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Tim Cain at Reboot Develop 2017 - Building a Better RPG: Seven Mistakes to Avoid


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#41
Ganrich

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You can hide the numbers, but in any popular game the min/maxers can still figure stuff out by digging through the game files. Min/maxing will happen regardless of this. Even if the math is so hidden that they can't figure it out then you will have people figuring out what kills the fastest, what heals the most, and what mitigates the most, or some combination of the two. All you are doing is putting an unnecessary road block in their way, and in time they will crash through it either way. It's better to not try to hamstring them.

Not to say I don't see some value in what Mr Cain is proposing. You can do the bad/ok/good/amazing thing with the triangle, but giving those min/maxers the ability to figure out numerical values to those labels easily within the game is probably for the better.

#42
Blodhemn

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Agreed. I've been min/maxing as of late. Instead of trying to remove that ability, why not, as Cain mentioned, use the fact that your character is as ugly as sin, against you. It just makes for funner replays with world reactivity. If the geometric defaults will provide for loads of variables, then I'm all for it. Like Arcanum, and Bloodlines to an extent, there's plenty to choose from anyway. But I'd be lying to say I wouldn't miss a more involved system to build on than just good/bad/yucky, unless of course it were so well implemented that it didn't much matter.

#43
CrumpetsForBreakfast

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It's funny people are arguing about numbers now. If you look at an alternative example in say fighting games, there are no numbers, there are only buttons and moves with various combination. They don't show numbers and instead use visual information like life bar and character animation. The games are still broken down into numbers by the players that reverse engineer it and call it frame data and reverse engineer how much life each character has.

 

 

you have identified a fundamental difference 'tween fighting games and crpgs.  the effectiveness o' a crpg character is based on the character's stats and numbers and math as 'posed to the player's skill at hitting the correct button combination at the correct time.  is precise 'cause the player's manual dexterity is not what determines the efficacy o' the crpg character which is making awareness o' the numbers important.  

 

similar, am imagining how agiel would react if the numbers were removed from his military simulation games.  don't need specific ranges for fighter avionics when can simple use a range o' yucky to exceptional. flight ceiling and air speeds being discussed numerical no doubt confuses agiel and others who play such games.  would be better to remove the numbers in military sims and strategy games and replace with more psychological satisfying adjectives, no?  the most obvious and clear manner to express the capabilities o' military hardware is via numbers, particular in a computer game.  

 

in crpgs wherein the player's character efficacy is largely defined by computer math (whether you see the numbers or not) it is difficult to imagine an approach using adjectives which would make the game mechanics more clear than numbers. 

 

HA! Good Fun!

 

 

It is the same for a fighting game, there is no amount of player reaction that saves you from making a bad move and not knowing the numbers either from feel or from examining the numbers. If you take arbitrary numbers that must be lower than 0 to prevent failure and one player has +10 and the other has -7 then obviously they will fail. This is the same as armor class vs attack bonus, or spell dc vs saving throw. A player that understands the values and picks the options (character selection in fighting game or feat selection in rpg) with better bonuses has the advantage.

 

Manual dexterity is similar to reaction speed in an online rpg like NWN or an MMO. Players that think quickly and react quickly do have an advantage but a 25 + d20 saving throw vs fire and 15 fire damage reduction avoids a DC 25 fireball because the rpg player knows the numbers just as a fighter player knows their numbers.

 

Obfuscating numbers with adjectives or visual representations doesn't make things easier to understand in any numerical simulation I know of. If you play a platformer and you know a jump never goes above so many pixels and an obstacle is 1 pixel higher than that range you know you can ignore it without slowing down. Difficulty is gained from hiding the numbers and forcing players to learn from experience, because they don't yet understand the parameters, not the other way round.



#44
Gizmo

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Tim's number 2 & 3 points would cause me to lose all respect for the game; and stop playing.

