What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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I had an idea like that a while ago. It was a daydream about a game in which you play a homeless beggar.

The point of the game would be to collect money by panhandling around a city. Your character would start as a down-on-your-luck but otherwise healthy adult. However, the more time you spend on the streets, the more your health deteriorates. And the more crippled you become, the more money you can get from panhandling!

You would be able to fight with citizens or fellow vagrants for supplies, tools, or rattier-looking clothes. But the real purpose of combat would be to sustain serious injury. By surviving many severe beatings, you would eventually progress from a mere bum to a blind, toothless, hobbling and pathetic paragon! But such handicaps would increase the real danger: collapsing of malnutrition and/or getting nabbed by the police. If they catch you they will take you to the hospital. There, doctors will not only heal you, they will take your hard-earned begging money!

Well... that's one (incredibly stupid and probably insulting) way to integrate the mechanic with the story. But seriously, I think Yahtzee has an interesting idea. As mentioned before, some games give you a real shock when they suddenly deprive you of a previously-important item, weapon or ability. A game in which the player knew that such loss was inevitable would be... maybe frustrating, but maybe really engaging (especially if she had to choose what to sacrifice).

I hit on this very idea in the last three weeks, and Yahtzee goes and plucks it out of my brain from across the planet with his intimidating psychic powers. Goddamned psychic columnists, grumble grumble.

I must say I quite agree with these ideas getting implemented in RPG games.

The difficulty curve in most RPG games decays to a mere null towards the end of the game,where you don't even need to pop potions to keep yourself alive,because you are overpowered with all your gear,spells and abilities.

Will be nice to see some producers try this "tactic" in future RPG's.

Guess time will tell...

I seriously have a working story already in mind. I have an idea on how it would work. Though it wouldn't "end" with you being weak, that would be part one of the game. Though part two would technically not be nearly as long as part 1 as it wouldn't be the main idea. I dunno if you would give me a second look, but I am a game designer of sorts myself, and I am actually sorta interested in the idea. If you wanna get in contact about it, hit me up. If not, the idea is yours, I'm not going to touch it without the mastermind backing me up.

BOY HOWDY this sounds like a an amazing idea.

I LOVE PLAYING CHARACTERS WITH AIDS.

would never work for an mmo tbh. as for a singleplayer or co-op rpg it could be in a comedic based game, but i don't really see the idea working. as for the spells you don't use in wow on your mage, remember that there are circustancial spells that will be usefull for situations, and also they have specs where you can choose ice, rendering your fire spells weaker than your ice spells. so it's not like wow do not let you choose what spells you use. and also there would be no point in removing the spells you don't use since this would not really make you weaker.

the thing about removing spells is that having 2-3 spells does not really take much skill to use, it limits your choices rendering the game easier. what they need to learn is making boss fights harder, not making the player bader. : p

I go to school in Burlington, VT. for Game Design. A team two years ago actually created a game along these lines called "The Eve" that begins with the final boss fight, and then the player must slowly sacrifice their abilities in order to get closer to their love. The levels were themed on the pitfalls of relationships- Pride, Jealousy, Lust, and I believe Deceit. The player chooses an ability- double jump, shield, attacking, and crawling- to sacrifice at the end of each level. They can also end the game early by sacrificing their love so that their love can be free of the curse you're working so hard to undo.

The concept was brilliant, as each sacrificed ability cut off many easier paths in each level. I feel like it's proof of concept for this kind of play.

Stay bastardly, Yahtzee!

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

Playing Fallout 3, I'll disagree with the 'gimmicky' statement.

Let me explicate. When I started off from the lower levels, every decision I made had an appreciable effect on the outcome of my battles, NPC interactions, etc. Because resources were so scarce, I had to decide whether taking on a certain group of raiders was commendable; and even if they could be defeated, I had to consider whether it was worth the effort considering scarcity, for example whether I should use the long range rifle since I was short on 5.56mm ammo while the raiders were mostly armed with 10mm. Getting shot would cost me expensive Stimpacks (didn't have a place to sleep yet) and degrade my armor, which would cost me further resources. Even in battles I had to hunt out vantage points to attack from, not to mention stealth.

The game had me thinking in terms of logistics, both in resource management and combat.

But later, with the reward mechanism at work (Tesla Armor, Laser Rifle, Plasma Rifle, around 1000 Microfusion Cells harvested from decapitated Enclave soldiers), the gameplay degraded for me. Every problem encountered simply met my chain-gun and a river of lead. The tension was no longer there, and neither was the challenge.

