Author Topic: Game balance and leveling.  (Read 19639 times)

requerent

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Re: Game balance and leveling.
« Reply #30 on: August 12, 2013, 03:16:45 PM »
The sensation of progress in a video game is ensured via positive feedback by modifying the player's gameplay choices in such a manner that increases the range of tactically salient decisions. The sensation of challenge tends to involve increasing the number and complexity of decisions required to overcome an obstacle.


As long as you accomplish that, leveling/scaling is arbitrary mathematics that demands a lot of design effort that is arguably wasted. Players will always tend toward the exploitation of whatever rules will unlock the most interesting range of content. The difficulty of a RL oftentimes demands this sort of optimization. Players won't play in a style that they find interesting, but in a manner that works. Features that do not converge with this goal are ultimately superfluous novelties that overwhelm new players with bad character development decisions.

I think, generally, binary empowerment and increased complexity of challenges is a better way to look at your balancing. Even if you are scaling, that extra 10 HP from leveling has value only relative to the number of hits that you can take from other enemies. All this represents is a buffer that provides you with the opportunity to make more decisions which then become a necessity as the difficulty increases.



y, 20 heart containers, just generate 20 appropriate randomized dungeons in randomized locations and put the heart at the end.

If you wanted to, you could even add items like the hookshot and tie progression through the game to them.  All you need to do is put the hookshot in one of the tier 2 dungeons, and make sure that you can access tier 1 and 2 dungeons without it, but require it for some of the later ones.

Mage Guild is a traditional-style roguelike in most ways, but character growth is based on finding power up items the game spawns in the dungeon.  It works really well.  Try it out.
That's exactly what I was referring to. You need scripting things up to implement wire_hall_medic's method, which begins to break dynamism. I don't want to have a world with exactly 20 heart chests but generating a world where heart chests have X probability of spawning. So in the end, I could have a world with 0 to 20 heart chests (roughly speaking).

Break "dynamism?"? That's kind of a lofty and baseless assertion. You seem to want the player to have certain expectations for progress, but your proof by contradiction doesn't address that at all. Firstly, you would always use a probability distribution to ensure that a mechanically significant feature in a game spawns. Secondly, you can influence their generation in a manner that doesn't require the player look under every rock to find them but may punish players for not pursuing the necessary empowerment for certain challenges.

Whether you're spawning hearts or monsters that give XP, the only difference is a certain degree of inherent arbitrary repetitiveness, of which the latter is more inclined to provide than the former.

edit: What about a "skill" system doesn't also "break dynamism" in the way you're describing?

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But even if I add specifically (scripting) 20 heart chests spread all over the world the results won't be the same as found in Zelda game, because in an open world the player will roam at will without following a certain path, making the chances of finding all heart chests in a huge world, next to zero, while in Zelda your path is incredibly scripted, making your character develop itself in predefined way set by the developers as they know that the player will find the 20 heart chests at a certain milestone. Sure you may have at some point in Zelda game the choice of following path 1 or 2 but all is heavily scripted and taken into consideration just to make sure that in the end the player's party has a certain measurable power to face the last boss with a proper difficulty level. I'm really not fond of RPGs-on-rails nowadays.

Those hearts are "designed" into the level. The whole point of procedural content generation is to automate the level design process. If you want to capture the designed sensation of a Zelda game, develop algorithms that do that. You're narrowing your perception of the possibilities with not-so-good examples.

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If I was to implement characters' power level based on loot in my game, its game-play would be completed ruined as I would need to add the right amount of loot (scripting). Even with the "right amount" of loot, the game's difficult level would remain inconsistent because the player could be lucky finding too much too early or unlucky and not finding nothing at all even after long periods of game-play. The only solution for this would be: scripting, which could destroy the surprising factor during exploration.

You really need to play some Brogue: https://sites.google.com/site/broguegame/.

