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    Perihelion
  Tue Mar 29, 2011 8:40 pm
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Customization is generally considered A Good Thing in this community. Too much so, in fact, because many people just stop at the idea that it's A Good Thing and don't bother dealing with all of the complications and pitfalls that arise from character customization. I find that most of the time in RM games, stat distribution or whatever feels like an afterthought, something you added in because you could and you thought it would "add something" to the game. But if you don't balance it and don't set it up right, it can just be frustrating.

Do not give the player options to do things you cannot balance.

This means don't start all of your stats at 1 and give your player 90 points to distribute. A character with 91 strength and 1 everything else is going to play MUCH differently from a character with 31 strength, 31 HP, and 31 defense, and I guarantee you that your game is either really easy or only one of those builds actually works. The more variables you add, and the wider the range of possibilities, the harder it is to plan for all eventualities and design encounters so that characters with a wide range of abilities can succeed. Instead, have a small amount of variance (say, base stats that you can add a little to), and playtest both the most extreme and most general distributions to make sure they work.

When you set out to decide how much influence the player can have over his stats, ask yourself what the most extreme case possible should be by the end of a normal playthrough and scale everything based on that.

Do not force the player to make uninformed decisions.

As someone who enjoys making good character builds, I hate this more than anything. I was playing an RM game recently, and when I went to level up my character for the first time, I was given a ton of points to distribute to different stats and abilities. I had no idea what any of them did, and I didn't even know what abilities I had or would get, so I didn't know which stats to focus on. I pretty much had to pick them randomly and pray I wasn't going to be screwed over.

A good way to avoid this pitfall is to have players select abilities BEFORE distributing stats, and in the ability descriptions, describe the effect stats have on them. That way I know what my character can do and what it needs to succeed before I distribute my stat points.

Do not force the player to live with his mistakes.

Even skill descriptions and whatnot can fail to live up to the player's expectations, and what sounded like an awesome strategy might end up sucking in practice, or he may be unable to get past a part because of the way he built his party. The easiest way to avoid this is to add in an option to do all of your stats and abilities over again. This shouldn't be trivial to obtain, but it shouldn't be very hard either. For example, have semi-frequent merchants sell a respec item with a reasonably expensive cost that scales with level.

If your player ever finds himself in a position where his build makes the game too difficult or just not fun, I promise you he's almost definitely going to quit rather than start over. Don't let this happen!


Customization can add a lot to the game, but make sure it actually adds something before just tossing it in. Consider your reasons for adding it. Do you just think it's "cool," or does it fit thematically? If your character already has a personality and isn't designed as a player self-insert, does it really make sense for you to be able to tailor every aspect of his mechanics to your whim? Moreover, are you actually willing to put in the huge amount of work to balance it? Balancing a straight RPG is hard enough already. Also, is your customization novel and interesting? Moving stat points not only isn't that fun, it also causes anxiety in the players that they're doing it wrong and dumps a whole bunch of balance problems on you. If customization isn't a huge focus of your game, consider letting the player pick abilities or classes instead of distributing stat points. These feel much more like a fun toy than a number and are easier to balance besides.

I would much, much, much rather play a game that has NO customization at all than play a broken, unbalanced, unclear mess that lets me put my points wherever I want.

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    Prexus
  Tue Mar 29, 2011 8:52 pm
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Unfortunately, Customization is a very important feature in today's game market. Whether its done right, or done wrong, players want to have some input on how their character is built. It's a Spoiled For Choice industry at this point, even outside of the RPG Genre.
Thats about all I have to add because you were very thorough I'll have to think of something else.

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    Amy
  Tue Mar 29, 2011 8:54 pm
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I like customisation that you can change later on.

An example: Guild Wars -

You have for example, 16 attribute points to spend on six attributes.

At any time while in a town, you can add or subtract from each attribute. While on the field, in battle, doing quests etc, you're stuck with what you chose.

You can't however change your class, you're stuck with what you chose, and as you say, it's an uninformed decision with a whole different world of gameplay based on what class you choose. Granted players the second time around will have more knowledge to base their options on, but your first character in GW generally sucks.


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    Astromech
  Tue Mar 29, 2011 10:48 pm
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I think the point about stat customization is an important one. Decide how much leeway to give to the player, and make sure the decisions are meaningful. If you find that you're balancing your game for a handful of specific stat builds, it's probably a better idea to just use a class system and have the stats automatically assigned. If you're already using a class system, decide if players really make interesting choices about stats. If warriors always choose strength, why not make it automatically assigned?

Another problem is that many players probably do not want to mess with customization and would rather just play the game -- especially on their first playthrough. Do you want to cater to them? Many games have an auto customize feature, but I don't think that's the best solution. A better idea is to highlight a suggested build. That way, players are still forced to enter your menus and choose. They're at least introduced to your customization options, which they can explore more when they're ready.

And please add a way to reset your choices!

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    So fist
  Tue Mar 29, 2011 11:17 pm
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I'd also add that when you are making skill trees to find ways to reduce redundancy as much as possible. I know every FF game has three lightning spells that do various gradations of damage, but why do i need obselete spells inflating my skill inventory? Streamlne by making upgrades to old skills rather than adding a more powerful version of a simple skill.


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    candle
  Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:21 am
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because the obsolete spells use less mp and so are good for those cases when an enemy has a small amount of health and you dont want to waste mp.

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    regi
  Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:05 am
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Great points, Peri. The biggest problem I have with customizable games are certain jobs requiring the most optimal stats. Almost every commercial game has this problem, and it bothers me. Checking out guides or walkthroughs just to know what points to allocate where is extremely annoying, especially when one error can make or break surviving a boss battle. That's why battles take a lot of work: polish them real well and balanced if you want players to enjoy them.


