Author Topic: How will leveling work?  (Read 12862 times)

Offline x4000

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2011, 09:39:59 PM »
Is it possible to have characters that don't level at all?

See, this is why I tend not to want to discuss game design stuff too much before the game is actually done.  The short answer to the question is: no, that's not the game we're making.  Your explanation is well thought out and well intentioned, it's just not what we're doing.

I appreciate your enthusiasm and your taking the time out to type all of that, but we have our vision for the game and are sticking with it.  There will always be people that don't like this or that mechanism that we choose, but that's true of anything we do.  In terms of levels, we feel like it will give the most organic flow of progression given the rest of the game design (most of which hasn't been revealed yet because we don't want to get into debates with anyone over the death mechanic or whatever else).

One of these days somebody is gonna do it, haha, maybe i'll have to learn how to code and do it myself.  :)

Suffice it to say, that's where we're coming from, too.  Nobody else makes the games we most want to play, so we have to do them.  And in this case, that includes levels.  Sorry! :)

Sorry if i sound antagonistic on levels, it has always been such a bother when i thought something else might have been more fun.

It's okay, and I understand where you're coming from.  There's a huge range of what people value most in games, of course, and at the core of this one are what we the game creators value most.  Anything else would be a bit dishonest and trend-following, I think.  Anyway -- thanks, as always, for your support!
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2011, 10:09:31 PM »
Sorry to sound ungrateful, I didn't mean to, and i know i talked 'alot' but, please don't feel that i feel it has to be that way. You guys have made some really, really cool games, and AI War probably counts as three 4 games just in itself for everything you put into the expasions, and Tidalis is a beautiful jewel of a game. I didn't mean to sound like AVWW has to have this, and more than anything i want you guys to make what you think is cool, that way your heart is in it, and that will show when it is released, and we can enjoy the polish and looks and the way it plays because of what you think is best.

I was just sorta ranting in general about levels, not you guys fault, haha, my apologies.
Please forgive for the 'tone', didn't mean it to sound bad.

I will still buy it and probably love the heck out of it.  :)
I still play Guild Wars, even with the levels, but i'm just out of my depth in it. Takes me too long to level and i sorta hang out in the same areas just to not get in over my head.

Sorry to sound bad Chris, you guys are doing a wonderful job. Please just forgive my slip for sounding well, haha, probably demanding, didn't mean it to.

Thank you for listening and for your response, it nice to hear how things are looking and going,
Take care,

-Teal


Offline x4000

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2011, 10:18:36 PM »
I don't take any offense whatsoever -- please don't feel bad about anything you said.  Your opinion is just as valid as mine, and what you described is a valid game design.  I'm just trying to lay the boundaries of what I'll negotiate on at this stage, and you had the unlucky chance of being the first to cross that boundaries.  Not that that is a huge deal or means I think you're "ungrateful" or anything else.  Keith and I have different opinions about the game all the time, and have to work it out between us -- that's just the nature of these things.  Lars and I had the same challenge on Tidalis. 

The trouble is, that works with 2 people, but not a dozen or a hundred.  Since I don't subscribe to the "design by committee" approach, there are simply some aspects that I'm not going to negotiate with anyone except Keith over.  But that doesn't mean we don't like hearing from people, because often players have great ideas, and it's no harm mentioning them.  There's always the chance we'll see an idea like that and just fall all over ourselves thinking it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.  When we don't, it's mostly a matter of taste, or how it fits into the larger game design of this specific game. 

And for time reasons, there's no way we can spend our time justifying every last decision we make to anyone who takes umbrage (not that you were asking us to, but it's inevitable that someone will come along before long who does).  Really, the best reason that we have levels is that "we like levels in general, and felt they were the appropriate design abstraction for this specific game."  How does one defend that?  Having levels or not is a matter of taste, and so there's no empirical way to prove one is better or more pure than the other.  Again, not that you were asking us to; but these sort of discussions, depending on the personalities involved (again, not you) can often quickly devolve into a battle of wills.

My message from the start is: I abstain from such battles. ;)  They are profit-less and boil down to taste.  We always read every suggestion, but in cases where we don't agree it's often not defensible any more than why my favorite colors are red and white are.  This is something I have realized recently, after a year and a half of occasional battles about various design decisions with AI War.  When a huge majority of players feel one way often they are right, but not always, etc.  Anyway: tangent.

