Thursday, April 10, 2014

Game Design: Creating a System Formula (Part III)

In Part I, game designer Bud Leiser explains how to use the Fibonacci series in system design. In Part II, he shows the grind gap and how the amount of grind can quickly accelerate when using the Fibonacci series. In Part III, he discusses how to evaluate the curve based on design goals.

OK so clear up some assumptions that we didn’t discuss earlier. We didn’t talk about it but we assumed: Monsters get harder at each new level, thus requiring the bigger swords to kill safely. We assumed that we were killing 1 monster per combat and that each combat took the same amount of time. (This is inherently assumed in our simplified progression rate because we just said “monsters” killed. What it could really mean is “units of monsters” if the game pits you against 3-4 weak monsters in 1 combat. If you don’t understand what I just explained here then just ignore it, it’s complicated stuff and not really necessary unless you are already a designer and thought I was doing something wrong.)
  • 28 (almost 300%)
  • 34
  • 42
  • 51
Now I haven’t even assigned a time value to any of this yet, but already I can tell just by looking at this formula that the player is going to have a very good early curve up until about level weapon 8. After that however getting weapons is going to be very time consuming.

So what do you do now? Well, you need to make some important design decisions. Is this the right time for a player level to plateau? If you built your game for players to explore most of the world, and get their abilities, and really enjoy the game at levels 7-12 this is probably a great curve. Because the player can reach levels 5+ relatively quickly and then the game will begin to slow down and by the time he reaches level 8 the progression really slows down giving him plenty of time to  enjoy the upper levels.


If however you want players to “power through” the first 20 levels; than either this curve is way too harsh or you will need to throw in lots of additional help. Such as quests that give big rewards, or lots of item drops.


You could use this curve for the first 8 levels. And then create a completely new curve.

And the reality is all of these solutions *can* work. You just have to decide what your goals are. How do you want the game to feel? How soon do you want to give players a sense of power over the world?  Where (in time and power level) do you want the player to really slow down? Where will players have the world really open up to them and let them explore.

Now remember, we did this with just a Sword cost. 
(Which really could stand for EXP levels, or rifles or anything super useful to the player)

We didn’t even cover things like ranged weapons, axes, armor, boots, capes, helmets, potions and special items. So it’s completely broken right? Sorta….but not really. We'll discuss this next.

[This article originally appeared on Bud Leiser's personal blog.]

 Bud Leiser beat Nintendo’s original Zelda when he was just 3 years old. Then went on to win money and prizes playing: D&D Miniatures, Dreamblade, Magic the Gathering and The Spoils. He’s just returned from Vietnam where he helped manage Wulven Studios as their Lead Game Designer. He was responsible for creating internal projects, game design documents and communicating with clients to help them succeed in the post-freemium app market.  


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