seen?
  • Do you prefer when Utility scales with a stat the character is already using for non-utility skills (e.g. ATK/MAG/AGI), or do you prefer when an entire stat is devoted to Utility?
  • Aside from technical implementation, do you feel there are ever times where introducing Utility Scaling is a bad idea?
 

gstv87

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I'm partially using that feature,... and it's a mess to balance.
Because, even a small increment on one stat or skill causes a huge difference when you throw the entire set into the action (and you can't just negate combinations, you have to work them out)
Eventually, you end up defining limits for the stats, so you might as well work with constant values rather than proportions.

...... I'm already too far gone :/


the only aspect where I managed to make it work the first time around, was drop and experience calculation.
the greater the difference between killer character and killed monster, the less XP earned.
the sweet spot is between +/- 2 levels.
 

jonthefox

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I'm a BIG fan of this, and I wish it were easier to implement in RPG Maker. I like it because I think it's the most elegant way of offering players meaningful and diverse choices both for a variety of strategies as well as playstyles. Thus, I like it better when it scales with a parameter that the character wouldn't typically otherwise invest in. To me, games are fun when I have to make interesting choices - as an assasin, do I keep pumping ATK to maximize my dmg, or do I put points into AGI so that I can jump farther (to take your example).

I wish RPG Maker had a way to make the value of states dependent upon the caster's (and/or target's) parameters. Again, like in your example, if I cast a defense-boosting aura as a mage, this aura should scale with my MAT. What I usually do to get around this is a very clunky and inefficient form of, "as I get better as a mage, I learned a STRONGer version of the defense-aura spell, and then an even STRONGER version of it, and so on" which just creates a lot of bloat and less design flexibility.
 

Kes

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In my current project, often my utility skills do damage (perhaps a little less than 'normal') with a percentage chance to inflict a status. I have done a sort-of utility scaling with some of them in that the percentage chance of inflicting it increases with the character's level. That, imo, succeeds in conveying the same sort of idea i.e. that one's ability to cast inflictions increases with experience and stats. This could easily be adapted to have stronger/longer states inflicted by higher levels. I have a couple of skills where a self-buff is only added after the character reaches a particular level. I find that this approach of using levels as an alternative to stats makes balancing a bit more straightforward.

I do have some utility skills which scale by stat. You can choose a class for a particular character which gives healing spells. These work by a sword attack which absorbs HP from either one or all enemies, and distributes it to all the party. Another does the same sort of thing but absorbs from one enemy and revives and heals an ally. (Thus these differ from the usual absorb HP skills which normally only heal the caster.) One of the stats used to calculate how much HP is absorbed is LUK. As the player can distribute some stats, they can invest in LUK for that character to make her more effective. As she has other equally attractive skills which do not use LUK, this forces the player into making strategic choices about which stats to increase.
 

Silenity

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  • Have you seen Utility Scaling in games you've played - or have you tried using it in your own games?
I've been playing League of Legends for quite some time now and it includes utility scaling on a vast amount of the characters. It's really nice and some of the items you can get further amplify that utility. For example, there's an item called Redemption that will increase your healing and shield spells by an extra 10%.
  • What are some of the coolest Utility Scaling skills you've ever seen?
Well, the most of these types of skills I've seen have been in League. Most of them are pretty bland to be honest. Like more Magic will increase the effectiveness of your heals, shields, speed boosts. Or like a necromancer's undead summon would have higher stats based on the necromancer's magic power.
  • Do you prefer when Utility scales with a stat the character is already using for non-utility skills (e.g. ATK/MAG/AGI), or do you prefer when an entire stat is devoted to Utility?
I'd personally prefer it to be on a stat that they already utilize rather than a separate stat. This way they don't feel super punished in combat scenarios when the extra combat stats would come in handy.
  • Aside from technical implementation, do you feel there are ever times where introducing Utility Scaling is a bad idea?
Honestly, no. I think if the skill is decent it can always be a welcome addition. But it depends on how that skill weights in comparison to the rest of their skills.
 

Black Pagan

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Without the Proper wording or Explanation, Skills such as these sure tend to be a hindrance to the game rather than a Feature. I wish the Default Skill Description in the Database allowed us more Freedom..
 

Maliki79

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I use a system like this in my game but the status themselves have the stats that affect duration.

For example, say someone has a sword that has a low chance to poison.
This low chance is actually a "poison attack" stat of say 10. Every hit from that sword will add 10 more points of poison buildup. Eventually, the poison stat is actually given to the enemy. Then, the amount of buildup will determine the damage the enemy takes each time the poison does it's damage.

