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Combat Experience: Enemy-Centric Rather Than Player-Centric

An idea regarding combat experience where instead of the player gaining experience and growing strong in general, the player simply gains experience for fighting specific monster types.

A while ago, I wanted to try and create my own adventure game in Unity. Everything was going well until I came to the point where I had to implement enemies and player growth. I was designing and implementing the experience points and leveling up system when I remembered that later down the road I would need to balance the strength of the enemies and the player and ensure that the game’s difficulty is just right.

I didn’t really have a lot of free time and the idea of spending hours, days, weeks, and probably months of balancing was not appealing to me. So I began to wonder if there was an easier way and from this spawned an idea.

Before I continue, I’m not saying that this idea would fix my problem or be something everyone should do. But it was an interesting idea that I thought I’d share just in case it may help people see something from a different perspective.

So, in many adventure and role-playing games where the player fights monsters and grows in strength, you often have the same formula:

  1. The player defeats a monster.
  2. The player gains experience.
  3. The player levels up.
  4. The player gets stronger.
  5. The player fights tougher monsters.

This is essentially the bread and butter for these types of games. There’s nothing wrong with this of course. However, I like to propose a different approach to this formula. When defeating a monster, what if instead of the player gaining experience and growing stronger in general, they only gain experience in fighting that specific monster’s type?

So the formula would be:

  1. The player fights a monster type and defeats it.
  2. The player gains experience fighting that monster type.
  3. The next time the player fights that monster type, they are stronger than before.

Let me explain with an example:

  • The player fights a Wolf for the first time and defeats it.
  • The player gains 1 experience in fighting Wolves.
  • The next time the player fights a Wolf, their attributes receive a boost based on their experience at fighting Wolves.
  • Let’s say the calculation is: ATTRIBUTE * (1 + (0.05 * EXPERIENCE)).
  • This means that if the player has a POWER of 10 and they have fought 5 Wolves in the past, the next encounter against a Wolf will increase their POWER by 25%, an increase to 12.5.
  • If they move onto a new enemy like a Golem (that they’ve never fought before), their attributes will not receive any boost and therefore they will be fighting the Golem with a POWER of 10.

So what are the benefits? Well in my opinion...

Balancing Can Become Easier

Theoretically, you can have all of your monsters have similar, if not identical, attributes and you will still have some sense of progression and character growth without having to painstakingly come up with a growth calculation or juggling a lot of numbers.

In adventure or role playing games, new areas always introduce new monster types. Since my proposal attaches the experience to a per-monster-type basis, rather than to the player, entering a new area will automatically become challenging again for the player.

But what about bosses I hear you ask? Well, if your bosses are unique, then this formula won’t work. But, just like in some games, bosses tend to just be stronger versions of the enemies in the area. So if you are in an area filled with Wolves, you can simply make the boss the same monster type and voila!

Players Always See a Gradual Growth

In other games, if a player is having difficulty fighting a particular enemy, they will continuously have the same difficulty fighting that enemy until they level up to a meaningful level, upgrade their weapon, and/or obtain a new spell. This can involve grinding and some players simply hate grinding.

But with this new formula, the player will see themselves getting stronger and stronger with each subsequent fight with the same monster type. You can avoid the player having a flat power level and then a sudden jump when something meaningful changes about them (like increasing their level, upgrading their weapon, and/or obtaining a new spell).

Can Be Very Thematic

I was having coffee with a friend of mine one day and I jokingly asked him “isn’t it weird though that just because you know how to fight a chicken, you somehow know how to fight a bear?”

This was the idea that in other games, you could grind fighting weak enemies like slimes until you got powerful enough to fight stronger enemies like bears or wolves. It sounded silly to me and it made me realize that this formula could help fix that logic.

The more you fought a slime, the easier it becomes fighting that slime because you became familiar with that monster type. But then if you moved to fighting a bear, the fight becomes hard again because you’ve never fought a bear before.

In fact, this fitted perfectly with my game because in my game, you can learn new skills from the enemy by observing them during a fight like in Breath of Fire III.

Encourage Players to Engage With All Enemies

With the current formula, if there was a difficult monster that you had to fight but you weren’t strong enough. You could just gain experience by defeating another weaker enemy and grind until you’re strong enough to fight the original monster.

But with this formula, it encourages the player to fight all types of monsters and not simply ignore one until they become stronger and end up simply steam-rolling through them which can make certain enemies almost redundant in their existence.

Conclusion

Well there you have it. This idea may be good or just plain terrible but it was interesting for me to think about. I wound up implementing this new formula in my game and it seemed to have fit my game rather nicely so I’m keeping it in for now.

I hope this was at least an interesting read for everyone. Thank you for your time!

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