I recently played Hotline Miami for a second time (this time on the Vita, the first...
No problems, I enjoy the discussion, actually. I want to say that I own the original release for PlayStation 2 (€36 for what...
What differentiates Equipment from Levels in RPGs is that equipment doesn’t stack on top of itself, each new item replaces an old one completely. This means equipment occupies a more short term space in terms of growth as compared to levels as each level up bonus accrues and doesn’t go away. So the choice between abilities or stats when you level up tends to be a long term choice of what you want the character to look like eventually, equipment is what do you need on them right now. A choice between attack and defense, between different ways of attacking. Do you want health, resistances, hp regeneration?
The problem with equipment though is that it often isn’t a choice of what stats do you want for your character and more of a question of if you have enough to buy the next round of objectively and completely better equipment that this particular class can equip. The only choice is do you want to grind and get enough money for these items or not? At best the question is which characters do you want to buy equipment for and which you don’t? But equipment can be a meaningful choice of how you want to play your character(s).
It is understandable why equipment isn’t a more meaningful choice in most RPGs though. Each character represents a certain class and a certain playstyle and so they want to limit characters to be what makes sense for that character. The choice they want you as a player to make is between characters and not intra-character.
Good analysis on the nature of equipment and decision making. I’ve always been partial to equipment-based character customization because it allows players to change their abilities and qualities relatively quickly without worrying about retraining, rebuilds costs, or XP refunds. That said, I’m often disappointed with how most equipment systems in games reduce choice to a trivial subset of real options.
I think part of the problem is that most improvements are one dimensional. In Skyrim, for instance, there is light and heavy armor of various materials, but the materials have no meaningful trade-offs.
Dragon > Ebon > Orcish > Dwarven > Steel > Iron
You’ll always pick the armor with the best material, unless you specialize in crafting one of the above. Of course, since the crafting perks are also a one-dimensional gradient, you’re still just working your way to Dragon armor regardless. For this reason I’m hoping to work on a crafting system into TUG that has more multi-dimensional trade-offs for determining which material and templates you decide to use.
Now, along the issues of slots. As someone who’s played a lot of table-top and digital RPG’s, I’ve found my greatest issue with the slot mechanic is one of assumption. Thematically I’ve always preferred quality of equipment over quantity, but in almost any game that has slots there’s no reason not to fill every equipment slot with the ceaseless treasure you run into. To combat that I’ve been considering an magical upkeep cost for equipping magical items, similar to how Dragon Age has upkeep costs for certain on-going spells and powers. I think that will create more interesting economic choices for deciding which items to equip as well as how many.
I like watching gaming streams on Twitch, not just the tournaments but the games people play for fun or practice. So, I was watching a stream of a professional League of Legends player and during the match someone he was playing with said “Oh, so Amumu ult doesn’t stop Cait ult.” He didn’t know this and not knowing it cost one of his teammates their life. Now this was a Challenger level player, the person who said this is in the top .006% of players. Who probably has thousands upon thousands of games under their belt and he didn’t know about how these two abilities on these two commonly picked champions interacted.
This isn’t a slight against that player, but rather it is a problem of fringe conditions. There are a lot of champions and a lot of abilities each of which have rules governing how they interact with all the other champion’s abilities. This player just didn’t know one combination of how two abilities interacted. Him not knowing this cost another player their life and potentially the game, he may know it now but that exact situation will likely not come up again for at least another thousand games. The problem is though for those thousand games how many will be decided based on two champions abilities interacting in a way that wasn’t intuitive? I call it a fringe condition because each condition doesn’t come up very often but if you have enough fringe conditions then at least a couple will come up every game and so the game will goes to the ones who happened to of known about this game’s fringe conditions that pop up in this one.
Such fringe cases are extremely common in situations that involve combinatoric complexity. Often the best you can hope for is that this won’t lead to strictly dominant outcomes that reduce most of our play-options into trap-choices. Currently my friends and I are planning a TUG mod around emergent game mechanics. Since emergence is all about combinatoric complexity, we’re very careful about the behavior of our mechanics, but we’re pretty sure the system is going to surprise us. Of course, that only semi-predictable nature is half the point of emergent systems, isn’t it?