Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-shit

If it's not ZDoom, it goes here.

Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-shit

Postby insightguy » Mon Apr 02, 2018 1:16 am

With the release of Far Cry 5 (not to say it's bad, but a whole other ton of games seem to get this concept wrong and I wanted the view of modders and players), I was curious to know what philosophies of upgrades and what makes good or bad. Feel free to elaborate on your position whether it be one side, the other, the middle, or even put up other concerns.

Some examples that come to mind:

Exponential vs Incremental
Should the player's upgrades be significant in terms of the actual upgrade or should it be a slow incremental climb?

Example:
Exponential: This upgrade straight up doubles/triples ammo capacity but is rare/occasional
Incremental: This upgrade increases your ammo capacity by 1 bullet but is common/frequent.

Static Vs Dynamic
Should the upgrades be set or should the player feel free to choose what upgrade?

Example:
Static: you get this upgrade when you get this item/to this point/when you hit this level.
Dynamic: you get perk points and you can spend them however you wish on what ever other perk.

Balance vs Freedom
A concern that also comes up with this is the difficulty curve, should the upgrades tie into the player skill? a player who finds less secrets tend to have an easier time with the campaign than those who don't (doom 2016, shadow warrior the reboot).

Example:
Balance: all upgrades are only obtained at set points as to not make the player overpowered.
Freedom: better play allows for some upgrades to come into play earlier.
User avatar
insightguy
^HEY! My avatar is up there^
Banned User
 
Joined: 23 Mar 2011

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Arctangent » Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:03 am

None of these seem like anything anyone could give a definitive answer on, due to the different purposes upgrade systems serve as well as the fact that a game can have several different upgrade systems interwoven among each other ( most common example: level ups with static, incremental attribute increases combined with a skill tree that can provide new abilities or significant increases to ones the player already has ).

Like, granted, an upgrade system that is dynamic should probably also be exponential, as all the choice such a system gives you means diddly squat if the choices are too minuscule to really matter, but other than that, I can't really say there's any hard guidelines to follow with this sort of thing. It ultimately comes down to how the upgrade system serves the other mechanics and the gameplay as a whole.
User avatar
Arctangent
squawky
 
Joined: 06 Nov 2014
Discord: SquawkyAtan#2371

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Dancso » Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:12 am

It's also important to question what kind of an audience your game has.

For something more traditional and hardcore, the small increments tend to give a lot of ground to cover for those who like to crunch the numbers to come up with the best builds.
Hack and slash RPGs tend to be this way, such as Path of Exile with its enormous point tree. World of warcraft was also like this for the first few expansions, but since their shift towards more casual audiences, you might have noticed they dropped the long talent trees in favour of fewer but more personal choices.

For the more casual audiences, linear upgrade paths and simplified (but meaningful) choices seem to be the way to go, because you might not want to interrupt your players with options that might require more than a moment to resolve.

There is something to be said about not wanting to overflood the player with choices even when they all individually have notable effects. For example, Diablo 3's unique item bonuses (almost) all individually offer something noteworthy, and a specific combination of them can really skyrocket your character's abilities, but unless you're absolutely obsessed with delving deep into the combinations you have, you're more likely to give up personal preference for some guide's efficient build, or be stuck in the lower half of the endgame almost indefinitely.

There are some studies that suggest people are generally happier with fewer choices. I'm kind of basing this on an episode of "The mind field" by VSauce (there are probably other sources), in which people were offered a selection of flavours to taste, and the more options they had the more they were left wondering if they were missing out by not picking some of the other ones. It's a bit of a leap to translate this to gameplay choices, and it definitely depends on how similar the choices are, and whether re-specializations are offered (and if they end up cheapening the feeling of building a character), but I figured it's worth mentioning.

Personally, I've never felt good about incremental upgrades. I even designed one of my arcade-style games games with it, and I found that I simply did not care about it, even if i had a couple of choices to invest in. It tends to be so hard to notice the effect after each step that you might not appreciate the overall buildup in power. If anything, if you're ever robbed of your ability (ie starting a new character or through some ingame event you are forced to live without it for a while), you might instead be frustrated at how inept your character had suddenly become.
User avatar
Dancso
bow wow
 
Joined: 11 Oct 2006
Location: at home.. Status: lazy like hell

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Arctangent » Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:34 am

Dancso wrote:For the more casual audiences, linear upgrade paths and simplified (but meaningful) choices seem to be the way to go, because you might not want to interrupt your players with options that might require more than a moment to resolve.

This seems kinda ... completely underselling exactly how big a choice between a few, but very distinct options really is.

