Do upgrades always improve a game?

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Upgrades are pretty popular now. Do they always improve a game (assuming they’re balanced correctly) or are they more suited to specific types of game?

 
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Hmmm. . . In my opinion, upgrades that affect game play are only beneficial for certain games. For basic games, they are pretty much a necessity—but for games with addictive game play (take games like doodle jump as examples), you upgrades don’t improve the game.
Games like temple run, on the other hand, also have addictive game play, but with carefully implemented upgrades that don’t affect the game a whole lot.
However, cosmetic upgrades are always good!

 
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No, upgrades do not always improve a game.

 
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Originally posted by lavaflame2:

Hmmm. . . In my opinion, upgrades that affect game play are only beneficial for certain games. For basic games, they are pretty much a necessity—but for games with addictive game play (take games like doodle jump as examples), you upgrades don’t improve the game.

There are a ton of games similar to Doodle Jump that do have upgrades. How do you know they wouldn’t improve Doodle Jump too, if they were added?

 
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They may not always improve a game, but there’s hardly a chance of them making a game worse (if they’re properly balanced).

The certainly do suit certain games more than others, but you can usually fit them in any game, even if they’re only cosmetic.

 
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I don’t know if I would call a cosmetic change an “upgrade.”

Anyway, I think chess is perfect the way it is without upgrades.

 
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Pfah! Have you even tried the upgrades? Take it from me, once you turn your rooks into laser turrets and equip your pawns with machine guns, the game becomes much easier to play.

 
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Originally posted by Ace_Blue:

Pfah! Have you even tried the upgrades? Take it from me, once you turn your rooks into laser turrets and equip your pawns with machine guns, the game becomes much easier to play.

Actually, yes. My sister and I tried to invent a new version of chess with upgrades. It didn’t work.

 
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Chess does have upgrades – though admittedly for most players they don’t play a big part in it. There’d be little reason to move your prawns around if there wasn’t the potential to upgrade them, though.

That said, I know there are other board games which don’t have any sort of upgrading in them. I think that’s partly because they’re harder to keep track of in board games, and partly because its harder to balance them in multiplayer games anyway. Chess kind of sucks if your opponent has three queens on the board, after all. On the other hand, if it was a single player game against a CPU force that outnumbered you, I think upgrading your pieces within the scope of the game would work a lot better.

 
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In most cases, I think upgrades are pretty important for the following reasons:

1) They give the player something to work for (besides just reaching the end or getting a game over) that conveys a feeling of personalization, even if there’s only one clear path through the skill tree, or the hp boost is all they can afford with their current points. In some games (I’m looking at you, irritating launchers) the upgrade system IS the progression, and you simply won’t finish without using it.

2) Upgrades allow the developer to introduce a sort of soft difficulty cap. What I mean is this: One player might be skilled enough to pass a level without upgrading, but the next player might find that same level too hard initially. The upgrade system allows that second player to “get better” by making the game easier the second time around, be it through more health, a better weapon, cooler spell, or whatever. Without upgrades, the second player, should they continue to fail passing the level, will likely just give up because there’s nothing more they can do. And because the game is a free flash game, they’ve invested nothing in it and don’t feel any reason to bother. (Unless of course Kong makes it a daily badge, in which case they’ll just rate it 1 and leave a nasty comment)

 
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Originally posted by saybox:

There’d be little reason to move your prawns around if there wasn’t the potential to upgrade them, though.

Have fun with your knights. But you’re right, the pawn to queen thing might be considered an upgrade.

 
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Along with the points Aesica made, upgrades also help change the dynamic of the gameplay to keep the game interesting. This is the same idea as level-themed or world-themed art, new challenges, new enemies, new music, new maps, etc. If the game gets boring by being too repetitive, the player won’t play it anymore. Upgrades (even if they’re subtle, like a double jump or a "king"ed checker piece) keep a game interesting by changing the gameplay dynamic.

