Friday, March 20, 2015

Stores and currency in games. Gating, content-Timers.

Seems like whenever I'm making a game where items can be acquired, the same dilemma always comes up. "Should there be a shop in this game?".

One of the reasons for this is that it's almost always beneficial to give the player something to find. Major powerups and weapons are great, but in many cases there aren't enough for them to be an "active" element, from moment to moment. Instead, they act more as goals, and the result of overcoming a challenge. On the other hand, with currency you can..

-Put small amounts of money in common containers.
-Put large amounts in chests,
-Have enemies drop it, making it worthwhile to kill enemies in a game where there is no experience-based system.

What's more, if you place coins around the world the way you would in a Mario game, you can use it to direct the player's attention and further fill space. (Though, this would look cheesy in some games)

Overall, it seems like including a currency is a good thing. But then, what do you include in shops, and what purpose does the currency actually serve long term?


One use of currency is the act of gating content.

 For example, if the player can't buy consumables, and there's a finite amount of currency in the world (chests, rewards for quests), then the player needs to accomplish a certain number of tasks before they could buy an item or skill that allows them to get to the next area of the game, or use the currency itself to do so. (such as stars in Mario 64)

By doing this, you can make sure that the player has enough gameplay experience before moving on to the next part of the game, or you could make sure that they've learned certain skills in a safe environment, before moving on to something harder, Personally, I'm not a fan of this kind of thing.


Another use of currency is what is essentially a timer that counts down to acquiring non-essential content. That is, if you ensure that the player will always acquire currency through basic actions , such as defeating enemies, or destroying containers, then it's basically a timer, and once it runs out then the player can buy something new.

That way even if the player can't figure out where to go, or can't beat a certain section, eventually, the timer will allow the player to buy an item that could help them out. Or, if the player hasn't made progress towards getting a new weapon or item that's supposed to spice up the gameplay, then the item from the "timer" might be enough to change how the game plays a bit until they do. Essentially,  it keeps the progression moving, and prevents less-skilled players from reaching a stalemate.

World appropriate behavior

Aside from meta-game stuff, currency in games can also be symbolic. The inclusion of currency can help shape a game's theme if it has both gameplay and in-universe implications. For example, consider the following scenario. You encounter two NPCs, and both of them offer you a reward to kill the other.

One offers you 1000 G
The other offers you 10 G

One is clearly the better option, but why is one guy offering so much more gold than the other? I'm sure you can take a guess at why, and how the fact that it's "gold" makes the situation more likely at a glance. If the rewards were 1000 "Light" points and 10 "Pervert" points, then obviously the implications would be different.

That said, the currency should fit the game's theme, and sometimes it's beneficial to have more than one type. You might use "reputation" for one thing, and "energy" for another. For example, "XP" and "gold" are both essentially currencies, but are used to buy different things, and are acquired differently. (Unless you're Dark Souls)

Establishing a currency as that world's "money", specifically, will generally make players perceive it differently. We don't learn how to shoot fireballs or double-jump in real life, but we all understand the concept of "money". It feels natural to try and acquire money in a game, whereas herbs, ore, or other singular resources used for things like crafting might be initially ignored by some players.

What's my point here? Being a thief and stealing "gold", or slaying a dragon and obtaining "renown" are both acquisition of currency, but because both currencies are relevant to the in-game world in different ways, it changes how the player perceives their actions, or character, even though at the end of the day the currency is nothing more than a variable equal to a number.

Or something. If all else fails, use Zenny.

What to buy...

Now, the question is, what should you actually be able to buy with currency?

At least for me, there's a big difference between traversing a difficult area and getting a cool set of armor at the end, as opposed to walking into a store and seeing a list of stuff that you can buy "at some point". Some might say that seeing it in a store makes you look forward to it, and work towards it, but for me, I much prefer the mystery and satisfaction of finding stuff through gameplay and exploration. (Though I will say, there is a certain satisfaction to returning to a store, and finding new stuff they didn't have before)

But again, what to buy? When it comes to consumables or resources (lamp oil, arrows, bullets, one-time use spells), I'm not a fan. However, I'm the type of player who prefers to use attacks that are either free to use, or if they require energy, are easily refilled from moment to moment through combat. Even then, in games like megaman, I'm the type of player that rarely uses the guns you acquire from bosses during normal gameplay. Consumables may work for things like say, Harvest Moon, where it's completely in line with the theme, but for action games, I personally don't like it.

