What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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What a silly idea. I see where you're coming from, but people like to build characters up, not see them get worse and worse. Even from a lore point of view it'd be hard in most games to justify losing abilities over time.

You could lose armour, though. That would retain the skills you have, make the game harder and you could even gain more skills to compensate for loss of said armour. And it'd make sense, too, because armour does break down over time.

this because if you end with 1 skill the game looses all endgame complexity and depth making it fail but if it got more complex while making you weaker then you would have to rely on strategy and skill to proceed and would probably end up with an awesome endgame community cuz they couldnt herpa derp through the last levels

I think a nice twist to the idea would be to start with all abilities in a basic level, and giving the player some time to find out which ones correspond with their playstyle best. Then, as the game progresses, the player gets to improve abilities by sacrificing other ones. That way, there would be no more screens full of useless abilities, while your hero would still have strong abilities at his disposal. With the addition of a system of several ability branches, that you had to give up completely in order to access later abilities, this could even lead to a very definite later game class specialzation. For example you would start with a mage that has all magic powers, but in order to be a good destructive mage, you would have to get rid of, say buffing completely. That would allow developers to give starting players only a handful of options, giving players incentive to work towards the class they want.

you wouldnt even have to have classes just skills to synergise with each other and everyone starts with all abilities and a warrior can just level melee damage abilities and defense, but otherwise this is just two worlds 2

Hmm... akin to how life itself sort of works and how, as mentioned, truly compelling stories usually go. I recently had to design a game for college that is quite the opposite (for exceedingly good reason however), but this idea of starting in your prime and growing "older", wiser, weaker, but in a sense far more able or atleast far more accomplished is something i may work with in the near future.

Interesting concept, but needs more polish.

You should change it so that at the start, the new players have all the skills (108, for example), but be completely and utterly useless with them. As they level up, they have to sacrifice one skill and all their remaining skills would gain bonuses. At maximum level, the skills they have are insanely powerful, but they are also specialised to the point where they suck without help from other players.

Sounds very interesting. Stats and abilities could be taken away and replaced with passive effects which explain this. Extra Credits mentioned this sort of thing in "Amnesia and Story Structure", where they talked about have perks related to your life before getting shot in the head, (+1 Perception for being a courier etc) but having them all taken away by a "Was shot in the head" perk. This could work well for Backwards leveling.

Lets say, there was a Saw-esc situation where you had to escape a room by cutting off a body part. You had a choice between two fingers, two toes or, to be deposited somewhere safe like an inn, instead of wandering in the streets, one of your eyes. Now, by cutting off your fingers, you would lose some of your spells, or they would become less powerful, as they require finger movement from both hands. With your toes, you would lose a lot of agility because you couldn't balance yourself properly on your mutilated feet. But, if you cut out your eye, you cut your Perception in half, but you can rest for the night in an inn, as promised by your captor, and your wounds can be treated, so you wont lose more stats, because of gangrene or what not.

I think hes onto something there! :O

[after reading topic but before reading any other comments in the thread]

Now that is an awesome idea.

This concept NEEDS to be implemented in at least one game, even if just to see how good this mechanic would really work in a real-world situation (or virtual world, in this case).

All the people who play to have fun and blow stuff up with 'splodey fireballs and tragic missiles can have their newbie parties, and the "serious" gamers who are interested in following the story and completing the game will (in effect) suffer for their art and show their dedication to their enjoyment by voluntarily levelling down to access new areas, with new quests/stories/etc.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Yahtzee's crazy idea for RPGs that might actually work.

Thanks, Yahtzee. I've been saying this for years, but in relation to FPS games, and whenever I do, people on this forum act like I'm a complete retard. Now that you're saying it instead, maybe someone will listen (maybe).

I always thought it was stupid that in FPS games you start off with very little and end up with a kick-ass arsenal, effectively making the game easier the more you play it. Most FPS games counter that in the single-player campaign by ramping up enemy difficulty to balance it against your new toys (as if the enemies have some telepathic ability to know that you've got a better gun now, and think "gosh we'd better lift our game, guys"). Fine for singleplayer, but for a multiplayer game this obviously doesn't work. It's so annoying to wander around with the default weapons and constantly get slapped down by vets who have all this cool stuff that they only have because they unlocked it after playing for 679 hours.

