Psychology of number ranges

Assume you are working on any kind of game that exposes numerical stats to a player, what do you think are the psychological / gamedesign implications of using mechanically identical but numerically different number ranges to express the same thing. Like for example you have 100 hp, your weapon does 25 damage per hit, and your armor absorbs 5 damage of every hit. Instead of that you might have 10000 hp, the weapon does 2500 damage and armor absorbs 500 damage of every hit. Or you might have 20 hp, the weapon does 5 damage, and the armor absorbs 1 damage of every hit. Iâ€™m sure you know what I mean when I say those kind of feel different, even though they are exactly the same mechanically. Iâ€™m not sure though how I could rationalize picking one over the other. I was starting out using predominately the 100â€¦1000 range, then I thought maybe I should just go with 0â€¦1 floating point so that I can easily display percent bars to visually compare stuff, and now Iâ€™m leaning towards all integers, starting with 1 and trying to mostly stay in the below 20 range for everything except the absolute biggest things. It could be though, that I only think thatâ€™s the way to go, because the last stat-based games I played and loved where x-com, x-com 2 and Steamworld Heist, which use these lower integer number ranges. What kind of number ranges would you base your game around and why?

Iâ€™m sure some of you want to talk about how it depends on what dynamic range the overall progression towards endgame content has. For the sake of the argument lets assume nothing in the endgame gets above 10x the stats of early game stats. Iâ€™m not very interested in talking about the gamedesign implications of broadening or narrowing that range (because I already have some opinions about that), I mainly care about the psychology and usabilty aspects of displaying the same data in different ways to the player.

Yeah, Iâ€™ve noticed some games (mostly Japanese) tend to use what seem like highly inflated stats to me â€” hit points in the hundreds or thousands, with everything else scaled accordingly.

It struck me as odd, but on the other hand, maybe itâ€™s just a matter of what youâ€™re used to.

And actually this goes back much further than thatâ€¦ many arcade games back in the day had point values that were all multiples of 10. You could have just as easily left the final digit off in that case, and saved some pixels, but apparently it was felt that a score of 2950 was more fun than a score of 295.

Stats may be different than scores, though. Personally, I prefer to keep such numbers small so I can more easily grasp and manipulate them. But I do think some people will like the feeling of accomplishment they get by taking their favorite stat up to 5000, as compared to taking it to 50 (even if mechanistically, itâ€™s the exact same thing).

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In the millions. And put flames on it.

But seriously, it depends on what youâ€™re trying to communicate, do you want the player to know exactly how good a weapon is? Than make that calculation easy to do(Magic the Gathering is a good example).

Do you just want the player to know that value x is more radical than value y? Use symbols and bars. I remember Sid Mier gave a talk in which he described player psychology and the combat in Civ, players would understand their odds of 2 to 1 in a fight. But when the values were raised to 20 to 10, they would expect to win more often because â€ś20 is bigger than 2.â€ť

Sidâ€™s conclusion was to break logic to favor player expectation.

An alternative conclusion is donâ€™t rely too much on focus testing or use math to communicate vague emotions.

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I generally, from a readability perspective, like to have them average from 0-99 with maybe a toe dipped into the 100+ range to show that thereâ€™s a BIG BONUS NUMBER.

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Being able to read numbers as quickly as possible is the most important thing.

Thatâ€™s why numbers at 10k+ or in the 0-1 range are bad. It takes longer to read.
Also really avoid decimal parts if you can help it. Just donâ€™t show it in the UI. If you have some cooldown thing then maybe let it say â€ś~2secâ€ť instead of â€ś1.93secâ€ť.

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Itâ€™s 100% rule of cool. Statistically the only digit thatâ€™s likely to matter is the first one, and the second one a much lesser degree.

Otherwise itâ€™s just about how those numbers are used, like say how single digit stats are a good sign that the math is linear (ergo horrible).

Ah, numbers. Who needs them.

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Good question.

I rather like 0-100, probably because of percentages.

I played a clicker game twiceâ€¦

I think clicker heroes - maybe.
Anyway - the game separated up earnings kind of like old school D&D which I thought was kinda cool.
1000copper=1silver
1000 silver=1gold
1000gold=1electrum
10000electrum=1platnum
was there one beyond platnum?
After you gained 1000 gold it would convert to 1electrum and xxgold.