__

 

About hiding numbers... 'Eye of the Beholder' defaulted to hidden numbers by using bar-graphs.  It had a 'show numbers' option, but it looked ugly; as the UI was clearly designed for the graphs.  The problem with graphs is that percentages don't tell you the expected rate of decrease for a given attack.  You could be fighting a mob that is pecking away at the PC's hitpoints, when another monster shows up and chips away HALF in one hit.  Half the bar can mean anything depending on current max hitpoints; 50% of 20, or 50% 120.

 

Bar graphs (and dynamic icons) are fine, but never hide the numbers.  The best part about BG & IWD, was that it showed the rolls.   In Heart Of Fury, you could actuially see (and understand!) that the goblins had +29 to damage... and not simply that they could one-shot low level PCs.


Edited by Gizmo, 14 May 2017 - 09:56 AM.


#45
TimCain

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I think I need to clear up a misunderstanding. I never said in my talk that I disliked complex systems, just the presentation of such systems in the first few minutes of the game, i.e. character creation. I am all for complex rule systems, but I want to reduce the learning curve to understand them. If you already understand them, then you can jump right into them after character creation.

 

Hey Tim, I'm curious about the character creation idea with geometric figures you were talking about. What is your view on the point of locking physical and mental stats together, wich would leave one unable to create a purely physically or purely mentally focused character?

 

That was just one example way of grouping them. Instead of mental and physical stats, you could also group stats by power (strength, intelligence) or speed (agility, wits) or resistance (endurance, willpower). You could have squares instead of triangles if you want more stats in each group, and if you have more than two groupings, the groupings themselves can be arranged in a meaningful way (i.e., with three groupings, one group could be the most important and another the least, and bonuses assigned accordingly).

 

This geometric way of representing stats allows more ideas to be expressed than just numerical superiority.

 

p.s. Sorry for the delay in answering. I returned to work from a conference in Croatia, posted here, then left for another conference in Australia two days later.


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#46
Quillon

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I probably understood it wrong so probably stupid questions:

 

 

How would you group 2 stats & get up to 3 groupings? A line is a shape?

 

And bonuses applied to shapes instead of individual stats? 

 

If you apply a bonus to GREAT-OK-OK triangle, would it become LEGENDARY-GOOD-GOOD triangle? 

 

Then you'd get at least 5 power levels of stats from LEGENDARY to GREAT-GOOD-OK-YUCKY.

 

Then we'd ask what's the difference between a GOOD and an OK stat? Similar to "What's the difference between 5 or 6 luck?"

 

To which I personally would say 6 is luckier and I don't mind the numbers.

 

:)

 

Tho I wouldn't mind the shapes either if the game's gonna be GOOD...preferably GREAT or LEGENDARY.

 

 



#47
TimCain

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I wrote my response quickly, Quillon, so I will go into more detail.

 

First, sure, a line is a shape, and it can be up-down or side-side in orientation. But I would rather invent more stats and make triangles or squares.

 

When bonuses are applied to a shape, all of the stats get the bonus. So just like what you said, GREAT-OK-OK becomes LEGENDARY-GOOD-GOOD.

 

And here's why the shape and its values are better than numbers. In Fallout, stats went from 1 to 10. This makes you think that each number is an increment better or worse than the one after or before. But that wasn't true. A 3 Intelligence is much worse than a 4, compared with how bad a 4 was to a 5, because dumb dialog kicked in at 3. Similarly, a 6 Luck was better than a 5, but a 7 Luck was way better than a 6, because that was the threshold for certain random encounters to become possible. In other words, numbers imply a smooth gradient from low to high, where having 4 or 5 distinct values does not imply that they are linear in any way. They act like thresholds. You expect something new when your Luck goes from OK to Good,a nd from Good to Great, and not just your crit chances to go up a little for each one.

 

Here's another reason I like shapes better than numbers. Instead of giving you points to spend, and perhaps some additional constraints about not being able to lower too many stats to 1 (because maybe a character with stats of 10 10 1 1 1 1 1 is just not viable), shapes have their constraints built into their geometry. You cannot point all the vertices of a triangle up. And humans have evolved to handle visual comparisons more easily than numerical ones.

