What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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Dear god, I think he's on to something.

At first glance, it sounds stupid, but after thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense.

Though I can't think of anything really wrong with it, it still seems odd.

I would be interested to see if you can make the concept work in a single player game, Certainly, you could make it a very interesting story mechanic, the idea you are sacrificing yourself would become overwhelmingly apparent.

I've thought this for a while now, concerning multiplayer anyway. As you use guns or whatever weapons, you lose them. That way, your rank actually reflects your skill. The best players can use anything. It would add an extra degree of strategy to playing, rationing off your favourite weapons and getting good at all of them. That and it makes prestige-ing less pointless.

I really like this idea in the context of a character being gradually beaten down over the course of a story. It might work for the game to have a bell curve to it - starting powerful in the first act, then gradually being whittled away to nothing in the second, and finally regaining all your powers and then some in the third.

It would take a lot of refining to work in an MMO, but I'd love to see it in a single-player rpg.

usually tho enemies are supposed to level up aswell, In Final Fantasy 8 the monsters leveled up with you so certain enemies were always a challenge, even more so as enemies would get new attacks.

If you can level up the enemy certainly must be able to

my idea for the perfect MMORPG would be a city made of rings on the inner circle lies the top level players and on the outer circles lie the lower levels, however when you get enough XP you don't level up till you say so that way you won't be thrown into the inner rings with higher up players if you aren't ready

also MMORPGS should have players be controlled by AI when theyre asleep using the battle system FF 12 had where you could set your troops commands, with cool down periods so that players can't be continuosly bludgeoned to death.

It would be nice to isolate the casual MMO users from the nerdy hardcore ones

That sounds pretty cool, or you can always see if you could give old enemies new abilities as you get stronger, that way there's still variety in combat, and that even the weakest enemy will keep you on your toes.

You are Wrong! (edit: after reading the whole thing) You are Wrong in so many levels.

Mind you I do watch your show and enjoy reading your column for being smart and cynical. Yet when sometimes people talk shit they need to be called on. And today you are Stupid. Let me explain:

A single player game is fun when you are progressing and accomplishing something. And your hero getting stronger is exactly the part of character development of him getting better and more skillful at what he does. And while you can design a game where you progress in another more important path than strength, all you proposed was being nerfed. No fun there. If its too easy for you go ramp up the difficulty setting.

Haven't played Two Worlds 2, so I'm left to respond on your WoW comment that misc spells are unnecessary. If you are only using 30% of you skill that is perfectly fine. You are probably doing only quests which after all are designed to be easy for new players. Add dungeon groups, raids, PvP and extreme soloing and you'll end up using almost all your spells or die alot. But I forgive you since you are new to the game. WoW indeed does have some spells that have no use and are relics of old design, but these are pruned or updated over time.

Limiting ganks? What are you thinking? The only thing to prevent me to gank other people is the amount of preparation it requires. Ohh I only need to press two buttons and make you character - GG!

So yeah, while I wonder how far have you actully gone this time to write something funny, all your rambling is just plain dumb.

Here is a better tip for you: Make it a facebook game. The less friends you have the more you win. At least then you'll find a demographic that enjoys your game. (while you spam them with singles adds and cat toys)

GunGame Reverse.

CSS mod, i loved it and played it a ton.

Starts you with the strongest gun, and by the time you"ve "leveled" up to max level, you have to kill the other guys with a knife. Who btw are lower level then you, so they still have the strong stuff.

Quite fun and challenging and winning is a real show of skill and gives a sense of achivement :)

I'd love to try this concept in a RPG of some sort. Definitely would have to go heavy on the story though.

Its always irked me that i get "stronger"... but the enemies got stronger too... so i didn't really get any stronger did i... since its all so relative, games irk me when they do this too much. See Diablo2. Loved it. Hated the concept of fading strength.

"Level backwards"... that sounds like ageing. We start off building skills, physical performance and aptitude, and as we grow older, our physical performance deteriorate, which forces us to use the skills we learned and the (usually) mental aptitude we honed when we were younger <--First impressions.

Post read impressions: I agree wholeheartedly with this idea. The idea is sound, but a bit dicey to actually implement: "Who'd want to play a game where you get less good the longer you play?" is a thought that comes to mind. There'd have to be some thing that off-set the "young elite warriors" and "Wizened old guy". As I was writing that, I actually wanted to fill in with "banker" or something similar.

Aside from those thoughts, I'll leave it up to you guys to figure any flaws or ideas inspired from this.

That sounds like an awful idea! Having a final boss be a kobold...not a good thing.

I don't see how this could work. It sounds like Yahtzee took the idea from story telling that it is always darkest before the dawn and then tried to apply it to video game gameplay.

And this coming from a man who says not to confuse mediums.

