Archive for the ‘MMO’ Category

RPG Stat and Leveling Systems

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I have been thinking about RPG stat and leveling systems recently. It seems that most games use a few basic systems: Point Buy, Fixed Stats, and Random Stats. I will focus mostly on computer games, but this should apply to other games as well.

Point Buy

Point Buy is probably what most people are familiar with for computer RPG games. I am generalizing this a bit here though. The standard point buy system from Dungeons and Dragons is explained here.

Many computer games use a modified point buy system. If we generalize, there are two main parts to the point buy system:

  • The player has a pool of points to draw from
  • The may purchase stat points for his character using points from this pool

Fixed Stats

A fixed stats system is one that provides predetermined stat scores for characters. Many games start all characters out with 100 hit points, for example, or if the game has multiple classes, each class may start out with predetermined stats.

Random Stats

A random stats system is one in which the stat points are determined by some random factor. Dice may be rolled, or the computer may use a random number generator in some fashion. Often, limits or options are presented, such as being able to choose the higher of multiple numbers.

In The Game

Most computer games use a combination of these systems. A standard mixture is point buy on top of a fixed stat base. These can also be used during the game for character advancement as well. Not only can stats be improved, but skills and abilities can be selected as well. Other stat bonuses from equipment or skills are often included in the system as well.


These examples are just games that I am familiar with at the moment.

  • World of Warcraft — Uses a fixed stat system for characters (each class has set starting stats) with an emphasis on increasing stats with equipment and talents. Stats increase by a fixed amount when the character increases in level. Talents are selected using a point buy system. The character receives 1 talent point every level after 9 and talents cost 1 point to improve.
  • Diablo 2 — Uses a fixed stat base (each class has set starting stats) with a point buy system on top.  Each character receives 5 stat points and 1 skill point per level. Stats and skill cost 1 point each to improve. Some quests may grant stat or skill points as a reward.
  • On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (Penny Arcade Game) — Uses fixed stats throughout the game. Stats increase by a fixed amount when the character increases level. The player has almost no control over character stats. Some quests in the game will increase certain stats, however, but these values are fixed as well.

For me, it is interesting to look at these games and examine how the leveling systems affect my play. I enjoyed playing all of these quite a lot. If I rank these games based on amount of character customization, I find that the games with more customization options are games that I want to replay. I have almost no desire to play the Penny Arcade game again because I have already done almost everything. I do want to play more World of Warcraft, partially because there is a lot that I haven’t done (the game world is very large) but also because there are many ways that I can customize my character. Diablo 2, in contrast to WoW, has a much smaller game world, and I have explored almost all of it, but it also has a very high replay value because of amount of character customization that can be done.

First Impressions: Tabula Rasa

Friday, July 11th, 2008

A week or two ago, I signed up for the free 3-day beta of Tabula Rasa. Unfortunately, I only had enough time to get up to level 7 or 8, so I was not able to evaluate many of the later-game or class development features.



  • Immersion – Coming off of Hellgate: London, which is all instanced, being forced to walk everywhere felt fantastic. I felt like I was interacting with the world rather than playing through an artificial level. Exploring the game to find the sigils was interesting as well.
  • Weapons – The weapon ideas seemed interesting, though I wasn’t able to try all of them out


  • Skill/Profession trees – I generally like this better than straight class systems, but this implementation didn’t “click” with me.
  • Universal action key – “T” seemed to do quite a bit — Interact with NPCs, open crates, loot corpses, etc. Unfortunately, I kept wanting to click things to interact with them, which meant that I was often accidentally firing my gun at NPCs instead of talking to them.


  • Lack of Descriptions – Many things could have benefited from better descriptions or tooltip text
  • Line of sight issues – Enemies just over a ridge could be in my (the player’s) view, but not actually in the character’s view, meaning that shots or special abilities would not hit the enemy. This caused frustrations when setting up long-range encounters. (“You can’t see the target” “But I can see it! It’s right there!”)
  • Inconsistant enemy looting – Sometimes items would auto-loot, sometimes I would have to press the action key to loot. Pressing the action key sometimes looted everything automatically, but would sometimes bring a loot window up, and then I would have to click “loot all” to loot the items. I never figured out what caused the inconsistency.


I had fun with the game, but was often frustrated. Many of the gameplay issues could be chalked up to new-user syndrome since I didn’t have time to acclimate myself to the environment and gameplay. I usually encounter some level of frustration and confusion in every MMO game, but many of the issues seemed to be of the kind that would persist after acclimation.

I would probably enjoy the game for a month or two, but there are so many other good games out, and I need to keep a short rein on my MMO playtime since it tends to spiral out of control.

One interesting thing:

During character creation, one is prompted to select a starting armor set. The screen has controls to choose armor color, and I spent about 30 minutes mixing and matching armor, and choosing colors that I liked. I figured this would be an important character decision. Perhaps this armor choice would affect all of the armor that I wore, or I would be stuck with it for some time (a la costumes in City of Heroes).

Not so. Within the first few minutes, I had completed a quest that rewarded me with an item that replaced the armor I had spent so long choosing. Why let us choose armor if you will just replace it immediately? I felt like I had wasted that half hour of my time.

Tabula Rasa

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

I signed up for the three day Tabula Rasa demo and am downloading the client right now. I’ve heard some good things about it, and it looks decent. I’ll post thoughts and comments later.