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    moxie
  Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:10 am
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regi wrote:
The biggest problem I have with customizable games are certain jobs requiring the most optimal stats.


Or in one particularly terrible example, skills requiring certain stats to unlock & learn and then making those skills almost essential to beat certain bosses.

hey thanks developers for tossing me a cool, robust skill learning & stat customization system and then requiring a certain playstyle to beat bosses anyway!

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    So fist
  Wed Mar 30, 2011 4:31 am
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candle wrote:
because the obsolete spells use less mp and so are good for those cases when an enemy has a small amount of health and you dont want to waste mp.


Hi, create a simple in battle option/control to do that? Plus in most games your lesser elemental spells become completely worthless, in fact in all the ones that i've seen where I have Lightning one two or three. When I got lightning two it was worth using on enemies that were actually troublesome and for enemies it was overkill they would be shortwork and not worth casting a spell on anyway. The point stands there is no reason other than, "hey FF did it back in 1992" to have tons of redundant spells and skills clogging up menu space. Well other than you have a fetish browsing overstuffed menus.


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    Crystalgate
  Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:46 pm
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The Diablo series used to allow player to assign stats, but Diablo III is now moving away from it. This is for a good reason, the stat customization was a complete joke. All classes in Diablo II have one stat to pump while the other stats are on a "only as much as you need" basis. MMO's also used to allow you to assign stats, but the recent ones are moving away from that. Of course, there are still games with stat customization.

Most stat systems aren't designed to be customizable to that extent. For example, all RPG Makers I know of have stat tables which decides what base stats a character has at a certain level. The damage and to hit algorithms are designed thereafter. If you significantly alter the way a character acquire stats, chance is you also have to alter the various combat algorithms. XP in particular gets extremely ugly if you add stat customization to it and keep the default combat algorithms.

So, the first thing you should do if you want to make stats heavily customizable is to design a damage and to hit algorithm that makes the stat customization actually work. Unfortunately, most people who implement heavy customization don't even know how the default algorithms works.


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    udivision
  Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:14 pm
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Even games with a small amount of variables and simple algorithms can be broken through customization.

Take Paper Mario: TTYD on the GameCube.

Algorithm: POW - DEF = Damage
Stats: HP, FP, POW, DEF and Badge Points
Growing a level allows you to raise HP, FP or BP

The customization kicks in in allowing the player to equip badges using BP. Better badges take more BP as you would imagine. It all falls apart because of a badge that increases your power when you're in Danger (5 HP or less). The effect of this badge stacks, allowing you to get even strong when low on health. You can also redistribute your HP and FP into BP, maximizing the number of badges you can equip while making sure your max HP is now only 5, meaning you're always in Danger. And finally, thanks to stacking badges that make you harder to hit when in Danger, you have a character with 5 HP, OHKO everyone and virtually impossible to attack.


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    Pokémaniac
  Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:50 am
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But that isn't really a fair example since you need a ridiculous amount of coins to pull it off and the badges in question are pretty much useless normally. You're not going to pull of the combo unless you were capable of steamrolling the game anyway.

Actually, the idea of badges that both boost stats and add new skills is pretty cool, in my opinion. I always liked Paper Mario customization.


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    Crystalgate
  Fri Apr 01, 2011 2:09 pm
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It's not about making the algorithm simple or complicated, you need an algorithm that works with your vision. How breakable it is is not your only concern. For example, do you want rogue type characters to be viable? Then the rogue type stats has to be something you can focus on and still get a viable build. You can accomplish that with the default XP damage algorithm, but not with the default VX damage algorithm.

On the other hand, XP will make strength builds awkward, the optimal build will one that misses a lot unless you give them skills with EVA-F set to zero (doing so would however render the dexterity stat even more stupid than it already is.) Defense also comes entirely from equipment in XP, so if you want defense to be one stat the player can put points into, VX works better.

Of course, it's even better if you design your own damage, to-hit and whatever algorithm. Make a wish-list and then try to figure out what accomplishes as much as possible of that list. Things will not work as you envision unless you make sure it does. I have played a VX game where the optimal fighter build wears mage robe, mage hats and dual wields crossbows which he whacks the enemies on the head with. I don't think that was what the author envisioned.


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    udivision
  Fri Apr 01, 2011 7:38 pm
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Pokémaniac wrote:
Actually, the idea of badges that both boost stats and add new skills is pretty cool, in my opinion. I always liked Paper Mario customization.


Same here, which is what I'm doing with Starlite Worlds. Because the stats/values are a lot higher, the potential for breaking things is a little less because not every badge is "Double This or That" now that percent increases are viable options. I won't be all that surprised if broken badge sets show up, although Starlite Worlds won't have any Chet Rippo action.


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    Amy
  Sat Apr 23, 2011 11:05 pm
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I'm a bit stuck at the moment. Because the name, gender, and looks of the character are chosen by the player, I'm finding it hard to give them their own backstory and indeed actual storyline. I have a story in mind for the game, but what about this mysterious "Character X"?


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    Perihelion
  Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:52 pm
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Is this Vengeance or something else?

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    Prexus
  Sat May 07, 2011 9:06 pm
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In an MMORPG like Vengeance Afar, back story for individual player characters should not be hard-coded in any way. Even if its just an empty text field in a profile, it should be changeable, editable, and have no effect on the game. It should be for meta-game roleplaying and thats all.


candle wrote:
because the obsolete spells use less mp and so are good for those cases when an enemy has a small amount of health and you dont want to waste mp.


In one of my earliest games, I had an "Augment" system for my skills. Your heroes would have an Adrenaline bar, similar to a Limit/Overdrive bar, and certain Augmentable skills when chosen would give you a slider, which you could spend any amount of Adrenaline to improve the effect. This was meant to be a way to circumvent obsolete skills.

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