What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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Hmmm... nope, can't see it working in an MMO. Maybe a story based singleplayer game though.

I love this idea not just because it would finally make final bosses difficult again, but also it would add the sort of capstone moment where an experienced player stripped down and weak is able to beat a challenge he was unable to do while fully powered. Maybe the "final" boss of the game is able to escape, only to hunt you down while you are older and weak thinking you an easy kill. Finally and most importantly it would simultaneously make a good strong ending (you stab the final boss one last time to know that it is finally over) or an easy sequel (the old you teaches a younger better you) without needing any cliffhangers. Keep the universe but not the character. True you would still need a new baddie...but that is what zombies are for.

Why can't you just make the enemies stronger or more frequent rather than making yourself weaker?
Action games do it, so why can't RPG's?

If I started off Fallout being able to have any gun, hack any computer and pick any lock, then I'd get bored really easily. But by levelling up, I was REWARD with these skills. Taking them away is like being punished for hardwork, and people would be hesitant to go any further lest they loose their favourite sword or whatever.

robmastaflex:
I meant more in story terms rather than gameplay. Whilst the storyline may force you down a single path to weaken you before the final encounter, it would feel weird getting weaker to confront this final enemy. It would require some convoluted story piece to give a reason as to why you have to spend your time losing power in order to confront your ultimate enemy rather than taking down your greatest threat first.

Well, off the top of my head, how about Mega Man in reverse?

Say you have some fantasy setting where your Ultimate Champion of the Realm PC gets his powers from, well any number, but let's say four, archmages or gods or what have you. The Dark Lord comes and starts corrupting the Four, who are fighting back but losing. So you have to go and stop the corruption (because you do not want the Dark Lord getting your powers) but in the process, have to kill the Four gods one by one, losing the powers they gave you in the process. At the end, you face the Dark Lord without any of those granted powers, but at least you've prevented him from getting them.

It supports the tragic theme of some Tolkien-esque fantasy where the magic and the wonder leaves the world at the end of the story. Not really good for an MMO but maybe a single-player RPG or action/adventure title.

By the gods, it's a Monk Quest. You start out bold and brash, then strip away everything you have until you're left weak and frail, but wise and knowledgeable. I guess the final quest would involve sitting under a tree and meditating, eh?

It all makes sense and I like the idea a lot. However, I think that, for a final showdown, you should have some way of powering back up to bring the final fight to a climactic showdown. that's just a thought. Overall, the idea still seems like something worth trying out.

Dammit. I had an Idea very similar to this about 3 weeks ago after watching the disempowerment rev rant...

glad to see more people coming up with ways to challenge the medium to evolve and not stagnate in dusty middle eastern cities

In fact, I can think of a (single-player) game I've been playing recently that has almost *exactly* this structure: Worms Armageddon. In that game you play 'deathmatch' games against AI opponents of increasing skill with progressively fewer and fewer Worms on your team, until by the higher levels you're facing twenty or more opponents with just two Worms. This would work fine in a multiplayer context too, and would make for a great way for noobs to get into the game - it's essentially the same as a golf handicap.

And at the end, you fight a homeless man for bread... and lose.

LucidSeraph:

vxicepickxv:
I think we all do this. I'm pretty sure it's called aging.

Which is why, from a narrative standpoint, this works beautifully as a concept. You can see the whole game as a metaphor for growing old and dying, for being past your prime, and yet still trying to make a difference in the world. You go from a true superman to an individual weak but wise. Again, this would be a very sad game, but I think in that sense incredibly moving, which is something we need in games.

To bring back in the parallels to Beowulf - Beowulf starts out as this macho superman, but in the end he's an old king who still has a lot of punch, but isn't what he used to be. This is why he's slain by the Dragon in the end, and in the end there's a lot of talk about the passing of the age and the death of heroes. THAT is what this game could be about.

I, too, approve of this concept.

It makes a welcome change to the all too familiar 'You are the chosen one, young boy/girl' scenario that most RPGs seem to adopt. Playing the game as an already established hero/heroine with a wealth of experience and fame behind them could, if done well, inspire a sense of responsibility in the player. Would you continue to follow in this legend's footsteps, or would you direct them to fall from grace?