There was a contest match recently where no weapon spawned apart from the starting dagger and people still managed to win. That is to say, while Brogue is very challenging and punishing, no seed is unbeatable. Lucky and unluckiness are, a lot of the times, relative. When they aren't, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

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Sure I could solve this problem by spawning the right loot only after a certain level or after a certain amount of game-play time, but this also means that I would never be surprised in finding occasionally great loot. Skyrim has this method, I mean loot quality completely bound to the character's level. It works well I might say but skirim is skill based and loot based. However, this method does bring the inconvenience of me predicting the loot type, I know for instance that a dwarven type armor will not appear until my char doesn't reach level 12.

Or you could solve the problem in a way that doesn't contradict your design goals.

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I want my game to be skilled based. Not only it feels more realistic but also avoids the player relying on luck to find that exceptional piece of armor or weapon to ease down the game's difficulty level.

"Skilled based" as in, the player's progress depends upon their skill at playing the game, or at their skill in deciding which up-arrows to push on a character sheet?




Sorry to pick on you a little bit, but there's a lot of defeatism in your post that explicitly contradicts many of the reasons why people develop RLs in the first place.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 05:57:18 PM by requerent »

Endorya

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Re: Game balance and leveling.
« Reply #31 on: August 12, 2013, 05:00:38 PM »
Break "dynamism?"? That's kind of a lofty and baseless assertion. You seem to want the player to have certain expectations for progress, but your proof by contradiction doesn't address that at all. Firstly, you would always use a probability distribution to ensure that a mechanically significant feature in a game spawns. Secondly, you can influence their generation in a manner that doesn't require the player look under every rock to find them but may punish players for not pursuing the necessary empowerment for certain challenges.

Whether you're spawning hearts or monsters that give XP, the only difference is a certain degree of inherent arbitrary repetitiveness, of which the latter is more inclined to provide than the former.

edit: What about a "skill" system doesn't also "break dynamism" in the way you're describing?
Sorry, I failed to see your point here. Could you rephrase it?  :-\

You really need to play some Brogue: https://sites.google.com/site/broguegame/.
I will look into it once I get home. Thanks!

There was a contest match recently where no weapon spawned apart from the starting dagger and people still managed to win. That is to say, while Brogue is very challenging and punishing, no seed is unbeatable. Lucky and unluckiness are, a lot of the times, relative. When they aren't, there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.
Key point there. Everything works fine until it breaks down. You can create a game completely based on luck and still be amusing by it (Monopoly) and you can create a roguelike game with minimalist luck interaction but with tragic consequences, like having the player dying by tripping in a tree root and bumping with his head in a sharp rock. Does this means there is necessarily something wrong with this luck mechanism? You have two possible answers to give me: yes and no. Some players can find it hilarious while others completely unfair. Everything is cool as long you think it likewise. What I don't want is to play a roguelike heavily dependent in luck or loot.

Or you could solve the problem in a way that doesn't contradict your design goals.
I use the following formula: Include all the features you love while excluding all those you hate.

"Skilled based" as in, the player's progress depends upon their skill at playing the game, or at their skill in deciding which up-arrows to push on a character sheet?
In-game-skills. Sorry for the confusion but whenever I say skills I'm talking about things you can improve your character at, like: "Skinning", "Battle Axe", "Fishing", "Casting" etc.

Sorry to pick on you a little bit, but there's a lot of defeatism in your post that explicitly contradicts many of the reasons why people develop RLs in the first place.
Nah! Don't worry about it :). I Enjoy these type of discussions as you always end up learning something new. I simply don't agree with the traditional leveling system being something bad. As I said previously, I'm still waiting to be impressed by an alternative.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 05:08:50 PM by Endorya »
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requerent

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Re: Game balance and leveling.
« Reply #32 on: August 12, 2013, 05:53:57 PM »
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Sorry, I failed to see your point here. Could you rephrase it?


I meant to say 'arguing the contrapositive,' not 'proof by contradiction' (both of which are incorrect >_>).

Otherwise, where'd I confuse you? I'm pretty much just saying that your general assertions are poorly reasoned and that I have to disagree with them otherwise the dialog may suffer.

