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Defining Progression Within Games

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the level-up!-you-are-now-7%-more-awesome dept.

Games 55

GameSetWatch is running a piece discussing some of the ways in which gameplay can progress from simple to complex. The author talks about how acquiring items, new abilities, or just increasing the player's overall effectiveness can make it difficult for game designers to keep their content balanced and interesting. Quoting: "What do I mean by progression? There are at least two distinct types of progression in computer games, which I'll label player progression, and character progression (narrative progression is arguably a third). Player progression is the increasing aptitude of the player in mastering the game: whether through learning and understanding the technical rules of the game (surface play) or the implications of those rules (deep play). ... Character progression is the unlocking of additional rules of play, or altering the existing rules, by choices or actions within the game."

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55 comments

This is why mages in D&D are stronger than fig (3, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 5 years ago | (#25406969)

D&D was the one of the first RPGS and one of the biggest. So it can be excused if it has balance flaws. Fighters only had a certain limited styles of attacks, but mages would get like 10 new types of spells each level. Simply by giving a cornucopia of abilities, a few of them have to be overpowered. The further a mage progressed, the more spells they get, which makes them even more powerful! They just said that mages at the beginning are weak, but towards the end they get strong. That holds up in dated RPGS, but not for MMORPGS where many players judge your game by end game balance because that is where PVP goes on.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (4, Interesting)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407177)

As someone who's actually made a game (Game! - The Witty Online RPG [wittyrpg.com]) I'd say that balance is very tricky to maintain, probably even the hardest aspect of designing a game, but yet extremely central to having a fun and challenging game. You can plan out a scale of progression initially, but unless you plan out everything in advance (which is basically impossible), you'll still end up with things that are tricky to effectively balance later on.

You mentioned the idea of giving particular classes more abilities than others, and just by chance at least some of those will be overpowered, making the character overpowered. That's true, but you also have to consider the interaction between different abilities, and with more abilities, the number of combinations grows exponentially.

Starcraft is a great example of balance done correctly, and I think that's the main reason it's still popular today. Speaking of Starcraft, I doubt Blizzard anticipated that people would become so adept at microing just about everything (try watching a game between two good players these days!), and that changes the balance of the game a lot too.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407271)

Yep, Macroing was the secret to me SC awesomeness back in the day. I won a lot. But the time to reward factor starts getting skewed and it wasn't worth it to me to start doing global tournies; which were just starting in a serious way.

I wonder if thy made macroing allow more complex macros in SCII?

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407439)

I was always a Total Annihilation guy. Whenever I played Starcraft, I thought the whole game layout was just dumb.

In TA, if I want to build a hundred rocket kbots, I hold shift and click on it 20 times (shift increments +5). Then I wait a bit, and they're done and hanging around. In Starcraft, nope. You cant. If I want a hundred zerg, I need to babysit the hive they come out of and keep the damned clicking. ANNOYING.

In TA, if I can afford it, I can have 100 nuke facilities each building 10 nukes. No limits on how many I can have, nor is there a limit on how many can be in the build queue. The Humans in SC could only build 1, and using that weak beacon dude was more of a PITA, and then the rush for the dot.. WTF? Antinukes stop nukes, not some "dot disarmer". Should have had protection from the nukes.

The maps in TA are also well laid out, and many have nasty hidden holes in which porcs can camp in, and cut-off points that are nasty as hell. In SC, the maps themselves are a maze to figure out where the resources are. A experienced player using a new map on TA can easily learn it. A new map on SC however, turns out a exercise in futility.

Also the extremely-long cannons make long distance games fun... Dont take out our fusions and you'll be shelled from 20 screens away. There's no such long-distance game in SC.

Air can only be fought back by "special anti-air units". Lame. They should have done it the same way that TA did it: in the config file for units, there was a vs_ground vs_air vs_sea modifiers that could be tailored against a class of units. Even in our military, an AK47 can take down a low-flying helicoptor, but will NEVER touch a 70k feet bomber.

SC paled in comparison to TA.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (0, Flamebait)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407485)

Put the crack pipe down.

Perfect BALANCE made Starcraft the best RTS ever made.

Not how 1337 the unit building tools were.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407559)

Im not even talking about mod tools. If you want to though.... 5000+ new units each with unique models, and those are the good ones.

And you have no clue on balance when there's a force 1000 strong against a enemy base. Me and my ally would go against the enemy (and their ally) and would routinely get slaughtered... and they would send their wave on us.

On the modded versions we play, we have mech facilities, extremly long range cannons mounted on expensive vehicles, redesign on every unit to create better balance, and overall more units for general mayhem on each player.