True poignancy is something that most games seem to be devoid of these days. I can't help but wonder if that's because we're simply too used to the storylines and scenarios that we play through in most games nowadays. While I'm unwilling to say Yahtzee's concept would definitely take off, I'd hazard a guess to say it stands a pretty damned good chance - although in saying that, it's highly likely that critics would shoot it down to begin with. People dislike change when they're first presented with it.

I dont think that idea would work at all, might as well have the character just start out crap and not level up at all for the entire game. Thing is if you lose all your majic, swords, armour etc does that change the difficulty of the enemies? Do the enemies get weaker through the game until the main boss is as tough as a lemon? Yes some rpg's can be easy but good rpgs allow enemies to get tougher and the difficulty level should rise along with your character. When your character is almost godlike in power, then make more godlike enemies hunt you down. Very simple. I just think going from god to a nobody would not work at all as most people would rather start as a nobody farmer and work to earn those powers as they travel through the game. If you lose your powers as you go then there is no real reason why you would bother investing in the skills and other stats.

As others have metioned: See Warcraft 3's Expansion The Frozen Throne. Here's a summary for those who haven't played (Spoilers I guess) and/or aren't interested in this style of game.

In the Undead campaign one of the central characters is Arthas, the first Death Knight for the Lich King and his champion. You commonly control Arthas in your missions (since his story has been the main focus/jumping off point for both WC3 and its expansion).

In the start of TFT Arthas is the level you acheived from the original, WC3, the max level of ten. The first mission features Arthas escaping a city where the Undead minions around him have gone rouge, as the Lich King is being assualted by the heroic yet cowardly (this is due to a number of reasons, Illidan heroically strung himself up for the betterment of the world and his race the Night Elves many times, however he is drawn to power and fears death creating an interesting clash in his personality) Demon Hunter Illidan. Because of the assualts on the throne the Lich King is being unhinged, he can't extend as much as his power and his influence.

This is what is causes the undead to start going rogue, and causes Arthas to weaken as the story progresses (Arthas' draw of power comes from the Lich Kings sword Frostmourne and as the Lich King weakens so do Arthas and Frostmourne as a result). At the start of the game we get to wield Arthas in the height of his power, max level with all abilities ready to use. As the game progresses his power weakens, he has to struggle with the idea that he may simply die before reaching his ailing master, and may infact already be too weak to save him.

Arthas must forge bonds with new allies and old ones, using rather than his raw strength and brutal unrelenting power of will (the drive which was his downfall into a pawn of the Lich King), and use a more tactical and slow approach. We see Arthas struggle with the fact he can no longer exert his power and control lesser undead, and also coming to terms with the fact he can no longer do it "alone," nor go into battle alongside his comrades, being reduced to a mess, as weak as his common warriors.

Overall it was an extremely compelling and memorable storyline, that gave an interesting twist to the gaming aspect surrounding it as well. I would genuinely like to see more like this, and not nessercarily in an RTS game.

This is what Fable would have been like toward the end when you get old if the game had been done right.

Actually, it reminds me of an alternate universe comic of The Flash. It takes place with him married with a son, and firmly retired. His son inherited his speed, but not the barrier that would normally protect him from the friction involved with moving that fast. Well his son ends up hospitalized after saving a girl from an oncoming truck, and subsequently gets kidnapped.

The Flash is then forced through a series of fights, and in each fight, his opponent uses a device to drain some of his speed. Each fight is harder and harder. By the end of the comic, he is barely faster than a normal man. He regains both his son and the device that contains his power. The Flash then chooses to sacrifice his powers and give it his son so that the kid can use his powers without endangering his life.

Falseprophet:

Well, off the top of my head, how about Mega Man in reverse?

Say you have some fantasy setting where your Ultimate Champion of the Realm PC gets his powers from, well any number, but let's say four, archmages or gods or what have you. The Dark Lord comes and starts corrupting the Four, who are fighting back but losing. So you have to go and stop the corruption (because you do not want the Dark Lord getting your powers) but in the process, have to kill the Four gods one by one, losing the powers they gave you in the process. At the end, you face the Dark Lord without any of those granted powers, but at least you've prevented him from getting them.

