Author Topic: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System  (Read 10146 times)

Styg

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Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« on: January 12, 2014, 02:34:25 PM »
The new version is complete and the build is running as I type this. Tomorrow we'll be starting the internal testing so you can expect the new patch to go live sometime next week. In the meantime, I want to present you with an alternative experience system I implemented and the reasoning behind it.



Before we even begin I want to make it clear that, even though I consider the new system to be the "default" way to play the game, the old system is still available for those who prefer it. Upon starting a new game you will be able to choose which experience system you want to use and you can also choose between easy and normal difficulty. On easy difficulty player character will have twice the health and the healing consumables will heal for twice as much and have a lower cooldown.

With this change, I'm only trying to re-balance the experience economy and not anything else regarding the character progression. The experience economy concerns the way the player gain experience and how does that affect his character build and play-style.

Since the early development phase of the game I was set on the game utilizing this old-school linear level/skill progression system. I'm fond of this kind of system and I had a pretty good idea how I would handle various combat calculations within it. What I never liked about it, though, is how the games that implement it handle experience gains. The problem is similar to that presented in the previous dev log in regards to the trading economy. Most of experience you gain by completing quests and killing enemies. So in order to get as much XP as possible and progress through levels as fast as possible, the player is encouraged to resolve most situations by combat. With Underrail being a challenging game as it is, there exists a very real need for the player to maximize their power level at any stage of the game.

One of tweaks I did in the past of ease this up a bit was to increase the XP gain from quests and reduce the XP gain from kills. It did help a bit, but in a game which involves a lot of combat you'd really have to go to the extremes when shifting the XP gains (from kills to quests) before they actually change the nature of level progression. Otherwise, it will still be heavily based on XP from kills, you'll just slow the progression down. You could go to one extreme and say, let's only award XP for quest completion. This is one way to go about it, and certainly some games have utilized this or something similar. I personally I don't like, though. I find it a mostly boring and non-dynamic way to progress and it also encourages you to complete as many quests as possible, instead of just those you want. In my opinion, you should only have to do quests that progress the story (or alter the game world) in the way you want or have other in-game rewards you desire, and not because it's the only way to become more powerful. For me, playing RPGs is about making choices based on preferences. Anything that limits this is bad.

* * * * *

What I wanted to do is reward player with experience for exploring Underrail, fighting new types of creatures (as opposed to farming easy ones) and just generally discovering and experiences more of the game world. Without them having to make optimal combat builds or finish the quest branch that gives the most experience.



The way the new experience system works is you only get experience from collecting and studying "oddity" items. These items are scattered throughout Underrail, mostly at points of interest. Some of them are gained by killing critters and other specific types of enemies, but since each oddity item can be studied a limited number of times, you can only farm XP from a single creature type to a certain point. Also, there are generally more instances of an oddity item type placed than you need, so you don't have to have 100% exploration score to get them all. Though, some of them will be unique and only awarded for discovering special areas or defeating bosses.

The main purpose of this system is to allow players to level at a similar rate regardless of what their build and play-style is. Going through the world stealthily, guns blazing (or in some cases diplomatically) or anything in between should now earn you similar amount of experience. People who build their characters better to their respective play styles will still naturally have an easier time and be able to venture to more dangerous areas. They will still do better than those who are still getting the hang of the game - the purpose of this is not to make the game easier, just more inclusive for different play-styles.

For those who like to race ahead of the difficulty curve and like to visit higher level areas early to amass experience quickly, let me assure you that the purpose of this system is not to prevent that either. Higher level areas will hold oddity items that give more experience, so skipping ahead to those will still accelerate your leveling, though admittedly not as much as the previous system.

* * * * *

So, in any case, the new update is coming soon and you'll all be able to check out all these major changes and let me know how it's working out for you. Our focus in the months to come will remain on providing more content to the game and less so on new mechanics, but I am still dedicated to making this game as mechanically and economically sound as possible, as I feel this is just as important.

LazyMonk

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2014, 03:56:28 PM »
The main purpose of this system is to allow players to level at a similar rate regardless of what their build and play-style is. Going through the world stealthily, guns blazing (or in some cases diplomatically) or anything in between should now earn you similar amount of experience. People who build their characters better to their respective play styles will still naturally have an easier time and be able to venture to more dangerous areas. They will still do better than those who are still getting the hang of the game - the purpose of this is not to make the game easier, just more inclusive for different play-styles.
Great call, Styg. Getting xp through kill may motivate us to pick the less pacific action not because of role-play reasons but because its more rewarding. Now, M'lan Ratula and his children might have a chance to survive.

Back at the old nwn, i liked to play a stealthy ranger. It was fun to complete a quest without
killing almost anyone, just sneaking by.
But i felt like i was handicapping myself. Without kills i was getting less xp by sneaking past
them and since i played ranger i didn't get any sneak attacks or any other benefit.

Just two questions.
Some of these oddities are going to be rewarded for completing quests?
Are there going to be oddities in locked containers?
« Last Edit: January 12, 2014, 04:21:13 PM by LazyMonk »
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Styg

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2014, 04:23:18 PM »
Just two questions.
Some of these oddities are going to be rewarded for completing quests?
Are there going to be oddities in locked containers?

