Tuesday, May 29, 2018

RPG: Stats

Typical RPG Approach

I'm taking a very different approach compared to typical role playing games when it comes to stats (strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, charisma). In most games, you start off with a beginning set of stats - possibly random, possibly with some user decision. Then as you "level up", your stats either increase automatically or you have some ability to pick which ones to increase. In some extreme circumstances, death may reduce your stats but normally they only go up.

In response to the "typical" way of doing things...

  • I hate randomly assigned stats. I shouldn't be crippled in the game for the next 20 hours because a random number generator didn't go my way in the first 20 seconds.
  • Although picking which stats increase when you level up is nice, it's usually fairly meaningless. Unless there was some kind of equipment with a minimal stat I was short on, I would just spread them fairly evenly (maybe a little extra into intelligence if I was a wizard or dexterity if I was a rogue). Still fairly meaningless.
  • I don't like the idea that an intelligence or charisma number could determine how I could make decisions in the game. Although Fallout has some funny scenes with that, again I don't want a poor decision early on to ruin the next 20 hours.
  • I don't like permanent penalties such as death reducing a value. Penalties should always be recoverable in time.

My Approach

I'm going with just 4 stats:
Strength - Primarily for melee weapons.
Dexterity - Primarily for ranged weapons.
Focus - Primarily for spells.
Constitution - Your body's current toughness (separate from health).

The values of each stat will be much more fluid and vary based on your recent actions. When you start the game, you're a very young, relatively weak, and inexperienced adventurer so your strength, dexterity, focus, and constitution will all be low. As you swing your sword around, your strength will go up and thus deal more damage. As you use a bow, your dexterity will go up and thus aim better. As you use magic spells, your focus will go up and thus require less energy for a given spell. And as you survive marching the wilderness, your constitution will go up.

Maybe at first you were a sword user, but decided later on to go for ranged attacks instead. Over time from disuse, your strength will decrease but your dexterity would increase quickly. Same goes if you switch to just casting spells, your focus will increase but your strength and dexterity will go down. It will be possibly to try and exercise all three - regularly cast a spell, shoot an arrow, then do a finishing blow with a sword. But then you get into the jack of all trades, master of none situation. It will be very difficult to max all 3 of them.

After using just my sword...

After casting many spells and disregarding weapons...

But how will a player get permanently better over time?

That will be taken care of by skills! (Which I haven't gotten to yet...) How well your action does will be based on your stat + your skill. And your skills never go down. Think of it this way: You never forget how to ride a bike, but if you haven't been on one in a couple years you're not going to win the Tour De France.

Concerning using just focus instead of separate intelligence and wisdom for spells... Regardless if I'm praying to a god for divine intervention, reaching out to nature for help, or just materializing fireballs out of my hands, all of those requires focus. Is there really a benefit in splitting them up into separate stats?

Constitution & Death

Constitution is a bit different. Constitution will influence how much damage you take for a given blow. Instead of 30% of your health, maybe you only take 20%. Constitution will steadily go up and up and up. But if you get knocked unconscious, it will drop like a rock. Then you'll have to take an extended time to get it back up. Here's the deal though - you go into a boss fight with high constitution and get knocked down. Sure you can heal your hit points instantly, but your constitution has taken a blow and if you jump right back into the fight you'll be weaker than the last time.

Constitution after fighting for awhile...

After getting knocked down / dying...

This approach to constitution is how I want to give consequences to death without totally demoralizing the player and causing them to rage quit.

  • If there are no penalties for death and you start 15 seconds away from your corpse, then you can jump right back into the same battle and possibly win it - who cares if you die, it really didn't matter.
  • If death is permanent or very serious and you get struck down, then screw this game, it just wasted hours of my life building up this character so I'm going to do something else.
  • If death hits your recoverable constitution but has minimal other consequences, then you still REALLY don't want to die, but you also don't hate the game for stealing your time if you do. You just need to take a break from that boss fight - build up your skills while your stats improve - then go back after him.

Other Improvements

In addition to adding stats in the game, I did lots of code cleanup of tactics and made it so you can pickup health and energy potions off the ground.

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