[POLL] HOW OFTEN SHOULD EQUIPMENT CHANGE?

Poll

How often should a single piece of equipment change during a RPG (talking about "power levels" and not equipment variety here)? - Results

Three or more times per level of characters
0
0%
Two times per level of characters
0
0%
Once per level of characters
0
0%
Once every TWO character levels
1
7%
Once every THREE character levels
1
7%
Once every FOUR character levels
4
30%
Once every FIVE character levels
4
30%
Once every SIX character levels
1
7%
Once every SEVEN character levels
0
0%
Once every EIGHT character levels
2
15%

Posts

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While working on my project database, this question came up: How often should the equipment of party members change in a standard RPG?

Im not talking about the different types of equipment (like Weapons, Armor etc.) but about the "power levels" of just one equipment type.

Easy example: Lets focus just on Armor. How often should the player find new armor? Of course there are different subtypes of armor with special abilities and such, but basically - armor is (like all equipment) gradually getting better over the course of the game. So, we can say armor comes in various "power levels" - and you encounter new pieces of armor every now and then.

Im asking you to define this "every now and then" - please take a look at the poll option and place your decision - Thanks!
I voted "once per four character levels".

In a game with max level 99 this would mean there are 25 different pieces of armor and the player would find a new armor every 4 levels.

Personally I think thats quite a good number. Keep in mind that I am not talking about variety here. There could be another 24 helmets, gloves, boots, weapons, shields, rings and so on.

Tell me about your choice!
Marrend
Guardian Gorgon of the Description Thread
18308
The general idea I've had is that players would gain access to equipment at the start of a chapter. I only usually have three chapters to a game, but an additional set is available after completing certain side-quests, or what-not. How many levels would represent a chapter largely differs, but I usually assume that characters would end a dungeon at levels that are divisible by ten. That last point might, in itself, be a problem, but that's what I've been doing.
@Marrend: Ah I forgot completely about the chapter based progression. Thats really a good point Marrend! Im glad that we can comment on polls just like any other thread.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5146
The length of a level is really arbitrary, you can increase 15 levels per dungeon or increase by one level every 15 dungeons.

What you want is for the upgrade to be strong enough that it feels meaningful, and to last long enough that it feels like it's worth paying money for. This depends on how much it costs though! If you get new equipment every dungeon, which is about the most often you can possibly give out upgrades in most games, it's going to mean that you have to make them really cheap, and also mean that you have to increase the strength of the monsters by a lot every dungeon.

At the same time, though, if you overdo the thing about making it strong enough to feel meaningful, then every upgrade will feel (and maybe even literally be) mandatory. This isn't usually what you want, unless you're making an extremely difficult game. You don't want the player to always be able to easily afford everything, because if they can always get everything, why do you even have money instead of just giving them these upgrades automatically for free? And if you force them grind money to get everything before moving on, they're gonna get annoyed at the mandatory grind. So typically you want them to forced to choose which items to buy, but able to do okay with those choices as long as they choose intelligently.

If your equipment is obtained by a different method than buying it with gold, most of the above actually still applies. The player still has to work for the gear and probably shouldn't be getting 100% of what's available, for the same reasons, no matter what method he actually has to use to get it, whether that's a crafting system, or an arena, or whatever. For this reason, giving out 100% of your equipment through non-randomized treasure chests in a linear game is usually a pretty bad idea. Treasure chest equipment can be a nice freebie, and is interesting when it helps make up for equipment you may have skipped buying or earning, but it's no longer nice-feeling or interesting if you get everything that way.

If you wait too long between upgrades, the player will feel like he's making no progress, which is a bad feeling. The upgrade will also feel like a very sudden massive boost in power, which will require a similarly massive boost in enemy power, compared to the "normal" rate of progression that the player will be accustomed to. However, these problems can be mitigated by upgrades through other methods besides new equipment - like new characters, new classes, new abilities, talent points, better healing items, better food buffs, new spell runes, unlocked combos, etc.
Thank you for your detailled answer LockeZ. Sadly my english is not so good to formulate my thoughts in a more sophisticated way, but i guess my point is clear:

The reason why I am tying equipment to character levels is, that in most RPGs (or action RPGs) I played - it is done exactly that way. The people who created those games had a plan of the overall complexity. no company builds a game without knowing the whole picture. but many fan based games do. their authors build the game as they see fit and this leads to adding something new every now and then without knowing if it fits the progression curve of the players, not to speak about balancing or if it is enough (or too much) to fill the whole game.