So it does have the possibility to create an interesting gameplay mechanism, not to mention the aesthetic appeal of the narrative. Also, I would like to point at zjspeed's comment.

zjspeed:
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.

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.

But yeah, it wouldn't work in an MMORPG. MMO devs are too busy bleeding from the eyes from all the cocaine they're inhaling, courtesy to Skinner's Box.

Raiyan 1.0:

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

Playing Fallout 3, I'll disagree with the 'gimmicky' statement.

Let me explicate. When I started off from the lower levels, every decision I made had an appreciable effect on the outcome of my battles, NPC interactions, etc. Because resources were so scarce, I had to decide whether taking on a certain group of raiders was commendable; and even if they could be defeated, I had to consider whether it was worth the effort considering scarcity, for example whether I should use the long range rifle since I was short on 5.56mm ammo while the raiders were mostly armed with 10mm. Getting shot would cost me expensive Stimpacks (didn't have a place to sleep yet) and degrade my armor, which would cost me further resources. Even in battles I had to hunt out vantage points to attack from, not to mention stealth.

The game had me thinking in terms of logistics, both in resource management and combat.

But later, with the reward mechanism at work (Tesla Armor, Laser Rifle, Plasma Rifle, around 1000 Microfusion Cells harvested from decapitated Enclave soldiers), the gameplay degraded for me. Every problem encountered simply met my chain-gun and a river of lead. The tension was no longer there, and neither was the challenge.

So it does have the possibility to create an interesting gameplay mechanism, not to mention the aesthetic appeal of the narrative. Also, I would like to point at zjspeed's comment.

zjspeed:
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.

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.

But yeah, it wouldn't work in an MMORPG. MMO devs are too busy bleeding from the eyes from all the cocaine they're inhaling, courtesy to Skinner's Box.

well the problem is they failed to make the endgame harder in fallout, they should make mobs that needed good tactics to kill and would not drop fast from guns. actually the game could just make the mobs of the game stronger as time goes by..

What if a character that is aging have to find potions or magical artifacts that counteracts the aging to a certain dregree, but perhaps with a price of morality, and even pieces of your soul?

A game about Spartacus could manage this I guess. You start with a certain amount of people beneath you as a general, but the more battles you take part in, the more wounded and tired they get.

For some reason I couldn't stop thinking about "God Hand" during this.

I think for this concept to work, there would have to be a highly skilled mechanic, it couldn't just be tacked on anything. If you as a player could not get significantly better at the game, then making it harder would make it unplayable.

Tarkand:

InterAirplay:

Tarkand:
The main problem with the concept is that as you lose abilities, the game will become more and more 'same-y' and boring.

Unless the game developers grow brains and try to put more variety into the game than just "what flavours of attack you can use".

And how do you propose you do that? The core concept of Yahtzee's game is that as you level, you get weaker and loose abilities. No matter how deep the game is, you are still looking at a game that is getting shallower as it progress... it may not be totally shallow by the end game, but it will be shallower. There's no getting around it. Which also means not as fun to many people.

The fact is simple - pretty much every game, be it a fps, rpg, action game, etc - starts with you having less abilities and possibilities and gaining more.

The games gets easier either because:
A - The difficulty doesn't scale properly, so your new abilities make it too easy.
B - You've figured out some new combo that is much more powerful, so even if the game does scale, you're still destroying everything regardless.
C - A mix of both.

In both case the problem has more to do with poor design (poor level scaling or not playtesting all the combo properly) - this is just a very round about way to fix the problem... and it opens up a can of worm.

It's not just a way to fix a problem. Obviously, implementing such a system would require a whole new game, it wouldn't fit into many traditional templates - especially not the old MMO ones.

Anyway, adding new features as time goes by to the player's arsenal is not the primary motivation for playing through a game, nor should it even be the secondary motivation. If it is, then you've got a poorly made game on your hands.

As a player gets weaker, older challenges become more tactical in nature - the player now has to spend time figuring out new ways to take on their enemies or a specific problem because they've lost an ability which allowed them an easier solution. Now they have to figure out a new solution, relying more on their own core skills as a player (i.e. their ability to understand the game mechanics and play it well, situational awareness, strategic thinking, etc.) rather than simple game mechanics and abilities which previously allowed them to take on a challenge with little thought or methods other than "go here, kill 'em all".

