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There are varying degrees of providing players with information on their characters abilities - including but not limited to showing players their character's stats and how they tie into formulas such as total damage, damage reduction, etc. When these numbers and formulas are provided outright it can lead to a lot of min maxing / work to create an optimal build which can detract from simply enjoying the game by worrying too much about the numbers behind the scenes.

From a game design perspective I am looking for insight on:

  • Personal experiences with designing stat systems where most if not all the information was hidden from the player. Include the types of decisions you made on what to hide and what to show to the player as well as the reasons behind those decisions and how they impacted the way players play the game.
  • Personal experiences where you actively chose to provide as much information to the player as possible because you were against hiding information. Explain the thought process that drove you to this decision and the impact it had on the way players play the game.
  • References to / resources on how different games have approached designing their stat systems that hide most of the information from the players and how the design has impacted the way players play the game
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice discussion topic, but is there an actual question here that you're trying to answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Patrick Hughes Sep 17 '14 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PatrickHughes Don't see how a discussion is needed? Seems answering the question as stated would be the end of it. Op seems to want to know how explicitly stating the stats and formulas that comprise the game mechanics would alter how the player approaches the game. GDSE does include game design, its not just for how to code various mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – ClassicThunder Sep 17 '14 at 15:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even if you do attempt to hide the stats, there will be people who experiment and figure out what is happening behind the scenes. For BF3 the weapon stats ingame were faked, but there were multiple websites dedicated to testing all facets of the weapon for damage, time to kill, accuracy and all that stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – AttackingHobo Sep 17 '14 at 19:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I consider myself a "min/max-er" doing alot of the calculations and testing similar to the sites @AttackingHobo is talking about. To me, figuring out ways to break game mechanics is often the most entertaining aspect of playing those games. I imagine I might be in a very small subset of players, but I think there are definitely others who share this opinion. I would go so far as to say, I enjoy games with similar imperfect information, because it FORCES experimentation and can thus drive much more variety in "character builds" or "solutions". \$\endgroup\$ – Joe Sep 17 '14 at 19:14
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This answer is me taking a gamasutra article and summarizing it with the question asked in mind. As with any soft science there are disagreements even among the experts on the field so I would recommend looking into the links to specific schools of though.

The Types of Players

enter image description here

The Fictionalists: They see the game's story and fictional world as the most central aspects of video games, and want the game worlds to look and sound exactly like the fictional worlds presented in film. They are negative to all features that disturb the illusion of a coherent world existing separately from our own. They want to immerse into the story world and find all interface elements to be disturbing for the ability to suspend disbelief.

The Systemists: They see the game as a formal system of rules and regard understanding the system as the most central and interesting game activity. They see the fictional environment as an overlay to the game system, and find the fiction to be present only as a supportive feature that is mainly unnecessary and only there to represent the system beyond. They accept the interface without question since it provides contact with the game system and presents information necessary for controlling and understanding the system.

The Relativists: They are in the middle ground between the Fictionalist and the Systemist, and appreciate both the fictional and the game system layers. They see attempts at integrating the user interface or fictionalizing it as elegant solution, but accept that certain kinds of information may be hard to include.

I believe this bit does a good job of clarifying the definition of a Relativists.

Necessity is therefore an important explanation for the Relativists. Although it may be more elegant to present all interface features as natural to the fictional game environment, there are many game system features that cannot be represented as such. For instance, verbal messages such as World of Warcraft's "I cannot cast that yet" and "Not enough rage" would appear as a negative intrusion for the Fictionalists, as they would argue that it makes no sense that the avatar would say that out loud, but for the Relativists this is perfectly acceptable.

Tying it All Together.

I would argue that displaying statics such as damage on screen in a manner such as Borderlands or Diablo deter Fictionalists who are "negative to all features that disturb the illusion of a coherent world existing separately from our own" and cater towards Systemists who "see the game as a formal system of rules and regard understanding the system as the most central and interesting".

enter image description here

Now to directly answer the question. Hiding statistics would attract Fictionalists and (so long as you are not leaving out needed information in your minimalizm) Relativists while also it would deter Systemists. It will attract people looking to immerse them selves in a new world but deter those looking to quantify and solve a new system.

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a great framework for thinking about this question. I would add that you can let the player have some say over where they want the game to fall on this spectrum. For instance, Telltale's Walking Dead games have the option to completely disable the UI elements for hardcore fictionalists. On the other side, the old Infinity Engine games (Baldur's Gate) had the ability to pull up a log of the actual dice rolls the game was making for systemists, but that wasn't shown by default so as to not offend fictionalists. \$\endgroup\$ – nwellcome Sep 26 '14 at 18:11
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Hiding stats stops some casual players from optimizing their builds. However, it will not stop hardcore players from doing so.

