How Dark Souls III Helped Me Identify a Problem In My Game & Guild Wars 1 Helped Me Solve It.

Last night, as I lay in my bed with the intention of falling asleep, my brain, as it so often does, had other plans: thinking about game design. Specifically, I was contemplating something I'd been noticing as I've been replaying Dark Souls III in preparation for a video retrospective series on the trilogy, which is that it seems like I've spent the entire game making my character and her build, which means there won't be any game left in which to actually use that build. Put bluntly, I don't like this. Granted, New Game+ exists, thankfully, but nevertheless, it got a thought-train rolling.

I also thought about how that contrasted with my experiences with Guild Wars 1, a game that generally wants you to get set up very early and that has a lot of game to experience after you've got your build put together (as much as "a" build is a thing in that game, anyway—it encourages experimentation and variety). I much prefer this, where I can feel like I've gotten my character built up and there's still game left to play.

This then got me thinking about the game I'm currently working on, Psychopomps Are Missing (its working title). I've been feeling unsatisfied with my character class system, and I realized it is due to it feeling more like Dark Souls' build system and less like Guild Wars'. To briefly explain the system in my game (since I plan to write a full article on it later), there are a bunch of character classes and a system for changing your characters' class. There are eight base classes that are usable right away with no prerequisites, four are unlocked through world events, twelve are final classes (that no other classes require, but which have a bunch of requirements). The rest are "middle classes" that require other classes to be able to learn and which are in turn required by other classes. Each class has five skills to learn, and once you've learned them, there's not much more to do with that class.

That last point poses a problem, though, and is at the crux of my issue with the system, because it means that learning all of the skills in your final class leaves you with no reason to continue to stay in that class. You might as well hop to another one, which isn't behavior I want. My recourse, then, would be to make learning all of your final class's skills require an exorbitant amount of experience points so you could never finish learning it over the course of normal play, but that felt icky to me, too! I want you (read: me) to be able to finish learning all of your final class's skills so you can enjoy its full capabilities. And so I began trying to think of solutions to this problem, now that I'd realized it existed.

This is where Guild Wars 1 provided a line of thinking. You see, Guild Wars 1 has only 20 levels that it generally wants you to obtain pretty quickly, but a major mechanic of the game is buying new skills. After you reach level 20, further experience points you obtain go towards earning you skill points that you use to buy those skills. In other words, experience points are given a valuable purpose even after they are no longer needed for levels. I began trying to figure out if there was something similar I could do with Psychopomps Are Missing. At first, I couldn't figure out anything that made sense, but then inspiration struck: I could have extra experience points increase your Character Stats!

I'd somewhat recently added Character Stats, both as a way to make a reward system in the game more interesting, and because the aforementioned playthrough of Dark Souls III made me want to implement a system like its stats system. These Character Stats increase other stats, such as maximum hit points and attack. At the time I was first coming up with them, I felt like I really wanted to have twelve, but I wasn't sure why, as I noted in my December 18, 2021 Dear Patrons.... However, I think that number ended up being divine inspiration, because as it turns out, I also have twelve final classes (a number settled on much earlier).

Thus I have a promising solution to my conundrum. By making it so that extra experience final classes earn increases a corresponding Character Stat (or more likely three with greater, middle, and lesser frequencies), I have found a way to give experience points purpose even after you've learned all of your final class's skills. The fact that the number of final classes corresponds to the number of Character Stats means this system is easily balanced and configured. It fits together beautifully!

I hope you've enjoyed this peek behind the curtain. Thanks for reading!

You can support Sientir in his creative works at his Patreon.

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