So the earnings looked like a D7D treasure area on a character sheet 12p, 58e, 10013g, 15897s, 198234c.

When I am reading this thread I find some similarity between this blog.
That blog is basically about how people think when they see price of product and explain, psychology behind it.

Here is my thought on this topic. I am not an expert in psychology. This is just my view.

So lets consider each and every case.

1. Fill Bar Without any number in it:-
Use As: Health bar in fighting games, Energy meter, etc.
Why :- Easy to interpret & less accurate. and brain calculated approximate value fast because brain calculate it every day situations.(see reference image where person walking from one house to other.)
So we can use it to display information which is vital but accuracy not needed.

2. Now 0 - 10:-
Use as: Ammo, skill points, etc.
Why:- This is shows countable. ex when you read 5 bullets. Mind calculate number and store it in head
temporally. so when you fire 1 bullets mind also calculates and say now you have 5 - 1 = 4 bullets. We learn this is school and use daily life so it is fast interpret(not fast as fill bar), Accurate, and Countable.

6 Apples,
2 Oranges,
And
8 Person.

If I am not wrong your mind already calculates all the things and give result like every person either get Apple or Orange. So mind automatically counted it and keep track of it. Useful at place where countable/
comparison is needed.

1. 0-100 & 100s:-
Use as: Coins, collect 43 diamond and unlock new skill, etc.
Why:- It shows less countable but big. Our mind can calculate it but it is less frequent in daily life so takes some more time.
Ex:-
In strategy game,
You have 73 soldiers
mission A:- needs 23 soldiers to win & Reward:- 84 golds
mission B:- needs 72 soldiers to win & Reward:- 245 golds

What option you select?
It takes more time to calculate right option. So we can use it when player need to take decision. where fast response is not needed.

1. 1000s and more:-
Use in:- clicker games, etc.(I donâ€™t have any other examples)
Why:- Not countable but satisfying. usually mind canâ€™t keep track of big numbers. because you never seen anything that big numbers in real life.
Imaging 1891243 damage done to enemy when you hit enemy with Ultra punch. mind canâ€™t visualize it(except you bank balance of : 1891243 ) so it thinks it is very big number.
Ex:-
a)You win 1000 ---------------------------------------------cent.
or
b)You win 10 ---------------------------------------------dollar.

Mind gives preference to big numbers. It is more chance to select option (a). and it is more satisfying.

1. floats 0 - 1:-
use in:- ?(I donâ€™t know)
Why :- it looks complicated and small. I think floats only use for precision. (only scientist and game developer use it ). We rarely encounter any incidence where We use float value in real life. like Please give me 0.563212 part of your burger. so use it to display complicated things.

This is just my viewpoint, & I donâ€™t have any proof to back it up.

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Thanks everyone! I feel my hunch to go with lower numbers has been sufficiently confirmed. Whether I display them as bars or numbers I havenâ€™t decided yet.

Wanna elaborate what you mean with that?

I originally wanted to even go without any HUD at all, but in a combat focused game it is hard to give clear and direct feedback without any numbers, and nuance easily gets lost. Thereâ€™s probably a good reason why such games usually expose some kind of number visualization.

Like the formula for damage is just attack - defense. No one who actually wants a game to be balanced and scale would ever want to use that equation, and yet itâ€™s not that uncommon. Single digit stats just have a bad relation with this kind of math, never mind how even good equations can get wonky with small numbers.

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I didnâ€™t mind it in x-com 2. It leads to very clear decision-making regarding order of attacks and what skills to use, since you can lower the armor value itself with some abilities. And itâ€™s clear and simple enough that most players will be able to understand it.

For my own damage math I havenâ€™t fully committed to a system yet. I want to have some differences between weapon types and havenâ€™t decided yet how those should work.

You can go with huge numbers without having to list 1,832,347,354. In Diablo III, seeing a 1832 M hit above a monster is deeply satisfying, but you donâ€™t need every digit on the screen.

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I think the most important thing isnâ€™t the size of the number but that you create peeks and valleys with noticeable differences.

E.g. if a monster has 100 health and you have a weapon that does 51 damage it takes two hits to kill the monster. If you upgrade to do 99 damage it still takes two hits to kill the monster. No real change in terms of game feel.

