TOUCH ENCOUNTERS AND EXP

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For those of you using touch encounter systems, how do you balance it in regards to player EXP? In one of my previous projects this is something I really struggled with, not knowing how many monsters the player is going to fight. I ended up balancing my EXP curve around the player skipping ~90% of fights which made it really easy to end up over-leveled. It's one of the reasons I went back to random encounters--it's far easier to figure out how much the player will fight as players don't tend to escape battles by default. So how do you guys determine how much the player should fight per map?
One approach is just focus levels/EXP based on one-time milestones. Design your game so the player gets the bulk of their level advancement from completing quests, defeating bosses, advancing the plot, that kind of stuff. This is a general thing too, it can apply to random encounters too since players can just run from those in-battle instead of on the map.

Limiting the number of encounters for an incursion into the dungeon can signal to the player an intended amount of enemies to defeat to keep up with the developer intended power curve. I don't know if you're doing that already though. If players are skipping too many fights in a dungeon, maybe there's too many enemies and the dungeon should have fewer fights with more rewards to keep the pace going?
One of the greatest benefits of random encounters is giving you more control over how often the player is in combat. Unfortunately this is also off-set by a disdain for random encounters by many players.

You could always take the Mystic Quest route and have fixed, visible encounters at chokepoints to ensure that the player is in combat at the rate that you intend them to. This is also a good compromise between giving the player an idea of exactly where battles are while also having the added benefit of more control.

Regardless of what system I use (usually random but with some twist to it) I tend to make my encounters worth roughly: X / 4. Where X is the TNL amount for the next level after what I expect the player to be at when starting a dungeon. So if I expect the party to be Level 10 when starting a dungeon and Level 11 is 2000 EXP away, each encounter is worth roughly 500 EXP. And then maybe X / 5 or X / 6 in later areas depending on how much I need to work around the power curve.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20053
I've gone the route of visable encounters that roam on the map with most of my games. I don't use a chase-mechanic, because I've learned to hate them. Like, 99% of the time, when I play an RPG Maker game with a chase-mechanic, those encounters come at you at ludicrous speed and go to plaid. It's like they're basically unavoidable once they "see" you.

I've a few games with traditional by-step encounters too. One has the encounter cancel system which gives the player a bit more control over when they fight. Though, it that particular game, the "cost" calculation to cancelling encounters could probably have been tweaked a bit, but, eh.

*Edit: Experience earned has it's own calculation. I think I might have once based XP earned on how much XP it would take to level up to the "level" of the creature. More recently (and by that, I mean maybe the last eight or so games I've made), though, the calculation looks more like...


reward = 30*level^1.5

...this pile of garbage, or some-such.
I've used a mix of invisible event encounters that have different behaviours. Some chase in a short capacity, some stand in the way of treasure, etc. The fact that they're invisbile means they come off as random encounters, but I can put a hard limit on how many per map I want turning up. Add in that the encounter is evented to be random for the wandering ones and it works out well.

As for EXP, one way is to make the ones I put in certain spots worth more (and thus be handpicked enemies) whilst the wanderers are worth less. That way the player will still get a decent amount of levels (even if only on the lower end of passable) without having to hit every enemy up.
For Exile's Journey, I assumed that players would fight each enemy once. However, this didn't exactly work, because most players actually fight far more enemies than I expected, and end up leveled higher than intended, which in turn makes the game easier than I planned for.

One trick I used (which I got from Demon Legacy) is to have unavoidable encounters every now and then. For example, and enemy that chases you very quickly and is impossible to run from, or an enemy that stands in a hallway and engages in a battle with you when you approach. However, these types of encounters are pretty rare in my game.
I learned the hard way that people tend to have more experience than you think they're going to. With touch encounters, you'll always have people who chase down enemies because they want something- money, exp, item drops, a sense of accomplishment after they clear an area. You'll also have people who don't want to avoid fights because they don't want to be underlevelled, or people who...just aren't good at dodging them.

With random encounters, they is always the issue of players who explore every nook and cranny being almost automatically overlevelled. Even in a 20x15 map, a straight line (from entrance to exit) might only be 7-8 tiles, but someone who explores might end up stepping on 15-20 tiles as they check walls and decorations for hidden items. And that grows exponentially, so a 40x30 map will result in a far higher number of encounters for the explorer. In Moonsong there is a hidden variable which reduces the encounter rate as random battles are entered to try and combat over-fighting, but even then I dramatically underestimated how much exp players would have.

