Collection Progression

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Collection Progression

Let's reinvent the old standard sidequest of action games: The hidden object collect-a-thon.

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I found the 'on the author' italics at the end of this great. On behalf of many millions of windows users, yes I fantasize about making progression bars go faster.

And I think a great example of using hidden objects to become more powerful than a game area was designed for is the Legend of Zelda series.
Maybe they do lock out a few of the collectibles until you have a particular item (coughcough*hookshot*cough). But in Ocarina of Time at least, I finished the fire temple before the forest temple. I went far enough into the forest temple to get the bow and I could collect dozens of heart pices and clear a whole dungeon without beating the boss. And in Link to the Past you could reach half of the dark world dungeons without properly finishing the first one.

Just thought a particularly well known offender should be called out as such.

Collecting stuff as a "side quest" in games has never caught my attention. I just do not see the fun in finding a number of flags, or killing 200 pigeons or whatever. I'm not even likely to do such a mission even tho it would result in me getting a flamethrower in Assassins Creed for example (or any other awesome/over powered weapon). The entire idea that publishers can "expand" their game just by throwing in some collectibles is to me laughable.

As for your solution, I'm not so sure. If I where to collect all those skill bonuses and only get the benefits for a few missions before being reduced to where I started and having to start all over again I'm sure I would feel unjustly treated. If you are to spend something like double the time of the story-focused player because you want to have higher skills, than they should no doubt be a permanent thing.

But in the end a system where you can get higher skills before a mission than "you should" would have sort of the effects cheating would. In Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, you having Force Grip 3 right away will make you far too powerful for anything you might encounter, this would still be the case even if you would do some "collect the light-sabers to get an extra force-point" side quest. But then again, collecting stuff in a game for a reward like you get in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood won't make people want to even do the side quest (you get pictures if I'm not mistaken... PICTURES!)

Hmmm...

I can see you put some interesting thoughts to this concept, because I like predictability of rewards(like mass effect skill trees) and also don't want the collectives to be dumbed down just because the developers think flat. Also mixing various types of collectibles was awesomely demonstrated in Psychonauts and we could even reduce all collection to scavange hunting for unique items that give information or minigames/missions/contacts to new people/cutcenes instead of (un)predictable bit of advantage(or disgustingly meaningless crap like mentioned the person above). using cloned objects even with tiers is still more boring than having more stuff to care about.

You know, this actually reminds me of Prototype. I usually don't go after collectibles, but I did in Prototype because there was a tangible, in-your-face reward. For going out of your way to find Web of Intrigue targets (more of a luck based thing, but still), you'd get more insight into the story. For going after Landmark Orbs, you get a bunch of Evolution Points. What makes that last part better, however, is that, after a certain number (10, 25, 50, etc) the amount of EP granted per orb increases, and you are told so in huge letters ("10 Landmark Orbs collected. Orbs now worth 10,000 EP each"). That makes it seem like there's actually a reason to do it, because you're constantly reminded that there is.

Borderlands is a great example of collecting things and then having to get rid of them. Although really in Borderlands its more collecting for collecting sake rather than actually for anyo ther purpose other than blowing stuff up in more spectacular fashion!

But, when it does come to collecting items and having to run around for stuff. I would much prefer the cash award too. That way I can spend it on finding bigger and deadlier stuff!

stonethered:
I found the 'on the author' italics at the end of this great. On behalf of many millions of windows users, yes I fantasize about making progression bars go faster.

And I think a great example of using hidden objects to become more powerful than a game area was designed for is the Legend of Zelda series.
Maybe they do lock out a few of the collectibles until you have a particular item (coughcough*hookshot*cough). But in Ocarina of Time at least, I finished the fire temple before the forest temple. I went far enough into the forest temple to get the bow and I could collect dozens of heart pices and clear a whole dungeon without beating the boss. And in Link to the Past you could reach half of the dark world dungeons without properly finishing the first one.

Just thought a particularly well known offender should be called out as such.

I was actually going to bring this up as well. Not to mention that, since A Link to the Past, the method of doing the pieces of heart scattered about the world have only contributed a little bit to the overall health. At least, as far as my memory goes. If you only did the main dungeons throughout the game, you would have sufficient hearts to deal with the challenges as opposed to if you had collected them all. Sure there would be a power balance, and there are plenty of other hidden items that increase abilities and power, but it's only slightly incremental.

I think the real challenge is in rewarding the player just enough that they want to continue exploring while only giving them a slight power boost, say 1/4th or 1/5th stronger than if they ignored everything altogether.

Note I'm primarily thinking of A Link to the Past here. I never beat a 3-D Zelda and haven't been as obsessed, but even then what did you get? The ability to carry more cash, the ability to carry more bombs, a not-that-valuable Bombchu, the ability to carry more arrows...in the end, there was a lot of stuff that helped you, yes, but their improvements were minor. So someone doing all the sidequests by 50% of the game might only be at 55-60% max while the person following the storyline is at 45-50% power. The difference isn't that large overall, but enough to make the collector feel as if he's been adequately rewarded.

