What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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I would perhaps change the formula to your protagonist starts off at the peak of physical fitness, content to simply smash through his attackers but lacking in finesse. As the story progresses he becomes more injured and older meaning he cannot rely on his perishing body and must instead use the skills he has gained and developed throughout the game.

Creating a transitional paradigm Strength/Finesse.

I highly disagree with this concept with some exceptions. The article relates to games getting easier as you progress with more and more powers being unlocked, some of which become useless or forgotten.

This is not a problem with the main character leveling, this is a problem with the difficulty of the A.I and the level programming behind it. If the game is easy compared to how it started...simply increase the difficulty as the game progresses. Many games accomplish this when leveling is not involved...Super Mario Bros 3 would be a classic example. That game truly increases its difficulty as your progress even with power ups like P-Wings.

I would perhaps change the formula to your protagonist starts off at the peak of physical fitness, content to simply smash through his attackers but lacking in finesse. As the story progresses he becomes more injured and older meaning he cannot rely on his perishing body and must instead use the skills he has gained and developed throughout the game.

Creating a transitional paradigm Strength/Finesse.

Might have worked in FarCry 2, but it ended up being annoying. In the final act, your malaria gets progressively worse (for no reason). In practise, this could make the game harder and more desperate (in keeping with the story), but all it really did was make it even more tedious; you could only sprint for 10 yards at a time, so you had to sluggishly move around. You could still use all your guns etc.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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

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I hereby trademark the term "John Mcclaine Model of Gameplay".

I could imagine a game structure about trading direct attack/special powers for more abilities with squad members, or the ability to teach skills to others, or rulership/strategic styles skills. As the character removes himself from the front-line of battle, his battle skills wither, to be replaced by leadership, development skills, strategic direction of the battle...

Hang on this sounds too much like work.

That sir, is an absolutely brilliant idea!

I can definatly see that idea working in a Heavy Rain/Silent Hill type setting.

Like a highly ranked police officer with lots of access to resources.
He then starts to track down this killer and in doing so has to do things that are immoral and/or against the law. As the story progesses, you lose more and more resources as he is demoted. Forcing the player to change tactics which lead to more loss.
Eventually the player is an criminal, can't go to a hospital or even other criminals for help because of his past, and is trapped in a house with a bullet wound in the leg, trying to track down and stop the killer with nothing but a stick.

I'm about to have a panic attack just thinking about that game...

I -would- play a game like that.
Just I think half the point of leveling and questing an collecting is to show off the end result, so you might loose out on a long-term market.
But sure! If it hasnt been done yet I'll definatly play a game like that!

i some what disagree with the orginal reasoning behind the conclusion of this system.

in RPGs you're given stronger powers in order to counter stronger or more numerious monsters and baddies. the problem with modern RPGs is that they don't really take into consideration the synergy created between certain power combinations Before they empower the individual powers. WoW is a perfect example of this in that the individual spells and abilities are empowered as you level, but when compounded with the synergy of other spells individuals doing certain rotations become stupid powerful capable of single handedly felling boss mobs and doing 5 man group quests solo.

a better solution to this problem is to remove the empowering effects or increase in stats as an individual levels and put more focus into the empowering of rotations and how spells and abilities work together.

as to the suggested leveling method.
i can only really ever see this method really work in the confines of Real Time Beat-em'-ups and action-RPGs. It could serve as a gradual difficulty incline which start players off with simple button mashing but eventually forces them to learn to depend on skill, combos, and timing in order to compensate.

in a Standard RPG, it would some what force you to re-think the very design of the game as you could no longer up the difficulty rating as players went on... instead you would have to re-think challenges and situations and let the surrounding monsters also get weaker as well.

Been thinking about just how to implement this.

Ok lets work on a 100.0% scale and balance players and monsters to that scale, so they start like a lv99 character dealing with lv99 monsters.But have health, mana and stamina run on a 100% meter instead of a XXXX meter system.

Skills and abilities are parsed out by equipment, but also you can have a normal leveling system for skills and abilities as "the scale" reduces your effectiveness in combat.