 

I'm not saying this idea of shape-based stats is ground-breaking or revolutionary. It's just a different way of thinking about the issue of character creation and stats. I am sure I would allow an interested player to "look under the hood", so to speak, to see the numbers corresponding to the stats. But many players won't care about that, and most shouldn't have to. It's all part of the "play how you want" philosophy.


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#48
Gizmo

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And here's why the shape and its values are better than numbers. In Fallout, stats went from 1 to 10. This makes you think that each number is an increment better or worse than the one after or before. But that wasn't true. A 3 Intelligence is much worse than a 4, compared with how bad a 4 was to a 5, because dumb dialog kicked in at 3. Similarly, a 6 Luck was better than a 5, but a 7 Luck was way better than a 6, because that was the threshold for certain random encounters to become possible. In other words, numbers imply a smooth gradient from low to high, where having 4 or 5 distinct values does not imply that they are linear in any way. They act like thresholds. You expect something new when your Luck goes from OK to Good,a nd from Good to Great, and not just your crit chances to go up a little for each one.

 

This seems like it needn't even be shapes at all... At its core it would appear to simply be different states (of being).  The attributes could all be shown as circles; coins, metallic ones of tin, copper, bronze, silver, and gold. Where each implies a relative increase in value and quality.   

*Could be done with gemstones too.

 

But if done with special shapes... I kind of like the idea of —perhaps a dynamic shape that reflects a growing tendency, aptitude, or demeanor.   Like a Charisma stat whose shape is getting progressively sharper (abrasive & caustic) as they make decisions and interact with others.  (I'd like it if it did that when they walk away from a speaking NPC.  :devil:  )

Perhaps such shapes could be included with the attribute numbers as a signal of the intensity between changes in numeric values. (Like the thresholds in Fallout, that you mentioned)

Spoiler


Edited by Gizmo, 18 May 2017 - 12:42 PM.


#49
kanisatha

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I wrote my response quickly, Quillon, so I will go into more detail.

 

First, sure, a line is a shape, and it can be up-down or side-side in orientation. But I would rather invent more stats and make triangles or squares.

 

When bonuses are applied to a shape, all of the stats get the bonus. So just like what you said, GREAT-OK-OK becomes LEGENDARY-GOOD-GOOD.

 

And here's why the shape and its values are better than numbers. In Fallout, stats went from 1 to 10. This makes you think that each number is an increment better or worse than the one after or before. But that wasn't true. A 3 Intelligence is much worse than a 4, compared with how bad a 4 was to a 5, because dumb dialog kicked in at 3. Similarly, a 6 Luck was better than a 5, but a 7 Luck was way better than a 6, because that was the threshold for certain random encounters to become possible. In other words, numbers imply a smooth gradient from low to high, where having 4 or 5 distinct values does not imply that they are linear in any way. They act like thresholds. You expect something new when your Luck goes from OK to Good,a nd from Good to Great, and not just your crit chances to go up a little for each one.

 

Here's another reason I like shapes better than numbers. Instead of giving you points to spend, and perhaps some additional constraints about not being able to lower too many stats to 1 (because maybe a character with stats of 10 10 1 1 1 1 1 is just not viable), shapes have their constraints built into their geometry. You cannot point all the vertices of a triangle up. And humans have evolved to handle visual comparisons more easily than numerical ones.

 

I'm not saying this idea of shape-based stats is ground-breaking or revolutionary. It's just a different way of thinking about the issue of character creation and stats. I am sure I would allow an interested player to "look under the hood", so to speak, to see the numbers corresponding to the stats. But many players won't care about that, and most shouldn't have to. It's all part of the "play how you want" philosophy.

Indeed, numbers naturally tend to imply a linear scale where you clearly want to be able to represent a nonlinear yet rank-ordered scale. Or, per my research methods background, an ordinal scale but not an interval or ratio scale. Very nice!

