What if We Leveled Backwards?!

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How about you start at these godlike levels and you lose the gradually until about halfway through the storyline and then when your at rock bottom, you have an intervention and begin building back up to your godlike status reclaiming your powers? Kinda like the beginning of God of War 2 but more gradual.

That would work, but would need to be handle very gingerly, or you lose much of the impact in the whole becoming human aspect of the game. I think the best way to handle that is to break the game into parts or have it be an episodic adventure. Have the first part end with the now mortal God defeating his mortal adversary. The big boss who has been leading the enemies through out the game, and who has some divine power gifted to him by entities behind the scenes. So you are still at a handicap as you fight a being with powers you once possessed and are now forced to thwart to end his reign of evil. As he falls, the true foe behind the threat is revealed, powerful godlike beings manipulating the mortals to bring about the destruction.

The opening of the 2nd part has you will all of your combat ability and none of the magic, forced to seek out a divine source of power, and training your mortal form to wield the power so you can vanquish your godlike enemies. The 3rd part raps up the game with you having to transcend the mortal planes and taking the fight to your enemies.

mmmm Since i'm lazy to read through the 282 comments posted the idea is really good... also it's been done before so it's actually been proven that it works... the undead campaign in Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne had Arthas leveling down each level sometimes 2 levels at a time, the only diference would be that it's single player and that at the VERY end arthas is able to regain all his leveling. which is interesting because he's leveling up while fighting an ultimate level hero (illidan for those who care)... so yeah... it'd be a VERY interesting concept to add to an MMO, but as for the RPG part... it's been done...

Freaky Gonzalez:
the undead campaign in Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne had Arthas leveling down each level sometimes 2 levels at a time

So far, that is the only game I keep hearing. Just because it was done once, and that is only a small aspect of Warcraft 3, doesnt mean that it has been proven that a game can be based on that as a primary game mechanic. I need to hear more then a single source, where the game mechanic wasnt a minor point in the game as proof that this has been done effectively and proven to work.

do eeeeeet. this sounds like a great idea to explore and sure enough there would have to be a good narrative to explain the delevel and stripping of powers, e.g your wings get zapped off ergo you cant fly. and for moral choices you could have a set of good moves and a set of bad moves that you have to give up to be more good or bad. eg, in a boss fight you would have to choose between saving an escape pod of innocent people by braving a forest of electric tentacles which would shock your nervous system into feeling more pain and lowering your mana but at the same time giving you the ability to boost some electric powers and weaken metallic or water based powers, OR you could go the bad route by taking your own escape pod and high-tailing it outta there only to get stuck in a meteor shower of fire which burns away your health but lets you boost your fire spells while weakening the water types ... maybe im thinking too far into it :P

An interesting angle to this concept. In Castlevania, you never got stronger as the game went on, unless you got better at the actual game. Sure you could pick up various items, but you weren't much better off for it. And when you fight Dracula, you're no stronger than when you entered the castle.

I think Yahtzee has an interesting idea, but it could stand a bit of polish. And it probably would not work in every game.

when i first read this i was thinking about action games. i imagined gameplay evolving. start out with huge armor and tons of health and powerful weapons, just to learn the mechanics of the game throughout the intro. then, gradually lose weapons due to degradation. remove armor due to loss of energy source (battery/magic). the protagonist is now fast enough to destroy opponents with speed and strength (like ninja gaiden maybe) that degrade over time. now a bit slower and weaker, you'd now transition into more reliance on stealth combat (like PoP:two thrones). yada yada yada, eventually you get to being basically solid snake with just a blade or two by the end, also visually grizzled.

i'm thinking about multiple gauges that either run out to level down or fill to level up. movement could lower movement stamina which levels down your speed and sustained run. attacking could drop your strength. time spent playing could lower your perception. kills, defeating enemies without killing them, and events could increase your experience which could allow you to learn more skillful less strenuous versions of the techniques that you already have or less powerful versions of techniques you have previously lost.

though it would take a lot of incite into combat to develop these trees of techniques. and balancing difficulty would be quite difficult if everything were permanently lost. maybe there should be some one-time get a good night's sleep events or meal events as part of the plot to regain some of what was lost in the previous part. that way, the game could keep the player in a somewhat predictable range of starting conditions to keep the difficulty on or near the desired curve.

