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RPG Progression Systems

TGBarighmTGBarighm MemberFull Members
edited April 2014 in Role Playing Games
I liked the idea of a Progression System Royale, but it's not my intention to actively compete with the Battle Royale thread, so how about a standard progression topic?

Anyway, to kick things off: which do you like better, Fallout 3 style "level and then choose all perks and stats" leveling or Elder Scrolls style "use it to level it" leveling?

Comments

  • smacdsmacd Full Members
    edited April 25
    deleted.
  • TGBarighmTGBarighm Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    I'd go for the Elder Scrolls style. Its always felt more organic and logical that the skills you use are the ones that go up. There isn't anything that would keep you from being a jack of all trades as well, where in Fallout 3 you simply cannot max everything. Further, the Legendary update for Skyrim went one step further and lets you respec your feats. The one thing I think they did wrong is that I don't think there should be "levels" where you get a + to HP/MP/ST, but instead if they went in the FF2 style and let it also increase naturally as you use MP or get hit or run, that would have been better.

    Would your opinion change if you separated old school Elder Scrolls from new school Skyrim? Removing the stats from Skyrim made a huge difference. Scrambling for max. Endurance scores and always choosing to specialize in Luck was a huge part of the older games' progression and can't be overlooked, and the lack of respeccing was considered all part of the replayability (sometimes it's more fun to create and design the character than actually play it). You also couldn't just level whatever. You had to pick and choose and often your choices depended on the stats. you wanted to level the most.

    Skyrim was way more convenient and quicker to jump into, and if it weren't for the Alchemy/Blacksmithing grind and a few other imbalances, it would be pretty nice all around, but I don't blame the system for developer oversights. And min-maxing can take the fun out of any well-designed system; however, with that convenience came a lack of depth and freedom (and the useless Lockpick skill; they should have just combined Lockpick and Pickpocket together and called it "Thievery"), nor did any of those changes justify the removal of custom spells (another big part of Elder Scrolls progression system and a reason why I separate the two). Destruction spells are so bloody weak in Skyrim and there doesn't seem to be anything I can do about it.
    There isn't anything that would keep you from being a jack of all trades as well, where in Fallout 3 you simply cannot max everything.

    The thing with Fallout 3 is it wasn't very well balanced. It was actually even harder to grab everything in New Vegas. Of course, I consider that one of New Vegas' strengths: progression felt more meaningful over the course of the game. I like it when a laser-blighter plays a whole lot differently from a cowboy-ish gunslinger (or as different as shooting lasers or bullets can be anyway). I didn't get that feeling in Fallout 3. Nearly every single build I had in Fallout 3 revolved around the same few perks, and I always benefitted from the exact same "sneak up and shoot him in the back of the head" strategy no matter what weapon I used (even when I was a pure Charisma character with max. Luck to compensate).
  • smacdsmacd Full Members
    edited April 25
    deleted.
  • flamethrowerflamethrower Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    I like the FTL progression system:
    1) Earn exp points aka "scrap" by various means (usually battle)
    2) Spend said points on a host of upgrades or at a shop

    I like the large array of options you have to spend your scrap on.
  • Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited April 2014
    Agreed. The FTL system works rather well. I enjoy it.
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  • lolwhoopslolwhoops happy accident HalifaxRPGamer Staff
    edited April 2014
    I like progression systems like Digital Devil Saga. Unlock a class thing and get in battles to learn new moves, get experience to gain levels which gives HP/MP, gain points when leveling to spend on stats of your choice to let you focus on what you want your character to be good at and then throw in the rare stat boosting item that can give you a little boost. I've always like building characters like that. DDS might not have my favourite battle system ever, though I do like it, I think it's a great take on a JRPG progression system.
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  • 7thCircle7thCircle Proofer of the Realm RPGamer Staff
    edited April 2014
    I like the FTL progression system:
    1) Earn exp points aka "scrap" by various means (usually battle)
    2) Spend said points on a host of upgrades or at a shop

    I like the large array of options you have to spend your scrap on.

    FTL, The Banner Saga, Path of Exile -- All recent indie games that used progression systems where currency and upgrades come from the same pool. You really have to think about whether or not you want to use money to buy new equipment, or to upgrade your character. I personally loved that in all three games and wish larger, more mainstream RPGs would find ways to incorporate this.

    As for the original question, I'm a total nerd when it comes to controlling and planning a progression. I want to see my 100 options, read them, study them, and carefully plan which ones I want to take and with full knowledge of what I'm doing. I like choosing a specialization.The old school Elder Scrolls games rubbed me the wrong way because the progression system isn't explained and you can easily create an awful character on accident on the first try. Then you end up doing goofy stuff like jumping all over the place to level agility because you let it get low. Or not using your best abilities because you aren't ready to level up yet. When you know what you're doing, TES is too easy to break and become a master of everything. It's not an interesting system to me.

