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Resting and XP Boost in Ember

Discussing how we implemented resting in our RPG, Ember.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of playing RPGs is resource management. How many potions do you buy before setting off on your next adventure? Should you reload that last battle and try to take less damage? Should you eat some food before the next fight? Will you have enough hit points to defeat the boss, or should you rest before the encounter? These questions encourage strategic thinking and gives you greater immersion into the world and ecosystem. We wanted resource management to be a big part of Ember, but not be so realistic or harsh as to be a hassle.

In Ember, like many RPGs, the most important resources are health and energy. Health is, of course, the number of hit points each party member has and when the entire party reaches zero it’s game over. Energy determines how often you can cast spells or use combat skills in an encounter. There are many ways to replenish these base resources, the most common being to drink potions, eat food, or rest. Potions and food are fairly standard, you buy or find these items and carry them with you on your travels to be used at appropriate times. We didn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel when it came to consumables.

Resting, on the other hand, is an interesting topic. Some RPGs call it camping, some call it sleeping, but they all have the same effect of restoring all of your resources by having your party spend some time relaxing. This activity can’t be free, otherwise it eliminates the need to even have other ways to restore your resources. If it was free, you could simply rest after every battle, and at that point, why not just restore all the party’s resources after every battle automatically? Some RPGs even do this, and it is a fine option. Other games have a special “sleeping item” that you purchase and use up whenever you rest. Some games simply use some of your food when you rest. The most common mechanic is having a random chance that your party gets ambushed by enemies when sleeping outdoors. We felt that all of these solutions were either too simple, too harsh, too random, too complex, or simply not interesting.

We decided to take a chance and come up with something new. It’s called the XP Boost system and the mechanic is simple: when you sleep you gain a boost to your XP gain for a while. The catch is, the boost amount depends on how long it has been since you last slept. For instance, if you sleep after every fight you might not gain any XP Boost. If you sleep every two or three fights, you might gain a 5% XP Boost. If you really push your party and rest very rarely then the next time you sleep you may gain a whopping 30% XP Boost. The boost decays over time. This system encourages resting only when necessary while also discouraging heavy reliance on consumables.

We’ve found this to work pretty well in practice. Players that want a more casual laid back game can choose to rest after every battle. While this makes the game easier, they aren’t leveling up as fast, and thus won’t be able to equip the sweetest loot or use the more powerful skills as soon as they could have. Hardcore players want that juicy XP Boost, though, and will push their party to the limit before resting. These players are rewarded with faster leveling, which means more stats, more loot, and more rewards.

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