PENALTIES FOR LEVELING UP

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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
Penalties for leveling up piss me off.

This thread was inspired by the recent expansion pack to Diablo 3, in which the game was changed so that the sole effect of leveling up is now that all of your equipment gets slightly worse. That's all. Nothing else. You gain no benefit whatsoever.

But aside from that horrifying worst-case example, there are a lot of games where the game penalizes you in subtler ways for leveling up. Making you gain less gold or AP unless you fight higher level enemies is a popular method of screwing you over. Once you're high enough level, it becomes almost impossible to gain money.

Many games use damage or hitrate formulas that divide by your level - so your chance to hit is based on the ratio of your agility stat compared to your level, for example. So if you gain a level, but don't gain any agility, your chance to hit decreases. This causes serious potential problems as you actually become weaker and weaker the higher level you are.

Enemies that level up with you are another popular gimmick. This is the bullshit Diablo 3's new expansion pack uses. You fight the same enemies no matter what level you are - they just grow in power to match your level. This means that leveling up makes you take more damage from and deal less damage to the same enemy. Sure, it might also unlock some new equipment - but getting that equipment will just put you back to the point you were at before you leveled up. Other games like FF8 will use a hybrid of this and a normal level up system - in FF8 every enemy has a minimum level, so you do have to level up to that point. It's used in FF8 to make sure you don't skip all the fights while also removing the benefit of grinding.

All of these penalties are seemingly designed to remove the benefit of grinding, so that players have to gain power by proving their skill and performing various tasks instead of by spending 150 hours slaughtering billions of identical rabites. A noble goal, but at what cost? Surely there are ways to do this without actually penalizing you for playing the game more. Like capping your level. Or not having levels in the first place.

Making you gain less XP if you fight lower level enemies is a different category of penalty in my mind - instead of penalizing you in one area of the game for progressing in a different area, the game simply provides diminishing returns on experience points. This seems completely fine to me, but maybe other people disagree? Can you explain why if so?
I agree. The lower amounts of drops as you level up, and having enemies level with the player is quite common in the RM world from several games I've played. A lot of these never seem to get completed, and I venture to think it has something to do with players not really supporting it, thus causing the developer to lose interest. But the developers still go gaga over these kind of features.

The idea they have is, like you said, so players don't feel forced to grind. While I've grown up with old games and am used to grinding, it's a feature that should not be forced. Assuming a player is not running from their fights, they should be comfortable with their exploration and fighting what they see during their travel without having to spin their heels and grind in place.

However, the alternative should not be to punish the player who does choose to grind. You might consider replacing weaker enemies with harder ones in a dungeon when players get to a certain level, but then they should be rewarded with more EXP and gold from fighting the harder ones.
unity
You're magical to me.
11162
Yeah, I think the "less XP for lower level enemies" is fine as long as its not abused, but the player should never ever be punished for leveling.

I think Final Fantasy Tactics walks a fine line with the enemies on story missions at a fixed level while random battles have the enemy level up with you. While this generally works, you can find yourself in some tricky situations in the random battles if you level weirdly. It also seems a little strange to have deadly random battles and then the story missions are easier than just wandering around the map, but I think that's an acceptable situation given that making all enemies, even story-based ones, scale may have broken things.

Also, in Final Fantasy 6, leveling up early on, as many know, screws you a bit as you won't have Espers who grant you stats on level-up that you can't get without them. But I never really found it too unfair because overall the difficulty never feels brutal even if you don't level optimally.
I think this is a great problem mostly on online games where a "bug" like "a good grinding spot where you level fast/earn gold fast" would hurt the monetization of the game (diablo 3 auction house, for example).

Isrieri
"My father told me this would happen."
6470
There's games where there's penalties for leveling up?!
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
Yes. Aside from the ones already mentioned, the entire SaGa series is notorious for the "enemies level up with you" thing, and World of Warcraft is probably the biggest example of your characters literally becoming weaker in some aspects as they level up (spells cost more MP, your hit/crit/block/parry/mastery are reduced every time you level, and many items and enchantments literally say things like "ineffective for players higher than level 70" in their descriptions).

Oh man, Unity, I forgot FF6. We'll have to add "one-time bonuses you get each level that you can miss out on if you level up too soon" to the list as a new category of penalties. And toss Chrono Cross, FF Tactics, and FF3 into that category too.
unity
You're magical to me.
11162
Ugh, Saga Frontier had an area where if you tackled it too late, all the monster encounters turned into near-boss level squid fights. ...Though I think that may have just been a case of the game not being tested and refined enough before it was launched?

EDIT: What was Chrono Cross's deal with that again? I really need to play it again; I remember you got "stars" when you beat bosses and your stats would sometimes go up between bosses.
Ratty524
The 524 is for 524 Stone Crabs
13387
Wow I had no idea this existed within big budget games. Such a system completely removes the basic concept being leveling up to begin with: You are increasing your strength to make your character better. Making your character worse as they level up completely removes the satisfaction gained from it.