So, what I am talking about is how to fill a game with proper character equipment while keeping the whole picture and the party progression curve in mind. all the time. I encountered many games when your main character reaches like 20 attack and you will still be wielding a ATK 18 sword. the next available weapoin will be a 20-22 ATK sword that you can either find or buy in the next store.

One of my favorite examples is final fantasy adventure (gameboy, back in the days). there where not even a dozen of weapons (of one type) in the game, but it was enough for that game. every time you reached a shop that featured a new set of equipment you got that feeling that you rached a new episode.

In Secret of Mana 2 (Seiken Densetsu 3, SNES) it was different: there where something like 2 dozen of equipment pieces per character. the game was also much longer than FFA but the timing and distribution of equipment was just right. again: it always felt like a new episode is beginning when you found a upgraded set of equipment.

two games with varying length and varying amount of equipment. but two games that had an episodical feel to it - regarding gaining, using, outwearing and upgrading equipment. but in the end, you can tone it down to "get a new weapon every x levels". because both games did it more or less this way (you have to be level X to get through the snow field etc.)

@LockeZ: So what you say actually matches my initial statement: you gain equipment based on episodes or level intervalls. what i also like is the staement that you say: make your players work for it, make it feel important. but dont make it overimportant and dont overuse equipment (do not offer them too much, or too fast or for a low price).

The question though - is still the same: How much equipment do I offer my players during a RPGs. Yes, it depends on the length of the game (see examples above) you can also condsense or stretch distribution of equipment ( make sure that its still fun and challenging to your players).

Maybe this poll would have been better as a thread instead. Maybe the question cannot be answered as it really depends on the style and size of the game. But i believe there must be some benchmarks as a general rule.

And another thing comes up my mind: Can there really be too much equipment? take a look at the modern MMOs, take a look at Diablo 1-3 - players literally wade through piles of equipment. Does this harm a game? Or is it one of the factors that makes a game addicting? Instead of having 1-2 dozen important items - why not confront the players with a myriad of trash items and let them sort out the really good ones?

questions questions - but i guess boards like this are about game design theory!

thanks for any participation!
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5146
Your english is completely fine, I would not have known it wasn't your first language if you didn't say so.

Final Fantasy Adventure did something interesting with weapons - almost every single time you got an upgrade, it was a different type of weapon than the previous upgrade, and this required you to change your play style.

This did two things. First, it added some variety to the gameplay. But secondly, it turned each weapon upgrade into a choice. Did you want to upgrade to a new weapon you were less familiar with, but did more damage? Often it would be harder to use, especially at first. I like it when things the player chooses to do are actual choices, instead of things that everyone will do the same. When a weapon upgrade is better in every way than the one you had before, it's not really a choice, it's just inevitable that you'll upgrade. The only question is whether it's worth the gold.

This sort of different play style with each upgrade is an easy and obvious thing to do in an action RPG like FF Adventure, but you can also do it in an RPG with menu-based battles, in a different way. It's common to have weapons with special effects, to have weapons that teach skills, and to have skills that can only be used with certain weapon types.

When you do this, choosing how long to make the player wait between upgrades becomes more of a matter of how many battles you get to fight. You want the player to feel like he's just gotten comfortable with the weapon. Exactly how long that takes, unfortunately, depends somewhat on the player. But as a good rule of thumb, you probably want the player to have had experienced at least a few of each major category of battle your game offers - if you have a lot of battles against single enemies, medium groups, large groups, bosses, enemies that summon allies, enemies that heal, enemies that use AOE, and enemies that inflict ailments, you want the player to experience each of these with each play style. If you only have half a dozen battles in the game against enemies that summon allies, though, then those aren't a "major type," so you really don't need to worry about including enough of them in between each weapon upgrade. You'll end up with the upgrades too far apart if you do.

With a plain upgrade, I'd probably base my timing not on being able to experience all the major types of battles, but on... just feeling like buying the item was worth it, like I said before.