Let me know when a Starcraft game will have 10000 units on the field at once. I've been in games with twice that at maximum.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

flewp (458359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408005)

Let me know when a Starcraft game will have 10000 units on the field at once. I've been in games with twice that at maximum.

Which games would those be? I'm always looking for good RTS** games, and while it's not a deal breaker, I enjoy having more units visible on screen. To me it seems to help increase the immersion levels a bit. Helps to give the battlefield a grander scale and all that.

** Actually, I'm more partial to the types of games that mix turn based and real time battlefields such as the Total War series, Imperial Glory, etc - but I still enjoy RTS games as well.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408407)

Total Annihilation, with a patch, allows 5000 units per side. Up to 10 sides.

It is a bit unstable with that amount though, as it was originally made for 200 per side. A recent rewrite by a modder , called TAWP, allows stably 1000 units per side, with many enhancements in the scripting and units in general. It also beefs up the AI script so that it uses all technology equally.

The TAWP mod was made for overall fairness in fighting between each other regardless of side picked (Arm or Core) however choices for each do differ drastically. I've played 9 players and 1 AI in a nice game that lasted 4.5 hours. Damn fun considering the nastiness of each side. And when the spider called the Cyberoth gets out, not even 10 nukes can stop that damned thing. Took me a half an hour to build though..

Balance (2, Interesting)

Jabbrwokk (1015725) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409291)

Perfect BALANCE made Starcraft the best RTS ever made.

And in which patch was that finally achieved?

While I enjoyed Starcraft, personally I thought Myth II was the "best RTS ever made" because of its balance of finite units. You would be given a handful of seemingly pathetic units -- a few archers, a few berzerkers and one dwarf -- and yet the balance, and strategy, made it possible for you to hold off wave after wave of enemies.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410165)

I spend a lot of time replaying old console RPGs from the Nintendo and Playstation era.

I wish they had additional levels like "Easy" where are the monsters points are cut in half, for when I feel like a quick walkthrough of the game, or "Hard" where the points are doubled for additional challenge. Squaresoft provided Easy and Hard levels for Final Fantasy 6, which was a good idea, but sadly never caught on.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25413117)

Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Torment & Neverwinter Nights I & II all do this.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (3, Informative)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407247)

SIgh, it wasa ctually better balanced then people think.
First mages 'shoot there wad' pretty quickly
Second - You were supposed to be a group of about the same experience points, not the same level.
Third, hardly anyone actually played with the encumbrance rules.
Forth, They are squishy, even at high levels.

The were design to be glass cannons.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25408893)

From your post I'm going to guess you were talking about 1st or 2nd ed D&D. A lot of that is wrong for 3rd ed, and in some cases, for 2nd, too...

First mages 'shoot there wad' pretty quickly

Not smart wizards. Smart wizards will use their downtime to make scrolls of all of their most handy spells -- scrolls are cheap to make and every wizard get Scribe Scroll for free. When a wizard starts running low on spells, he just pulls his stack of scrolls out of his backpack and starts casting from them.

Second - You were supposed to be a group of about the same experience points, not the same level.

This is the primary thing that makes me think you're thinking of <= 2nd ed, because in 3rd ed, XP is normalized, and all characters with the same total XP will be at the same level.

Third, hardly anyone actually played with the encumbrance rules.

Even if you do use encumbrance rules, a smart wizard only has to think about whether he wants to store his treasure in his bags of holding or in his Leomund's Secret Chest. It's not like anything he picks up will actually weigh him down.

Forth, They are squishy, even at high levels.

Ah, but that's the catch -- they're not squishy. Sure, on paper they look weak -- low HP, poor fort & reflex saves, can't wear decent armor. A recipe for disaster, right?

That is, however, completely ignoring their spells. Shield, Mage Armor, Blink, Mirror Image, and Fly are all relatively low-level spells that will make a mage nigh impossible to hit with physical attacks. Energy Resistance will fix those annoying energy attacks. They've already got a high will save, so they're already better equipped to fight of mind-controlling effects than fighters are.

Those are just low-level spells. As you start gaining levels, you get access to fun things like Stoneskin, Polymorph, Globe of Invulnerability, Repulsion, Contingency, Mind Blank, Protection from Spells, Ethereal Jaunt, Prismatic Sphere, Shapechange... and those are all just out of the PHB. I won't get into splatbooks. Sure, a wizard may have low HP, but if they ever get hit in the first place, it's because they're doing something wrong. They're glass cannons who have lava-filled moats and anti-aircraft guns surrounding them.

