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# Feedback on skill system?

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I've stolen the combat calculation method of Civilization and turned it into a skill system. I'd like to hear what you think. As it goes with these things, it's kind of long, but I've formatted it for easy reading. The Basics Skills are a linear range with a start and end number dependant on what is using the skill (human, alien or machine). Human skills top out at 1000. Machine skills top out at about 10x. As with most skill systems, skills are based on stats, so if a character doesn't have a skill, the stat is used instead. In any contest, two numbers representing either opposing skills or one skill versus a challenge rating are added. The percentage of the total each occupies results in percentage chance for success or failure. Example: Ensign Jones is trying to navigate a wormhole. His Navigation skill is 100. The wormhole's difficulty is 100. The total is 200. 100 / (100 + 100) = 50%. Jones has a 50% chance of success. Now if he navigates another wormhole, with a 300 challenge rating, the calculation is 100 / (100 + 300) = 25% Basically, skills are either opposed or a challenge rating is randomly generated in the game world. (Challenge ratings and enemy difficulties go UP the farther out you explore, btw.) Skill Slots and Skill Decay The player and NPCs may only have a number of skills equal to their Intellect / 5. Since the range for humans is 10 - 100, this means between 2 to 20 skills. Other races have different limits, except the playable Rogue AI class, which has no limit. Players can choose to "deactivate skills" and learn new ones in their place. The deactivated skills decay by 1 point per day. Example: Swapping out Navigation 500 would result it being lost in 500 days (almost 2 game years). For balance, it's more difficult / expensive to raise skills the higher they are, so players who swap out skills constantly will be paying a hefty price. This enforces the limits of the Intellect skill and encourages players to enlarge their pool of hirelings. Skill Tests & Complexity Skill tests have multiple trials. So Jones has to make not just 1 successful Navigation check to transit a wormhole, he may have to make a dozen or more, depending on the complexity of the challenge (which is always displayed, by a scan in this case). To be successful, a character must win a number of tests based on their level of experience (see below). So in a Navigation 100 vs. wormhole 100 test, Jones may have to win the majority of 10 trials. Experience Level The number of trials needed to win is based on experience level: Green, Regular, Veteran and Elite.
• Green must win 75% of all trials.
• Regulars must win 50% of all trials.
• Veterans must win 33% of all trials.
• Elites only have to win at least 1 trial.
Skill Test Chart The skill test is compared to a chart of percentages and results for each percentage. The challenger, attacker or one who attempts a skill test occupies the upper part of the chart, the defender the lower part. Example: In a Nav 100 vs. wormhole 100 test, Jones occupies 100% - 51% of the skill test chart. The challenge occupies 1 - 50%. Example 2: In a Nav 100 vs. wormhole 300 test, Jones occupies 100 - 76%. The challenge occupies 1 - 75%. Degrees of Success or Failure For each test, a second number is generated to determine the degree of success or failure. The lowest number out of all tests is used. Here is the breakdown:
• 1 - 5% Critical Success (3x damage done/resource gain)
• 6 - 20% Great Success (1.5x damage done/resource gain)
• 21 - 80% Standard Success(Full damage done/resource gain)
• 81 - 95% Mild Success (1/2 damage done/resource gain)
• 96 - 100% Neglible Success (1/4 damage done/resource gain)
• Piloting (small ships)
• Helm (big ships)
• Launch / Land (fuel use and possible damage)
• Gravigation (wormholes and planetary flybys)
• Stellar Cartography (misjumps, getting lost)
• Manuever (docking, evasion and combat)
• Efficiency (engine wear & tear and fuel use)
Failsafe: Retry any failed roll for this skill test Precautionary Measures: Seasoned characters can soften failure. The entire success / fail table for this skill is improved by 1%. If taken 5 times, players can eliminate catastrophic / critical failure in the skill category by adjusting the entire table downwards. Example: Taking Navigation (Failsafe) five times yeilds no critical failures!
quote:
• ------ ==== NO CRITICAL FAILURES POSSIBLE ===
• 1 - 15% Great Failure (1.5x damage taken or resource loss)
• 16 - 75% Standard Failure (Full damage taken/resource loss)
• 76 - 90% Mild Failure (1/2 damage taken/resource loss)
• 91 - 100% Neglible Failure (1/4 damage taken/resource loss)

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To be honest, my eyes glazed over about halfway down the post. However, here are my thoughts for the parts I read:

Skill decay might make more sense if skills decayed faster at higher levels. Maybe instead 1% of the current skill, with a minimum of 1 point per day rather than a straight 1 point per day? Since it''s harder to gain skill at higher levels, it makes sense that losing skills is easier at higher levels as well.

