# KEEPING IT SMALL

### Statistics and numbers at the beginning of the game

• Jabbo
• 07/13/2008 12:00 AM
The universal rule of video games is that people who play them are exceedingly impatient. This is a little less true of RPG gamers, because we have a higher level of tolerance for in-depth stories and get a little more invested in what's going on. But not at the beginning of the game. There are countless articles that could stem from this very fact alone, but I'm going to talk about numbers.

When the gameplay finally starts, most people are going to whip out the status menu and check out their character stats, just to get a feel for what's going on. Two things can happen here: the player will either be very interested in the stats and begin to get a good feel for the menu and such, or they will say "Good gracious, there are far too many numbers on this screen! I don't want to look at that."

Obviously you don't want option B. You want people to see your status numbers and actually care.

So how do you accomplish that? There are really two issues here, quantity and values.

Quantity of Stats

Quantity refers to how many stats you have on screen at once. Say you have your standard Att/Def/Spd/Def/Int lineup. That's all well and good, but since you aren't a simpleton, you decide to make the combat formulas pretty complex. Your damage is actually calculated from your Power (Pow) stat, which is something like Attack squared (Att^2).

I'm going to go ahead and say this now: there is absolutely no reason for you to display the Power stat. Okay, that's not entirely true, but there's no reason to group it together with the others. Keep your primary stats separate from your secondary stats, because when it comes down to it, the player wants to be able to know what's going on but they don't want it shoved in their face. Alternately, don't display your secondary stats at all. Keep them as hidden formulas for the really dedicated people to figure out.

Stat Values

The values of stats are what numbers your initial stats start at. Do you start with 8 Attack? 22? 87? Depending on your formulas, this value can be anything you want it to be and not make a bit of difference in gameplay. So it doesn't matter, right? Wrong. When a player opens up their menu for the first time and sees five or six mid-range two digit numbers staring them in the face, all they're going to remember are vague generalities.

The initial values of your statistics should be as low as you can possibly make them. The main reason for this is to reduce complexity so that players actually understand their own stats. When a character levels up, you want to the player to see "+1 Attack!" and equate that with "Okay, now I'm doing 2-3 more damage." I mean, you do want the player to care about the numbers, right?

You might be saying "But I want leveling up to seem like a bigger payoff than just a few points, so why not inflate the numbers a little?" Because when it boils down to it the player doesn't care how it SEEMS, they really do just care about how much quicker or easier they can take down enemies. There's no reason you have to keep the numbers small throughout the entire game; you can make them as large as you want as the game goes on. It's just the first impression that matters.

This also applies to quantities of damage. Yes, Final Fantasy games traditionally start with you dealing 150-200 damage. But it doesn't take a genius to realize that the difference between 153 and 187 damage is a pretty significant amount. But in the heat of battle, the player is going to see these two values and think "eh, dealing 150-200 damage-ish." If you scale this down, it's about the same ratio as dealing 8 to 10 damage. And when you're dealing 8 to 10 damage, it really does matter to the player whether they score an 8 or a 10. So unless you worship the Final Fantasy series and consider it absolutely perfect in every way, please don't copy this aspect.

Plus, the lower the stats start out, the happier the player will be at the end when they think "I used to be dealing 12 damage and fighting rabbits, and now I'm dealing upwards of 8000 and battling gods!"

Conclusion

Simplicity is easy for the impatient player to digest, and there's nothing wrong with trimming your numbers down to make things simpler. You want the player to really connect with your stats and understand them, because we're RPG people and we really just want to level up and get better. And we want to actually notice when we do get better and by how much. So please keep it simple at the beginning. There's plenty of time for complexity later.

## Posts

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Feldschlacht IV
jazzy nyc
671
This is a pretty refreshing and different article, and it introduces a good way of approaching things as well!
great game i love it
"I used to be dealing 12 damage and fighting rabbits, and now I'm dealing upwards of 8000 and battling gods!"

*cough*Valkyrie Profile*cough*
Yes. I like games with low statuses, i especially love when i can start the game with about 8 HP ^-^
It feels like bot i am weak, and i can get a lot stronger, and it so much intelligible.
(still, Chrono Trigger's statuses, at least for me, have the best phormulaes of all time, and it's a game where 999 HP is not weak, and i never seen an enemy attack dealing more that 1050 damage )
Low status, i believe, also make it easier for the game designer himself. It's like simplifying fractions.
Oh. My. God.
I sound so retarded, much like a caveman.
I can't believe my english once was like this. (Well, and it probably still is very lame anyways)
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