This idea fascinates me for a number of reasons. I'd be really interested to see the way in which the overarching plot of the game would incorporate this dynamic - if it'd just be an aging thing, or whether your character would suffer some kind of disease. I'm imagining something sort of 'fisher king' like - where as the world gradually decays through the course of the game, so too do the skills of your character. I also feel like there could be more of a focus on developing your own skills at playing the game, rather than your character's skills within the game, unlike, say, the Fable games, where there's a point at which you're so good at magic that the only skill you need is to be able to hold down a button.

I also got reminded of this: http://nerfnow.com/comic/459
What would the effect on pvp be if as your abilities (or gear) decayed, they were replaced by actual experience on your part in playing the character? I have no idea.

this is not one of his stronger arguments. i agree that, after slaughtering all the enemies in the game, the final boss never seems all that daunting. however, i dont agree with his initial point, that rpgs get easier as you get closer to the end. you get stronger, but unless you spend a pathetic amount of time leveling, the enemies should still be stronger than you, or at least an even match. i think his solution of just making you weaker and taking away your abilities wouldnt make it harder, it would make it more frustrating

While it does sound interesting I don't know if I personally would go for that. I mean, I play video games to pretend to feel powerful and awesome(One of the many reasons I don't play an MMO, if it takes a raid party to just kill Thrall/King something face/etc or whatever why doesn't he/she just go and kill the big bads by himself?). If I wanted to feel like a weak loser I wouldn't be playing video games... wait did I just call myself a pathetic weakling? Nevermind... move along, nothing to see here.

Also, Sid Meyer's Pirates! did this already. As you aged(IE: played longer), the worse you became at melee combat, until eventually it became in your best interests to retire that character and start a new career. Let's also not forget the enemies leveling with you mechanic from Oblivion. Everyone hated that. Everyone.

Let's factor reality into this.

The sense of play and reward is not removed, but reversed entirely. This game is the anti-fun. Good job, good job.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
SNIP

I love it. That sounds awesome. However i suggest a different idea. Imagine you. A swordsman in your prime, finished his training. You can swing that massive oversized sword fast and hard but without much skill. As you age you become more masterfull, but weaker as age ravages you. You downgrade to smaller swords and daggers, moving from tough guy SMUSH easy mechanic to, duelist small dagger right spot difficult mechanic. The first levels would make you use the easy young, tough, you to crush enemies with brute strength. As you get weaker you get more finesse. You have to be less dependant on strength and more on tactics, skills and application. The skill range morphs. You lose one skill (a shield blash for example. lack the strength) and gain another (catch blade, gain the finesse) which has to be applied more carefully and skillfully. Im totally thinking a kinda brute to yoda transformation.

I think a direct downlevel would be a poor mechanic. I would miss my favourite skills and being powerfull without ANY compensation. This is different. This is a focus switch over time. You dont just detract from an entire character. You add while doing so.

Experience is now more than a number. It is now properly experience. The learning of things through time as you grow older.

In fact for an awesome climactic boss you could fight an enemy with all your original powers, youth, strength, a massive sword. And beat him. With your weaker but more skillfull gameplay you aquired throughout the game.

I like the idea of you starting with everything and then moving more and more into specialisation. If I ever make an RPG I think I'll utilize that idea, because if you get to choose from everything you actually get to Roleplay, because then you can specialize. :)

Except he missed a little tiny point. ENDGAME.

It makes no sense to give your customers less variety and more monotony in a game whose business model revolves around keeping the customer playing(and paying). This system might make a good "de-leveling" experience but it quickly drive players away after reaching stat de-progression, which is exactly the opposite of what the developers want and need.

How about actually playing an MMO up to endgame next time?

the scourge campaign for Warcraft 3 Frozen Throne does something like this with Arthas and the gradual level reduction though out the campaign

The cited Two Worlds 2 and Metroid Prime mechanics make sense, but leveling down is a bad idea for so many reasons, at least for single player. On the other hand, I'm not an MMO player, and Yahtzee seems to focus on applying it to MMO's, so maybe it could work in that kind of environment. Maybe it can be attributed to an in-game character growing too old to effectively battle.

In a single player game, though, all the developers need to do is ensure that every time a player gains a new Super-Power-Destructo Spell or something, he can use it a few times on the enemies he's been fighting, to show off how powerful it really is, then come up against tougher enemies to keep the challenge up, and give a sense that the action is steadily growing in intensity, climaxing with an extremely powerful protagonist taking on an extremely powerful antagonist.

Shit idea is shit, I play RPGs to smite foes with ultra lasers and blades that fly up through the floor, not to loose those powers. A good plot is ok, but the idea of a final fight is to use all the skills you've gained (both in game and in real life (strategy/reactions) to beat the final boss, if you got to the final boss all you'd have is an X button attack, a dodge and items (maybe) that sounds FUCKING BORING! That's like owning a PS3 from the beginning, "here's a whole list of stuff it can do!" two months later "and you can't do this, or that, oh or that either, basically we've barely evolved from the last system". It's just silly!