I think people in FPS games who get a lot of kills should instead of getting new toys, get a handicap of some kind. The "reverse gungame" in Counter-Strike is a bit like that - you start off with the best weapons and as soon as you get a kill, the game swaps you to the next weapon down, the objective being to score a kill with every weapon. Thus, by the end of the round, the vets are all duking it out with pistols, nades and knives, while the nublets who have racked up hardly any kills still have cool assault rifles and therefore actually have a reasonable chance of making back some ground in the latter stages of the game and not having their soul completely crushed by SuperSniper1337.

Another option that could work for both the FPS and the RPG is to have more realistic injury modelling... so a character who was in the game for a long time might have been in a few fights and have the scars to show for it, therefore they might be limping a bit or in a reasonable amount of pain which might make it harder to aim that gun, swing that sword, cast a spell etc. The original Rainbow 6 games (back when the series was good, before Ubi dumbed the franchise down into a simple brain-off action shooter with Lockdown and that Vegas garbage) had it where if you got wounded you were limping at half-speed for the rest of the round and your aiming was correspondingly shithouse, you could take that concept further by making the wounding persistent across your whole account - where every time you get wounded, you become less effective at combat, permanently, little by little. This would then make the vets who had year-old accounts ultra-cautious tactical players. Those veteran stripes would then be looked at a whole lot differently... the vets might not want any more hits to their character, and may be too crippled to do much fighting themselves, so they could then stand behind cover and order the noobs around instead, so what you have is someone with those special sarge stripes actually acting like a sargeant for a change, using their experience and combat prowess to direct others, instead of acting like a run-and-gun private in the front line.

[after reading topic but before reading any other comments in the thread]

Same here.
Wait a second...

With the MMO example, I can think of a major flaw.
When you're a noob you've got all these abilities which you don't fully understand - and by the time you get to the point where you've lost most of them, you look back wistfully and wish you'd used those epic abilities more effectively.
This leads to those experienced players starting over as a newbie, but this time (surprise surprise) they completely own up with their knowledge of how best to use their abilities.

So go on, try and think up a solution for that one. =P

I'm reminded of "I Wanna Be The Guy", where throughout the game you're weak throughout.

I've actually thought about the idea of a game where the character gets weaker. However I found the idea kinda counterintuitive to most games in that I initially thought it unsatisfying. Now however the idea of a little guy managing to beat someone bigger and badder is still pretty satisfying itself.

I've thought and heard of other similar ideas, though they mostly involve a character that remains relatively weak throughout depending on either companion characters or various other "tricks" in order to progress.

Then again, maybe I find it harder to accept the idea because I'm indoctrinated by the mainstream to only accept a certain standard or something. Or because I like improving over time in games.

it just might work
ill give it a try if a rpg like this comes out

I think this would work better as a sequel or expansion to an existing, more traditional game. It would work brilliantly if woven into a game like Baldur's Gate, for example. Level to 20 or 25, for example, unlock a ton of max-level spells and high-level abilities, then have your whole party cursed or something and start leveling backwards. Without the overpowered max-level abilities the player will be forced to ingeniously make use of scrolls, potions, and special items that they've collected, as well as find creative uses for low-level spells to make up for max-level ones. "Progression" as a goal is still available in the form of items, but difficulty scales well and the player is forced to find new solutions to previously trivial obstacles.

What if Fallout 3 did not have those magical "take away radiation" thingies?

This idea is brilliant. I don't see how it will work in multiplayer, but for a singleplayer champaign? Hell yeah. I'd definitively play a game like this!