But let's pretend that somehow, somebody got past a smart mage's defenses and actually hurt him. What's he going to do? Dimension Door or Teleport away to safety. If somehow that fails and he actually dies, it's ok, he's got a Clone back in his lab that will activate when he dies. What's a fighter going to do when he's surrounded by monsters that are tougher than him? Hope that he can outrun them before he dies?

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409733)

Reading the post, it most likely was the original D&D/AD&D that was referred to. The game was balanced in a way that reflected its Chainmail roots, with different XP thresholds for each class. What you describe are the ways munchkins to this day use items that were added later to the game that the original balance paradigm was not equipped to handle.

AD&D Magic Users were artillery pieces who benefited the most from feature creep. After all, magic is the easiest route to add new, more amazing things to a game. Players made up ever more powerful spells and items, and even in 1980 (when I first started playing) we had godlike wizards.

This inherent balance is why so many other role playing systems used the D&D class/level/XP framework, and concentrated instead on what class and level meant. Other systems like Traveller and GURPS never used class and achieved balance with other tools, but D&D still is the role model for most online RPG systems.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411665)

Not quite, and it doesn't always work that way.

In D&D 3rd edition, mages went from being "artillery pieces" (past about level 10) to being ornaments for the fighters. Their "best" spells weren't the ones that hit the enemy, they were the ones that gave buffs to the fighters to allow them to attack 4-5 times around, at Full Power Attack, while still needing only to not roll a 1 to hit the enemy.

Their secondary spells, the best ones, were the battlefield-control or debuff types - again a buff to the fighters who would actually kill stuff.

The THIRD rank of their spells were the damage types... half because everything was f'ing immune to the basic stuff (or had a jacked-out saving throw), half because a fighter could do the same damage (albeit to one target) in one swing as the average damage of most damage spells. In a game where an enemy with 1 hit point left is just as effective (damage-wise) as one with full HP, the point is to kill them individually as fast as you can... an area-effect spell that takes off 1/4 of each enemy's HP might be impressive until you realize that 4 monsters standing, rather than 2, means twice the damage coming back at you.

And of course, the more "prestige classes" got into the game (along with the feats system), the more and more and more fighter-types got to play with.

The "Level" system isn't about "balance", either... what it *does* do is provide an easy rubric for comparing relative power or advancement ("I'm level 5 therefore I'm more powerful than X at level 4.") This is in comparison to non-level systems, where you have to count up how many character points it takes to "build" in a certain way, and you have to weigh the fact that you could theoretically "build" the same character in multiple ways, some ways costing more points than others.

It has nothing to do with "inherent balance", it just makes it easier for munchkinny types who need to have easily-defined comparisons between their characters and easily-defined "ding" points to have them and takes away the need to "store up" character points for that ability or advancement that you want to see happen.

One of the nicest things I've ever seen was a 3.5 adaptation (sorry, don't have a current URL) for someone who took the various abilities and gave them each a point score (for example: d4 hit die free, 2 points per bump, so a d12 hit die would cost you 8 advancement points; similar for skill points and class abilities and feats), and allowed all characters a set number (I think it was 20) of advancement points per level with the option to "store" overflow for future use. It gave an interesting alternative to the silly "I'll take a level of X and a level of Y and a level of Z which will allow me into P-class Q and then P-class R and then P-class S" munchkinning that became the trademark of D&D in the past 8 years.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25412707)

In D&D 3rd edition, mages went from being "artillery pieces" (past about level 10) to being ornaments for the fighters. Their "best" spells weren't the ones that hit the enemy, they were the ones that gave buffs to the fighters to allow them to attack 4-5 times around, at Full Power Attack, while still needing only to not roll a 1 to hit the enemy.

Wait.. what? While buffs are good and all, a wizard's best spells are the ones that simply end the fight in one round. See: Wail of the Banshee, Weird, Circle of Death, and Mass Suggestion are a few high-level ones that will simply beat all of your enemies in one shot. With some creative use, Acid Fog or Cloudkill will also effectively completely stop your enemies.

If that fails, you might use Gate to summon a Solar Angel, or use Shapechange to become a dream larva and kill them all with your fear aura, or stick somebody in a Prismatic Sphere, or just cripple them all with Waves of Exhaustion, Confusion, Solid Fog, Stinking Cloud, Web...

And we're not even getting into single-target spells, which are typically more powerful than area spells. Ray of Enfeeblement is a freaking 1st level spell that will give somebody an average of an 8 point strength penalty, with no save. I've seen more than one big armored baddy suddenly rendered completely unable to move because their strength was too low to carry all of their equipment.

You may say that some of these are "buffs" to fighter types who can then go in and kill the enemies, but after they're crippled, even a wizard can just stand back and plink at them with magic missles or a crossbow until they're dead. Or just walk away. You don't have to kill everything to overcome an encounter.