How about as you age, becoming weaker, older, and your armies grow smaller, so does your enemy.
Makes sense to me, if there was somebody who might have enough power to challenge me, I'd send my strongest men in first, to finish them off quickly. But shit, he killed them! No matter, now that they've softened him up a bit and wrecked his shield, my somewhat lesser minions will be able to take him down...and so on.

...Until we reach a showdown. The years spent killing your way to each other have taken their toll, your gear has been destroyed, neither of you have the strength to unleash a killer spell. Two old men, facing each other, breath ragged, clutching their swords.

Lets do this shit.

Oooh, no, wait, another idea. What if we make it more like aging? You start off on top of the world! Inexperienced, but strong, fit, and agile. Over time, you learn how to swing a sword, or aim better, but you get weaker. So your stats go down as your skills go up.

I love the idea. Where do I pre-order?

I'm surprised no one has actually tried this.

It's a simple, creative method of creating a difficulty curve.

I can see some pros in the concept. But I play RPG's to become a heavy armoured dude. I just love seeing the change on my character. Starting with some rags at lvl 1 and having fire coming out of my boots at top.

But the choosing away skills sounds like a good mechanic.

Well here's a point for trying.

People generally have a bad intuition when it comes to innovative ideas, but I have to trust mine this time. It seems like those concepts that only serve to make the paper they're on look nice; the "looks-good-on-paper" idea. I understand I am criticizing the man who solidified the definition of the term "immersion", but such a mechanic would only bring attention to the gameplay, though not inherently. This breakaway would occur when the player sees his/her character doing less damage; it doesn't matter whether the situation is treated with resentment or disappointment, what is brought to mind is the counterpositive gameplay. In a normal RPG no one gives a damn because it works for them, rather than against them.

However that's a strict interpretation of the idea. A game with GPR elements (yes I did, in fact, went there) would reap all the benefits without receiving a lot of harm. Metal Gear Solid 4 is an example; at the climax of the game, Snake, after hours of gameplay mowing down giant frog robots, was reduced to crawling on the floor, and if anything else brought attention to his utter decay in the game it was this moment. So...yeah, I will give you that.

Speaking of the relationship between age and RPG elements, would The Curious Case of Benjamin Button translate well into video games? I would like to see you try me, makers of The Great Gatsby video game.

I luff it. I just luff it. I hate being able to wreck bosses at the end of a game like a pathetic grunt.

I quite like the idea, especially as a means of changing the way players of different status interact with one another, but I'm not sure people will approve of being 'punished' and downgraded for their in-game successes and victories.

Dobrev:
You are Wrong! (edit: after reading the whole thing) You are Wrong in so many levels.

Mind you I do watch your show and enjoy reading your column for being smart and cynical. Yet when sometimes people talk shit they need to be called on. And today you are Stupid. Let me explain:

A single player game is fun when you are progressing and accomplishing something. And your hero getting stronger is exactly the part of character development of him getting better and more skillful at what he does. And while you can design a game where you progress in another more important path than strength, all you proposed was being nerfed. No fun there. If its too easy for you go ramp up the difficulty setting.

Haven't played Two Worlds 2, so I'm left to respond on your WoW comment that misc spells are unnecessary. If you are only using 30% of you skill that is perfectly fine. You are probably doing only quests which after all are designed to be easy for new players. Add dungeon groups, raids, PvP and extreme soloing and you'll end up using almost all your spells or die alot. But I forgive you since you are new to the game. WoW indeed does have some spells that have no use and are relics of old design, but these are pruned or updated over time.

Limiting ganks? What are you thinking? The only thing to prevent me to gank other people is the amount of preparation it requires. Ohh I only need to press two buttons and make you character - GG!

So yeah, while I wonder how far have you actully gone this time to write something funny, all your rambling is just plain dumb.

Here is a better tip for you: Make it a facebook game. The less friends you have the more you win. At least then you'll find a demographic that enjoys your game. (while you spam them with singles adds and cat toys)

I eagerly await your fantasy novel based on years of experience with MMORPGs.

Wait.

---------------------------

Jedamethis:
How about as you age, becoming weaker, older, and your armies grow smaller, so does your enemy.
Makes sense to me, if there was somebody who might have enough power to challenge me, I'd send my strongest men in first, to finish them off quickly. But shit, he killed them! No matter, now that they've softened him up a bit and wrecked his shield, my somewhat lesser minions will be able to take him down...and so on.

...Until we reach a showdown. The years spent killing your way to each other have taken their toll, your gear has been destroyed, neither of you have the strength to unleash a killer spell. Two old men, facing each other, breath ragged, clutching their swords.

