The Big Currency Redesign
I initially designed the Pathos system in Hypnagonia so that I could have a way to decide what kind of encounters the player has to choose from in each journal page. As there are 7 types of encounters, that translates to 7 pathos types as well. Each of them slowly increases per page, and then I use their accumulated values as a chance rng.
When it was time to design a shop and currency, I already had the repressed pathos accumulating, so I thought I’d give it a try to reuse the existing pathos framework as currency too, so I came up with the idea of releasing repressed pathos and then those becoming currency to use in the shop. Each type of pathos would allow to purchase a different type of thing.
This worked well enough for starters, but as the game mechanics are now solidifying, I found myself less and less happy with the shop situation. This had many reasons:
- The 7 different currencies were overwhelming, especially for new players.
- The amount you got in each currency was different and as a result, it was impossible for the player to judge how “rich” they were at any point. Even when the player was presented with the numericals value of what they would gain from a choice, most of the time, that number would be meaningless as they couldn’t easily remember how much something cost in the shop for that currency.
- The separation of currencies in the shop, railroaded the player. Instead of a place for meaningful choices, the player was instead only had a smaller choice per currency.
- As the numbers were getting quite large, typically 2-3 digits, I forced the player to do difficult mental calculations to figure out what they could buy. People do not play games to do mathematics though.
At some point after I had my own playthroughs, I was unhappy enough with it that I had to change it. But how?
As my Memory mechanics are tied into slowly consuming released pathos, (i.e. slowly eating away at your currency to refill them), I wanted to keep the 7 released pathos around, but I also wanted to consolidate them as a single currency for the shop somehow. At the same time, I wanted to simplify the information fed to the player during the journal and make it more obvious what is happening. I was racking my head for a week about this with no progress.
Fortunately a gamedev friend of mine was willing to help me brainstorm and together we came with a redesign.
So first of, I completely hid the numerical values of repressed and released pathos. They still exist, but they’re not important for the player to see exactly. Instead, for repressed, I just display the chance for that type of encounter to appear, and how that will be adjusted by each encounter choice.
Then I refactored how released pathos works. Now, instead of the repressed pathos being released and becoming a currency, it is released into a “hidden” pool, and each pathos type has a threshold of released amount at which it “levels up” (which I call “mastery” but that name might change in the future) and the released amount resets to 0. The progress towards each mastery is then displayed in the pathos popup.
When a pathos levels up, you also get a number of masteries you can spend in the shop. The amount you get differs for each pathos, but for example elite and boss level ups, give you more masteries to spend.
The masteries are “neutral” and independent from the pathos that generated them, and they can be spent for anything in the shop.
This redesign means a few things:
- There’s less numbers thrown at the player at any time, and especially numbers which are mostly meaningless at the moment, unless they player really understands the game internals. Instead they are shown only the important thing at each context, a percentage. Either a percentage for an encounter, or a percentage to level up.
- There’s more meaningful choices to be made in the shop as the currency is neutral. This means less unspent currency on things one does not care about, and more agonizing choices on what to buy first.
- With the currency numbers being at single digits (low low double at best), the difficulty of the calculations for the player is massively decreased.
- It opens up design space to play around the various pathos masteries in some way. For example, I already tweaked one of the curios which was based on how much currency you had left unspent, to instead be reliant on the mastery level of a specific pathos.
This redesign took me the best part of the last two weeks as I did a massive but sorely needed refactoring of the pathos class for my own sanity, then I had to retweak all things in the game which are relevant to the pathos mechanics.
I truly believe I would have gone mad if I didn’t have extensive integration tests
I still have some aspects I’m not particularly happy with. For example released pathos (and therefore gets masteries) from encounters which are beneficial and risk-free anyway, such as resting and curios, so effectively those are a “double-reward”. To counter this, the pathos associated with these encounters levels up way slower than the others, but this in turn has further implications on how the game is played.
I am still thinking of how I can make pathos work even more elegantly, from in its new form, but I haven’t come up with any brilliant idea yet, so do hit me up with anything you think of yourselves.
Overall however, I think this new approach will make the game easier to understand and play, and also provide some more interesting design space to work in.
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Hi there !
Thanks a lot for this devlog. Your thinking process and game design choices are really interesting ! I don't have played too much of hypnagonia (yet !) but Pathos was something I was really curious about.
So I can't wait to see how you will iterate from this base and come up with something that satisfies both a novice and an experienced player !