The player character [PC] is the most important thing in any game. This is because that is the one object that the player will interact with for the entire time they are in the game. There are other things such as combat, items, the environment, etc. however the player does not see them evolve or grow over time. The character does these things and as it should it becomes more advanced and more interesting over time or at least it should. Game developers have some of the hardest jobs because there are so many choices in designing the game. However, the PC is by far the most complicated of anything within the game. This is because every player is different and the developers must account for every possible or conceivable scenario. They will fail; but eventually they will get it down to about 90%. However, that is not where they started. In fact, the beginning is far more uninteresting and many developers try to skip it and the end result is obvious. For the PC it is important to know several pieces of information: Primary Statistics, Secondary Statistics, Skills, Ability, Attributes, Spells/Powers, etc.
Since every game is different the designers need to consider what will make their game special or unique. It is typical for many of the ideas or concepts to be similar or even identical to other games. This is not uncommon and is actually encouraged. An example of this is the PC does something to gain money and experience. The money will go toward equipment while the experience goes to their level. The player in general understands a level based game easiest of all because it’s a simple progression pattern. However, there are other ideas out there such as skill based or multi-level systems. For simplicity let’s start with the basic experience [XP] and level system. The following chart could be a typical setup for a level based game.
|Level||Experience To Level|
The progression chart is fairly simple. The experience in the low levels will add up quite quickly. However, the upper levels become more difficult to gain experience for because the next level is twice the last level. This experience requirement resets to 0 every time a level is gained. That allows the player to visually see how much experience they need to get to the next level. They also will need to find more difficult Mobs or quests worth more experience in order to keep advancing. Some of the more modern games encourage reaching the maximum level quickly and living there until the next expansion. However, in the older days of games getting to the end was far more fun and interesting. This is still seen often in single player games but it is an edge that has been lost in many multi-player games.
As the player progresses through the levels they should gain more abilities or skills that will make the character better and more efficient. Sometimes these upgrades could be for power attacks or better healing. But it is also likely that they could be for crafting, harvesting or other non-combat based abilities. It is the character designers that make these choices but they need to follow a logical progression. The PC should gain new abilities quickly early on and then later those same abilities should become better. But every so often the player should get a new ability to add to their arsenal. This is the normal design for games. If this is unclear then pick up any game and take a look at it. The basics talked about here will be obvious at that point.
However, there is more than just getting more abilities that is important for the player. The stats also need to be adjusted every level. The life, power, damage, accuracy, defense and others will be adjusted every time the PC gains a new level. The gains will adjust the base statistics prior to any modifications from skills, abilities, or equipment. That way the player will see a significant gain every time a level has been gained. But like the abilities mentioned above the gains should be slow and well balanced to prevent a PC from becoming overpowered due to a design flaw.
In order to keep things balanced the game has to have several different statistics. The next table is a list of common ones used in many different games. They are not exclusive to any particular genre or setting but rather they provide a guideline for designers to select the statistics for the game. Sometimes the name will be changed but what it does is the same while others there maybe stats that do completely different things. Do not be afraid to use your imagination after all this is your game.
|Health Points [HP]||Total amount of damage before the PC faints in combat|
|Magic Points [MP]||Used for spells, abilities or skills could be called many different things or something different for each.|
|Speed||How fast the PC can act/attack|
|Damage||The base damage of the PC normal format is MIN/MAX|
|Accuracy||How easy it is to hit the target|
|Dodge/Evade||How easy it is to avoid being hit|
|Defense||How much damage does not hit health when hit|
These statistics are the basic for any game. Sometimes they are handled via twitch which means it’s the player who must do the action but often they are handled by the system. There are even designs that allow the player to avoid attacks but if the attack will hit them it then follows the normal chain of events to see how much damage the PC will receive. However, this is not about combat just on development of the character but it is important to understand why these particular stats used.
To make it simpler let’s look at the single base stat of HP. The player should gain HP every time they level but how much is enough or too much? Most games have a static increase of 5-10% of the previous base every level. That means if the PC starts with 100 HP he would gain that percentage every level until the maximum level is reached. However oddly enough if they only gain 10% of the previous base when they reach level 10, from the above table, they would only have 236 HP. This value is so small of a difference that it’s a bit silly to think that someone who gained that much experience would have that small of a gain. But if the gain was 110% for each level that same level 10 would have around 166,800 HP which would be way too much. The trick is finding a balance and sticking to it for every level. The trick is to find a number that sounds reasonable for the maximum level and then go with it. For this case the choice will be a 30% gain at every level. That means the unmodified HP stat will be 1060 HP at level 10. Since the goal was to bring the HP to about 10x by level 10 then it was a success.
I’m sure the question is being asked why such a low number? That is because this is the base for a level 10. The statistics will be modified by other factors besides the level. The PC will be wearing equipment that will improve the base status. A well geared level 10 with the correct ability bonuses may have as many as 10,000 HP depending on the system. However, these gains granted by skills, abilities and equipment are more advanced but this should provide a basic insight to how a level based progression system could work.
- Character Skills and Abilities
- Equipment Design
- Game Setting and Genre
- Mission and Quest Types, Part 1
- OOP for Games
- Story Design Basics