And suddenly, I regained all the respect for this guy that I lost after his article about sex in videogames.

Miki91:
As for your solution, I'm not so sure. If I where to collect all those skill bonuses and only get the benefits for a few missions before being reduced to where I started and having to start all over again I'm sure I would feel unjustly treated. If you are to spend something like double the time of the story-focused player because you want to have higher skills, than they should no doubt be a permanent thing.

This is what I was thinking as I read the last page of the article. It just wouldn't seem right that you'd put all that time in to get those boosts, then eventually get back round to the storyline, and, despite having put in all that time, possibly several hours or more, you'd get to the 'Silver tier' and be in the exact same situation as the storyline-focused player who got there in, let's say, half the time.

Of course, you put an achievement along with those collectibles, and some people will do it regardless of whether they get any benefit for any amount of time.

ccesarano:

stonethered:
I found the 'on the author' italics at the end of this great. On behalf of many millions of windows users, yes I fantasize about making progression bars go faster.

And I think a great example of using hidden objects to become more powerful than a game area was designed for is the Legend of Zelda series.
Maybe they do lock out a few of the collectibles until you have a particular item (coughcough*hookshot*cough). But in Ocarina of Time at least, I finished the fire temple before the forest temple. I went far enough into the forest temple to get the bow and I could collect dozens of heart pices and clear a whole dungeon without beating the boss. And in Link to the Past you could reach half of the dark world dungeons without properly finishing the first one.

Just thought a particularly well known offender should be called out as such.

I was actually going to bring this up as well. Not to mention that, since A Link to the Past, the method of doing the pieces of heart scattered about the world have only contributed a little bit to the overall health. At least, as far as my memory goes. If you only did the main dungeons throughout the game, you would have sufficient hearts to deal with the challenges as opposed to if you had collected them all. Sure there would be a power balance, and there are plenty of other hidden items that increase abilities and power, but it's only slightly incremental.

I think the real challenge is in rewarding the player just enough that they want to continue exploring while only giving them a slight power boost, say 1/4th or 1/5th stronger than if they ignored everything altogether.

Note I'm primarily thinking of A Link to the Past here. I never beat a 3-D Zelda and haven't been as obsessed, but even then what did you get? The ability to carry more cash, the ability to carry more bombs, a not-that-valuable Bombchu, the ability to carry more arrows...in the end, there was a lot of stuff that helped you, yes, but their improvements were minor. So someone doing all the sidequests by 50% of the game might only be at 55-60% max while the person following the storyline is at 45-50% power. The difference isn't that large overall, but enough to make the collector feel as if he's been adequately rewarded.

You missed the worst of it. Windwaker and Majora's Mask were both incredibly difficult without the sidequests. I'd go so far as to say MM was nigh impossible. Both had only 4-5 dungeons, and MM had it's most important bonus's (damage reduction 1/2 and magic bar x2) in dungeon collection rewards. Windwaker did make all of it's collectibles pretty easy to get to; but it was time consuming to sail around and complete all of the little puzzles, half of which only even gave you money. Although I must admit, the combat system in WW meant that a lot of your fights were more timing the A-button and less taking hits.

Don't get me wrong though, collectibles is why I love LoZ. But if you don't enjoy spending several hours getting everything; LoZ is going to be a hard and unrewarding series for you.

edit: I actually remembered something else from MM. If you collected all the masks and completed a set of minor dungeons it gave you what was essentially a god-mode mask for the final boss. That game really rewarded you for collecting everything.

BMWaugh:

Miki91:
As for your solution, I'm not so sure. If I where to collect all those skill bonuses and only get the benefits for a few missions before being reduced to where I started and having to start all over again I'm sure I would feel unjustly treated. If you are to spend something like double the time of the story-focused player because you want to have higher skills, than they should no doubt be a permanent thing.

This is what I was thinking as I read the last page of the article. It just wouldn't seem right that you'd put all that time in to get those boosts, then eventually get back round to the storyline, and, despite having put in all that time, possibly several hours or more, you'd get to the 'Silver tier' and be in the exact same situation as the storyline-focused player who got there in, let's say, half the time.

Of course, you put an achievement along with those collectibles, and some people will do it regardless of whether they get any benefit for any amount of time.

Oh hooray, some people noticed the same thing I did before me. Yes, you guys are right - that's highway robbery. Let's use an example with two players: Collectivist and Campaigner.

