I mentioned in a previous post that I was trying two similar incremental games, Tap Titans and Tap Tap Infinity. The former was more active, in that you needed to be playing the game to make progress, while the latter had off-line progress. This situation actually brings to the front a few particularities I hadn’t noticed at first glance.
Both game’s progress is gated on acquiring heroes. TTI has 21 of them, each 5 levels apart, combat wise. From the start until you get the last one is maybe 4-5 runs. From that point, completely linear progress.
TT has 42 heroes and they are not level based, instead you need the gold to buy them. The last one, the Dark Lord, comes in around level 1800. Along the way there are multiple “walls”, where progress just halts completely and you need to restart, once or twice to get by it. When a wall is 2 hours in of furious tapping, it gets draining. Especially without any off-line progress.
Both games have hero buffs at specific levels. TTI is levels 10, 25, 50, 75 and maybe 100 (some only have 3, others 5). TT has them at 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 400 and 800. These buffs may only buff the actual hero or they may buff the team or the tapper (you). Hitting one of these hero milestones has a pretty big effect on the game. 30% more damage is noticeable. Where TT differs again, is that you can reset (“evolve”) your hero at level 1000, which resets all the milestones but gives a boost to hero DPS. Knowing when this is the right thing to do in order to get over a wall, and when a reset actually sets you back is pretty important. I messed up a couple times and it messed up entire runs.
So looking at this, both games have very similar models it’s just that TT’s is stretched over a longer play time (days vs hours), which allows for some more variance in the small details. When a wall in TTI is only a few minutes versus 4-5 runs in TT, you really don’t have time to think about strategy.
Game Altering Milestones
TTI has 2 particular notable altering events. First is a spell called Wormhole, which allows you to start at a later level once you restart. This is useful since the lower levels really don’t offer anything close to the rewards of the later ones, so skipping the boring parts = good. Second is a spell called Boss Rush, where you only fight bosses for a period of time. This flies you through the content, if you can keep up with the difficulty, saving you an hour or more at the later point of the game. Given that the starter portion of the game has a lower reward structure, you certainly want to get through it as quick as possible.
TT has similar items but more around the point of time and walls. There’s an auto-tapping skill in the game that will get you through 95% of the content at later levels but you need to upgrade some items to get that skill. It takes about 15 seconds per 10 levels and I can zoom through to level 2000 right now. It physically saves me an hour+ of tapping. MASSIVE quality of life boon. Then there’s an item that more or less makes it rain money all the time (well, a combination of 2) and money is used to get through walls. Finally, another skill allows you to dramatically increase your tapping damage (2000% or more) for an extended period of time, again used to get through walls. Now if the game can implement some sort of boss rush mode…
Taking the time to move away from simple DPS increases and focus on game altering abilities is a nice twist to keep things interesting. Again though the difference is in when you get these abilities and TT is still at the days mark while TTI is in the hours region.
I think the best games have these types of milestones available as goals. I rather dislike the achievement hunter mentality that seems to be everywhere now. While it certainly triggers the OCD in every gamer, it becomes a game in itself and detracts from the game. What’s the point of hunting the 1000th bear other than some imaginary point with no in-game bearing?
But a solid milestone, like completing an obstacle course and unlocking a new fast travel method, is a very neat incentive. One the one hand it asks you to practically master one method in order to gain another, but in most cases it deprecates the portion of the game that is meant as a barrier for play. And amazing design will take into account these milestones for even more challenges.
Black Flag had this and was oddly enough the best part of the game. That pirate ship was chocked full of its own mini progress and ever increasing challenges. Once you were able to start capturing some ports and getting the next tier of upgrade, the game just started opening up. Then the game sent out pirate hunters and multi-ship fleets after you. The game got progressively more and more complex, based on each milestone. And it was mostly optional when you looked at the core game. Ironically, Ubisoft didn’t seem to grasp this concept as AC5 was a rather large step backwards.
Moving away from the linear path of recent years and giving some enticement to get off the beaten path is a good thing. Making sure that those side-roads have quality is just as important. It really makes you appreciate the good games even more.