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Default Inflation in RPGs @ Hooked Gamers

April 6th, 2008, 17:22
This second part of an editorial titled Inflation in RPGs at Hooked Gamers sees author Captain Patch complaining that character growth is unrealistically fast:
Now compare most any RPG to that historical reality. You start as a first level whatever with zero experience points. Initial attributes usually border between mundane and above average, with perhaps an Outstanding attribute in one or two areas. Thereafter, the success of the character is determined by what you do with him or her. The things that you do accumulate experience points, and perhaps hone skills somewhat. Given that you don't get yourself killed, you will start to ascend through level after level of expertise and notoriety. Now, given that those mundanes that provide the foundation of your society are all Level Zeroes, what level would someone of spectacular accomplishment be? Tenth level? Fifteenth? Twentieth? How many levels would there be between your average John Doe Farmer and the Champion of the Empire? And how long did it take the Champion of the Empire to become Champion of the Empire?
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April 6th, 2008, 17:22
In earlier edition of the Dark Eye RPG system [Realms of Arcania], there were less "adventure points" (the equivalent of "experience points") given to the player/character.
Especially compared to (A)D&D, which usually gives a higher amount of experience points for completed tasks, as it appears to me.
A thorough investigation of the Realms of Arcania games revealed that the amount of adventure points itself was raised for the international version of the games, which had been translated by SirTech. It was speculated that this might have happened to give the (A)D&D player (it is still one of the biggest and most dominating systzems on the market) the experience of the rather higher amount of experience points that the (A)D&D player was used to.

I had always interpreted this rather small amount of experience points given away in editions prior to the 4th of the Dark Eye RPG system as a try to let character not to grow up too fast. However, due to my limited knowledghe of RPG systems in general, I might be wrong as well. It's an interpretation, anyway.


Anyway, modern games are rather streamlined to the mass market which is dominated by a certain few developers and games. In these, the player experiences a rather fast growth of the character not only with lots of experience points, but also with lots of loot.

The reason behind this might lie in the concept to give the player a rather fast and rewarding stimulus over playing. To keep the player connected to the games, he or she is given the experience of a rather fast growing character. Which is meant to be rewarding.

However, there is also the problem of the scale of experience points and levels. A level 20 character might be an absolute master in one system (around 23 was more or less "legendary", so to say, in the 2nd & 3rd editions of the Dark Eye system), but mean nothing at all in other systems.
It's just a matter of the scale.

In (A)D&D the player can reach a "legendary" status rather fast - but that's just my personal interpretation, too.

So, the market is dominated by players/systems which provide a rather fast growth which can easily go into levels which are unrealistic compared to "real life".

This domination results in maybe too many developers thinking "we must do it the same way, or gamers might complain". This is how "industry standards" evolve. Everyone tries to comply to this system or growth rate.

As a summary, trhere are several pointzs I think of:

- Developers should retain and keep their own system - and their dedication to it. Don't compare your own game too much with other games/systems or your own system might lose "personality" !

- Market dominance is always good - for the dominating company. Not for Diversity.

- What about a systems' fanboys ? Will they complain if a game based on an entirely different system doesn't give them the (growth) experience they expected ?

- And should the developers worry about this ?

- Will it decrease sales ? I mean not to comply to some kind of "industry standard" ? Sadly, nowadays sales are everything (ask EA about that).


Finally, I think that developers should have the will and the strength not to let themselves be influenced by any "standards". But instead make "their own game", with its own system / layout. That's my opinion.

And take a look at Evil Islands, if you can. This is the game that's closest to reality of all C-RPGs I personally know.

Somehow, the rather innovative C-RPGs come from smaller companies - and often from Europe, it seems to me.

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“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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April 6th, 2008, 18:16
Sheesh, next thing you know Captain Patch will demand that you only play one RPG ever and it should take you 40 years in real time, playing constantly, to get a full skill set
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April 6th, 2008, 19:00
You already play that game…it's called 'life'. It's a really strange game…no saves, no reloads - you can't even start again if your game sucks. Oh, and game over means game over. Really, a very strange game.
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April 6th, 2008, 20:04
Originally Posted by Roi Danton View Post
You already play that game…it's called 'life'. It's a really strange game…no saves, no reloads - you can't even start again if your game sucks. Oh, and game over means game over. Really, a very strange game.