Lets do this shit.

Oooh, no, wait, another idea. What if we make it more like aging? You start off on top of the world! Inexperienced, but strong, fit, and agile. Over time, you learn how to swing a sword, or aim better, but you get weaker. So your stats go down as your skills go up.

Lodoss.

this is kind of what oblivion had due to what i always thought to be a flawed leveling system where enemies got stronger as you leveled up.
i remember getting to level 30 and realizing that bandits which at one point took me three hits to kill with my iron dagger which did 3 damage, now took me ten hits with a daedric claymore with 20 damage. i was also finding myself in need of more and more healing potions too.

so i don't know if thats what the developers, bethesda, were going for, but i guess the idea that you are trying to communicate to us already has a name. a name that most rpg fanatics i know cringe upon hearing. that word would be level scaling.

so yeah i agree with your idea to an extent. it is cool to have a game that gets more challenging for the sake of the main antagonist seeming more intimidating which i do think most games (if not all games) these days lack. but i think any typical gamer that is used to playing rpgs would probably implode once he sees that his stats are decreasing. so i still say that you must have the illusion of getting stronger in the form of numbers which we all know is what rpg players love.

Hmmm... The idea is interesting, but probably couldn't work exactly as you've planned it out in the context of an MMORPG.

However, you could have it that same concept, but instead of getting weaker, a said player's avatar could just become more specific.

Por ejemplo: as a player progresses, instead of everything getting weaker regardless of the player's interest the player has a choice to stave off weakness of certain powers and skills except for a select few that will actually get better. This pool of powers will continually shrink as the player progresses until there are only about 2-3 extremely powerful spells. If spent in a more equal distribution throughout the game, a player could be very well-rounded, but none of the skills would be individually powerful as a player that only kept and maintained 1-3 instead.

This way (set in a setting like WoW), you could have archetypal mages that cast spells very quickly that are also powerful, but because those were the only 2 things focused on the variety of spells they could use at the end of the game will be incredibly limited; they would not have spells that allow them to run or teleport when cornered or conjure armor, etc. "Hunter" classes can become expert snipers with extreme range and power, but eventually lose their pets and trap powers as they focus on that single aspect of their class. A warrior could either put a lot of points into their armor and attacks - making them slow and cumbersome, but lethal in close quarters - or they could distribute the points equally to all their attributes and become very flexible in their class at the cost of not being particularly good at any single specific niche.

This mechanic would allow the player to experiment and explore with the controls, functions, and stratagem of the game and the chosen class at early levels, and as they progress and find out what methods and skills work best to their play style, will become more specific and tailored to each player's custom tastes while getting rid of all the clutter of irrelevant spells.

Shit, I talk too much. Interesting idea - with some polishing it very well could work.

So a game where you start as a young man in the prime of their life and get older as the game goes, to the point where you're called for "one last mission" and have to accomplish it through sheer experience rather then brute force....

Interesting idea, would take talent to implement in a way that doesn't turn people off.

Well, I have to hand it to you, Yahtzee. I would be tempted to try out such a game. It's different and would be challenging. Plus, if it really WOULD have other features and a good story I can get into, it would be totally worth it.

Closest parallel I can think of is the first two Oddworld games, in which Abe (Hey, you guys remember Abe, right?) is mostly the weakest, most pathetic being in the whole wide world thrust into his trials with a frail body and infinite lives. And since Abe's Oddesee/Exoddus were both DAMN GOOD GAMES, your premise might actually work.

I like the idea, but in practice it would be hell. Why would I keep playing if I would be consistently murdered by the same enemy if I had trouble with one when I was starting the game (which will definitely happen). I think that your idea about newbies being dumb and strong and the oldies being weak and wise is really cool though although what would be better is if you start out strong physically, up until say lvl 30, then you begin to become weaker but then your intellectual skills and magic become stronger, until you become a floating withered mage shooting lightning out your forehead.

I definitely don't like the idea. RPG's are about epic-ness and a sense of progression or improvement. Nothing says that like going up to last-month's boss-class monster and killing it in a couple hits.

Rather than the idea expressed in the article, I'd rather have an RPG where skills stay the same.

I thought of some thing similar once when i was considering how God of War 2 (3 now as well I guess) had to hit a big reset button near the beginning of the game. It couldnt have you being a god, that put you on too even a footing so it had you drain your essence into a sword to turn it into a god slaying weapon, a rather arbitrary way of depowering you fudged into the plot to get you to begin the leveling process all over again.

I thought of a more modern setting for the RPG, like Deus Ex, and to simply steal the plot hook from DOA (Dead on Arrival) or Crank and have your chracter wake up poisened. Down leveling provided via poison wracking your system and plot motivation of trying to find out who/ why it was done to you.

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