Character Stats: Opinions


#1

Recently I’ve gotten into some long periods of staring at my computer while my mind is adrift elsewhere thinking about stats.

There are game with several stats like The Lost Heir, while there are games with very few stats (at least personal stats) like the Infinity Series.

The Lost Heir has a huge amount of stats, and every single one of them comes in use at different times. Some stats are considered very OP and make several instances of the game “easy”, however the game does make good use of most stats, while the Infinity series uses only three stats for the character and still does a very good job in their usage.

I know there are many CoG and Hosted games with great stat usage, but I am only using these two series as a reference, because I’ve played them both for hours if not days on end and feel most comfortable with using them as examples of good stat usage. Also I do realize that TLH is more in line with power fantasy, while the Infinity series is made to not be one.

My question for everyone is how do you go about stats. What are your general feelings on them? Is seeing ten or twenty different stats on the choicescript_stats page too overwhelming? Is only three or maybe even no stats, underwhelming? How important are character stats to you, and what is in your opinion the “golden” number of character stats if there is one, and how frequently do you care about stats or stats being used in game, whether it be passing a skill check, or simply a change in dialogue, or even changing what options or paths you can take entirely.


#2

My WiP currently has: 35ish stats in total. I have both the Infinity “unit” stats and my version of the Lost Heir’s “personal” stats.

Having both sets of stats is hard - I’m working on the individual stats as we speak and it is slow (see my complaints elsewhere) Yet, everything fits in to the whole for me because my WiP is both about you as an individual and your tribe as a whole.

There will be chapters which only one type or the other will be affecting the stats but every major “non-fake” (and even some of those) will affect at least one stat.

When playing CoG or hosted games - if the stats fit the story I am happy. With regards to the Heir, I don’t power-game or “optimize” my runs, so I don’t run into the OP issue. Although I have made my thoughts clear to @Lucid on how I think this may be an issue and my feedback to him regarding achievements and stats is how we began talking.

Each game is unique and as long as whatever system chosen works with it I am happy. @jeantown 's Guenevere story has a very complicated stat system in place - in my WiP her system did not work but in her own it works wonderfully and adds so much to her game.


#3

There is no perfect number of stats, but all stats should be relevant and “used.” If your game never has a strength check, a strength stat is not useful. If your game has a lot of characters that are introduced quickly, a character bio page would be nice. If your game has relationships with people, add a relationship bar. If your game needs an inventory , add it. Just add stats that are relevant.


#4

I check the stat screen early on to see what kind of game I’ll be playing. I like to see relationship stats somewhere (ooh, characters are important and I get to make them like or hate me!) I like to see a few interesting moral or personality stats, with room to play a grey, complex, or non-heroic character. Inventories or glossaries can be a good or a bad sign. Powers? Too many sliding bars and stats for attacks and magic make me dubious, but I’ll give them a chance.

A game with three to five stats might be a great game, but it drives me a little mad. All of this room to code stats and show them to me, and I get only a glimpse. Of course, I know it’s possible to go too far the other direction… I should probably edit about fifty back out of my code.


#5

As a more specific form of what @Sovereign2Lilith said:

If you want to emphasize fine grained skills/stats, that suggests a game where the game is going to be asking if you do something with the sword vs. with the bow, as opposed to something relying on your skills in personal combat vs. say leadership ability.

I’d probably suggest the former for a game where all characters are assumed to be good at “fighting”, but how is more important whereas a game like the Infinity series wouldn’t particularly benefit going into the details on if you’re a good swordsman but a mediocre equestrian.


#6

My current WIP has quite a few stats and I separate them by tags to make it look a bit prettier and more organized. But I have no problem with the number of stats AS LONG as they are easy to get to, understand, and actually are helpful I guess I should say.

I mean all stats are important and helpful but to use an example, Choice of the Vampire stats page is something that I never use and don’t care too much about. But the opposite can be said about The Lost Heir which, to me, has a lot of stats too. I don’t care about the number of stats as long as their useful and vital and organized to look at . . . if that makes sense lol.