Also, there seems to be a discontinuity in the use of experience levels. That is, if the actor is green and the target is green, shouldn''t it be a straight 50% of trials, not 75% of trials? I can see it working as it stands against static difficulty values rather than against actual opponents.

The skill test chart seems rather redundant. You''ve already specified the chances of success for each trieal. Is it really necessary to specify who''s on top and who''s on bottom?

Also, I''d tamp down the ranges for the critical success just a bit in your chart. With your best value/per trial approach, the critical successes are going to be disproportionately common with the current rates.

For skill improvement, it''d probably be better to say that every critical success in a won trial gives a point rather than a critical success in a skill check. This way you can beef up the number of trials for less often used skills to keep up the earned skill rate with more frequently used skills.

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Well, It seems like a solid system, not very intersting to read but then math isn''t suppose to be.

One thought under skill improvement, what about mentoring? You assign a more experinced crew member to mentor a less experinced, one. So they work together and the students recives a percentage of the mentors skill.

-----------------------------------------------------
Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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Wow. That's an amazing system you've got there. Here's what I've got to contribute:

quote:
Original Post by SiCrane
Skill decay might make more sense if skills decayed faster at higher levels. Maybe instead 1% of the current skill, with a minimum of 1 point per day rather than a straight 1 point per day? Since it's harder to gain skill at higher levels, it makes sense that losing skills is easier at higher levels as well.

I agree with this. Maybe you could tie this into the intellect stat, or to some other character trait, so that some characters will have extremely good retention while others will only be able to maintain skills with constant practice and training.

In addition, I'd like to see skills raise faster when they're being relearned. If Sgt. Sykes was a 300-level navigator before he was transferred to your craft, and he's been out of the loop for a while, he should pick it up again faster than some green cadet who's taking the helm for the first time. I see that the experience level will have an impact on this, since he's likely to succeed more frequently, but I'm not sure that will be enough to emulate his reaquisition of the skill.

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Next, I have a question about the skill slot system. If a character has 20 Intellect, and thus 4 skills, can he have only four skills total, or can he only have four skills active at any time? Also, when a skill is deactivated, can that crew member not perform that task, or is it just in a steady state of decay? It seems odd to me that a character could have a skill level in conduit maintenance but be unable to maintain any conduits because he's not actively thinking about that skill at the time.

----------------------------

quote:
Original Post by SiCrane
Also, there seems to be a discontinuity in the use of experience levels. That is, if the actor is green and the target is green, shouldn't it be a straight 50% of trials, not 75% of trials? I can see it working as it stands against static difficulty values rather than against actual opponents.

This is another good observation, but it seems to me that since most of the "opponents" in skill tests will be inanimate (like control panels or astrological phenomena) they will not have relevant experience levels. But for things like combat between soldiers or psionic effects, experience levels will surely be relevant. After all, if two Elite gunmen draw and fire, it's almost certain that both will get the requisite 1 successful test, and so each would inevitably kill the other.

In all honesty, I'm not sure I fully understand the "experience level" system you've described here. I like it, because it allows for some characters to become reliably dominant, which will be a major concern in strategy, but it does seem that a clash of titans will end in a bloodbath. SiCrane's suggestion of taking that into account is a good one, and I'd like to see an algorithm for comparing experience levels in tests that pit two characters against one another.

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I'm not sure I like the skill test system. I'm trying to see what it is supposed to be emulating, and I can't quite figure it out. It seems that the multiple trials would be bizarre in some instances, and the percentage of winning would be bizarre in others. Remember that Civilization was a turn-based game, and so the multiple trials and whatnot might not translate properly into your design.

Taking your example of the wormhole, where Jones has to navigate the complex gravities of the phenomenon, why would he have to win the majority of ten tests? Wouldn't it just be him and his helm console versus the gravity? If that's the case, then it would only be a matter of time before he got a good trajectory calculated. Maybe if you set him the task an hour before the ship had to adjust its course, he'd be able to come up with ten difference possible routes, and then you'd choose the best of those ten, which would almost always be a big success. However, if you're in combat and you need to jump the hell out of there, he'd only get time to do it once, which might be a catastrophic failure. If the number of trials was a function of time, it would seem more intuitive. You can still get multiple trials, but only if you're going to have the same guy hammering at the same problem more than once.

On the other hand, if a boarder armed with a plasma rifle and a defender armed with a laser projector are facing off, they'll never see more than one trial in their combat. They'll raise their weapons, sight in, and take the shot. Whoever gets shot first loses. Maybe if they both miss they'll get another trial, but it won't really be the same problem, and it'll be later in time. This will also eliminate the mutually assured death I noticed above. They might both die, but it'll be less common.

