What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

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What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#1 Post by Fawn » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:51 pm

I've been wondering, a lot of people find stat-raising sims to be boring, so, how do you make them more palatable to players?

My project isn't commercial, but I would like it to still be fun for players while keeping the stat-raising premise. I'm thinking of adding side quests and some simple RPG elements to make it more fun. (though I would have no idea how to code them =_=; )

What else could spice the stat-raising game play up, though? What would you like to see, or do you like stat-raising as it is?

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#2 Post by papillon » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:01 pm

Some people just don't like stat-raising period, especially if it detracts from focus on story elements.

Some people really HATE HATE HATE randomness in statgain. (Others like it!) The worst bit is if you can fail to gain points at all, especially if it's not clear WHY you didn't gain points and what you can do to avoid it.

Poor tradeoffs will really annoy people. If you work for weeks to earn enough money to buy a bonus item and that bonus item fails to do anything worth the effort, ARGH!

Penalty points and backsliding can make players feel like they're burning themselves out just to stay in the exact same place. While this usually means that the player hasn't yet grasped the 'trick' of playing the game well, it is not a fun place to be. So if you want to increase fun, figure out how to steer people out of this 'getting stuck' problem.

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#3 Post by Anna » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:11 pm

Um, I greatly dislike most stat-raising sims, but if it helps, I find this structure to be the problem with them:

1. intro - story! (yay)
2. Now get smashing those buttons until the month is over! Choose activity, confirm, choose activity, confirm, choose activity, confirm etc. etc. for a week or month with 3 lines description for every activity.
3. Enjoy your weekend of plot!
4. repeat 2 and buy magical item X for the grand finale.
5. You get boy X/you get no boy.

Step 2 and 4 are incredibly boring because they lack plot and all you do is choose an activity with the same results each time and no real influence except for your stat of choice to go up by X. I feel like I'm forcing myself through those parts to get to the plot which lies behind them.

Maybe it would help if you made the way in which people raise their stats more interesting and have more interesting results as well. Add more story too and it will help a lot.

An example of a bad stat-raising sim would be... Persona 4 with ONLY the options to study, work or do thing X in your room for a year, while the scenes for those activities remain roughly the same.

Repetition is just really boring, especially if you need to wait long for the plot to continue.

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#4 Post by papillon » Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:29 pm

While I have no idea how many people will notice or care, one thing I'm doing for the queen sim I'm working on is that each 'skill level' has a bit of fluff text attached to it. So as you progress in learning about Thing X, you get more information about Thing X according to how far along the progression line you've gotten.

It at least means you're not seeing exactly the same result every time, although on replays it'll all look rather familiar :)

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#5 Post by Fawn » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:03 pm

Hmm, well, I'll post what I have in mind then:

It's basically a college school sim. There are 3 obtainable girls who are your tutors. You get tutoring from them 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday. The sim part of the game lasts 30 days, or 5 weeks (not counting Sundays- Sundays are general event days that involve all 3 girls.)

The player can choose who they want to get tutoring from every day, along with 2 other activities of their choosing to boost affection stats. These other activities are things like going to places the girl you're targeting likes and studying subjects she's interested in (it'll come up in conversations)

Here's the math-y stat-y part:
I'm thinking that each tutoring session counts as 2 points towards skills and 1 point towards affection, with the other activities counting as 1 affection point (which means 3 possible points a day). However, the player also earns 2 affection points for making correct choices when interacting with girls. There are 5 possible interactions for 5 possible events for each girl. This equals 60 skill points per subject and 100 affection points per girl. (there's special endings for getting 100 affection points from each girl) Only the skill points are visible, the affection points are hidden.

@Anna: I hate that about sims too :/ Though, I could understand that making unique scenerios for an entire year would be hell. Since my idea is only 30 days long I'm going to attempt to make there be a little more variety... Each activity you get has its own little scenerio that's more than the same text over and over again- which will be a lot of work, but will fix the "Ugh, I'm just grinding stats..." feeling. Also you get special events if you have enough affection points.

