Jul 232013

Disclaimer – Cosmic Star Heroine is a work-in-progress. Anything discussed in these articles could end up being changed by the time the game is finished.

Gaining LVs is a crucial aspect of any RPG. There are RPGs where LV-Ups are completely predetermined (like Final Fantasy IV), RPGs where the player has a huge degree of freedom in how they build their characters (like your typical Shin Megami Tensei title) and there’s everything in between. Each system has its own strengths & weaknesses. Of course, with Cosmic Star Heroine we’re hoping to maximize those strengths and minimize those weaknesses.

We’ve used two major LV-Up systems in our games to date. The first system was used in Breath of Death VII & Cthulhu Saves the World and it was simplicity itself. Whenever a character gained a LV, they were presented with 2 LV-Up bonuses to choose. Those bonuses might be new techniques, new spells, new passive abilities, or stat bonuses. The bonuses offered vary from character to character and level to level so each character feels unique but the player still has a good amount of freedom in how they customize their characters. This system is high on anticipation (constantly eager to find out what new bonuses you’ll be offered), very accessible (no complicated systems to learn), but low on planning (you don’t know what bonuses are coming up until you reach them) and it’s easy to feel like you’ve messed up your build since there’s no way to go back and redo your choices.

The second LV-Up system we used was the class system used in Precipice of Darkness 3 (and in a modified form in Precipice of Darkness 4). With this system, each character had their own unique class that could not be changed and 1-2 slots where they could equip additional classes. The individual class progression was fixed but which classes you used was determined by the player. This system gave the player a nice amount of versatility (since you could change your secondary classes between battles) but sometimes could feel overwhelming with too many options.

With Cosmic Star Heroine, we’re thinking about using an enhanced combined version of both systems.

When a character LVs up, you’ll have to choose between 1-4 bonuses (different for each character and at each LV).
You’ll be able to see the bonuses offered for the next LV in advance but only the next LV (so if you’re currently LV19, you could view the LV20 bonuses).
You’ll also be able to look back at all of the bonuses that character has already chosen.
Completing optional quests may bestow additional bonus points that can be used to purchase older bonuses that weren’t chosen originally.
At one point in the story, you’ll gain access to a device that will allow characters to reset all of their LV-Up choices and redo them.
The first time a character uses that device, it’ll be free. After that, using the respec device will cost XP (which we can do this time since XP is not a finite resource like it was in our last game).

But that’s not all!

In Cosmic Star Heroine, after you reach a certain point in the story, you’ll gain access to your own spy base that you can fill with various people that you recruit throughout the game. Some of these characters will make your base better, adding new features, shops, etc., but what about everybody else? We decided early on that we wanted to keep the main playable cast to around 10 to keep things manageable and so that we could more easily make each playable character memorable & unique. So what should we do with the other characters who join your base, who aren’t in active duty and who don’t modify the base itself? Let me introduce the Spy Intelligence Support Team.

Before missions, you can attach a member of the Support Team to one of your active characters.
Support members act like secondary classes & bestow various bonuses & abilities to the attached character as long as they’re attached.
Support members may also participate in dialogue during missions (giving you information or commenting on the current situation).
Support members don’t LV-Up like regular characters. Instead they have the possibility of ranking up, with each new rank adding new bonuses and/or abilities.
In order to increase the rank of your support characters, you need to achieve their particular goals. These goals could be all sorts of things such as: deal over 1000 HP worth of damage in battle with a single move, recruit over 30 characters for your base, find the support character’s long-lost childhood toy, travel to a specific location, and many, many, more.

Between the enhanced choice system for main character development & the ability to further customize them with support members (and the fun achievement-style side-quest of trying to rank all of your support members up), we think Cosmic Star Heroine LV-Up systems will have a nice balance between character individuality & customization while still fostering anticipation, versatility, and accessibility.

 Posted by at 11:37 am

  14 Responses to “Cosmic Star Heroine LV-Up ideas”

  1. This all sounds great to me. I do hope you go with this, or something like it. My only comment would be that it might be good if you could see what’ll be available at the level after the current one, during the selection process: i.e. you gain level 20, you have your choice to make of which one of four skill to gain, but you can see what’ll be available at the next level. That way, if something available next level will synergize well with something available this level, you can decide if you want to get it ahead of time.

  2. ….Just tell me it isn’t going to be too complex. I don’t want Sphere Grid level complexity. I’ve seen how large it is. Nor do I want to choose between a passive buff and a new skill. I apologize if it sounds like I’m griping,but I REALLY don’t like RPGs where the grind is ALWAYS mandatory. I don’t want to spend hours on end grinding,just so I can beat the first or second boss. If it’s going to be complex,give us good tutorials,and maybe a help section in the inventory screen should we forget.