A system like Liberty's where hidden encounters are used can work really well, as you can turn off encounters altogether if the player is too high a level and they'll never even know.

My standard in the future will be to scale the difficulty to be slightly on the "too hard" side, but only slightly. The player can always do a wee bit of grinding if they're struggling, but you can't take back levels you've already earned.

edit: the idea of disconnecting exp from enemy encounters altogether is an intriguing one, because like GRS said, milestones are much easier to control. It might be too radical for most projects, though.
kory_toombs
It’s your actions.. not your strength, that would lead you to victory.
13365

Aren't you choosing the troops for the touch encounter.
I'm not understanding how your doing touch encounters without choosing troops.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20053
author=kory_toombs
Aren't you choosing the troops for the touch encounter.
I'm not understanding how your doing touch encounters without choosing troops.

It might be possible to not choose a specific troop! Like, for my Encounter Cancel system for Ace, it uses a Common Event that includes a Battle Processing event-command, using the "Same as Random Encounter" option rather than pointing to a specific troop ID. Though, that script is specifically geared toward using by-step encounters. To do something similar for encounters that are entirely on-screen, you'd probably need to disable by-step encounters. Which, at least in Ace's case, might be as easy as...

class Game_Player < Game_Character
  def encounter
    false
  end
end

...this? Not 100% sure.
In King of Grayscale, I have onscreen encounters that use a pre-set path which sometimes includes moving towards players, sometimes not. All my onscreen encounters have a different movement style. The 'match your move speed and chase you' style only occurs at the start and end of the game (since they're technically the same monster).

I give a reward to the player for clearing out all the onscreen encounters on a map.

I also have a battleground-esque tile players can go to to fight monsters over and over that want to grind to their hearts content.
Oh! Another idea I used that was cool was having a set amount of enemies in an area. If you killed them all in one run then they wouldn't come back, but if you didn't then it'd slowly repopulate.


Another idea was that each dungeon had a rewards room where chests were unlocked if you did certain things in the dungeon. Killing every enemy in one run was one of the biggest rewards (bar killing boss/es). It encourages getting all the EXP.
I've made exp nearly irrelevant to leveling. The only benefit to leveling in my game is merits (Skill Points,) minor HP gain and some addition minor perks can be obtained.

I've also hidden experience from the player. It can be gained in various increments from almost any action. However quest completion and reaching milestones give the biggest boost. IE. Grinding is neither necessary or particularly useful.

Finally, leveling requires stupid amounts of exponential experience with a level cap, for an extra challenge players can tackle.
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.
5478
In a couple of my games with touch encounters, I made about half of the battles unavoidable. They would trigger upon stepping on a certain tile, or opening a door, or getting close to an enemy that stood in place in the center of a path. And many of the avoidable ones had visible treasure chests behind them, so players were encouraged to fight them anyway. This made the player's XP a lot easier to predict, but more importantly, it made the battles feel like a bigger part of the game. If players want to skip all of my battles, then I've failed at making them fun; if I've made them fun, then I want players to engage with them.

I have another game where enemies are basically touch encounters except they don't move or approach you. They're like neutral MMORPG enemies that don't attack you unless you attack first. This applies to almost every enemy in the game, except during specific mission events. However, there are over a hundred missions, which always have objectives that involve killing monsters. Sometimes it's a simple "Kill 20 goblins in this area and return to the mission NPC" and sometimes it's a more complicated "Take part in an event where an NPC helps you fight a gauntlet of 30 enemies that keep appearing every few rounds" and sometimes it's like "Once you start the mission, you can't leave the area without defeating all enemies."

But even with all that, players are expected to get a lot of their XP from fighting extra enemies that aren't part of any mission. These might be enemies they're trying to collect crafting ingredients from, enemies that have chocobo eggs which sometimes appear at random, enemies in the procedurally generated Deep Dungeon which has aggressive enemies blocking every room but gives extra rewards, enemies fought as part of various other minigames and sidequests, or just things the players fight purely to gain more XP.

So the game is balanced assuming that you not only did almost everything, but also at higher levels it assumes that you did some grinding on top of that. It even tells you what your expected level is for each area and mission. If you're not strong enough, go back and get stronger.

I generally don't like when too many touch encounters are completely avoidable, because skipping gameplay shouldn't be a reward for doing something well. Usually in most other types of games, the reward for doing well at something is unlocking more gameplay.