It pisses me off as well.

author=LockeZ
All of these penalties are seemingly designed to remove the benefit of grinding, so that players have to gain power by proving their skill and performing various tasks instead of by spending 150 hours slaughtering billions of identical rabites. A noble goal, but at what cost? Surely there are ways to do this without actually penalizing you for playing the game more. Like capping your level. Or not having levels in the first place.
For me, I can't understand why developers think grinding is a problem. While it DOES make the game easy to blow through afterwards, the key word here is "afterwards." The player is camping at a specific spot to farm levels as a choice, and with how time-consuming and monotonous the task is, why not reward them for it? RPG players doing this is really just the same as Mario players finding that one spot where they can bounce on a Koopa to get infinite lives. Sure, it hurts the difficulty of your game, but the methods to accomplish those tasks usually involve word-of-mouth knowledge or a vast amount of patience, so why punish the player for that?
Ugh...I hate those kinds of games.

I mean, unless the entire game is themed around it and there are mechanics in place that make it fun, it could be good. But otherwise it's awful. It just makes you not care about combat, since it'll only make you worse off.

....Then again, Tellah LOSING stats on levelling up in FF4 was pretty funny. XD

author=Ratty524
For me, I can't understand why developers think grinding is a problem. While it DOES make the game easy to blow through afterwards, the key word here is "afterwards." The player is camping at a specific spot to farm levels as a choice, and with how time-consuming and monotonous the task is, why not reward them for it? RPG players doing this is really just the same as Mario players finding that one spot where they can bounce on a Koopa to get infinite lives. Sure, it hurts the difficulty of your game, but the methods to accomplish those tasks usually involve word-of-mouth knowledge or a vast amount of patience, so why punish the player for that?


Here's the thing:
If you design your game well enough, the player should never feel like they need to grind. If they hit a challenge, unless they're dramatically underlevelled, they should always have the tools on hand to overcome the challenge. If they fail at that, then grinding is the backup mechanism.
Calling bullshit here; the SaGa series is a bad example, dudes. Yes, the enemies get stronger with you, but that's to keep the game constantly challenging and refreshing, and to keep the player on their toes and to keep rewards flowing. But it's not just a stat rat race; your stats go up, and so do the enemies, but at the same time you're getting better moves, techniques, spells, and overall tools to conquer stronger foes.

Are there areas with stupid strong monsters that prevent weaker parties from going there? Yes! Those areas are MEANT to be tackled when you're stronger because they often hide cool shit, the game isn't just going to hand them to you. Does the game shoehorn you into unwinnable situations? With some notable exceptions *coughLute'squestcough*, no, it doesn't.

The game in no way punishes you for leveling up, if anything, it rewards the players with always relevant battles and doesn't patronize strong parties with Level 1 Slimes 30 hours into the game.
author=unity
EDIT: What was Chrono Cross's deal with that again? I really need to play it again; I remember you got "stars" when you beat bosses and your stats would sometimes go up between bosses.

You got stat increases from cannon fodder enemies, but only until a certain point. Once you reached that point, you had to defeat a boss to get a star level which will allow you to get more stat increases from cannon fodder enemies.

There is one problem though. If you don't get the stat increases between star levels, they are lost forever (or a part of them at least.) So, every time you get a star level, any character who doesn't get maximum stat increases before getting another star level is permanently crippled.

Why they didn't simple make it so that star level just capped your stat increases baffles me.
Chrono Cross had horrible design choices in it is why.


Why handicap a player for leveling? It's supposed to make things easier. It's the whole POINT. A player is willing to invest time into your game enough to level up. You should congratulate them on it, not slap them in the face.
I really liked the way Suikoden did it - there was less experience when you met a cap for an area, but the money stayed the same, and if you were low level you'd shoot straight up the near the level you'd need to be to fight safely in that area. Sure, it made the game a bit too easy at times, but it allowed for you to bring characters you'd never used before into your party, quickly level them up and get them into fighting trim within a few battles without over-levelling your main party.

And yeah, punishing you for something that you need to do to pass a game is just ridiculous. Instead of punishments, why not instead reward people for if they do things under-levelled?

A great example of that was Gades Sword in Lufia II where if you beat Gades, you'd get his sword. It was possible to die in the battle and just continue with the story, but it was a bonus for those who stuck it out and got through the battle alive.

IDK, you shouldn't punish your players for wanting to play a certain way.
So what you're saying is, don't buy the Diablo III expansion? I'm way ahead of you.

Needing better stats as you level is something you typically only see in MMOs. It's designed to basically force you to do end-game content when you max out your level. It wouldn't make much sense in a single-player RPG, where grinding isn't the point.

Having enemies level with you is counter-intuitive, because at that point, why fight battles ever? Unless you get access to skills down the road that play into some kind of strategy that you need in order to kill a boss, you can usually get away with just running away in those games.