 

I wonder if my students would find it easier to understand this concept if I used shapes. Hmmm. I need to try this. :biggrin:



#50
Quillon

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And here's why the shape and its values are better than numbers. In Fallout, stats went from 1 to 10. This makes you think that each number is an increment better or worse than the one after or before. But that wasn't true. A 3 Intelligence is much worse than a 4, compared with how bad a 4 was to a 5, because dumb dialog kicked in at 3. Similarly, a 6 Luck was better than a 5, but a 7 Luck was way better than a 6, because that was the threshold for certain random encounters to become possible. In other words, numbers imply a smooth gradient from low to high, where having 4 or 5 distinct values does not imply that they are linear in any way. They act like thresholds. You expect something new when your Luck goes from OK to Good,a nd from Good to Great, and not just your crit chances to go up a little for each one.


I can see a clear threshold would have been better for dumb dialogue, tho in a perfect game you could have dumb dialogue on higher INT values, depending on who you are talking to. Maybe I've initiated dumb dialogue on my end by talking to a legendary game developer. But you could have solved the random encounters by giving them a chance to appear according to luck number. Instead of them starting to appear at 7 luck, you'd have 70% chance of a random encounter appearing & 60% chance at 6 luck etc. (Chances would scale to much lower values depending on the max chance an encounter appears tho, probably). Or luck could have effected the chances of random encounters being good or bad rather than their appearance chance. The problem might be how you tie the stats to content rather than stats themselves.
 

Here's another reason I like shapes better than numbers. Instead of giving you points to spend, and perhaps some additional constraints about not being able to lower too many stats to 1 (because maybe a character with stats of 10 10 1 1 1 1 1 is just not viable), shapes have their constraints built into their geometry. You cannot point all the vertices of a triangle up. And humans have evolved to handle visual comparisons more easily than numerical ones.


Yes, this is what I thought this would accomplish at first. Characters would always stay diverse; you can't assign many values to their lowest & you can't max all the stats if you grind long enough(with "Intense training" or simply with perk points ın FO4). Tho I don't know if its more easy to comprehend; sounds more complicated atm; thinking about the shapes and all the combinations the stats would be assigned to them. Maybe its cos I don't have the visual reference(a character builder with shapes) yet.
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#51
TimCain

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But you could have solved the random encounters by giving them a chance to appear according to luck number. Instead of them starting to appear at 7 luck, you'd have 70% chance of a random encounter appearing & 60% chance at 6 luck etc.

 

We actually tried that at first. But with all of the back and forth people did on the world map, no one noticed a difference between a 6 or 7 Luck. You got all of the encounters if you kept playing long enough. So we switched back to thresholds.

 

This is why I said in my talk that critical hits should adjust damage and not chance. People notice when their critical hit damage goes up 10%, but they don't notice when they critically hit 10% more frequently. Mathematically they are the same in terms of DPS, but psychologically they are completely different.



#52
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I will admit that I don't get how having geometric shapes would help make any situation like that better, you would still end up with thresholds wouldn't you? It would just mean that you'd have to have "great" luck instead of 7 to get those random encounters.

 

On the crit chance vs crit damage, after raiding in WoW where they had both, I'd have to say I really never thought about the increased crit damage as much as I noticed the increase in crit chance. Going from 10% to 20% crit chance was really noticeable, but my strikes going from ~5k to 5.5k wasn't really worth noticing.

I'm weird I guess.



#53
Quillon

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So far:

 

Shapes accomplish less and clearer thresholds. / Which you can accomplish with numbers 1 to 5 and call them YUCKY-OK-GOOD... without the shapes.

 

They have built-in constraints. / And potential synergy combinations between different shapes & groupings, might be fun to play around.

 

And apparently humans understand shapes with more ease than numbers. / We'll see if it'll be true for this case.

 

 

 

I will admit that I don't get how having geometric shapes would help make any situation like that better, you would still end up with thresholds wouldn't you? It would just mean that you'd have to have "great" 

On the crit chance vs crit damage, after raiding in WoW where they had both, I'd have to say I really never thought about the increased crit damage as much as I noticed the increase in crit chance. Going from 10% to 20% crit chance was really noticeable, but my strikes going from ~5k to 5.5k wasn't really worth noticing.

I'm weird I guess.

 

I agree, I played Age of Conan back in the day, how often I crit was more noticeable than how much I crit for. I was happy if I critically hit for 200% damage, doesn't matter if its not 250%, its still a lot bigger than my normal hits.