A very interesting concept. Perhaps run this system cyclically; have the opportunity to build levels again after a difficult trial at your lowest level.

That sounds really good actually. Maybe you have a degenerative disease that you are desperately fighting to obtain the cure for. By the end all you've got are your bones and a sword you can barely carry, but it would make the journey that much more satisfying. Maybe you could even reward the player with a final scene after the major difficulty and story point of the final battle has passed where you get all of your powers back to destroy a horde just like you did at level 85 when you started the game. That or it's a total downer where you just die after the final battle, but you did so for a good cause. Instant classic.

Tfarcraw Fo Dlrow

I see what you did there. I thought it was another sex joke at first... >_>

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Yahtzee's crazy idea for RPGs that might actually work.

It sounds a lot like Promethian, the Created, from White Wolf - you start off as the "Frankenstein's Monster, or Golem and gradually try to lose all of your super powers, while taking steps to achieve your mortality. I might have to look into playing this game, as I've only witnessed it from afar.


Um Yahtzee the reason your bar is cluttered is cuz u didn't download any add ons. Really takes like 5 sec on Curse.com. l2wow

Ok, I signed up just to post this, so I hope people listen ;)

I personally think this is an interesting idea, and if implemented well, it could make a riveting story-based game. As everyone so far has agreed, it would be difficult to include in an MMO, but a story-based RPG would be the perfect medium. The biggest problem here is that people keep thinking on the lines of other stories, rather than one built around this mechanic/

Think of something like this. You start as a powerful wizard/witch, revered, feared and held in awe around the land. But when a dark force invades the land, wiping out towns and cities, the people call on you to save them. The first few missions have you completely wiping out legions of enemy forces, until you meet the first boss, also a person of magic. On defeating him, you are cursed with a terrible malady that constantly drains your lifeforce.

But it's not your life that is weakened; instead you are forced to heal yourself with magic, something that decreases your powers progressively. This wouldn't happen constantly, and tiny level 1 enemies or sidequests would not affect this. Instead, taking the gated approach, every time the player defeats a pivotal boss, at the cost of great magic, he becomes weaker.

As the game progresses, you would be required to take each engagement differently, making you think tactically and treating some battles like puzzles. Say you need to get a key from the top of a tower. You could either blaze through the tower loaded on health potions and the like, killing everything in your way at great monetary cost, or you could climb up sections of the tower to circumvent whole battles. Or, my favourite part, you use what powers you have an use the environment around you to defeat opponents.

Boss battles would become like puzzles, you using your powers to blow up explosives, or cause objects to fall on them. You could still take the run-and-gun approach, but this approach becomes harder and harder as the game progresses, punishing the player for not evolving with the game.

See, with this mechanic, you would not necessarily select abilities to lose, but instead the abilities you do have become weaker, giving players enough options to prevent the button combos becoming stale. As the final boss fight comes around, it will be almost impossible to fight it conventionally, so instead the player has to do it smart. In my mind, this results in the hero expending too much power, with the effect that curse eventually kills him, a sacrifice made for the people who feared him. In my mind, this would give players a great sense of accomplishment that the last boss WAS hard and they defeated him in the ultimate sacrifice.

So, please, if you're going to knock this idea, then don't do so by saying "But it would suck if such-&-such game implemented it," instead think of an idea built around this concept.

OR if people are wishing it to be implemented in a multiplayer game, think of it in comparison to CoD instead of WoW. Players start out with the most powerful weapons and perks, but as they level up, they are forced to use less powerful weapons and less effective perks. However, good players would still be able to stomp on bad players despite this handicap.

Doesn't Fable have you age as you level up? Could just use that, at the end you're an old dude who's so frail all he can do is use his wisdom to order his party around.

