Resistance is just a number


This picture is courtesy of Graham Horn.

This is the third part of a discussion on designing resistances for my game, you may want to read part 1 – an introduction and part 2 – a deeper look at statistics before reading this.

In this third part I take a design look at some questions that occurred to me whilst I was putting together the 2nd part of this article. I’ll be looking for answers (hopefully) to:

  • What does this number actually mean?
  • What is the maximum upward range of the resistance number?
  • what does it mean to reach the maximum?

Regardless of the input elements and the method used to calculate the resistance value you will end up with a number ranging from zero upwards.

What does this number actually mean?

There are two possible options for this maximum number, the first is that once reached no further damage from that source is possible and the second is that only a very small amount of damage is leaked through to the target.

Both options affect the tactics of the player; if for example the second option is made the default option then the player quickly learns that even though they have the maximum amount of resistance to that damage type, there is still a small chance that they will receive damage – as I mentioned this presents a psychological difference to the first option which has the player knowing that they cannot receive any damage from that source.

In my game the actual number finally arrived at represents protection from the incoming damage/effect. The higher the number the greater the protection and when the maximum number is reached then no more damage can be received from that damage type.

side note: As I was finalising this part of the article I had a thought for a further game mechanic…when the maximum value is reached for any resistance there is a chance of reflecting n% of damage back to the source. I think this mechanic deserves some consideration in the future.

another side note: Something else that occurred to me is why not use the resistance value to protect the target from that amount of incoming damage, e.g. if the resistance value to fire damage is 33% then the target is protected from 33% of the total damage.

What is the maximum upward range of the resistance number?

From a design and a technical viewpoint the actual maximum number doesn’t really matter, what matters is the players perception of this range of values and they must be comfortable and familiar with it.

A related question is what does it mean to reach the maximum? For example does it mean that the player character is impervious to that damage type or does it mean they have a near perfect chance of avoiding that damage type. On the surface it’s a subtle difference but it has a profound impact on the players tactics and their approach to a known enemy; of course the same can be said for the inhabitants themselves.

The two most common/typical ranges are either zero through ten or zero through one hundred, both are simple to implement, understand and can be represented graphically quite easily. When using the range zero through one hundred this is commonly interpreted as a percentage as in 33%.

As I mentioned technically it doesn’t really matter what the range of numbers is used to represent the resistance level as it will be used as an input into a damage limitation formula and the result of that will be acted upon accordingly.

Once the range of the resistance values has been decided upon the next part of the design to think about is knowing when to apply the resistance level.

For example should the resistance value be checked before any damage is calculated or should it be checked against the final damage/effect.

If, for example, the resistance is checked before the final damage/effect is calculated then the player has a method of possibly negating all of the incoming effect before any other defence is applied.

Whereas if the resistance level is checked against the calculated incoming damage then the player will perceive this as “just another” defence value.

In the final part of this discussion I’ll summarise my thoughts and share with you my decisions on implementing the design.

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