If you link trials to time, then you can have some crew members who have skills to solve problems and go get a beer, while greener folk will perhaps spend an hour tinkering with a system to get it to the same level of efficiency.

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Everything else seems to be harmonious, innovative and applicable to the game. Characteristically superlative work, Wavinator.

Editted repeatedly to make it better.

[edited by - Iron Chef Carnage on April 5, 2004 4:32:03 PM]

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I must be reading something wrong.

At the very top, where you make success/failure calculations, you say that if the player has a skill of 100 and the challenge has a difficulty of 300, they have a 25% chance of success. However, by your calculations, if they have a skill of 300 and the challenge as a difficulty of 100, they have the same 25% chance of success. Clearly, this is wrong.

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I assume you''re referring to this, AP:
quote:
His Navigation skill is 100. The wormhole''s difficulty is 100. The total is 200.
100 / (100 + 100) = 50%.
Jones has a 50% chance of success. Now if he navigates another wormhole, with a 300 challenge rating, the calculation is
100 / (100 + 300) = 25%

The "300 challenge rating" refers to the wormhole''s difficulty. Jones'' skill is still 100. That''s a 25%. If the tables were turned, and Jones had 300 while facing a wormhole test of 100 difficulty, he''d have a 75% chance of success. It would look like this:

300 / (100 + 300) = 75%

See?

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That does clear things up.

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quote:
Original post by SiCrane
To be honest, my eyes glazed over about halfway down the post.

Yeah, sorry about that, posting in-depth designs is always a bit dry. :/

quote:

Skill decay might make more sense if skills decayed faster at higher levels. Maybe instead 1% of the current skill, with a minimum of 1 point per day rather than a straight 1 point per day? Since it''s harder to gain skill at higher levels, it makes sense that losing skills is easier at higher levels as well.

I thought about 1% per day, but that seemed a bit unfair and unrealistic. Although, I have to remeber it''s just a game, and I''m not simulating memory.

quote:

Also, there seems to be a discontinuity in the use of experience levels. That is, if the actor is green and the target is green, shouldn''t it be a straight 50% of trials, not 75% of trials? I can see it working as it stands against static difficulty values rather than against actual opponents.

Only the actor''s aim counts in this case, I''m not factoring in evasion as directly as you might think. It doesn''t matter if the target is green. What counts is the actor. Greens will miss more often than elites, regardless of what they''re shooting at.

quote:

The skill test chart seems rather redundant. You''ve already specified the chances of success for each trieal. Is it really necessary to specify who''s on top and who''s on bottom?

I''m not sure I understand you here. The thing about top and bottom simply let''s you see how the percentage chance for success or failure actually work. (Admittedly, it might have been an excess mechanical detail not relevant to a design discussion.)

quote:

Also, I''d tamp down the ranges for the critical success just a bit in your chart. With your best value/per trial approach, the critical successes are going to be disproportionately common with the current rates.

OUCH! Big flaw! I see what you mean. The chance of getting at least one critical is going to rise the more trials there are. So there should only be 1 check for degree of success not best value/per trial if I want the 5% chance for criticals to hold.

If I do that, Elites will still hit more often than Greens, but everyone will have a 5% chance of critical be they Elite or Green. Elites will just see them more often, statistically, because they''ll hit more often.

So in a 50/50 contest with 4 trials, a Green will have 12.5% chance of winning(.5^3); while an Elite will have an 93% chance in the same.

quote:

For skill improvement, it''d probably be better to say that every critical success in a won trial gives a point rather than a critical success in a skill check. This way you can beef up the number of trials for less often used skills to keep up the earned skill rate with more frequently used skills.

This is what I meant, I wasn''t clear. The way it''ll work now is that you get a point if you both win a skill test AND get a critical in the process.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Well, It seems like a solid system, not very intersting to read but then math isn''t suppose to be.

Yes, I''ve learned my lesson, never again will I post something so dry. (It''s funny, though, because math is the nuts and bolts of game balance and game systems-- no wonder so many of them are screwed up! They''re the least interesting thing to work on! )

quote:

One thought under skill improvement, what about mentoring? You assign a more experinced crew member to mentor a less experinced, one. So they work together and the students recives a percentage of the mentors skill.

Okay, kind of like on the job training. What do you think the cost / tradeoff of this should be? This is like training, but you wouldn''t lose staff, so it wouldn''t be a labor tradeoff. Simply requiring an extra workstation doesn''t seem to be a steep enough tradeoff either.