I just wanted to let you know where my response was coming from, and that I didn't take anything you said personally or as an insult.  Cheers!
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Offline Teal_Blue

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2011, 11:00:31 PM »
:)  Thanks!!


Offline x4000

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2011, 11:03:51 PM »
You bet. :)
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Offline Nalgas

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #20 on: February 02, 2011, 06:37:33 AM »
The more you keep comparing things in AVWW to the elements from NES/SNES-era games that I really liked and don't see enough of anymore, the more interested I keep getting.  I'm starting to get a strange feeling that I'm your target audience.  Like, literally me personally/specifically, not just people in general with tastes similar to mine.  If you can somehow work something Star Control 2-related into one of your comparisons/explanations, I may have to just give you all my money on the spot.

Well, I've honestly not played nethack so I can't comment.  But my wife is the sort who really doesn't like things that cause too much loss of progress and/or which are "hair trigger losses" type of games.  She's a hardcore gamer in the sense that she likes Left 4 Dead and such and will play AI War with me on a very occasional basis, and she was into games like Baldur's Gate and Pharaoh and such before I even knew her.  Anyway, she's the sort that would absolutely hate even something like Super Meat Boy, as she'd just find it frustrating.

The funny thing about that is that Super Meat Boy has zero penalty for death, or as close as you can realistically get without the game beating itself for you, aside from the handful of glitch/WAAAAAAAAAAARP ZOOOOOOOOOOONE levels.  If you're not pretty good at platform games and don't actively enjoy beating your head against a challenge, though, yeah, it could get pretty amazingly frustrating.  I think it's great fun, but I always very carefully qualify any recommendations I've made for it.  I think I ended up describing it to my AI War group as "the demon spawn of Ninja Gaiden and Battletoads" and "recommended if too many of your controllers still work and you don't have enough holes in your walls yet".

Also, NetHack can eat a dick.  I really, really like so many things about the game and how much detail they went into with a lot of features (the dev team really does think of everything), but I've finally accepted that I will never enjoy playing it.  You will die (over and over and over and....), and you will lose everything, and it will frequently be for the stupidest of reasons.  It's like the exact opposite of Super Meat Boy, where instead of learning through failure what you shouldn't do and getting to try again a split second later, the spacing between obvious-in-hindsight lessons is generally measured in hours, and at the cost of losing all progress for each one.  Very few games make me angry, but it has no close competition for first place on that very short list.  Heh.

Offline BobTheJanitor

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #21 on: February 02, 2011, 01:58:08 PM »
On the leveling mechanic in general in games, I'm of the opinion that it's the worst system for character advancement except for all the other ones. Yes, it's arbitrary and not exactly immersive to kill X things or solve X puzzles and suddenly become stronger in multiple aspects. However, the alternatives are inevitably worse. The upside of leveling is that it gives you a clear close goal to work towards. If your overall plot is to kill the dragon or save the princess, you can get exhausted if that goal is dozens of hours of gameplay away. But if you know you're going to get another level if you just kill 10 more vampires, well then you have something close by to work on, and when you get there the level-up always provides that little bit of fun that comes with accomplishment. Along with, of course, any new skills or access to new equipment or whatever, depending on the game you're playing.

Games that have tried alternative systems to leveling always feel like too much of a grind. Sure, it makes more sense if you use a dagger a lot that your skill with daggers will get better. But then you find a better sword. Oops, now you have to stab things with a sword for an hour to make it worthwhile. And if in the process of grinding sword skills, you find a better axe...? It just gets aggravating. I suppose it would be possible to design the game around this somehow, so that you always have the skills you need ahead of time for every encounter, but that game would probably be very much on rails and with no potential for branching narratives or quests. Plus, skill specific leveling systems can be just as bizarre and arbitrary as standard leveling. I'm again reminded of Oblivion, where you could level specific skills like jumping. I tend to jump everywhere I go in 3rd person RPGs; I don't know why. The result was that after a few hours I could just about leap from the ground to the top of a house. That just makes no sense, no matter how you look at it.

Offline x4000

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #22 on: February 02, 2011, 02:12:30 PM »
The more you keep comparing things in AVWW to the elements from NES/SNES-era games that I really liked and don't see enough of anymore, the more interested I keep getting.  I'm starting to get a strange feeling that I'm your target audience.  Like, literally me personally/specifically, not just people in general with tastes similar to mine.  If you can somehow work something Star Control 2-related into one of your comparisons/explanations, I may have to just give you all my money on the spot.