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April 6th, 2008, 23:10
I think this article makes a fair point, and it would be neat to see some games try a more realistic approach to the whole "become a hero"-thing. It seems Reluctant Hero, the next RPG by the people who did Heretic Kingdoms, is going to try adding a bit more "realism", by actually simulating the entire life of a "hero" character (where injuries can take months to heal).

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April 6th, 2008, 23:23
Reluctant Hero is almost certainly dead, and Chris Bateman absolutely would not value hard-edged realism over gameplay. Your description is correct but the in-game effect isn't likely to be what you think.

Anyway, I disagree. Anyone remember one of the common complaints against the original Baldur's Gate? Only 8 level-ups, so limited opportunity to build your character. Slowing growth (within limits) makes a worse game, not a better one.

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April 7th, 2008, 00:33
Depends how much "realism" you want. It's a game and if it took too long to level people would potentially lose interest. I personally like slow leveling, Baldur's Gate I was slow (especially in the beginning) and that was fine for me although I wouldn't want it much slower than that.
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April 7th, 2008, 00:47
Strange, I remember the Ultimas having a max of 8 levels which took all game to achieve. I don't remember people complaining about that!!

If God said it, then that settles it!!

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April 7th, 2008, 02:21
I think the writer has a point. Leveling up should be a big deal. And it gets boring if your characters become invincible.

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April 7th, 2008, 02:36
It really depends on the system you use, to take a PnP example WHFRP dispensed with levels compleatly. The system was also much grittier a character with lots of expierence and power still wasn't as absurdly untouchable as a high level character in D&D. Just thinking about the Gothics they've only got leveling as a convention, they could just as easily give you LP when you get X xp without doing more than a cosmetic change to the character sheet UI.

Its all a matter of taste though, D&D doesn't suit my personal preferences but there seems to be a big market of people who love running round with a angsty level 40 half something something something who can level continents at will.
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April 7th, 2008, 03:25
It isn't about the leveling itself but about how much increase there is when you level up. The best system would be where you level up fairly often but each level would only have a minor effect on your charecter but because of that you can customize your charecter but not become overly powerful too early.
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April 7th, 2008, 08:07
I dont know what the writer it talking about..In case of AD&D, you level up fast only initially while it takes longer to gain higher levels. I think such exponential progression is adequate and already being implemented.
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April 7th, 2008, 09:24
It also depends on what the developers have in store for you at the end of the game. If your grand goal is to rid the land of frogs and other small critters and the end boss is an angry badger then low level characters are just fine but if you're supposed to take on the King of Shadows, an ancient dragon or a demi-god then you NEED a hero (or group of heroes) that can "prod buttocks" so to speak.

Besides, while there is nothing wrong with whacking mobs of goblins or kobolds, the real fun begins when you start meeting some of the more exotic creatures in the monster compendium … and that requires higher level characters.

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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April 7th, 2008, 09:33
Originally Posted by guenthar View Post
It isn't about the leveling itself but about how much increase there is when you level up. The best system would be where you level up fairly often but each level would only have a minor effect on your charecter but because of that you can customize your charecter but not become overly powerful too early.
Agree wholeheartedly! Dhruin makes a good point - too few levelups severely decreases the opportunities for character development (which I consider one of the defining elements of the genre, not that it matters). But on the other hand, as everyone else said, we don't want players to become demigods by the end of their campaign. IMO, the "lots of small steps" philosophy would deal very well with both of these complaints.
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April 7th, 2008, 11:52
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
Reluctant Hero is almost certainly dead, and Chris Bateman absolutely would not value hard-edged realism over gameplay. Your description is correct but the in-game effect isn't likely to be what you think.

Anyway, I disagree. Anyone remember one of the common complaints against the original Baldur's Gate? Only 8 level-ups, so limited opportunity to build your character. Slowing growth (within limits) makes a worse game, not a better one.
Reluctant Hero is dead? Oh, that's so sad to hear.

Concerning BG, I personally remember praises in the press regarding the slow progression. And I really liked the feel that every cobold and every small quest counts. You also had hardly a dosen levelups in original Fallout with only exception being playthroughs targeted at getting Slayer/Sniper and kicking everyone's butt.