And of course, the more "prestige classes" got into the game (along with the feats system), the more and more and more fighter-types got to play with.

Have you ever taken a look at some of the wizard prestige classes? Incantatrix, Master Specialist, Anima Mage, Abjurant Champion... some of them aren't just good, they're world-breaking. I've seen an Incantatrix/Anima Mage that was simply unkillable. Ok, somebody might get lucky and hit him with a Sphere of Annihilation, but that was pretty much the only thing that could get through all of his personal 24-hour-long buffs. Then he would bust out his own 24-hour-long Black Blade of Disaster and just disintegrate people all day long.

Don't get me wrong, buffing fighters into machines of war is certainly something wizards can do, and some enjoy doing so. But fighters are completely unnecessary, if you don't want to spend your time buffing one.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25415147)

Solar Angels can be beaten, in fact SHOULD be beaten if you're facing a collection of enemies (rather than one action-starved uber-CR enemy). And if you're at the level you can cast Gate, the game is already fundamentally broken.

As for the rest... saving throw, saving throw, saving throw, saving throw, environment that doesn't allow its casting, saving throw...

Ray of Enfeeblement: you should try empowering it. And then you should realize that at the higher CR's, even a (max roll) 16-point strength penalty is largely meaningless to the monsters.

Sorry, but you obviously read too much and don't play enough to see the game actually working from both the player and DM sides of the table. Trust it from one who spent a tremendous amount of time on this both in home and organized play: past level 9-10, it is simply NOT the mages the DM is worried about.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 5 years ago | (#25438549)

Now you're talking about specifics in a version I never played, son*. What I was talking about was how the level system originally evolved out of the primitive level system of wargames (for example "Green"-"Veteran"-Elite"), and that the different numbers of XP needed to reach each level were supposed to balance this. It had nothing to do with how experience really played a role in how the heroes developed, but was to keep the magic users from stealing the show too soon. That's why different character classes had different XP levels to reach in the first editions.

The balance in the original D&D/AD&D wasn't inter-party balance, either: it was balance against the other side. Monsters and adventure modules were rated according to what level the adventurers were expected to have. It was a logical extension if the tabletop wargame, where armies were ranked by size times experience level. A fifth-level champion thus costing as much as five companies of infantry or five 1st-level champions when building your army and so on.

The things you describe, the whole prestige classes and Feats are alien concepts someone like me, a guy who played the original D&D. Back in my day, sonny, munchkins would exploit loopholes and logical inconsistencies, as there were less options to tweak the stats. Instead, they would fudge their stats outright or complain loudly when a roll went against them.

*Note: I'm making fun of my own age here, not of yours.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 5 years ago | (#25419139)

No, the problem is that people are role-playing (which, if you think about it, should encourage a magician to act like a munchkin) in a tabletop fighting system that tries to balance the game and reward people by elevating their ranking. That's totally incompatible with achieving success through your character's actions.

Why on earth should "classes" be expected to balance? Magic just IS better than swords, 99% of the time.

Balance needs to considered by the designer before starting the world - if magic is possible why is it not used, etc. Why train for years as a fighter when a magic-missile scroll (crossbow, in spell form) is cheap and anyone can kill you? What must the balance in the world be, for the world to be?

Once the game starts when someone says balance they really mean equal plot-power. Someone to weak to fight cannot change a fighting dominated game and feels useless - ditto a fighter in a diplomatic setting. This means the story needs to be tailored (balanced, to use another word) with respect to the party.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (1)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 5 years ago | (#25438467)

I think we both have the same idea, the whole "blind men describing an elephant" thingy. The original D&D was balanced for a win/lose of opposing players, not for players on the same side being equally rewarded.

I used to play a lot more AD&D, since it was the only game the rest of the group would play, but it wasn't ever my favourite rule system. I preferred games like Traveller and GURPS, where you only had one role: Protagonist.

I also agree with your philosophy that the only balance necessary in a game, no matter the rules, is equal involvement in plot. The revisions to the D&D rules may now address that, but I left that rule system before Wizards of the Coast took over.

Re:This is why mages in D&D are stronger than (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25412469)

First, mages at high levels lug around a library full of scrolls.
Second is exactly the problem. A high-level mage is much more powerful than an equally high-level fighter. And having the same XP means that you have the same level, so I don't see what you're talking about. In old editions, IIRC, different classes took different XP, but not now.
Third, Tenser's floating disk, levitate, teleport. That or you hire a henchman to lug stuff around. Encumbrance is the least of your worries, even at low levels.
Fourth is true... if you can hit them. Fly, mage armor, shield, resilient sphere and more will keep a mage out of harm's way, contingency can take care of anything that does hit. And it's only gotten worse with splatbooks (I'm looking at you, celerity!). And HP is not important to a high-level mage. Even if you have 9999 hit points, a finger of death will cramp your style all the same.