When done right it would force you to adopt new tactics and strategies.

to some degree yes. however, using this gameplay mechanic of continually removing options, wouldn't work in your mage/fireball example. think of any game that you've ever played a mage in and started out with one or two spells. you in fact had very few tactics or strategies because you had very few resources. if all you have is a fireball and a heal spell, you've really only got three options: fight, run, heal. i don't see how you can make new tactics or strategies out of that. maybe in a novel or movie yes, but most games don't allow you the freedom to apply lateral thinking to gameplay.

This is a great idea, I'd love to see this tyied out in a game

I enjoy the idea as well, but I'm wary of giving too much to a new player. Too many things will confuse them as they have to learn EVERYTHING and eventually learn they don't need to learn things because they can get rid of it. It removes slow progression of skill combos. :/

that's kind of true, i mean part of the reason you gain skills over time is so you can learn the basics, then branch out as the game progresses... it would probably work best if the game took an assassins creed type approach where you play a level or two at full power to see what it's like then lose everything

i don't know i'm not a developer, but i like the idea

The idea is intriguing but I don't think Yazhette really thought it through, or the implications of it.

Dump a ton of abilities on a newbie, then give him jack **** at the end of the game? How would that play out?

Theirs no way in hell this would work in mmorpg. People don't play to see their characthers become weaker.

But Yaz talking about WOW tech trees gave me an idea.

You'd start with just a few end of tree abilties, because thats all your CHARACTHER would be using as well as the player. Your super AOE death spells, you smash the enemies skull in super strike, etc. As you level down, you climb down the tech trees and lose the God Mode skills, and your forced to rely on all those abilities you'd normally ignore.

Although I think at the end they'd have to give you something to compensate, as other people suggested.

As for how it would be done? Maybe your some ungodly super weapon, but you start breaking down and losing your amazing abilities, but have to learn to fight with skill and finese, rather than brute forcing everything into the ground.

Would probably work better as a novelty mode in an rpg, or as a flash game, rather an as a commerical rpg. If everyone of Warcraft's hero's leveled down like Arthas people would be pissed

I'm reminded, in part of Shadow of Colossus.

The Wanderer taking out threats increasingly larger than himself while they whittle away at his body and mind until eventually all out losing it all.

Just kind of sounded like the whole 'leveling down' idea.
And I got to say, I like it.

This idea is the opposite of an MMORPG.

Leveling mechanics have two purposes:
1. Reward the player for playing, in order to create incentive to play (Yahtzee addressed this).
2. Divorce gameplay from player ability by allowing players to trade time spent for character power.

Number 2 is really important. World of Warcraft can appeal to such a wide audience because the main way to be good at the game is just to play it for a long time, something you can do with the reflexes of a sloth (or, say, yur mum). But if your character gets weaker the longer you play, eventually the only way to be good at the game is to actually be good at the game. And no one is going to respect an old master who can't secretly kick your ass.

On the other hand, this doesn't apply to other genres, and it's certainly true that game stories will forever be hamstringed until we can figure out how to work in the part where the hero is nearly killed at the end of act two without relying on the sudden onset of cutscene incompetence.

rpg wise it is a very interesting concept
maybe your character starts out in their prime and gets older as the game progresses
or maybe a curse drining their soul
there are many ways to introduce it to the plot
you could even have it as a plot twist
many games have tried to have a dyanamic difficulty curve but this does sound like a better idea in that respect
maybe you could

as an mmo however it does not
as said in the world of warcraft review people want to be better than everyone else
maybe keeping their stats the same and redistributing them over time and calling it specialising might work
but getting worse as you progress sounds like a bad idea in am mmo
alough it would be the better show of skill

it sounds like a good concept but i doubt the gaming industry would move away from its winning formula

Sounds like something for a Raiden from Mortal Kombat RPG where the realms merge and Raiden gradually loses his powers lol

Omg I never thought of this, but I'm already hooked.


Unfortunately the school legally owns the game because it was produced using their equipment, and it was just a school project and not intended to be sold. I tried to look for it online, but unfortunately I couldn't even find a Youtube video of it! Sorry!

I'm sure that one day they'll make a sequel and get rich and stuff :P

Oh I meant to ask, any flash games that do this?