Let's say that the Collectivist spends, say, 2 hours grinding up to 100% Bronze power, then he/she does the bronze tier missions in 20 minutes. 2:20 to get to Silver 0%. The Campaigner spends an hour and a half doing all those Bronze missions, and gets to Silver 0%. Huh. Notice the disparity. Noone's had more or less fun than the other - both paths are valid for their respective players. But it looks to me like one will be much more efficient than the other - Campaigner got to the same power level as Collectivist, but spend 50 less minutes.

Obviously, those numbers are arbitrary and I just made them up. But surely they're in the right ballpark - you wouldn't make your missions so unforgivingly hard that you HAVE to grind if you're going to follow the dualistic philosophy that Mr Tynes (or is it Scott Tynes? I'm unsure) proposes.

So what I have to conclude is that we're not done yet. The proposed Hard Solution is not sufficient to solve the problem. Not quite, at least. But I think it can be salvaged in a couple of ways. Oh, please note that I'm thinking in a Singleplayer mindframe, not MMO.

BMWaugh proposed that we add in an Achievement for maxing out each Tier's stat. That's a great idea for balancing it out. And it's a great example of "mechanically empty" rewards, which I like. But not everyone is just after Achievements, which go into the tally. They're very abstract. So let's throw down some other rewards for maxing out a tier which won't diminish the enjoyment of Campaigner, but -will- reward Collectivist. That's our objective, right? Keep both paths fun for their own players.

So first up, Achievements, as mentioned. Lots of them. One for maxing out each Tier. One for finishing the game with -all- Tiers maxed out. These appeal hugely to Collectivist, because they transcend the boundaries of the game, and are affixed to his universal profile. GamerCard, PSN Account, Steam page, whatever. They're permanent, and they're -shiny-. They're -great- for players that way inclined. But I'm certain that there are Collectivists who aren't. So we need something else, as well.

Secondly, let's drop in some superfluous rewards. They don't make a difference in mechanical terms, but do in aesthetic terms. That is to say: unlockable skins. Trophy items for your base, if the game has such. Unlocking cheats, skins, music or minigames are all tried and true methods of making grinding more fun. But they don't quite do it by themselves - merged with Mr Tynes' solution, they begin to make the Collectivist's time input more valuable. And it's important to not underestimate how significant these can be - some concept art doesn't do much, but a new, slightly more badass skin, or unlocking an mp3 file for the battle theme, these are some wicked ideas for rounding out the Collectivist experience.

I considered suggesting that we add in story-related bonusses for questing about and grinding to 100% on each tier. You'd get a "better" (or just different) ending, perhaps. But that's a really -bad- thing to do, because it hurts Campaigner. Not giving a reward is the same as a punishment, in this case. But if we stick to these ethereal, incorporial rewards, some players will miss out on that surge of power they get under that method of rewarding. So it'd be best to maintain something like that. But then we run into balance issues. I believe I have a fix; it's an iteration on the advancing difficulty model of compensation.

With the collection of the one hundred orbs scattered across the land, you gain the power of the world, but the seals on the evil monster's prison weaken. Or perhaps, when you were off collecting orbs, so too was the enemy faction? So when you do fight at the end of the tier or game, the boss is stronger. But so are you. It's a more epic fight, which has the same narrative outcome. This is going to be difficult to balance. Players have to know what they're doing, and they have to -see- the difference in power between the villains before and after they got their powerups. Otherwise, it's just harder and the time spent gaining power meant nothing. But like I said, the balance is very hard to get. Because now, Campaigner might be missing out. So it has to be handled delicately.

So, with the addition of "aesthetic rewards" and "transcendental rewards", if we balance the numbers right, Collectivist will have the same amount of enjoyment for time invested as Campaigner. And by making the time invested more than mechanically meaningless, but at the same time not at all detrimental to those who don't, we prevent people from considering their exploits a meaningless endeavour. And -that's- the real goal, right? Campaigner, who cares only for the story, is rewarded by the story. Collectivist, who only cares about collecting stuff, is rewarded by more non-essential stuff, and a more "mechanically powerful" experience, befitting the time spent.

That's my iteration on your Hard Solution, Mr Tynes. Thanks for writing - these articles are always very interesting thought exercises.

Usually I don't bother with collection quests but I really liked how Brutal legend handled it you can find lots of different things which almost always rewarded you with new music, fire tributes(money)/ special ability's and information on it's back story.

Quite a good read indeed, however the one thing I don't like about your "solution" is that once you progress through the story all progress you made through collecting becomes completely and utterly meaningless (other than knowing that you did it, of course). You say that people who like collecting are going to collect regardless of the reward, but I disagree.

For example, whenever I play a Legend of Zelda game I always feel the need to go searching for some pieces of heart so that the game will be not as difficult, but I NEVER get all that are possible simply because I don't care enough. This way I have an incentive to go and collect once in a while, and I am rewarded with a less difficult main quest. If I were to play a game with your method then I would surely not even bother collecting, seeing as all progress I made wont effect the game any further than the few last missions of the tier which doesn't seem that worth it to me.

