What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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It's an interesting idea in a raw kind of primordial sense, just too, limited and specific to be of a wide use.

You're right, it would make a great game.
ONE, great game.
The problem here is that it would make that one great game, but you're trying at equate a novel idea to a large game design paradigm.
You're right, if you look at it from your view point it's a bit tired and played, but, there's a reason why it's been around for so long, it works, not in a short one time interesting little game idea way, but as a making successfully working rpg games way.

It would be an interesting concept to develop into something that would work on a wider scale, or to develop more along the specific lines you're talking about for a specific game.

As an MMO it would never work, period, ever. You could possibly get a niche gamer market, and you would get lookyloos to stop by and check it out, but as an MMO, no. This type of game would have to be a single player majorly story driven experience since the story would be taking place of the leveling up.

Much of this is interesting in concept, the only way in which I feel your thinking is flawed is in how you're trying to relate a specific more narrow concept to the wider paradigm, missing seeing the actual big picture. Also the whole "the only way we'll break out of the usual is by doing stuff like this" thing is a bit nihilistic and short sighted. It's not the "only" way, it's a way, but that thinking in itself is also more of the "same old same old" thinking you were talking about. Personally I've had some of the same thoughts you appear to have, but, instead of trying to make some grand chaotic change and just see what happens I'd rather take what works and do something new with it, fix it, make it work better than it has before. It's evolution. Creatures don't mutate into an entire other species, they change and mutate to a degree.

That is quite possibly the dumbest idea for a video game RPG i have ever heard. It's one thing to perhaps propose someone concentrating on one or two skills, leveling them up considerably to the exclusion of others, but to actually lose skills or "level down"? The whole point of life, simulated as it is in an RPG is learning new skills, getting better at them, not UNlearning them. Of all of Yahtzee's crazy ideas this one has to take the cheesecake in being the stupidest, unworkable idea ever, probably right up there with Atari's ET.

Who Dares Wins:
Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne had Arthas level down and it was amusing since the last few levels required you to play as him alone with no armies. Also the concept of leveling backwards is good as long as there is no extreme, newbs aren't godlike and "pros" aren't frail little men that a squirrel could kill, but the starting level is the upper-middle styled level, and the first one still has you kicking ass but not through DPS and raw strength.

Damn it, ninjaed.

BUT, to not be defeated, I'll mention Valkyrie Profile. While in a different sense of delevelling, to get the best ending you had to give up some of your heroes; the stronger the better. It makes the game more challenging as the game is on a limited time frame and have to play strategically to ensure you do the best decisions.

Really interesting. I do have a question though, what would the end-game be like? What would stop the new players to go straight to the end-game?

But yeah, really interesting as i already said.

I know we're talking about RPGs, but in a way this is done in alot in fps's. Notice how when you start you always have lots of friends with you and (alot of the time) they get picked off until you're alone. Some examples would be Halo Reach, Turok, killzone, and more.

So side-quests would make the character weaker and thus make the end-game more difficult. You are effectively punishing someone for exploring the game.
Sorry, I fail to see how this would work.

The biggest problem with that idea that I can see is that there really are a whole hell of a lot of people that play a game for hours and hours just because they want to get their stats up and get shiny weapons. I wouldn't define that as "fun" and everything Yahtzee's ever said about RPGs would leave me to believe that he wouldn't consider that "fun," either, but it's what a lot of people like to do.

Honestly? I can see this working for a few game, though not all. But one idea that shot right through my head...I know it would fall on deaf ears and such cause of the wave of comments and such, but here goes.

"You are a godlike being that has all of his powers, is stronger than Atlas than any given day, and can make a typhoon with just a sneeze. Upon his throne of gold, a small man in a black cloak appears, telling the 'God' of his achievements and greatness....but..there is one thing that even he can't control..

