Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Talk about Sarah's upcoming game in the Rebuild series.

Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby Panpiper » Wed Dec 25, 2013 9:43 pm

I feel I am perhaps jumping the gun here, making suggestions before having a play with the alpha, but I am 'very' interested in this project and my enthusiasm runneth over.

Original main idea snipped because Sarah scooped me.
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A problem in Rebuild 1 & 2 is that there is a hard skill cap of 10 regardless of what equipment is being used. A character with a soldier skill of 10 will have the same effects whether he is carrying a pistol, a rocket launcher, or no weapon at all. This leads to the absurdity of taking away the weapon from someone with maximum skill to give it to someone less competent. Worse, in my playthroughs with Rebuild, it actually causes me to literally not care about equipment, I ignore it. I just train everyone up to maximum skill.

What would make for a far better game mechanic is to simply make the equipment bonus able to exceed the skill cap. A skill capped character with a rocket launcher should be more badass than one with a pistol, and certainly more so than one with no weapon at all.

A perhaps second suggestion is...

I object conceptually to hard skill caps, especially when combined with a linear skill progression system. In my opinion, a far better mechanic is to have no hard cap whatsoever, except that the 'experience/training' necessary to reach the next level of the skill is the next level of skill, so gaining the first level of a skill takes only one experience/training, but going from level nine to ten would take ten experience/training.

If training in a school gave two experience/training points, a character would effectively gain a skill level as they do now, one with each stay in the school, up until after they hit level three. Getting to level four would take a total of five stays in school. Doing the old standby of ten stays in school to pump a skill to max would net six levels of skill.

For this to not negatively affect the existing play balance, I would suggest in addition, essentially doubling existing equipment bonuses. This way a character who spent the old usual of ten turns in school and equipped with a decent weapon like a shotgun, would wind up with a skill of six plus a bonus of four for the shotgun, for a total of ten, the old skill hardcap, for which I expect the game is still balanced. Of course a character might start to exceed this over time with stacking bonuses and lots of usage XP, but that's ok, if the game is already being balanced with a thought to character having skill above the old hard cap due to equipment adding to the cap, not being preempted by it.
Last edited by Panpiper on Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:15 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Suggestion: Equipment Bonus Ought Exceed Skill Cap

Postby Chah » Thu Dec 26, 2013 2:57 am

Don't worry, it's already been stated that equipment bonuses can exceed skill caps!
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Re: Suggestion: Equipment Bonus Ought Exceed Skill Cap

Postby Panpiper » Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:16 am

Chah wrote:Don't worry, it's already been stated that equipment bonuses can exceed skill caps!

Thanks Chah. The game is in good hands it would seem. :-) I'll edit my post to change the focus.
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Re: Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby Chah » Thu Dec 26, 2013 9:27 am

There's already a plan to make skill advancement require more and more experience as the skill level gets higher.
Not having any skill cap is an interesting idea, but will it lead to too much grinding at the endgame before advancing to the next city?

Which makes me think, the problem with too much grinding can happen either with or without a level cap.

Sarah wants to make it so that you'd have to play through several cities before your character reaches max skill level.
I wonder if it would be too tempting for players to intentionally delay winning and do some grinding so that the characters are maxed out before they move to city #2? We've all played games where we delay winning in order to research every tech or conquer every square. But if characters get maxed out too early in a campaign mode, that may make a campaign boring.

Maybe the max skill level becomes unlocked as you win more cities? For example, in the beginning your max skill level is 10. If you saved one city, your max skill is now 12. If you saved 2 cities, you max skill is 14.
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Re: Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby Panpiper » Thu Dec 26, 2013 10:03 am

My experience with games is that when my character is maxed, I almost immediately lose all interest in the game. If it takes several cities for me to reach max, it just means that the game for me will last until that point, and here is the kicker, and then stop. I lose interest in a game when I can no longer progress my character. Now yes, there are other characters, but if I cannot carry them over to the next map, then they are not 'characters' so much as they are pawns. Progressing characters that do not carry over is not progress.

