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DavitosanX

Why do RPG players fixate on maxing out their characters?

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I recently started playing Final Fantasy II on mobile (the older version, not the pixel remaster), and remembered how so many people describe the battle and experience system as horribly broken. Granted, it's not by any means perfect, but it is a good first approximation of something we would see in games like Elder Scrolls, and I find it interesting, as it allows you to build the characters as you want them to be. You can argue whether or not you find the system good or not, and that's fine, but one of the usual arguments states that you have to hit your own party members to gain HP. And yes, you can do that (which I always thought you could role play as sparring anyway), but you would only do it if you wished to speed up the process. You would also increase your HP by getting hit by monsters, and if they're not hitting you hard enough, then you don't need the HP, do you? So why go the unfun route the get the HP? Isn't having fun the whole point of playing the game?

 

I also see this in Final Fantasy VIII, where players say they *have* to draw 99 of each spell to make the most of the junctioning system, and some people complain that the summon animations take too long, but they *have* to use them because they are the most powerful attacks. Why do they feel they have to do this? It seems to me that the point of making the system tedious to abuse, is so you don't feel compelled to abuse it. Draw the spells you need, balance the ones you want to junction but also want to use, and use summons sparingly. Why do they keep going the unfun, grindy route just so they can get the best stats in a game that isn't that hard to begin with?

 

I have seen similar issues pop up in other games, but these are the ones that I'm more familiar with. 

 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

P.S. Of course I understand the allure of a power fantasy, being an unstoppable force that destroys everything that comes in its path (we all love Doom, don't we?), but my point is, why spend hours of not having fun to get there?

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because some people want to master the games they play and character build stuff is how you do that in rpgs

 

ps. making games tedious deliberately for any reason is bad design tbqh so they're right to complain

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Numbers are pretty neat, but you know what is more neat? Numbers that are big.

 

Sometimes I don't understand it myself in the middle of making number go big, but I continue doing so anyways past the point of wringing out any challenge in the thing. Of course I keep my "normal fair" runs and "Number go big WOOOOOOOO" runs separate usually.

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Because sometimes, breaking the game is what motivates one to play.

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It's not very satisfying to play a mediocre, clumsy character, especially if it's even worse or stupider than you. And in a simplified world of numbers and dice, the numbers can really work as a ceiling against you.

 

Picking a maxed out stats character makes even more sense if in the story you're some kind of god child or anyone who's supposed to be gifted.

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That's not min-maxing that's grinding all day. min-maxing forces you to always pick the least effort/risk for maximum gain on each step of the game, might be more optimized for the longer run by searching several steps ahead. it isn't a good strategy in the long run and needs too much time wasted to evaluate each part of the game. it is akin to a slightly less stupid brute force strategy, but not much better to find the optimal solution in complex games.

 

There is a reason most people roll their eyes whenever they hear the word (even more if it is a good strategy in a game). Dumping all your stats into damage or health usually works in badly balanced rpgs. 

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So, basically an extreme form of delayed gratification. Got it.

 

7 hours ago, printz said:

It's not very satisfying to play a mediocre, clumsy character, especially if it's even worse or stupider than you.

 

When you describe it like that, of course not, but what about reasonably challenged by the task the character faces? I don't find things like "I have been grinding for 12 hours so I can breeze through the rest of the game" very satisfying either. But to each his own, of course.

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6 minutes ago, Teo Slayer said:

Isn't the purpose of RPG games to overpowered your characters?

No that's the genres that took over the word. most "RPG"s have no roleplaying.

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I think a lot of players use external external guides about the mechanics, which tell you the "right" way to configure your character/party, instead of going in blind to how the mechanics work and having to experiment with what is and isn't effective. RPGs are already a huge time investment, so that's probably the main reason why.

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Once played Arcanum in a way that my character was not allowed to talk to anyone, so I couldn't complete any side quests which give player a lot of xp and player is maxed out long before half way through the game. Though there were maybe a few times when I needed to talk to someone to progress in the main quest, at least if not playing an evil character that also kills everyone. But that got kinda easy too, as I know too well what items to get and where and what skills and spells to use, also no need to put skill points into social skills, when it's just combat.