AI War had a nice way of making the game harder as you progress: Instead of leveling yourself up the only one who gains "experience" is the enemy. If you run around and smash high value targets all the time you end up with an enemy so powerful it will wipe you out in the blink of an eye. A large part of the game's strategy comes from deciding which moves net you the most gain compared to the AI Progress they generate. Yes, you also gain strength in the form of research points but those are capped at 3000 per system (taking a system generates AI progress). There's a new quest chain at the end of which you become incredibly powerful but as you get closer to it the threat posed by the AI escalates like crazy. And this is a pretty smart AI, it'll smash high value capturables quickly if you show any weakness, making you lose a lot of the strength you have built up.

The best players are the ones with the best gear (WoW) you can't buy gear and even if you play forever you wont get the gear. Getting gear means you either have to PvP or Dungeon. Everyone can get some lower level gear through things like honor points (ez to get and can rely on others). But the best players are getting their gear from Heroic Raids and 1800+ arenas that you can't get into unless you know how to play your character. I log in twice a week on WoW and I currently hold a 2350 Arena rating with a friend of mine and have the best PvP gear in the game. Now I play to stomp =D

"Firstly, the newbies will probably have a lot of fun bullying the older players, giving a good first impression that may lead them to be suckered into continuing playing the game, but the more they grief, the weaker they'll get. Whatever you do in the game, levelling down would be virtually unavoidable. If the game's designed properly, then by the time the nubs get to the point that griefing isn't so fun anymore, they'll be hooked on everything the rest of the game has to offer, just in time for a new batch of nubs to come a-griefing - tee hee!"

No, they'd just roll new chars and start again. The number of ppl who play games only for story and don't enjoy the skinner-box reward system of the gameplay is very low. Almost no-one would pay forty/fifty quid for a game with a continual penalizing system. Certainly no-one would ever plough the vast funds necessary into making it.

I'm not saying it's cool or anything, but if you had a backwards leveling system in a MMORPG, then you would have A LOT of griefers that would come in, kill the oldies, and the when they get a little weeker, delete the character and start over with the griefing...

Some assholes are just not interested in gameplay-experience or community or anything... they just want to grief... and they will ruin a backwards leveling game

sad but true..

Otherwise a good idea in my book

I think the whole point in the mowing-down-entire-legions-of-henchmen-before-facing-the-boss approach is that you can feel smug in the face of his threat, and I always imagine my character saying, "We'll see about that, fuckwad, see those bodies down the hall? You're next." I might be approaching it the wrong way, though.

I think leveling up is important for the player to feel they're gaining something for their hard work, but the problem is that when you're level 60, every monster and adversary is level 60, too. The most ridiculous example are quests in WOW where you need to crack open bird eggs in a 60-65 area, and the hatchlings, just emerging (most probably prematurely, seeing as you forced them out of their eggs) from their embryonic state are level 60-65, like they had incredibly intensive combat training in their eggs. Nevertheless I think WOW works great, but in a single-player game there should be the reward of being high level in that you can mow down mobs of foes that you used to fear, yet there should also be threats, that is, new enemies that are the same level (or higher) as you.

As for final bosses, you as the player should be made aware that they have considerable advantage. I liked Darth Malak in KOTOR because he had a very sinister way of gaining the upper hand by healing himself using live bodies to draw their energy into himself. (That's not a euphemism for anal sex, by the way.) It made the impression that he was better prepared than you and made victory all the more sweeter. I think the adversity in boss fights can come from these kinds of things, making you feel that for all your power you have to put a lot of effort to defeating your foe.

All in all, there should be a duality to gaining power. The reward of being able to beat down former "hard" enemies and the reminder of the fact that you're still not uncontestedly the strongest bloke in the universe.

I know this doesn't contribute much to the leveling down concept, I'm just giving my defence for the leveling up concept. Basically you need a very, very strong and immersive story for the leveling down thing to fly. The concept would be great for stoics but us hedonists want more stuff and choices.

it would be an interesting concept for a single player game, but i still dont think it would work for an MMO

Awesome concept, I wish developers were actually willing to experiment with basic game conventions like this. Some of my favorite parts of games are when I'm completely unempowered because its such a nice change from the usual 'I've got a tonne of guns and endless ammunition, yay killing!'

players need rewards not downgrades, if you made them physically weaker but magically more powerful for example, this could work, it would require the player to be more aware of his surroundings then before and have to pick and choose his spells, but if he simply got worse and worse... I reckon the game would become very unrewarding.