    I preferred Fallout 3's system and SPECIAL in general. Across multiple Fallout 1, 2, 3, and NV playthroughs, I too tend to create similar/identical character types, but I like choosing which skills to master and being awful at other ones. It works better with the exploration and loot-finding in Fallout 3 and NV. I like finding a new weapon that I can use, or a tough enemy my specialty is bad at and coming up with a new tactic or adjusting my progression to accomodate it. I also liked that you could intentionally make an awful or handicapped character. The whole system is more clear.
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  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited April 2014
    The best progression system I know so far is in Shining Force 1. It manages to feel completely random while actually staying 100% balanced. It's very exciting to grind up all the character just to see how their stats will evolve because the curves are different for every single character.
    My second favorite is probably the ones in Lufia 2 out of similar reason.

    What is important to me is also that the stats that increase are actually displayed 1 by 1. Not just "character levels up" but just like in SF and Lufia "Character level increases to 4. (click) HP increases by 2. (click) ATK increases by 1. (click) DEF increases by 1. (click) AGI increases by 2."
    It sounds like something really small and trivial, but I noticed how important it is to me over time. It just makes leveling up super exciting!

    What I really hate is when the player is forced to choose skills and stats himself, this always ruins games for me. I'm forced to read guides on how to build the character so I don't get stuck later. I hate it so much and it's super pointless because why even let the player a choice? Most RPGs are so long you never play through them twice, so you will miss out on different builds and stuff. =/
    I COULD see this as a New Game+ feature, though. Just the first playthrough should always be with a fixed group and perfectly balanced after that.

    Character growth is one of the main things I design and develop myself very in-depth. I've written thousands of programs that simulate character growth, half of them are simulating existing growth systems and the other half are ideas by me (mainly with the goal to feel random but stay balanced). I also love to write spreadsheet charts displaying the stats at each level for a character.
  • StrawberryEggsStrawberryEggs Eternal Kyoshi Administrators
    edited April 2014
    I'm not sure which I prefer, really. I don't play too many games were stat distributions weren't seemingly random, or set with little player input. I do enjoy games with interesting ways to build characters: Pokemon's means of EV training and various ways to teach them attacks is a series I have a lot of experience with and enjoy. (IVs are irritating, though X/Y alleviates that a little). I also really like customizing demons in the Devil Survivor games.
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  • Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited April 2014
    Like 7th said, and in a way Rya touches on...I like it when I understand exactly how those choices are going to work. I feel frustrated when I have to make choices half blindly (Etrian Odyssey comes to mind... the little arrows did not give clear info on who much things improved). Or, you gotta love how some games invalidate your awesome build at higher levels, with no way to respect (Invested heavily in the fire magic tree? Tough! All the bosses are fire resistant!) Either of these force me to head to FAQ since I do not have the time to play most RPGs twice...and if I have to read a guide on how to level, then I get super angry. EVIL!

    In FTL, you knew exactly what those choices would do. And even if it wasn't the best choice, those games are fast enough to where you will play over and over again, making better choices. I never had to FAQ that game, and I beat it on my 2nd or 3rd run. Super fun.
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  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited April 2014
    Exactly. Giving the player the choice what build he wants might sound good on paper, but there are so many flaws with it. It's impossible to communicate enough information to the player so he can make the right choice and it's also impossible perfectly balance every single choice. Even if it's perfectly balanced how would I know whether I enjoy the game more playing a knight or more playing a mage? Or maybe an archer? And none of the offline games allow respeccing which I really can't understand at all. Preventing or limiting respeccing in MMORPGs I still can understand because keeping individuality to your own character is quite a good feeling, but in offline RPGs where you're the only one even having a build it just doesn't make sense to not allow the player to respec any time he wants. In MMORPGs they at least sell respec scrolls in the item shop, so those big game developers must have at least acknowledged that respeccing is something that the players actually want.



    Edit: Actually, I should mention another game in this thread: SaGaFrontier

    Or rather Akitoshi Kawazu's general game design concept that characters should grow in the way they are used so that they automatically become strong in however the player plays them like.

    I really like this concept if executed well - then I as a player don't have to worry about how to play at all, because the game will balance itself around me.


    Edit2: And to make jcservant (hi!) happy - we should talk about Wizardry 8 too. Yeah GoG allows buying games without credit card now so I got it. :-)
    Wizardry 8 is actually a mix of Akitoshi Kawazu's concept and a stat distribution system. It is both flawed and also genius. First the good part - the skill. They increase depending on how you play BUT you can also increased them via skill point you get on level up. So it's a combination of both. The system is great because even if you put your skill point wrongly you will gain enough points automatically to not get stuck. Also you are actually able to max out everything if you really want. The stat system however in Wizardry 8 has the same flaws as other games that allow builds, you don't gain them automatically only from skill point and concentrating on just 2 stats is significantly better than evenly distributing stats, so you can suck quite a bit by doing too many mistakes (and the game is hard even on the easiest mode).
  • Phillip WillisPhillip Willis Certified Polygameist RPGamer Staff
    edited April 2014
    I dunno about all that. I played through Wizardry 8 without too much problem, and I was not using a FAQ. They could have done a better job explaining what some of the abilities did and/or how they fit into the overall picture, but I never felt like I was punished for making the non-optimal decision in ignorance. I beat that one (again...you know its good when I actually get through the entire thing...unless it was assigned to me for a review and I had to finish it). Having a party of six plus characters helps. Chances are, you've got all your bases covered.