Now how to balance "the scale" monsters come in 3 classes every 100% of HP a character takes away from them their scale is lowered .1,.01 and .001 to the 3 classes.

thats all I got for now.

wasn't this sort of thing kinda done in warcraft 3:frozen throne? where arthas' abilities got weaker and weaker as illidan got closer to the frozen throne? by the end of the game he was pretty much a wimp.

Wow, I thought you knew more about games design than this Yaht. >_> Less its a joke and I didnt see the point...

i dont even know where to start, this is clearly one of the worst ideas EVER if for no other reason than the fact that after one playthrough "to see the story and progress through it" you would put the game down and never play it again as being powerfull is fun, getting powerfull is fun, but getting LESS powerfull as you progress would be the opposite of the feeling of accomplishment you get when you level up and the game would get less fun to play the more you played it instead of more meaning alot of people wouldnt finish the game and it would be even worse in an MMORPG as people would have no reason to level and forcing them to would result in people creating accounts doing the best stuff first as in any GOOD mmorpg it is free roming(no gating system) and once they had lvled down they would simply create another character to do it with, asthere would be no good reason to level.
but the MAIN reason this idea wouldnt work is that instead of rewarding sucess it would punish you for progressing like:

"i see you bested that boss it must have taken you time you must feel good about it well F*&ck you im taking away some of your powers i dont like your sucess"

it really wouldnt work unless you are the kind of person who likes the bigest challenges instead of getting back from work or college or school and wanting to relax and have a good time and so it would alienate all but power gamers so profits would go down and the game wouldn't sell making it not even a financially sound idea, so as i said worst game idea EVER

(that i have come across)


I actually brought up an idea about this a while ago when I was discussing games(Wow, what a shock.) in which you play a character that is largely gear-focused and the game has an attrition mechanic where your stuff gradually gets depleted or destroyed. Finding ammo/repairs would be a big deal. I think it'd work well in an exploration-based game where the point is not to defeat the Mega Boss of Meganess but to get to a certain location or accomplish some other goal that doesn't depend on you being the King of Badassery. Actually, if you think about it Fallout 3 sort of tried to do this but failed miserably. (They tried to make it so that resources would be tight and suffer attrition, I mean, not that you started out cool and "de-leveled".)

I disagree that games "should" have escalating difficulty curves, though. I think that the difficulty and your means of dealing with it should increase (or decrease) approximately equally, and that the "escalating" difficulty, if any, should come from the increased strain of making use of your increasing number of options in a functional way. Thus the game isn't getting harder, exactly, it's just pushing you more.

You could make a very interesting game using that idea and your attrition concept, Yahtzee. Start off having tons of stuff and awesome powers, but limited ways in which you can use it. (There's really only one thing you can do with a nuke: blow stuff up.) But as your powers gradually wear away, you start learning new abilities that don't seem as powerful, like stealth and diplomacy and resource-gathering and making allies and setting traps and whatever else you can come up with.

I wouldn't personally play this sort of game if it were an MMO, but I'd like to try a single-player version of it.

"Take a look at all the supreme champions of the human race who thunderously announce "FIRST!" in the comments for every single fucking video I've ever made."
SUCH an awesome jab.

OT: This game would be a novelty, and you'd get a boom of players when you first release it, but the ones who stay on will be those who like story-telling in games. And let's face it, there aren't that many of them.

That sounds pretty silly to me. Since Yahtzee mentions bosses, I wonder what the bosses in such a game would look like. The first one you fight would probably be a ginormous blue flame-breathing dragon with metal plating and the final boss would be a lvl 1 Rat. Unless the game is full of useless abilities on the starting (and max) level, which would mean the game really isn't that good. Also, playing a mage in that game would suck as the character progression would be all too predictable and everyone would be, like, "I will gradually get rid of everything except for the FIREBALL!".

I seem to remember something similar as long while ago...the hero was being poisoned by a virus which drained his powers but at the end he got the cure and got all his powers back or something....
Anyway, it's a cool idea, but I really don't think it would work in MMO form...