However I could be wrong, in which case it was still a fantastic read and yes, I do agree with you about the progressive form of collecting. Well done :).

orannis62:
You know, this actually reminds me of Prototype. I usually don't go after collectibles, but I did in Prototype because there was a tangible, in-your-face reward. For going out of your way to find Web of Intrigue targets (more of a luck based thing, but still), you'd get more insight into the story. For going after Landmark Orbs, you get a bunch of Evolution Points. What makes that last part better, however, is that, after a certain number (10, 25, 50, etc) the amount of EP granted per orb increases, and you are told so in huge letters ("10 Landmark Orbs collected. Orbs now worth 10,000 EP each"). That makes it seem like there's actually a reason to do it, because you're constantly reminded that there is.

Exactly. This idea has been done and done well. The game opened up quests as the player proceeded through the game. You didn't have to do them, but you got bonuses when you did and you got bonuses based on your skill (bronze, silver, gold) so certain tasks became easier but they were probably always manageable. I wouldn't know though because I did a lot more tasks in that game than I did in GTA(x) because I knew there was a reward. Now it just needs to be adopted.

As I read your idea I started thinking of how I like to get through games with collection bonuses, like Crackdown. If I find a mission is too difficult, I'll go cool off by collecting orbs, which is fun and relaxing in and of itself, increase my character's ability, and come back to kick the mission's butt. Sometimes I like to overlevel; In an age of games almost entirely without cheat codes, it's a lot of fun. The reward for all that searching around is free god mode through the next level, and that's dandy.

Though I could be getting the gist of it wrong. As long as it's possible to take a break from orb collecting long enough to smash some heads and break through to the next tier, then go back to the orbs and bend the game to my will with a bit of extra effort, I'm all for it. It's not like the mission-based player can't do the same if he really wants to take the time.

I'm not sure I would like this progression system in a game. First, since I like collecting but never get obsessive enough to collect all the items, I wouldn't like to see them disappear at any point. If I'm running through a previously unexplored area, I don't want to have the feeling that exploration is now pointless until I reach the next tier, and that I'll have to come back later. Second, even if it improves balance, I wouldn't want upgrades gained by collectables to be negated at every tier. The carrot would be gone.

I think there are other ways to make sure that the collecting-obsessed player isn't rewarded with an unbalanced game.

In an open world game, items that are available to all players (weapons that are scattered around) could show up at your start point once you have collected enough. GTA3 did this years ago. Players who haven't collected need to drive to the scattered weapons or spend money at the gun shop, but players who have collected aren't any more powerful -it's just more convenient for them. Convenience is worth a lot in this kind of game.

Or how about the ability to purchase new moves that don't necessarily increase power, but add variety? So you get the option to, say, use a different combo finisher, one that looks cooler than your default, but doesn't really do any more damage. This can feel a bit more like progression than a purely cosmetic item unlock, and adds variety to the game as you play longer. As an added bonus, if you are replacing previous abilities you can add a strategic choice if each ability has enemies it is good against and weak against. The collecting player would have the most choice, and a bit of an advantage because of that, but they still have a tradeoff to prevent unbalancing later missions.

stonethered:

ccesarano:

stonethered:
I found the 'on the author' italics at the end of this great. On behalf of many millions of windows users, yes I fantasize about making progression bars go faster.

And I think a great example of using hidden objects to become more powerful than a game area was designed for is the Legend of Zelda series.
Maybe they do lock out a few of the collectibles until you have a particular item (coughcough*hookshot*cough). But in Ocarina of Time at least, I finished the fire temple before the forest temple. I went far enough into the forest temple to get the bow and I could collect dozens of heart pices and clear a whole dungeon without beating the boss. And in Link to the Past you could reach half of the dark world dungeons without properly finishing the first one.

Just thought a particularly well known offender should be called out as such.

I was actually going to bring this up as well. Not to mention that, since A Link to the Past, the method of doing the pieces of heart scattered about the world have only contributed a little bit to the overall health. At least, as far as my memory goes. If you only did the main dungeons throughout the game, you would have sufficient hearts to deal with the challenges as opposed to if you had collected them all. Sure there would be a power balance, and there are plenty of other hidden items that increase abilities and power, but it's only slightly incremental.

I think the real challenge is in rewarding the player just enough that they want to continue exploring while only giving them a slight power boost, say 1/4th or 1/5th stronger than if they ignored everything altogether.

Note I'm primarily thinking of A Link to the Past here. I never beat a 3-D Zelda and haven't been as obsessed, but even then what did you get? The ability to carry more cash, the ability to carry more bombs, a not-that-valuable Bombchu, the ability to carry more arrows...in the end, there was a lot of stuff that helped you, yes, but their improvements were minor. So someone doing all the sidequests by 50% of the game might only be at 55-60% max while the person following the storyline is at 45-50% power. The difference isn't that large overall, but enough to make the collector feel as if he's been adequately rewarded.