It seems easier to me to space out equipment upgrades when you obtain them through some sort of more complex method like a crafting system. If you have to work for each weapon and each piece of armor individually, instead of getting them in groups, it becomes much easier to gauge how often to put an upgrade. Because you just put them constantly, all the time. The player should almost always be on the verge of getting an upgrade, and have at least a couple others he's working towards. This is the idea of micro-goals: give the player something he or she can be working towards at all times, something obtainable in the very near or even immediate future. They shouldn't ever feel like all their goals are a long way off, because that's discouraging and can make them stop playing.
To avoid the whole "equipment in treasure chests being worthless if you purchased it earlier" issue, you can use conditional statements like "If 'Leather Armor' in Inventory" or "If Character(X) has 'Leather Armor' equipped", "Player (Gold or some other item to replace armor) + X". Otherwise just give them some sweet, supple leather. It helps with the linear equipment progression issue, and helps prevent people from feeling ripped off.

In terms of WHEN you should get new equipment, it really depends on how many types of equipment any given character can use. I like to give each of my characters at least two or three different options for weapons, minimum. Example: Say you have a Holy Knight character. Overly cliched, but that's not the point. You could give them the option of Swords, Magic Tomes, and Axes. Swords are your standard Attack equipment. Magic Tomes strike all enemies, but do much less damage or are based on magic. Axes do 2.5 times the damage of swords, but are less accurate. The increased damage makes the trade-off worth it. If you do that, you might want the character finding lots of equipment, such as five different elemental magic tomes per every four character levels, two swords, and an axe or two. The player has to choose which is best for the situation or play style, and in the case of tomes, needs to pick an element that will benefit them on the current quest or dungeon.

You can also have better armor reduce your agility, or some armor providing a little defense and magic defense as opposed a lot of defense. A player finds some armor that gives them 20 more defense points, but is it worth the -12 agility trade-off? Or do you want to survive magic attacks more than physical ones? Once again, the player can choose based on their own play style or current dungeon needs. Mage tower? Take the magic-boosting armor. Strong boss that was already faster than you? Take the strong heavy armor.

While this could technically be considered an 'illusion' of choice, due to the fact that the player may feel forced to choose a certain type of equipment for that part of the game, it does add a lot of variety.
Well, one can always fall back on the ol' town-dungeon-town-dungeon recipe, and provide new equipment in each new town-dungeon segment.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5146
A complete set of new equipment after every single dungeon is pretty obnoxious, actually. That's exactly the level of frequency that makes me feel like the upgrades weren't worth it.

author=Malagar
And another thing comes up my mind: Can there really be too much equipment? take a look at the modern MMOs, take a look at Diablo 1-3 - players literally wade through piles of equipment. Does this harm a game? Or is it one of the factors that makes a game addicting? Instead of having 1-2 dozen important items - why not confront the players with a myriad of trash items and let them sort out the really good ones?
In Diablo games, 90% of what you get is not really equipment. It's completely useless and no one would ever wear it. The only reason it exists is to make the player go back to town more often to sell it. The poor-quality equipment could be changed to unwearable items like fangs and hides that you have to take back to town and sell, and there would be no difference whatsoever. Of the things you get that are usable, you're still typically not getting *upgrades* for each slot more than maybe twice per act. MMOs work similarly, giving you a bunch of shit that's there just to be sold, and a bunch of additional shit that you can't use because you're not a rogue and you can't trade to a rogue so you have to just sell to a vendor for gold.

Giving you stuff that would be good if you'd picked a different class when you first started the game creates an interesting effect, though. It makes the player feel like they won something valuable. It's a good feeling. It doesn't feel as good as getting an item they can actually use, but it feels way better than getting 4500 gold. Watch this video by Extra Credits, it might surprise you.

In Borderlands, on the other hand, the game gives you a new gun every 60 seconds, and 90% of what you get is usable. This creates a very different dynamic. One where I spend more of the game comparing equipment than any other activity. This is... honestly kind of obnoxious? I don't inherently dislike it, but I feel like, uh, the drop rate on equipment could be 1/20 as high as it actually is in the game, or even lower, and it would be a better game for it.
Oh this a nice thread for me to rant a little about modern RPGs.

