What do you do to keep your gameplay fresh and reduce repetition?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by SpicyNoodleStudios, Oct 15, 2019.

  1. SpicyNoodleStudios

    SpicyNoodleStudios Aspiring Vigilante Veteran

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    I posted about a more specific mechanic previously. Now it would be cool to talk about it for real, in general. How do you keep your gameplay fresh? How do you keep it from being stale? What ideas do you implement into your scenes, your battles and your exploration to keep it from getting too repetitive?

    For example, my idea would be to provide more variety of the given mechanics. Also, if I know one strategy is so effective that everyone will use that over and over, I'll do what I can to take that strategy away. It doesn't help if I have 100 different options but only one is going to be used.

    What about you?
     
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  2. BK-tdm

    BK-tdm Manga Maker Veteran

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    Theres a thing with this topic of discussion that always irks me and thats because from a higher perspective games are repetitive by default and nothing ever will change this.
    No matter how many characters, how many skills, how many mechanics, anything you add will boil down to repetitive tasks.

    Because:

    You need to have a definite set of rules for your game which we call a "genre" (adventure, arpg/brawler, jrpg, open world, puzzle, visual novel, dating sim...) and you can follow only so many combinations until you add too much and loses the main purpose, hey wanna play a dating sim/arpg/shooter/horror with puzzles, crafting and cooking and...? Anyone...?

    You need to have a definite set of "features" for your game and theres so much until it borders into forcing features or feature creep for the sake of it.

    You need to set a variety of skills but even that variety needs a cap, no one wants to scroll trough 200 flashy lengthy skills that either only 10 are actually useful or all 200 do the same thing and only vary in how you visually represent it ditto for weapons and armors and whatever collectibles you decide to put into the game.


    On your "im gonna take away the one strategy people use all over" thing...
    For every 100 posible builds in a game, one, two or hey lets say you're lucky and 5 builds are top-tier, thats the so dreaded "meta" and no game ever will escape from it.
    For every possible option there's always a better choice so you either let your players fall into complacent gaming mode/minmaxers which will spam the meta builds and the people who will play not so op builds for fun.
    Or you start the cat and mouse game of balancing builds that the guys at Riot, Blizzard, Path of exile and every competitivie shooter out there play on a monthly basis, with a side of "they nerfed my playstyle now the game sucks!" from your players.
    Perfect balance doesnt exist, unless you make everything and everyone do the same thing and that sucks away the fun from experimenting with strategies, builds or even using different characters, variety will bring you different resuts, just try to make the game fun and if from 100 strategies only 20 work, its better to cut down the useless ones instead of trying to tweak the 20 that work.
    You can tweak or shift the meta, but you cant avoid your game from falling into it completely.

    You can only make so many variations of the same thing and maybe your "freshness" can be counterproductive, from feature creep to changing the extended rules (not the basics) on every boss battle or section of the game so whatever your player learns previously is moot now and has to relearn the rules or change the playstyle you made them comfortable with in the first place, thats annoying.

    Games like Diablo/PoE are repetitivefests! And yet people love to tweak them and spend thousands of hours in them, and let me tell you, some builds suck horribly! But thats part of the experience, finding what works and what doesnt, experimenting, building and even starting another character for more experimentation from another perspective.

    Take a look at Megaman: jump, shoot, avoid spikes, defeat boss, get boss weapon, repeat... and its a beloved franchise thats hasnt changed its core gameplay in more than 30 years! Sure they have added stuff, removed stuff, done QoL changes and the like, but its minimal and it has never deviated from the action platforming and iconic elemental bosses that made it famous.

    Devil may cray can have only so many combos and weapons and its in no way an open world freedom experience, yet i replayed DMC3 5 times on every difficulty and went for hours into the survival tower mode that was repetition incarnated, and i enjoyed every hour of it!

    Monster hunter is a very VERY repetitive game once you've fought every monster and start farming the apex predators and elder dragons, yet that doesnt stop (me) people from reaching HR 999 on every game that has released and MHWorld is the only game that has had such drastic changes in gameplay since MHtri but still, the core gameplay remains the same.

    Focus on making your game FUN, because if your game is fun i will play it for 700 hours even if its doing the same over and over.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
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  3. FleshToDust

    FleshToDust Pixel Beginnings Veteran

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    Options. Give the player things to think about. Where to put skill points in. Which paths to take. Choices in dialogue. You dont want the player to zone out while grinding for too long. Loot that doesnt just have monetary value. You need to keep the players mind engaged.