Hahaha. :)  I really did like Star Control 2, actually, and it was mildly an inspiration for AI War (in terms of having a lot of space to explore with new things always cropping up).  I only got to play it very occasionally at a friend's house growing up, though, so my experience with it is somewhat limite.d

[
The funny thing about that is that Super Meat Boy has zero penalty for death, or as close as you can realistically get without the game beating itself for you, aside from the handful of glitch/WAAAAAAAAAAARP ZOOOOOOOOOOONE levels.  If you're not pretty good at platform games and don't actively enjoy beating your head against a challenge, though, yeah, it could get pretty amazingly frustrating.

Well, even though there's no death penalty, you wind up playing the exact same segment repeatedly.  That's what would turn my wife off, is what I meant.

I think it's great fun, but I always very carefully qualify any recommendations I've made for it.  I think I ended up describing it to my AI War group as "the demon spawn of Ninja Gaiden and Battletoads" and "recommended if too many of your controllers still work and you don't have enough holes in your walls yet".

Hahaha.  I... guess I'll take that as a compliment. ;)
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Offline x4000

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #23 on: February 02, 2011, 02:17:20 PM »
On the leveling mechanic in general in games, I'm of the opinion that it's the worst system for character advancement except for all the other ones.

That's a great way to put it, actually. :)

But if you know you're going to get another level if you just kill 10 more vampires, well then you have something close by to work on, and when you get there the level-up always provides that little bit of fun that comes with accomplishment. Along with, of course, any new skills or access to new equipment or whatever, depending on the game you're playing.

Right, exactly.  That "one more turn" aspect crept into AI War to some extent with having a fair number of sub-objectives (take this planet, get this unlock, etc).  In AVWW, we're going to have layer over layer of possible sub-objectives you could pursue and that are just close into reach.  We're not intentionally trying to make it artificially addictive, but that sort of "always something right around the bend" style just seems the most rewarding to me personally, and matches with the sort of games I like to play.

I'm again reminded of Oblivion, where you could level specific skills like jumping. I tend to jump everywhere I go in 3rd person RPGs; I don't know why. The result was that after a few hours I could just about leap from the ground to the top of a house. That just makes no sense, no matter how you look at it.

That's pretty hilarious, I didn't know that about Oblivion.  That was one I skipped.  I also have the bunny-hopping tendency, I think out of frustration that my character is moving too slowly against the backdrop, and wanting to have something, anything, to do as I travel.  Then that becomes a habit in turn, and we wind up doing it even in games where the character moves at a pretty good clip.  That's my theory, anyway.

Of course, in my case it might also be some training from Unreal Tournament, where you had to jump and writhe and translocate constantly to avoid getting sniped on Facing Worlds or similar.
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Offline zoutzakje

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2011, 01:17:23 PM »

Of course, in my case it might also be some training from Unreal Tournament, where you had to jump and writhe and translocate constantly to avoid getting sniped on Facing Worlds or similar.

hahaha, I laughed at this :D
unreal tournament has been my fave game for years and it's because of that game that I have the jumping habit too. You should try searching for "bunnytrack" servers online. It's something entirely different where you don't have to kill any other players or bots... it's just a matter of dodging and jumping all the time to reach your destination.. like a race to the target sort of thing with all kinds of traps and obstacles. that's mainly where I got the jumping (and especially dodging) habit from :P

back to topic:
I am one of the players who really enjoys a leveling mechanic. I have played many many rpg's and mmorpg's.... And once a found a game I could get really into, I would always find myself trying to reach the lvl cap (in which I have succeeded several times). Like stated above, it's a great way to keep players entertained. It's a (side)objective that will not only make your character stronger over time, but also puts you one step closer to the ultimate goal; clearing the game.
the downside is that in a lot of games, this can also be quite a drag.... and bore players with the endless grinding. This only applied to the online rpg's though, because there is no ultimate goal in those.... you can't "clear" the game, it will go on forever.
fortunately, that has never been a problem for me :D
I'm really looking forward to AVWW and I'll be sure to get it the moment you guys publish it ^^
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Offline RCIX

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2011, 01:46:58 PM »
I'm sure it will have little bearing on how AVWW will actually be, but for some reason this discussion brought this Penny Arcade comic to mind. :)
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Offline x4000

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2011, 02:01:51 PM »
It's definitely a funny comic. I sure do love PA. Doesn't change a thing, though. ;)
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Offline Flatfingers

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #27 on: February 08, 2011, 03:36:58 AM »
Bearing in mind that onlooker feedback is not being solicited for AVWW, the leveling concept is pretty important. I hope it's OK if I toss out some thoughts on the subject.

