Weapon/Skill Upgrade System
I want to share a system I designed for my last project (I won't mention the project's name, per forum rules, but you can figure it out with some digging). I'll explain the general concept and what things I had to take into consideration through the design of the game. I'm posting this to give an idea of my process in designing it to help others as well as get feedback on how it can be improved and maybe share your own thought processes when designing systems. I wont' bother explaining how I evented it because it can probably be done a lot easier with scripts (which I'm just learning to do), but any suggestions on that end are welcome :-)The Concept
In my game, all equipment carries skills. If you remove a piece of equipment, you lose all of its skills. Weapons give you offensive skills, shields give curative skills, helments give status ailment skills (poison, etc.) and armor give status boost skill (haste, etc.). Accessories give stats boosts (HP+ 10% etc.)
Certain enemies drops items which can be offered as a sacrifice to the gods to add skills to each equipment (I call it "The Sacrifice System" - every system needs a cute name, and S.S. abbreviates nicely). For instance, you start off with a Long Sword, which carries the spell fire. By defeating ten bees, you collect ten stingers and can trade them for an upgrade, which will add the spell to fira, a spell that attacks multiple enemies, to the sword.
The idea is that you can upgrade your equipment at anytime; however, upgrading your equipment's skills doesn't improve its (or your characters') stats, so you may run the risk of becoming dependent on weak equipment for its strong skills. So the player will have to make decisions like "Well X shield gives me higher defense and carries weak cure spells, and Y shield offers lower defense but carries strong cure spells, so which should I use?) The best way to become a well-rounded character is to balance equiping new items with upgrading their skills.
Here is my game's official chart for which items are needed to upgrade each equipment. All equipment carries intial skills, so this just show which skills you gain each time you upgrade. Equipment is organized from weakest to strongest for each type. Old skills do not go away when you learn new ones.Considerations
Notice that the weaker equipment can only be upgraded once. This is because I didn't want the strongest skills to be available at the beginning of the game. Even if the strongest skills would require all of the user's MP, they'd still be powerful enough to kill the early bosses in one hit. Just like most RPGs, stronger equipment can be found in dungeons and shops as the game progresses. Also, stronger enemies should drop better sacrifice items.
I obviously had to decide which items and how many should be necessary to upgrade each equipment. I purchased a giant whiteboard and markers to keep track of this and kept revising it until the project was done. I decided that some equipment should require the same item for upgrade, so the player is presented with choices (do I want to trade my 5 bee stringers to gain silence and slow or do I want to collect 5 more so I can upgrade my sword to get fira?).
To balance the game, I set up walls
. The fun of RPGs is that the player kind of decides how strong their characters become based on enemies defeated and items found; however, there are points where you MUST be strong enough to progress (i.e. bosses), and you CANNOT be stronger than a certain point because enemies don't drop enough experience to continue leveling up at your current growth curve or you do not have access to items that grant you new skills. There are probably some good mathematical models for creating such balances, but I just figured out what worked in my game through trial and error and play-testing.
I have five wall over the course of my roughly four hour game: a strong boss 1/3 through, a strong boss 1/2 through, a hard dungeon 3/4 through, the final boss, and an optional super boss that basically requires 100% completion to defeat. So I cut the game into five parts and listed the best equipment/skills I wanted to be available at each wall, then used that as a guide to place equipment and enemies that drop sacrifice items.
The more intricate a system appears, the more interesting and well-thought-out it seems. There are ways to create an illusion of intricacy with little effort. For example, in the second dungeon of my game, you can face strong enemies that drop sacrifice items that you will not actually be able to use until the 1/3 mark (right before the powerful boss). Once you get the that point, you do not have access to that dungeon again, so good players who accepted the challenge early on can level up their equipment and pummel the boss - others will have to wait until they regain access to that dungeon later on and make due with what they have. I also gave a double attack skill (not listed in my chart because they are immediately available at level 1) to every other weapon, so a weaker weapon (say, the trident) can hit twice for 10MP, but the battle ax gives a stronger single attack for free and gives you more spells which make it better for fighting enemies with elemental weaknesses.
The strongest equipment/skills in my game require the completion of side-quests, as in defeating strong bosses and finding items hidden in dungeons throughout the game. The most powerful weapon (The King Sword) requires items from difficult and rare enemies throughout the world map, so it likely requires some backtracking to get the most powerful skills. *A note about side quest - I think they should be interspersed throughout the game, not saved for the end, because it gives the player incentive to explore your brilliant maps :-)
So, just thought I'd share
Feel free to offer suggestions for improving the system and/or my design process.