Author Topic: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.  (Read 11805 times)

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,810
Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« on: March 05, 2012, 03:12:20 PM »
The Semi-Problem
----------------------
Right now, the only reason to kill small enemies is either to get health, or to get them out of your way if you need to get past them.  As has been discussed in other threads, there are pros and cons to this, and I myself even play the original Metroid in the same fashion. 

But right now, the problem is that too large a percentage of the playerbase seems incentivized to just avoid monsters when they would rather fight the monsters.  In other words, you get people who are spoiling for a fight, but not motivated to actually fight because of the lack of reward from mobs.  This makes them feel let-down by not being able to feel rewarded for playing the game they want to play.

Those of us that tend to monster avoidance and sniping anyhow, or who like fighting for the sake of fighting from time to time, of course aren't bothered by this and everything is fine for that crowd.  But what I'm trying to do is add in just a bit of extra incentive that will appeal to the folks who currently view combat with trash mobs as pointless beyond being the sole source of health when out in the field.

The Main General Avenue Of Solutions I Can Think Of
--------------------------------------------------------------
Broadly speaking, it seems like trash mobs need to drop something small in addition to health.  But what would it be, and what would it do?

EXP: If this were an RPG, they'd be dropping EXP.  But I in no way want to bring back EXP, because it simply doesn't have a place here, and even when we had EXP we didn't let trash mobs drop it because it's far too tempting just to grind trash mobs, then.  I don't like anything along these lines at all; it's just not where I want to go with this game.

Cave-Story-Style-Powerup-Shards: In Cave Story, monsters all explode into little triforce-looking things that powerup your currently equipped weapon upon collection.  That's handy because it incentivizes killing trash mobs (and so I do, there, where in Metroid I do not bother).  And in CS, it also encourages players to avoid taking any hits from enemies, because every time they do, their currently-equipped weapon loses some of that collected strength.  This plays out perfectly when combined with a max weapon level of 3, since that means that you're almost never incentivized to just massively grind monsters in CS, and past a certain point there is literally no more grinding that can net you any benefit whatsoever... but at the same time, the next time you take damage you are going to have to collect more shards, which means that shard-collection is perpetual unless you NEVER take damage.  This means that most good players should be killing a lot of trash mobs at first, and then some-but-not-all on an ongoing basis.  What a tidy feedback loop!

Currency: In a lot of RPGs, you also get GP or whatever from beating small monsters.  There is less incentive to grind this compared to EXP, because there tends to be a limited number of things to spend GP on.  That's great, because it means you can't just ignore trash mobs completely, but it also means that once you've got all the equipment purchased that you need for now, grinding for more GP seems really hollow and stupid.  So you move on, naturally, until you next find yourself in a place where you don't have enough GP to buy something you want.

How These Broad Ideas Could Apply To AVWW
------------------------------------------------------

EXP: Like I said, I don't want to go there.

Cave-Story-Style-Powerup-Shards: Well, we already have enchants and upgrade stones for upgrading your character.  And you can upgrade spells themselves, plus you can find various supplies to help you.  That seems... quite complex enough, to be frank.  It seem far too much to be adding on some sort of Cave-Story-Style powerup for your "current weapon" (which there is no concept of here, presenting another fundamental problem with that anyhow).  So what else could we be improving, if not your weapons?  Well, again, it could go to some sort of base character stats... but that overlaps too much with upgrade stones.  I think that would make decision-making too hard for players.  It could fill some sort of "overcharge" bar that you could use for some sort of extra-powerful one-off attacks, I guess.  But how exactly to activate that, and show and make it clear to players, and make it balanced so that players don't just one-shot bosses is tricky.  That also gets us back into "ammo" territory, where some players will feel the need to always be at full ammo before doing anything, so they'll go out grinding trash mobs even when they don't want to, "just to be safe."  So everything I can think of in this category encourages the wrong sort of behavior, ie encouraging people to do things that they will find un-fun.  The whole premise of this thread is trying to find ways to encourage players to do things they will find fun, anyway.