 
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Originally posted by Aesica:
2) Upgrades allow the developer to introduce a sort of soft difficulty cap. What I mean is this: One player might be skilled enough to pass a level without upgrading, but the next player might find that same level too hard initially. The upgrade system allows that second player to “get better” by making the game easier the second time around, be it through more health, a better weapon, cooler spell, or whatever. Without upgrades, the second player, should they continue to fail passing the level, will likely just give up because there’s nothing more they can do. And because the game is a free flash game, they’ve invested nothing in it and don’t feel any reason to bother. (Unless of course Kong makes it a daily badge, in which case they’ll just rate it 1 and leave a nasty comment)

Part of the reason I made this thread was because of the comments Rogue Soul got. I really enjoyed the game, but I saw many people saying it “needed” upgrades. Upgrades would definitely have made it easier, but I’m unsure whether they’d have made it better.

 
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I feel as if unlockables is a better term than upgrades. They are present in more and more games these days, when traditionally they only inhabited the realms of RPGs. Modern games (especially larger indie, XBLA and AAA titles) without unlockables are very few and far between these days. When they are used well the can almost always add to the game, but when not done so well…

 
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Often upgrades are incredibly dull and pointless: Enemies get more HP, while you upgrade your damage. Enemies hurt you more, while you get more health.

Upgrades need to be engaging, otherwise you might as well just drop them.

 
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As a matter of fact, I despise upgrades in most games I play. Particularly those games that are based on upgrades, like most launcher games (hence I dislike them)

This does not apply to everyone but I enjoy scoring high rather than reaching my upgrade cap and finishing the game alongside with it

And when you’re getting upgrades, it often means you have to “grind” certain element of the game by doing it all over again… until you proceed on the next level. And what do you know, there’s more grinding ahead

If scoring high requires maximum upgrades, then what’s the point to have them? I feel the game is deliberately slowing my scoring progress with upgrades… which are lost when you change computers or your files are sweeped clean, just by the way



The kind of upgrades that gives more or alternative features are okay. For example, there’s a spaceship you’d like to customize. You can buy different parts, like weapons to it with credits that you earn by completing levels. That is okay, since it offers an alternative way to go through a level but does not demand you upgrading any stat in order to complete it. I’m not sure if that is even classified as an upgrade but I’ll leave it there anyway

Another example would be a puzzle platformer where upon reaching certain point, you get a new feature which allows you to bypass certain obstacles more easily but at the cost of easiness when you have to cope with new kind of obstacles that can be only bypassed with your newfound power. A situation where you have to solve and apply your new feature or “upgrade” into a new type of situation is into my taste of games. Upgrades, that grants the game greater depth is good

Any other situations where upgrades are good? Yes. When they’re not compulsory. For example, if you can score high or pass a level without any upgrades, then job well done. However, if you’re not so skillful, you can always resort to upgrades. A good example of this would be Dillo Hills where upgrades have a minimum effect. A game where upgrades aren’t a neccessity satisfies both hardcore gamers and casual players

Anything else? Yes. Upgrades do reward a gamer by materializing the progress and by making it more visible and concrete. However, not even upgrades are enough to satisfy me if the gameplay starts to lack depth even after upgrades or it becomes overly too repetitive. I’m having repulsive thoughts towards the game if it’s only goal is incredibly tedious to reach

To be honest, I can’t stress enough how important extending the depth of a game with upgrades is to me

And if you ask me, a good upgrade system would emphasize into decision making. What I mean by this is that not all upgrades would be available after you reach certain milestone e.g enough upgrade points or slots spent. This leaves room for the design element, which might be needed in order to complete a level. At least it’d better than maxing all upgrades over a (long) time

Any exceptions? Idle games. They MUST have upgrades or otherwise you’d barely feel any sense of progression. Why? Because all those boring parts are left for time itself to handle. Remember, sometimes upgrades can be something else than augmenting a stat but it can also be a tool to extend the games depth and a range of elements

As long as you’re given a choice, freedom with the upgrades and as long as the upgrades themselves aren’t an obstacle, then yes, upgrades are good… as long as the gameplay itself is intriquing enough and doesn’t become tedious at any point

EDIT:
I didn’t read all of the post abobe. Derp
The “unlockable stuff” mirrors my thoughts perfectly. A good game has them. It isn’t neccessity but is definitely bonus

 
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Originally posted by saybox:

Upgrades are pretty popular now. Do they always improve a game (assuming they’re balanced correctly) or are they more suited to specific types of game?

They make a player feel like they’re playing to achieve something (So do achievements and high scores). They can also add a bit of challenge to a game.

So basically it makes the player more interested in the game.