Sometimes Simpler is Better

Today I’m going to take a quick break from all of the computer science stuff to talk about game design. Developing Roggle has been a huge learning experience for me, so I thought I’d share a little bit of what I’ve picked up along the way. In my original vision, Roggle had five physical weapon types and five magic weapon types. Physical weapons could be Blade, Pole, Blunt, Ranged, or Unarmed, while magical weapons could be Arcane, Willpower, Death, Manipulation, or Elemental.

You had stats measuring your proficiency with each of those skills. On paper it sounds OK. Here’s what that looked like in-game:

Old Menu

That’s a lot of bars. Weapons could also be multiple types, so a Fire Bow might give you experience in both Ranged and Elemental. I thought that combining this many stats with weapons that took their effectiveness from multiple categories would result in depth. After playing the game like this for a while, I realized it wasn’t rewarding me for specializing- it was punishing me for branching out. In a game built around constructing a skill-set out of different equipment combinations, this was working directly against my design goals.

I wanted the player to gradually get better at using specific weapons and abilities, but not lock them out of other options if they find something better. So, instead of having ten different weapon skill stats, I reduced it to three. To make up for the lost variety, I gave abilities themselves stats too- these are Affinities. Now, an ability could be aligned with Mind, Body, or Soul. Weapons can be Melee, Ranged, or Magic. Any action you perform draws from two of these stats. Here’s what the updated status screen looks like:

Final Menu

Now if you rely on a specific ability type or style of play, switching equipment will at most only affect one of the two stats considered- Fireball is always going to benefit from a high Mind stat, while Smite will always benefit from Soul. Switching weapons may give you a smaller, temporary setback, but you will quickly gain the Skill levels in the new weapon to compensate.

By switching from a large number of independent stats to a smaller number of interconnected stats, equipment choice is suddenly a much more interesting decision. Making this change has me looking at every other game mechanic to see if any fat can be trimmed.  If you’re interested in hearing more about Roggle‘s development, follow my development blog at devblog.dangermomentum.com or twitter. Thanks for reading!