Speaking of dopamine, I was just playing UFO Afterlight and I would like to compare the two games in terms of how the player is rewarded for their actions.
In UFO afterlight:
- Scientists and engineers in your base are always working on something, such as researching new technologies and making new items in a production line
- Not only do they get better as they level up, which they do naturally, you can spend level up points to specialize them further
- Same goes for soldiers on combat missions.
- In the base you can build variety of buildings, each offering a substantial improvement
- You can expand your zone of influence and then build resource mines, which you need in varying amounts for new technologies. Want to expand territory even farther? Better get that research going, because you're going to need new space suits which can handle some of the harsher environments.
- The world is dynamic. Allies are conquering unoccupied territories and enemies are trying to take over yours. Time is a commodity.
- With enough research, manufacturing and scavanging, you can build your own robotic squadmembers to send on combat missions. They level up and learn new skills like humans.
- As you get farther and farther into the game, new and much tougher enemy types appear. You have to keep developing your characters and researching new technology just to keep up.
- Each enemy you kill drops something, even if it's just a corpse to take back to your base to have the scientists dissect it and possibly develop new technologies from it. You can get enemy guns that they drop, but you have no idea how to use them! But you keep them in your base and way later in the game you can research them and have your squad use them after some training.
All of these things are inherently rewarding. There's a sense of progress in multiple areas. Research, manufacturing, leveling up, loot, conquering territory and throughout that all you have storyline events which change your gameplay landscape significantly.
The two games are significantly different: one is a platformer and the other is a strategy game. However, I see enough similarities from which AVWW could benefit.
- NPCs in town could provide some passive benefit in addition to guardian scrolls. Maybe the aquaurgist would give +5% attack strength for every level of his skill. And +5% HP for every level of the apothecary NPC. Others could give a small debuff to monsters on the continent, or let you use enchant containers more efficiently (bigger % gets filled with each). I'm sure something could be thought up.
- I think the game would benefit from another dimension of character development. It already has enchants and spells, but I'm thinking more along the lines of traditional levels and experience. Those green orbs would give experience in addition to healing. I want to emphasize that the effect could be minor, such as you get to choose +1% hp/attack/mana each level. So by the time you fought the overlord, assuming you didn't die with that character on that continent, you'd be maybe at level 10. The first few levels could be easy to get, but the latter ones would get exponentially harder. There would be no point in grinding xp because of the steeply diminishing returns.
- The wind dynamic needs a lot more work. First push back the wind with wind shelters, then restore the space time shattering by building space-time stabilizers.. Return the whole continent to its own time period!
- More time sensitive missions. Have monsters try and move in from the windy regions, and if you don't do the mission to push them back, the tile would get wind.
- New enemy types should appear based on your overall progress on the continent.
- Enemy loot. I really love the enchant system, but I dread going down into cave systems to gather spell components because I don't get enchants there.