Currency: The main form of small currency in AVWW is consciousness shards, of course.  And those are useful only for guardian powers, but that's a fairly central part of the game (or will be, even more, anyhow).  Right now the problem is that you can get larger amounts of currency just by focusing on bosses and exploration and ignoring the trash mobs, though.  So if consciousness shards are your goal, we'd really have to change the acquisition mechanics to make that work... and I think that then kills a big part of the fun rewards of exploration and bosses.  That would imply that we need another currency system instead, but now we're adding complexity again.  For instance, if monsters dropped Skulls or something (one per trash mob), players would just kill the easiest monsters to stock up on them.  So it would have to be something that could vary with the difficulty of the monster itself, which gets us back into a true currency system like GP or consciousness shards.  But what would you spend these on?  Adding in major new mechanics to the game for the sake of this seems like it would take forever to balance and just ups the general complexity quotient to an unpleasant degree.


Conclusion
------------

Right now I don't see an elegant solution, but I'm sure there must be one.  The ideal solution:

1. Can be implemented really quickly.
2. Doesn't require too many changes to the existing game, which is working well in a rewards-sense other than this.
3. Is easy for new players to grasp.
4. Provides an incentive to fight SOME trash mobs, but never such a strong incentive that players are trying to grind them all.

Thoughts?
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Terraziel

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 314
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2012, 03:32:22 PM »
I say this from the perspective of someone who doesn't need anymore reason to fight monsters than there already is, I view enemies as obstacles to deal with whilst completing whatever my goal is at the time.

The only solution which leaps to mind is a currency system with no point to it.

That's a bit hyperbolic, but if for example Enemies dropped a health-connected quantity of "consciousness dust",  which could be then used on minor guardian powers, say revealing the next few squares of the map, or instantly scouting a building, things which whilst perhaps useful no one is likely to grind for.

Offline Martyn van Buren

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2012, 03:42:01 PM »
I'm with Terr in not feeling a need for more trash fights, and I'm wondering if there's a way to make these more important without paying players to kill them. That always annoys me in RPGs --- I prefer stealth and avoidance strategies and I think they're often harder, but most games penalize you for using them because you're weaker when you get to the inevitable boss fights.

I was thinking, would it be practical to rejigger map generation so you're more like to find mobs actually blocking your way? Since if understand now all areas are a mix of handcrafted and procedurally generated building blocks, if there were a simple guarding mechanic you could have mobs holding choke points like narrow entrances in buildings or the tops of cliffs, making it hard to pass without dealing with them either by fighting or luring them away and then slipping past.  This might create a more organic incentive to fight minor mobs.

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,810
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2012, 03:42:54 PM »
I say this from the perspective of someone who doesn't need anymore reason to fight monsters than there already is, I view enemies as obstacles to deal with whilst completing whatever my goal is at the time.

The only solution which leaps to mind is a currency system with no point to it.

That's a bit hyperbolic, but if for example Enemies dropped a health-connected quantity of "consciousness dust",  which could be then used on minor guardian powers, say revealing the next few squares of the map, or instantly scouting a building, things which whilst perhaps useful no one is likely to grind for.

That's actually not a bad idea -- I'm in the same camp as you in how I view trash mobs, by the way.

But yeah, granting super minor one-off abilities through some sort of "dust" or whatever might be a good way to encourage that sort of thing.  Or we could even have enemies all have a low chance of dropping some sort of rare-but-very-low-powered spellscroll that does the same thing, skipping the middle step.  The problem is that then there's not a continuous sense of progress, even though it is simpler to implement for us and understand for a new player.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,810
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2012, 03:46:12 PM »
I'm with Terr in not feeling a need for more trash fights, and I'm wondering if there's a way to make these more important without paying players to kill them. That always annoys me in RPGs --- I prefer stealth and avoidance strategies and I think they're often harder, but most games penalize you for using them because you're weaker when you get to the inevitable boss fights.

Agreed, I think the same way and also hate that in many RPGs.

I was thinking, would it be practical to rejigger map generation so you're more like to find mobs actually blocking your way? Since if understand now all areas are a mix of handcrafted and procedurally generated building blocks, if there were a simple guarding mechanic you could have mobs holding choke points like narrow entrances in buildings or the tops of cliffs, making it hard to pass without dealing with them either by fighting or luring them away and then slipping past.  This might create a more organic incentive to fight minor mobs.

