Mon, 26th Oct '09, 3:44pm
http://sorcerers.net/images/news/other/article.jpgLevelling is an important aspect of RPG. It basically makes you want to keep playing. You get the XP, you press the level-up button, now you have something new to aim for until you hit the limit. The plot is kinda secondary to this. This much we know. Here's a shorty:
2. It lets players gauge their strength and growth relative to the game world. "Oh, I'm level 10. Halfway through the game. I'm probably not ready to fight the dragon just yet, but I'm still getting to the point where I'm an above-average badass."
How game designers muck this up: They deny the player a way to judge how tough an enemy is. In an MMOG, you can examine a foe and know how far above or below you they are in level. Without this, you can't really get a sense of how you're doing or when you might be getting in over your head. Is this guy tough because he's a boss, because he's way above me in level or because I just suck at the game? Is it supposed to be this hard?
Read the rest (http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/experienced-points/6690-Ding-Now-You-Suck-Less) at The Escapist and thanks to RPG Watch for the lead.
Mon, 26th Oct '09, 5:52pm
I can remember when The Escapist was still worth reading...
I will ignore the fact that his "how developers much this up" seems to indicate the only RPG he's played is Oblivion and focus on the points themselves.
1. If anything most games have too MANY levels, not too few. He said it himself: gaining levels should be a meaningful reward. It completely loses any shred of meaningfulness if you can gain a level every few minutes by clicking a button a couple of times (see the hilarious RPG parody Statbuilder).
2. So now the only way to judge the toughness of an encouter is by having a popup over every monster telling us how many levels above us he is? Why not have the popup tell us exactly how many hit points and what skill levels are "optimal" for each encounter, while we're at it? Come on. We're not morons. If my level 1 character stumbles upon an ancient fire-breathing dragon that can kill me just with the force of the wind from his wing buffet, that's a good enough hint that I need to get stronger before trying to beat him up. If my starting character is walking around Sigil and everyone is telling me that the Lady of Pain is even more powerful than the entire pantheon combined, I knew better than to start a fistfight with her. There are many, many ways to give hints about how easy/difficult an encounter is. A popup giving all the enemy's vital statistics is NOT the way to do it. (unless it's done as part of a skill, such as Identify Monster in M&M, with higher skill level giving more detailed information)
3. My biggest, biggest hate with a game is when it makes no mention that a particular ability exists until I hit the level at which it magically becomes available. It can be done well (Anachronox pulled it off very well with the entire magic system, but that's mainly because the whole system was intricately linked to the game's plot), but arbitrarily deciding to hide important mechanics is one of the worst design decisions I can think of. How he thinks that NOT having abilities available from the beginning makes it LESS likely to mess up a character build is beyond me.
4. About the only point I agree with him. Of course there's a limit to how much freedom can be programmed, but simple things like getting a key by charming/pickpocketing/killing the guy carrying it is relatively simple and pretty much required.
5. Sort of agree but not entirely. One-way doors can be done annoyingly and they can be done well. A door magically locking behind you so you can't go back is bad design, but compare to the way Kotor handled things: the planet's been DESTROYED, how are you going to go back? If the story requires such one-way doors and they're done logically and well, I don't mind them at all. Even level-scaling can be done well. Oblivion messed it up entirely, but it worked very well in Daggerfall and Morrowind (where it was much more subtle), and in BG and other games. None of these points are bad in and of themselves, they're just bad if they're badly done (again it seems he's only looking at Oblivion, where they were badly done)