I'm reminded of Warcraft III: Frozen Throne. While playing as Arthas in Northrend, each level Arthas becomes weaker and weaker. This coming after awhile of one-man-army-ing. The shock is quite light at first as it's only one infrequently used ability, then by the time you're mustering a force against Illidan, You're afraid even to send Arthas out of the safety of your base. Naturally you have to in order to beat the level.

This adds to the tension by telling the player "you are not a badass death knight seeding shadow and darkness in your wake. You are crawling slowly to your only hope of survival while your enemies are running after you. Go."

As an example of gameplay assisting the narrative, this works on a monumentally awesome scale. Always been confused why no one's really done anything similar since.

I'm positive that i am the first and only person to bring up the point that what you described very vaguely takes place in warcraft 3's expansion when you are playing as arthas on his way to the frozen throne. each stage a scripted event takes place that irreversibly lowers arthas' maximum level down 1 or 2. making your hero power choices each level are somewhat important to the success of your overall strategy but not really since you can just make wave after wave of men to compensate.

I could see something along the lines of this working out, only with a different sort of idea that would get even more complex. You start off with great stats, but must trade this for new abilities to proceed, forcing the player to choose what they want to cut, making each decision extremely hard (I remember the original Kingdom Hearts, where I instantly chose what I wanted to gain, but choosing what to lose was the hardest decision I've had to make in awhile in a game).

It would work well with a lot of those "corruption" storylines in games, where you normally only see characters complaining about the corruption in cutscenes or during small set pieces, only here you'd actually see the results. Of course, you could also include extra powers that players have to work more and give up more for, making them have to balance greed with logic (much like weight burdens do).

This is a very silly idea, and I must insist that this sillyness stops at once.

I'd probably work it a little differently; instead of losing everything gradually what you'll have instead is a system where abilities are replaced by slightly weaker but more refined versions of themselves.

For example, as you lose your offensive spells you gain the ability to dodge and counter that same move, basically hinting that you're learning more about the ability so, in effect, you're knocking chunks off of a massive rock into a razor sharp blade.

Whereas someone new to the game would have a larger, more impressive looking ice blast, you'll have the knowledge on how to protect yourself from it and even counter it with a more refined ice arrow; it'll do less damage overall, sure, but because you've put in the hours and know the controls and advanced techniques a little more you will already have that information and that skill you've developed over hours of practice to try to get that arrow to land more accurately on the target.

Taking the ice blast vs ice arrow idea further, it would mean that when a newbie would try to take down something with what's effectively an ice shotgun, you'll be able to take down that same enemy with a weaker attack because you've put the time in to study the enemy. You'll know when its likely to turn its back on you, where its weak-points are and what its strengths are that you could use against them by thinking more tactically instead of "there's an enemy kill it dead with blind luck".

Also, with your ice arrow and slightly more refined selection of skills, spells, etc. you'll be able to take the environment into account and know that an ice arrow won't work so well in a volcano since it'll basically become no more than a water pistol, but you could use your more refined jumping and climbing skills to knock a rock off of a ledge and cause a minor avalanche to take out the enemy indirectly.

Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is that the more advanced players would be thinking in more advanced ways because they'll see a problem like "kill enemy" and try to work out the most effective method to accomplish that goal that will run the least amount of risk, whereas the newer players would get things easy which, hopefully, would get boring really fast and lead them to wanting to learn the more refined techniques and skills in order to have some sort of challenge.

The more advanced players might not be as powerful as the newer players but they'll be far more unique as their character starts to evolve into their particular play style; why stay a butcher when you could be a surgeon?

Brilliant idea, it would definetely be perfect for a RPG where you're a demi god, how about leveling up similar to ageing, you get better as you go up for the first 20 levels or so, that way the game remains a challange and you're more motivated at the beginning.Once your around a certain level that's rather high you then get weaker, so the game maintains its challenge.

There was a game called Blood Will Tell that was supposed to do that. You start of with all of your body parts replaced by weapons, and fight to regain your human parts back. As you progress, you lose weapons and skills bit by bit. Wanted to play it, but could never find it.