A Sword, a Dark sword that even the greatest heroes have died around it. Being the extreme being that he is, he would mock the little man in black, and thus take the sword for his own. Just as he conquers the dungeon that held the sword, word comes around that the 'gods' ancient enemies are attacking....something he could use his sword upon.

As time rolls on, however, it becomes apparent that the sword is draining him of his powers, and life, and once he figures it out, he us unable to let the sword go, either with the Golem' reaction of 'my precious', or not-believing it to be true of this wonderful sword..or the sword has latched onto him physically. By the end, he is soon mortal, and the little man in black happens to be the ruler of the invading army, or the spirit of the sword itself, and the Godlike-being, now human must conquer it before he falls, like the heroes before him.

So yeah, it would be a bit more like a 1player thing, 'but' it could be a multiplayer if you have more than one weapon and such.

i think you should lose some skills (newb skills like button-masho-combat/huge tanks) but gain other skills that require more skill to use but have a greater effect (like stealth/snipng) should be encouraged and even improved/maintained to help experianced players keep and edge wilst new players can still have alot of fun and get to see the whole of the games diversity that they overwise would never have seen (much to the desighners frustration) due to getting bored from grind or just not having the requirement to experiment (they need to use their skills to counter experianced players skills e.g use archery to kill a lighly armoured but combat based player then get on a horse to chase down a pexky magition 2 hills away) balancing issues could ensue but can hopefully be overcome by a good team of developers

Yahtzee, please. Get together with some bearable developer and make a game. You obviously have the talent to think of awesome things. This is a great idea, I'm surprised nobody has taken this into consideration.

...F***in genius!

Another side effect of backwards leveling in an MMO is that it may encourage older players to be less dickish. Maybe.

What about group play? It's hard to get an end game party with a healer with one healing spell, and only particular abilities for things like crowd control. Moves that you don't necessarily use for 'solo' play you would naturally drop, but those could be useful for group play-style.

I don't want to dip into things like PVP

but what about Re spec? In games where you have ability points, respec ing makes sense, because you want to dub your experience into something effective for you. It would not make sense that you "trainer" would have the ability to grant you all your powers, then you get to re chose what you loose. I don't want to get to level 1 then have to re roll upon finding out that my abilities mean nothing in endgame.

It's a great idea, but the basic template of which most MMO's operate, it would defiantly have bugs.

I'd love this idea as a single player game (not really a big MMO fan), especially if it was more action oriented so that you could make up for lost abilities with skill more effectively.

I like it. Seems like the next logical step from Half-Minute Hero.

If you had posed the simple idea of "What if your level reset each time you beat a boss?" to random people before that it would have gotten a resounding "lolno" response.

Then half minute hero happened, and it was great. Simple, but it worked well.

It may need a sense of progression still though, like half minute hero had with keeping your equipment while losing your level. Perhaps you start as a young hero who initially is a blah blah stereotypical RPG superhero, however you continue to play as him as he creeps into old age and has to find ways to compensate for his failing health. Forbidden Magic, Alchemical "suppliments", stealing ancient artifacts, contracts with demons, etc.

Alone, it seems like a bad idea. But if you can put it in the right setting, it could be really fun.

he was right in saying players would not want to play this game if they only level down.

but in a short game, probably action, it may work wonders.

the MAIN problem i see is that this is TOO MUCH outside the box for publishers to take to, they would just prefer to fund fifa 78 than this kind of game.

Great idea Yahtzee, i'm sure it won't fall flat on its face the second it gets into playtesting.

Especially in an MMO. What's the point of levelling if i get weaker? Ima go kill the end content boss, be done with it and hello next MMO. Or gank the idiots who HAVE levelled up. What's that you say? Make the game not allow you to see the content until you become a useless sack of shit? How the hell does that make any sense. I know, we'll put a target dummy at the entrance of each dungeon saying "YOU MUST HIT THIS CRAPPY TO CONTINUE" and if you hit it for anything more than 100 damage it doesn't let you in. It's unfair, you see. Monsters have dignity too.