Having a steadily increasing skill cap on each map (as long as it keeps going) is better than a fixed hard cap, but still not ideal. I do not want any sort of cap. Having a cap is literally telling a player that they are not 'allowed' to make the choice to grind, they are not 'allowed' to take their time and sandbox a game while watching their characters grow. A game is rarely made better by artificially restricting player choices. One could argue that if someone is allowed to grind, the game will be too easy, but again, that is a player choice. They 'choose' to make the game easier, much the same as choosing an easier game setting. If the game has difficulty setting, it makes absolutely no sense to deprive a player from choosing another method of making the game easier.

The best way to handle skills being too high such that they putatively 'break the game balance' is as said before, make each level of progression more difficult than the previous. At a certain point, it simply becomes no longer worthwhile for a player to continue to push a skill except through normal gaming.
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Re: Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby Chah » Thu Dec 26, 2013 10:58 am

I'm going to discuss this in parts.
Panpiper wrote:My experience with games is that when my character is maxed, I almost immediately lose all interest in the game. If it takes several cities for me to reach max, it just means that the game for me will last until that point, and here is the kicker, and then stop. I lose interest in a game when I can no longer progress my character. Now yes, there are other characters, but if I cannot carry them over to the next map, then they are not 'characters' so much as they are pawns. Progressing characters that do not carry over is not progress.


First of all, what kind of genre is Rebuild? I get the feeling that you're only thinking of it as an RPG.

There's some aspect of that (especially since Rebuild 2, where characters gained stats), but Rebuild isn't just about accumulating stats. It's also a city sim. It's about problem-solving and adapting to the situation. Some players (like me) see it as a puzzle or a kind of strategic maze where there are these pieces strewn out on the map.

Imagine a puzzle game like Minefield or Freecell. They're addictive and you could play them over and over because it's satisfying to navigate your way to the solution in a particular "map" or "layout" and it's different each time. Rebuild has an element of that.

Just like Minefield or Freecell, I can enjoy playing Rebuild over and over. But only if it requires me to make decisions and adapt each time. If I can make an arbitrarily strong character, then I don't need to adapt and it robs me of that experience.

I'm excited about a campaign mode where I can carry something over. But if there is a way to grind infinitely to an arbitrary power level without repercussion (other than real life concerns about losing time with boring clicking), that would ruin the strategic aspect of this game.
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Re: Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby jaydedman » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:17 am

+1 to this. I play Rebuild because its a puzzle with multiple variables that I must deal with. I personally avoid games that's just focused on building a character's power. Rebuild is more like Simcity or Civilization to me.

This is why Im less interested in building up a character, than Rebuild having more events that make me change up my strategy.

If Rebuild was about building a character's power, then we should have different level of zombies...leading up to the Boss Zombie at the end.
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Re: Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby Chah » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:21 am

So part 1 was "what kind of genre is Rebuild?"

Part 2 is "what kind of grinding is fun?"

Panpiper wrote:Having a steadily increasing skill cap on each map (as long as it keeps going) is better than a fixed hard cap, but still not ideal. I do not want any sort of cap. Having a cap is literally telling a player that they are not 'allowed' to make the choice to grind, they are not 'allowed' to take their time and sandbox a game while watching their characters grow.


Offering the choice to grind can be a bug as much as a feature.

In some games such as JRPGs, even if you grind a lot, the game only becomes easy for a while but the enemies power levels catch up as you progress. In some other games, the accumulated advantage from grinding follows you around for the whole game and makes all subsequent challenges easy. It can really spoil the whole game; I've seen games where multiple reviewers and players listed that as a major flaw.

Also, in RPGs, you tend to get more XP from fighting enemies in the late game rather than the early game, so you have an incentive to go on. I'm not sure if it would make sense for Rebuild to be structured in this way though.

When you say "take their time and sandbox a game while watching their characters grow" I imagine you talking about a game like GTA or Minecraft, where you are living inside of this virtual animated environment, moving around different places, fighting opponents, etc. Even when you're grinding, you're still doing interesting things that are fun in and of themselves. But have you actually played the endgame of a Rebuild game? (What they call the "mop-up" stage) Without all the goals and strategic elements, it's just mechanical clicking.
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Re: Suggestion: No hard skill cap

Postby Chah » Thu Dec 26, 2013 11:30 am

I was going to write a part 3 on the topic, "is it really a choice?"
But first, I think the solution to this is to have some kind of time limit to save the world.
The day count from all of your maps count towards that limit.
If you grind too much in the early game, you run out of time to get the best ending.
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