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw! YOU ARE A GENIUS! And I'm not just saying that because I finished reading "Mogworld" earlier this week. (Though on a slightly deviating note I must mention this book is worth ten times the price I paid for it). The greifer mentality to me has always seemed to be enforced by traditional MMO's and any multi-player RPG. However your idea would flip that on it's head and lend the Greifers to be seen as what they really are, NOOBS who have missed the true depth that the game offers. Why aren't you making video games Yahtzee?

Truly 'tis a disservice to the world that thou doth not.

This should actually be done in action games, because you can't just kill thousands of zombies/demons/soldiers etc. without breaking a sweat. Maybe introduce fatigue, accuracy penalties, the need to rest/feed (like New Vegas Hardcore Mode). Of course, this should be an option which you can disable at any time you want. God knows how many 10 year olds buy these games and without the disable option, no more huge sales for all you developers.

This also introduces another interesting thing: The game could easily be designed to award skill rather than time put into it. Consider levelling up, losing some of the default abilities and skills. Now you have to make due with fewer options as well as a gimped character. Start mastering your character, deriving magnificent tactics for each encounter. Boom - you're pwning the newbies despite their inherited upper-hand.

I like it.

Kinda reminds me of Shadow of the Colossus, where wanderer would constantly lose his humanity the more colossi he killed. Sure it didn't impact gameplay, but it was kinda similar.

Can't be bothered to check all the comments so excuse me if this has been posted already.

I think this idea does have potential, for example if you seriously injure your leg, reduce the speed you can run after you've recovered, or perhaps narrow the field of view when loosing an eye. Or maybe being unable to do certain spells when you receive a head injury.

I think this would make the experience much more personal as well, since you are responsible for the character and the injuries he or she receives instead of magically healing everything with medkits or spells.

This could even lead to harder moral choices, for example losing power when you save someone and not losing it when you decide not to. This would certainly make these choices more meaningful.

You should be able to compensate for it though, by example being able to hire henchmen, getting a higher position in an army or maybe becoming more cunning, like learning how to set traps or avoiding them and such.

That's what came to mind after reading this article.

Some car games does similar to this in the start..

Where you first start off with a souped up Nissan Skyline with endless amount of HP(horsepower not hitpoints), then after a while you have to start over, with a rusty bag a piss Huyndai Accident or something..

woah, had a similar idea for a metroid game like this! set after fusion, samus is chased by the federation who, at various points in the game, manage to disable parts of her suit, meaning she could no longer rely on her abilities to progress, and had to find other ways to advance...

if i remember correctly, in wild arms 4 as i progressed and gained various skills my max hp would actually drop. granted it's been a long time since i've played that game but it certainly added a challenge; if you wanna use the good stuff, you gotta get weaker in the process.

An interesting idea.

Though I feel it would soon start to feel gimmicky.
A single game based on this concept would be great but I don't see it becoming a part of every franchise that's currently based around leveling up.

It would also make the development of a sequel very difficult and I personally love a good sequel.

I think the system that would work best would use both levelling up and levelling down. To use the system proposed, firstly you would have to deal with a loss in the motivation caused by lack of levelling up. Secondly, you would have to contrive a reason for the player to start at a Godlike level then get consistently worse in all ways. While plenty of people have suggested stories where this could be done, many of them look pretty similar (powerful wizard/demigod suffers from a curse and needs to find the cure) and you would be pushed up to come up with more than a few games with this as the premise.
It would be much more flexible to come up with a system where you start as your fairly average man, jack of all trades, and the skills and attributes you use the most improve, the ones you use the least atrophy. This is in no way contrived, it happens naturally; the wizards body gets weaker as he relies on magic, the fighter's mind suffers from lack of use and a few to many clubs to the head. Furthermore, it deals somewhat with the loss in player motivation, as they will be thinking "well, I may lose some of my magic ability this time around, but soon I'll be getting more strength to compensate." Players can also experiment with what skills they would like to develop when they are the jack-of-all-trades, and which ones they find themselves not using much at all.
From a narrative standpoint, it means you can break out of the recurring scenario where a level 1 weakling is deemed best in the land to be the saviour of mankind (the inevitable "chosen one" trope), as instead you are "a talented man who has got an aptitude in combat, magic and sneaking, who just needs to hone his abilities to defeat the big bad at the end". For the dramatic tension Yahtzee talks about, it still holds up. Even though you won't be a complete weaking, you would instead be, say a wizard who has given up almost all his strength and endurance in order to have enough magic to win out in the end, or a fighter who sacrificed the magical abilities which he had developed.