 

It could depend on the type of game tho, might be different for a [turn-based]game where you have time to read how much you hit for on every attack.



#54
Gromnir

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am still complete missing the fixation with shapes.  gonna start with the recognition that no, not all people is visual learners. any teacher is gonna recognize the mistake o' assuming people all acquire and process information the same way.  the fundamental assumption o' the superiority o' visual learning is in error. visual will be best for many people.  not all.  probable not even most.

 

use fallout example of special also is curious.  if the gameplay difference between a special three intelligence and a four intelligence is more significant than the difference 'tween four and five, such an observation ain't a recognition of the fail problem with numbers but is rather a problem with how the developer used the numbers.  simple solution is to genuine provide the player equal value for every point invested in an attribute.  such is even more clear than shapes, no?

 

numbers is gonna be essential to virtual any crpg mechanics.  whether you present the player with shapes or colors or sounds is gonna simple be a way of expressing the numbers which is actual working behind the scene, so use numbers from the start seems most logical.  

 

temperature increase may be expressed with a volume change in a tube and color gradients and perhaps a steam whistle sound when ______ gets hot enough.  whatever.  no matter how you wanna express temperature, a chemist or baker or even a chef is gonna want those thermometer readings with exactitude.  fry chicken or bake a cake succesful can be achieved through trial and error, by response to visual, auditory and olfactory cues. why? certain chemical changes happen precise and predictable.  go ahead and express exact volume or weight of ingredients w/o numbers.  express temperatures w/o numbers.  complicates rather than simplifies.  

 

a crpg, combining conditions and qualities and circumstances is gonna make predicting success or failure of various actions at least as complex as is frying chicken. have us try and predict success or failure with lucky charms cereal shapes and colors does not strike us as particular intuitive. wanna add shapes and colors and sounds to the numbers for a more visceral experience and for those situations when exact is unnecessary?  sure.  is extra work, but am seeing the value of adding learning modalities (gonna need ask hurl if such is the correct nomenclature) but the numbers is the essential.  

 

dunno. am still missing something.  

 

HA! Good Fun!



#55
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This is why I said in my talk that critical hits should adjust damage and not chance. People notice when their critical hit damage goes up 10%, but they don't notice when they critically hit 10% more frequently. Mathematically they are the same in terms of DPS, but psychologically they are completely different.

 

Hm. Yeah, I'm just not totally sure how true that sentiment actually is - at least, on the scale you're implying. For very small number increases, it's going to be hard to notice a difference either way...but personally, I prefer the greater chance rather than greater damage: though mathematically it all evens out in the end, on a more micro-scale (e.g. a single combat encounter), I prefer a more consistent and predictable output, which means I prefer the greater chance to score a critical hit rather than the greater damage.



#56
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This is why I said in my talk that critical hits should adjust damage and not chance. People notice when their critical hit damage goes up 10%, but they don't notice when they critically hit 10% more frequently. Mathematically they are the same in terms of DPS, but psychologically they are completely different.
This reminds me of that certain types of fix-it software that once installed, spares no time in pointing out all of the many things it's detected, and/or fixed (or "fixed"), lest the customer doubt the product, and decide to uninstall it, or return it for a refund.
 
Regardless of the internal mechanics that Fallout had, I always interpreted a head shot that did shockingly little damage, as a grazed cheek or a knick to the ear; or some other technically valid hit, but not life threatening. Critical hits were the serious injuries to vital areas, and they were harder to pull off; and thus relatively rare.  My gut says to give people more credit... but I cannot disagree —the majority probably doesn't notice the 10%... But I would certainly notice (and not appreciate) for critical hits to be re-imagined as simply a measure of added severity rather than an exceptional shot.  The difference is subtle, but if critical hits predictably happen on a schedule, or come of a charged-up ability bar, then they become just another special attack, rather than an unexpected boon of circumstance, or weighted by exceptional character skill.  

Edited by Gizmo, 19 May 2017 - 09:55 PM.

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#57
Infinitron

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am still complete missing the fixation with shapes.  