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20 hours ago, DavitosanX said:

I also see this in Final Fantasy VIII, where players say they *have* to draw 99 of each spell to make the most of the junctioning system, and some people complain that the summon animations take too long, but they *have* to use them because they are the most powerful attacks

 

I was this way when I played the game. I'm following someone who is streaming their playthrough of all the Final Fantasy games and he doesn't really grind at all. In FF8 he might have spent a minute or two grabbing a few useful spells, but didn't spend time getting 99 of everything. When I used to play any FF game, I'd also grind out gold to buy all equipment in every town. He also didn't do that, just buying what he could afford and looked good stat wise.

 

 

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Also I guess it is important to distinguish min-maxing from just straight up overleveling. Overleveling is easy, just find a good place to grind your shit and then get powerful after a lot of grinding. Minmaxing is separate but not mutually exclusive to that. It's simply "maxing out" one strategy to beat a game while maybe neglecting other strategies (usually damage at the cost of health). I'd say it's usually to cut out some excess grinding, or to make certain challenge runs actually possible or fun.

Notable examples would be Fire/Pyromancy Builds in Dark Souls 1, where damage is not dependent on stats but is dependent on equipment level, so you can use your levels solely for defense, though anything but a fire/electric weapon becomes a pool noodle in your hands. Any sort of spell build in Diablo 2 (for pve) because you don't have to deal with the to-hit formula (your attack their defense rating) and have a chance to hit and instead you always hit and a lot of your gear doesn't matter except for defense. In Kingdom Hearts games you're given a lot of abilities which mesh with each other in different ways and at higher tiers of play you're swapping those abilities out like each and every fight to maximize your capabilities for that specific fight.

Edited by BaileyTW

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8 hours ago, Jayextee said:

Because it's a riot to steamroll the story's final boss in a couple of turns.

To date this remains one of my favorite things I've done. I've since learned there's a couple of ways to get a 1-turn kill on Kefka, since FF6 was an exceedingly well balanced game, but this was the easiest one I found.

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@SaladBadger That was pretty awesome, I can't deny it. But was the preparation time worth it? I suppose it was to the creator of the video, but I can't see myself doing all that work just for that result.

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in stuff like wizardry or most rtwp games, rolling powerful characters (and having an idea of where yr gonna take them) lets you avoid a lot of pain and frustration; gaming the system is part of the gameplay, being as prepared as possible to survive the crawl without having to spend time going back to town to be raised (in the former case) or reloading. this is sort of why i'm more and more getting into single character rpgs where you can just klutz yr way through, roleplay more, spend less time perusing skill charts and reqs and all that.

 

in final fantasy games which are relatively easy, i like to set up the characters in more expressive ways and do what I think suits them, and often that involves wearing less optimal gear... in ff7 it's fun to give yrself mini challenges like cloud only using pink materia, yuffie only using enemy skill, vincent on the front row with fury to reduce yr agency in protecting him and the game's fluent and forgiving enough to let you mess around. i dunno; even though I'm not a big optimizer I still spend hours looking at gamefaqs or whatever to find interesting ways to play so I'm just as bad :))))

 

the worst games for this are diablo 2 and path of exile. you just end up following someone else's guide if you wanna understand the single sane way to play the game

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I guess it depends on when you ask me. This video is 11 years old according to youtube, from back when I was a high school student. Free time wasn't in short supply during this time and I spent much of it playing games. I stumbled upon this by accident one time when playing ff6 for like the 10th time, and decided to see if I could pull it off since me from 11 years ago felt that was fun. I ground games like no tomorrow since I felt it was fun enough to fill that free time.

 

Nowadays? I guess it depends on how invested I am in the game. Some RPGs are still fun enough that I like to build my characters to be as strong as they can be to get more out of it, but other things are eh. At some point, things like the novelty of grinding out all 31 IVs, maxed EV shiny pokemon has completely gone away for me.

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I agree with the OP in principle. Then I get stuck or keep dying to a boss and I cave and look everything up online. I don't have the patience to figure this stuff out on my own anymore. I have the internet now, so why bother?

 

FF8 is a great example because I've been playing it too! I started with no guide recently, until I kept dying to Elvoret. 

Then I saw the videos showing you can kill the mechanical spider thing and I immediately had to start over. I've been grinding Triple Triad since.