  3. Well, honestly, there is nothing to discuss on this system. It sounds so new that it is something I would want to experience before I made any comments on it. I would look at something as complex as that as something worth testing in a full fledged game and then seeing if it is something you want to continue with in future games.

    I kind of don’t care about the future skills view thing, I guess I could say. I don’t really care what is upcoming, I enjoy the surprise. Since you are letting people reset skills and get bonus points to get older skills, there is no need to see the next level’s skills.

  4. I… wow, I don’t have anything to tell you to do differently here. Seeing only one level in advance is pretty much the only thing I could complain about, but yeah, I understand the idea of wanting to level up to find out what’s behind that big wall of ????s pretty well. Being able to see one level gives you something specific to look forward to, though, and give you time to decide before getting stuck on the choice when it does pop up.

    Having each level have it’s own options, rather than giving multiple paths to progress upon is really important. They actually become choices, rather than basically forcing you to level up twice (and abandon the some of the ends of the routes, if there is a level cap.)

    I really appreciate the ability to respec. Getting locked into a subpar build because of limited foresight is straight up terrible, and even just being able to change around your stats to fit the encounter is a lot of fun. I’m biting my tongue on it costing XP – getting stuff for free is nice, of course, but there’s honestly nothing wrong with it needing a bit of grind. Just keep the inflation down – having it’s double after each use is a bad idea – at most have it be dependent on the level you are when you use it. Likewise, look into making it a (capped) XP deficit rather than penalty – leveling down is bad, as is locking yourself into debt forever because you wanted to try out a bunch of options.

    Support Characters are sweet as. Basically they’re just the trainers from Precipice for, but without the Esper stat bonuses, right? (I’m not a fan of defining permanent stat growth beforehand, nor of tying it to abilities I’m situationally using.) It sounds like they’ll be more than just the four/five from P4, though, which is good. The limited choices there meant each monster generally synergized best with a single trainer, and I didn’t find myself changing the pairs up much.

    The idea of making their effective dependent on sidequests and things is really neat, too. Reminds me of Tales of Graces’ titles, and the only way to make the completionism of achievements more fun is to also give them in game benefits. Props to that.

    Also, in comment talk, the Sphere Grid– oh wow I just remembered you were stuck at a specific point on it and had to use XP to move backwards. Yeah that was an issue with it. Glad all the derivatives of it fixed that. It still did a better job than them, though, it was deceptively linear (good), and the locks were a great idea for limiting progression to an extent. The crystarium caps and individuality was a step down, 13-2’s was only similar visually, instead relying on random stat gains from grinding items (terrible), and Path of Exile’s is legitimately too complicated and because of it’s low skill cap point contains so many trap choices. You have to plan out everything in advance perfectly, and there’s only so many competitive builds.

  5. Nobody’s forcing you to use the reset.

  6. I am not of fan of that kind of reset button. Being able to redo perhaps a level or two would be great, but having access to a complete overhaul would just knock the game’s pacing out cold.

  7. Okay, I’m drooling. Great idea for support characters; it’s a wonderful way to avoid neglecting characters who aren’t in the party.

  8. I’m a big fan of the Sphere Grid (and the similar system used in Path of Exile) but it’s a very polarizing system & though in theory it’s very simple, in actual practice, a lot of people find it overwhelming.

  9. When it comes to Level Up systems, I only have to say two words: Sphere Grid:

    Complexity is high, but it felt really rewarding. I like your ideas though, it fells like some more planning involved and I’m really curious to see how the Support Team (and base modification) works.

  10. Actually that ala carte menu of skills was an idea that I seriously considered. Ended up deciding that I preferred the elegance of just tying them directly to LV-Ups.

  11. Nice ideas. Love the achievement-style rank-ups.

    An alternate but similar idea for the character levels would be to provide an a-la carte menu of stat-boosts and abilities that expands 5-6 times throughout the game. Then upon level-up, grant skill points. This could allow people to get all of the boosts, but would put a cap on power-leveling.

  12. The thought behind using XP as the cost for respecs is because it makes more thematic sense (it stresses out your body to use the respec machine so there’s a short recovery time) and so that system stays closed (your using your LV-Up resources to change your LV-Up instead of your equipment resources, aka money).

  13. This sounds absolutely fantastic. I can’t think of how you could make this better, tons of versatility and a sort of pokemon-esque quest to collect all the sub characters and max their ranks. This sounds like a ton of fun.

  14. I really like the sound of this system – I quite enjoyed Cthulhu’s leveling system myself, and I’m always a fan of keeping characters unique but allowing respecs to compensate. Out of curiousity, why use XP instead of Gold/Gil/Insert Currency Here for the respec system, as is done traditionally?

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