Level Up... (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#25406983)

I think my Frustration Trivia game has done a pretty good job of defining levels... it rewards with a slightly harder question for each one answered right, and throws you back to the bottom of the tower when you get one wrong.

Really. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25406997)

A long time ago the class "Paladin" was born and it had survived from many unfortunate and horrifying events. Among the paladins the rank of retribution was the most fearsome. The retribution paladin knows not fear they strike in to the heart of their enemy and deal complete destruction. But lately the balances of the paladin order have been Brocken. The supreme power of the retribution has been mocked. The retribution paladin has become the lowest of the lowest rank. this was result of the jealousy and hatred from other ranks and classes. As been one of the few surviving hero class the paladins has been targeted. Not only the order was mocked the creators even further disgraced the order by giving the holy sacred power over to the horde. The end is near unless those ranks of holy and protection realize what is happening.

Re:Really. (2, Interesting)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407059)

Not every discussion of a feature that WoW poached is a discussion about WoW. Paladins, as a character class in an RPG, predate WoW by a few decades. So, take your whining about your retribution Paladin to a discussion board that cares... if you can find one.

Touches on something lacking in RPG's (4, Interesting)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407025)

Interesting comment, asking whether or not rewarding players is because there isn't enough in the gameplay or story to keep them playing.

Also interesting was the question about a level 50 warrior's gleaming sword being nothing really more changing than a level 1 character stabbing at a giant rat. This is something that I have felt often in games - as you progress, nothing changes much except the prowess of your enemies. This requires some interesting story mechanics - why didn't the level 35 people just come down and kill you right off the bat if you were so important? Some stories can overcome this difficulty because the story is otherwise so good (e.g., Baldur's Gate, a personal favourite).

I have also tended to think of what would happen if instead of you and enemies becoming so ultra-powerful that you could essentially wipe out an entire town in on spell, would there be a way to instead have your power come from being able to deal more quickly/efficiently with multiple enemies at once? Let's face it, you can train all you want, but it still takes only a few slashes with a sword to kill you. Battle skill comes in killing the other person before he can kill you. The better you are, the faster you can do that while taking fewer hits.

With this approach, "tanks" would not really be in existence anymore; battles would be seen more as a part of a larger scale battle, not you+4 verses 60, and you just have "that much health." Magic, unfortunately, throws a wrench into the equation.

Another interesting RPG comment, this time by me - I have always felt that the most pleasing RPG experiences, with regard to story and gameplay, are those in which I was part of a larger battle, not fighting on my own. Example would be in Baldur's Gate II when you defend your "keep" (Nalia's family's castle). You defend it along with the keep's guards. Seemed much more realistic.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (3, Insightful)

mackil (668039) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407061)

I agree completely actually. My own experience was fighting with all my "old friends" I had encountered in Oblivion, charging forward into the last battle.

We won, and I received the special Imperial armor. Fame, fortune etc etc... only to not be treated any different by the shop keepers or highway men on the road. It was very disappointing, and it really takes you out of the world you're supposed to be immersed in.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407109)

I remember it as well. Oblivion had more moments of "fighting with others" than most RPG's that I have played, anyways, at least offhand. However, the lack of change that occurs was dissapointing, and the game was primarily "solo." Those rare group moments were far more exhilarating though - perhaps it is because there seems to be more at stake than just you reloading if you have to... :)

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (2, Informative)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407315)

IIRC, Baldur's Gate only took you to level 6 or so. It's a decent way of dealing with the progression issue... Never let them become extremely powerful, and then you don't have to make up stories about why they're fighting ancient demons in one-on-one combat.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411155)

Baldur's Gare II and its expansion, Throne of Bhaal, expanded considerably upon the first BG's adventure by letting the protagonist reach (respectively) level 20 and 40, and finally giving him a chance at ascending to Godhood...and the problem of balance reared its ugly head.
 
There is simply no way a level 40 Fighter can compare to a 25/25 Fighter/Mage hybrid who will benefit from the High-Level Abilities (basically, Epic-level pen&paper feats) of BOTH their classes - at these levels, anything that tries to hit you WILL hit you (with their ludicrous THAC0s in the double-digit negatives) and the game basically becomes a rock-paper-scissors of spell protections and spell protection removals.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#25414503)

I believe you got a few levels higher. Interestingly, I enjoyed Baldur's Gate I far more than any of the second ones. Partly because you really DO feel like you're starting out at "nothing" ... and getting *gasp* TWO Magic Missiles when you cast it is amazing.