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The only FF games I really like are FFIV, FFV, FFVII, and FFIX. 
FFIV doesn’t really have a grinding problem since it’s a brutal game on the non-English SNES versions of it and leveling up isn’t an issue.

FFV is when the grinding begins, you need to max out all your jobs if you wanna fight Neo Exdeath or any of the superbosses and feel good about it. 
FFVII makes you grind material and it takes a long time, unlike FFV where the monsters in the final world give tons of ABP. Only Knights of the Round is really useful at the end.

FFIX doesn’t seem to have this problem. But, it can be kinda annoying to master every single spell and some equipment with unique spells requires stealing from enemies and winning which can take a long time.

I max out my characters in these games because I wanna be as prepared as possible in fighting the end boss. Also, I’m a bit of a completionist.

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I would say in some Cases it is partly a psychological Thing.

The same happens for Example in Doom, as some say that only Nightmare is the go to Difficulty.

That makes People think that they're only a worthy Player if they play on Nightmare or in this Topics Case, if they level up their Stats or play with a certain Tactic.

 

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I don't think I've ever actually maxed out my characters in any RPG I've ever played so far, even the harder ones like the Romancing SaGa/SaGa Frontier games and FF2. (In fact when I played the SaGa games it's actually better if you DON'T grind, cause the types of enemies you meet actually scale to whatever stats you have). Only time when I gotta grind is if it's absolutely necessary and I'm stuck or I'm going for a bonus boss or something, and even then, getting to level 9999 (using Disgaea as a reference here) is a long-term goal that probably isn't worth it when you've already beaten everything else.

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since ff2 has been brought up, I'll admit I've never ground the conventional way in that. In general my battle plan was to always beef up evasion with equipment and magic use, and simply avoid all damage rather than beef myself up to take it on. This strategy has worked wonderfully, though it does still involve grinding for spells like Blink, and it always comes as a shock to people when I show up to the last boss with half my team <1000 health. (I don't actually recommend that, though, it's resulted in some hairy fights) The GBA version automatically advances your health as you fight battles, though, so you'll usually end up with >1000 just by playing.

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The only game that I've never, ever managed to level up to the max, was Dragon Quest 8. Aside of being a tough game (even for a high-leveled character), grinding the game is a pain in the ass.

 

The reason is simple, monsters gives reasonable EXP but, after level 50-ish, the gap to reach the next level is bigger...and those pesky, sneaky, elusive, annoying and stupid metal king slimes are the ONLY ones required to level up faster since it gives a HUGE amount of EXP.

 

I like leveling up characters simply because I want to complete all the challenges. You see, I'm a completionist and, RPG games are no exception. Funnily enough, I enjoyed using the grid sphere mechanic of Final Fantasy X. I know that it reaches the same result at the end but, it allows for different setups for fun at the beginning. And you level up different stats, one at a time, instead of using EXP to level up all stats overall.

 

Hey, I also know that low-level challenges exists as well for some serious gameplay but, in the end, people decides whatever way they want to use and play their characters. Wanna grind? Good. Wanna stay low-level? Good too. The main thing is that players should have fun...

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Final Fantasy II and SaGa games are exceptions to the formula.
The more you grind, the unfun they get.
Same with Final Fantasy VIII, i completed it with just level 13 or so, and even tackled the optional bosses without problem.
On those games, strategy is the important, far more than the actual stats.

On other games, for instance, you gotta grind a little, because no matter what you do, as you advance, monster become nastier and deadlier, so if you are underleveld, you simply die, and there are almost no strategy for that, because they are way faster than you and hit far harder.
So you need to have a descent level as you advance.
Obviously, overlevelling is an option to be on the safe side, and thats what most people aim for.
They don't want to lose, they don't want to feel their efforts are not enough. And the only way they know how to do that, is by overlevelling their chars.

Simple as that.

 

As a veteran RPG player, on the first walkthrought i usually go for the conservative way, trying to have fun and avoiding the game over as much as i can.
On early jrpgs like the first three Dragon Quest games, you are left on an open world with the freedom to go werever you want, drawback, monster get harder as you advance, and the only save point is far away most of the times.

Later games have save point on every town, or even free save on world map.
I the first playthrought i usually try to dominate the rules and the system.