Leaving aside the hilarity this concept would create in an MMO, the single-player portion is a bit more justified.

AS A GIMMICK. One people will quickly get bored of. The game would have to be short from the start, and it can only be done a very limited number of times. Cult classic maybe, but niche appeal at the very best.
There's a reason why RPGs start you out in shitty gear and progress to the better-looking armor: you want that armor. You want to get to it, and once you have it you don't want the game to remove it from you with no chance of ever seeing it again. It'll only make you play the first few minutes or so of that game.
Besides, such a game couldn't even be called an RPG. I'd call it "Some Sort of Pretentious Bullshit" instead. SSPB. Yeah, if anyone goes ahead and invents such a genre, i want credit for the name.

I don't think this idea would do anything for RPG's except piss people off to the point of not playing. Where i see this idea as a potential gold mine is the stealth/action game genre. If this idea was directly applied to something like Arkham Asylum. If your maximum health started at 100% and went down by 10% after each major boss fight, and you lost tools (or had them destroyed in exciting ways) this be one way of ramping difficulty consistently through the game as levels progressed. Sure you could wipe the floor with three of jokers cronies at the start but with a broken arm and two shattered ribs the task is much more daunting.

This would be a great game, but it would only work in Single Player, for more or less the reasons that Yahtzee has already stated.

MMO's aren't really games that have progression through a storyline or world (some do, but most don't really). MMO's are actually more about progression compared to your peers. You want to try to be the best, the best there ever was.

I recall an old SNES JRPG that did something to this sort, called 7th Saga. Going with the #7 theme you pick one of 7 hero's (and you could party with another) sent out by the king to find the 7 runes to use to defeat the great evil. It was brutally hard in the way old JRPG's could be, made even harder by limited inventory space for healing items, but each rune you found was a powerful tool that could be used without limit to do anything from casting buffs to casting heal spells. They were a crutch used not just for boss fights but most random encounters as well. So you collect all 7 gaining all their power and move on to confront the last boss... only to lose, get stripped of the runes, and tossed through a portal. You thought you were done but you're only a little over halfway through the game at this point, and half to do it all over again without the powerful free buffs and healing. The new 7 runes you have to collect now have the reverse effect of the originals and can only be used in the final boss fight.

It was a good game overall, nothing to memoriable that people would remember it like FF or Chrono Trigger, I'm just bringing it up because on a smaller scale to what Yahtzee is suggesting this did indeed up being a very good game mechanic. Like you get half way through the game and everything becomes new again.

I just got this same idea some days ago. Funny thing that. I really think it could be made to work.

You could do this as a science fiction game. Guy from an advanced civilization lands on a much more primitive planet. At the start of the game, you've got tons of guns, powered armor that recharges itself, effectivly unlimited ammo for all your guns, jump jets, super strength, ect, and you're fighting guys with swords, bows, and arrows; whole armies of bad guys are trying to attack this little village of good guys, and at first you're taking down whole armies of them easily. But as the game goes on, the solar generator on your powered armor gets damaged, and recharges slower; your portable bullet-producing factory breaks down, and you are suddenly limited with your ammo. Parts of your powered armor break or fail, leaving you with less and less protection. None of it lasts forever, and none of it can be replaced on this primitive planet, so by the end of the game, you've got almost none of your super-science left, and are left with just a sword, a bow, and possibly a handgun with a rapidly dwindling supply of bullets.

The idea of the character himself getting weaker is kind of depressing, but your equipment failing, piece by piece, leaving you more and more to fend for yourself? That sounds cool.

For some reason this idea reminded me of "Lord of the Rings". Remember how Frodo and Sam were at the beginning of the journey as opposed to the end?

I like the concept overall too. It makes me think of what Yahtzee has said about being stealthy in some games as a symbol of skill. Anyone can run into a room with guns blazing an mow everything down, but someone with skill could go through without anyone knowing they're there. A player who has leveled down so much and gone through a game will have that sort of skill to beat that final boss with a twig and dental floss, because he doesn't need anything else at that point.