To say that it would make the game more boring also assumes that the only possible challenge will be killing a set number of enemies. If a game developer manages to implement objectives that rely on more than just killing dudes - i.e. a multiple choice approach to a problem that cannot just be shot at, with different consequences and rewards for each choice taken - then a player is forced to use their own ingenuity to overcome an obstacle. With more difficult problems as time goes by, the devs can also add a whole new difficulty curve as well, forcing the player to not only tackle old problems in different ways but come up against completely new ones with very little to go on, meaning that players also have to be able to figure things out for themselves.

This could manifest itself in various ways. For example, a puzzle may have several outcomes - some of them relying on the player having certain skills, others relying on the player being able to figure out some solutions. As time goes by, they rely less on "press X to solve" and more "how the hell do I do this?" and if we assume this takes place in, say, a realistic modern day shooter, then the player will, when first entering an enemy base, be able to call in an airstrike, have a squad of allies with him, use things like UAV support etc. to fight his way in. As time goes by, (let's imagine this is a soldier going further and further behind enemy lines) the player is cut off from his support and he is forced to rely on quick thinking, stealth, his own skills as a player to take out the enemy, and the consequences of each action (which would now be magnified by his comparative weakness). I'll admit that adding this to an MMO may be somewhat difficult, but it could be done.

And since when did the tools in a player's arsenal represent the level of depth in a game? this is the part that confuses me most. There are so many things that the developers could add to the world and characters around the player to increase depth. This only results in a game getting shallower if the developers fail at involving the player. If a developer also gives a game a decent story/setting, good pacing, locations to expore, the possibility of new challenges (this last one should hopefully always be present in an MMO to take on) then the game will still increase in depth as time goes by - especially with them relying less and less on "Press button to win" and more and more on "figure it out yourself, bitch!". If, in my example, you lost the ability to call in instakill airstrikes on the enemy as time went by, had your number of abilities as a character reduced and had to swap out a load of high-tech gear for a rusted pistol and his wits, would a player honestly throw down his controller because he just wants to play with some new weapons and gizmos? would he give up, even if there was the promise of a gripping story, thrilling fights, satisfying solutions and overall rewarding gameplay, just because he wants some new guns to play with?

You asked me how I would propose to give a game more variety besides "the various flavours of attack you could use". I refuse to demonstrate this to you. Pick up any game you own, play it for an hour, and then come back and tell me that the only thing keeping you playing, the only thing adding depth, the only thing making the game worth completing was the possibility of shiny new toys to play with. If it was, then you picked up a bad game.

Reminds me of breath of fire 5, the more times you use dragon mode the closer you get to dieing or going berserk or something.

I think to make it work if you fight at full power you start to lose things, fighting at half power you are able o get by but the pacing of the game narrative would be all kinds of screwed up unless skills are based on equipment thus...oooooo that could work.... !!!

i thought of that same idea in a videogame...but not a rpg game...i would love if a designer can take an idea like that and play with it.... Journey its a game that would benefit from that mechanic, it would make the character journey more strong as the player would want to know what is in the mountain that is so important that the he would let go of the skills to progress to the game.

I'm not sure that this would take off and become a very popular concept. However, I think a similar idea could work: as you play the game, your party starts to thin out from people leaving or dying. That way, an individual could still improve, but overall your team is getting worse. This would work give a difficulty curve and keep the players playing to improve their characters

qeinar:

well the problem is they failed to make the endgame harder in fallout, they should make mobs that needed good tactics to kill and would not drop fast from guns. actually the game could just make the mobs of the game stronger as time goes by..

Fallout is in no way solitary in that respect. Nearly all RPGs - ranging from Pokemon to Earthbound (minus the boss, Gigas), has this effect to some extent. Grind on ahead, and the rest is cake. Reward mechanism wouldn't work otherwise. Yahtzee's proposal removes that issue.

After some thought, this would be fairly easy to implement in an action game. In real life, a master swordsman could easily overwhelm an opponent with incredible strength, but no skill. Same for martial artists, really. Instead of Yahtzee's idea of starting off with all the skills and abilities you'll ever get, you start with insanely high stats but very few, if any skills. As you go along your merry way, you meet people who are willing to teach you various things, figuring them out for yourself, or watching someone else preform them. As you get older, your skill increases but your physical ability decreases.

In essence, you would be trading in strength for skill. Nearing your 'strongest', you would no longer be able to brute force anything that gets in your way, but could maneuver your way around obstacles with a combination of wit and skill.

