Stats-Based Games VS Non-Stats-Based Game

I’ve noticed recently that when it comes to comes to stats people usually have one of two complaints; either “the game relies on stats” OR “your stats don’t matter”.

I understand the “your stats don’t matter” complaint for the most part, why bother having stats if they don’t do anything for the game, right? So the natural solution to this would be to make the stats have an impact on the gameplay. But people seem to not like it when it has a drastic effect on the game.

As a vague example of what I mean:
If Stat A is greater than Stat B

You win the fight and no one dies
But if Stat B is greater that Stat A
You win the fight but your teammate dies because Stat B wasn’t ideal for winning the fight easily

People seem generally opposed to those kind of ultimatums. The vibe I’m kind of getting is that people want the scene to play out based on your stats but still want the ideal outcome regardless. Which I personally feel is still along the lines of “your stats don’t matter” because the journey is different but the outcome is the same.

I don’t have that big of an issue, personally with my stats determining certain outcomes because I find that to be more realistic. As in, if I make my character reckless and they do something reckless that causes a NPC to die, I can accept that. But there always seems to be someone who will be more like “my character is reckless but only when it comes to themselves so they would never do anything that would risk anyone else” and thus wants the game to reflect this.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely games that are too heavy one way or they other. How would you personally go about balancing the two?


health bar + more options .

your exemple : if stat B is greater then stat A you die = player going Urghhh need to reload (if avaible) .

Instead you could give the player a health bar , and instead of Insta-death , you get injured . You get check point to save if say a character gonna meet a tricky higher danger situation that take a large chunk of health . And more options like 'Sit here and bandage your wound = +20 HP vs Keep going! gotta get out! = higher chances of dying!) . And also , options like 'tell your buddy to stay put…etc ) .

of course that’s just my opinion . Personally , what I would love is IF the dialogue is grayed out . Say , I go for a character thats bulky and build like a Tank . So next chapter , the option to pick a lock which I have no skill there at all…should be grayed out . Which in turn , I always think ‘Oh cool! next playtrough I’m gonna play a nimble rogue and see how that goes!’’ .


The trouble with using stats to decide things is that picking a flower can take you from “this is fine” to “oh god this is crushing, I can’t move”.

This problem isn’t limited to interactive fiction.

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Well, I know this kind of dilemma results in a lot of catfights in the forum. So, here’s the solution, or maybe just an extended explanation of what the problem might be?
The problem is human nature is multi faceted, and you can’t really define them with stats. The very basis of the successful existence of the human race is the ability to adapt, there comes the theory of natural selection. So, it’s obvious that there are situations in real life where your main strength might be pretty much useless. Let me give an example, say, your strength has the highest stat level. But surely, you are not gonna use it against a… T-Rex, right? You’re certainly going to make a break for it or try to hide (and possibly fail in both scenarios, but still, a better shot at survival, even if you are a real life Austrian Oak). As funny as it may seem, this is where the problem lies. So, for me, it’s better to have some “majjhim pantha abalambayet”…don’t worry about the mumbo jumbo, it’s nothing but the eternal truth…follow the middle path…as quoted by Lord Buddha.

So, now to the solution part…it’s gonna get more complicated than the problem itself, but is a solution nonetheless. So, why don’t we have a combination of different stats working at a time to rescue the damsel in distress…I mean the readers. Like, 60 strength can be actually useless against a pro henchman, but make it 40 strength + 30 intelligence, you have got yourself a deal there. I probably remember The Scarlet Sails actually pulled it off, but the story got a little bit… unpredictable?? But still, it can probably be tried again, surely provides a better immersion than being forced to a MMA showdown with a dinosaur.


@E_RedMark See that’s pretty reasonable. I was thinking more along the lines of when people seem to want to pick and choose more specifically. Like, they want the character to be defined as reckless but also want to pick and choose when and how the character is reckless. Which I get because yes, interactive fiction, but does your reckless stat matter anymore? Should there always be options to be less reckless in any given situation?

@LordOfLA I agree that sometimes the stats variations make little to no sense. But say a MC has a high flirtatious stat and a NPC flirts with them and the text reads that the MC flirts back. Would that be a problem even if it’s meant to be off-handed?

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reckless stat could go toward personality . If someone playing a sarcastic person , they could be reckless and rush forward toss caution to the wind! a broody person won’t move and will be poking for answer lol

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The problem would come only if the automatic firtatious response required a stat to be at or above X value.

If you’re flirty, you’re flirty, your not 25% flirty and only respond to flirts directed at you if you are 75% flirty. This is the problem I see with using stats to drive personality.

Personality should be true or false. Some attributes being mutually exclusive, some not.

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Stat-based games can work: one of my favourite games is @JimD’s Zombie Exodus: Safe Haven. But that’s a very special case, which has thousands of lines of code, stats and skills reminiscent of a proper RPG, and with a lot of time spent perfecting it (that the story’s good too doesn’t hurt :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: ). However, most games aren’t ZESH, and most stat-heavy games that I’ve seen end up more like quizzes, in which there’s only ever one right answer for any particular character. You have high strength? Just keep picking the high strength option. No roleplaying, and no choices after the very first.

By contrast, a choice in ZESH will generally have many options which are relevant to your character. Sure, it’s still a game where it’s best to choose your high skills, but you’ll generally have several high skills, and talking it out with your high persuasion is just as valid for your character as punching with your high hand-to-hand skill. But it’s not easy to make a game that detailed. The point is that stats are supposed to represent the combined effects of multiple choices; they are not supposed to replace (or dictate) future choices, since that goes against the entire point of choice games.