Here's an idea to implement a reverse-leveling system: aging.

The longer you play the game your character grows older and older, which decreases your attributes like Strength, Constitution, and Dexterity; and eventually your character grows senile, decreasing Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

I imagine the effects could activate after the character has reached the maximum level permitted in the game or after a set amount of time, for example: the average time it takes for a player to grind up to maximum level. This ensures that some veteran players don't get bored after reaching heights of god-like power, but most players would be inclined to make a new character and start all over.

An example of this kind of system was in the old and forgotten Might and Magic RPG series. I remember a similar systems in some pen-and-paper RPGs, but they were optional houses rules and not everyone liked them. Especially when the barbarian grandpa had to be scrapped and a new character had to be rolled.

As for "improvable attributes" being classified as "RPG elements", I think it's a rather superficial nomenclature for what comprises an RPG. RPGs are basically story-telling games; strategy games are more concerned with statistics, which is how AD&D started with Chainmail. Attributes were introduced as a way of determining whether or not a character could succeed or fail at a given task.

The best RPGs, I think, were the ones that disposed of complicated statistic systems utilizing formulas to determine success or failure.
For example, a thief tries to pick a lock. Flip a coin. Heads: the lock is opened, tails: the lock stays locked. In the case of specialization or advanced skill, flip two or more coins. If one coins is heads, the lock is picked.
No character sheets to refer to and no equations to calculate. If the action failed the players had to find another way to enter, like a side door guarded by two sentries or a sewage tunnel infested with giant rats and slimes and simple traps.

Most modern RPGs forget such simple things. It's all about ever-increasing numbers and variables and less about brilliant world-building and story-telling.

Another way this could work is if what you lose in abilities you gain in game play elements, like say in a game about killing dragons you can fly around and fry them with your heat vision or something in the beginning but later on you lose that so eventually you end up having to climb a tree and grab one of them with a grappling hook, climbing up to their scaly bodies and stabbing them in the face, giving it a more personal feel. Or if in the beginning you can pretty mulch an army by yourself, but eventually as you lose power you gain allies, having you do the same thing but with an army of new friends fighting along side you.

I love the idea, I'm gonna give it a try. Once I get something going hopefully I'll remember to come back here, will be able to find the article again and post it.

I think this was done once in FF7 in the colleseum. Every time you beat a group of enemies, you had to spin a wheel that would determine what you had to sacrifice before the next battle. If we could expand that from a minigame to a full RPG...

I just remembered that Fight Night kinda does this. You level up your boxer and eventually get a shot at the Championship Belt, by the time you win enough matches to become Champion your boxer's age hits a point were your gains from training slow down and eventually your stats start to drop as you age more and more. The dropping stats make it harder and harder to hold onto your title. Eventually your stats will drop to a point where you're forced to use all the skills and cheap tricks you've learned just to survive till the end of the fight and hope the judges give you the win.

It worked great. All those skills that would often go unused because you had the speed and power to never need them are suddenly all you have left. I could no longer afford to just power punch through the opponents jabs or simply block his combos and wait for him to tire out. I had to parry and dodge much more often because getting hit hurt a lot more than it used to. I had to rely on my combos more because I'd lost so much power that a sudden knockout blow was pretty much no longer existent.

Leveling down might be a new favourite mechanic that I never knew I loved.

actually... a friend long time ago talking about a manga/comic idea to me about a "self made demi-god" who terraformed a new planet, locked him self in a time-less warp. In the beginning of story, he was summoned as the creator of the world, having all these power, and as he take on the journey, to deal with a world wide crisis, something had to do with the world being tyrannized. His power depletes as the journey continues, and plots unfolds, he had to make due whit what he "have left"... and more dependent on his new found allies. like I said B4, it's all cool, for an idea for story, single player game... but put on to a MMO game, would just turn people off, it sounds like to me you are just being resentful towards leveling/grinding.
You should read my other common earlier, check out my idea for true MMO game "should be", where players make quests, all levels play together, and ultimate team work experience!

I had an idea like this a few years ago and even hammered out a story with a logical progression. I just couldn't think of a mechanic to allow players to "improve" as their abilities decreased that fit into the logical progression.