For me, since I prefer the idea of the "timer" method I mentioned earlier, I think the easiest solution is to make shops sell very few "new" things, such as weapons or skills with new animations, but rather things that effect what you already have passively, in a way that can be "felt" or "seen" during gameplay. For example, if you can punch, then there could be an item that makes you punch slower, but harder. Or, an item that makes you gain 3x health when you defeat enemies, but take 2x damage. These items can help to change the way the game is played from moment to moment without adding too much dev time doing new animations or graphics.

Also, while putting items in shops takes them out of the world, no longer able to be found through exploration or overcoming challenges, it does ensure that any player will get those items regardless of skill level. Especially in a game like Noaika, where you retain items when you are defeated,

Of course there are item drops from enemies to consider too, and in general I think that when it comes to item acquisition, correct answer is a combination of every method, with the right balance. It's just that fulfilling each of those roles requires designing a game that can accommodate many different kinds of items, to be acquired through many different means.


  1. I love the idea of shops in games. What always made me upset was buying something I thought was awesome that took all of my currency... then I find a random drop 2 minutes later that completely invalidates it. If I am going to spend a lot of currency, I want to be assured that it will actually be useful for a period of time (that's longer than 2 minutes).

    1. Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Randomized drops can be troublesome, for that reason. I prefer games were weapons aren't better or worse, but just different. For example you may have a long-sword that does more damage than another, yet lacks a move the other one has, that's good at taking down enemies that behave a certain way.

  2. you forgot to mention the bad side of adding currency... Walls. adding currency while adding the ability to buy needed items from stores might also accidentally create a wall in the game play that needs to be traversed the long, hard, and grindy way(no pun intended). a wall where you spend a lot of time grinding for "coins" to buy an item you need to get to the next area or to defeat an enemy and this lead to the addition of one thing that i hate about much modern gaming ...micro-transactions... this bad boy has made its appearance in to many games to count nowadays and the main use is speeding up game play caused by walls created by the currency.

    1. I didn't mention that, because of course it's bad practice -___-

      The difference between what you said and the "gating" method I mentioned is that in your example there is an infinite amount of money. In other words, the player can, or must grind for money to move on. In the gating method, there would in a finite (pre-determined) amount of money.

      For example, there could might be a total of 1000z in an area, and a number of quests/ways to get money.
      - Defeat boss: 200z
      - Chest:200z
      - Put out fire:200z
      - Deliver item: 200z
      - Save guy from bandits:200z

      Then, there might be 2 weapons for sale in different places, both of which cost 500z. If these weapons allow you to get to different areas, then that means you have to do 3 of the above quests in order to progress, and you would have a choice of which weapon to get. It would basically be the same as getting the weapon as a reward for a quest, except you get it as a reward for 3 quests of your choice + whatever other rewards the quests gave you.

      that you can obtain by defeating a boss, and it costs 500z to buy a double-jump ability.

  3. I like your idea of items that change the gameplay itself like the "slower attacks, more damage" thing. Some people might like playing with more challenge and can buy stuff that hinders them or people might prefer playing in a certain way to fit their style. Of course basing a shop off of various random opinions and play-styles is pretty much impossible since the sheer amount of different things that would require might be a bit much. Either way though, if you implement a shop, I definitely think you should avoid putting "important" things in it. Stuff that you're required to have to progress should never be sold in shops unless it's part of the game's theme or makes sense that it should be there. Shops aren't supposed to be there to overcome an obstacle but to make it easier for the player to do it themselves. Thus your example in the "timer" method is probably the best choice.

    1. Well, when I say balance, I mean between all kinds of currency, and a mix of the two styles mentioned above.

      So for example, you might have non-finite currency, for buying non-essential items and consumables (Timer), as well as for completing non-essential thematic quests such as buying a slave's freedom, or paying off an NPCs debt).

      Then, at the same time you can have a finite, secondary currency, such as "renown", that you use in order to gate certain parts of the game. So for example, there might be 5 quests available, and if you complete 3 of them then you have enough renown to "buy" something that let's you go somewhere else, or cause something to happen. By doing this, you can make it so that the game moves forward based on the player's actions, and quests they stumble upon, as opposed to telling them to go to a specific place, and making everything else secondary.