I always thought the reverse leveling should be used for FPS online multiplayer, that way the top level people actually have skill rather than just better toys than the newbies. Or decrease the selection of weapons but increase passive skills (ex: mine detection)

This is Oblivion, isn't it?

And the finale shall be a fist-fight with a sick, old, half-dead rat. That gaming experience has got to be anti-climactic and lack any sense of achievement.

I think this is an awesome idea. If it's done right the trade off should be that by the time you are at the end of the game you have capabilities that still allow for success. Meaning that throughout the game you are learning new ways to fight or progress because of your loss. Thae nature of gaming is such that for it to be satisfying to the player there has to be some form of win scenario, even if it's just watching your protaganist go out like a bad ass.(I.E. Halo Reach) But I think it's how that win would be achieved that makes this idea so interesting. You would have to truly become better at the game as you progressed because your options for how to solve problems would become more and more limited. something which occurs in games already but feels artificial because by the end of most rpgs we've become superhuman juggernauts.

However I don't see this fitting as well with a multiplayer game, this feels like a single player journy to me. Something in the vein of the Prince of Persia games or a more focused Oblivion. As for a story that makes sense, well I like Yahtzee's idea of a pantheon of super beings. Sort of God of War 3 from the Olympions perspective, a massivly over powered people who rule the world being destroyed by some kind of upstart. While also losing what made them the dominant force in the world. A twilight of the gods or Ragnarok where you are part of something powerful and amazing but maybe also corrupt and unnatural that is ending.

since when do video games have good enough writing for this to work?

And I feel that I'd constantly be complaining about how arbitrary the ability stealing is.

How about the player being a demi-god who has his god-like strength reduced by the powers-that-be every time he takes a life. In order to save the humans he lives amongst from some terrible evil, he needs to go off on quests to defeat powerful enemies which obviously comes at a price.

Such a game would involve trying to avoid confrontations as much as possible by sneaking around (think the Thief series) and even running and hiding (Amnesia?) so you can avoid having to kill the lesser bad guys. Killing the bosses would presumably be unavoidable.

In such a scenario the protaganist would likely favour weapons that are less likely to kill, like a staff or a war-hammer, and maybe a slingshot. And how about some fire-weapons similar to molotov-cocktails, that can be used to prevent enemies following you down a corridor.

There could be a scenario where you sneak into some castle and kill some boss in a one-on-one fight, but all the guards you sneaked past then get alerted and to get away some enemy deaths are unavoidable, resulting in your powers being greatly reduced.

The ultimate boss can be a human who's power comes from the army he commands. Maybe it's the emperor of the lands or something, but in the finale when you have no more god-like powers, he thinks he can defeat you in a one-on-one fight. It would be kind of similar to the ending of The Gladiator, where the emperor thinks he can defeat a near-death Russel Crowe!

(I am also willing to bet that there's at least one flash game out there that uses the concept.)

In the very broadest sense, sort of. It's this one. http://armorgames.com/play/5355/immortall
Alt+Escape talked about it back when Alt+Escape still existed.

OT: This sounds really cool, but it probably would end up less fun than it sounds. One of the main draws for me in playing an abilities centric game is all the cool stuff i'll be able to do eventually. Taking away content would just make the game less and less interesting, because it would take away my choices. I like being able to destroy things in new and interesting ways.

LEVELLING BACKWARDS!?! Yahtzee you devilish madmen that so crazy it just might work, your brilliants is only matched by your rugged goodlooks. Well played sir, well played.

Its never gona work in a themepark MMO but...

I think a single player story RPG could work where your character has some sort of degenerate disease and grows weaker through the game.

This would work as a nice story element, reminding me of lord foul's bane, and also be a way to notch up the difficulty as the game progesses like your suggestion.

As usual, Yahtzee has us a different type of game concept. By responce is that this should be made into some indy game for pure art value. Why? Give a big budget title something like this and there will be complaints. Y'know, like when you lost your power-ups in Metroid Prime when YOU WERE THROWN AGAINST A WALL! Seriously Samus, your armor is stronger than that.

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