For now there's only 4 endings (general ending and each girl's ending), I might add a way for there to be a bad ending but it seems pointless since the only way to get it would be to slack off...

Generally I think this would be an easy game. I mostly want to focus on the character routes and not so much challenging game play, I just like the satisfaction of doing more to build up towards an ending rather than just making choices.

Sorry for the tl;dr ^^; It would be amazing to have feedback on this system though, since I haven't made a sim game before...

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#6 Post by HikkiPanda » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:20 pm

papillon wrote:While I have no idea how many people will notice or care, one thing I'm doing for the queen sim I'm working on is that each 'skill level' has a bit of fluff text attached to it. So as you progress in learning about Thing X, you get more information about Thing X according to how far along the progression line you've gotten.
I think it's neat! It's way much better than relying on stat number to show how much the character has progress since numbers alone are a bit boring ^^; ... so umm ... I don't know if you care or not, but I'm gonna steal this idea for my stat raising game >:D

@Fawn: I'm not sure if this will help, but when I play 'graduation', the one thing I'm waiting for is the exam tests. So maybe an exam every weeks to test how much the girls progress?

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#7 Post by Fawn » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:40 pm

@hikki: It's the guy who's progressing, not the girls haha... Anyways, I've been thinking about that, if I added a battle system you'd have to fight monsters the girls set up for you and eventually have to fight the girls themselves. They're teaching magic, I forgot to mention...

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#8 Post by Celianna » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:02 pm

I don't like stat raising either (even though my favourite otome game is one), because I feel it's stupid I 'get' a certain character because oh would you look at that, my fashion/style is now 200! I can have a happy ending because I'm so fashionable! Or I have 200 intelligence, come marry me baby!

I feel it's just added because the developers have no idea how to make a dating game challenging otherwise. I want to experience dating the characters, actually interact with them to raise my affection with them - not click on buttons to raise intelligence because those are their ending parameters. It feels disconnected, and the grinding. Gets. So. Boring.

I got really ticked off after I spent 5 hours on a game raising stats to get a certain guy. He was pretty much in love with me, and we went on so many damn dates. The reason I didn't get his ending, was that I was missing 1 measly point from my charm. Yeah, thanks for loving me jerk. That's why I don't like stat raising, it feels so unrealistic when you don't get the ending because you're missing 10 points of intelligence, despite them saying they love you already during the game.

Now, if they replaced those buttons with; 'Come spend time with X character to raise their affection' then I'd be much, much happier.

Your premise of studying with the girls sounds a little less trouble, but it's stat raising nonetheless. Perhaps if there was more interactivity when doing the studying then I'd like it more (like having to choose a right answer).
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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#9 Post by papillon » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:17 pm

That's why I don't like stat raising, it feels so unrealistic when you don't get the ending because you're missing 10 points of intelligence, despite them saying they love you already during the game.
IMO, that's not stat-raising, that's bad writing. We were ranting about that problem in another thread recently. :)

If you're going to have limits on stats affecting your relationship, it really needs to be worked into the narrative and it should be clear long before the end. It's not difficult to get it to make more sense with a little more event variation. Maybe Mister Intellectual won't speak to you at all until you've got Smarts of 50, then until you get Smarts 100 he'll talk with you but you keep missing his jokes and feeling stupid, then until you get Smarts 150 you start flirting and can even get an ending with him, but he might get bored with you and break up eventually, so it's not the best ending, but if you have Smarts 150+ you can zing him with your dialog and it's obvious everything is great between you and you can get the best ending. Or something else, that's just an off-the-top-of-my-head suggestion.

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#10 Post by Camille » Sun Dec 18, 2011 11:31 pm

The main thing I don't like about stat-raising sims is that they're… Well, most of the time they're pretty boring. You spend hours literally sitting at the computer with your face like :| as you click buttons to plan out your weeks. There aren't many different scenes and it gets very repetitive. I think sims that do well are ones where there are a lot of unique scenes spread throughout the game so you don't spend more than 15 minutes at a time just clicking and seeing the same "Yay! My intelligence went up +10!" animation over and over and over. There should be other rewards for raising your stats, too, other than just clearing the minimum needed for an ending. In Machina Jewel, the first VN I started writing/programming, the stats the player raises are personality point stats and they affect how the heroine talks and responds to situations. It also helps that while the guys prefer certain personalities, as long as you spend time with them and whatnot, you can still have a relationship even if you, for example, go after the intelligent guy despite not focusing on the intelligence stat yourself.