This would work great with a Warhammer: Storm of Chaos adaptation.

What if we compromised between the two systems?

As the game progresses you earn more abilities, but at the very beginning of the game you can choose one weapon to take with you, and that weapon gradually grows weaker through the game.

So the curve in difficulty still increases, but it still adds game play features too.

I would play it.

I like this idea, but I find it more applicable to FPSs in a sense that it could feel more natural. While I do like the declining powers and loss of abilities as Yahtzee says, I think this isn't what most players would want. Unless the game is completely centered around advancing through the loss of powers (which Yahtzee does say) I think it might seem a tad odd. I think in a FPS setting it could be much more rewarding. You start the game off with the largest, craziest weapons the game has to offer, but due to being sent further through wherever you are, you lose more weapons and by the time you combat the final boss you have but a spear, or pistol or something equally weak in FPS terminology. Just a thought, anyways...

Nevrus02:
I go to school in Burlington, VT. for Game Design. A team two years ago actually created a game along these lines called "The Eve" that begins with the final boss fight, and then the player must slowly sacrifice their abilities in order to get closer to their love. The levels were themed on the pitfalls of relationships- Pride, Jealousy, Lust, and I believe Deceit. The player chooses an ability- double jump, shield, attacking, and crawling- to sacrifice at the end of each level. They can also end the game early by sacrificing their love so that their love can be free of the curse you're working so hard to undo.

The concept was brilliant, as each sacrificed ability cut off many easier paths in each level. I feel like it's proof of concept for this kind of play.

Stay bastardly, Yahtzee!

Could I buy their product? I mean I'm not interested in the code, I just wanna play this thing. It sound really interesting!

I could see this working in an mmo, but it would have to be vastly different then the current grindfests out there. Rather then your average raid/loot/repeat mmo, it would have to concentrate more on the rpg portion, say every player has to work together to stop some big evil person/event/etc or face a total server wipe.

The basic premise for this is that characters would age over time, becoming weaker as their infirmities took hold. If their character lives long enough, they'd eventually have to decide whether to sacrifice themselves to further stop whatever evil is happening or take the coward's route to stave off death for a while longer.

They'd have an option to go out in a blaze of glory having their character's name forever engraved on a memorial for them. Think Judge Dread style where the judges have to take the long walk at a certain point.

What if you started the game off with several hundred potions, grenades, etc . . .

. . . and you don't get more throughout? No one tells you this; you're just led to conclude it after the first few hours of play. Every time you use a potion, that's one less that you'll have forever. Every point of lost HP becomes a battle of attrition.

Conclusion: mitebkewl

As always though, it should probably be pointed out that cool ideas are a dime a dozen in game design -- it's implementation that matters.

blindthrall:
LAST!

Ha!

Heres one reason nobody would actually enjoy this in practice:
Nobody wants to get used to using good skills and then have them taken away so all they can use are their bad skills. More people would want to simply not level and do stuff with their starting character.

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

Was thinking exactly the same thing

This is the best idea I've ever heard. That is all.

This sounds like an interesting idea. I wouldn't play a game like that but it sounds interesting. Also it sounds like punishing the player for progressing in the game and i dont think it would get past planning or whatever before someone asks "if i lose a level every mission then whats the point?" there has to be some kind of really good hook to keep the average gamers attention in a game like that or a way to compensate for the lost level or skill. Such a thing would make for good story but would present a challenge to incorporate as good gameplay.

What new would it bring to the table? It's perfectly symmetric with the usual leveling method: you still spend the same amount of time in both weak and strong states. So what's the point? There are better ways to make gameplay more challenging and dramatic: look at Devil May Cry 3, new abilities only complemented your own skills, they weren't doing all the work for you. That's what a good implementation of RPG elements is about: sharp balance and equilibrium between player's and his/her character's skills. That's the core reason why I absolutely despise the traditional point&click RPGs.

There are reasons why some mechanics had been never to rarely used in games. Take Shadow of the Colossus for example. You might argue that the whole point of the game was "to bring a sense of desolation to the player". But all I saw was a world full of nothing and that comes as a really sloppy attempt at selling a poorly designed game as art.

Off-topic: yes, I hated that game so much. I hated its empty gameplay. I hated the fact that the supposed mighty colossi were nothing more than gigantic pushovers. I hated its diluted (yes, I said "diluted") and moronic storyline with ending so ridiculous it would have made the "star child" cry. And most of all I hated the fact that my pagan first impression of the game (I love pagan mythologies, especially the early ones: they're just shrouded in so much magic and mystery I can't help myself) had been crushed by the said absurd ending and replaced by your everyday demonic bullshit, lucifa please.