Okay okay,

You're trying to make a game were 'skills' play the largest role in how an entity interacts with the environment (inclusive of other entities). The 'skills' paradigm is something that the player is aware of beforehand, and is able to make preemptive decisions that guide their character's development. When you take this approach, there typically needs to be a general 'resource' that the player gathers to develop skills. Either in the XP to gain levels to get skill points sort of way or in the training of specific skills. In either case, the gameplay is going to get repetitive (whereas finding hearts is intrinsically less so).

That means that you ADD the problem of repetitiveness to your game, which you now must solve by finding out the appropriate way to pace progression in a manner that is likely to result in the emergence of fun. This problem is solved by Level Design. In a Roguelike, your level design is likely to be automated. The problem of Heart placement is ALSO a Level Design issue, and one that is orders of magnitude simpler. OTOH, no XP gains from fighting also feels repetitive, so it's arguable that Skills/XP systems attempt address the repetitiveness of mundane tasks-- but in reality they may just exacerbate the problem.

The difference is really value-neutral. Trade-offs for tastes and preferences and developer skills that can all be implemented in wonderful ways.

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Key point there. Everything works fine until it breaks down. You can create a game completely based on luck and still be amusing by it (Monopoly) and you can create a roguelike game with minimalist luck interaction but with tragic consequences, like having the player dying by tripping in a tree root and bumping with his head in a sharp rock. Does this means there is necessarily something wrong with this luck mechanism? You have two possible answers to give me: yes and no. Some players can find it hilarious while others completely unfair. Everything is cool as long you think it likewise. What I don't want is to play a roguelike heavily dependent in luck or loot.


Not really relevant. I provided Brogue as an example because its design decisions are evidence for my statement. Your hypothetical example is just bad design. My point--
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That is to say, while Brogue is very challenging and punishing, no seed is unbeatable.
Was to say that, despite being unpredictable, Brogue can always be won. The player is ALWAYS responsible for whether or not they survive, not the RNG. The procedural content creates diverse and novel challenges, but they do NOT subvert the player's responsibility for surviving. Your example is bad because you don't get into whether or not the player is or can be AWARE of the risk of tripping and falling, and if there are any opportunity costs associated with taking that risk or not (the components that make a game a game!).

Again, not to be rude, but your example arguments are very weak representations of the ideas that you are making contentions against.

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In-game-skills. Sorry for the confusion but whenever I say skills I'm talking about things you can improve your character at, like: "Skinning", "Battle Axe", "Fishing", "Casting" etc.

Sorry, I was actually just mocking you that time  >_>.


That said, I think your project is fucking amazing. I wish I had the due diligence to get something off the ground-- sadly, I have issues devoting myself to any design goals at all.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 06:06:47 PM by requerent »

Endorya

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Re: Game balance and leveling.
« Reply #33 on: August 12, 2013, 06:39:42 PM »
I meant to say 'arguing the contrapositive,' not 'proof by contradiction' (both of which are incorrect >_>).

Otherwise, where'd I confuse you? I'm pretty much just saying that your general assertions are poorly reasoned and that I have to disagree with them otherwise the dialog may suffer.
You don't have a problem explaining yourself. The problem is my english which is far from being brilliant LOL!

You're trying to make a game were 'skills' play the largest role in how an entity interacts with the environment (inclusive of other entities). The 'skills' paradigm is something that the player is aware of beforehand, and is able to make preemptive decisions that guide their character's development. When you take this approach, there typically needs to be a general 'resource' that the player gathers to develop skills. Either in the XP to gain levels to get skill points sort of way or in the training of specific skills. In either case, the gameplay is going to get repetitive (whereas finding hearts is intrinsically less so).