Of course, if you do expect 90% of your touch encounters to be avoided, you can just make bosses give 50x the XP of normal enemies, and have a steep experience curve where every level takes 50% more XP than the level before it. That will result in a player who skips every fight only being about two levels behind a player who fights every fight. Or you can give XP per dungeon instead of per encounter, which is essentially the same as giving XP for fights that were overcome in any way, whether defeated or avoided. Or you can just make levels do very little, so a max level player is only about 10x stronger than a level 1 player instead of 800x stronger.
Oh, if I'm showing enemies on map, I like to have them doing more than just standing around. Enemies in my game (bar human ones and certain monsters) are just fauna. They're animals, and have their own behaviour. It's a bit troublesome to get together sprites of them for each monster but the way it looks when you can watch an enemy chase a butterfly around (unless you get too close) or snoozing on a rock, just brings life to the world.

Of course, you can skip those enemies, so quests to encourage interaction or them being in the way of your progress made you have to engage.

Honestly, you could cut out experience altogether. Give a level up when you think it works, or go the Zelda route where increases to your power/skills/etc are determined on exploration and finding items to enhance you, not levels (bar heart containers).

Wyrm Warriors did it so you could only level up 5 levels each area - there was a level cap that once you hit it, wouldn't let you go higher. It was very useful in balancing bosses since if they avoided all monsters, they knew they wouldn't have to grind forever for an unspecified level to reach to beat it. They could judge how well they'd do with the information given.

Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20053
Oh, yeah, Wyrm Warriors! I almost forgot about that game! Though, I forget how far that game got. There was at least one boss, maybe two, that increased the party's Star Level max level cap by 5. I also seem to recall that new party members also joined at the current max level cap as well? It was a game with 30 characters that the community made, you started with a party of 4, and the others had to be recruited possibly in a similar vein to Suikoden?

My memory might be a little faulty in places.
unity
You're magical to me.
12203
Even tho it doesn't use fixed encounters, one thing I really love about Sgt's games like Soma Union is in the room before the boss, the game will let you know about the upcoming boss and the recommended level. That way, the player can tell if they are under leveled :D
author=unity
Even tho it doesn't use fixed encounters, one thing I really love about Sgt's games like Soma Union is in the room before the boss, the game will let you know about the upcoming boss and the recommended level. That way, the player can tell if they are under leveled :D


I enjoy this quite a bit too.

It’s think it can be a good heads up to a player that rushes through a dungeon.

“Hey, this might not be a great idea”
For people who find touch encounters causing players to overlevel, you could always tweak the necessary grind for the next levels.

So if area 1 you want them at level 3 by the boss fight, but want to ensure they're not at level 5+, you could make it so that it's easy to get to level 3 by the time you reach the boss, maybe level 4 with a bit more grinding, but then skyrocket the EXP needed for level 5 and on so it's not worth grinding for in area 1.

Area 2, enemies drop the right balanced amount to gain a few levels and then skyrocket the cost of EXP again. That way people still can get an extra level or two in if they put in the grind or feel they need it, but the moment the EXP needed to gain a level becomes too high for that area, people will move on.
Overleveled? Not underleveled? My game has touch encounters, and when I play it, I just juke most of the encounters and go through the game earning as minimal experience as possible.

If anything, I think touch encounters balance out the experience well enough. Players will seek them out when they need exp, but dodge them when they don't need exp.

Other than that, I like to place most of the exp on the boss fights, less on non-boss fights, so that it's hard to end up too far outside the expected exp range, regardless of how much grinding you do.
The obvious solutions for balancing a variable number of encounters that a player might have is to indeed give most XP from quests and bosses.
But now players have an even greater incentive to dodge all on-map encounters. The time-reward balance has shifted even more away from reward. Now I feel frustrated every time I do get a random encounter.
Ways I would make sure players are at the right level for a boss:
1. Dynamically raising the max lvl as they defeat bosses.
2. Just have the boss scale to player lvl(within bounds)
3. Big Jumps in XP scale (a soft version of #1)
4. Have the stat gains from levels be minimal.
5. One of the enemies has the key to the boss room, and it just happens to be the 20th encounter. Gives a big signal to players: All right, now you should go fight the boss.
6. Abolish Levels. (But why would you. Lvl'ing is so fun).
7. Want player to fight more random enemies? Introduce crafting. Nothing will have a player grind like crafting.
8. Want them to fight less random enemies? Limit healing, or put the dungeon on a timer.
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