What is really bothering me about equips recently (not only in modern retail games but also in indie RPGs this is often a huge issue) is that they hardly have any meaning at all. You just come to a new town, buy all the new equipment stuff and continue. You won't really have the feeling that you are now much stronger thanks to the equipments.
Why do these games even have equips in the first place? They could just remove the whole equipment system altogether.

Of course one larger problem is that most RPGs these days are too linear. There is nothing like an optional cave with hard monsters which you instantly die the first time you visit it, then buy some good equip later, come to back to it and really feel how much it made you stronger.
Another thing that adds to the problem is that usually the equip available in shops are affordable right away. You wouldn't return to a town later to buy equip because previously you couldn't afford them. Most games really direct you so clearly that it will always be the same set of equips you have when clearing a dungeon.

Some games try to make equipments more unique by mixing stats but often they fail badly at it and really just confuse the player further. Whether the player uses that sword that gives ATK+10 DEF+5 or the one that gives ATK+11 Dodge+5% often really doesn't make any noticable difference.

Alone the poll in this thread is already bound to lead to a fail RPG. As LockeZ already correctly stated, there can't be an arbitrary "every x levels a new weapon" number that automatically leads to good result.

If you want to make an actually good equipment system you should try to accomplish the following:

1. Only add new equips when it's actually noticable that they are much stronger than the correct ones (at least double if not triple power, e.g. 5 -> 15 -> 45 -> 135 -> 405 -> 1215).

2. Do NEVER think of "every X levels", design it around the dungeons instead. In a part of the game where there is a lot of backtracking, the monster difficulty won't increase much, no need to add new equips here. But now the party is supposed to visit a hard dungeon they previously couldn't beat? A good time to offer new equips.

3. If the new equip is not 2-3 times more powerful than the previous one, make it work noticably different. Do not just shift random bonus stats in, those are pointless! Rather do something like one weapon that attacks twice and consequently can kill 2 weaker monster in one turn and a weapon that attack all or a row of monsters. Use elements or weapons that are particularly good against a certain race.
IMPORTANT: Different doesn't mean complicated! Keep stats as simple as possible! Each equipment TYPE should only be able to raise 2 stats, even special treasure chest ones. Think of an easy to understand system beforehand!

Basically your goal would be: If you removed all weapon sprites and gave all character random equip, then go into a battle and let your friend play the battle, he should be able to tell exactly which equips the character have equipped simply but how the damage is.

If you can't accomplish something like this, might as well remove the whole equipment system as stated above.
author=LockeZ
A complete set of new equipment after every single dungeon is pretty obnoxious, actually. That's exactly the level of frequency that makes me feel like the upgrades weren't worth it.

author=Malagar
And another thing comes up my mind: Can there really be too much equipment? take a look at the modern MMOs, take a look at Diablo 1-3 - players literally wade through piles of equipment. Does this harm a game? Or is it one of the factors that makes a game addicting? Instead of having 1-2 dozen important items - why not confront the players with a myriad of trash items and let them sort out the really good ones?

In Diablo games, 90% of what you get is not really equipment. It's completely useless and no one would ever wear it. The only reason it exists is to make the player go back to town more often to sell it. The poor-quality equipment could be changed to unwearable items like fangs and hides that you have to take back to town and sell, and there would be no difference whatsoever. Of the things you get that are usable, you're still typically not getting *upgrades* for each slot more than maybe twice per act. MMOs work similarly, giving you a bunch of shit that's there just to be sold, and a bunch of additional shit that you can't use because you're not a rogue and you can't trade to a rogue so you have to just sell to a vendor for gold.

Giving you stuff that would be good if you'd picked a different class when you first started the game creates an interesting effect, though. It makes the player feel like they won something valuable. It's a good feeling. It doesn't feel as good as getting an item they can actually use, but it feels way better than getting 4500 gold. Watch this video by Extra Credits, it might surprise you.

In Borderlands, on the other hand, the game gives you a new gun every 60 seconds, and 90% of what you get is usable. This creates a very different dynamic. One where I spend more of the game comparing equipment than any other activity. This is... honestly kind of obnoxious? I don't inherently dislike it, but I feel like, uh, the drop rate on equipment could be 1/20 as high as it actually is in the game, or even lower, and it would be a better game for it.
Everyone knows to just go to the auction house to buy equipment in Diablo 3. Item drops are completely meaningless in that game.
Oh yeah - this thread provides me with so much feedback (between the lines) about how to alter my current game projects. This is really valuable shit guys!