I think to get the emotion you want you want to let the players power sip slowly into a valley. E.g. there 51 damage weapon eventually takes 4 hits to kill the monsters who have now scaled up to 300 hp. Then bang upgrade they are doing 151 damage! Now the monster dies in two hits and the player feels powerful!

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Thatâ€™s exactly how Bioware screwed up Oblivion. There was no point to leveling up, literally everything else leveled up in lockstep with you. It was a perfect study in tedious mediocrity.

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What is the best way to make improvements then?

If you have a game where all monsters have the same hp and do the same damage, and you keep leveling up, then after only a few levels you will soon kill everything with one hit.

Now if you want the game to get harder the longer you play, you have to make weapon upgrades irrelevant, right?
It should take longer to kill something, so its harder.

How can you feel more powerful later in the game, while also feeling that the game is harder?

Maybe harder could mean that you just get killed faster? But that only goes so far as well.

Soâ€¦ what to do?
You could make monsters harder from area to area, but that would essentially be the same exact problem, just time-delayed.

Personally I think the difficulty of a game should come from being able to execute actions fast enough / reliably enough / â€¦ so people actually have to train themselves to learn to control their character better, instead of making their own skill irrelevant by getting upgrades of any kind.

Take for example super mario 64. There are no permanent weapon or armor upgrades whatsoever. All the difficulty comes exclusively from being able to do better inputs.

But is that the right thing to do? I donâ€™t knowâ€¦

In most RPGs progression is artificial. It doesnâ€™t actually happen. They are designed to make you â€śFeelâ€ť powerful. So it depends on your goal. In an RPG the peeks and valleyâ€™s matter alot. You can then add difficulty by creating interesting play between yourself and monsters, e.g. i need to counterspell the monsters op heal, by forcing the player to be better/smarter with the math, or by adding a input/skill mechanic.

Lots of ways to solve the issue it really depends on the physiology your trying to create.

Very generically speaking, that actually is the solution. Yes, if my character has leveled up into a Super Advanced Death Machine, then one-shotting the riff raff does make sense. Take Skyrim, for example. When youâ€™re a level one n00b, running around half-naked with a pointed stick, you donâ€™t immediately start climbing mountains trying to pick fights with dragons. Unless, of course, getting eaten is your goal for some reason. But in Oblivion there were people who finished the game at level one. You could play 30 hours and get to level 10 and, literally, woodland wildlife was still a threat. And the (im)balance issue had other well-known problems, too, like random encounters with roadside bandits decked out in some of the best gear available, because the engine blindly matched the playerâ€™s gear. I vaguely recall they tried to fix it by capping how much NPCs could level up, but I think it was still a pretty big range (9 levels or something like that). I had given up on the game long before that.

In a bizarre coincidence that reminded me of this thread, yesterday I tried my fancy new electronic pool salt tester and that exact number popped up on the screenâ€¦ 295. I was annoyed that I was expected to mentally add the zero to get 2950 ppm. (They even went to the trouble of adding a tiny x10 to the screenâ€¦ why not just put a 0 there?) Admittedly, not actually relevant, but the coincidence amused me.

I like this thread, though. People definitely have a reaction to different kinds of numbers and different presentation of numbers. This is also a big deal in marketing circles where it is well known that \$9.95 or even \$9.99 is perceived as a better deal than \$10.00. Realtors will often price a house higher than the owner planned to, because the price creates certain preconceptions in potential buyers. I imagine thatâ€™s another aspect of the XCOM / Civ point that people are just naturally bad with numbers.

Another factor is the playerâ€™s learned expectations about whatever the number represents. For example, in the new Torment, I keep finding it strange and sort of distracting that XP is dished out in very small amounts. It isnâ€™t uncommon to get just 3 XP or 4 XP for doing something important. Completing a major quest often gets you maybe 25 XP. Most RPGs dole out XP in the hundreds or thousands of points at a time, even though itâ€™s a completely abstract concept. I realized the other day it definitely feels weird to change that commonplace mechanic.

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I totally agree, it would bother me to get <100 XP for anything.
No idea why though. Maybe some games just trained me to expect that as the â€ścorrectâ€ť range for experienceâ€¦