You missed the worst of it. Windwaker and Majora's Mask were both incredibly difficult without the sidequests. I'd go so far as to say MM was nigh impossible. Both had only 4-5 dungeons, and MM had it's most important bonus's (damage reduction 1/2 and magic bar x2) in dungeon collection rewards. Windwaker did make all of it's collectibles pretty easy to get to; but it was time consuming to sail around and complete all of the little puzzles, half of which only even gave you money. Although I must admit, the combat system in WW meant that a lot of your fights were more timing the A-button and less taking hits.

Don't get me wrong though, collectibles is why I love LoZ. But if you don't enjoy spending several hours getting everything; LoZ is going to be a hard and unrewarding series for you.

edit: I actually remembered something else from MM. If you collected all the masks and completed a set of minor dungeons it gave you what was essentially a god-mode mask for the final boss. That game really rewarded you for collecting everything.

Majora's Mask is actually not an offender here. The game was ABOUT collecting the masks and doing side quests. And they were the best side quests I've ever seen in a game. The Couple's Mask had more story in it than the actual storyline.

If I might add yet another perspective to the discussion...

We're talking about two extremes here, aren't we? The junkie who wants to collect everything and the cynic who wants to keep his hands clean of the whole business (the "Collectivist" and "Campaigner" respectively in Fenixius' post)?

What about the unimpressive MIDDLE of the spectrum? Those who wait until the Silver tier before thinking, "Hey, maybe I'll start collecting stuff now." Or the people who tried to get all the Bronze-tier collectibles and only got 92 out of the 100 before giving up and going back to the main story?

How would you BACKTRACK with this kind of collection structure? Maybe it's really simple and I can't get my head around it, but... I think the problem is the scale of the rewards at that point. If you're already at the Platinum tier with those abilities and whatnot, would the Bronze-tier collection rewards still be worth it?

Rubbish, if you ask me.

I mean, certainly there could be a game or two that works this way, and it'd be fun, but that type of progression has too much personality attached to it. If you were to put it in all kinds of games, it'd be terrible!

Personally, I am okay with the way it is now for the most part. Even better, I like it when a game does something similar to what is described in the first half of the article. I am tempted to say "Well, screw them. They're lazy." but I know that is not necessarily the case.

I have a feeling there's a reason that no games have done this yet. Not because they didn't think of it, but because they thought the idea sucked. I don't mean to be a jerk, this is just what I think.

I want to make this a little more friendly. Let's say there are lots of different kinds of collectibles in the game, not just one kind. Now, let's say that each of these collectibles has a theme, or a purpose. Each type of collectible upgrades a certain aspect of your character. Now, let's not make this the only way to go about it. When a player completes a story or side mission, let's have the game check how many collectibles they have. Depending on the player's progress, he's given a certain amount of exp toward certain skills/abilities/aspects. More if he has fewer collectibles, and less if he has more. That way, it can be artificiall capped/tiered as it is in the article. Furthermore, the developer can now put all kinds of twists and spins on the process to make it their own.

Other games have played around with this idea to a degree. GTA: SA comes to mind with it's smattering of different collectibles.

Of course, my idea probably is just as bad as the writer of this article's idea, because if it WAS a good idea, someone would've already put it into a game, I think.

Like I said, I think that what's described in the article could be good for, like, one game. If this got re-done over and over it'd be tedious and unoriginal.

I'm on a big fan of all the collecting in metroid games, simply grabbing missile expansions and energy tanks and such has always been the most worthwhile collection quest for me. Plus most of the expansions, which you don't necessarily need all that many of if you have a decent degree of skill, are placed in such a way that you have to advance in the story line if you want to get more stuff. Plus, they have the alternate ending screens(in the side-scrollers)and the extended endings (in the prime trilogy) and all the other junk like bobble heads, concept art, etc to go with it. Out of all gaming corporations and all their third party buddies, nintendo definitely takes the cake for the whole "extraneous item collection questy thing" component of gameplay.

I'm just glad that ACII fixed the repetitive nature. Crackdown had enough grind to almost make me sick and tired of open world roaming haha. Guess Italy is just much more lively..

you are all thinking very linear. if we use these tiers, other stuff has to adapt, like you can't distribute the hidden objects at constant frequency and there got to be intervals of vacuum synchronized with the story or enemies according to how the game would be made. I am sorry fro you, but games should be much more than some set of rules with content built onto them. it has to be symbiosis. collectibles should be left out or replaced by uniquetives in sandbox environments. else we get another GTA without flying birds just because some boring mind thought it is better to have em sit waiting for execution rather than being interactive(that is called lazy gamemaking). if it's not fun, don't use it, because it woun't make sence/realism.