I see what you mean. The resource experience income to develop the character will be attained from several sources:

- Slaying creatures (a classic).
- Running quests (another classic).
- Alone training (It will take take this way but still a possibility).
- Attending to schools to develop your skills. (though it requires learning points and coin)
- Joining guilds (to run more rewarding quests, though these have some ranking criteria)
- Creating and selling also gives you experience. Yeah, go as trader instead warrior if you want to.
- Participating several kinds of tournaments.
- Fight in the arenas (major experience rewards here, if you survive).

Some other experience sources include successfully applying interactions with NPCs like persuading them to do something, inviting them to your party and even making love to a new NPC.

The game is way more then just slaying creatures. I too worry about repetitiveness, which is the main problem that I find with nowadays games.

I'm setting up a blog containing every single feature that is planed to have in the game. I would like you to have a look at it once it is available.

Again, not to be rude, but your example arguments are very weak representations of the ideas that you are making contentions against.
I think the main problem here is that I'm tried to plug in my game the alternatives described by many of you, which would simply not function, hence my disposition to reject them. I should have viewed them outside my project. I now recognize this.

Sorry, I was actually just mocking you that time  >_>.
Damn it!  :P

That said, I think your project is fucking amazing. I wish I had the due diligence to get something off the ground-- sadly, I have issues devoting myself to any design goals at all.
Well that was a surprise. I always had the feeling you hated it. Thanks for letting me know it! Unless of course your mocking me again...
« Last Edit: August 12, 2013, 07:20:47 PM by Endorya »
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Vanguard

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Re: Game balance and leveling.
« Reply #34 on: August 12, 2013, 11:22:16 PM »
Leveling tends to destroy game balance.

Can I ask you why do you say that?

Because introducing more variables and more unknown factors makes balancing more difficult.  Leveling systems add a large number of variables to the game, and what's more, they're unknown variables under the player's control rather than the developer's.

Picture it this way: say you've got an action game with one player character with one weapon.  Every player has access to the same tools in every situation, so balancing is relatively easy.  All you need to do is ensure that the game's content is appropriately difficult, fair, and interesting for that one character's abilities and that one weapon's power.

Then let's say that you patch your game so that there are now three different player characters, and each of them can choose one of two weapons.  Now you have to ensure that your game's content is balanced for six possible situations.  Maybe enemies that are trivial to defeat with the spread gun are excessively difficult to overcome with the laser.  Maybe the speed character effortlessly blows through level 3 but doesn't have the tools to cope with level 4, and the defense character is subpar in every level.  You'll have to deal with all of that.

Leveling systems, especially complex ones, mean that your game has an arbitrarily large number of possible playable characters and your player's character will different at different stages of the game.  A level 9 wizard isn't quite the same as a level 10 wizard, and even two level 10 wizards might be very different from one another.  How can you be sure that every possible bit of content is balanced for every possible character?  In most cases, you can't.

That's exactly what I was referring to. You need scripting things up to implement wire_hall_medic's method, which begins to break dynamism. I don't want to have a world with exactly 20 heart chests but generating a world where heart chests have X probability of spawning. So in the end, I could have a world with 0 to 20 heart chests (roughly speaking).

20 heart chests is not inherently any more scripted or less dynamic than a level cap of 20.

Even if we're talking about an open world game where the player can't reasonably be expected to explore every location, the problem is solvable.

For example, instead of making 20 heart chests, you could make 100 potential heart chests.  Then, whenever the player opens a potential heart chest, you have the game decide whether or not they get a heart based on a number of factors.  You could put a heart in every chest until they've hit the limit of 20 or you could assign hearts at random.  You could add weight to the possibility of a heart drop so the more hearts the player has found, the less likely they are to find more.  You could track the player's progress through the game and assign them a heart if they've progressed enough in the game to "deserve" one.

There's an infinite number of solutions.  It's important to realize that just because you don't like one implementation of a concept, that doesn't mean the concept is bad or that you won't enjoy any alternative versions of that concept.

Brogue, Zelda, Metroid, and Mage Guild are all built around conceptually similar advancement systems, but they're still distinct from each another and function in different ways.