It supports the tragic theme of some Tolkien-esque fantasy where the magic and the wonder leaves the world at the end of the story. Not really good for an MMO but maybe a single-player RPG or action/adventure title.

It would have to be an action-RPG game for something like that though, as if it were a turn-based one relying purely on stats, you'd have to make enemies weaker towards the end too. I can certainly see it working on games with RPG elements though, where the level up mechanics are a secondary part of the game rather than the main focus.

The reverse-leveling mechanic would be easier to implement as a linear single player or cooperative multiplayer game.

Explain and understand it simply as scarcity. Ammunition and other supplies become more and more rare and valuable as the story progresses.

I think Left 4 Dead does this on a small scale.

image

Your team starts a level with four healthy survivors loaded up with weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies.

During the sprint to the next safe house, you expend grenades, bullets, pills, first aid packs, health (mobility), and team members.

It wouldn't be hard to imagine a game using a similar mechanic over longer time scales.

I'd make it if I had the skills (and if anyone has the skills to make a base for this, I can totally provide a gameplay storyline/script)

Might work best in an Elder Scrolls style game, or just a general RP. Someone mentioned giving up your powers.

DarkSpectre:
I like the idea in concept but in practice I see it hard to make work. I think it would be better as a single player mechanic. The only thing I see able to motivate the player to give up power is to progress a storyline. The skinner box mechanics of an MMORPG doesn't work well with this because that getting stronger is a big reason to level. But if you can make a compelling story that needs the player to sacrifice something of themselves to progress the storyline.

This makes a lot of sense. It could also add a bit of strategy to the game, as in which kind of power do you give up for which village. At that point, you could have it be open world, instead of linear, for a single player. The enemies start at 'medium' and you progress from 'insanely powerful' to 'average joe', with only your knowledge (not in some stat, I mean your actually learning as you play) as your only real edge anymore. Of course, a recruit system (allies to aid you) might be good, too. So, as you become weaker, you also need to gain the support of the people, to help you against the big bad (since he was the big bad BEFORE you had to give up your powers, let alone now that you're as powerful as the rest of the people in the land).

You could even include co-op by splitting up the powers evenly in some kind of theme between the two heroes you could pick, making teamwork more important because you need to work together to pick which powers you give up, in what order (for balance, each player would have to give up one, then the other, so that one isn't 'average joe' while the other is 'superman'). Yeah, this has great potential. Seriously, anyone who thinks they can pull it off, hit me up. I'm already outlining the rough draft on the plot (which might never be used, but will still be awesome for having existed).

As a concept for a Single Player game, this is kinda interesting though, imo, kinda gimmicky.

I can see this working best with RTS' actually. You start with a whole fucking Army of soldiers, but when they die, they die for good, and you go into the next mission with less and less and less men, who are minutely stronger than they were before (Individually, they level up) but by the end you have to use your noggin quite a bit to bring down the final boss with your few toughest fighters.

As an MMO, however, no.....I Honestly cannot see ANY way in which this would work in an MMO. What you said, Yahtzee, might be a fun novelty; but what's stopping People from signing up, playing for a day in PvP, and then quiting as SOON as they are weak enough to be beaten by anybody, because they know it's only going to get worse from here. There'll be no fixed player base, since people will have no draw to keep playing, so the game will just end up dying a quick, but painful, death.......like APB.

This idea screams for an Elric-style dark roleplaying game in which you are introduced as a saviour to your fantasy kingdom, having won the ultimate war against a dark race of thingamajiggs.

The problem is, one of their sorcerers which you had killed in the "final fight" (AKA the tutorial) has come back from the dead to haunt you. Feasting on your lifeforce and taunting you from the shadows all the time, he gradually gets stronger while you get weaker by the day.

One of the turning points comes when you are not able to rule your kingdom any more, because you have gotten too weak to rule. You get replaced by one remote cousin that you know has had dealings with your archenemy. Some of your subjects still hold you in high regard and help you flee / or retake the kingdom which you then give into the hands of a better king because you feel you can't keep up with the responsibility.

Cast out from your kingdom and tormented by the Lich that rides piggyback on your soul you wander into the wilderness to search for a way to reverse the leaching process.