    To clarify, I like having choice. I'm a huge fan of it. I would rather have choice than arbitrary level up of stats. However, in order for it to be more fun than arbitrary leveling, it must either do a good job explaining my choices so that I may make them intelligently, and/or allow respecs. Diablo III...zomg... I sooooo love them for this. To me, the ability to 'respec' on the fly makes this my go-to action rpg over its predecessors or other great games, such as Path of Exile. Sure, some people bemoan Blizzard's decision here, but they realize that not all of us have 25+ hours, per spec, to try a build, stat over at level one, and try again with a different build to see if it works better. I felt the same way about Etrian Odyssey, which allows a respec for the small price of 10 levels (which take quite a while to earn at higher levels). I'm sorry, but I'm a busy beaver. Respect my free time, please :)

    Back on to Path of Exile for a moment...it does a relatively good job explaining what every choice does for your character build. However, you have no idea of knowing just how effective those important choices will mean at higher levels. And, my understanding from the 20 or so hours I put into is that you can only respec the last few decisions you made, assuming you have some respec points earned from a few places. A complete respec, when you're too far in, seems impossible (though I could be wrong). I would hate to put 50+ hours into a character just to find that earlier decisions I made in ignorance rendered him nigh ineffective against higher level bosses.

    But, yeah...I can see Rya's point. If a developer has limited time and resources, than having an arbitrary system in place would generally be easier to balance than one where the player has a lot of choices. Heck, even in action games which offer a simple choice between stealth or frontal approach, we often see that they are rarely balanced well (usually one is a lot easier to beat the game with than the other). Lots of choices are harder to balance (as Blizzard has demonstrated in World of Warcraft), but can be at least partially addressed with some form of respec option, even if that option is limited.
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  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited April 2014
    Well, yeah, I guess the stat system only has a minor impact in Wizardry 8 anyway (though you can notice clear advantages from the bonus skills you get when you get one stat to 100, so putting 3 points into 2 stats is much better than 2 points into 3 stats). The real balance issue in Wizardry 8 is that the game sometimes spawns mages above your level and they can pretty much always annihilate you in one turn. If you save at an "unfortunate" time you can totally get stuck. And easy mode won't actually make mages easier because it doesn't reduce damage, just makes enemies have less fortunate rolls which doesn't help if spells always hit.
  • ShinseitoriShinseitori Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    The progression/skill system is the one thing I genuinely like about Diablo III. It's great--just level your character for skill slots. Swap out skills as much as you want after.

    Despite their inflexibility in resets, my favorite is probably the grids in Final Fantasy X and Path of Exile. I like having clear, visualized goals and being able to track my progress.
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  • TGBarighmTGBarighm Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    What do people think of Zelda-style "search for progressive items" progression? As in, the progression isn't automatic. You have to find or overcome some challenge to progress (and let's assume you can't progress without finding those items, so we don't have to argue whether or not a Zelda-like game is an RPG).
  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited April 2014
    Well, I personally need my ability to grind which wouldn't be present in a Zelda-style system.
  • TGBarighmTGBarighm Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    What if there was no real blocker to the grind? Sort of like in some open world games where you're free to search for the "heart ups" and the like all you want during free roam stages. The only real cost in such sessions being time.
  • ShinseitoriShinseitori Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    I think there's an argument to be made that taking the time to search for heart containers/bottles and the like can be analogous to straight level grinding.
    Rise!
  • RockkoRockko Member Full Members
    edited April 2014
    lolwhoops wrote: »
    I like progression systems like Digital Devil Saga. Unlock a class thing and get in battles to learn new moves, get experience to gain levels which gives HP/MP, gain points when leveling to spend on stats of your choice to let you focus on what you want your character to be good at and then throw in the rare stat boosting item that can give you a little boost. I've always like building characters like that. DDS might not have my favourite battle system ever, though I do like it, I think it's a great take on a JRPG progression system.

    Same here. When I saw this thread, DDS was the first system that I thought of for some reason. I really liked the character customization in that (those?) game(s).
  • Rya_ReisenderRya_Reisender Solipsist Snowflake Full Members
    edited April 2014
    TG Barighm wrote: »
    What if there was no real blocker to the grind? Sort of like in some open world games where you're free to search for the "heart ups" and the like all you want during free roam stages. The only real cost in such sessions being time.
    In open world games the lack of grinding is often less critical because if a place is too hard you can just go to some other place. I depends on how much there is and how the actual character progression works, though. For example I just couldn't get myself to like Blackguards because it combines a very complex leveling system with limited "exp" to spent. This is a killer for me.

    As for Zelda where the complexity is much lower it probably wouldn't be so much of a problem.

    It's just bad if you can get into a situation where you've visited all places with a "Heart" already except for those that are too hard for you, then you are kind of stuck.
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