Author Topic: Tier Replacement #1: Degradation On A Per-Spellgem Basis  (Read 6021 times)

Offline Bluddy

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Tier Replacement #1: Degradation On A Per-Spellgem Basis
« on: December 05, 2011, 07:36:51 PM »
The 1st comment here http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,9555.msg88197.html#msg88197 made me think about the spell gems. I know there's a lot of deconstruction of the game taking place as is, but maybe this is worth a look as well. We already know that the game is not an RPG. I think the only thing that remains of the RPG paradigm is spell gems decreasing in power, and spell gem tiers that keep going up.

Why is this a problem? Because, as Orelius describes, it's frustrating to become completely powerless as time goes by unless you go hunting for new gems. It's not entirely clear to the user that gems should become weaker, and they all become weaker at the same time, leaving you with no other options or strategic decisions other than being forced to obtain new gems.

So here's another variation on the spellgem idea. What if there weren't tiers of spellgems? Instead, gems would degrade and crack as you used them. If you abused them they would degrade faster.  I'm not sure what abuse would entail -- perhaps if you used them too fast, or too many times in a row, or you fired them right after certain other gems, or perhaps you could have a charging mechanism by holding down the button that could cause them to overheat. Anyway, you'd always see clearly what shape your gems are in. Also, you could only ever have one of any spell gem (for balance reason).

The key differences here are the following:
- Spells don't artificially become weaker relative to the monsters. It's especially artificial now that the game doesn't try to be an RPG.
- There's clear feedback as a gem degrades.
- The player is in control of degradation. Use the gem gently, don't overpower it, follow the rules (which the game will try to persuade you to break) and it'll last longer.
- Not all spells degrade at once. This is the critical difference. It means that as one spell degrades from overuse, you still have other spells to choose from. You can change your strategy, or hunt for other types of spells.

The other nice thing about this is that it also suggests a method for handling super spells. You'd create gems that are very rare, very fragile, and which break after only a couple of uses.

As an aside, there could be more ways to craft spell gems. Some could involve materials or objects only present in buildings. Some rare spells could only be crafted during a particular time of day or in a particular place, etc.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2011, 07:25:45 PM by x4000 »

Offline tigersfan

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2011, 07:51:09 PM »
Actually, I really like this idea. This could even be adapted to add further mission rewards ( a high durability gem, for example). It also seems like it would solve the MP issue you initially referred to.

Offline x4000

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2011, 07:59:15 PM »
Something like this could work, and would in fact be a streamlining in a lot of respects. Conveying the damage to spellgems to players might be tough, though. It could show a little bar in the inventory, but that might be visually overwhelming.

And if there is a decay system like this, the next thing players want is a repair feature. I'm thinking of games like stalker here, where poor guns jam more or even explode, and it was pretty frustrating. Fallout 3 was less annoying what with the ability to comine multiple poor guns into one better repaired one. Or I think that was fallout 3, maybe that was some other game. Borderlands? Far cry 2? It's hard to keep track.

Converyance aside, certainly not having everything go defunct at once would be nice. And not having stuff go defunct at all when you're not on a server is even nicer. So making it somewhat based on usage would make sense.

Then, of course, we're getting kind of into "secret ammo" territory if it's based on just general usage. Or something along those lines. So I agree with your assessment that some sort of actual abuse of the gems that would be the common scenario for it (firing a lot of it? Using the same color of spellgem too frequently?) would make sense.

Another model would be to not make the gems have tiers at all... And not have them break... But not have them work except on the one continent you found them on. Each continent has its own inventory and thus it's own individual progression, perhaps.

Or there might be some other model. There has to be some sort of cycle of decay and replacement in order for the game to be infinitely playable, and there has to be some reason for you to get raw gems only from tier-appropriate locales (I could always just hide the veins on regions that are too low level, though, and get the same effect). But I'm not married to the tiers, and certainly there are other models that might work better given how the game has evolved.

Thanks for bringing it up, I'd not thought about this at all until you did.
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Offline Toll

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2011, 08:03:34 PM »
Another side-effect is that the cave-runs will likely become more intensive, but rarer. Instead of just going into a cave to get a few gems (any more is basically a waste at this point), odds are you'd find a nice cave-system and clear it out, having gems that would last quite some time.