Regarding your example, where the only way to save the other character is by using Stat A: this basically means that the only viable character is a high-A one. This may balance out elsewhere, but it also may not, and balancing it (again) is not going to be easy. And again, it’s not allowing the player any actual choice; whether they win, lose, or partially win depends not on the player’s choice at that time, but on choices the player had made at a (possibly much) earlier point. You might as well write two versions of the game (route A and route B), with a single choice at the start asking which route the player wants to take.

It’s true that the stats should actually mean something (why else have them?) but they should always inform choices, not override them.


@E_RedMark I don’t think that really balances out though. You could be broody and reckless or broody and cautious. Same goes for being sarcastic, a sarcastic character might respond to a reckless situation like “Yeah, let’s just dive right in with no regard for our lives.”, y’know? When would it be acceptable for consequences to be tied to certain stats, not just the MCs personality?

@CalcuttaCalling I agree with you. Human nature can be incredibly complex so it’s pretty much impossible to capture every aspect of it in a game. But should people be able to circumvent any given situation because they are so well tuned to what skills they do have? Or should there be times where a MC simply just can’t do something because they lack the skills needed?

In my game Becoming Guardian, I plan to have stats direct the outcome of certain scenes or limit different dialog options. For example, how your MC feels about Sam from the beginning of the game directly effects how she interacts with the MC later on. Sam is a highly flirtatious person, so naturally she might flirt with a MC who has a high flirtatious stat a lot more than one with a low flirtatious stat.

lol I never play a reckless character while being broody :sweat_smile:

then maybe , reckless could be a new different stat not tied to personality then ?

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I prefer games where the stats don’t matter too much.

A game saying you can only win if you have 40 stength and 30 intelligence is too specific and punishes those who don’t have the specific playstyle the author wants the player to have. Pressing the same " use your highest stat" choice over and over again is boring. A game deciding a person can only ever have one personality trait is inaccurate.

Some sort of choice tracking should be used in most games and can direct NPC actions. If a NPC knows my MC is a rebel and never follows rules then they could be suspicious of my MC suddenly caring about rules, but just because a person is ok with jaywalking doesn’t mean they would be willing to murder. You can have multiple different personality options for each choice and let the player choose whatever they want. You could do something like in Team Zero where the MC doesn’t have skills because they are capable of everything, but there are relationship stats. A game just shouldn’t focus on one correct way to win.


@LordOfLA Fair point. The only issue I see with personality being true or false is that flirtatious people aren’t always flirtatious. So, I suppose in that example it would make more sense to make flirting back selectable.

But say your MC is in a romance scene. High flirt stat? MC is written to enjoy the situation and be more flirty through out but the player is still given an option to opt out of the romance. The way the MC let’s the NPC down would be different than if the MC had a low flirt stat. Low flirt stat? MC doesn’t flirt as much, heck maybe they are shown to feel more awkward in the situation but the player can still opt to pursue the romance.

So, instead of an automatic outcome in any give situation it’s just the presentation that changes so to speak.

If your flirtatious flag is true and the game refuses to allow you to not flirt, that is a design flaw not a stat flaw.

In choicescript games you can make a response selectable_if (condition) so a flirt response could be one of a number of options only selectable if the flirtatious attribute is true.


I agree Zombie Exodus SH does a great job at this. I think SOH does a pretty good job at this as well where you befit from picking choice in tune with your stats and if you don’t it’s a Pass/Fail system.

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Frankly speaking, I don’t believe that wielding your best stat in every possible crisis should give you a green card. That actually has to depend on the NPC you’re interacting with. For example, a very flirty MC is gonna score big zero with a very serious, brooding character, even is at risk of ending up in a big mess. The same stat will be a big help with Samantha. So, yes, a little variation of stats needs to be allowed when you’re actually writing an interactive fiction, and don’t want to disappoint the fans the way some prominent authors in past CoGs did, simply by being too railroady.

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This is more or less what I was trying to get at

I was thinking more in terms of reaction. MC being more or less amused depending on the flirt stat. High flirt? More amused. Low flirt? Less amused. And like I said, in the end the player would be left to make the decision as to whether or not to continue the situation.

Ex. Player has their low flirt character continue flirting but it comes off as more awkward than smooth

That type of distinction is best left to dialogue choices. You can’t really code against stat values to decide that. A person will be amused or not based on a lot of surrounding context. You can’t break that down to 25% flirty = not amused, 75% flirty is amused.

I generally prefer if stats are used to define my abilities but not my personality. To use your opening example, I wouldn’t be opposed to a certain stat or stat combination being too low leading an auto-defeat, so long as I am given the choice whether or not to enter that fight (instead of having that being determined by some cautious/rash personality value). Of course, then there’d need to be a route where the fight is not required to progress, and so more writing.

In short, I’d accept stats determining how the situation reacts to the MC, but not how the MC reacts to the situation.

In the case of your Sam: would it make sense if instead of a ‘flirtatious’ stat, allow the MC to choose how to respond to Sam when introducing her character, and have that set the tone for their future interactions?

Should you decide to use stats in your game (story?), you’ve to make a conscious decision that your stats will support your game, not ruin it. Otherwise, scrap the idea.

And keep in mind that most stats are spectrum: 0 - 100. For optimal use, you shouldn’t treat these stats as an opposite end of extremities. If you do, might as well turn your personality stats into boolean on/off.

This is what most writers I found did in their game. Sometimes, when I peek at their stats page, I get like 7 to 10 opposite bars inside that I found unnecessary. Will all of them be utilized? Any stats that are more OP so I have to prioritize them? If it is, what are they?

That is some philosophy I hold in my mind every time I’m creating a new stat in my game. There’re countless scrapped old-stats, as well as new ones that I’m not even sure if I’ll use it anytime soon.

That being said, I make a conscious decision: my stats should support my game. If they’re in line with the goals of my story, I’ll keep it. If they’re not, I’ll change it (or scrap them entirely).