Equipment. Why do games have it? Is it to give the fantasy a bit more realism, or at least plausibility? Is it because all the other games have it? The truth is that there are solid design reasons to have equipment in your game. However, it’s possible some developers don’t even know the good reasons, and that can result in shoddy design. So, since I’ve been thinking about this recently, I thought I’d go over this basic game design area. It all has to do with interesting choices.
Let’s take an example; let’s say there’s some item that provides 5 Defense. Then there’s another that provides 10 Defense. In some games, these bonuses will simply accumulate; in this case, it’s just a matter of getting every item. That’s not very interesting, though. What if these items were, say, helmets? Then you could only use one of them. In that case, you’d still want to accumulate every item, or at least the best one you could find at that moment. There might be some issues with balancing out, say, what you could afford to buy vs. how good it was. But mostly there’s not much of interest here. Not only that, once you get the 10 Defense helmet, you forget all about the 5 Defense one.
However, let’s say that there’s a helmet that provides 10 Defense, but also one that provides 5 Defense and 5 Speed. Now this sounds like more of an interesting choice. Of course it all depends on the stat system, but here are some of the things we think about: Is Speed more important than Defense? Is it more important in some situations? Would it be profitable to wear one helmet in one situation and the other helmet at other times? What if you can also change your body armor, which has its own varying effects; What strategy will you use in choosing your items there? Will you specialize in increasing one stat, or will you take a more balanced approach? With more types of equippable items, there are more profitable combinations. These all lead to interesting choices. Not only that, in this scenario the “lower-level” items are not simply superseded by later ones.
Many games allow a character to accumulate items that provide benefits. It’s definitely worthwhile to think about these systems of benefits, to make sure you have some interesting choices for the players.