I feel this could damn well work in an FPS very easily, seeing as a human being's strength in modern conflict is determined by his gear, and it is very easy to restrict that.

This is a terrible, TERRIBLE idea. In fact, Yahtzee, though people do partially play through games in order to progress through the story, playing in order to get stronger is an equally fundamental desire. Take that away and I and many people would not even consider playing it. It might make for an interesting indie internet game, but it would never fly as a mainstream title.

It's definitely an interesting idea. I can't really see it working as an MMO though. As a single-player campaign, I can easily see the toll the fighting is taking on your character as a kind of wake up call to the player. "Shit...this is a pretty serious deal."

It could become a pretty emotionally draining journey, as the player realizes that they may not be strong enough to take on this major challenge. I would REALLY like to something like this done.

Would not work as an MMO. Maybe as a single-player game. The concept has a distinctively indie feel too it, and it would probably work better in a short, low budget title. Honestly, the only way I could see this working is if you took away a player's brute strength while replacing it with smarter ways to fight.

BTW, didn't they do something like this in Haze?

Only in single player. There needs to be a defining quest which frames all of this-a motivation and cause that makes the player WANT to give up everything in pursuit of it. Sort of like how Shadow of the Colossus did character degradation to build menace.

I know people probably aren't big into them, but Dan Abnett has a bunch of extremely nerdy Warhammer 40k novels that all follow this EXACT template.

The hero and his squad is introduced as supremely awesome, they quash a minor (but still memorable) threat so you can see how unbeatable they are, then they embark on a massive campaign which physically and emotionally drains them, turning friends against each other and leaving 1 or 2 of the most beloved characters crawling towards their goals on broken legs; using their last ounce of strength to somehow delay the inevitable and save the world.

I read these books because, whatever else they are, they aren't boring. The Ultramarines omnibus probably did the best job at this, showing how the pride of Imperial mettle gradually becomes little better than a subhuman creature, winning battles against monstrous evil solely through willpower and the ability to sacrifice anything but principle. I think this concept could work in a game, and has worked in games to a lesser extent (Crono), but it needs a story so poignant, beautiful and heartbreaking that players will care enough to give up Fiery Death Lv. 7 to see where this is going.

I think it would be great as a single player game, like in a story context(maybe a Greek tragedy) ,but as a MMO i don't think that wold be a good thing.I would love to see this game even as just an indie experiment.
Maybe at the climax you might gain some powers back and wither away and then die...dramatically as your child watches vowing vengeance upon the game designers who cursed you with such misery.

To be honest, I'd rather have a slower rate of progression in RPGs, while having some skills neutralize/weaken other skills. I'd have things like money becoming scarcer, weapons diminishing, but in a game revolving around no less than a hero, a symbol of hope and victory, the character needs to remain strong. Now tell me something, in these movies where the hero has been losing everything and diminishing, what has actually been diminished? It's usually the party, their items, the availability of whatever they need, right? The party actually gets stronger through this adversity, however.

Take, for example, the king of all trope abusers. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Whether or not you can stand anime, this is one of the most important series around, and everyone who's into dissecting popular culture should watch it. I will probably write a thesis on it at some point. I'm going to have the rest in spoilers, for those who for some reason haven't finished it yet.

Reiterated through gaming terms, They have to give up everything in their posession (i.e., all of their items hidden purposes are fulfilled) to win the battle. Since the beginning, Simon has risen from common digger in the underground village he was born in, to slayer of tyrants. Does that sound like a reverse levelling system? And keep in mind, that this show is a literal translation of every trope in existence. Look at the tropes page on TV tropes. It's all there, to the point that once when I checked it, they had each alphabetized and each letter had its own folder. The issue with these games, then, is that the difficulty does not increase enough. I was about to say that it isn't because the character is overpowered, but he/she is. Leveling up needs to be something that takes effort, and skills need to be rewarded according to how these level ups are accomplishe, not some arbitrary point system which has certain playstyles the player can aspire to.