On the other hand, Mass Effect gives a level almost after every encounter. You can even miss 2 or 3 if you engage in a really big fight. I definitely disliked this. It completely strips me of joy of receiving a level! Sadly, lots of games these days follow such patterns. Lost Odyssey tends to level your characters up every battle in a new area with tough monsters - until you reach their level and experience received drops to nothing. And so on.

The reason for that is, I believe, that players are tired of battles with meaningless monsters that exist just to eat up time, so game designers try to remove that and make every battle more meaningful. That's great, for sure. But they want to keep the progression rate as high at the same time. Well, that's not a disaster, and as I see from this discussion some even like that. But I hope indies who don't have increased production costs of latest generation HD games and continue making RPGs that can easily last for 50 and more hours don't get contaminated with fast progression ideas of mainstream RPGs.
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April 7th, 2008, 12:05
The reason for that is, I believe, that players are tired of battles with meaningless monsters that exist just to eat up time, so game designers try to remove that and make every battle more meaningful. That's great, for sure. But they want to keep the progression rate as high at the same time.
The problem here, is the meaningless battles that just exist to eat up time, not the progression in itself. If a battle is not fun, and not challanging and just feels like a task, there is no point to have it in the game at all. But if it is not there the reviews will complain, this game is too short,,,, isn't it better to have it on the short side instead of on the boring side? Very few games manage to keep the battles fun everytime. Either you can do it by keeping a very challanging game, and few places to recover so the thrill of trying to survive will always be there like ( WIZ 8 , or Eschalon does, at least in some part of these games ) they both manage to keep an okay balance of leveling up, not too seldom not too often…

Or you can do the FF approach level up often, and keep throwing boring battles as the player, that are there for no other reason than to make you powerful enough for the boss battles, and make the game longer.

I am still woundering my self if the entire XP, level up thing is the way to go,,,, but none really managed to make a skill based game either, the problem with a skill based game is that people with hit a log for 20 hours to max their strength… etc etc…. I do think there could be a way, that you do not learn anymore from hitting the tree, and in order to become really good you have to engage the most challanging enenies. For example to gain master in swordsmanship , you must fight the best with the sword, and fighting puny critters will not gain you any skill no matter how many you kill……
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April 7th, 2008, 13:03
Random notes…

I haven't checked in with Chris Bateman in a while but it's been the best part of a year since they were finding it hard getting a partner (publisher). I'd be surprised if it wasn't on indefinite hold.

Re Fallout - bear in mind it is only a 20-30 hour game.

I think GothicGothicness really hit the mark - many of the problems being described have nothing to do with level progression as such but filler combat and various othre design issues.

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April 7th, 2008, 13:17
Originally Posted by drum View Post
On the other hand, Mass Effect gives a level almost after every encounter. You can even miss 2 or 3 if you engage in a really big fight. I definitely disliked this. It completely strips me of joy of receiving a level!
Yes but you gain only 2 skill points per level (3 for the first 5 levels and a single point from level 35+) to distribute between your skills and each skill tree has 12 points and a 3-4 tier ability system.

In other words: Adding a point into the Armour skill is hardly noticeable in the game unless that particular point made you reach the next ability tier and unlocked the ability to wear heavy armour.

To me, the importance of level gains has a lot more impact on the gameplay than the frequency of level gains.

"Chess in particular had always annoyed him. It was the dumb way the pawns went off and slaughtered their fellow pawns while the kings lounged about doing nothing that always got to him; if only the pawns united, maybe talked the rooks around, the whole board could've been a republic in a dozen moves." - Commander Vimes in Thud! by Terry Pratchett
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April 7th, 2008, 15:54
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
To me, the importance of level gains has a lot more impact on the gameplay than the frequency of level gains.
Yes, levelling a character should make that character *tangibly* more powerful. Otherwise it's simply the same problem as the level-scaling schemes employed in Oblivion and Sacred (if everything levels then nothing levels). If a player character's progress can't be meaningfully gauged against the gameplay experience then why have a level-based system at all? I'm not particularly a fan of 'action RPGs' but I feel Diablo 2 is the master when it comes to smooth, addictive levelling.

Then again, I don’t believe level-based systems are appropriate to every kind of RPG. The AD&D system was certainly mismatched in Planescape: Torment but worked well in ToEE and the Goldbox games.
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