Honestly, I'd probably say they're an even bigger choice than a bunch of incremental choices, because in those cases only a few will actually bother to crunch the numbers while everyone else will just pile points into their favorite things or use a build list that someone else whipped up, maybe add a few personalized sprinkles here or there but nothing really significant.

I think a great illustration of this is the runes and mastery system of League of Legends past vs. the completely reworked rune system it has nowadays. Previously, they were two separate systems linked by the fact that they provided customizable pre-game bonuses, or bonuses that you decided on before the game started proper that you were stuck with until that game ended. Masteries were a trio of talent trees that gave you a mix of minor stat boosts and minor passive abilities ( aside from near the end of the system's lifespan, where the bottommost choice of each tree was a choice of one of three very significant passives ), while runes were literally just stat boosts you got by socketing stuff into a grid of spaces that could only take certain kinds of runes, and certain types of runes were better at giving certain kinds of stats. All this boiled down to, though, was a bunch of math, so basically everyone just used certain mastery and rune pages most relevant to the champion they were playing, and honestly a lot of the time they didn't really even vary much between champions in the same class. So in the end, it was more of a burden of knowledge thing than any real thing for customization.

Now, though, the new rune system is more similar to the former mastery system, but with some difference and far fewer choices. But with the removal of both the old runes and masteries, there was a significant void of power that the smaller set of runes could fill larger chunks of, meaning that choosing between them could make for a far more significant difference and therefore provide proper incentive to mix up your rune page before every game to accommodate for your choice of champion, what champions you were likely to face early in game, what champions the enemy team had as a whole, what item build you're planning to take once you do get in game ( which also loops back around to what both teams' compositions are for champions with highly variable build paths, like one that can either act as melee DPS or a hard tank or one that get deal either physical or magical damage ) ... honestly, in the old system I barely ever touched my pre-game stuff once I set it up, but the new system has me tweaking my runes before basically every game.

Also, some mutation rolls in Nuclear Throne can very much result in agonizing choices, given how I may not see a mutation again that'll be great later on but will do nothing for me immediately ( hello, Laser Brain and some characters' Throne Butt ). And sometimes just rolls that are all good mutations or all bad mutations can really take me a while to decide on, because even the worst ones have situational utility that I may need more than the others.
User avatar
Arctangent
squawky
 
Joined: 06 Nov 2014
Discord: SquawkyAtan#2371

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Reactor » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:39 pm

I kinda like the Tyrian 2000 way of things: Earn a bunch of points, and you can spend them on whatever you desire.
Of course, under GZDoom, this means a lot of extra programming, as you gonna need to create a new category of items, sort of a collectible (like the treasure in Wolfenstein). You could also grab additional points for a perfect run on a level (100% everything). This gives a huge replayability for the game, especially if the gun-shop sells a wide variety of weapons.

Getting points or skills for killing is unadvised, as it can be easily exploited with Arch-viles and Pain Elementals.
User avatar
Reactor
The militarist
 
Joined: 03 Feb 2011
Location: Island's Beauty, Hungary

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Arctangent » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:54 pm

Reactor wrote:Getting points or skills for killing is unadvised, as it can be easily exploited with Arch-viles and Pain Elementals.

... And easily made unexploitable by making resurrected monsters and a pain elemental's lost souls give heavily reduced points or none at all.

Psychic does the latter with the lost souls, from what I recall, coloring them differently and causing them to not drop any blood money ( or maybe only a single coin? ) when they die.
User avatar
Arctangent
squawky
 
Joined: 06 Nov 2014
Discord: SquawkyAtan#2371

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Reactor » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:57 pm

It still can be exploited if perfect run gives 100% since they DO count as killed monsters. Of course, this only applies if the player does not kill all monsters in a level.
User avatar
Reactor
The militarist
 
Joined: 03 Feb 2011
Location: Island's Beauty, Hungary

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby NeuralStunner » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:06 pm

Definitely recommend looking at how the skill tree works in Dark Messiah Might and Magic. In particular, you get skill points from objectives (including optional ones) that you can spend how you like. There's no experience for kills, making sneaking by enemies a more viable option sometimes.
User avatar
NeuralStunner
Cuddly but Packin'
 
 
 
Joined: 21 Jul 2009
Location: Indiana, USA
Discord: NeuralStunner#1293
Operating System: Windows Vista/7 64-bit

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Sgt. Shivers » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:48 pm

I can't stand Upgrade Systems if they mean you start off as a really unfun character to play. I only really like Upgrade Systems when they radically effect how you play the game and aren't just like "+5 to HP" or stuff like that. If all you're going to do is have is slight increments to stats then don't make them have to be manually applied. I really loved the perk system in Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, it was really natural and well built in.
User avatar
Sgt. Shivers
 
Joined: 22 Jun 2012
Discord: Sgt. Shivers #4769

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Shadelight » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:50 pm

Sgt. Shivers wrote:I only really like Upgrade Systems when they radically effect how you play the game and aren't just like "+5 to HP" or stuff like that.