Plus, the story was enticing. You had no idea what was happening... at least I didn't (and it was the first RPG I'd ever played).

Now, it seems like having a "weak" character makes a "boring" game to most people.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409651)

That's what made me stop playing Two Worlds. At the beginning of the game, even a couple of wolves are a real danger (but that's OK because you can always resurect not to far away), resources are scarce and every level up is really good news so it is really intense, but a dozen hours later, when I first encountered a dragon, I first panicked, ran away, cast all my strongest power up and invocation spells and took my chance, only to be disapointed after almost oneshoting it. Globaly, all the second half of the game was boring dynasty-warrior-with-cheatcode-like one-side slaughter.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (3, Interesting)

Saint Fnordius (456567) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409801)

I think it's a problem with a lot of games, that the more powerful you become the less of a challenge the game becomes. Get Fuzzy brought it to a point when Rob was playing a Rugby video game, trying to unlock the best team. "So to get the team that lets you beat all other teams, you have to first beat all the other teams and prove you don't need them?"

I personally think the Bigger Guns With Experience metaphor is slightly broken. You don't reward the Good Stuff after you finish the adventure, really. The best reward is unlocking a new part of the game, or other sorts of information. Complete the level to get the next mission, collect the bits you need to get the McGuffin and so on. Characters levelling up may be fun in, say, Diablo, but it's not realistic. Years of training are compressed into a single night (or a few days in the sequel).

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (2, Insightful)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410719)

I personally think the Bigger Guns With Experience metaphor is slightly broken. You don't reward the Good Stuff after you finish the adventure, really.

I can agree with this. For instance take WoW's Arena. The higher your ranking the better you are as a player and the better gear you get to give you a game advantage over other players. This doesn't quite seem right. If we all are to have fun why are you giving the biggest guns to the guys who have already proven that they are the best in terms of skill on a semi even playing field?

All you are doing, in at least the instance of WoW Arena, is making it easier for those at the top to stay there. While they should get prestige and rewards and such for getting to the top, shouldn't they be able to stay at the top because of skill? and not because they were a bit better than the teams they played and got better eq, which let them beat more teams which gets them even more good equipment which lets them beat everyone?

It just snow balls.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (2, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#25411453)

That's why I've never been as interested in RPGs as everyone else seems to be. Spend enough time and you will generally be able to get better equipment or more experience points and whatnot. Better players may be able to level up more quickly, but given enough time anyone can get to level 70 and get decent equipment by doing raids with their clanmates or whatever. I prefer games like FPSes where the characters are all equal and the difference is all about player skill (or very slightly by equipment you know how to find, or can afford).

I know that there is an element of skill involved in RPGs too, but it is severely frustrating when you know you've got no chance of winning at all just because someone is a higher level or has better equipment, and that you would have that stuff given another few months of playing. I haven't played WoW, I'm saying this from experience with MUDs.

You can decide to leave PvP to only the highest level (if there even is one in the game you are playing - it's much worse if there is no level cap), but then you're just left slogging through hordes of mobs that you know you can beat easily, with no way around going through the levels to get to the part of the game where skill really comes into play. If levelling up involves something that is so simple that I could just write a dumb script to do it (which I have done in the past with MUDs for example, but won't if it's against the rules), it doesn't really feel like a game anymore - it just feels like work. This isn't just a problem in RPGs, it's a problem in any type of game where you have to save up small amounts of points or money from doing repetitive or otherwise dull tasks. Kind of like real life. I've had enough of my job during the day thanks - that's why I'm playing a game for crying out loud!

Having said that, there is something strangely addictive about games where you level up and get rewarded for completing certain tasks. I hardly ever replay a game once I've completed it, but recently with a game called Uncharted on the PS3 I played it through a few times just to complete all the different challenges that were set, and just because the game itself was quite well made, fun to control and nice to look at. When you had completed a certain amount of challenges you unlocked a slow-motion mode, etc. It's a similar idea to unlocking skills or spells in RPGs when you level up. It certainly adds something to the appeal, but if the game has no more to it than that then it quickly gets boring once you have reached the top level and unlocked everything. That's where a game needs to have good 'deep' gameplay as well as just the surface stuff.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

TempeTerra (83076) | more than 5 years ago | (#25414701)

There's actually quite a simple solution to the "rich get richer" problem, but I've rarely seen it implemented: give rewards to players who voluntarily handicap themselves. In WoW terms, consider PVP where you could get increased rewards by restricting yourself to green gear. Maybe give out rewards of crafting materials, honour or something other than new gear since giving a reward of something you deliberately don't use is a bit perverse. Good players could gimp themselves as low as they like in exchange for better loot (and better bragging rights), which would naturally encourage competition that was actually challenging rather than merely n00b farming.