  4. I'm guessing this general system you're looking towards wont be in Noaika, it seems like it would be a bit of a chore to add in this system this late in development, still a cool idea for later titles.

    1. Noaika already has some elements of what I've mentioned, but it doesn't have a "store", per se. It's more like leveling up, but instead of raising stats, you get stat "states" which also change your colors, and there are also some passive items. There are also two types of currency related to H-ing/wiping out certain kinds of enemies, which each have a small pool of abilities related to them.

      Some of that may change, though, because it's simple enough to change what gives you what kinds of items.

  5. I really enjoy hearing your thoughts on elements of game design like this.

    A while ago, I worked on a little game where you were basically the head of a small mercenary ghostbusting company (not intended to take place in the same universe, I called it ghostrustlers). Because it focused on running this company, aswell as hunting and trapping (or selling or killing or exploiting) ghosts, it was a money focused game.

    I made an ingame market (the ectonet) that was meant to look like a ghostrustling supplier store that would sell players pretty much everything in the game. Making ALL items consumable seems to have, at least to a reasonable extent, alleviated the issue you (and lots of other people) have with megaman where you don't want to waste your powers/items/weapons on something. When every item has a price attached to it, it tells the player exactly how cautious they should be with that item. When they've got 4 guns that each only cost 5$ to fill their ammo, and one gun that costs $500 to fill it's ammo, it's easy to see how much something should be preserved.

    I think in that same line of thinking, having multiple different guns that are cheap to use is pretty useful. Sort of like having price tiers, so someone may well refrain from using their big strong gun for certain spots, but they still have 4 equally viable and economically-friendly guns to use, it doesn't limit them to just one weapon that sucks balls but they use because its cheap.

    I think everything had a variety of upgrades, but currency was the main focus of everything you did in the game. You took contracts that you thought you could make more money from, not just based on the reward but how much damages you would have to pay afterwards, you bought things based not just on price, but upkeep too.

    On top of all this, I had things that you could find hidden in missions that you could trade as a different kind of currency. I didn't get this part done before I started working on some other projects, but essentially there was going to be a black market network you could also use, where the things people would sell you didn't require money, but required other things. Like an item in a persons home that you could steal, or the seller might want a certain kind of ghost for uh...immoral reasons. One ghost would drop strange goop when it attacked that you could scoop up after you cleared the rest of the mission and made your way back to your van or whatever car you had.

    The further into the game you got, the more things you'd start to see popping up on the market. Not a huge amount of new stuff, but so it felt like the market was a little more real, it changed with the times. I also had item stock so people couldn't just get 1000 super rockets if they had the money, there might only be 5 of them in stock. Some black market items would have limited duration offers (each contract/mission you took would cause 1 day to pass) so it would only be there a couple days before it seemed like someone else bought it, or nobody bought it so the guy left, there was flavour text that would make clear the situation of the seller.

    4000 char limit, tbs...

    1. I dunno, I liked the idea of being running this like a business, so you could end up being ruthlessly immoral but rich a all heck, or a nice guy being all humane but struggling to make ends meet. It was difficult making it so you couldn't flat-out run out of money without making the player have an abundance of it, I think I was toying with the idea of a loanshark you could use, and a lives system that was actually government grants, so you could get 2 grants and after that your company was finished. This is really making want to start working on it again XD

      The shop is very dependent on the overall gameplay idea, as my game was a mix of management and top-down shooter. It was designed with money and buying things as a core theme. I don't think it's a good move to take something that previously had no shop, and put one in part way through the design. It really has to be planned out so far ahead, and not just from a gameplay point of view, but from how it actually makes sense in the game it is showing up in. It's something that bothered me about the Dead Space games, the store did not make any sense for me. Who was operating this shop? Why, in the event of such a catastophe, are they making the only guy who can fix it have to buy stuff? Why was there so many machines that sells guns and ammo on this mining ship anyway? I feel like there was a better way they could have done their store, it's not so unreasonable that Isaac would have just found a better suit eventually, getting further along the ship. It is just a timer in that situation, the currency wasn't necessary. You find plenty of ammo lying around as it is, they could have made interesting ways for you to find your weapons aswell instead of using a shop. I think in that instance, the shop was time-saving, it was a bit lazy but I am sure it saved a lot of money and effort on having to do it another way.