This is why I disliked path of exile, that was pretty much what it was. That huge passive tree was completely unnecessary and so were skill orbs.
User avatar
Shadelight
You must construct additional lumber.
 
Joined: 20 May 2005
Location: Labrynna
Discord: Shadelight#4920

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Gollgagh » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:13 pm

Reactor wrote:I kinda like the Tyrian 2000 way of things: Earn a bunch of points, and you can spend them on whatever you desire.
Of course, under GZDoom, this means a lot of extra programming, as you gonna need to create a new category of items, sort of a collectible (like the treasure in Wolfenstein). You could also grab additional points for a perfect run on a level (100% everything). This gives a huge replayability for the game, especially if the gun-shop sells a wide variety of weapons.


God yes; I've been wanting to reimplement that style of system in something for ages. If someone found a way to interrupt the intermission screen with a loadout shop,

Image

make all of the weapons upgradable; remove static weapon placements from a level, but put them into the shop; add in a mapset with branching paths and a bunch of secret levels (with super-rare equipment) and I would play that figuratively forever.
User avatar
Gollgagh
 
Joined: 16 Apr 2015

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby TensorMatrix » Wed Apr 04, 2018 11:55 am

I like the way Jet's 'n' Guns did weapon/ship upgrading; destroying enemies and collecting item pickups gives you money which you can spend at the after completing a level, but the coolest thing about it is that you can sell upgrades and weapons at 100% of the item's value allowing you to experiment with different build without any penalty.
Weapons are too weak or unsuited for the level? Just return to shop and try different weapons. Or you can "de-upgrade" some of your ship's systems (hull, engines, shields etc..) and get yourself more weapons.
User avatar
TensorMatrix
 
Joined: 29 Mar 2017

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Matt » Wed Apr 04, 2018 5:59 pm

My preference is basically Nuclear Throne.


Exponential/Incremental:
Qualitative. Shoot 2 bullets but they go off at an angle, or add burning/stun effects, or new secondary function. Big or small, each upgrade should feel like the gameplay has unequivocally changed.

(Simply doing extra damage might also be "qualitative" in a sufficiently deterministic design, e.g., if something that always had a chance to shoot you when you fired at it could now be consistently one-shotted, or if a wall of lasers did exactly your max HP in damage and your gaining of 1 max HP meant you could pass it to reach a new area without bothering to find the key.)


Static/Dynamic
Dynamic, but I'd prefer no more than 5 choices at each step.


Balance/Freedom
As long as the super-challenge bonus keener stuff remains optional and not required for completing the game or unlocking content. Balancing is thankless work that just always leaves people disappointed.
User avatar
Matt
Putting the XD into *xdeath since 2007
 
Joined: 04 Jan 2004
Location: Gotham City SAR, Wyld-Lands of the Lotus People, Dominionist PetroConfederacy of Saudi Canadia

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby Sgt. Shivers » Thu Apr 05, 2018 5:07 am

What do you users think about upgrade systems that allow you to max out everything / get every upgrade? I feel like it works if there are very few upgrades but if it's a big and varied upgrade tree then being able to get everything a bit boring. It's not as fun to me if you don't have to weigh up which upgrade you want and can just eventually get everything.
User avatar
Sgt. Shivers
 
Joined: 22 Jun 2012
Discord: Sgt. Shivers #4769

Re: Upgrade systems: How to make them interesting/fair/not-s

Postby NeuralStunner » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:13 pm

Sgt. Shivers wrote:What do you users think about upgrade systems that allow you to max out everything / get every upgrade? I feel like it works if there are very few upgrades but if it's a big and varied upgrade tree then being able to get everything a bit boring. It's not as fun to me if you don't have to weigh up which upgrade you want and can just eventually get everything.
I was just saying this to a friend about DMoMM a while back. It also encourages you to play again a different way.
User avatar
NeuralStunner
Cuddly but Packin'
 
 
 
Joined: 21 Jul 2009
Location: Indiana, USA
Discord: NeuralStunner#1293
Operating System: Windows Vista/7 64-bit

Next

Return to Off-Topic

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: MauiBot and 4 guests