The recent DS game "The World Ends With You" used a system like that, where you could voluntarily lower your character level to increase the loot drop rate. (btw, the game has quite a few interesting game mechanics, but I wouldn't recommend it if you're just looking for a Square RPG to mash away at) The board game Go is similar too; strong players give an advantage to weak players by letting them place a number of stones at the start of the game. The game can then be challenging for both players, but if the weaker player wins they have only proved that they're not as crap as the stronger player thought.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

zehaeva (1136559) | more than 5 years ago | (#25414855)

Voluntary handicaps would be a very interesting thing to see. Arena really should be a place for skill, maybe give every player a set of standard arena gear so that everyone is in comparable gear.

There are a dozen ways you could fix just that one instance of pvp play.

I have noticed in many rpg's there are some inconstancies in the variables of power. Most notably in Oblivion. The guards are always stronger than you. all the monsters level up to your level. Bandits in the country side level up with you. If every bandit is running around in a set of armor that's worth as much as a house I think they really need to get down to the pawn shop and the Guards need to get together and beat the hell out of what ever it is that is threatening the world, 'cause they obviously have a better training routine than me.

I do like that idea though. I would be wild to go "Wooo I just kicked his ass in greens!"

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 5 years ago | (#25409805)

Let's face it, you can train all you want, but it still takes only a few slashes with a sword to kill you. Battle skill comes in killing the other person before he can kill you. The better you are, the faster you can do that while taking fewer hits.

Within the realm of Pen and Paper RPGs, this is something I've always liked about shadowrun (3rd ed at least). You have a fixed sized life pool, and nothing changes that. You do become tougher, but that only means that you shrug off some of the impact. The system is based on exponentially raising difficulties for rolls, though, so the increase in deadliness from a pistol to a shotgun makes a tough character be able to be almost unfazed by the handgun, but still get pulverized by the shotgun unless he's wearing somewhat tough body armour.

Re:Touches on something lacking in RPG's (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 5 years ago | (#25410645)

Another interesting RPG comment, this time by me - I have always felt that the most pleasing RPG experiences, with regard to story and gameplay, are those in which I was part of a larger battle, not fighting on my own.

I've been playing in the FFXI "Wings of the Goddess" expansion areas lately. This is basically a FvF environment, with the Bad Guys faction being all AI. You don't even get drops, other than an award of XP and some scrip at the end of a battle. But the style of play is completely different from the rest of FFXI. And people get killed regularly, so when you're in FvF mode, you don't lose XP for dying. While you can form parties, the only reason is for party-effect spells and party chat.

And while it's normally intended for level 60+ players, there's a niche for white mage level 35+ because it awards XP for doing healer-type things. And because you're especially squishy (one or two hits will kill you at that level), it's especially fun to do guerilla heals and raises as a mid-level white mage. Even though I could get XP much faster by participating in a standard XP grinding party, standing at the back and throwing heals when someone's HP bar goes low, it is incredibly more fun to run around and search for people who need healing and raises, while keeping in mind the aggro effects of healing someone.

I use Extenze. It's real science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25407069)

I found that my progress increased as long as I drank Extenze Energy Drinks with Extenze Energy Pills. You can to, with only 4.95 Shipping and Handling to your front-door in 5-days. You all don't know what you're missing.

It's real science (*counts beans falling onto tray*)

It's the "Designing a Magic System" guy (4, Informative)

butalearner (1235200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407319)

The author of the article is the developer of Unangband, and it's officially part of his "Designing a Magic System" series, part 12 [blogspot.com]. It doesn't really fit in with the rest, but it's still an interesting read. I recommend checking out his blog, as he's got several other very interesting articles for game devs, such as 20 Underused Game Mechanics [blogspot.com] and earlier parts of his magic system series.

Call me when they have a real AI to run a CRPG... (3, Insightful)

Cheetahfeathers (93473) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407477)

This is why I don't enjoy computer RPGs, only a subset of tabletop ones. Computers can do RPGs, sure, but not the type that I like.

RPGs can mean a variety of different things. The character that you take on the role of overcoming challenges that come before them (the most classic of which is the dungeon crawl), exploring the world and content of the game (Morrowind or Oblivion would be examples that are decent at this), or playing a story that your character is the protagonist in.