Endorya

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Re: Game balance and leveling.
« Reply #35 on: August 13, 2013, 08:24:27 AM »
Because introducing more variables and more unknown factors makes balancing more difficult.  Leveling systems add a large number of variables to the game, and what's more, they're unknown variables under the player's control rather than the developer's.
Basically everything you add changes the balance difficulty level of a game like: skills, feats, creatures, quests, ability points, world size, permadeath, level systems, rewards, items, dynamic content generation, even weather and temperature can unbalance a game. I just think that people are overlooking at the leveling system like "the" ultimate unbalancing factor when in reality it can be the least of the problems.

Take my game as an example, its leveling system changes only 3 variables: the level number (informative only), the next experience required for the next level and adding learning points which are used to train your character, as in Fallout. My leveling system will not change the character's hit points, stamina, mana, loot or creature difficulty level as most leveling systems do.

The real problem with balacing the game will be adding the right amount of consistency in its large world and making sure that all skills (which are above 100) do not break balance along with thousands of possibilities for armor and weapons. Thankfully I will have formulas to aid me balancing the whole game with a logical procedure to follow it. Nonetheless, its balancing will be a challenge and it will require a great deal of time before meeting the right terms.

20 heart chests is not inherently any more scripted or less dynamic than a level cap of 20.
Unless there is no cap level at all and loot is generated on the fly, based on chance, at the opening of a chest.

Even if we're talking about an open world game where the player can't reasonably be expected to explore every location, the problem is solvable.

For example, instead of making 20 heart chests, you could make 100 potential heart chests.  Then, whenever the player opens a potential heart chest, you have the game decide whether or not they get a heart based on a number of factors.  You could put a heart in every chest until they've hit the limit of 20 or you could assign hearts at random.  You could add weight to the possibility of a heart drop so the more hearts the player has found, the less likely they are to find more.  You could track the player's progress through the game and assign them a heart if they've progressed enough in the game to "deserve" one.
Yes, I refer to that as scripting. There are many ways to make it happen, better known as scripting rules to contradict logical aspects of gaming and controlling events occurrences and to castrate enpowering:

- Making sure the player sees a tornado at least once during its adventure.
- Making sure he will find a particular item during his adventure.
- Making sure he doesn't spend too much time in the wilderness without encountering something interesting.
- Making sure he won't be able to find certain items more than X times.
- Making sure he receives a letter from a stranger to join in a tournament.
- Making sure he will be held captive to trigger a nice side quest.
- Making sure a certain NPC will be spawn near the player to trigger a special event.
- Making sure he won't grow too powerful but reducing his chances of profiting.

Something I'm trying to avoid as much as I can because even this events will be dynamically generated. So far so good. But it doesn't mean I can't crash at the next turn ;)

There's an infinite number of solutions.  It's important to realize that just because you don't like one implementation of a concept, that doesn't mean the concept is bad or that you won't enjoy any alternative versions of that concept.

True. I'll make your words my own. The leveling system has endless possibilities towards creating alternatives over its original concept which you can in fact enjoy. My project is based in all things I've experience through gaming and I have thought a lot about different possibilities while designing it, mainly creating new versions of the features I've experienced. I think this is a basic capability for a game designer. Sure there might be concepts I'm not aware but all those alternatives presented here in this thread simply revealed themselves quite incompatible with what I'm trying to achieve. Does this means such alternatives are bad? Of course not! Are they good to have in my game? Absolutely not.

In sum, it is not that I don't explore alternatives, that's the same that having me saying to all those that don't appreciate the leveling system, that they still should look at the leveling system because there is still the possibility of creating new concepts around it.

What is happening here is that some of you don't appreciate the leveling system and experience meters while others may prefer, heavily dependent on what each one of us is trying to achieve. It seems this is a personal preference so none of us can be wrong. I have as much right disliking the alternatives to a leveling system as you have disliking leveling systems.

I've been playing games since the 80's so I can dare to say I'm not a total stranger regarding game features and rewarding systems.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2013, 11:12:16 AM by Endorya »
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