That's a really interesting point!  I already have really been wanting to redo monster AI in terms of cliffs in general, because too many times the monsters wind up all at the bottom.  So they need to not walk off some cliffs, but at the same time if you are down a small ledge they need to jump down to get you, like they do now.  So that's tricky to program in a generalized sense.  But having most non-flying non-boss monsters specifically guard certain areas strikes me as even more interesting.  Logically speaking, if there is a section of houses or something, the monster could hang out there and if you want to go in the house you have to deal with them.

That's... way more interesting than paying the player!
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Martyn van Buren

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 642
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2012, 04:56:26 PM »
Cool!  I think it could do a lot --- I was just thinking of trying to climb a tall cliff with a skelebot sniper at the top, or the fairly classic platforming situation of a melee enemy patrolling a small platform.  Skelebot dwarves could be quite nasty if you have to get at them from below.

Offline HellishFiend

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 758
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2012, 05:36:46 PM »
Long post, there is a TLDR/conclusion at the bottom.

I'll start off with a few of my opinions so you have perspective on where I'm coming from:

RPGs like Xenosaga/FFXIII: Annoyed by the fact that the fields are set up to encourage sneaky fight avoidance, yet the level up system is set up to encourage fighting them. I ignore the stealth and enemy avoidance options and fight for maximum EXP. Some lost potential in the game design, but still fun.

Stealth games like the classic Metal Gear Solid: Love the fact that encounters are so difficult and punishing so as to reward stealth. The reward and satisfaction for killing an enemy comes in the form of easier navigation of the map, not exp or items. The satisfaction is equally great when you can navigate an area without killing.

Isometric perspective action games/RPGs like Diablo: Love, love, LOVE grinding and the sense of progress you get by getting small amounts of exp and gold for each kill. I generally explore every map to its fullest and kill everything I find. Even more rewarding to find rare drops.

So I guess you can say I am capable of enjoying any game the way it was meant to be enjoyed. These days though, the isometric style action rpg leveling system seems to be finding its way into more and more types of games. Thats a good and bad thing, depending on your perspective.

To me, at the very start, AVWW feels like the kind of game that should have a leveling and grinding system, and it will be confusing to new players why one does not exist. As you get deeper into the game though, the player can realize why the game doesnt have one, and doesnt need one. That being said, if the primary goal is to hook new players, the game should have some form of reward (no matter how trivial) for killing random monsters, for the sole purpose of establishing a sense of progression with every action you take in the game. If the goal is to keep the spirit of the game intact, that system should also not encourage endless grinding by providing endless incentive to do so.


For the purpose of maintaining the design of the game and making it fun for long term players, I think the solution lies somewhere along the
lines of making it more desirable to avoid random enemies, to the point of giving you a sense of accomplishment from avoiding them and "getting on with the game" rather than having a trivial reward for wasting time fighting them (you could easily explore the map faster yourself than by grinding enemies to have a scroll to do it for you).

So, I propose a best of both worlds solution: a rubber band system. There are several ways it could work, and therein lies the true beauty of it. For the sake of keeping the spirit of the game intact, the system should probably affect only the player's interactions with the random enemies, and not with bosses. To me, a good rubber band system is one where you are incentivized for keeping the slider in the middle.

One example would be, at the left side of the slider, the player has moderately reduced stats (this could be explained by the glyph not being fully attuned to its owner yet). Not an ideal situation. As the player kills monsters and moves towards the center of the slider, he gains his stats back, until they are at normal levels. If the player continues to kill lots of random monsters, the slider moves past center to the right, and something bad happens, like monsters getting stronger, or the player's stats going back down. If the player is on the right side of the slider, it will slowly "rubber band" back to the center as they explore new areas and successfully avoid killing too many monsters (other things could cause the rubber band effect too, not just exploration). It's debatable as to whether or not the slider should ever move back towards the left past center except on death.