    2. Thanks for sharing your experience on your project. For me personally, though, I still don't really like weapons that require any kind of ammo that you have to buy like a resource. Though I was fine with say, Armored Core, which basically charged you for all the ammo you used at the end of the mission.

  6. Souls Mr.Kyrieru souls is always the answers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! let me explain have you ever played the Dark Soul series?
    In dark souls every time you break something, or kill something, and possibly finding them on bodies you get souls. the thing about souls are there multi purpose currency. for example let's just say I've collected 300 souls; now I have 3 options, my first action is I could use the souls to level up my character,or I could use it to buy new equipment or items, if not an option 1 or 2 option 3 I could use souls to repair my equipment. I don't know how to explain this well to you sir. what I'm suggesting is maybe you could use currency more than just money to buy stuff. Dark soul is a perfect example of this.

    1. I mentioned Dark souls in the post - . -

    2. I like the Dark Souls/DMC approach because it adds another layer of depth to spending your currency. You have to choose between leveling up your character to improve their stats, buy new weapons to change their combat style or unlocking new skills. It allows people total freedom on how to play and "build" their character throughout the game.

    3. Yeah. Although it can backfire sometimes, because you generally have one set of upgraded equipment, and if you want to legitimately use other sets as effectively, you would have to grind a bit in order to upgrade them to the same level.

      That said, I still preferred the emphasis on equipment over other RPGs that focus more on your level. In Dark Souls, your level contributes to your overall power a lot less than the equipment you have, and I like that most weapons are equally viable, when upgraded.

    4. I'm not so sure about DS1, but I've seen so many and varied builds in DS2 (giantdad anyone) that it really proves that it isn't the weapon what matters, but rather how you use it. It's a shame most RPGs follow the Castlevania system where each weapon is a direct upgrade from the last one.

    5. You did. Oh shit I can't read😐 Any way what do you think of this game?

    6. The gameplay is horrible, and none of the H-animations are properly in-game. It's the perfect example of a dev that seemed like they knew how to make a 3d game, but not how to make a good one. Either that, or they were just getting by with what little they knew how to do. Prime example, you can literally run past almost everything, and there's no real reason to fight anything most of the time.

    7. Most likely the game was rushed. Now that I thing about ain't all 3d hentai that came out so far was rush?

    8. I dunno, I'm not the dev, so I couldn't say.

      However I will say that even if I rushed a 2d game, the result would still be better than most of the 2d games on DLsite. In many cases it seems like what holds them back isn't technical know-how, but design/control know how.

      A lot of the things that make great games great are actually pretty simple, and easy to do. Rushing through it wouldn't bring about the same result as testing a lot and perfecting it, sure, but it would still be better than a game that didn't do those things at all.

    9. In other words the devs got lazy😑 That explain things. But then again there some devs,have no ideal what the hell doing.

    10. Well, no lol. My point is that they probably tried, and did what they could. It's just that what they "could" do lacked know-how.

  7. On the topic of in-game shops and purchasable power-ups, a recent example that did something I really liked was Shovel Knight. I'm sure you've played it or at least heard of it, but Shovel Knight did a few things with their shop and currency system that really stood out to me.

    For one, they (thankfully!) discarded the archaic lives system from the arcade days and punished death by losing gold. You gained gold from moving through the levels and defeating enemies, and when you died, a percentage of you total gold was lost. You could go an retrieve that gold by returning to the place where you last died and collecting the moneybags left there, but if you died before then, that gold disappears permanently and new moneybags appear with you newest set of lost gold. It gave death a penalty that wasn't too harsh and even added a risk.reward system into the game.

    What's more interesting and applicable, however, is the system of shops and relics they used. Relics were items that you could find in separate levels - but unlike in Megaman, they weren't awarded by beating the boss (you had to explore and purchase them.) Early on you had access to additional health and magic that scaled according to the timer notion you mentioned, but you could also buy relics that you missed from cleared levels.

    The best part was the armory shop, available about a third of the way through the game. In it your shovel blade could be given helpful but not game-changing upgrades, which acted as enablers, helping you accomplish certain things easier. Even better was the armor upgrades: in this case, the armor didn't shield you and reduce damage, but rather changed the way you played. For instance, one type of suit gives you more magic at the cost of taking more damage, and another grants you a powered attack after shovel dropping twice in a row. They didn't make things easier, but rather opened up new play styles.

