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Whats the point of character progression, inventory and skills in RPG's?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by dnightwalker, Jun 19, 2018.

  1. dnightwalker

    dnightwalker

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    I know this sounds weird, but lately I been wondering what's the purpose of having this type of mechanics in RPG's? Im playing around with the idea of making an RPG for fun. Started researching on how to do it. The thing is; every resource that I find either one of two things: "How to make an RPG using these RPG mechanics" or "This is how X game did their RPG mechanics". They never bothers to explain why they choose to do so. Its always a "RPG's must include these mechanics" mentality. I love RPG's and I get that you need to create such mechanics. I was hoping to find out whats the purpose of them, so that I could better understand what needs to be done when designing one.

    Anybody has a clue as to why or could share a resource that explains this?
    Thank you.
     
  2. JoeStrout

    JoeStrout

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    It's all about giving the player a feeling of accomplishment, which is the fundamental source of fun.

    If you spend an hour playing, you need something to show for your time/effort. RPGs generally don't have a score, so how do you know you accomplished anything? You know because you have a new skill or a shiny new piece of equipment or your character has bigger stats than he had before.
     
  3. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    In one sense, just goals to work towards.

    IMO, this is kind of an arbitrary means to give player a sense of progression/accomplishment. But wIth easy-to-learn-hard-to-master gameplay, players will chase self-made goals, like mastery of the game, with less reliance on contrived design to keep them satisfied.

    On the other hand, if new inventory items or skills or stats fundamentally alter the game play experience by adding variety to the core gameplay mechanics, then they are not arbitrary goals at all but gameplay multipliers, i.e. increasing the complexity of the gameplay and giving player more game to master.

    It seems that the major complaints with Ubisoft sandbox games as of late is that they are filled with meaningless content. Even if your higher stats, higher tier loot, etc., is a completely arbitrary goal for the player to work towards by repeating the same game loop over and over, you need to make sure it's disguised somewhat and has some bearing on the gameplay or story or something. If player learns there is nothing worthwhile to work towards and the core gameplay loop isn't interesting, they leave.
     
  4. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    There are a few things that are all tied into it. There are the goals these things tend to organically create. Then there is the use of these things as mechanical complexity regulators, so you give a drip feed of new toys for the player to play with. More than anything, they are ultimately there to create a sense of improvement and empowerment for the character and the player.
     
  5. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    The dreaded answering a question with a question.... If you were building an RPG and decided to remove character progression, skills, and inventory, what short and long term goals for the player would you replace those with?
     
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  6. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    A good case study to observe something like the polar opposite to "progression" based games is the fantastic survival game The Long Dark (an indie Unity game, woohoo). The whole premise of the game is that you do not progress, the best you can do is just keep surviving. Of course there is loot to find, but you don't play for the purpose of finding these things, rather they only work for a time to allow you to keep playing. It's fantastically simple and yet they got the core game play loop dialed in on the fun factor to attract a sizable and devout following. The key is that the core gameplay is challenging enough to warrant constant player adaptation. You are always looking for some permanent shelter, some never ending resource cache, but you just can't ever get there. You concoct big plans, they fail miserably, you struggle and by sheer dumb luck somehow survive...it's like, pure distilled gaming. I love it.

    So, considering that game and how much I love it, I second the OP question in a sense, yet at the same time I finished a few RPG's just beccause I wanted to get that top tier armor -- however, games like that almost always leave me with a poor lasting impression, whereas games that I enjoyed solely for the gameplay become legends in my mind.
     
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  7. EternalAmbiguity

    EternalAmbiguity

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    I'm getting Battlefront 2 flashbacks...

    *Independent from the above*

    While all of these are good answers, you might also consider that it's an RPG. A "role playing game." The construct of the game is not just "run across the level and jump on monsters" or "run around shooting things," it's also about inhabiting a character. And progression is pretty much an intrinsic part of being a human, especially for the kind of things you typically do in RPGs (combat).
     
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  8. j_spencer93

    j_spencer93

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    Uh well without these mechanics you just have....a hack n slash.
     
  9. digiross

    digiross

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    The computer rpg gets it's origin from the old pen and paper D&D games that a lot of us "older" gamers started with sitting around a table with 4-6 buddies back in the day. The attributes, skills/abilities had a similar progression and when the first computer rpg's came out they stayed close to the source (more or less). To this day, that is why your average rpg will have those things. The key this day and age is to try and add a unique twist all the while making sure it's not tedious and cumbersome to progress.
     
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  10. hippocoder

    hippocoder

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    These are legacy systems from Dungeons and Dragons, which generally set the basic rules for all RPGs ever since. They're also designed to be as grindy as possible so that the game can appear longer with some form of progression. As for "fun" - probably not as much fun as it used to be.
     