Other status have their durations affected.
It's a viable strategy to keep a boss in my game blinded so you can mitigate his otherwise outrageous damage output.
 
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It all depends on how you implant it but also how you control, such as Stone Skin from FFXIV it can negate damage equal to the total of 16% of the targets HP. As the HP scaling in XIV increased the skill itself became a bit too OP so it was reduced to 10% then it's gone forever T_T but I think they removed it because the main class WHM had another skill that did a similar job. So I think that's why they removed.

Currently, in my game I have a stat that increases the effect of various skills, so for healing it's the amount they heal, damage boost the amount it will boost its damage by but at the cost of increased CD's when you use the skill.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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I really like the idea of utility scaling because it allows early game spells to essentially level with the characters and still be viable. I believe the dilemma is how to do it most effectively. Damage wise, it seems pretty straightforward: you would create a damage formula that works on stats. But how do you do this for a sleep spell? I would say create multiple versions of the spell and replace the spell in the characters inventory when they reach specific milestones, as opposed to having Sleep 1, Sleep 2, etc.

I think one of the big things people like to see when playing an RPG is character progression. So whatever you can do to show improvement over the course of the game will provide a player with a sense of accomplishment, as long as it's handled well and is balanced.
 

S.Court

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That's an interesting idea, I honestly haven't seen it in the games I have played, but well implemented it could open some interesting posibilities, specially in a game when you can customize your stats.

For example, I have a decent enough damaging skill which adds Poison, but you actually need invest a lot in MAG to make a proper damage with it, from this you can choose between invest in MAG to make it a damaging unity, or investing in another stats like AGI and LUK to make it a enemy debuffer can cripple them in battle for a long time.
 

velan235

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for damage skill , most of them already a scaling based on their basic stats (magic increase with MAG , physical increase with STR)

for utility like buff , I think its just a form of simplicity or different approach to the game. scaling utility open up stats abuse (usually in MMO) , like you have "might" buff that increase attack based on your WIS stat. a lv 200 priest with full WIS could buff lower character and makes them deal megaton damage.

In offline / single player RPG , it also give the same abuse , like you invest full stats on certain paramater that would give you huge bonus from the skill, extra balancing is needed here and in the end , it doesn't even really matter. if you can increase poison damage by MAG to the point that it override damage spell , people will go to poison instead

for example , most MOBA use these kind of scaling , but thats just because they have limited set of skills , and don't have fire-fira-firaga progression
 

Kes

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@velan235 I take your point about the potential abuse of stat allocation, though probably the majority of RM games do not include that feature. However, here is where your design decisions as developer kick in.

I have some utility scaling and some stat allocation in my current project. If anyone tries to pile everything on to one stat they will very quickly come unstuck. That is because skills use a range of parameters in the damage formulas, including AGI and LUK, not just ATK/MAT minus DEF/MDF. Some use 2 parameters e.g. MAT and LUK or ATK and AGI. Anyone who ignores their MDF will suffer. No actor has all their skills based around just one set of parameters. This obliges the player to consider allocation very carefully. Can you100% prevent abuse? No. But you can't effectively stop players grinding so that they are OP and so have higher stats anyway. (Well, you can prevent it, but see the numberous threads here and in General Discussion which point out why that is, in the long run, a bad idea.)

Taking your poison example, in games made with RPGMaker you set the percentage of HP the enemy loses each turn by poison. No matter how powerful your magic user, that percentage does not change, so your particular example does not apply. If you have set it to 5% it will always be 5% whether the player is level 1 or level 99.
 

velan235

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@Kes I won't deny that extra design will make utility scaling feels fresh and new (thus as I mention before , extra balancing is needed)

I just think that utility was meant to be "utility" , so poison being a percentage damage as alternative to flat number you achieved from usual damage spell. in a way it gives same utility across the RPG battle. I think my example for abuse is a bit extreme though , but I think it would be like this :

ie. in the end , there will be one who is superior than other (let's say fireball and poison) , because they both deal variable damage (from stats) , some would be better from others because they achieve damage in similar way so you would just choose one that deal better damage. of course extra touch like more stats in formula could help this, but isn't in the end that you will balance the formula so both skills have "balanced and similar" damage result?

while with ie. percentage , poison really serve as utility and spell damage as your variable damage (one another could not achieve each other jobs) , although I understand that 5% HP poison is useless anyway (yet most AA JRPG still adopt this)
 

AMGLime

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It all depends on how you implant it but also how you control, such as Stone Skin from FFXIV it can negate damage equal to the total of 16% of the targets HP. As the HP scaling in XIV increased the skill itself became a bit too OP so it was reduced to 10% then it's gone forever T_T but I think they removed it because the main class WHM had another skill that did a similar job. So I think that's why they removed.
Stoneskin at 18% wasn't OP, it was just outshined by Scholar's Adlo because of MP Cost and Casting Time, so they kept it at its base 10% and just made it a faster cast and reduced its cost, but even faster cast it still was nowhere near the same level of Adlo and so it wasn't worth using it. So they changed it to Divine Benison, which is oGCD, 15% and requires a single Lily. Much stronger over all, and equal to Adlo now unless Adlo Critically strikes.