Ultimately, the endgame consists of you becoming a ghost yourself but stealing the Lich's magic and the Lich taking over your dying body. The final shot is centered on him as YOU drawing his final breath and you entering Heaven as a new God.

Too bad the title 'The Lich King' has already been taken.

P.S.: The sequel would feature you as the new God of War being cast out from heaven to wander the earth because you had something with the Goddess of Love, wife of the God of Justice, ruler of Heaven.

P.P.S.S.: It would be named "God of War" of course.

Also, I thought that I would say that this kind of idea would work best in a fairly realistic game where you aren't some heroic god-among-men. Instead of thinking of a fully powered action game hero being slowly stripped of abilities, imagine a detective RPG where your character ends up limping toward the final encounter with an empty gun, his partner lying dead on the floor, and nothing but his wits to rely upon as he approaches the room that the killer is cornered in.

Talcon:

You put a spoiler on 'first' but not on this part? Thanks a bunch, dude D=

Edit: Thank you very much.

Or how bout an up-and-down method?
Start off young and strong, but little skills.
You can learn new and powerful skills very quickly, but they will not last as you age.
Eventually, as your mind and body begin to weaken, you lose stats and the skills that require those certain stats, but can hone the skills you have left to a point of mastery, where they are extremely effective, but only in the right circumstances.
This would mean an experienced player could still take down an inexperienced one, but through skill & timing rather than by nuking them.

What I would like to see is game deleveling you when you die (permanently if singleplayer, until you level up again in MMO). It would make players much more careful and it would be nice middle way in games like Diablo 2 where you can either die as many times you want or die once and game over.

robmastaflex:

Falseprophet:

Well, off the top of my head, how about Mega Man in reverse?

Say you have some fantasy setting where your Ultimate Champion of the Realm PC gets his powers from, well any number, but let's say four, archmages or gods or what have you. The Dark Lord comes and starts corrupting the Four, who are fighting back but losing. So you have to go and stop the corruption (because you do not want the Dark Lord getting your powers) but in the process, have to kill the Four gods one by one, losing the powers they gave you in the process. At the end, you face the Dark Lord without any of those granted powers, but at least you've prevented him from getting them.

It supports the tragic theme of some Tolkien-esque fantasy where the magic and the wonder leaves the world at the end of the story. Not really good for an MMO but maybe a single-player RPG or action/adventure title.

It would have to be an action-RPG game for something like that though, as if it were a turn-based one relying purely on stats, you'd have to make enemies weaker towards the end too. I can certainly see it working on games with RPG elements though, where the level up mechanics are a secondary part of the game rather than the main focus.

Fair enough. I was mainly picturing a kind of God of War in reverse, where you lose the magic powers of the gods as you progress instead of gaining them.

In a turn-based RPG you might be able to balance that by picking up more party members along the way. E.g., you start out strong enough to win fights and do quests solo, but as you lose your powers, you pick up NPC companions to help pick up the slack. If we're going full-on JRPG there could be some blunt message in the story about the "power of friendship" or somesuch as well.

That sounds like an interesting concept. I could see this maybe allowing some philosophical thinking on the idea that everything isn't necessary and that you should only focus on what really matters in terms of interest and skill.

What you said about the hero's journey also sounds interesting as well. While it is true in most hero stories, the hero is supposed to get stronger, but then again, the hero is supposed to still be weak enough that the villain (or Shadow, if you allow me to us Christopher Vogler's terms) that the villain is still someone you do not want to mess with. On top of that, you have the end of the second act or the third act of the hero's journey where the hero is supposed to have die or at least have death like moment in their quest. They are supposed to be able to "resurrect" themselves from that "death" to finally overcome the last trial and journey home with the reward. If the hero starts off strong and then gradually get weaker, this could happen in the game.

Thank you for bringing up that concept, Yahtzee!

You could do a story where something powerful (a person or an organization) loses much and spends itself in battle with an enemy, who loses similarly. At the end two exhausted fallen titans would be wheezily trying to finally win their victory.

Like the first world war.

I will give you props for trying, but I don't think that system would work. Thinking outside of the box, while appreciated, doesn't mean thinking backwards.

At the beginning of the game, many examples give you all your powers to test and play, but its a tease, a carrot on a stick to keep you going, since you know you eventually will get as strong as that, or even more. To revert that mechanism would discourage people to keep playing, since they know they will progress from Superman to Jimmy Olsen.