Specifically, I'd like to note the general design principle of not mistaking the goal for the mechanic. Leveling is a mechanic -- it's one means among many to a particular end, not an innately desirable end in itself.

In this case, the goal in question is to provide a reward system that keeps players wanting to play a computer game. A good such system will be simple (i.e., easy for players to understand and for developers to implement) and will generally remain effective as player mastery increases.

The beauty of the leveling mechanic in a character-based game (such as an RPG or an action-adventure game) is that it's an abstraction that neatly satisfies those requirements for many gamers. The downside is that there are plenty of gamers for whom it's not optimal -- for these gamers, other mechanics might serve as well or better, but very few games provide such mechanics.

In particular, there are gamers for whom a "magic number" (even if it's attached to the player rather than to the current character) is rather offputting -- it just "feels mechanical." These games are usually DikuMUD descendants, which are designed to cater to the gamer who enjoys overcoming simple, clear goals in return for tangible, collectible status markers of some kind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that playstyle... but not everybody shares that playstyle.

It's these Other Gamers who usually call for character-based games to implement some reward schedule system other than leveling. They may not have a specific alternative mechanic in mind, but they know they're tired of being treated as though they'll be satisfied by yet another game based on "kill it and take its stuff." (I'm not suggesting that AVWW will be such a game; I'm just making a general point.)

So what about a specific idea for a reward mechanic that isn't simply to expose a magical "level" number, then? For gamers who enjoy exploring character (e.g., roleplaying), a desirable reward might be access to participation in more complex stories, or stories involving particular subjects or themes. Naturally there'd be "magic numbers" representing these options, but those numbers would be internal. Externally they'd be abstracted out to descriptive terms: completing easy stories such as "A Simple Request" could lead to opportunities such as "A Challenging Quest for an Artifact" or "An Epic Struggle Against Social Injustice." As with the "level" mechanic this approach would scale with player mastery, but the emphasis would clearly be to reward participation in the NPC social network rather than "the more stuff I kill, the more stuff I can kill" gameplay that most of today's RPGs are designed to emphasize.

Another mechanic could in fact be the elimination of the "leveling" concept completely, letting the exploration of a vast gameworld be its own reward. A game like this would need to be designed so that the gameworld itself is structurally complex -- in other words, there would need to be a great variety of systems to explore in both number and depth. (Making the world visually attractive is probably also important for a game like this.) High explorability would satisfy the requirement that there are always short-, medium- and long-term rewards just on the horizon, yielding that highly sought-after "just one more turn!" feel.

Of course game design is a process of generating and selecting among action systems for both aesthetics and functionality, one result of which is that you can't please everybody. If AVWW is meant to appeal to more traditional RPG players, then a leveling model of some kind is a perfectly reasonable way to go. It'll mean that the game loses some appeal for the gamers who are tired of what they perceive as "grindy" games where sheer persistence is all that's required to "win." But a game designed to appeal to non-traditional gamers, who enjoy more abstract rewards, would undoubtedly produce a lot of "WTF?" (and worse) comments from gamers who have always lived in a world where characters must advance and where that advancement is tracked as a tangible numeric asset.

So I'm not about to criticize the choice for AVWW to use character/player leveling (in some form) -- at least not until I've played the game in some form. If that mechanic really does turn out to be the optimal way to achieve the goal of persuading players to keep playing in the otherwise non-traditional AVWW gameworld, then I'll be happy to have it.

If not... well, then, with the indulgence of the forum masters I might have a word or two to say on the subject of alternative reward models. :D

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Offline zebramatt

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #28 on: February 08, 2011, 09:47:30 AM »
Forgive me for being glib but didn't you just take a finely distilled three panel Penny Arcade strip and convert it into 800 words of prose?  ;D

Offline Flatfingers

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Re: How will leveling work?
« Reply #29 on: February 08, 2011, 10:26:59 AM »
I prefer to think of it as PA taking 800 words containing lots of ideas worth exploring and reducing it to a sequence of caveman-like grunts. ;)

It's quick, sure, but sometimes getting into the nuts and bolts of a game's design can be fun, too. Admittedly that's not everyone's cup of tea, but what a boring old world it would be if the most complex conversation that we could have about a game was limited to whatever snarkage could fit in a three-panel comic strip....