Anywho, to the topic at hand. Utility scaling as an idea is fun and rewarding, but from what I've seen in games incredibly hard to pull off for most things. The Warrior Defensive Shield? That's a good example of fun and rewarding. The Mage's Stoneskin? Not so much a fun and rewarding skill unless it has a reliable base value, and has a decent cap. My buffs tend to be 20-25%, so if like the Mage Stoneskin is always say atleast 10% and can scale up to 25% or something, then thats fun, and its reliable. But if at the lowest levels its like 5%, that's essentially useless until you get some scaling in there, especially if it's a single target skill, but I feel like I described an AoE type skill. Shaman Sleep is similar, fun if its meant to be at least 2 turns, but can be completely broken if the enemy ends up sleeping say 5 turns or more, in a turn based combat system. The system as a whole is fun and interesting, but takes a lot of work to make it work well.

My one character in the game has a skill called Arcane Barrier, this adds a temporary shield to the entire party for the next 2 turns. The Shield has a base value, and this value is increased by her MAT that scales a bit weaker then typical healing spells. It's an alternative to healing, you see the boss is going to breath fire on you next turn, so you can either Shield everyone for 200 now to soak the breath, or heal everyone after the breath has hit.
 

EndgameContent

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Utility Scaling is a feature I'm really interested in, although I'm having a bit of trouble figuring out how to implement it. How would you go about calling on existing Parameters to affect the arithmetic of those sorts of mechanics?

For example, using Yanfly's Armor Scaling plugin, I can apply States that reduce enemy Armor (so a note tag for that would look something like <Physical Armor Reduction: 50>) - it might just be that this particular plugin is not compatible with arithmetic, but it feels like there might be some way to call on a Parameter to modify that number. My best guess is currently something along the lines of <Physical Armor Reduction: user.atk>, but that doesn't seem to work (and neither does, say, <Physical Armor Reduction: 25 * 2>).

I'd be interested in hearing how other people have managed to implement this sort of Parameter-driven scaling in their games. Is there any particular plugin you use, or is it all raw, custom JS?
 

Kes

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@EndgameContent Please note, "How do I...?" (implementation) questions belong in the appropriate Support forum for the engine you are using. In the case of how to do something within the constraints of a particular plugin, that would be Javascript/Plugin Support.

Is there any particular plugin you use, or is it all raw, custom JS
In my case it is raw Ruby.

Only MV uses plugins and JS - which is one of the reasons why we don't answer implementation questions here, as 'Game Mechanics Design' is meant to be looking at aspects of game play at a more conceptual level and so will be engine neutral.
 

EndgameContent

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@EndgameContent Please note, "How do I...?" (implementation) questions belong in the appropriate Support forum for the engine you are using. In the case of how to do something within the constraints of a particular plugin, that would be Javascript/Plugin Support.


In my case it is raw Ruby.

Only MV uses plugins and JS - which is one of the reasons why we don't answer implementation questions here, as 'Game Mechanics Design' is meant to be looking at aspects of game play at a more conceptual level and so will be engine neutral.
Ah, alright! I thought it would make sense to post it here since it was within the topic of the thread, but having so many different versions of RPG Maker would just cause stray questions to create more confusion.
 

S.Court

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After a while, I saw Utility Scaling is actually a good idea mixes really well with my project. Why? Because the focus in my project is the stats increasing system, and this creates some scenaries
  1. The same skill could have different uses depending of how you use Utility Scaling. For example, in my project there is a shaman has skills do a pretty decent amount of damage if you invest in Magic or Attack, but if he invests in Agility, those abilities will sacrifice some damage to extent the duration or effect of the states those attacks applies. That creates a strategy layer for player when he/she can decide if he/she wants to priorize damage or utility scaling.
  2. Utlity Scaling helps to justify the player to invest in those stats actually. For example I have a knight which is able to invest in Attack, which is the best option for damage, and he can invest in Magic as well, but his damage output is inconsistend. Despite that, if he invests in Magic, that opens a role as a support unit, because he's able to use two special summons in which the duration or effect is increased if he invests in this state. That's helps to diversify characters' possible battle roles, which in my opinion it's important in game have emphasis in the freedom of stats distribution.
Do you prefer when Utility scales with a stat the character is already using for non-utility skills (e.g. ATK/MAG/AGI), or do you prefer when an entire stat is devoted to Utility?