The idea of a hero's journey is that the main character grows during its adventure, learns more skills and became more confident. The player is not overwhelmed with 1.000 spells and its variations, instead he/she plays with them and decide which ones he likes or likes to try better as he uses them. Your idea might work on some stage (maybe depower the hero before his battle with the final boss, or the Bioshock level where you loose all your upgrades one by one), but as an entire game concept its hard to sell the idea of "you are like Luke Skywalker... you start as a jedi and end up as a farmer"

Besides, I hope its not meant to handle the difficulty automatically. For starters, that is far a temptation for developers to keep using the same enemies... after all, a rat would be a little nuance at the beginning, but a veritable challenge near the end. For you to create bigger challenges, you don't need to think of harder obstacles, just throw the same obstacle you throw the last 10 hours and let the stats system work itself out.

Finally, the problem is that it restricts the options a player have to play the game. If you like to play as a stealthy, melee character, it might work on easier enemies (early in the game), but it won't work as you progress through the game. That means you can either experiment with the game, under the idea that you might have to replay large sections of the game if you get stuck in a place of the trimmed tree where you can't face the challenges ahead, or forget about playing the character you want, instead use a guide to see which character class is more useful and less likely to get stucked. If you put all the options on the player and a timer to lose them, you give them a sense of urgency and force them to play with guides, because they won't know how "less powerful" a weapon will became and how much that will that affect them.

Maybe the part of the leveling down can be done with an incurable poison used by the bad guys in the first level. I mostly came up with this because I've had Magic on my mind recently.

No way it would ever work in an mmo, Yahtzee. Assuming that people would grow to respect the oldies because of their skill and experience is an uncharacteristically optimistic view on the common internet denizen. Surely wouldn't that kind of structure result in people constantly rerolling after their power starts fading in order to continue griefing?

I'll give it to you that it's an interesting concept, but I feel like the execution is just going to result in some kind of nexus of pretentiousness.

Oh, and as for giving tons of skills to start with and letting the player choose their favorites, I absolutely hate that. Hell, didn't you complain about being weighed down with tons of skills that in the conan review? I recently played the rift beta and I noticed that once you start putting skills into multiple soul trees, you get fifty billion abilities which all seem useful in slightly different ways and sorting through them was a massive pain.

Also, I remember hearing you once say something along the lines of "Increased player power should be balanced with increased enemy threat". So, wouldn't the answer be to simply make enemies harder and harder to keep up with player strength? I remember some playthroughs of Oblivion (with or without mods, I forget) where the game progressively got harder then easier then harder until the final encounter in the burning capitol (spoiler alert) which was like taking a stroll through Africa while wearing a sweater made of steaks.

I could see your idea working for a stealth game, like what somebody else said. Something where the player starts off with expensive armor and weapons. You go around whacking people with your might and then you slowly start losing them until an hour or more in where you are rendered helpless and have to go around scavenging armor and weapons so that you can grow in power. Around the time you start losing armor, the game could give you tips on how to sneak and then when you start gathering armor and weapons, gear that is, lets say, lighter weight and quieter gear would be seen as far more useful than clunky platemail and lances. So around the middle of the game, the player would know how to fight, but the enemies would be so strong that it would be far smarter to stealth around them. Yadda yadda, blah blah, eventually you get revenge on whatever caused your fall from grace, END GAME.

I like the idea of levelling down for RPGs, but there would be too many problems with MMORPGS.

I propose an even more crazy idea: cross-levelling!
This would raise some of your abilities and lower others as you progress, causing you to change your approach to tasks. For example you might have a stronger attack, but weaker defence or lose your strength, but gain persuasive skills or have the character age as time goes on and have abilities that don't always work reliably...or something...

erm... you do that already in just about any mmorpg. Sure, your level goes up and you can show the rats who killed you in the starting area who's Boss.
But in many starting Areas of many games is a small boss. Newbies first boss so to speak. If you know how the game works, you can solo most of these bosses pretty easily.

Later it gets harder and harder to do that. I was the server first in some game no one cares about to beat a certain boss no one cares about. It was a bit harder then soloing the first boss. As you level up, it gets harder and harder to do anything alone until the only thing you can do when you feel like playing alone is to farm lower level stuff to sell.