You know, one thing that puzzles me is the very idea behind the article: I just don't see why a player exploring the game can't or shouldn't be overpowered in comparison to their content. I mean, if the player spends all that time powering themselves, they sure as hell want to feel like they're demigods. Is it a problem? I don't think so myself.

Fenixius:

Secondly, let's drop in some superfluous rewards. They don't make a difference in mechanical terms, but do in aesthetic terms. That is to say: unlock-able skins. Trophy items for your base, if the game has such.

I find this to be a very good idea. Things like a new color for your coat, a new belt or a statue in your house if you have one. And and achievement that say's "This dude did the side quest and has a statue in his house!" It has no impact on the story what-so-ever so it wont "ruin" it for any of the two players, but the collecting player will still have something so show for his hard work while the other player won't. I still wouldn't be tempted to do the collecting part of the game but I'm sure some would, and this way we still go into the missions with the same starting point, except he's got a flashy new jacket and sneakers.

I'm gonna point out that I'm thinking of offline RPGs, not MMOs. An of line RPG is more about the experience of the game and story itself than the XP, level and gear. (for me anyway)

You had some other good ideas too, but it's early where I live and my head hurt^^

1. Just have the enemies get stronger as you do, but at a slightly slower rate in each attribute (so if you get faster they get faster, if you get better defence, they get better defence etc etc). So if you grow 10 points in agility, make them grow 9 (or something similar).

2. Also, restrict abilities, so that you cannot have an ability before a story-line checkpoint. But save your exprience so that when the abilities are unlocked, you can upgrade them. This way, those who grind don't get over-powered abilities before their time but can still upgrade the abilities they have.

3. Give each enemy a set of moves which they can learn, but apply the same method as '1.' so that getting upgraded abilities still puts you at an advantage even though getting new abilities for yourself helps them.

Summary: This way, spending time collecting things gives you a benefit without making the game too much easier, it stops players who like to collect everything first from getting over-powered abilities early but still allows them to aquire upgrades (such as new combos, counter-attacks, finishing moves etc). And it also means that learning to (for example) counter early on in the game doesn't give you a massively unfair advantage over the enemy, as the enemies will learn a new ability as well (it can be the same as yours but it doesn't have to be) and how skilled they are at using their abilities can be determined by the difficulty setting (they might have awesome abilities but are too clumsy to execute them properly on easy, on normal they might be able to pull them off, but not as well as a person and on hard they would be able to use their abilities with enough skill to provide a challenge (which is why someone would play on hard)).

^^ Alternative to the idea proposed in the article.

Woe Is You:
You know, one thing that puzzles me is the very idea behind the article: I just don't see why a player exploring the game can't or shouldn't be overpowered in comparison to their content. I mean, if the player spends all that time powering themselves, they sure as hell want to feel like they're demigods. Is it a problem? I don't think so myself.

A good point - I personally, as a player, don't see this to be an issue. Of course, as a designer and writer, it could be, but as a player, it's not a bad thing to be overpowered. Now, if you want to talk about how to make collecting items more interesting (not just more balanced), then there is a point to this article, and that's how I viewed it.

The balance issue, I simply considered to be a thought exercise.

Newbiespud:
We're talking about two extremes here, aren't we? The junkie who wants to collect everything and the cynic who wants to keep his hands clean of the whole business (the "Collectivist" and "Campaigner" respectively in Fenixius' post)?

What about the unimpressive MIDDLE of the spectrum? Those who wait until the Silver tier before thinking, "Hey, maybe I'll start collecting stuff now." Or the people who tried to get all the Bronze-tier collectibles and only got 92 out of the 100 before giving up and going back to the main story?

How would you BACKTRACK with this kind of collection structure? Maybe it's really simple and I can't get my head around it, but... I think the problem is the scale of the rewards at that point. If you're already at the Platinum tier with those abilities and whatnot, would the Bronze-tier collection rewards still be worth it?

Likely not, if all the rewards are based around "abilities". So that's one reason behind my idea for "transcendental rewards" - they are beyond the mechanics of the game. They're badges of honour, alternate outfits or attack animations, or maybe a new, even more badass battle theme. Personally, I think more out-of-game stuff should be awarded: wallpapers, songs, or on 360/Wii, Avatar accessories and apparel.

But it depends on the abilities on offer - a double jump, available at, say, Gold, would be invaluable even at Platinum. Another heart tank, heart piece, or energy tank (Mega Man, Zelda and Metroid respectively) is -always- useful. A new sword-dash which has extra range and goes through enemies? That'd be great! Of course, a fireball which does 10 damage to one enemy is worth nothing when you can cast Ultima for 9999 damage. A shield which drops inbound damage by 5% when enemies will kill you in 2 hits anyway is also entirely useless. So it depends on the sort of abilities.