Another example would be giving the player an ambient light charge for being in the center of the slider.
Another would be making the monsters drop more health orbs at the center of the slider.
Another would be giving a minor consciousness shard or upgrade stone income for being at the center of the slider.
If you wanted to go crazy with it, you could even allow the player to "equip" themselves with different sliders, or even unequip them entirely if they dont want to bother with it.

The point is, it would be best if the player were rewarded for killing monsters to a point, and then incentivized to avoid them, or penalized for killing too many, until they "rubber band" back to the middle of the slider. I think it would actually be kind of cool to feel "crap, I have to kill this enemy" in a few cases because of your slider position. In any case, an important component of this is that people see some kind of element of progression as soon as they start killing monsters, and wind up realizing the true depth of the game before seeing that the it is indeed not an action rpg at its core.
Time to roll out another ball of death.

Offline Dizzard

  • Sr. Member Mark II
  • ****
  • Posts: 380
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2012, 05:40:21 PM »
I'm not overly keen on the cave story idea. I think I'd rather see something more interesting. (maybe the currency....) I mean don't we already have enchants covering the concept of power ups?

Hey I heard you like power ups, so I put some power ups on your power ups.

I don't like the idea of every time you need to incentivise something, just give power ups....there's only so many power ups you can give out before it starts getting ridiculous.

As for my actual dealings with mobs right now, I actually feel the opposite to what was pointed out in this thread. Moreso than ever I feel like I'm spending more time fighting mobs than I did before. A fair deal of it is probably because it's not as easy to run fast across nodes as it used to be. I think if I fought mobs anymore than I did already I'd be moving very slow.

Edit: I guess you could always some sort of collectibles that drop from minor mobs (like trading cards or fancy artwork to display in your settlement on a tall banner or something) Or maybe the minor mobs could drop a special currency/material that can be used to restore cultural art and artefacts from past time periods. (so you find these broken/worn artefacts in old ruins/buildings and then use the currency/material to work on restoring them) People like customization and collectibles, so maybe if you give them some objects they can place in thier settlements like banners or totems/statues that are strongly related to something in-game or look important/special.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2012, 05:59:35 PM by Dizzard »

Offline BobTheJanitor

  • Master Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,689
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2012, 06:27:33 PM »
The Cave Story system worked really well for that game. I could see it working in AVWW but not without a lot of work to get it in place. Part of the fun of that system, for example, is that each level of weapon looks and sounds different, and that's a lot of extra art and sound work that there's likely no time to fiddle with right now. Not to mention all the rebalancing involved.

I still wouldn't mind NPCs dropping mana orbs from time to time, but probably mostly in longer fights where it takes many mana bars to dent the boss's health bar.

The currency token trade in style system is neat, but figuring out things to buy with it is rather tricky. The map-filler is decent but it undermines the exploration part of the game, which is already sort of falling behind.

Buying cosmetic things for your settlement or your characters or whatever would be fun, but that's new artwork. So again, probably no time for it.

You could buy short term buffs with it, like a health regen, or a super mana regen, or a high damage buff or whatever, and then save them up for big boss fights. But if they're powerful enough to be desirable, then they might end up becoming required to fight lieutenants or overlords, and then suddenly you have to grind monsters to collect all the buffs to be able to win. Probably not desirable.

You could buy back-story with it. Unlock pages of lore. I recall something like this being in way back in the first beta, actually, but since it was removed and hasn't come back, I guess that wasn't a popular idea.

And you could just go back to making all scrolls craftable with dust like they used to be, but have monsters drop it instead of ore nodes. Then just add a whole bunch more random little abilities besides the ones that already exist. Things that are useful but that you don't want the player using endlessly. Kill all the (non-boss) monsters in a single room, but get no drops from them. Stun all the monsters so you can kill them instead. Brainwash a nearby monster to fight for you. Confuse all monsters in an area to fight each other. Become invisible for a little while. Become invincible for a little while. Give yourself a no-mana cost shield that lasts until taking X damage. Etc. etc.