On later playthroughts, i like to experiment things. Like sequence breaking, underlevel endgame, and so. It adds to the challenge, but nothing more besides that.
And breaking the rules and the system to get with my own on different ways.

One of the best games on this case is Chrono Cross, a game where i never had to grind or anything. The combat system is easy and fun to play, and so, whenever a monster attacked me, it was part of the fun.
This game has a limit feature of somekind, as you can't overlevel.
After every boss fight you get a star, and stats increase on every subsequent fight, but after a few fights, the stats stop increasing until you beat the next boss.
And i tell you, you can play it avoiding every fight without problem if you have the knack on what the elements can do and how useful they are.

There are other games that are more esoteric on the character development.
For instance, Shin Megami Tensei is a game that, if you screw the initial skill stats, you will not make it really far.
The playable characters had defined roles, attacker, healer, magician.
Break that balance and you will suffer the game a lot.

So there are not much options in there.
The fun on this games come from recruting the demons, and to do so, you better have a good skill that give you the upper hand making the contracts. So again, the skill set is important there.
Once you recruit some demons, you can fuse them and have a somewhat party of your choice as the demons also have diferent functions as heavy hitter, healers or buffers/debuffers.
But the first game is kinda broke in the sense that if you paralyze or froze the enemy, you can attack freely without receiving any kind of hit. And even bosses fall to this strategy.

 

Other games have mechanics that, whatever you do, you will always be kinda overleveled.
For example, Metal Walker by Capcom for GBC. This game is a hybrid of monster (robot in this case) training and metroidvania experience.
Your robot doesn't evolve by levels, but by how many items it has attached. Depending of the type of the item, you can cross the sea, fly or other things. And so, the world open up.
Drawback? you have to fight puzzleish encounters somewhat similar to billiards almost every two or three steps, and its far easier to kill the foes than escape the fight.
Thing is, that you can't use items on the fights, or when you set them to be use, they are thrown at random into the arena, and your opponent may made use of them against you.
And you may be overleveled, but a bad bounce of robots may kill you, so thats the catch here.
Tricky game, plenty of fun but kinda repetitive after a while.
Fun thing is that you can have multiple combination of items on your robot and it it will have different forms and stats depending of it.

 

One of the most fun i had playing RPGs in a while was with Metal Max for NES, obviously, translated from romhacks.

The game is open ended, you can customize your tanks as you like, and most of the time all work pretty fine, except on the end game section that you need some good equipment on them to be able to stand a chance against the final boss that attacks multiple times in the turn and with multiple status effects.
Amazing game, neat setting, great backstory.
Complete fun for sure.
What it lacks?
Well, different jobs for the character would be fun, and more vehicle options beside tanks would also be better.

 

Another great game is Car Battler Joe for GBA, damn fine game kinda open ended, too and tons of customizable options.

The race and battle mechanics are fun, and they add to the gameplay.

 

tl;dr some games may need some grinding, some not, but people usually feel ''safe'' with having a good level, and that make them enjoy the game more.

Simple as that.

So, why gamers are fixate to max their character? well, because there is a set of rules easy to understand that also let you do that.
Wouldn't you like to have max stats on your real life?
To be a perfect enbodiment of work and effort through repetition abuse?

Not me, i prefer to be an imperfect guy with just a good set of different skill to have fun around.

Edited by P41R47

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The RPGs you mention are pretty retro RPGs that stood out for their difficulty in those days, and they were games that demanded a lot of grind, which could be tedious, so I can understand that maxing yourself out probably feels pretty satisfying after suffering through most of the game, even if too tiring. Something like Dark Souls, where you will suffer a lot your first playthrough, but little by little you will become more powerful to reach better levels. The satisfaction of defeating a boss easily that previously destroyed you is palpable. I think that's a good example of good power-creep without making you overpowered.

 

Another reason is that I think most RPGs are designed, after all, to achieve maximum power. The system of levels, skills and progress is designed to reward you as you progress. Not all RPGs are like that, of course. I think Baldurs Gate is the kind of RPG where you practically never reach a power-creep.