Oddities will not be granted directly for quest completion, though quest-accessed areas might contain oddities.
No oddity will be exclusively obtained through usages of specific skill (like lockpicking). Though there might be a few oddities in locked containers or rooms, they will also be placed elsewhere so you will be able to obtain the maximum number of that type without lockpicking and such.

Banggunner

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2014, 06:07:52 PM »
Dear Styg,

You are a genius.

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UnLimiTeD

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2014, 12:30:16 AM »
Now this is an interesting idea.
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Sakuragi

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2014, 06:00:58 AM »
Sounds good but gotta play it first to have a feel about this new type of leveling system.

Eliasfrost

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2014, 01:37:02 PM »
Is the EXP requirement accumulative or is it always the same amount of EXP requirement to lvl?

Styg

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2014, 02:29:44 PM »
Is the EXP requirement accumulative or is it always the same amount of EXP requirement to lvl?
It steadily increases like in the classic system.

LazyMonk

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2014, 02:36:55 PM »
The mmo Haven & Hearth has a curiosity system thats some what similar to this.
It was a welcome change because it removed grinding completly from the game.
Its also free so check it out.

Getting xp only through quests is a nice system aswell. Many nwn modules took this route.
But i guess it does not reward exploration as much as the oddity system.

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Styg

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2014, 03:13:37 PM »
The mmo Haven & Hearth has a curiosity system thats some what similar to this.
It was a welcome change because it removed grinding completly from the game.
Its also free so check it out.

Getting xp only through quests is a nice system aswell. Many nwn modules took this route.
But i guess it does not reward exploration as much as the oddity system.

I have played H&H a bit and Salem extensively so this system is indeed partially inspired by those games. Though Underrail is much simpler in that regard since it has a linear skill progression and singular progression input (XP).

ThraKhrom

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2014, 05:19:58 PM »
I think the new XP system sounds most intriguing.
I do have a problem with RPGs that are basically either action or strategy combat games that only differ from non-rpgs by employing character progression and having a stronger emphasis on story-telling, possibly with some choices for the player to make. In those games the only "roles" you can play are combat roles like tank, dps, control and such. Of course combat is always a fun aspect of RPGs, but it's usually not the one that makes them stand out. I liked Fallout (1+2) for the different approaches to solving a single problem. And it does feel, at least at the moment, that in Underrail combat is the most rewarding solution to all problems. I actually found myself trying to deal the killing blow to enemies, I had set up to be gunned down by a turret, to gain more XP. I also tend to take every quest even from opposing sites to gain more XP. And I always felt I needed more and more XP because I found the combat to be brutally difficult (I went for combat with guns with high perception and almost no survivability). Initiative will hopefully alleviate some of the problems with combat following a dialogue (no chance of survival when 6 enemies attack you before you even draw your gun). And the easy setting is also much appreciated.
The difficult combat, that I managed mostly by restarting fights repeatedly until I got in that perfect grenade and some good crits, actually lead to my stopping to play the game just shortly before it's current end. I'm already looking forward to starting a new character with a different approach once the new patch is out. Hopefully I'll even get to the new areas ^^

UnLimiTeD

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2014, 06:26:39 PM »
Regarding the difficulty, wouldn't it be better to just increase the health by 50% and then grant an extra 50% based on the health that an average character has?
If you go for a stealth sniper, going easy mode or not will not drastically change your survivability given the low base health.
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epeli

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2014, 11:31:45 AM »
:o you never cease to surprise me, Styg!

Will some of the (more common) oddities be a part of the random loot table or will they (all) be hand-placed? I'm wondering about replayability here.


Regarding the difficulty, wouldn't it be better to just increase the health by 50% and then grant an extra 50% based on the health that an average character has?
If you go for a stealth sniper, going easy mode or not will not drastically change your survivability given the low base health.
I think doubling your HP pool is going to be a huge survivability increase even with 3 constitution. But you're right, seems like high-con characters will get even larger benefit.
[[Underrail Wiki]] // character build tool: underrail.info.tm (thread)

Eliasfrost

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #13 on: January 14, 2014, 03:46:50 PM »
Will some oddities be gained exclusively through quests? If not, then what's the point of doing them? Are you planning on increasing the reward for quests? because the main reason I did quests was to gain EXP and with the new system I don't see any reasons to do them other than simply just "want to".
« Last Edit: January 14, 2014, 04:31:48 PM by Eliasfrost »

Banggunner

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Re: Dev Log #26: Alternative Experience System
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2014, 03:07:52 AM »
]because the main reason I did quests was to gain EXP and with the new system I don't see any reasons to do them other than simply just "want to".

Quest rewards (like cash) could be another reason to do quests and I guess you will have to play the storyline too to complete the game right. Also, in games (for example) like fallout there are tons of quest. Do you have to finish them all? No, its all about choice. Like the fish quest, I ain't got the patience to fish like Morde. He is a hardcore fisherman, he wouldn't leave his rod even if was attacked by 4 burrowers!

(and I know this isn't fallout but more choice is more fun!)
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