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One Weapon VS Lots of Weapons & Encounters

  • Quigon
  • 04/11/2013 01:58 PM
Hi all! This is really going to act as a discussion type blog to everyone who has subscribed so far, but I'm in a little bit of a pickle and would really appreciate some input!

Basically, the encounter system in Blood Shard works like this.

- There are no random encounters. To battle monsters, you can undertake hunting missions at various towns/areas flagged as base camps. You'd then go into the dungeon you're about to traverse, and find and hunt down the monsters for rewards. To that end, the concept of levelling your characters has been removed due to the sparse 'typical' kind of encounters.

- You can also go on 'hunting trails' in certain dungeons. These trails can be completed as many times as you like. This idea is kind've in limbo right now, because it seems a little counter-intuitive given that no EXP is rewarded for battles. So I'd need something to reward the player with.

- Boss battles and several other battles remain mandatory.

Because there is no levelling in game, it'll be perfectly acceptable to skip any hunts, though there are good rewards for actually completing them. Which brings me to my next point, UPGRADES~

I'm not wanting to lose the sense of progression and accomplishment, so to that end I've given each character one weapon and armor, that can be upgraded using parts. Not like, something in Dark Cloud or anything - think of it more like this. Here's an example:

Drake's weapon is the Propeller, a steam sword. Throughout the game you'll find parts for this weapon that will permanently increase its stats. For example, you'll come across a 'Pressure Regulator'. This part can be permanently attached to your weapon, and by doing so it will increase the weapons hit chance. You won't get another 'Pressure Regulator', because you've already added one.

Rather than having repeatable upgrades, party members can equip accessories to buff their key stats. Of course you don't need to play it like that, but there are a few accessories that are tailor made for each character. It's the accessories that can enforce a certain 'class' on each character, with some increasing magic power and others increasing strength.

Basically, my questions are:

- What do you think of the encounter system? Can you think of a way in which the hunting trail would work?

- Do you think that one weapon that can be upgraded throughout the entire game trumps a plethora of weapons that gradually get better, rendering the previous one useless?



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Liberté, égalité, fraternité
I think the concept of one weapon/armour that upgrades over time is perfectly feasible. After all, 'normal' weapon progression is pretty much the same thing, it's just got different names for the upgrade. Katana=>Black Katana=>Silver Katana=>Diamond katana, whilst for you it's Steam Sword+Augment+Augment+Augment and so on. That isn't an issue at all.

Non-levelling however might get you in a bit more trouble, I think it eminently do-able but players (me included) like that sense of achievement we get with our little 'level up' message. Not to mention the whole skill/spell increase with level increase. You could work with it by having spells/skill as items only available in dungeons that you can't access until you've hunted somewhere else, so you can't get the mega-blasty-Armageddon-fireball before you get Fire I but that then makes those hunts kind of mandatory, at least the first time around.

However given the fact you've said that the hunting trials can be completed as many times as you like, there is no reason for you to remove the levelling up process. Yes there is no random 'out in the world' encounters to buff you up, but there are multiple run-throughs of the dungeons to do the same thing. In fact if you want it to not be the same each time, have a switch on the entrance to the trial that remembers how many times you've entered and boosts/changes the foes you will face so that it's always new (up to point, there has to be some push for the story to continue and for the player to move on).

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.
The way you're handling the weapon has one major advantage over normal equipment upgrades - you can get the upgrades in any order. If you got new swords to replace your old one, then getting the third sword after you got the fourth one would be useless. With your method, that's not true.

This type of upgrade system is very compatible with non-linear games, where the player can choose which order to do tasks in. If the game is mostly linear and you're nearly guaranteed to get the items in a specific order anyway, though, I would recommend just getting old-fashioned upgrades. Why? Because the advantage of replacing your weapon each time is that if you miss something, you can make up for it later. Missing a treasure chest doesn't permanently harm your character for the entire rest of the game - just for the next two or three dungeons.

You could do a hybrid, of course. Even if the game is nonlinear, and most of the progression is from one-time stat-boosting items, you can still get better accessories and new spells as the game goes on to change things up. Even if the game is linear, and most of the progression is from replacing your equipment, you can provide stat-boosting items when you aren't ready to give out a full upgrade, or when you want a section to be a little less linear.