 

Don't think about it in terms of reducing complexity or increasing the ease of gaining a true understanding of the underlying mechanics. Think about it in terms of SPEED. Getting through character creation as quickly as possible. Shapes allow you to select the value of several stats with a single click. CLICK and off we go into the game.

 

I believe the basic motive here is that visually overwhelming, time-intensive character creation sequences scare people away from RPGs. It doesn't really matter so much how "difficult" the underlying mechanics are. The real problem is that you have to spend a significant amount of time comprehending and then manipulating a wall of numbers before you get to play the game, regardless of the true difficulty/complexity of the system they represent (although of course those things are correlated to an extent).


Edited by Infinitron, 20 May 2017 - 12:25 AM.

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#58
Gromnir

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am still complete missing the fixation with shapes.  

 

Don't think about it in terms of reducing complexity or increasing the ease of gaining a true understanding of the underlying mechanics. Think about it in terms of SPEED. Getting through character creation as quickly as possible. Shapes allow you to select the value of several stats with a single click. CLICK and off we go into the game.

 

I believe the basic motive here is that visually overwhelming, time-intensive character creation sequences scare people away from RPGs. It doesn't really matter so much how "difficult" the underlying mechanics are. The real problem is that you have to spend a significant amount of time comprehending and then manipulating a wall of numbers before you get to play the game, regardless of the true difficulty/complexity of the system they represent (although of course those things are correlated to an extent).

 

"yeah, the learning curves should be flattened even in highly complex crpgs.  there is no genuine advantage to be dumping the entirety o' a new rule system 'pon a game purchaser.  if you got levels in your game, to be demanding a player make the mostest important and numerous character development choices at level 1 is bass ackwards. is axiomatic that the point o' the game where we will know the least 'bout game mechanics is at the beginning.  life may be unfair, but gamess don't need be.  developers should make more significant character generation choices occur later in the game rather than early. sure, there is gonna be fundamental choices made during the intro portion o' a title which will have major impact 'pon future gameplay.  race o' your character is likely gonna be decided at the start o' the game, and such a choice will and should be meaningful.  is gonna be multiple fundamental choices made early.  fine.  is all the more reason to avoid demanding more than necessary o' the starting player.

 

"am actual (kinda) liking tim's triangles as a starting point.  we want many character development choices, but we do not need all, most, or many such choices at the beginning o' the game.  is any number o' games Gromnir has played, games we liked, which had us restart after investing dozens o' hours into the title 'cause we discovered the character we believed we were building did not match expectations.  only way to fix fundamental flaws were to start over from the beginning.  the desire to restart and "get it right," is a common issue for us, and having read these boards for decades, we know we ain't alone.  is no reason the player cannot be confronted with more character generation/development choices after they gots a better understanding o' the game mechanics. have us make choices after we get comprehension o' how the game actual works makes far more sense than demanding the uninitiated and ignorant beginner decide the most important character development and generation choices w/i the first 20 minutes o' game experience."

 

repeating what we said at start o' thread.

 

we get the value o' a simple start, but as some kinda general rule o' game development for replacing numbers with shapes?  uh, no.

 

http://forums.obsidi...void/?p=1908891

 

HA! Good Fun!


Edited by Gromnir, 20 May 2017 - 12:53 AM.


#59
hilfazer

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On the crit chance vs crit damage, after raiding in WoW where they had both, I'd have to say I really never thought about the increased crit damage as much as I noticed the increase in crit chance. Going from 10% to 20% crit chance was really noticeable, but my strikes going from ~5k to 5.5k wasn't really worth noticing.
I'm weird I guess.

It would be 11%, not 20%. 10% * 1.1 = 11%. You are not weird, almost everyone gets it this way. That's because math is hard (if you are not MaxQuest).
 

https://en.wiktionar...ercentage_point



#60
Azdeus

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It's old braindamage from playing WoW, noone spoke in mathematically correct terminology. A 10% increase when you speak WoW isn't going from 10 to 11 percent, it's going up to 20% edit; or to 110% critdamage.


Edited by Azdeus, 20 May 2017 - 07:23 PM.





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