Papillon's suggestions are all excellent and very relevant. Magical Diary was the first stat-raising otome game I've played where I actually enjoyed some of the stat-raising and didn't just tolerate it. (loved learning magic spells and such *_*) I love the idea of having event variations based on your stats and having different endings possible even if you don't max out the love interests' "preferred" stat. The love interests should fall for your MC because you've spent time together and gotten to know and like each other, not because you have 200 charm points. D:

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#11 Post by Fawn » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:25 am

@Celianna: I would totally make more choices, but it would just be kind of messy to have 30 or so choices...

@Papillion, Camille: Oh yeah I hate those stat-type choices :( How would the person even know you have those points, ha. All of my game's stats are built up because of spending time together like you mentioned.

And, about the variation due to stats, I'm thinking about that too. I'm hoping to make each day's dialogue unique, but that would be a lot of unnecessary work, so it'll most likely be like Papillion mentioned- the more you spend time with the love interest they'll talk to you differently.

For example one of the love interests is a very jaded, angry girl and she'll treat you like scum for the first few times you talk to her... But the more you do the more she'll be nicer to you (though she'll never entirely be nice, haha)

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#12 Post by Kura » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:06 am

It's the lack of variation that gets to me most, and the fact that I just don't like planning (anywhere, anytime), haha. I think having some kind of unique dialog each day is important, to break up the planning into smaller chunks. It could just be that at the end of every day we get to hear the protagonist's thoughts/plans/feelings/whatever, and that's always particular to the one day. And then for the tutoring sessions you could have maybe a few different texts displayed, a new one every 4 times with each girl or something.

The RPG element might be a nice touch. I'm not sure how much it would do for eliminating what I find to be the downsides of stat-raising, but I guess anything to add variety is a plus.
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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#13 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Mon Dec 19, 2011 1:08 am

I think part of what causes people to get bored with some stat-raising sims is the long wait for feedback, or the lack of gameplay.

Just as Anna pointed out that the boring parts are picking a weekly activity and confirming it over and over again. Here are some general ideas I've picked up and notes I've made from studying games like the Princess Maker series, True Love 95, and Papillon's own Cute Knight games.

1. Feedback is key. Player's need to see the results of their actions and understand what they mean. This means if one job or activity raises some skills and lowers others, the player sees that happening as the activity or job takes place, usually by showing those stat bars on screen. A summary pop-up at the end of the week is great too, for instance: "Result of 1 Week of Activity X: Strength up 5, Refinement down 4, Stress up 30." Players should also be able to know what each job or activity does before they select it. Princess Maker 5 does this by telling you what a job or club will do before you put it on your planner, for instance: "Babysitting will greatly increase Sensitivity, but will decrease Charm some." It lets players make informed decisions.

2. This goes back to Number 1. Some randomness in stat gain is fine (maybe even preferable), but stat gain still needs to be deterministic. Player's should NEVER not get a stat gain for an activity unless they have maxed out that skill. In the Princess Maker series you can do so poorly at a job that you don't get any money from it, but you still get the stat increases. In their school or lesson activities you can do so poorly for a day that you don't gain the stat increases, but you are told this - "Your daughter slacked off in classes today, no progress was made."

More importantly, the player knows WHY no progress was made. In Princess Maker it means your Stress was too high or your daughter was delinquent (caused, again, by having too much Stress). Stress is displayed on ever job and activity screen, and it is easy for a player to watch and see that high stress correlates to poor performance.

The Princess Maker series also rewards a player for carefully managing things so they get a full week of successes by giving a bonus to pay. Princess Maker 5 introduces random "very good" success to lessons that grant extra skill points. The player is told when this happens with a snappy graphic on screen.