Shine-osophical:
1. Just have the enemies get stronger as you do, but at a slightly slower rate in each attribute (so if you get faster they get faster, if you get better defence, they get better defence etc etc). So if you grow 10 points in agility, make them grow 9 (or something similar).

- This one is a bad idea. Have you played Oblivion? Doing non-campaign stuff in that will result in more XP, which makes you stronger. Monsters level up at least at the same speed you do... net result: you never get any stronger. Your solution there sounds very similar.

Shine-osophical:
2. Also, restrict abilities, so that you cannot have an ability before a story-line checkpoint. But save your exprience so that when the abilities are unlocked, you can upgrade them. This way, those who grind don't get over-powered abilities before their time but can still upgrade the abilities they have.

- More interesting, but it sounds like you'd be unlocking abilities which you can't use? Or perhaps you "spend" XP like in Fable, in the system you're discussing, in which case you do indeed have a hard cap on power which is lifted as you go. This works.

[quote="Shine-osophical" post="6.159149.4003447"]3. Give each enemy a set of moves which they can learn, but apply the same method as '1.' so that getting upgraded abilities still puts you at an advantage even though getting new abilities for yourself helps them.[quote] - Aah, now this is the one I like. Enemies which get different and stronger as you do. Either by you taking the power from a seal which held them back, downloading a new file (but somehow inadvertantly letting the hostile AI do the same), or even just a global tech increase. This changes the gameplay based on the optional unlockables, but for neither strictly better nor worse - it's just cooler.

Nice ideas, there.

i pretty sure there are already games out there that have this tiering system and im certain i've even played it. But i can't seem to think of what.

Just sound like a better plan than the dynamic scaling of AI strength to yours, like in Oblivion (You never get more powerful if everything else becomes just as powerful). I like to feel like i've gotten better as i progress thank you.

But then again being OP for the later storyline missions may alleviate the frustration from challenges in the future. I know that i certainly like to be 2-3 lvls above the mission requirements.

I don't mean to be insulting, but that is just nuts, in a bad way.

I like collecting things too, but I don't want to have to collect and re-collect and re-collect ad nauseum. It gets boring. If I want to go on a collection spree and be God-like for the first few missions, what of it? It just means that instead of 5 hours with 20 reloads to get to the mission that the story-only player commited to, it takes me 3 hours with 4 reloads which happened because I was snacking at the time, or something.

If anything, if the devs decide to put in booster collectibles, the games difficulty curve should be bent towards that, so that if the player is a non-collector, the game will be a bit more challenging for him without, but the collector, it will be a bit less. Rewards for doing more, and seeing more, and using the world they designed to it's fullest, instead of blaring through. Besides, this is what we have difficulty settings for.

As for making missions unavailable because you are of a higher level, that's just wrong. Look at it from a human perspective ( and since a good game should be immersive and feel somewhat close to real-life without all the boringness, that's how you should be looking at it ), would you rather ask John Rambo ( from the lastest movie ) to go in to the jungle to rescue your daughter, find the guy that stole your car, kill the rats in the basement, etc. or would you rather go with a John Rambo that is still in basic training before even going to 'Nam?

Not that Basic training guy can't kill your rats, but if the other one shows up and says 'I hear you got rat problems' you aren't going to say, 'no, that's ok, I'll wait for someone less of a badass to take care of the problem'

I don't know, I'm just saying. Penalizing anyone from getting the full story because they want to be better doesn't make sense to me.

Mass Effect and Fallout 3 ended up using system that scaled the enemies to your level. The trade off is that at a higher level you have more options, so it can be a little more forgiving.

The most aggrivating thing about collection hunts is finding out about them retroactively and missing out on them. The Prince of Persia games is a good example of this, with the inability to revisit earlier levels if mistakenly skipped the collection widgets on that level. You have two options: Play the game through and wait for the next replay or restart the game. The first is directly dependent on one's interest in the game and the other can feel like a waste of time.

Personally I think the tier idea is good, but here's my contribution:

-Players that collect should be rewarded in their own right.
Side missions are fairly tough, but provide good story, or humour, but not have a huge impact on stats, (thats where the tiers or difficulty scaling comes into play)

-But I don't want the Fly-throughers to miss out on the good stuff, so I let them play as normal, but once they finish the main campaign they can go back and do the sidequests, explore the extra stuff, and again the difficulty is scaled up for them.

The incentive for both players to complete the game 100% would be to see a longer ending, or a completely different ending altogether along with the backstory/humour/both they encounter along the way.

Or give them a really big GUN!! XD
(Extra missions or more difficulties could work too now that I think about it!)

Now here's a confusing part that may or may not work:

- Depending on whether you scavenge or fly-through you get a different ending or different outcomes to missions depending on your playstyle.
Think the Metroid idea, with the N% completion over X time, but more rewarding.

Its risky, but I think it'll add to the replayability, especially if the gmae has a good enough story, or awesome missions.