    Games that just auto increase stats, you mash attack, follow a linear path and read linear dialogue are boring.
     
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  4. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @BK-tdm brings up a good point. I find that usually game devs who try too hard to make the game not repetitive either end up overwhelming the player so much that they just quit or making it repetitive in a way they didn't anticipate. For example, you make it too hard to figure out what spells to use or make it cost too much to cast a spell? Then I'm just going to spam attack.

    Also don't take away a strategy that is too meta. I personally believe they should be there to be found, and once you do, you've earned it. No one I know complained how much Knights of the Round made FF7 a cakewalk once you found it (and about everyone on my dorm floor was playing it the year it came out), nor did I see a single internet post complaining about it. Instead players felt like they earned it, and being OP was their reward for that.

    Focus instead on making it fun. The rest will follow.
     
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  5. SpicyNoodleStudios

    SpicyNoodleStudios Aspiring Vigilante Veteran

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    Okay, so say someone levels up and gets to choose where to put their stats. Then they get mid way through the game. It turns out, they thought magic defense was a good stat to put up (or maybe just defense or agility and nothing else) and now, they can't get past the enemies without tons of more grinding. How would you deal with that as the designer?

    so, there was this time when I was playing skyrim(my second character) where I decided, hey. I want to make a spellsword. It was cool at first. Being able to heal, throw fireballs and chop mofos. Then, it wasn't. My fireballs didn't do enough damage. My sword didn't do enough damage. my heals weren't good enough. As it turns out, I was tooo balanced. I couldn't continue that character and didn't play as much after that. I decided I liked Oblivion better, probably because all my builds worked out on Oblivion and not what I had told myself which was, oh you can get waaaay more magic in Oblivion and make a bunch of different magic spells (I did love that though.)
     
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  6. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    @SpicyNoodleStudios : Give them an option to respec the player. You can even limit it to something like you get 2 free ones, then you will have to spend money to do it again.

    That's what I did in my game. I have 11 characters so I gave you 11 free respec's, 1 per character (though I won't stop you if you use all 11 on the same character, they are yours to use). If you need more you can do it if you want to spend money. And what I've found is almost no one uses it, but the fact they know it is there makes them less nervous about where to spend points and/or making critical errors.
     
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  7. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

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    You could make skills that have a variety of purposes. Like maybe a skill that does damage based on the targets attack, and buffs the users magic deffense stat and has a chance to inflict something on the target

    I know your trying to help creativity, but really by nerfing a strategy people adopt, your hindering it. One good way to do things is to make certain builds beat other builds (and i'm not talking about elemental weaknesses either). If too many people are adopting strategy A, other people can adopt strategy B to beat it. Then too many people adopting strategy B? Peopele will adopt strategy C to beat it. Too many people adopting strategy C? People will adopt strategy A

    I know this point doesn't apply that much to single player RPG's, but you could have enemies scattered throughout that have different strategies to beat them. Now don't go making one strategy beats one enemy, rather give the player skills that do more than one thing, so they have options on how to go about things
     
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  8. SpicyNoodleStudios

    SpicyNoodleStudios Aspiring Vigilante Veteran

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    What if they don't realize it's their choice of stats and blame it on the game instead? Like, "Ugh, this game is way too hard even on easy. This is stupid. I don't wanna play anymore. I hate video games, they're evil and make people wanna hurt people."

    @Oddball so what if I don't take away that option, then? And people just one to two hit everything they fight because they always have the weakness available?
     
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  9. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    There's nothing you can do then. At some point your players have to take responsibility too. You can't protect players from themselves completely.

    Besides, unless your player has never played an RPG before they should know what most of the stats do (unless you use uncommon names). So really those that run into that scenario are going to be really rare...or are like really young and don't understand RPG's well.

    Now if you want to market it for a young audience (like say 8 year olds or so), then maybe not use stat distribution but instead fix it yourself. Then they can't blame it. SSI did that when they wanted to market D and D to younger people, they just created the character for you. All stats were fixed, you had 0 control over it.
     
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  10. Oddball

    Oddball Veteran Veteran

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    You could drop hint's as to what stats they should invest in coming up. Like a random NPC says "Those minotaurs in the labyrinth sure have big muscles. Think they lift weights? Or do they eat alot of beans? Ugh! i bet they smell." or "There sure are a lot of mana wyrms in the forest, and i wanted to get more berries for wine. *BURP!*"
     
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  11. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    There is a thing called "Easy to learn, hard to master", like
    Known: 1+1 = 2
    Question: Calculate the distance between Earth and the sun.