The drawback? You could go down a level 1 cave just as well as a level 30, if tiers were removed. Of course, both of these could be solved by saying "Hey, you have to have a gem of at least the current target tier to make spellgems". Removing gems from caves wouldn't solve the issue of having several gems stocked ready to make spellgems out of, and might even encourage players to spend their first several levels just harvesting caves.

Offline tigersfan

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2011, 08:27:24 PM »
Another model would be to not make the gems have tiers at all... And not have them break... But not have them work except on the one continent you found them on. Each continent has its own inventory and thus it's own individual progression, perhaps.


Wouldn't this lead to the same problems as the tiered system? What happens if the players on your server go to a new continent while you're offline for a couple days? What do you use to get gems for the new continent?

Offline Toll

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2011, 08:47:56 PM »
Oh, and just one comment on repair:

Even if it's decided that a repair function is bad or unwanted (not sure which direction you're leaning there), I think a limited form of emergency repair would be very nice. Something along the lines of using a gem of the appropriate color to recharge a spellgem by a third of its original duration, just so you're not forced to leave in a battle with an overlord just because your spellgems ran out. That way, it's always best (in a controlled environment) to simply reforge your spellgem, but in an emergency, you will at least not lose your offense.

Offline Hearteater

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2011, 09:21:00 PM »
Why not combine the repair and creation systems.  When you first craft a gem it is at 100%.  As it decays, it becomes less powerful, maybe its power is a factor of its condition, and maybe it isn't.  But you can, at any time, gather the materials for a second spell gem of that type and craft your existing spell gem into the new materials.  When you do this, the resulting spell gem has a condition of 100% plus one-fifth of the old gem's condition.  This could bring the condition of a gem over 100%, but the actual effectiveness of the gem is never greater than 100%.  It just takes longer to deteriorate.

As a result, you can "repair" gems whenever you feel inclined and have the materials.  You could even chain craft 3 or 4 together, but the resulting gem's condition grows very slowly, with a limit of 125% no matter how many times you combine gems.

Offline Olreich

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2011, 09:35:32 PM »
A benefit of the tiered system is that you go out, and you hunt for the spell-gems you want, and then you find them, and then you move on. Another benefit is that it gives caves a reason to exist, and jumping around caves to get gems is one of the best parts of the game from a platforming viewpoint. It's the second most fun thing to do in the game (the first being killing bosses). The tiered system also allows for near-infinite progression, as you can get to tier 2.3 billion before you run out of addressing space.

One thing wrong with it is that it's sort of grindy, because you have to go get spell-gems all at once every ten levels (which is around twice an overlord right now). Multiplayer also doesn't work at all with this system, as the world can progress and you'll be left behind, with crappy gems.

So, what maybe could happen is a recurring, beneficial spell gem collection that isn't grindy, or all at once and that allows for infinite recurrence. This seems to fit into side-mission territory. At first, you're doing side-missions to get new spells (randomly seeded in as new spells come into existence), and then you have side-missions that power up all spells. The finding spells missions would have trouble forcing the player to go cave diving, instead wanting to defeat a mini-boss who is guarding the Illari who has the spell. For the power ups, it could be that the settlement has a crazy kook who has come up with a way to better channel the power of the spell-gems, but needs 6 spell-gems, or needs a big Citrine gem and you have to go cave diving to find it (with useful side-loot or mini-bosses along the way). This could power up a single class of spells, or all of them, or just one specific spell-gem.

The side-mission provides infinite progression, specific spell-gem increases, good integration between the cave systems and the main story, and has a bonus of opportunity cost (do I upgrade my spell gems, or get another set of skelebots to fight the overlord with?). It's obviously rough, some key areas are how you get the spell gems to begin with. How does one catch up on spell gems for a world they just joined (use their basic spell-gems and get them when other's do power-up missions? That would combine the power-up and receiving flow). Would everyone get benefit from side-missions, even if they didn't participate or were offline? They would have to for multiplayer to continue working well (else you'd still get under-leveled spell-gems).

Anyways, another possibility: Whenever anyone upgrades a gem, it gets sent to everyone's gems (would have to be an "upgrade" option in the crafting area probably).