I tried an idea where you start off a a high born God and who wants despairingly for companionship and so must slowly descend until he finds happiness but couldn't think of an antagonist that could be at the end of the road as it we're that existed as a threat in the beginning, other than the 'good of the cosmos' which didn't make sense once you've gone down one tier and meet any other god.

I experimented with challenging and training players response times to scenarios but it always devolved back into a game of Mario where a single hit would be fatal requiring perfect gameplay.

I have to say I love the concept, but again, I could never think of a way to pull it off and remain interesting to the end. This is one of the ideas that fits the narrative a book or a movie so much easier because the struggle is all that would be required to hold interest instead of mechanics.

I like this concept I think it would totally work. My idea for it would be an epic, mostly hopeless quest into some sort of underworld or demonic realm. The forces from that realm are threatening your home so they send in You the strongest most skilled hero of the land, armed with the best equipment that can be found. Your alone perhaps because only one person can enter the portal before it closes, or better yet You, the hero, are cocky, believing you need no one else to accompany you, you can do it yourself.
Once your in there is no turning back, portal closes or by the time you would want to you've gone too far, etc. The first while will be a breeze you cut down your foes easily as warrant of your skills and items, but it all takes it's toll as you progress, your equipment becomes damaged, your food and medical supplies run low, there are no shops around for you to find more equipment, the terrain is hostile with nothing edible or drinkable around, so your equipment deteriorates to nothing, you become hungry, thirsty, injured, thus you become weak, your stats fall, skills and abilities become impossible to do at this state.
You realize your quest is hopeless, but you continue on because that is who you are, a hero. You reach the final boss, a demonic lord, or demi-god of sorts, all powerful. You are weak, hungry, injured, thirsty, little in weapons or armor left. You know it's hopeless your home with succumb to this entity, your family will die, the beautiful green fields will burn. But you fight, it's all you can do now, and by some miracle, perhaps your love for your home, or some colossal amount of luck, you throw down your enemy, your home is safe. Despite the hopelessness, the difficulty, and the hardships, you succeed, you still are a hero....

I can see all the pros to this idea but all I can think of in the end is...

"Why would I want to play my life in a game?"

That backwards leveling XP article reminded me of Tron 2.0, you got fewer inventory spaces as you went and leveling your programs meant they took up less space so you had to work just to keep equipment you could use. Maybe it would work better if you were a decrepit old wizard trying to find the fountain of youth, you get better spells but your mind starts going on you.
There's keeping it a challenge and then there's keeping it fun. Having your toys gradually taken away isn't 'challenging', especially when a lot of players stick to a favorite weapon anyway.
Maybe if you gradually shrunk and needed an antidote...

Hmmm, I'd play that. It would definitely work as a single-player game. As an MMO I could see the n00bs griefing so much that they level down too early thus causing them to lose patience.

.The Undead campaign in Warcaft 3 the Frozen Throne Expansion had you level backwards.

...Are you sure? I don't remember that. I remember him being a dick and stranding everyone and killing the only other good hero around but I don't remember him leveling backwards.

Come to think of it, this could work well in a tabletop RPG.

I can think of a game that kinda does this idea, and at the same time it doesn't; Makai Kingdom. It starts off you taking control of Overlord Zetta, one of the strongest Lords of the Netherworld in history. He seeks the Sacred Tome, a book that has detailed information of his world's past, present and future, hoping to find a way to prevent his world from being destroyed.

Before you find the book, you get in a fight and find out that the claim that he's the strongest isn't a joke. His level is a whopping 2000, and deals nearly 10k damage per attack. Naturally, he wins and finds the book, only to learn the tome foresees Zetta's stupidity as the reason behind his world's destruction. In an act of rage, he burns it for dare insulting him, causing his world to tear itself apart, for the Sacred Tome is essentially his world itself.

The only way to save his world (well, himself, actually)is to fuses himself with the tome before it burns away completely. Now Zetta is the new Sacred Tome, and can never fight again, instead turning random objects into warriors.

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