Enemies get stronger as the player's characters get stronger

A discussion area for general design issues that staff would like detailed feedback on.

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How should we handle levelling up enemies when the player levels up?

Do it.
1
6%
Don't Do it.
9
56%
Even out the playing field between chapters, but not before.
6
38%
 
Total votes: 16
Viliam
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Postby Viliam » Sun Dec 23, 2007 11:30 pm

Monsters getting stronger seems to me unfair (what is the purpose of gaining levels?) and unrealistic (so for the last 10000 years all scorpions were small and relatively harmless, but now when I start my campaign, they suddenly get stronger with the same speed?). But this is not the most important part. The important thing is danger that they could become too strong if there is some error in balancing. So that gaining levels would actually become disadvantage for player.

For example if player has more HP and also monster has more HP, it seems like nothing wrong should happen. Unless the monster has some cumulative attack (e.g. poison) which does more than linear damage. Or perhaps if I can kill the monster with one hit, there is 50% chance (depending on who hits first) that I will be completely unharmed. But if monster has more HP and it becomes impossible to kill it in one hit, I will be always harmed. And if the harm means e.g. poison that has to be cured by special cure, when I am level 1 in need that cure only after 50% of combats, but at level 3 I will need it after 100% of combats.

Also if there is more than one hero in party... will monsters be adjusted according to strongest or weakest hero? If weakest, then gaining a new weak member in party will make the game suddenly much easier. If strongest, then it will be completely unfair. When my hero A is at level 1, he will be fighting level 1 monsters, and winning relatively easily. When my hero A is at level 10, and new hero B at level 1 joins the party, the level 10 monsters will kill hero B by one hit.

If the monsters will be stronger whenever I buy new armor or weapon, this removes incentive to buy it. If the monsters will only become stronger with my level (hitpoints and basic attack), then I have no incentive to level up, only to buy items. If monsters will become stronger only after I gain a level, but a bit more than my level - to compensate for my possible new items - then if I do not get cool new items, I will be actually punished for gaining the level.


If you want to make monsters later stronger, then at least make them more rare. That makes sense... after the weakest monsters were killed by heroes, only the strongest ones survived, but those were not as frequent as the weakest ones. Player still has to take much care when fighting against them, but he is rewarded by less frequent fights. The fights do not become trivial, but at the same time it is now more safe to travel across the same land.
Orymus
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Re: Enemies get stronger as the player's characters get stronger

Postby Orymus » Sun Jan 24, 2010 10:10 pm

It would be a big bet, and perhaps would draw away casual gamers, but what if enemies levelup on their own?
Say that every second spent in the game, their get stronger (but relatively slowly). Most of the time, the player would not notice it at all, but if he would wait endlessly for a moment, then comes out, he would feel a difference. That would give an idea of "world taken over by enemies" kinda. Additionnaly, boss fights could decrease their overall strength, which in turn would give a good incentive to pursue quests, so that the player doesn't find itself stuck fighting ever-growing monsters.

Of course the flaw is: what if monsters become too strong and the player is stuck?
To which I have currently no answer, but i think this dynamic system deserves some thinking.
rujasu
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Re: Enemies get stronger as the player's characters get stronger

Postby rujasu » Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:03 am

One thing that has been a struggle for this project is that we've had a tendency to over-design things like this. As it currently stands, enemies level up when the player does. It has become clear to me, through experience with the demos, that this is very, very difficult to keep balanced, and I think it needs to be scaled back to a traditional static leveling system. Yes, this means that the character will eventually be able to overpower early-game enemies with no trouble at all, but this is okay. We don't need to grind-proof the entire game, and having all enemies level up with the player simply makes the game more tedious for the player rather than more enjoyable. (Personally, I didn't like that FF8 did it, and I don't like it now either.)

I think having the enemies level up with time would be a bad idea, because the player would then have to "rush" through the game and, as you said, the game could reach an unwinnable state far too easily. I think we should keep in mind the KISS philosophy here, and that dynamic isn't always better.
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Roots
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Re: Enemies get stronger as the player's characters get stronger

Postby Roots » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:50 am

Agreed with rujasu. Your idea is interesting Orymus but I think for a relatively inexperienced team like us, it would be too much work to figure out how to do something like that right. Since I started Allacrost one of my core game design philosophies (which I call my "golden rule") has been this.