For example BF3 had completely inaccurate and misleading weapon stats ingame. There are sites dedicated to testing and analysis of all the weapons in the game with nice graphs and charts. This is the most popular one. http://symthic.com/bf3-weapon-charts

No matter how much you attempt to obfuscate what is happening behind the scenes people will do their own testing and figure out what builds are the most efficient for certain tasks.

Hiding the stats in this way just ensures that the hard core players will have far better builds than casuals, further increasing the skill disparity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That is a very dedicated crowd that you won't attract unless build sucessful multiplayer games. \$\endgroup\$ – API-Beast Sep 25 '14 at 19:51
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This is my first post on this stack, so bear with me! This is just my simple opinion.

Hidden

I am a huge believer in hiding certain mechanics in a game. This is mainly to add some mystery to the game where I--as the developer--am not showing my entire hand to the player.

When I say hand, I'm referring to the game of poker. It's me against you, you against me. If I show you my hand, it takes the fun out of playing the game much like it can take the fun out of the game I'm developing for the end user.

For example, when working on my first text-based online game in the late 90's, I stuck with the original design of not showing how stats played a role in damage. I didn't show how stats played a role in skill check success rates. These, among many others, were an entire mystery to the players. They had to figure it out for themselves by actually playing the game.

This decision caused players to focus more on playing and most importantly, discovering the game. They spent time applying different theories in order to discover a definitive answer. But, with no true definitive answer to be 100% proven, this lead to different playing styles, different approaches to simple or complex problems and heartache.

The impact was acceptable with the decision to hide. Most players enjoyed the mystery and enjoyed the path to discovery where I didn't show my entire hand. They felt that every log-in, there was something new to discover and something new to learn where there was no definitive answer. So, you could be wrong and still be right, which is key to maintaining a healthy player base in online games in some cases.

On others, the impact was harsh. The need to know and be given everything quicker rather than later was growing strong. This was mainly due to certain games where consequences, downtime and more were reduced to make playing easier, quicker and accessible.

Visible

I am not a big believer in sharing everything, but when I have, I felt the discovery and the need to play from the end user had been reduced. Knowing everything, much like having a god mode option, can take the fun out of playing the game in some cases.

For example, when we introduced a game mechanic in a game that I will not say, and revealed too much behind the mechanic and the underlying game system, it lead to increased exploits because the end user knew definitively what will work, not work and how to exploit the system. When the exploits were resolved, it lead to a definitive answer to what will work and what will not work, which is in some cases, still a problem

What will work could be one element or many different elements that cannibalize or compete with other elements to the point of being void. Like for another example, character equipment.

We had a hard cap on a stat for hitroll and damroll. These define if you can hit a target based on an AC check and when you passed, determines how much damage you dish out. Having a character class designed around hitroll and damroll forced players to pick only the highest hitroll and damroll bonused equipment. Therefore, voiding any other pieces of equipment that did not meet the criteria.

In return, a good number of world zones were not being used. The NPC (monsters) that didn't carry those certain sets of equipment were not being used. No one cared to kill them because it wasn't the best and time spent in development of those zones is wasted.

Mystery

I think that mystery behind what you develop is important to a healthy game. That doesn't mean you should hide everything, but in some cases, you should let the players discover it. This is what adds to the fun, but not all the fun. It's like a enhancement that adds something delicious to hopefully, an already good recipe for success.

When that mystery is revealed. The paths are clear. Having a clear path can mean other paths are less traveled. If you take the approach of eliminating paths, then game depth becomes shallow. That's exactly why you have variety and why you see 2 or more types of different game elements such as different damage stats, armor stats, class stats and ETC. It adds depth to the game, it adds more options to the game and in most cases, can add more mystery to be discovered to the game.

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If you want the game to cater to specific audience, you need to know what the audience is looking to get out of the game. I always refer to this article when planning out content and game interface ( http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm )

The FPS gamers, on average, do not care about the exact numbers for their armor, health, damage etc. They will most likely shoot each other to a point where they can figure out which build is good for which situations, the min-maxer players that will dig out stats and chart them will always be there but they will be a minority.

The RPG players, most often need stats to build their character. Stats are kind of important for two reasons, you want to invest in your character and you want to understand the consequences of your decisions. Stats play a big role in mechanics, especially skill tests. Lack of stats in RPGS may frustruate an RPG player because they will often have to reroll to get something that works, or they won't understand the game at all because mechanics are not clear.

My approach to designing the game interface is therefore understanding who the audience is and what they are looking to get out of game play, and exposing enough stats so that the rules of the game are clear, even to a newbie. If I choose to hide exact numbers from the users, then there should at least be some written rule or hint like (using armor-piercing rounds allows you to do more damage to vehicles). I may not need to give exact stats, but at least the player may not get confused why one weapon does damage and others do nothing at all. The only stats I usually hide on purpose, are the random chance ones : lucky hits, loot drop, random events etc, but those things player's will most likely know or expect from the game.

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