Since it is flatly contradictory for one person (say a game developer or GM) to author a story, and another person to determine the actions of their protagonist in any meaningful way, this leaves the player of the protagonist to author the story. The GM exists to facilitate this story. Computer games can't react to the limitless potential of human authorship without having a true AI. At best such a game run by a game designer (such as in a CPRG) can only railroad a story (be it a multi-track railroad, a very well disguised railroad with the illusion of choice, etc... but railroad none the less).

Progress in types of games I enjoy would mean conflicts that either introduce complications to the story, events which get the protagonist closer to their goals, conflicts that illuminate the thematic content of the game, or similar story oriented events.

Not even the most open and flexible of computer RPGs even start to cover this style of RPG. Final Fantasy series is often the classic held up for story telling CRPG. It's railroaded as far as the story is concerned. The content is there to provide challenges and to explore the world the game designers built. You can't play out the protagonists story, because your choices don't affect the story in a meaningful way.

So called open ended games like Morrowind are similar. You can't affect things in a meaningful way... you can just go on one of several pre-selected railroad tracks the game designers built into the game, so far as the story is concerned.

Re:Call me when they have a real AI to run a CRPG. (2, Interesting)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25407549)

What you're looking for isn't a CRPG, it's real life. That's the only way you're going to get the infinite span of choices that you seek.

Re:Call me when they have a real AI to run a CRPG. (4, Funny)

flewp (458359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408079)

Meh, I find Real Life to be overrated. The monthly subscription fees are outrageous. Also, it seems like one of those games with limited re-play value, but I hear a couple of expansion packs like the Hindu and Buddhist ones address this issue.

Re:Call me when they have a real AI to run a CRPG. (4, Funny)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 5 years ago | (#25408495)

I've tried them out, but they just take you through the same stuff over and over again. Islam and Christianity promise unique end game content but I cant find any screenshots on IGN.

Re:Call me when they have a real AI to run a CRPG. (1)

morphles (1257124) | more than 5 years ago | (#25413743)

Fallout (2)! Could be much better (i sure hope fallout 3 wont screw things up), but its awesome game, where your action influence what you can do next. It's all designed but still not bad. And i don;t think we need some true AI for good stories, just some advanced procedural generation techniques and maybe some little additional stuff.

Re:Call me when they have a real AI to run a CRPG. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25416261)

Can you bluff? By which I mean: can you hide your motivations? Can you tell everyone you meet one thing, while secretly planning something else? Or is it the usual case where what you say to people, and what you do, merely forces you onto a different railroad?

This was the problem that rammed home to me how un-free Oblivion is.

There's a questline that involves joining an evil society. My good character decided to join it and play along until I got near the top, at which point I'd kill the leader. As I went through the quests, it became apparent that there was another traitor in the ranks. The game provided me with the opportunity to kill a number of members of the society. I actually started to hope that the designers might let me carry out my plan.

Then the game basically locked me in a room with the leader and the traitor, made the leader invulnerable, and refused to let me do anything at all until I'd killed the traitor and professed eternal loyalty to the leader. And my immersion was shattered.

You forgot Fallout!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25417633)

Although Starcraft and Diablo were mentioned (which Blizzard releases patches to change the balance of powers among units on a regular basis). And, you mentioned WOW (which is like mental masturbation, where the more you do the more satisfying it is but you never really accomplish anything and become a failure at life). You all forgot to mention Fallout. The one game where the balance and direction of the story is completely dependent on what you do with your character and how you level your abilities.

Don't have enough computer skills? You won't get be able to hack into the vault and miss a branch of missions. Have a poor charisma? You won't be able to pursuade the guards to let you in and hit that branch of the story. Did I also forget to mention that Fallout has different endings based on certain characteristics of your character (Good vs evil, etc...)?

Oblivion did this too by having the different guilds, but in the end you could still complete all of them, there's only one ending, and Oblivion's leveling system really sucked. The whole concept of, "you can go anywhere, anytime but... don't level up too fast or your character will never be able to complete the game," was just ridiculous. Players should never have to be worried with how the inner workings of the leveling system work. Just let us play the damn game and leave the leveling transparent.

Here is a perfect example. On Diablo II online, a Sorceress originally was the best with frozen orb easily destroying anything in its path, then a patch was released and Frozen orb was weak, but fire wall became really powerful, but it takes a lot of skill to drop fire wall in a way that damages a lot of enemies while under attack in real-time. Not to mention that in Hell difficulty, certain enemies have immunities to fire AND ice, so you end up depending on a group of characters to beat the hardest difficulties. Some enemies were even immune to physical damage so, if a warrior didn't do some elemental damage with his weapon, he became useless. Not to mention that, the more players in an online game the harder the enemies get (and the more exp given and better the item drops are).

Blizzard has thoroughly mastered the art of character ability balance and will remain a top game producer in the industry because of it.

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