Roots wrote:Anything, and I mean ANYTHING that gets added into a game's design should make the game more fun to play (directly or indirectly).


rujasu wrote:One thing that has been a struggle for this project is that we've had a tendency to over-design things like this. As it currently stands, enemies level up when the player does. It has become clear to me, through experience with the demos, that this is very, very difficult to keep balanced, and I think it needs to be scaled back to a traditional static leveling system. Yes, this means that the character will eventually be able to overpower early-game enemies with no trouble at all, but this is okay. We don't need to grind-proof the entire game, and having all enemies level up with the player simply makes the game more tedious for the player rather than more enjoyable.


I reluctantly agree here. I still really like the idea of having enemies level up along with the party so that characters can't completely dominate early enemies later, but I do confess that it has been a PITA to balance. Maybe what we could do instead is have a "base level" for enemies and then level them up only proportionally (not linearly) to the party's level. For example, lets say the party is at an average of level 25 and the player is trying to blaze through the game. They get to a forest with enemies that are all around level 40 (we don't "level down" to the player's current strength). There the player has a tough challenge ahead of them due to this difference. Now lets take the same example and say we have a different player who is leveling up all their characters a lot and taking it slow through the game. When they get to the same forest their average party level is 60. We take this into account and "level up" the enemies in the forest at say maybe 1/2 of the difference, so they would be at level 50. I just thought of this idea so I haven't taken the time to analyze it, but on the surface it seems like it should be okay? :shrug: If we don't implement any enemy leveling at all, I suppose I could still be content as long as we continue to have random variation in our enemies (i.e., not all spiders have exactly 60HP).

I do think that leveling enemies to be around the same as the level of the characters is not working for us, and to get it to work would take a huge amount of time and effort into game balancing which frankly I don't want to nor do I think we should invest in. We have plenty of more important work to do.

-----

I had a couple of related ideas while I was writing this. :angel: I like both of them a lot, although they are more for map mode than for leveling system/balancing.

1) Maybe in map mode, if we produce an enemy sprite on the map that has a party significantly stronger than the character, we could make the sprite flash a red color to indicate danger? Then the player can choose to engage or avoid such strong enemies as they choose.

2) If we can, it would be nice to detect when the party is significantly stronger than the enemy party and if so, have the enemies run and scatter as the player approaches so that they can just cruise through old dungeons and areas without getting annoyed by a battle every few seconds. (If the player so desired, they could use the run ability to chase down the fleeing enemies). Recall that currently all enemies do the opposite: when the player approaches the enemies actively hunt down and pursue the player.
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rujasu
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Re: Enemies get stronger as the player's characters get stronger

Postby rujasu » Mon Jan 25, 2010 4:13 am

Roots wrote:If we don't implement any enemy leveling at all, I suppose I could still be content as long as we continue to have random variation in our enemies (i.e., not all spiders have exactly 60HP).


This could work.

1) Maybe in map mode, if we produce an enemy sprite on the map that has a party significantly stronger than the character, we could make the sprite flash a red color to indicate danger? Then the player can choose to engage or avoid such strong enemies as they choose.


I think this is a good idea, since you can't run away from enemies once you've encountered them (and this is by design.) Let's not do any work on this now, we should stay focused on getting a release out right now, but for now it works.

2) If we can, it would be nice to detect when the party is significantly stronger than the enemy party and if so, have the enemies run and scatter as the player approaches so that they can just cruise through old dungeons and areas without getting annoyed by a battle every few seconds. (If the player so desired, they could use the run ability to chase down the fleeing enemies). Recall that currently all enemies do the opposite: when the player approaches the enemies actively hunt down and pursue the player.


I prefer this idea to trying to level enemies up to match the player. Of course, we'll want to ensure that this never happens with certain enemies such as bosses. Again, we can put this on the todo list for future versions.
Orymus
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Re: Enemies get stronger as the player's characters get stronger

Postby Orymus » Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:20 am

I understand your decision regarding this.
To follow in your "red enemy idea" perhaps, as the player levels up, the %rate to encounter red enemies could increase slowly. It wouldn't be absolute, but if you're trully overpowered, you get to have your ass kicked more often ;)

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