That's all I came up with off the top of my head, and the side missions idea really appeals to me, though it wouldn't fix multiplayer nearly as much as singleplayer. For the record, repair and decay are interesting ideas, but would promote hording and would probably increase the idea that caves are just the grinding part of AVWW)

Offline Orelius

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2011, 09:47:30 PM »
I think the entire idea of decay is ... unsavory.  I feel that the best way to keep interest in the game is to give more power to the player, albeit in rather small quantities.

I propose the idea of having the current set of spells, with an elaborate upgrade system.

Similar to rare commodities, certain enhancements to the spellgems become available at various civ levels.  These enhancements are created from objects that originate from the caverns.  A similar system could be used - the gem veins drop a single stone of their element for use in creating new spells, but the gem dust varies by mark.  The gem dust can be used to create upgrades for your spells, in conjunction with various other commodities such as iron or magma.  The gem dust can be broken down into lower level gem dusts to allow for the creation of weaker upgrades if it is desirable (in some cases, it may be).

These upgrades can vary by mark, and are not all available at the beginning.  Each upgrade is reusable; if you create a new damage enhancement II, you can still use the tier 1 version of it on another spell.  Each spell can have a limited, but raisable cap of "slots".  This cap rises with the civ level, and nothing else.  This cap increases quickly in the early game, but slowly falls off as the game progresses, to a minimum wait time between increases.  This allows for a relatively balanced game throughout, because even if a person has a fireball with a dozen upgrades, he can only use a few of them on a low civ level server.

The number of slots each upgrade uses is dependent on the effect of the upgrade and the tier of said upgrade.  However, you can't equip two kinds of the same upgrade on the same spell, so you can't have a damage +50% and a damage +25% on the same spell.  However, you'd be able to put a damage +25% and a cooldown -25% on the same spell.  These things, of course, should not increase linearly.  The lower mark upgrades are more efficient, but prevent further exploration into that area, so it is possible to have a super spell that isn't very well rounded, or instead a spell that isn't too powerful, but has lots of different effects.

For example:  The player goes out and gets ruby dust II, which he can use to make a +Damage II upgrade, but he does not have enough slots.  Instead, he decides to use this ruby dust II to make two ruby dust I's, one of which he makes into a +Damage I, which he happily puts on his spell.  Several civ levels later, he has more slots and decides that he no longer likes his old +Damage I upgrade, and decides to go gem hunting again.  He gets his hands on a sapphire dust I before getting bored.  However, he can't make better upgrades with just a mark I dust, so he makes a new upgrade, +Cooldown Reduction I, and sticks it onto the spell with his former upgrade.  His spell, in addition to having the extra damage, now also has a shorter cooldown. Later, he gets tired of this again, so he gets his hands on another ruby dust II, now making it into a +Damage II upgrade, which he replaces the two previous ones.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 09:49:23 PM by Orelius »

Offline FallingStar

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2011, 10:03:07 PM »
I'd agree that moving away from spellgem tiers makes sense now; mentioned in another thread that it currently seems pretty complex if its only being applied to spell gems now rather than a ton of different types of loot.

One issue I'm thinking in general. . .since the player civ level is going to be gated by missions rather than mob grinds/ xp, it might lead to some players thinking they need to farm more (ie one of everything) between missions rather than a mindset of getting enough to move along then reassessing their needs after the mission.  Seems like an issue with the old system as well as the proposed one to some degree.  Perhaps some form of limiting mechanic needs to be considered.  IE a limited number of glyphpoints or something, which are assigned when you build new spells, then free up when you drop your old spells/ they fully degrade/ whatever.  Might make some balancing easier, and prevent over farming since you would have to chose a limited array of spells no matter how much you farmed.

Also wouldn't mind something where a limited number of upgrade items were given as part of the mission rewards-- which would become the gating mechanism.  Gems still would exist as part of the process, but you wouldn't want to over farm them since there would be no point.  Might solve the issue.

