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  • Progression Mechanisms: Blessing Or Curse?

    - Pascal Luban

  • Alternative 1 - The narrative strategy

    In this alternative to the traditional progression mechanisms, the evolution of the character controlled by the players is not done through attributes, equipment or capacities (movements, combos, etc.). The character's abilities stay as they are at the start of the game, as in the real world where our abilities take years to evolve and only do so very modestly. Nevertheless, we must allow the players to make their performance evolve "upwards" and offer them choices as to these evolutions.

    Therefore, I propose that, if the character cannot evolve, the players can "progress" in their capacities by selecting teammates, by playing on the complementarity between them, by defining strategies for the distribution of equipment and by developing privileged relations with this or that faction. Thus, the choice of missions, and the behavior of the players during them, will determine which teammates the players meet, how they get along with each other and their level of dedication to the players. It is easy to understand that a mercenary will not behave in the same way as a character who is indebted to the player!

    This alternative therefore relies on a particular dimension of the narrative, human relationships. In fact, it approaches the reality which is made of alliances, crushes, inspired leadership but also selfishness and even betrayal.

    Alternative 2 - The « all-you-can-eat buffet » strategy

    This second alternative follows a very different approach. It is based on the equipment that the character controlled by players can use. It offers players the choice to allocate any equipment found during the game. Players can therefore quickly have a wide choice of weapons, protections, vehicles, and more. Remember that giving players choice is a very good practice in game design.

    But, and this is where the new progression mechanism comes in, the performance of players with their equipment depends on the level of their character's attributes: their strength, endurance, reflexes, etc. In other words, players can assign highly effective armor to a character, but he or she may not have the stamina to wear it without being greatly slowed down. Of course, players can improve the attributes of their characters, but it will take time. Thus we put the players in a position to make interesting choices: They can have fun by allocating equipment that they like but they must constantly weigh the benefits and costs and develop strategies to improve their attributes.

    Alternative 3 - It's up to us to invent it

    Alternatives 1 and 2 are just simple examples to show that we can develop credible and innovative mechanisms. My goal is to encourage publishers and studios to step outside the comfort zone of traditional mechanics and renew the experience they bring to players.

    My previous publications

    Ubisoft announces that it will develop free-to-play triple-A games: Has the French publisher gone mad or visionary? FEATURED POST

    Cyberpunk 2077 - Have video games become products like any other? FEATURED POST

    UX designer or game designer: Which one do you need? FEATURED POST

    Pascal Luban

    Creative director & game designer, freelance

    26+ years of experience serving studios and publishers

    Picture: Ghost Of Tsushima


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