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Hey, hoodie here. Today, we're gonna talk a bit more vague, theory sort of stuff, in regards to game design. We're gonna be using Dark Souls 2 as our game of reference for the day. The topic is a theory of mine I like to call "numbers get bigger". Sounds pretty tame, at a first glance, huh? Numbers do get bigger, after all.

My problem is when that is the entirety of what they do. Take stat systems, for example. The souls series has a whole swath of character statistics, each meant to reflect something the character is able to do. Strength is how strong you are, how big of a thing you can lift and wield. Makes sense, in the general sense. The problem comes from what those numbers being raised actualy does, in practice. Yes, you can lift heavier weapons, through upgrading your strength modifier. But at a certain point, you have all the strength you will ever need, and you can wield every weapon in the game. The game doesn't stop you from upgrading the stat, though, at that point. So what happens when you keep upgrading it? "Numbers get bigger", in this case, damage numbers.

Well, doesn't enemy damage get bigger? What's wrong with the user putting points into a stat to raise the numbers? That's how your health works, too. It makes sense, if the enemies get stronger over time, for your character to get stronger as well. And I agree, at least in the vague sense. If your enemies grow stronger, and more powerful, as you progress, the player should as well. My problem is that little if right there.

What if they don't? What if we strip out every instance of "Numbers get bigger"? Tell me, and I would like you to really think about this before answering. Was anything meaningful truly lost, to strip that away? My argument is that no, we have not lost anything. If the player loves that little level up animation, the feeling of progression, we can honestly choose add an empty, meaningless number that increments itself automatically. If the numbers are how you compare yourself to an enemy to decide if you are ready for this challenge, you can use the same fake empty levels as markers, and provide a visual feedback, maybe a skull beside the enemy's level, like Borderlands does.

Alright, so we have a decent idea of why I think numbers get bigger aren't really worthwhile, as a game mechanic. What does Dark Souls 2 have to do with this? Well, I find DS2 interesting for a few reasons, but one of them is that there are a few stats on it's character sheet that are more than numbers getting bigger. So, let's list them, first.

First, we have attunement, faith and intelligence. All three of these decrease the time it takes to cast any given spell, as well as attunement giving you more equip slots to put spells into. This all makes a lot of sense, since these are the stats a spellcaster would want to utilize. This is also where I must share that faith and intelligence do in fact, count as instances of numbers get bigger. If they didn't DS2 would be an even cooler game, but, well, it isn't a perfect game. Attunement also increases agility, which I will explain in the next example.

Second, we have adaptability and attunement. Both of these increase your 'agility', which I have put in quotes because it is not a normal stat that you can upgrade directly. Agility essentially determines how many invincibility frames you get during certain actions. Adaptability has a few more uses, though. It also decreases how many hits it takes to proc poison, as well as giving you more poise and some resistances as a nice bonus. In other words, it has tangible, notable instances of numbers getting bigger, in addition to the opposite, meaningful change for how your character can do things, in this case, the character can poise through attacks better.

This trend continues, with vitality as our next example. Vitality increases the amount of equipment our character can carry at any given moment, as well as increasing our physical defense a little bit.

Strength is another, which increases our ability to guard with a shield in addition to damage numbers getting bigger. There aren't many more cool examples like these, but I would like to also note that every stat except for adaptability increases HP, with Vigor being the dedicated stat that gives the most HP per level.

So we have some decent examples from DS2, to avoid falling into the simple trap of 'numbers get bigger' being every stat in your stat sheet... but what if we took it to the extreme? I think I'll leave that as an excercise for the reader to consider on their own time, because if I'm not careful, I'll give away all my game designs to you dedicated readers, instead of hopefully making them, someday.

Thanks for reading,
- hoodie aida kitten.

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