Maybe the requirement should be that the two individuals can''t be more than 50 or 100 points apart in skill level? Or that they have to be compatible personalities? Hmmm... I like it, but I''m not sure what the cost of having someone tag along as you do your work would be in gameplay terms.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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I like your skill deterioration scheme. So many games let players build ''super'' characters which is completely unrealistic, IMHO. I guess its fun for some players in single player games.

However I would adjust the deterioration so that it doesn''t become a reason why players dislike your game. The skill decline should continue until the skill is half of its original value before the decline began. Once the character returns to using the skill, it advances faster than it would under normal circumstances until it reaches the original value.

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quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
Wow. That''s an amazing system you''ve got there.

Thx!

quote:
Maybe you could tie this into the intellect stat, or to some other character trait, so that some characters will have extremely good retention while others will only be able to maintain skills with constant practice and training.

Granted, this really works for suspension of disbelief, but if I make it variable, I''m worried about management overhead considering all the other things you have to worry about (loyalty, morale, ship function, missions, etc.). You''d have to worry about the different decay rates of 15 characters + your own if you swapped out skills on all 16.

It may be a moot issue, though. Maybe they don''t need to manage it because it isn''t a central feature of "skilling" up. It''s more of a tacked on bonus. Most RPGs don''t let you even swap out skills; once you get them, they''re hard coded and never go down.

quote:

In addition, I''d like to see skills raise faster when they''re being relearned. If Sgt. Sykes was a 300-level navigator before he was transferred to your craft, and he''s been out of the loop for a while, he should pick it up again faster than some green cadet who''s taking the helm for the first time. I see that the experience level will have an impact on this, since he''s likely to succeed more frequently, but I''m not sure that will be enough to emulate his reaquisition of the skill.

Good point. What sucks is that skill decay REALLY is bupkiss and only exists as a game mechanic, not IRL. IRL it seems that most things are like riding a bike: You never really forget any skill. Of course, if I do this, not only will all 16 characters possibly end up with a bazillion skills, the Intellect limit will be meaningless.

What''s an elegant solution to this? Should there even BE a skill limit? Maybe what I should do to reflect Intellect is not limit the number of skills, but maybe cap skills based on Intellect... That way, there''d be no skill decay to worry about AND a genius would still be differentiated from a mule.

quote:

Next, I have a question about the skill slot system. If a character has 20 Intellect, and thus 4 skills, can he have only four skills total, or can he only have four skills active at any time?

This was supposed to be 4 total, with Intellect representing potential. I''m starting to feel that it should be limited in other ways, though.

quote:

Also, when a skill is deactivated, can that crew member not perform that task, or is it just in a steady state of decay?

I simply hadn''t thought of this. I think originally I had planned that they couldn''t use the skill at all, which makes absolutely no sense as I write this! (Ugh! Don''t you just love LOGIC ERRORS in your design! )

quote:

After all, if two Elite gunmen draw and fire, it''s almost certain that both will get the requisite 1 successful test, and so each would inevitably kill the other.

Yes. The Counterstrike-style lethality here is intentional so as to put more emphasis on arms, armor and any other combat stats (accuracy, rate of fire, target acquisition time, etc).

quote:

In all honesty, I''m not sure I fully understand the "experience level" system you''ve described here. I like it, because it allows for some characters to become reliably dominant, which will be a major concern in strategy, but it does seem that a clash of titans will end in a bloodbath.

Two equally equipped opponents WILL massacre each other, which gets rid of some of the "I''m high level, therefore I''m GOD" mentality. Just as in Counterstrike, this shifts the burden from endurance to tactics and strategy.

Two things give the player control here: 1) Various mechanics and equipment allow them to obtain pre-conflict intelligence, so they can see some of what they''re up against. 2) The game world is open ended and has a bowl shaped difficultly level, so that the further you go from your home system, the tougher things get; since it''s also open ended, you can choose what fights you get into.

Combined, I think these two will put a great deal of emphasis on pre-conflict planning.

(Theoretically, anyway.)

quote:

SiCrane''s suggestion of taking that into account is a good one, and I''d like to see an algorithm for comparing experience levels in tests that pit two characters against one another.

I''ll post a statistical workup as soon as I get the chance.

quote:

I''m not sure I like the skill test system. I''m trying to see what it is supposed to be emulating, and I can''t quite figure it out. It seems that the multiple trials would be bizarre in some instances, and the percentage of winning would be bizarre in others.

