In this game mechanic, the idea is that although we are used to constantly progressing and moving upward— “leveling up” — that there is an equal and opposite downward motion that can happen in life. This mechanic would be a part of a game that took place over a longer span of time than most other games do, maybe 20 or 30 years.
At a certain point in the game, the player’s character would stop gaining levels, and plateau his skill level. And shortly thereafter, the functionality of the character would begin to slowly degrade. Levels “lost” would not occur at the rate which they were gained, and they also wouldn’t necessarily be as drastic. These lost levels might consist of various stat decreases (either decided upon by the player, or more likely, random-ish), skills lost or degraded, movement speed changed, etc.
All of these things are supposed to resemble actual things that happen to the human body after years of wear. The purpose of the system is realism. It would need to be handled delicately, because taking abilities and stats away from the player is not something that a game does often, probably because it’s not going to make the player feel good about their progress in the game. It will need to be handled with weight, and also very intimately tied to the story being told in the game.
January 2, 2015