I definitely prefer the first appoaching because it creates more diverse scenaries about how to use certain attacks. But the second alternative is perfectly valid as well, specially if you want to create a reason for people to actually invest in this stat. For example, in my project I didn't see too much reasons why people would invest into Luck, until I used it to increase Regen effects, and avoid certain attack types. That made of Luck a more important scenary and that's what I think it's a good example about having a state devoted to Utility Scaling.

Aside from technical implementation, do you feel there are ever times where introducing Utility Scaling is a bad idea?

An idea can add more depth layers to a project and enrich gameplay experiencie is hardly a bad idea, but it needs to be used with measure for balancing scenarios. A good idea in my opinion is putting limits to avoid the overinvestment of this stat to create an exploit. Besides that, I don't see any cons of using this idea.
 
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Frostorm

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Apologies for resurrecting this, but felt like commenting since I only recently decided to implement Utility Scaling. When I tried it the 1st time around at @Wavelength's suggestion, I was quickly turned off by how unbalanced it made my game. It wasn't until earlier this month that I went and took another look at this mechanic. I did a complete rehaul instead of a tack-on approach and this is what I've realized (at least with how my game works)...
  1. It is hard to balance if a skill/effect completely uses Utility Scaling. To use the Mage casting Stoneskin as an example (due to simplicity), a low lv Mage with 10 MAT might increase DEF by 10%, which feels like it's barely worth the turn/mana. A high lv Mage with 100 MAT would increase DEF by 100%, so much more worthwhile. Here's the issue: Introducing a coefficient to the formula in an attempt to balance the effect will either make the low lv Mage's effect too weak if tuned around the high lv Mage's stats and vise versa.
  2. I noticed Utility Scaling works MUCH better if used in conjunction with a base flat rate. Using that same example, let's give Stoneskin's effect a flat 25% base before stat bonuses are applied. Then, add a coefficient to account for the base effect and for general balancing. So let's say our formula now is: +DEF% = 25% + (MAT ÷ 2)%
  3. So now the Stoneskin of our low lv Mage w/ 10 MAT would increase DEF by 30% and our high lv Mage w/ 100 MAT would increase DEF by 75%. Basically, what we've done is bring the extreme ends of the spectrum closer together. This makes the game far easier to balance with less worrying about an effect used by a low lv character being too weak or a high lv's being too strong.
  4. Also, note that this Stoneskin skill grants +DEF% and not +DEF. I think this is where some of the balancing issues lie. If it was a flat/numerical boost to DEF instead of a %, it would make much more sense to use pure utility state or at least giving MAT more weight.
I'll also answer these 2 questions, cuz why not.
  • Do you prefer when utility scales with a stat the character is already using for non-utility skills (e.g. ATK/MAG/AGI), or do you prefer when an entire stat is devoted to Utility?
    • I generally just use whichever stat fits the theme or makes the most "common sense", which can vary from skill to skill.
    • I have a skill called "Ice Barrier" which grants the caster an absorption barrier and also increases DEF% for 4 turns. The amount of damage it can absorb is basically MAT+MDF with no other modifiers. While the +DEF% portion is calculated using only the caster's INT like so:
      • +DEF% = 25% + (MAT ÷ 5)%
      • Stats in my game generally range from 1-200.
  • Aside from technical implementation, do you feel there are ever times where introducing Utility Scaling is a bad idea?
    • Yes, this goes back to my issue with percentages. If a skill's effect is boosting something by a percentage, then the bonus granted would naturally already be higher when high lv characters are involved. If we add utility scaling to this, it basically becomes an exponential function. (or is it quadratic?)
    • Solution A: Don't use %, use flat number bonuses instead.
    • Solution B: Add a base amount to the bonus effect and scale down the dependent stat.
I have a question for you guys: Should a skill like the Stoneskin example or my Ice Barrier grant a flat numerical +DEF or a +DEF% bonus?
 
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duty

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I like the idea of utility scaling, and I do wish I saw it more frequently used.

This also cuts down on skill glut. You don't need progressively more powerful fire spells, if the fire spell you start out with scales in utility with you.

I implemented this on an MV project using the Yanfly action sequence plugins. The system evaluated one of the caster's scores, and that drove which cast animation was played.

I think you could do something similar with a debilitating skill, and use an eval to determine which state is applied. If you're using Yanfly's state core, I think you could also just stack the same state multiple times to achieve the longer duration.
 

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