I've been wanting a full re-design of the RPG system for a long time. Of all things, COD 4 seems to be the step in the right direction, if only from an RPG-lite standpoint. What would have made this more compelling for me would have been certain actions only unlocking certain skills. Lets say the player needs to reload a lot. They need to do this multiple times before dying, each round. If the player does this enough, they unlock the fast hands perk. If a player sprints often, after a while they'll unlock the marathon perk; I'd like to see a full-on, hardcore RPG game implement something in this vein, rather than perk trees. I for one, would like to earn my perks, rather than peruse the 'Warrior' aisle of the level up system.

Good idea, you should get someone on that immediately. To be frank, I hate MMORPGs more than any other genre, but if this game was made I'd definitely sign up ^.^

This concept reminds me, in some ways, like the old stories of travelers giving away their supplies to beggars, then to be rewarded for their generosity. If structured like that, the concept might hold some weight.

It will never work online though, unless it's a work of masterpiece. Most multiplayer games are based on being better and stronger then your opponent. A game based on this concept would be hard pressed to find an audience that would appreciate the value of losing your abilities and becoming a humble character.

It sounds more a concept that could flourish as part of a single-player story driven game, where you can really tie the mechanic of losing your abilities into how generous you are to the NPCs along your travels. I imagine it like this:

The game opens up on the main character studying the art of combat and (let's just say) magic. You play a series of challenges and for the first portion of the game you develop and learn these skills, leveling up until finally you best your rival and fellow students and venture off to learn more from the outside world. Your last lesson from your teacher is how to share your magic with others, though the trick takes it's toll on the users body and you're advised to use it sparingly. Now as you begin your new quest you are as strong as you can possibly be in terms of strength, speed, and magic.

As you travel though you come across a series of poor souls and troubled people who you are given the option to aid them by giving up your powers to them. As you do you ether lose power or gain alternative powers, having to rely mainly on basic survival and combat gameplay techniques like avoidance, sneak attacks, tricks and tactics instead of pure strength and magic to take down the ever more challenging overworld enemies and creatures.. The more generous you are the more you have to rely on and learn these strengths, and learn how to play the game without aid of magic. This creates a difficulty curve that is gradual allowing you to ease into the challenge. Towards the end the game rewards you by returning your powers at your lowest point, facing down a final boss and ending on a high note.

Adversely, if you play the game without being generous and breezing through with your powers the game will confront you with moments of weakness and spikes in difficulties that you normally wouldn't be prepared to face without having learned the skills earned by limiting your powers.

Simply put, the weaker you make your character the stronger you grow as a player.

The storytelling possibilities of this concept can be great, I think it'd be a great way to craft an interesting gameplay environment. It'd certainly be better suited for a free-roaming title then a turn-based one, but it certainly isn't limited.

Those are my thoughts on the matter.

That is a good idea.

I especially like the idea of some kind of pilgrimage as a reason for getting rid of powers.

It could be like Final Fantasy X but in reverse.

These ideas don't really sound very interesting. In fact they sound like something that would make the game kinda boring and uninteresting. I don't know about you but part of the fun in a game is progressing in the game getting more powerful abilities that are fun to use and awesome to experience. This does remind me of a plan where I make I try to eliminate grind by just having attacks do a small amount of damage and a hp limit that's very low for most of the game. The strategy then would just be using the right moves within a certain power limit. Eventually the enemies get many more tricks that drain your power at a more consistent rate or in semi larger chunks than normal. Your only real solution to the problem however is to use the most powerful moves in your arsenal but at that point it makes the battle fair.

AdamRBi:
snip

Not trying to be mean here, man, but your bolded text loses all meaning when you bold that much. It's like shouting an entire speech: no emphasis on anything.

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