The designers can also be flexible about how quickly the player improves/gets worse, depending on the scenario they want to create. My suggestion may have implied that the player gains 1 point for every one they lose, but they could, say, lose 1 for every 2 (or 3, 4,...) to still get the "classic RPG continually getting stronger" style hero, or lose 2 (or 3, 4,...) for every 1 they gain for the Yahtzee style hero.

Edit: Sorry, double post

A great idea, actually. I can imagine a game that starts out light-hearted and where the endless slaughter of hordes of enemies stands central at the start, which is basically fun, but gradually you lose powers and the game gets darker and edgier. Drama enters and the story turns around. The character loses heart and loses faith and in the end he succumbs to the darkness which corrupted him from the start.

I call it Cerebus Syndrome: The Game.

Well, you have to consider if you're right about people really wanting to play a game for it's story and terrian exploration, rather than having the feeling like their a god. Having the feeling as though you're a god is the type of the majority of all players of WoW or any MMORPG.

Also, harassing other players will go up substantually if you can just start a character with all abilities. Noone will want to be a high level because they'll just be butchered by low level people non-stop just trying to do quest, more than low level people do now with high level people. That's probably the most annoying part of all about WoW, getting harrassed by high level characters that can simply butcher me when all I'm trying to do is quests.

This may work as a single player and as some new-aged design kind of game, and probably still not much fan-base. As a MMORPG, no chance in hell.

Instead I'm pretty sure that the majority of game designers are just going to try to make the final boss hard enough that all your powers are squandered and that he logically has a reason for having control of all these minions.

Ahh, but see this is where the misconception is coming in. People are believing that the only way to play an RPG game is to "level up" thus improving your overall stats. Too many games, like Fallout 3, have a point where you are extremely vulnerable at the start, but by the time you complete Act 1, you have enough weapons and armour to take on most bad guys, that just help you get more weapons and armour to take out the rest. At this point, the game ceases to be fun, as all you are doing is slaughtering infinite respawning bad guys for no purpose. Dead Space 2 did it as well, where after you get the Plasma Cutter and Suit, you aren't scared any more and you can mow you way through most of the game.

What if these games had the enemy difficulty increase as you play through, but keep your stats the same? How would that affect the way you play? The same effect could be achieved by keeping the enemies roughly the same, but decrease the player's physical ability.

In my game suggestion above, it achieves this affect by forcing you to decrease your abilities progressively, making you think differently about how you play the game. The starting missions would allow you to learn how to use your key abilities against enemies that pose absolutely no threat to you because of your power. This sets the difficulty curve way down to ease players into the game appropriately. As it progresses, you get weaker and weaker, which in turn increases the difficulty of the game. You don't lose or gain any powers or abilities, but rather they get weaker overall. You can still use items appropriate to the RPG genre, like potions and armour to buff your temp stats, but overall, the game would focus on your ability to master magic and different ways of thinking. Gradually, by decreasing your powers the difficult curve would increase in a much more predictable and acceptable fashion, rather than the jagged line graph of other games, such as Halo or CoD.

Agreed, this would be a one off game with no sequel and this mechanic wouldn't be used in every game from here to the crack of doom. It would purely serve the purpose of a story built around that mechanic to create a thrilling and immersive plot.

This article is a work of genius. This is a game I want to play and I hate this shit.

Who do I give my money to?

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