    Games are no different. BK-tdm brought up a good point. Does a board game chess make you bored? the rules are still the same, yet people still play them. Why? Because the content may be different every time you play. Different opponent, different playstyle, different experience. If you want to make the game always feel fresh, add content. If you can not add more content with your game rules, then there's something wrong with your game base rule.

    There was a certain game that tried to merge semi-action RPG + Visual Novel + Real-time strategy. And I thought it was a wow, but then after 100+ hours I played the game, I hate the VN and RTS mode. I don't like VN in the first place, and I hate the specific VN implemented into that game for many reasons. The same goes for the RTS mode of the game. I don't exactly hate RTS, but I realized that I play the game not for playing RTS, but the RPG.

    Now to answer your question:
    I do like everyone else, unlockable content.

    Without spoilers, I can only say "unlockable content". In my game, there's a map hazard that you have to dodge/solve, and every stage theme will be different. That is at least for the map exploration. In battle, I can only say the boss will have a different pattern, standard but works.

    Games will never escape meta build. However, it will also never escape "meme build". There're many youtube video that covers "Can you beat <game title> with only <specific restriction>". Making different options may not actually be wasted.
     
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  12. FleshToDust

    FleshToDust Pixel Beginnings Veteran

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    @SpicyNoodleStudios
    Respec points seem to work. I know a few games that do that. Though you can also just realize you made a bad build as the gamer and start over. I started over tons of times in Oblivion. No qualms about it. You get better and learn more about the games skills as you go. If the player blames your game they blame your game. Its out of your control and I advise against tailoring your game to people out of fear they quit over something so small.
     
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  13. CraneSoft

    CraneSoft Filthy Degenerate Veteran

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    Metas are a really good keyword here. We are in the internet age now, and majority of players (that is, 99% of them) will definitely not bother with "memes" once they figure out the ideal minmaxing strategies. It's a contradiction for intending to give people a lot of options yet at the same time also trying to take away the most effective options - Respect each individual's play-styles and provide them new challenges that encourages them to figure out new strategies on their own with what they already have. Do not take away the sense of reward they just earned. For people who uses bad builds, allow them to fix their mistakes via a respec. That's the best hand-holding you can do. If the player still blames your game despite all that, just think of them simply not your target audience and move on, they are not worth your time.

    I add lots of optional content beside dungeon crawling. There are a lot of different things the player can do that is not about grinding / standard RPG battling in which they are free to explore and have fun on their own. I let the player decide their own experience in a way that won't make them feel (overly) repetitive.

    As for the dungeons themselves, they are puzzles as a whole that acts as the spartan-style tutorial classes - they also all had a different touch to them and are never simple "Go from point A to B" routines, with the bosses at the end as the final exams.
     
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  14. TheoAllen

    TheoAllen Self-proclaimed jack of all trades Veteran

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    Unless we're talking about competitive multiplayer online games, I wonder where the number 99% comes from. Because in my personal experience quite different. Granted, it depends on how forgiving/punishing the game is. In a game where you're pretty much can do anything to beat the game, meta and meme are only personal preference to play the game. And sometimes player restricts themselves to challenge themselves. The question is, "is your game designed to be this way or options are fake so that you're forced to choose meta to beat the game everytime"
     
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  15. CraneSoft

    CraneSoft Filthy Degenerate Veteran

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    Since its meta (which to me is a broad term on its own that doesn't mean much) the number was a rough and loose estimate from online (even if not competitive) and difficult games in general. Restrictions to challenge themselves exist yeah, but they are not the norm for the average casual gamer, at least not usually on a first playthrough unless you already have prior knowledge of the game difficulty. Unless the game is so easy you had to deliberately handicap yourself to have fun or rated E for Everyone, the typical mindset is use the best strategy you have in order to beat the game blindly. Replayability is another story though.

    That was an interesting question though I feel I could elaborate on the other thread.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2019
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  16. CuddleFox

    CuddleFox Furry Veteran

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    Repetitive gameplay is less of a problem if it is excellent. I remember long hours playing at FFDissidia just because I loved to travel in combat and really felt like I was ultra-free.
     
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  17. rue669

    rue669 Veteran Veteran

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    Repetition is fine if the “gameplay loop” is enjoyable and, perhaps most importantly, addictive.

