Saturday, March 1, 2014

Progression and Abilities

Without any delay, you can check out the new build here if you want. The change list can be viewed in game by pressing the 'c' key...

Today I wanted to talk a little about one of the great pillars of RPG games, which is character progression. This is basically the way in which the game allows you to shape and change your character to be what you want over time. In a typical fantasy RPG, it usually takes the form of level ups which increase your power and unlock new abilities. However, this concept has become so popular that it has invaded the majority of modern games. Even sports games now allow up to level up the players on your team and upgrade their statistics to make them better players.

Incredibly overloaded WoW UI

However, I find myself questioning if it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Many modern games focus on having DEEP ability trees for players so as to increase the amount of options that the player has. However, this results in needing to spend a lot of time studying the differences between different paths of this tree to understand what you want to do. This can be a somewhat of a long and arduous process to understand, and often times the differences are subtle enough that you might not even care what they are. Don't get me wrong, I love traditional RPG progressions just as much as everyone else, but I am wondering if it is time for a change of pace.

There are a couple things that these progression trees bring to a game that I think are really fun and expand the value of the game. They are the following...
  1. They give you a sense of accomplishment as you play the game.
  2. They force you to make decisions which have consequence on how you play.
  3. They improve replay-ability since you can make different choices the next time you play.
I state several of my design goals with this game in this post. They included that it will include perma-death as well as that a full play through should be around 2 hours of time. As a result, the idea of a deep level up and skill tree doesn't really make sense for this game. Instead, it makes more sense to have a very large breadth of things the player can do so that each time they play the game it feels very different. So, this is going to be my goal with regards to progression of characters.

Diablo 2 ability tree and stats

Furthermore, with this new game, I am thinking about taking a much different path in which the character progression is not strongly tied to the character themselves. I am considering not having any experience points or level ups at all. Instead, the progression will be focused on the items that the player collects which will dramatically change how the game is played. The best items in the game will be hard to get, and you will only be able to get 1 or 2 of them in a single play through. So, you will have to chose which ones you want to go for at the start and work your way to it. I am still deciding exactly what that will look like. Perhaps I will add some sort of a crafting system that will allow you to progress towards the best items in the game by collecting their components. I will probably implement a few different options and see which one works best.

Let me know in the comments what are your favorite character progression implementations in games and what you like about them. Maybe there is something I can borrow!

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