Friday, February 28, 2014

Game Design Philosophy: An JRPG with no experience points for character development

So I completed Final Fantasy II last Sunday (out of sheer frustration and a little bit... okay about 11 years worth of procrastination) and I was frustrated with the game design of progressing the characters without the use of experience points. That aside, I wanted to plan out my own design, how I would have developed the same kind of system.


It's a very experimental concept, and I know I wouldn't have the time to develop this idea fully as its own game for quite a while (ever?), so I'm going ahead and posting the idea for anyone who cares enough to see it. Hell, if someone makes the game using this concept, I'd be flattered! 

Inspirations for Idea:

In Final Fantasy II, characters in the game do not have Experience Points or Levels, they level up through the activities they performed in battle. If you lost a lot of HP in a fight, the victory spoils would reward that party member with more HP, same with MP. If you attacked a lot, you would get a higher attack stat. If you used a spell 100 times, it would level up to the next tier (up to 15 tiers of that spell level).

Picture of Final Fantasy II taken from Source.
An issue with this system was that it was prone to abuse using what I consider to be very masochistic methods. In order to exploit the system, instead of aiming for victory against the enemies at hand, players would attack their own party members getting their health low on purpose to have the game reward them with a better HP pool. You could do the same thing with MP and all your other stats by intentionally delaying battles until you got the desired stats that you wanted.
Another inspiration for the design I have is the Pokémon series Generations III and on. In Ruby and Sapphire onwards, Pokémon possess a stat called Effort Values (EVs). Pokémon get EVs when defeating Pokémon specializing in a certain stat. A Chansey being defeated would reward the Pokémon with HP EVs allowing them to get more health. Likewise, defeating a Magikarp would reward the Pokémon with Speed EVs, making them faster.

Pikachu's EVs shown via the Effort-O-Meter in Pokémon X and Y. Source.
The limitation with the EV system is that only an x amount of total EVs can be allocated to a Pokémon at any one time. So if too much of an unwanted stat is accidentally allocated, it would need to be reset, and usually resetting EVs in a Pokémon game is punishing and time consuming. (As of X and Y, certain hard to come berries and "Reset" bags will allow you to delete all EVs, even ones you didn't want to delete.)

My Concept for Character Development:

Instead of being rewarded with stats or skill-ups directly at the conclusion of a battle, different type of monsters would drop consumables related to the kind of stats that they had. The player would then be able to have a choice on how to develop their party members.

For example, killing a wild defensive chicken monster in the early part of the game would reward the player with a Chicken Breast item that can increase their Defense point by 1.

As the game progresses and the players encounter stronger foes, monsters will drop loot that increases the stats by 2 and 3+, ... 

Aggressive offensive monsters would drop loot that increases party members attack power, Monsters that rely on using magic would drop loot that increases party members magic stat, and so on.

In terms of learning spells and abilities, they would be found as scrolls in rare chests throughout the world. The scrolls would then be tied to a party member. They can be untied and retied to another party member at will, but only one party member can use that type of spell/ability at any given moment.


Customizable. The player can allocate their stats freely and develop the characters in the game however they please.

Players are in the know: The players can learn and find what monsters drop what boosting items and can map out the development of their characters well in advance.


Bosses would be hard to design. Many playtests would be needed to gauge how developed the player should be before reaching that point while attempting to at least make it challenging. Would there be an artifical stat cap depending on the progress in the story, do you allow the players to beef and grind their characters up to be able to one shot any thing in the game without the need for limitations?

With the lack of diversity, players can max out stats in every category if they please. Carbon copy maxed out characters everywhere with only differences in name and looks and the abilities they have taught the characters they developed.

Missing Ideas for the System: 

How would abilities progress? Equipment limitations?
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