#7

A lot of good opinions here, but to summarize, essentially what I’m getting at is that stats are ok as long as they are viable, and have actual usage no matter how large or small in number they may be.


#8

An interesting question, one which I feel a bit divided on. A part of me loves when there’s many stats like in The Lost Heir or Waywalkers series, because that means there’s many variations of skills, talents etc to learn. But at the same time, well… With that many stats, it can sometimes be (or at least appear) annoyingly difficult for the MC/PC to be particularly good at anything at all! This can be particularly annoying when you want your PC/MC to be decently good in at least two or three areas of skill like me, but end up with small boosts all across the board. In fact I do believe a common complaint among casual players of The Lost Heir was that it was difficult to raise their skills enough to clear the more diffcult challenges - and while those of us who has played it extensively know that this isn’t so, it’s not like they don’t have a point either; we may know what choices raises which skills as a result of 10-30 playthroughs or so, but those who have played less wouldn’t have known that, much less when they played the first time around (and in the case of some games, many choices don’t exactly make it obvious what skill gains a boost of you make a particular choice). Things are easier with fewer stats, but also potentially a bit more dull…

As for how important they should be - They should be important of course but they shouldn’t be eveything - they should be there for helping dealing with most of the situations the PC/MC encounter, but it shouldn’t be so that they always help - imagine your PC/MC being at a crossroads; along at least one or two of the possible paths, your enemy will have prepared an ambush, but your skills can’t help you say for such which one - unless one of the skills/stats available is something prescience (or something like Gandalf being able to use his nose to choose the right path in Moria) of course - meaning you’re forced to guess and hope for the best, but should you walk into the ambush, that’s when your skills should potentially be able to help you.

I also dislike a stats/skill being too OP, especially in a game with many stats - if one can help you solve the vast majority of problems, etc you will encounter, then what’s the point of the other stats…?

My ‘golden number’ of stats would be like… Oh, around 6-10, probably! More risk being superfical and I wouldn’t recommend for a gamemaker/author to go for that unless he/she is certain they can implement it well. And less risk being, well, kinda dull and not making for enough diversity of skills as I said - though I’d rather have fewer choices than an author tryine to bite off more than he/she can chew by making many stats/skills available…


#9

It also depends on the feel you want - more of a game feel = more stats

But if you’re going for an interactive novel approach you could consider hiding the stats:

  • removing references to intelligence, strength etc. to stop people jumping to the stats page and breaking their immersion just to check they’re not doing anything wrong by altering their stats in a way that they didn’t anticipate after each choice.

  • replacing them with something more vague, or with ‘stats’ that represent a number of qualities rather than just one.
    You still have to maintain interest (because people really enjoying customising their mc and being rewarded for decision-making) - but you can promote the illusion that the interactive novel doesn’t function on ‘stats’ like a game, but on more nebulous things. I use an animal personality group system (spirit animal), the MC will act like a dormouse, wolf, water spider, courser, sea eagle, jewelled panda.

  • you could also try using events as stats, like a timeline - the reader’s decisions are clearly changing the content of the stats page - but not in a way that blows the surprise about how that will affect things in the future. “So my timeline now says that I started to enjoy hanging out with others socially, I wonder how that will effect things in the future?” rather than “Gotta keep making diplomacy based decisions to maximise my charisma stat.”

Though I will say, this story-based focus may not be the approach that appeals to gamers (who often like more clarity and control over where they’re going), it may similarly make replays more opaque - so you’d have to ensure the reader appreciates when they’re making at least some of the big decisions in the story.


Afraid to write, afraid to publish, your opinion?
#10

I don’t know about anyone else, but as someone who likes good stories more than game alone for choicescript games, I’m not sure clarity and control of where one is going is a game vs. story thing. If I want to play a character who has a given set of abilities, I want to know whether or not my choices are actually creating such a character.

Putting it as “read a story of a certain character” applies just as much, really.


#11

Stats are meant to be a means for a player’s choices to have long-term consequences. Choicescript was designed to include stats so that you can, as Dan Fabulich put it, write a long interactive novel that doesn’t suck.