One mechnanic I do like from MMOs is how the more levels you have on an enemy, the less experience it gives you (usually 4+ levels means you get none). You can grind and still have an advantage in that area - and somewhat of an advantage in the next - but it prevents you from turbo-buttoning your way to some obscene level and just 1-shotting all the enemies.

Phylomortis II, although a thesaurusized pretentious mess, had a mechanic where enemies would just start to run away from you if you got too tough. If that could be leveraged into a decrease in encounter rate (until you got strong enough that random encounters just didn't happen anymore), that would be perfect.
The concept would make sense if you played as a grandpa suffering from cancer or sumthin'. The more you fight, the more you tire and weaken. You'd have to beat the game while saving as much strength as possible.

In any conventional setting though, it's a terrible, nonsensical idea.
author=Liberty
And yeah, punishing you for something that you need to do to pass a game is just ridiculous. Instead of punishments, why not instead reward people for if they do things under-levelled?

A great example of that was Gades Sword in Lufia II where if you beat Gades, you'd get his sword. It was possible to die in the battle and just continue with the story, but it was a bonus for those who stuck it out and got through the battle alive.

That doesn't sound like a reward for doing things underlevelled. In fact, beating Gades in that battle generally requires you to be very significantly ahead of the level curve.

Personally, I like level grinding. It's a very simple, mindless way to feel like I'm achieving some quantifiable sort of progress. And I like the feeling of exceeding the game's expectations for how powerful you should be at a given point. I also like being challenged, having to strategize or work my reflexes and timing and so forth. So, you might think that having enemies scale according to the characters' levels would be a good way to satisfy both of these impulses. But frankly, I this is one solution that I generally hate. It destroys the feeling of progress, and makes it feel like the amount of effort I put in is irrelevant. It's like going to the gym day after day and lifting the same weight, over and over, every day, and every day someone comes in and paints a different number on the weight. The number might go up, but who cares?
I'm pretty sure I beat him a few times without extra levelling. Might just have been my strategy though. It's been a long time since I played the game, so maybe I'm misremembering. Okay, better example then - Chrono Trigger where the story is the 'level' and beating Lavos at an earlier 'level' nets you different endings.

It's surprisingly hard to think of a game where underlevelling was encouraged. There are those games that encourage speed runs, but for the most part they aren't RPGs and you don't really get extra for them.

Oh, FF9 and the sword Excalibur II. You had to be lower levelled to get there in time, and the pay-off was the best weapon in the game. And Suikoden II where if you sped through the story (thus not spending as much time on levelling) you could reach a cut-scene between two characters that is time based. Most other RPGs try to get you to play them more, instead of getting you to do so less.
UPRC
Exciting, but ultimately pointless.
6175
author=LockeZ
This thread was inspired by the recent expansion pack to Diablo 3, in which the game was changed so that the sole effect of leveling up is now that all of your equipment gets slightly worse. That's all. Nothing else. You gain no benefit whatsoever.


SERIOUSLY!? They honestly did something that dumb? Wow, Blizzard. You guys are nothing but bad ideas these days.

I don't like penalties for gaining levels, but I do like features such as old enemies stop giving experience when they become too easy (which is something all games should incorporate, I think).
If the story of the game is about becoming older or weaker, it makes sense. It gives the player a kind of time limit. The tension of encroaching doom might even match that of some horror games.

I have to echo the rejection of the SaGa games as being poorly designed. They are exquisitely designed games that do not play like other RPGs, and are not relevant in this discussion. They don't even have character levels.
For once I have to fully agree with LockeZ's opening post.

Leveling up should be rewarding and not punishing. Leveling up should be a way for a bad player to be able to finish the game anyway for the story, while still providing a good challenge for better players who then as a reward don't need to grind.

I however think that the SaGa series is one of the few exceptions where this system was implemented so well, that I can't really complain about it. What I like in SaGa games is that monster stats don't just simply scale with your stats. Instead monsters all have fixed stats and only the monster composition changes as you get stronger. Also, the randomness in SaGa games is so big that even if you run into an unwinnable encounter, retrying usually nets you an easier encounter. Also bosses don't scale with your power either, so there are clear benefits of grinding in SaGa games. Plus you also reach the "upper limit" early on, meaning that you reached the hardest possible encounters. Any grinding from then onward will really help you.

I don't like penalties for gaining levels, but I do like features such as old enemies stop giving experience when they become too easy (which is something all games should incorporate, I think).
I have to disagree to that. If you ask me, the exp and gold a monster gives should always be fixed. It just feels better if the relation stays the same. It's easier to understand also. It also gives you a better feeling on how much more rewarding another monster is. And it makes the amount of exp the monster gives become a notable feature of that monster.

Instead of putting penalties on exp, games should rather do it so that double the monster strength means triple the exp. That means if you fight harder monsters it's more rewarding, but you can still fight very easy monsters and get the same benefit you used to get.
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