My Toon in this Game is basically useless now without an entire army to back him up.
I could make twinks for leveled areas and since i know my way around that game these twinks would go through every boss in that leveled area like a knife through eyeballs. But as soon as i level up this character it will become as useless when alone as my old one since there's less and less i can do alone until i reach the point where i need help for literally everything.

So Yathzee's Idea isn't really something new.

hey guys. guuuuyyss. FFXIII kind of does this! you notice how the game actually forbids you to level up beyond a certain point until you've beaten some boss? and you ntoice how said bosses are becoming increasingly insanely difficult? yeah! by increasing the opposition's strength more quickly than you can increase your own, it's kind of like reverse leveling! they take this so far that later on, some of the common encounters actually become tough!

I'm in agreement with the people who say that the game model would work better for more action oriented games.

I'd also add I'd still work some kind of talent system in there. While the characters start with a suit case full of spells and abilities they need to pick out the ones that work best for them and pare them down as they progress in the game. At the same time they should be able to take talents representing them becoming more familiar with those few abilities they've commited to.

Perhaps instead of that make the talent system class-less leading to interesting character concepts like stealthy priests, or warriors who have learned a single mage spell for utility.

In the end you'd have a legion of newbies with more muscle than brains and a host of wily verterans each with a handcrafted character perfectly tuned to their play style.

All that being said it'd be a bitch to balance, and if it wasn't implemented perfectly the game would be a frustrating pile of garbage.

I can't remember the name of the game, but this concept HAS been done before.

You started out as a Deity with full 'Wave your hand and bathe a village in flames' power at the beginning, and slowly became weaker and weaker until you were just a normal human (Due to humans starting to question the God's existence, so without their prayers, you lost power). Then lived happily ever after with your new human family or whatever. (Or executed. Same difference.) It was an old game, so my memory of it is rather fuzzy.

Anyway...a very small example of that would be Strago from Final Fantasy...IV, I think? Anyway, the more you leveled him up, the lower his stats got. (Well, everything but Wisdom and Intelligence lowered. Those two either stayed the same or went up.) It was used in context of the game as Strago 'aging', but the gameplay purpose was because Strago was a crutch character who let you annihilate everything that came against you until you got stronger (And he got weaker) until he was about the same strength as the rest of your party members.

There would be the problem of a learning curve. If you give someone 250 abilities right from the start, they're not going to have enough time to use them all and figure out which ones are the most and least important before you start taking them away, which could lead to issues later since I assume you're not allowed to get abilities back or swap them out for others.

Also, for a game critic that always harping on games for gameplay that's too same-y, I'm surprised Yahtzee proposed a game plan that would essentially reduce a player to a single button pressing monkey. Losing abilities to make you less powerful is interesting in concept, but flawed. There would certainly be a need to prioritize your powers and form a strategy for which ones work best together, but in the end you're still just limiting a players gameplay options to just a couple repetitious buttons.

Then there's the problem of just being able to make a new character every time you want a stronger one. I'm sure gating would help that a bit, but I bet more people would start over from the beginning once they had leveled down half way than would actually make it to the final/lowest level.

I think Yahtzee was probably smoking something at his barbeque;
Oh man. Dude, what if like, we levelled backwards in videogames?
No dude, what if we level backwards in life.
Oh man dude, that's deep.

I think a mechanic like that would lend itself perfectly to a game spanning over a long period of time, with the main character growing older and older- showing the prices and the scars of sacrificing so much, being a hero and all.

Looking back on it, adding this to the Fable games would actually add more persuasive reasons to care about The Hero and other characters, possibly culminating in the The Hero dying of old age or some other sacrifice. Instead of being able to free-roam after completing the story, instead able to wander the world as a Ghost or something- change the perspective of how the world is presented to you and how you can interact with it.

Adds more to the idea of a Legend behind your Hero. People would swear that the 'spirit' of this great hero still looks over the people long after he either died or disappeared- no one really knows what happened to him... ooooooohhhhh I would get a kick out of that, changing from minstrels shouting your exploits to people telling hushed tales of a Guardian Spirit, watching over them.

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