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,810
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2012, 06:33:58 PM »
Wow -- as usual, lots of really insightful thoughts to mull over further.  Thanks everyone for your thoughts already. :)

I think that, right now, what I want to do is go with Martyn van Buren's solution of making mobs a little more territorial, and thus inherently the interest factor goes up.  In Zelda I must kill guy X because I have to get past him; that's it.  That, or I need some peace and quiet so I can look at my surroundings and try to figure out the puzzle in the room, anyway.  There's only sometimes a question of me running around a monster, because just running from here to there isn't easy.

Along with shifts to make more of the parts of the world more distinct and interesting, I think that will help: that skelebot is on the cliff, and climbing the cliff is hard enough for me already, ergo I kill said skelebot so I can climb the cliff in peace and not wind up in pieces at the bottom.

That's phase 1, and I think that's required no matter what else happens.  Beyond that, I think so far that HellishFiend has had the most interesting idea.  I really like the rubber-band concept, but I am a little wary of having yet another interface element to explain to new players.  The question of "hey, is it important to kill trash mobs or not" is of course an important early game question, and I guess if the game is having the mobs more in the way that will become more self-evident.  But if that's still not enough... well, something along those lines to reward "some but not too much" killing of trash mobs is a good thing.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline HellishFiend

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 758
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2012, 06:40:05 PM »
Glad you like the idea.  :)

One of the beauties of it is that there are so many ways to set it up, that I'm sure there is a way that would be easy to present it to the player and for them to grasp at the start. There is also a lot of potential for it to be much more meaningful to the gameplay and/or progression than trivial reward systems. Does the game need another meaningful gameplay/progression element? Maybe, maybe not, but the system can always be tweaked to make it more or less of an impact.  :)
Time to roll out another ball of death.

Offline keith.lamothe

  • Arcen Games Staff
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 19,425
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2012, 06:41:10 PM »
Random thought: grant enchant points for killing trash.  Scaling it so that going after containers is still generally faster.  Since monsters don't respawn outside of boss (and npc-rescue) rooms, grinding involves exploring new areas.  Which is what the current container-pickup system also requires, roughly speaking.

Anyway, that would be the "occasionally get a bit of interesting procedural loot" thing.

Could also drop 1-2 shards to go along with it, so that over time you'll get at least a downpayment on your next wind-shelter or whatever.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games? Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,810
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2012, 06:46:25 PM »
HellishFiend: Yep, that's definitely a cool thing that it could be applied in a lot of ways.  Finding the one best way is tricky, of course.

Keith: Yeah, I thought about that, but it seems like in multiplayer that could really go nuts.  I'm not sure.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline HellishFiend

  • Hero Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 758
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2012, 06:48:01 PM »
Random thought: grant enchant points for killing trash.  Scaling it so that going after containers is still generally faster.  Since monsters don't respawn outside of boss (and npc-rescue) rooms, grinding involves exploring new areas.  Which is what the current container-pickup system also requires, roughly speaking.

Anyway, that would be the "occasionally get a bit of interesting procedural loot" thing.

Could also drop 1-2 shards to go along with it, so that over time you'll get at least a downpayment on your next wind-shelter or whatever.

That's a good idea if the player maintains the philosophy of only killing the monsters that it needs to, but the more manic players will kill every monster, not realizing that they'd be better off spending their time on other activities in the game.

In my opinion, whatever gets implemented, needs to be something that has no chance of being misinterpreted as something that can or should be grinded. As an action RPG fan, I have enough trouble convincing myself not to kill every random monster in AVWW without being constantly rewarded for it.  :)
Time to roll out another ball of death.

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,810
Re: Brainstorming ideas for minor rewards for defeating enemies.
« Reply #14 on: March 05, 2012, 06:52:43 PM »
Yeah, I'm the same way.  The lack of rewards in Mario and Metroid are the only things that keep me from killing all those monsters, too.  I tend not to fall in health much in Metroid, and I don't use missiles except on doors or bosses, so most of the time "there are no rewards" in Metroid for me.  And that works out just fine, because dodging enemies is interesting, too.

In both Metroid and AVWW, having enemies be the sole source of health replenishment does create kind of a rubber-band system right there, it occurs to me.  If you are not at full health, grind away.  If you are, it's absolutely fruitless.  Maybe what's needed is already there...
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!