Instead of degrade to breaking, I think I'd prefer a "fizzling" sort of mechanism (like gun jams in a fps), personal preference.  Something like you try to cast and as the gem degrades a higher chance of the spell fizzling and draining the mana and just having a minimal effect or no effect.  Just because if its uses to breaking, it encourages me to hoard my better spells so I have X uses left for a tough fight (and I'll want X to be distinctly defined somewhere on the UI, so that's more work).  If its a fizzling mechanism (like guns jamming) its a bit less prone to min-maxing and hording on my end, or feeling like I have to repair every time I use it . . its more just when I find the fizzling annoying.

Anyways, just my random thoughts.  Seems to be a hot topic.


Offline Bluddy

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2011, 10:23:05 PM »
Some good criticisms here. There still needs to be a system of some sort to give incentive to go into the right level caves. It might mean that only caves of the current level and above could generate gems, while rare gems would only spawn in higher level caves (higher level than your own).

I think one of the main problems as far as this mechanic is concerned is hoarding. Perhaps only 1 base gem should be allowed of each type. So once you got the gem, you have a strong incentive to just get out of the caves. But this would encourage repeated runs into the cave... So maybe the component gems can be unstable, so a little while after you build your spell gems, the components disintegrate.

And yes, the comparisons of this idea to ammo are appropriate. The main difference is that since the gems are your ammo unit, there's no ability to hoard them. The problem is that without some other mechanism, you can hoard the base gems.

Offline Orelius

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #11 on: December 05, 2011, 10:58:38 PM »
Instead of degrade to breaking, I think I'd prefer a "fizzling" sort of mechanism (like gun jams in a fps), personal preference.  Something like you try to cast and as the gem degrades a higher chance of the spell fizzling and draining the mana and just having a minimal effect or no effect.  Just because if its uses to breaking, it encourages me to hoard my better spells so I have X uses left for a tough fight (and I'll want X to be distinctly defined somewhere on the UI, so that's more work).  If its a fizzling mechanism (like guns jamming) its a bit less prone to min-maxing and hording on my end, or feeling like I have to repair every time I use it . . its more just when I find the fizzling annoying.

Something like this could work, though eventually, all it does is just be annoying if there isn't a way to track the degredation.  A lack of consistency isn't really a good thing, though it may be better than making spell gems more ineffective as they are used.  However, you shouldn't have to go and grab some sort of commodity in the caves just to make your spells annoy you less; it just encourages hoarding, though to a lesser degree.

It can and probably will also kill you eventually.  If you want to cast a shield, but it fizzles it will lead to much rage.

Offline Martyn van Buren

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #12 on: December 05, 2011, 11:26:25 PM »
God damn it, we players are kinda stupid --- if we go to a new area and the the monsters have gone from 120 health to 300 and then we need to find a spell that can do twice as much damage, we feel like badasses, but if the strong monsters come down to meet us then we feel like we're on a treadmill.  Honestly, even though I know it's the same thing really I still feel that way.  I guess on some level I want to look at a spell doing 9999 damage and think "Gosh, that's a big number."

I support fighting this urge, especially since we want the game to have indefinite length.  I wonder if hiding the numbers and expressing them through explicitly relative terms might help? If you just saw "This gem is very powerful compared to monsters at your current level" or "This gem is weaker than monsters at your current level," you could imagine it growing from 99 to 999 to 9999 and so on, and I think that might remove some of the frustration of seeing a 30-damage spell stay at 30 damage no matter how far you get.

But I do agree that tier-grinding is becoming trying.  I wouldn't mind a "wearing out" mechanic, even one with an element of chance, which could then be expressed in a similarly vague way --- perhaps spell casting would be accompanied by a chime (I imagine six themed ones for each element, if you can make one that sounds green and one that sounds purple), which would grow louder and more discordant as the gem becomes damaged.  Mousing over could give you a general indication --- say, "This gem is cracked.  It likely has no more than 5 - 10 uses remaining."  But the observation is right that this would encourage building up huge stocks of gems --- so perhaps crafting could be limited per mission.  I imagine you'd get, say, five crafting items per core mission, and two per side mission (assuming wearout is fairly fast).  Perhaps exploration could occasionally yield a few, so you don't get forced into missions if you don't feel like them.  Spells ought to be free to craft the first time you make them, so you're encouraged to try new things and not punished if you take tidal wave out on a mission and find it doesn't suit your style.