 

On the other hand, you mention Elder Scrolls. I think this game (the series) strikes a good balance with some of its entries. All the games have a good progression where the first few levels you feel like a mortal, but by the end of the game you are powerful enough to become a champion of the gods. A clear example of this is Skyrim; in Skyrim, the first 20 levels the dragons will tear you to shreds, but once you reach level 60, you start to become a worthy opponent. I personally love systems like this that progress with you because it rewards your effort as you progress. The practice you put in feels fulfilling when you realize that it takes effect. And then there's Morrowind, where you'll fail 9 out 10 attacks in your first levels... but you become some sort of demigod by the end.

 

I think the best balance is when the game is able to offer a good, balanced challenge at all levels. Those games that allow you to smash the initial levels once you've reached your max, but still offer a tough challenge against special bosses or particular levels. Skyrim, again, unfortunately gets pretty boring once you reach level 80, to the point where you can kill dragons with a sneeze even on Legendary.

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People like to see the numbers go up. It's that simple. We really are just semi-advanced monkeys whose main epiphany is that 2 is more than 1.

As far as maxing and "hardcore" RPG strategy, I feel this tendency is an extension of the basic numbers-go-up-me-feel-good syndrome. For people who are really into RPGs, I think they want to solve the system. It's the same for other genres, really, it's just that RPGs put a lot of stuff into discrete numbers and categories (usually), which makes the system itself more tangible. It's common to see damage numbers pop out during attacks, which is a clear indication to me that people want to see the inner workings of the combat system. Why? Because they enjoy the system itself as a puzzle to be solved. It might be more immersive and realistic to forego such a direct approach, but developers have realized that most players can't stop themselves from endlessly counting and calculating. It's satisfying, at least to most RPG lovers, to compare the stats of items, abilities, and characters, and to come up with combinations that grant a strategic edge.

In other genres, similar behavior among players can be seen. Even in games without such visibly quantified systems, emergent gameplay leads to players creating specific strategies, collecting discrete numerical information, and meta-gaming. We count how many shots from each Doom weapon can take down each monster. Even with "average" players who don't know all the exact answers, if you asked how many rockets are needed to kill a mancubus, or a revenant, or how many SSG shots will down a cacodemon, or how many pistol shots are needed for zombieman, shotgun guy, and imp.... you'd get fairly accurate results. Because without even thinking about it, most players strive for some level of efficiency with their playing. Most players save the bigger weapons and ammo for large mobs or bosses. Why? Okay, pistoling a cyber is boring. But furthermore, I think most people have an innate desire to accomplish the task correctly. When push comes to shove, you'll use any means to survive. When not in an emergency situation, however, what do you do? You look at your ammo count, your health, your armor. You consider the pathways available to you in the level. You generally want to feel stocked up and prepared for battle. And this is true for most people, most of the time, in real or virtual life. Survival for us means having food available, first and foremost. If you have more food, you are less likely to run out. If you can create a system where food is infinitely available to you, then you'd feel quite successful. So, in conclusion, the reason RPG nuts are so gung-ho about maxing their character is because they just want to retire with infinite food.

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The beauty of the RPG genre is that games for everyone's taste exist. Want a game where the main draw is character building? Pathfinder has you covered. Want exploration and world building? The Ultima series has your back. Name your desire as there is more than likely a RPG out there for you. This variety is what allows the genre to be so exciting and full of wonderous games. Some people want games like Final Fantasy where grinding is a requirement for certain abilities in spite of how much they may actually dislike it because there are other things in the game they like, alternatively they may find grinding fun. At the end of the day it boils down to personal preference.

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I recently completed FF2 myself, via the Pixel Remaster, and I ended up with natural 9999 HP for the main three by the end, thanks ot the GBA/PSP version's change to have HP increase on its own. A large part of that HP increasing was fighting Wizards to get Osmose tomes, the single most useful spell in the game, and the monsters that drop it go extinct.

 

Thanks to a bug in this version where monsters that have a status effect attached to a physical attack will inflict it 100% of the time if they hit, even ignoring status protection gear, your encouraged to go for a maximum evasion build at all times. This means your magic is shit thanks to a spell penalty thats never actually mentioned ingame, and that you only end up punching things to death, as you need two shields to max your evasion (in this version, having two shields means you punch for half damage when attacking)

 

I had so little fun and the game was torture. Square removed all the bonus content for no real sane reason, so it was nothing but the paperthin regular enemies the entire time, including a final boss that died in two turns.

Minmaxing is only fun if theres something to USE it on.

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