    I play a lot of MMOs which tend to have repetitive gameplay, but yet people put hours and hours into these games? Why? 1. Rewards and 2. Something a little different in the general game mechanics (like a boss that has different mechanics from an enemy or another boss).

    I find rewards are the key. Players like to feel they are getting stronger in the game and that their efforts are being rewarded. It’s one of the reasons why a lot of metroidvania games end up failing because they lack good rewards (sometimes you’ll explore a place that was inaccessible before and the item you get is useless—what’s the point?).

    But generally it’s not about adding gameplay mechanic after gameplay mechanic. That’s annoying and confusing. Rather it’s about taking a few solid gameplay mechanics within an addictive and enjoyable gameplay loop and then making as much use out of those mechanics as you can, sprinkling in a different twist to the mechanic here and there to keep things interesting.
     
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  18. SpicyNoodleStudios

    SpicyNoodleStudios Aspiring Vigilante Veteran

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    So, what do you all do to keep your core loops fresh and not -feeling- repetitive?

    Thank you to everyone who answered so far. I will not focus so much on adding in a bunch of different mechanics in an attempt to keep things feeling new, but will focus on making core mechanics that stay fresh, exciting and rewarding throughout the game.
     
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  19. rue669

    rue669 Veteran Veteran

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    New and better gear!!!

    Or, for example, I’ll have a boss with a specific mechanic for him. Maybe he casts a spell every 5th turn that zaps a character’s mp? Who knows. Use your creativity.

    Another way to keep mechanics fresh is to link them to your setting and world.
     
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  20. BK-tdm

    BK-tdm Manga Maker Veteran

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    Let me tell you a little story from some years ago.

    Phantasy star online 2 had the greatest idea ever back in episode 4, to wall the next tier of leveling (from 70 to 75) behind an awesome idea, you need to get 6 copies of the same exact weapon, for your class only obviously, so you can combine them into its max level and once you get any weapon maxed out you can proceed to leveling!

    Guess who got tired of farming weapons that were either off-class or not the same weapon i had because hey, you needed 6 times the exact same weapon, awesome isnt it? Did i mention the drop rates on my level were horrible and the good stuff were dropping on the levels i was blocked off from? Oh! and no player trading, weapons are instance dropped only, you cant share, no one cant help you, thats cheating!!

    So yeah i quitted the game until they fixed that ridiculous rng dependant requirement because every one of my friends in game got to the next level cap and were doing the newest raids while i was stuck behind not because of my fault but because of bad rng rolls, it wasnt fun and to this day i still want to slap whoever thought it was a good choice in design.

    Dont force wll your players into options they have no control of, give options and most importantly dont tie progression to ridiculous RNG.

    "So, what do you all do to keep your core loops fresh and not -feeling- repetitive?"

    The answer is simple and still the same, Make It Fun.
    You think i get tired of 8v8 smash bros matches with my friends? Its fun, random things can happen, anyone can win, you can be top scoring and a random bomb knocks you away, the base gameplay is repetitive ad nauseum, hit enemies, smack em hard so they get out of the arena, repeat until theres only 1 left and that person wins, the random stuff that can happen, the stage hazards that can add up to the throphies/pokemons/items all the random stuff keeps the fun factor because there's so much stuff that can go right or wrong in a second, in this game part of the fun in the randomness, the unexpected.

    How do you apply randomness in your game that can add fun unexpected elements?
    Lets try with enemies that do stuff you're not expecting, like lets say a plague rat enemy, 9 out of 10 times it will just bite and maybe some disease or poison chance and thats it, you build a sense of confidence in your player, afterall is just a puny toxic rat, now comes the fun part!
    You make a copy of that enemy, same name, patterns, stats, everything! The catch? This one explodes when hit and now the attacker is poisoned!
    Was you player expecting that? well its a 10% chance of encounter between your rats so of course not, make sure it doesnt happen until some time or a # of rats killed for extra sense of security to bash!
    You just inserted a little psychological fear that any plague rat may explode, is that how it works? Nope, you know its a specific rat enemy that does it, but your player will think that any rat may do it, and now it will either attack the rats from afar, carry more antidotes or deal with it, its up to them, hey optional strategy changes!
    Congratulations! now you added a bit of "be on your toes" to a lame enemy your players have been killing for the past 10 minutes, that in my book adds "freshness".
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2019
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