Monster Hunter Tri Diary 4 – Good Customization

Continuing my Monster Hunter Tri Diary, here is something that made me stay awake too long again. A big part of Monster Hunter Tri is customizing your equipment. The game is very much about collecting materials in order to forge armor and weapons. What I just recently found out is that different equipment provides different skills. This reminded me of my old Sword of Mana: Bad Customization article. Here is a neat in-depth tutorial how it works in Monster Hunter Tri. I mention this because this time, it’s done right:

(by the way, I recommend all the other Video Tutorials by Social Dissonance)

So a set of armor consists of 5 individual parts. Each needs to be forged separately. Each provides a set amount of points towards various “skills”. The term “skills” is a bit misleading, they are more like “special abilities”. Once the total points for a skill reaches 10, the skills gets activated. This can be simple stuff like a damage boost. It can be also something more elaborate such as automatic blocking. The important part is that having less than 10 skill points on a skill doesn’t give you any advantage.

The armor sets are designed in a way that the boost the same skills. So collecting and combining all 5 pieces gives a great advantage as many skills are pushed over the 10 point hurdle and get activated.

An interesting detail is that each piece has also slots for so-called decorations. They are very similar to Final Fantasy 7 Materia slots. Using them, you can boost an individual skill additionally by a couple of points. Some pieces armor sets provide a “base” of skill points in various areas. They aren’t enough to be active but you can activate them by using decoration slots. This fine-tuning gives you an opportunity to emphasize the same equipment differently.

And if you really want you can wildly mix pieces from different set to get exactly the skills you want.

So let us go trough my old list from the Sword of Mana: Bad Customization article to see how Monster Hunter Tri holds up in this regard.

  • Ask why – Yes, users can get different results using the system. And it makes especially sense in a game where you know in well in advance what kind of enemies you will be fighting against. Different armor setups result in different fighting styles and need to be adjusted for various enemies. As Brainygamer mentioned, 65% of the game is spent preparing for fights rather than fighting.
  • Immediate feedback – Mostly. You can’t start fighting immediately but as there are no dungeons or any sort of travel, you can get into a battle rather quickly. However, you can’t change weapons mid-fight. So when you made a bad choice, you need to cancel the entire quest. Somewhat unwieldy.
  • Certain feedback – Each item is useful. Each item can be sold. Most of the items can be even used for different purposes. Getting stuff is ALWAYS good, no uncertainty there.
  • Minimize choice – Well, there are a lot of choices here. But there are systems in place that help you deal with them. Individual pieces of armor clearly fit together, even visually. This guides player in selecting the right kind of gear without sacrificing depth.
  • Regular rhythm – The mission-based structure creates a natural rhythm. Because players can freely choose on which mission they want to go next they have a control about what kind of materials they get.
  • Encourage Experiments – Besides decorations, forging weapons is irreversible. However, new items are often availible in ample quantity. If you need more items you can always hunt for more. The game pretty much throws at you items from left and right, so there is plenty of room for experiments.
  • Logic is better then chance – Though the game contains a good amount of chance (randomized drops etc.), when it comes to forging equipment you always know what you are working towards. The skill point system is mathematically predictable. You can always calculate what effects a certain set of armor will have.

There is just one nitpick I have about it. It is pretty dry. The skill system relies on abstract numbers and fine-tuning your stuff can be a very geeky thing at times. The skill overview is literally a spreadsheet. In that regard, the old Final Fantasy 7 Materia system is still ahead. Putting colorful gems in sockets is just more sexy than crunching raw numbers. The consequence is that – like me – many players won’t deal with it at first and won’t realize the system’s potential.

But otherwise there you go, an excellent example of equipment customization. I wonder if there are more cool details hidden in the game. I will keep you posted… right after I complete that set of armor I’m collecting… just one more item…

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Monster Hunter Tri Diary 4 – Good Customization”

  1. Nick LaLone

    Totally agree about the skills. I ignored them completely until I watched Social Dissonance’s tutorial about them. Now I nerd out trying to min/max them.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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