There are also always a way to gain skill points without doing a job - be it activities, school lessons, or buying an item. This helps players make up ground in a skill if they decide to switch to it later, or let them raise opposes skills (like Strength and Intelligence) without decreasing the other.

3. Rewards. Just as Papillon said, poor tradeoffs annoy people, and for good reason. If something is hard to obtain, it needs to be worth it. And you need to make sure that your stats correlate properly with each other. By that I mean, related activities and jobs should raise and improve (and decrease) related skills. So if a player is focused on raising their physical stats, all the physical jobs should help do that, and no job should ever, say, increase Strength but decrease Constitution.

Rewards go further than that though. Players like to see new things and be recognized for excelling or focusing in certain areas. In True Love 95, a player could receive a stat boosting visit from a spirit if they focused hard on one skill, or even open up a whole new romanceable character if they went above and beyond in increases certain stats. In Princess Maker 2 a god or goddess would visit and reward the player with stat bonuses for working hard on just a certain area of improvement. In both True Love and Princess Maker, these stat bonuses didn't just fill up the max meter for that skill faster, they actually counted ABOVE the max, so you could end up with 110% or more in a skill.

4. Surprise and novelty. A big draw of the stat-raising sims is seeing what ending your stats or actions will give you. This is one reason these types of games have a huge number of endings - that's a lot of the fun. So players of these types of games like to see their choices and decisions awarded with different outcomes. That's almost the entire point of playing - what outcome will I get this time?

But surprise and novelty isn't just in regards to the endings. These games have a lot of fun surprises built into the game itself. Like the rewards of stat bonuses above, these things tell the player - "Wow! The game recognizes how hard I've been focusing on this one area! It's paying attention to me!" One of the things that keeps drawing players back besides the endings is that they are always discovering new things. In Princess Maker 2 you can discover bandits while adventuring, defeat them, and the townspeople will acknowledge your feat. You can meet different creatures depending on items you have, or marry the Devil himself if you meet him and your Sin is high enough, etc.

5. Entertainment. Anna was right about how boring weekly activities can be if forced to do them over and over again. One way these types of games mitigate that is by having sprite animations showing your character doing the job or activity, with changes for if you are screwing up. These can be very entertaining to watch. Princess Maker 5 has a variety of these for each activity - one for good, one for bad, one for very good, etc. Some have multiple animations for "good" since you are likely to see those a lot.

But that is just one form of entertainment. Another is variety. Generally a large selection of activities and jobs are available so the player can alternate between different things and keep from getting bored. For instance, there are usually multiple ways to raise a particular skill, so you don't have to repeat the same job or activity over and over gain just to raise a skill you are focusing on.

Another form of entertainment is differentiated gameplay. This means that the farther into the game the player gets and the more specialized and advanced in their skills they are, the more different the game becomes. For instance, in Princess Maker 2, if you focus on fighting, physical skills, and adventuring, you have the opportunity to get rewards for killing bandits, win fighting tournaments and receiving special items, fight duels on the street, and even fight the God of War himself. Compare that to another game where the player focuses on being charming and refined and starts getting special dresses made, dancing at balls, having suitors come calling, having meetings and conversations with royalty, etc. This means that the more new things or ways of playing a player tries, the more they discover.

6. Events. The more of these you have, the better the game is likely to be received. These are both a reward for the player, as well as feedback. Events can pop up due to interesting choices the player has made with stats, or buying a unique item, or being somewhere at a certain time. In Princess Maker 2, the player can receive a new outfit if they are a Charming adventurer by being beautiful when they encounter a dragon, for instance. Festivals or contests or dates are another way to let player's test their skills or receive rewards and new plot by having certain stats. Did the player ace that end of month exam? Maybe the girl that tutored them the most will surprise them with a celebration date or party.