The classic Choose Your Own Adventure books by R. A. Montgomery had a lot of fail states in them (often in the form of sudden, unexpected death) because it was the only way to keep the story to a manageable size. If Montgomery wanted a choice to have an impact on later events, he had to dedicate an entire branch of the story to that choice. Stats would have let him avoid that problem.

I plan to have as many stats as it takes to accomplish that goal, and no more. Your MC has a chance to practice a little shooting. Is this the sort of story where it matters whether the MC practices with a rifle versus a pistol? If so, you want to give the MC a choice, and separate stats for each. If not, you can just have a stat called Shooting, and give the MC a choice to do something besides practice shooting.

The Shooting stat tracks how much the player’s choices have reflected a desire for the MC to be a good shooter. Alternatively, the Pistol and Rifle stats track how much the player sees the MC as a gunslinger, and how much the player sees the MC as a sharpshooter.

So which stats to use and how many will be different for each game, but keeping that focus on player choice might make it easier to think about stats.


#12

I’m going to assume that you are planning on having stats that matter – there have been a number of games where stats are more of a means of keeping score rather than something that has an effect on what choices you can or cannot succeed at.

Given that, then the key question becomes: “Do you want the players first playthrough_ to be successful?” If the answer is yes, then it is a good idea to have no more than 4 stats. This is because it is hard for someone playing the game cold to understand which stats to focus on and what choices exercise stats in the proper way.

If you are OK with the first playthrough resulting in a failure, then the next question to ask is “How many stats do you, the developer, think you can deal with?” Each stat that you add requires loads of extra work on your part – you have to ensure that there are opportunities to use it, that those checks are something that the player at least has a chance at succeeding at, and that if you do have “less than useful” stats, the player is prevented from investing resources in improving them. This isn’t so hard when there are, say, 6 stats, but 20 stats…

Finally, if you are planning a multi-part game, you need to consider how you are going to balance / scale part 2 (and later versions) /before/ you publish part 1. In a game where stats matter, and success requires focusing on one or two key skills, some players (like myself) will treat the game as a puzzle and min / max their way through part 1. This, in and of itself, isn’t a problem: until part 2 comes along and you have to deal with a user base that includes people who never played part 1 (and therefore have lousy stats), people hwo played part 1 “normally” (who likely have better stats), and people who have min/maxed part 1 (who have godly stats). Even if part 1 originally didn’t require powergaming, it is very easy to fall into a situation where, by part 3, if you didn’t powergame in part 3 large amounts of content are inaccessible to you – or, conversely, if you did powergame in part 1, then you can only fail if you deliberately choose to fail, which also blocks off significant amounts of content from your players.

No conclusions here, just food for thought. :slight_smile:


#13

I disagree with this. If explained properly or shown effectively during gameplay, this maxim does not have to be true. YMMV and I respect your view but I do disagree with it.


#14

Perhaps it isn’t impossible – but I can’t think of any game that both has lots (5 or more) and I was able to get a good end on the first playthrough. Note that I consider a playthrough to be a “failure” is you get 25% - 50% in and decide to restart because you aren’t happy with the way the game is going.


#15

What if the game had stats that didn’t appear unless you took a certain path??


#16

That’s an interesting idea – you would define 20 stats, but an early choice(s) would render all but 4 irrelevant. You would never see options that improve them, and you would never see choices that test against them.

This would dramatically magnify the impact of the 2nd and 3rd issue, though: with a more typical game, the player might end up in a situation where there are no choices that they can succeed at – with most of the stats no longer visible, it would be very easy for the developer to create a situation where all the choices are gated behind stats that the player doesn’t have on this particular playthrough, which would obviously create an error at run-time. You could mitigate it by ensuring that every choice has at least one un-gated choice (basically a “Throw up my hands and wait to die” choice), but that’s not very satisfiying to the player either. A better solution is to ensure that all “combo-packs” of choices have at least one path to success at every choice point.

My take is that something along these lines is probably technically feasible – but I think in most cases both the developer and player would be better off just limiting the available stats to 4 or having all stats available all the time. The amount of extra time to implement and test the “4 stats at a time” design could be used to add content to the game, after all.