Introduce fame as a second currency. Get fame by beating difficult dungeons with different classes or by getting lots of badges. Spend it to make preparations free. If you want to comment please read the actual post, or at least the summary at the bottom. Sorry for the wall of text.
I have mentioned a few times that in many ways I prefer the progression mechanic of the freeware. Rewarding the player for beating the game and the challenge dungeons with many different classes has a few advantages over the new dungeon-centric model. The most obvious one is that it makes class balance less important. Gnome Warlord of MA is overpowered? So what. Monk of GG with Trisword is overpowered? Big deal. You still have to beat that dungeon with everyone else to get the most out of it. It is impossible (and IMO undesirable) to balance every class/race/god/preparation/dungeon combination, so this is a huge advantage. Also encouraging players to use many different classes is a good thing. If you only use a few classes you only see a tiny part of what the game has to offer. I think I have finally come up with a good way to reintroduce a bonus for using lots of classes into DD:
Gold rewards become pretty hollow once you have upgraded everything. The 350 from the taxidermist are usually enough to recoup your expenses and then some. So lets introduce another kind of currency: Fame. Beating a normal dungeon with a class for the first time gets you 2 fame, hard ones get you 5, vicious gives you 10 (beat Creeplight Ruins with a Priest ==> +5 fame. Then beat Ick Swamp with a priest ==> another 5 fame. Then beat Creeplight Ruins with a priest again ==> +0 fame. Then beat it with a Paladin ==> +5 fame.). Also you get two fame for every badge you got (maximum number of badges counts, not badge type, beating the dungeon with 3 badges as a monk ==> 6 extra fame, then beating it with 3 different badges as a monk ==> 0 extra fame, then beating it with any 4 badges as a monk ==> 2 extra fame, then beating it with 2 badges as a paladin ==> 4 extra fame).
So now we are famous. What can we do with that? For 100 fame (and no gold cost) you can upgrade any building to its ultimate level. This makes all preparations from this building free (for most buildings). At the point where you can get significant amounts of fame this wont actually matter. It is just another meaningless gold reward, deceptively hidden. But unlike a regular gold reward this actually removes the mental barrier that prevents you from simply using a preparation from that building for every single run, no matter how insignificant. This is actually nice to have, even if you really have more than enough gold to just buy the the prep every single time anyway. Note that preps being free instead of just cheaper is extremely important. A free bonus is psychologically vastly different from one that costs 5 gold. Just offering a discount would remove the main advantage without anything to show for it.
For certain buildings (guild, bank) some other bonus would have to be used. I'm thinking taking more gold with you for the bank, and 3 or 6 extra locker slots for the guild (and maybe a flat cost reduction that makes cheap items free, also items could magically reappear at the guild if you convert them instead of vanishing).
Also, if the silly building slot restriction is not removed from the game altogether, the ultimate upgrade could offer enough slots to fit all the preparations, in addition to the other effects.
Of course entirely different effects could work just as well. Additional preparations, things that affect dungeons in some other way, etc. But I think being able to earn something other than gold would be nice. And I think that experiencing the game fully should be possible without grinding for fame. So getting extra classes or other major gameplay features for fame would actually be bad IMO.
Advantages of this proposal:
First off, there's another upgrade for every building, so you aren't "done" until you got that. This vastly increased perceived game length. Instead of being "done" when you upgraded everything that can be upgraded with gold and have beaten each dungeon with any class now you would have to earn fame. This means you actually have to use many different classes, and figure out how to beat challenges with the different class abilities, like in the freeware.
Also the suggested bonus is not overpowered, it is in fact mostly psychological instead of actually affecting gameplay. When you get 100 fame, or even 50 fame, then you probably have enough gold to just buy all non-locker preps you want on every dungeon run you actually plan to win. But it is still meaningful. I often do trial runs with no preparations, to check out the map, and to figure out how to deal with certain challenges depending on class features. Sometimes I end up winning, sometimes I end up angry that I didn't take any preps, because that would have allowed me to win. And often I just don't take preps because I don't feel like spending gold on something I don't actually need to win. And often I end up thinking about the gold cost like it matters, even though it really doesn't at this point. This would save me the annoyance of having to actually think about whether a prep is worth it instead of simply taking the one that will allow me to win the easiest. Plus it's satisfying to fully upgrade stuff.