There, I said it. You may start with the crucification now, it was worth it.

Not a bad idea! perhaps it would benifit from the Call of Duty 'Prestige' system where the hardened (or weakened) players can then go back to the top of it all and chose a different set of powers to lose all over...

Lore Sjoberg once did a Capybara Brothers comic on something like this. Called a Buddhist RPG, the player had just traded in his axe for a stick. Shame his site is down, otherwise I'd link to it. I think this is the right link.

I actually had a very similar conversation with one of my friends the other day about Dead Space 2. Even if you consider any portion of the Dead Space games to be scary, the only parts that would qualify are at the very beginning of your first playthrough.

Anyone with any skill and understanding of the leveling system will be able to create a non-threatening situation pretty quickly. This culminates in the end of the game, where there is no fear whatsoever, because even if taken by surprise, you'll quickly dispatch whatever comes at you with little to no damage to yourself.

Goodie. Just what I wanted at the climax of my survival horror game.

I doubt it'd work in an MMO, but it could work well in a single-player RPG/Adventure game I think. I'd certainly give it a try. The issue, though, is that a complete newbie wouldn't want to use a huge repertoire of skills and abilities, and once you're down to the end of the game, having the gameplay reduced to "press X to not die" isn't fun either; there obviously needs to be some very, very fine-tuning for this to work.

Interesting, good for a new game type, and may be an innovating way to make an adventure game out with. I had a concept, one that uses different approach from the traditional "MMO Diablo" game style, instead just "leveling up", try "advancing in rank". sounds like the same thing, but not entirely...

Personal stats only effect players them selves, while "ranking up" will effect how players interact with others. having "ranks" gives players more perspective, and not just "Hulk smash harder". "rank" works FOR other players; when a high rank player gives command, and the low ranker follows, the low ranker gets buff/boots/other benefits thus making the game REWARDING towards team work game play.

The higher the rank, the more complex command, the game starts off with "solider", then players will level up, become stronger/faster..etc, but depends on "success rates", they will also "rank up", much like army, from follower, to squad command, to tactic command (multiple squads), to strategy command (mini world map, basic direction of advancement, and requisition flow, but less visible battle); a built-in chain of command. as the players gets "higher rank" they receives more command access. battles are then won NOT based on how hard you can HIT, but how smart your tactic, and team work all through out the "chain of command".

This could work on 2 VERY well known game titles, WarCraft (wanna be war hammer) and WARHAMMER (and best if it's 40K, where chain of command actually make sense, in a future war). A game where low levelers who are high rank have the creditability to command high leveler (because they have to "RANK UP to that position" by their victory, and NOT how many blue rabbits they slaughtered), where all levels of players CAN fight side by side, and you don't need to "GRIND" to have "real action", you are at the REAL BATTLE the moment you enter the game.

How ever, this type of game will require a few adjustments, from the mainstream MMO-RPG...

No side walk monsters/bosses, players needs to battle "OTHER RACES" like orks vs Space marines; PVP, or PVN(NPC), only.

Changeable world, lands can be conquered, changed, towns can be wiped out, maps can be re drawn (with out a major cataclysmic event, just a major battle, and a fall of a base)

No more death punishment; because players are in a epic war, they are always "needed". and they are always going to be "reinforcement calls" and players could be "ported to reinforcement locations", hence, dead, demote,re spawned, try again, no time lost.

No accumulated wealth, in a war, your "allowance" are based on "rank", not level, there for, you die, you lost the equipments your country "invested on you", next time you get "cloned", you get demoted, and high ranker gets WAY more points to start a battle, because they use 30/70 rule , they are entitled to 30% of their wealth, and other 70%(optional, if not used, it goes toward bonus victory points->ranking), but as a squad commander, your underlings are actually your "investments" for victory... so more likely you'd buy THEM equipment to secure your victory... (hey! how many games welcomes nubs with a free BFG?)

It's just a concept I had that I think could bring positive momentum in MMO-gaming, after all, Levels don't matters any more, you could play with your friends regardless of level difference, there is no need to rush, and you can play for battles, or entire war, it's all the more flexible, yet, still hardcore, because you could be the next level 30 guy who wound up getting owned by a level 20, because his tactic kicks butt!

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