@RyaReisender: I especially like the first paragraph of your answer! Yes, many of the modern RPGs (and a good number of old ones) could remove the equipment altogether. I played WoW a lot in the past and until you hit the higher levels you always wonder what the point about all those equipment is that you gain after finishing quests: its ridicilous! Most power comes from your intrinsic attributes and skills and the weapons (etc.) add just a minor amount to it - totally weird! Sometimes it seems like they just added it "because it has to be there" and to give players something to collect and sell.

This brings me to:

@LockeZ: Very good point when you say: "These items only exist to make players return to town and sell them". Very good point and this goes hand-in-hand with what RyaReisender said!

So, equipment is a core feature in all RPGs. Its basically the translation of the "extra" found in most Shoot-em-Ups into a medieval/sci-fi turn-based and/or number-based world.

In the earlier days, these "extras" where required to beat the game. They added a lot of "firepower" to your "ship" in order to win the game. But it seems like, that in the younger days the gameplay macerated so much that "extras" are not really required as much as in the past. But they just could not remove them because this would mean to remove one of the core reasons to play a RPG.

So, developers searched for another way how to make items meaningful to the game. items nowadays also count as achievement, they count as a currency, they are literally classified as "loot" in many modern RPGs. Last but not least, items are also craft materials, ingredients and - trade items found in auction houses.

@RyaReisender: About linearity: You are absolutely right. I sometimes think the main point is that, producing game costs money. And nowadays all projects are so streamlined that the developers have no time/money left to add extra content to the game anymore. This is BTW done via Add-Ons.

This brings me to another aspect: In the earlier days you got all selectable characters at once, you also got the full playable game time at once. Nowadays they are slicing the content and pack characters and bonus content into expansions. Not that the games got longer or more complex (well they did, but not regarding that aspect!) - they just got the idea to SELL YOU extra episodes/characters.

This is such a shame, it was not that way in the past.

Man, i remember Phantasy Star 1 on the Master System. Okay its old and quite linear in itself - but oh my god - they packed so much stuff onto this tiny little old cartridge!

@RyaReisender: Thanks for the other input you provided. Im just reading the rest and will answer later (got a bit carried away with my current answer).
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5146
author=kentona
Everyone knows to just go to the auction house to buy equipment in Diablo 3. Item drops are completely meaningless in that game.


Shh. I can't hear you. Lalalala.

I decided to play without ever touching the auction house again after beating normal mode. It was so much of a better game. It was like playing Diablo 2 with faster combat and better graphics. Highly recommend.
I really, really like LockeZ's first post in this topic. Not that the subsequent ones aren't good, but that first post should speak to damn near everyone and really makes me think.
author=Feldschlacht IV
I really, really like LockeZ's first post in this topic. Not that the subsequent ones aren't good, but that first post should speak to damn near everyone and really makes me think.
He should solidify it into an article, imho.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5146
Hmm, if people think it's worth being an article, then I will do so!
author=LockeZ
Hmm, if people think it's worth being an article, then I will do so!
I still think so.
author=LockeZ
I decided to play without ever touching the auction house again after beating normal mode. It was so much of a better game. It was like playing Diablo 2 with faster combat and better graphics. Highly recommend.


In pre-patch Diablo 3, I cleared through Act 2 Inferno just on drops. Got cockblocked at Act 3 and decided I didn't want to farm for a month. I imagine it's totally feasible to clear at least MP0-MP1 Inferno without the auction house now.
We are writing tell you about an important change to Diablo III: we're going to be removing the gold and real-money auction house system from the game.

When we initially designed and implemented the auction house system, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. But after much review and player feedback, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot.

We're working out the details of how the auction house system will be shut down, but we wanted to share the news as soon as we made the decision in order to give everyone as much advance notice as possible. Please note that the final shutdown will occur on March 18, 2014. We will keep everyone informed as we work through this process, but feel free to check out our blog post on the subject, and stay tuned to Diablo 3.com for further details.

- The Diablo III team

:O
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