    With your type of games (2D, "Metroidvania," exploration-based), the relic and armor ideas are probably the most compatible. Currency that you gradually collect could be used to (a) buy gear or weapons that you missed in a certain area, or (b) purchase optional upgrades that change play styles. Heck, even a shop that allowed you to purchase purely decorative items (like alternate skins or such) would add depth without breaking sequence or adding gates.

    Anyways, those are just my thoughts. Shovel Knight is a really good game for ideas, since they take elements from a lot of classic games (like Megaman, Castlevania, and Duck Tales) and bring them together under a polished shine. I don't know if any of these ideas would appeal to you, but hey, it's worth a shot.

    1. The option of losing a currency when you die, and needing to retrieve it (Same thing in dark souls, too), is a very good option. However, in the context of an H-game, I want to allow the player to mess around and be defeated without being concerned about the consequences. Although, with this game I was actually thinking of doing two sets of easy-normal-hard difficulties, one based around H-content, and the other based around normal gameplay (that one would still have the H, but in terms of design it wouldn't be a priority). Of course, there would be the typical on-off button as well.

      I don't really like the idea of buying items you missed, honestly. In some cases it might work really well, but I don't think it's needed in a game like Noaika.

      As for suits, I have a similar system, essentially, except it's just a palette swap.

    2. Well sure, for a game like Noiaka I'm not sure much of what I mentioned fits - I meant more for ideas with future projects. I think a game like Noaika would lose a sort of simplicity to it if players had to all of the sudden start worry about another form of currency and unlockables.

      I think that's a problem I see in a lot of games nowadays, especially ones that borrow heavily from JRPGs; that is, the inability to keep things simple. One of the reasons I love Kurovadis was the sheer simplicity of everything; instead of having to keep track of different levels, classes, weaknesses, finishers and combos... it was just stats, levels, and weapons, and that was it. The dropped powerups were auxiliary and required no input from the player.

      I'm looking forward to seeing the palette swaps for the suits.

  8. Man, what I love about games is that what you make could have such a different theme just based on your limits programming-wise. If you don't know make a save system, then your game is an old-school life-based one-shot arcade game, or something like Sonic the Hedgehog 1. If you don't know how to make a shop, currency or exp, the whole game revolves around in-level pickups and upgrades that could be temporary, like side-scrolling shooters or action platformers. Hell if you can't even program character movement it can be a constant-moving "defend the train" shooter game. Limitations can be inspiring, empowering, and genre-defining. Metal Gear was a stealth game because it was programmed for a computer that couldn't handle too many characters on the screen, therefore it went from a typical multi-enemy shoot-em-up game to a stealth-based tactical game. And the more you know how to do, the harder it is to decide what type of theme you want to go for. Programming experience really is a double-edged sword; it's sometimes easier to use your limitations to create a unique presentation than to decide on a presentation with no limitations to work around.

  9. Planning, design and more planning. Thats what "currency" in games is really all about. If the developer plans and designs their game well enough, the player will naturally accumulate enough experience/currency simply getting to the boss fight/next powerup/"store" without having to grind. Mind you, this also means that the game has to be designed with that in mind (level design) which in turn comes back to planning (planning later levels with the assumption that the player has "learned" the previous levels)

    That said, I only tried the demo for a few minutes (I unplugged my 360 controller because the rumbling when I got hit was annoying and the game crashed), so I don't quite know what kind of game Noaika is supposed to be.

  10. What program do you use to make the music for your games? I'm very interested in making game style music.

    1. I use FL Studio. Nearly any DAW will work, though. It's more about the VSTs/soundfonts you use. Just type in "download soundfonts", and you'll basically find places where you can get them for free.

    2. what soundfonts do you use the most?

    3. I use whatever works. You generally aren't going to find the perfect sound for everything with one soundfont.

  11. I think a VERY unuses system I like was how it was in Guardian Legend on the'd find shops that sell with 1 thing, or 3 things. And when it sold 3 things, you could only by 1. So you had to pick what played to your style. I kind of liked that. It was still possible to max eveything by end of game, but going out and farming money jsut to buy out a shop wasn't possible.