I don't think I'd want repair --- one of the things that appealed to me (and I think other people) about the ammo idea is the prospect of suddenly being deprived of a favorite spell in a tight situation.  Of course, with this system, if you love forest rage to death you could always craft an extra one, but then you might wind up missing fireball when you find a boss with earth resistance.  Or you could craft a fireball when forest rage starts to run low and save the damaged gem for a fight when you really need it.

Coming back to the numbers issue I started with, I do feel like the difficulty curve as is is a bit too smooth.  I know I could jack it up myself by playing in higher-level regions, but I don't like dying, so I tend not to push myself very much.  Perhaps the mission system could push us harder?  For example, if each mission raises you the equivalent of one "level", perhaps by going out in the world and doing a little freeform exploring you get boosts equivalent to half a level so as to give you an advantage, but then this would be washed out by the level gain at the end.  So, for example, going straight from a level 15 mission to a level 16 mission would be really hard, but if I can't hack it I can go and do something that would raise me to level 16.5. Then when I finished the mission I would wind up at level 17 whether I'd done that or not.  That would remove the sense of obligation to seek out extra boosts and push you to take on bigger challenges at once, rather than wasting time on getting a bonus that will only help for the one mission, but still give you an out if you want to be careful.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2011, 11:37:25 PM by Martyn van Buren »

Offline Olreich

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2011, 11:37:25 PM »
God damn it, we players are kinda stupid --- if we go to a new area and the the monsters have gone from 120 health to 300 and then we need to find a spell that can do twice as much damage, we feel like badasses, but if the strong monsters come down to meet us then we feel like we're on a treadmill.  Honestly, even though I know it's the same thing really I still feel that way.  I guess on some level I want to look at a spell doing 9999 damage and think "Gosh, that's a big number."

No, we don't hate the grind. We hate the grind without a tangible (human-understandable) reward. With most RPGs, the bar keeps moving up, and you have to build your character to meet the bar, which gets something addictive going on in most player's heads, which is why we keep filling up the bar to the next level, more power, more skills, more damage, etc. Humans are wired for more, so the grind is easily turned into something we love, because we get that more at the end of it. Go watch some gambling studies and studies on the addictiveness of RPGs (mmos especially) for more info on that.

When the bar is suddenly not moving, but you're sucking more, and you can't see yourself getting more powerful (just back to as powerful as you were before). The grind becomes apparent, because it's no longer associated with that high of more power, instead you just get the grind. I really like that AVWW did this, because my personality is pretty much immune to that sort of addiction anyways, so that means the grind has to go away, instead of being hidden by addiction.

Offline Bluddy

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Re: Possible idea for gems
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2011, 07:59:53 AM »
The thoughts I keep coming back to are

1. It's preferable to make only some spell-gems become ineffective so the player has offensive options left.
2. How often do we want to force the player to come back to the caves? Can we make it so that the cycle doesn't feel artificial?
3. Is it a good thing to force the player to return to the caves at all?

Part 1 is addressed fairly well by the wear-down mechanic. Part 2 is also addressed, since the number of returns is flexible: it's determined by the capacity of the gems, but it's also dependent on the player's usage pattern. The really nice thing with this method is that the need to return for more raw materials doesn't feel artificial -- it doesn't happen every 10 turns, but each stone breaks down on its own clock which depends on when you obtained it and how much you've used it. The pattern is thus far less obvious.

But then I get to point 3. We don't really want to force the player to have to engage in this cycle if he doesn't want to. Or at least we want to give him as many options as possible. So perhaps we could let him either fix his broken stones using missions (as was suggested here) or by encountering a rare NPC or alternatively, to go to the caves to get new stones. The cool new spells would require going to the caves, but until a stone completely breaks down (which could be a very rare event) you'd have different options to deal with dead stones. The main point is that caves should be a good draw on their own. It's ok to give them a bonus component (as in new, rare stones) but they should have good enough content to attract the player to come in rather than forcing him to enter them.

Regarding hoarding, I do think the best way to prevent hoarding is to strictly limit the number of component gems one can hold to some low number of each one. And in terms of level gating, it might be enough to let the player know that lower level caves will lack rare gems and other bonuses. So a player can go to a lower level cave if he just wants to find basic component gems, but that's a choice that he's making. Alternatively, lower level caves can stop yielding gems.