7. RPG Elements. Combats, fights, exploration, weapons, armor, enemies, adventuring - these are all things that help games like Princess Maker or Cute Knight appeal to a broader demographic . For instance, as a man, I don't really play Princess Maker to make the daughter a pretty, pretty princess or see what cute boy she will marry. I play it to raise a little butt-kicking adventurer who slays monsters, finds treasure, drinks with the Devil, and then comes home to buy a new dress with her money. Or at least that's what I did at first, but thanks to all things I've mentioned above, I kept playing because it was a fun game, so eventually I did make her a princess, then a queen, a magician, a dozen other things.

If all the other numbered points I've made are followed, this element (adventuring and fighting) can be skipped and it will still be a fun game, but it certainly helps.

Finally, all these points are part of one big overarching theme - replayability. If your game doesn't vary except in the endings - for instance, if studying with all 3 girls feels the same and only the dates and endings are different, then replayability will be hurt, because players will fall into the same pattern of boredom that Anna complained about. They will say, "I want to end up with Girl A, so I will just choose her to tutor me and do the skill that adds an affection point for her." Then they will get bored if they have to do that 30 times over and over to get her ending. This is especially a danger with what you said that 100 Affection points are possible and a special ending is available for each girl if the player has all 100 Affection points. If only 100 points are available, and 100 points are needed for a special ending, that gameplay run for that special ending is going to get awfully boring.

And Papillon is right about the way to handle stats affecting relationships. You should never have a declaration of love in the game with a character unless you have already met the stat requirements and qualified for their ending. That is indeed just bad writing, not a symptom of dating-sims themselves. The important thing to remember when making one of these types of game is it is indeed a GAME. You can't write it as if it is a Visual Novel or a Kinetic Novel. You are giving the player choices and stats they are purposefully building. You have to let them drive the story, not force a pre-determined story on them. The stats have to be there for a reason, not just because you felt you needed the player to do something in-between story scenes. Otherwise you may as well just have the player make a dialogue choice about which girl he wants to go out with.

Anyone that thinks dating or raising-sims are boring are just playing the wrong ones - just try out some of the examples I've mentioned in this post - True Love 95, Princess Maker 2 (both in English), Princess Maker 5, etc. True Love 95 is an eroge game, but it has very deep storylines with all its characters - each girl's path is almost an entire Visual Novel in and of itself.

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#14 Post by yummy » Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:09 pm

There are lots of opinions about this topic. I think that what matters is about the finality.
Stat raising games are a really big family. It's the crucial point to any RPG.

A hybrid game with stat raising point has a high possibility of including some sort of replay ability because of this. For example, in the flower shop game, you raise stats in order to accomplish one goal: to be able to craft better things. It is generally a never ending quest because of unexpected events, but it is a finality that might happen. It is credible.

Let's look at higher end games: you have a RPG like the Final fantasy series. It is basically a series of stat raising games with a consistent story.
You might not be aware of the grinding because it is a task that makes your character "stronger" or a task that will allow you to get "catchable" items.
There is an additional sense of short comings tasks along with the finality concept.

Then you might want to add mini-games further, with records, achievements, unique items, avatar personalization, hidden objects... These are "devices" that artificially raise the game play time (Look at Batman Arkham City, without the Riddler's minigames, the game play time would be near 3 hours).

The ultimate way to make your game interesting is to create a possibility to continue a character template after the game ends: Falcom uses this strategy in its Legend of Heroes VI game series, where the heroes you play keep their advancements. Same with Mass Effect from Bioware.

In romance games, you will notice that relationships are (sadly) nothing more than "gettable items" (for now, until someone notices this and corrects this trend). That's why I don't like to play them. It just doesn't feel credible enough.
It really depends on how the player perceives this kind of game. If it's just for gaming, why not?

Even so, I don't think stat based romance games are all that bad. It's just that they lack events, just like in pure RPG games. I'd prefer that kind of game if there is an advancement in story like in persona 4. It makes sense. It is a part of a drawn story. It is limited to what the hero/heroine is able to do. There are possibilities to make the game sandbox-like in some short periods of time.

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Re: What's fun in a stat-raising sim?

#15 Post by xelacroix » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:31 pm

the story explaination must be full of emotions.

its good to have some good visuals as well, some cute character and lovely background would be nice.

i imagine alter ego with added nice manga visual

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