I was with you till you started talking about levels.

To me levels are a big chunk of what's wrong with games these days, so it kind of got lost on me a bit...

THAT said, Prototype is a good example of doing something like that. You're free to "sandbox" it and raise experience to learn new tricks, but you only unlock new tricks through the story mode. So someone who spends 50 hours just running around the city before doing the second mission will only get the starting abilities, while the guy that rushes through the story will only unlock the most abilities.

exactly, they think throwing levels in and some stuff to just fall out from levelups iw what makes a good game. fuck all such primitives, did you need levels in HL? F.E.A.R., Max Payne?
I only wish somebody one day comes with a system where story unlocks other stuff than levels ,and completely separate stuff is from hidden/unneccessary or random(for racing games) missions/areas.
Or that we completely leave the idea of everything being coded as gameplay mechanics and just return to putting the extra special stuff to harder-to-reach locations

The solution you are proposing is bad one. Why? It creates gated content. And we all know that any obstructions on game play that aren't based on player skill are just irritating. It is like you gaining all the demigod powers and yet you can't fight the evil warlord because you haven't spoken to your grandpa to teach you how to wield a sword.

As you have well outlined there are several problems with collectables:
Give no reward - boring and grindy
Give a powerful item - become mandatory
Give additional skills - game breaking

On the grey areas are things like:
Getting new skins, images, vanity items, achievements
Things like these are fun for some, and others will just go and seek a cool one and don't feel compelled to track all.

As for proper solutions to have the collectables game and still keep the main game balanced are:
1) Make collecting a game of its own.
Add a new progression tier that will level the more stuff you create. And the rewards and skills you get from it will only benefit finding more hidden stuff. Maybe you get more fame and you can influence NPCs to tell you about some secret cave. Or you get a rope with grappling hook, but it's only use is to reach places with more vanity items. You can combine ling chains of maps along your normal adventure. Anything goes as long as the two don't overlap too much. Sometimes defending more of your quest npcs will give you a hint at a collectables. And sometimes you'll find a rare monster in the cave the treasure map led you to.

2) Give rewards that will be replaced by main quest in a few levels.
Basically never give permanent bonuses as a reward for collectables. Give items that the player will replace in an hour play time or so. My most blatant example is the shot gun at the secret area in the first level of Doom 2. You see it clearly from the exit level area. And you might go and look for hidden entrances and buttons to get it. But it doesn't matter game play wise as the very first enemy in level 2 drops another one. In a fantasy world this is like doing a side quest to get a +1 sword. While the next tier monsters drop +3 as base loot. Or if you want to reward skill points then make it a buff lasting one hour. It does give you some advantage, but a skilled player will storm through the story without it.

Whichever way a game goes to implement collectables the main important thing is to keep it fun. Keep it fresh and relaxed. Because it should be there for those people who are getting weary of the main story and are looking for some different experience inside the game.

Miki91:
Collecting stuff as a "side quest" in games has never caught my attention. I just do not see the fun in finding a number of flags, or killing 200 pigeons or whatever. I'm not even likely to do such a mission even tho it would result in me getting a flamethrower in Assassins Creed for example (or any other awesome/over powered weapon). The entire idea that publishers can "expand" their game just by throwing in some collectibles is to me laughable.

As for your solution, I'm not so sure. If I where to collect all those skill bonuses and only get the benefits for a few missions before being reduced to where I started and having to start all over again I'm sure I would feel unjustly treated. If you are to spend something like double the time of the story-focused player because you want to have higher skills, than they should no doubt be a permanent thing.

But in the end a system where you can get higher skills before a mission than "you should" would have sort of the effects cheating would. In Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, you having Force Grip 3 right away will make you far too powerful for anything you might encounter, this would still be the case even if you would do some "collect the light-sabers to get an extra force-point" side quest. But then again, collecting stuff in a game for a reward like you get in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood won't make people want to even do the side quest (you get pictures if I'm not mistaken... PICTURES!)

Hmmm...

I'd say collecting things for unlockables beats paying for DLC. Also, it adds a bit of replay value.

This article reminds me of how the collectibles were done in "Prototype". Each collectible item rewarded the player some XP, which could be used to purchase skills for Mercer in the main menu. It marginally rewards the player for each item found, and offers them the chance to improve their character toward post-game.

Yet it would keep some skills or abilities in the shop system of "Prototype" were locked until the player progressed further into the story. The player could still collect collectible items and be rewarded XP, though they would reach a point where it couldn't be spent on anything due to "shop cap", but are open to spend all of their earned XP on more expensive skills after moving the story along.

That was actually the first time I seen an experience cap system used pretty well in the story. It gave me a good reason to collect the items (which is something I love), yet it also ensured the game was still difficult to me at points without throwing in a possible broken leveling system like what "Oblivion" does.

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