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  11. kdgalla

    kdgalla

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    I'm actually glad you asked this question because this is a question I've really been thinking about for the past year or two with my big, epic RPG idea. I'll share my conlusions, but the TL;DR version is: Don't settle on the idea that you need to have all of these RPG elements in your game. Focus on the bare minimum that you really want to achieve. You can always add elements later if you choose.

    Epic stories are all about heroes with humble beginnings who are forced to journey and grow and expand their horizons until eventually they accomplish something that no one ever thought possible. Levels, equipment, and skills are simply the gamification of this progress. Really, you could replace any or all of these, as long as you have some measure of progress.

    For me, it's fun when you start out practically helpless. You have this huge world to explore, but if you can simply walk around and do whatever you want from the get-go, it's too easy and boring. A majority of the world should be barred-off to you in the beginning (due to difficulty) but you see tantalizing glimpses of all these exciting places that you may be able to visit someday (foreshadowing is very important). Slowly, as you gain more abilities you can explore more of the world and reveal more of the story. In this way, you feel that sense of development that you expect with an epic story.

    Dividing progress into multiple factors. like different skills, weapons and spells, etc. gives the player choices in how they want to progress. In the Elderscrolls series, for example, players expect to be able to develop their own play style by choosing from a vast library of different abilities and resources that the game provides. You essentially create your own character. For many players, having this choice is an essential defining characteristic of an RPG, as opposed to an action/adventure game.

    Despite everything I said above, I would be flexible in this regard. If I were you, I would focus only on what features really interest me, and the features that I really understand well. I wouldn't even worry if it was a "real RPG" or not. As a solo developer, do I really have time to create a game that does everything? I feel like I would need to focus on only the very essential experience that I want to present. That's the only way my game will ever be finished.

    Recently I had an idea for a fantasy story and setting that I thought would make a good action RPG. I had ideas for plot points, battles, and characters, but other things like skills and equipment I was just glossing-over in my mind. Eventually I realized that I don't need all of these RPG features- unless I had really inspired ideas for a feature, I should just cut it. After all, if I don't have a very clear picture of how a feature is going to make my game exciting, than why do I even need it?

    Now instead of an RPG, I'm making a linear platformer with light combat and puzzle elements. After all, there's no reason why a platformer can't have an epic fantasy story. Sounds like a big step down, but if I'm really honest with myself, this is really much closer to what I want to do. And, frankly, if my game takes 1 hour to complete instead of 40, I think it would actually be for the best.
     
  12. Endi24

    Endi24

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    "Pride and Accomplishment"
     
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  13. Magician_Arcana

    Magician_Arcana

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    I've been thinking about what it would be like to design an RPG without levels but still some form of character progression. Something that's always bothered me about traditional RPGs is the power creep. It's something that makes the gear you've obtained on your journey from level 1 to max level almost feel pointless. Like what's the point of that rare level 30 axe if you're just gonna replace it with a common level 35 axe soon?

    Something I appreciated about Final Fantasy X was how weapons didn't have stats, just certain abilities they would give the user. A new sword you get halfway through the game wouldn't necessarily be better than the one you got at the beginning. It just might be better in certain situations. If I were to design an RPG myself, I would look to FFX as an example of how to do character progression without levels. Like maybe the progression comes from putting together an arsenal of diverse weapons so the player can be prepared for any situation.
     
  14. DungeonBrickStudios

    DungeonBrickStudios

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    It kind of comes with the genre. If you didn't have any of these things, you'd probably need to put more focus on the actual gameplay mechanics when it comes to fighting and whatnot, which would be more reminiscent of action games where you do not have inventory management or leveling up, but just get more skilled as a fighter. Action games do have different items you can equip a lot of the time, but you usually have a limit of how many weapons you can use and you cycle through them with a button without opening up an inventory.

    Another thing about inventories and leveling up is that they can diversify your game. So for instance now I have an RPG in the making and I think its combat is pretty bland/dry. The way I've found to fix that is to rely on better equipment to raise the player's chances. How do they get that equipment? By being observant, solving puzzles, etc. So by using their brains in parts of the game, they need not use too much effort when it comes to fighting.

    This is not to say that you have to have all these things, but you know when someone mentions a genre, we immediately think of the usual suspects. You say "action adventure", I think of exploration, maybe platforming, solid controls, real time combat, etc. "RPG" I think leveling up, custom classes, stats, loot, etc. You can always pick and choose tropes as you see fit though, or put in your own unique twist on them. If it's a good enough twist, you could hit it real big too.
     
  15. kdgalla

    kdgalla

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    This reminds me of another thing I really like about how RPGs handle pregression- they reward unnecessary preparation. This gives the player more game-play options. They can choose to rely on their skill, or supplement it by buying more potions, better armor, figuring out how to maximize their stat bonuses, etc. and so on. I tend to be pretty bad at video games so sometimes having these options is the only way I can get by. :)