Finally, having a second harder to get currency is generally desirable IMO, because gold loses its meaning late game. I think something should be awarded for beating dungeons with different classes because of the advantages I initially mentioned (class balance matters less, players are encouraged to explore more of the game instead of sticking with the top 3 classes). What this currency can be spent on is pretty secondary, as long as it's meaningful in some way. Also it should not be necessary to beat all dungeons with all classes to get all the upgrades. The beta is already a much bigger game than the freeware and will only become bigger in time, so that would just be too much IMO. Having another currency is an easy way to provide a bonus for each challenge completion without "forcing" people to beat every dungeon with every class. Fame could also be used as a quest reward for certain late game challenge quests. But I think those might be better off with a reward that actually affects gameplay in a meaningful way.
Disadvantages, and why they aren't so bad:
One disadvantage that immediately comes to mind is that this would be some work to implement. Programming, flavor texts for the new building levels, thinking up a nice interface, etc. But compared to how much something like this would actually extend and improve the game I think this would be pretty efficient use of dev time.
A concern voiced by one of the devs regarding freeware-like progression was that it would be too much of a grind. I think this is simply not true. Sure, this would make you beat the same dungeon over and over, with different classes. The classes play different enough for this to be interesting however. I beat all challenge dungeons (except the boss hive, i was too lazy to make some serious attempts at beating that one and it was introduced after I was "done" with DD) with every single class in the freeware, and I had fun with every single one. It's what made me come back to DD for a few hours every once in a while, for over a year. I didn't grind, I simply played DD. A nice puzzle challenge is what I want from the game, and beating dungeons with different classes gives me that. And as long as this is optional and fame doesn't unlock any major game features people who feel like it is a grind can just skip it. Getting some feeling of progression would increase the fun for the people who actually want to play different classes and encourage them to keep coming back to DD.
By far the biggest problem is a psychological one IMO. If you are playing normal dungeons, earning 2 fame per win, seeing that you need 100 to actually do something with your fame might feel a bit like a slap in the face. To prevent this it should be clearly communicated to the player that fame is just a useless vanity thing, and being famous does not actually help you in a dungeon. The funny style of DD messages is actually pretty well suited for this. Also a quest that gives you an extra 50 fame upon reaching your first 50 could help alleviate this. If fame from normal dungeons feels too grindy it could also simply be removed. I think trying to beat a normal dungeon with as many badges as possible (with different classes) would be a very interesting challenge however, and I would be sad not to see it rewarded.
Players realizing that the bonus for fame is actually pretty useless is less important IMO. It certainly wouldn't bother me. Most of the challenge bonuses in the freeware were not all that meaningful either (taken together they were pretty powerful, but each individual bonus hardly made a difference). The feeling of progression is what it's about. Getting something for that win simply feels better than just having an extra green dot on the class list.
A final problem is that free preparations remove some of the advantages of the prep system. Preparations not being free means you invest something into your run, and want to actually complete it so you don't waste the preparations. Even if you don't get that lucky altar you want. Also the different gold cost is a way to balance preparations. But the gold cost becomes nearly meaningless once all buildings are upgraded. So this problem actually already exists in the current system, it would just be made slightly worse. If someone really wants to complete dungeons with many different classes he will have enough gold to get whatever preps he needs and scum for an altar, at least for the tougher class+challenge combinations.
Gold becomes meaningless late in the game, so I think another currency should be introduced. It should be awarded for completing challenge dungeons with different classes and for earning many badges at once (also per dungeon and class). Possibly also for other general challenges, but probably not for specific challenge quests. Most bonuses available by spending this currency should not affect gameplay much, so not getting fame still allows people to experience every facet of the game. I think one of the best bonuses of this kind are free preparations, enabled via an upgrade for each building. This is mostly psychologically meaningful (more upgrades, less inhibitions about using preparations) while not actually affecting game difficulty much (gold cost becomes meaningless anyway).
+ More game for completionists to complete
+ Class balance matters less
+ Players are encouraged to use different classes
+ Challenges are rewarded
+ Players can freely use preparations without too much thinking about whether it's worth it (it is)
- Takes time and effort to implement (but worth it IMO)
- Some players may be put off by fame being hard to get (but this can be mitigated)
- Price as a balancing factor for preparations removed (but gold becomes meaningless anyway)
I hope the devs like (and actually read
) my suggestion, and maybe this will inspire them to do something even better.