You can even make the same stat-boosting item available in multiple places in the game. Maybe a pressure regulator can be crafted from 10 hunks of goblin iron, which randomly drop from enemies in multiple dungeons throughout the game. This could be the point of the hunting trails - for the items that only drop in particular places, the player might not get enough of them the first time through, and want to go back in to finish getting the ingredients he needs. It'd still prevent the player from being able to become super-powerful by grinding, but it'd allow a very limited amount of grinding to aid players who were having problems, up to a strict cap. With this kind of system, the augments would make sense even in a very linear game.

Overall I like the system a lot - it creates a sense of RPG-like progression, but avoids some of the dullness of grinding and, prevents the player from overpowering all the challenges through sheer grind without bothering to actually use any strategy.
I like the idea of a single weapon - like LockeZ said, being able to upgrade things in any order is perfect in a non-linear game, because the player will never get an outdated upgrade.

I also agree with the removal of EXP - unless there's a fun reason for players to repeat a hunt, don't make them repeat it just to earn enough experience, because then it will feel like padding (because it will be padding).

Assuming weapon upgrades are character-specific, having accessories be character-independent is pretty fun as well. It means that you have a little freedom in the choices you make in equipment. Just do your best to make sure that players won't shoot themselves in the foot too hard with those choices, I think.
The upgradable weapon and armor system sounds great.

Removal of random encounters is good, but it does mean you have to work battles/enemies into the plot to avoid them feeling contrived. I guess you could have camps of the "Vrahl doppelgangers...that roam the wilderness" as part of the hunting quests, but it should feel part of the story. What's the reason you're hunting these creatures, other than because it's an RPG?

Definitely don't have random encounters though.

All awesome points to consider, thank you.

I think I'm gonna put levelling back in again, just because I like the hunting trail idea and it would be a little pointless without the satisfaction of levelling up. And I'll definitely take on your point, LockeZ - the enemies in the hunting trails will drop components needed to build up the parts for weapons too. I'll try and balance it out so the drop rates aren't grinding-worthy too. And the EXP rate given by monsters will lessen as you level, meaning that grinding in the same place forever won't really get you anywhere. The last 'big hunt' of the trail will only be able to be fought once, too.

@Professor - the mandatory encounters are completely worked into the plot. The Vrahl doppelgangers are bosses that completely link to the story, and don't feel out of place whatsoever :)
/me is so late to this discussion but wants to talk anyway

I find LockeZ's idea epic on having to gain certain items to create components to level up your weapons. I've always found that if both of these systems (multiple weapons and the ability to level up weapons) to be, in lack of better words, annoying as hell. I would work and work and work to level up my weapon I have now and would'ya look at that! It's the new weapon that's weaker than the one I have now! But guess what, if I level that other one up it'll be stronger than my now weapon.
A system like that puts you one step forward and two steps back in the sense of getting a stronger weapon, however you completely jumped that obstacle by having only one weapon and many components to level it up. This alone is enough to remove regular leveling, and if you have a full set (weapon, body, head, and legs... with possible multiple accessories to more define what role the play wants each character... I'll define that better in a minute) then that adds more things to level up and the sense of achievement nhubi brought up is still there when the player levels up one of their items. It allows for more things to be leveled as you go and can even create a greater sense of achievement if you ask me.
As said before about the accessories, perhaps that could be what players can go and buy? Let's say you make every accessory some sort of stat booster (atk, def, mag, ect) the player would place the accessory of a def+ to their tank (lots of HP) and mag+ to their caster (uses lots of magic) and so on and so forth. This is just a thought on how to allow the player to boost their character in the way that they want to boost them.

As for the encounter system I think you have a good idea. Random encounters are rather dull and can become a nuisance VERY quickly. By allowing the player to go through dungeons and, as Professor_Ruffleberg said, keeping them tied into the story would keep the player entertained and not feel like they are grinding. Grinding, to me at least, makes me feel less like I am going through a story and even a step down from playing an actual game. Grinding is boring.

All in all I think you have some nice ideas and I think by taking in at least the consideration of the comments before me the game play will be great :)
instead of EXP points, maybe make a loot item that you exchange at stores for items that increase character STATS. Like 10 orbs for LifeUp for example.
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