The multiple trials are supposed to represent the complexity of doing a task (say, diffusing a bomb). Think of each trial being (roughly) a step or group of steps in the process (identify the timer, cut the red wire, etc). The more complex the task, the more steps there are.

Now, in truth, not all steps are of equal difficulty. But it''s a game, after all.

quote:

Taking your example of the wormhole, where Jones has to navigate the complex gravities of the phenomenon, why would he have to win the majority of ten tests? Wouldn''t it just be him and his helm console versus the gravity?

Sure, but the complexity rating is saying that there''d be multiple phenomena to worry while doing the task , such as customizations to the ship to make to compensate for distortions in time-space or whatever.

quote:

If that''s the case, then it would only be a matter of time before he got a good trajectory calculated.

Yes, the scenario was that Jones just drove right into the wormhole. There is a preplanning thing you can do (Projects) where you can idle a crewmember and have him precompute the route. You can do this on the way to the wormhole, or sit outside the wormhole while it''s being done.

quote:

If the number of trials was a function of time, it would seem more intuitive. You can still get multiple trials, but only if you''re going to have the same guy hammering at the same problem more than once.

I think we''re thinking the same thing. Trials show up as a function of time in real-time actions, like diffusing a bomb, repairing a conduit, or performing combat. NPCs have to make a trial every n seconds, or the player plays a mini-game involving moving bars that takes about the same time.

What I neglected to say is that a wormhole jump is an instant action, sort of a "town portal" warp from place to place. It takes only as much time to accomplish as it takes to load the new map.

Instant actions like this (landing, normal docking and combat docking, deploying equipment) still have a complexity rating, but it''s just done all at once. Time is skipped, and the task either succeeds or fails.

quote:

On the other hand, if a boarder armed with a plasma rifle and a defender armed with a laser projector are facing off, they''ll never see more than one trial in their combat.

In combat is another instant action involving multiple trials. There would be (behind the scenes) about 4 trials on average per shot . You as a player would never see this, you would only see the shot. You''d see the Green guy miss more often than an Elite. Then it''d all be about degree of success, armor, HP and equipment.

quote:

Characteristically superlative work, Wavinator.

Thanks for taking the time, especially with something so dry.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by yspotua
I like your skill deterioration scheme. So many games let players build 'super' characters which is completely unrealistic, IMHO. I guess its fun for some players in single player games.

Yeah, I don't like the naturally godly characters. I'm not opposed to letting them become that way for some reason in the game, like extreme genetic modification or coming across alot of powerful artifacts, but I don't want it to be an average result.

quote:

However I would adjust the deterioration so that it doesn't become a reason why players dislike your game. The skill decline should continue until the skill is half of its original value before the decline began. Once the character returns to using the skill, it advances faster than it would under normal circumstances until it reaches the original value.

Here's my concern: There are 30 base skills, with maybe 10 having as many versions as there are alien cultures (14, 8 humanoid variants and 6 truly alien ones). That makes about 20 + (14*10) = 160 potential skills. Each has subspecializations on the order of about 6 or 7 per. Now sprinkle in a few more for the Language skill, then spread these across 16 characters (yourself and 15 principles). Now toss in hirelings that you don't manage directly but are under the 15 principles.

Skills could get out of control very quickly (heh, if they're not already). So I've got to find some way of not having the player wind up with over 2,500 skills in various states of decay or whatnot over 16 characters.

I may have to ditch skill decay and skill swapping simply because it opens up a potential management nightmare. It's my philosophy that a game should never give you enough rope to hang yourself, and more and more this is what that looks like.

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

[edited by - wavinator on April 6, 2004 1:57:49 AM]

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quote:

I thought about 1% per day, but that seemed a bit unfair and unrealistic. Although, I have to remeber it''s just a game, and I''m not simulating memory.

Well if we want to go realism, I think losing at a proportion of the original knowledge is reasonable. I hardly remember any biochemistry any more, and the knowledge I lost went away pretty darn quickly after I stopped being exposed to it. And the details I lost first would be the ones most likely to mean that high skill level.

quote:

(Admittedly, it might have been an excess mechanical detail not relevant to a design discussion.)

Exactly my point. Keeping down details like this helps the "eyes glazing over" factor in your text.

quote:

If I do that, Elites will still hit more often than Greens, but everyone will have a 5% chance of critical be they Elite or Green. Elites will just see them more often, statistically, because they''ll hit more often.

But the elites will also see negligible success more often as well. Which I suppose you could interpret as success being seized out of the jaws of defeat, however, it might fit player expectations better if you modified higher experience levels so they get less negligibles. And maybe less criticals as well. There''s something to be said about beginner''s luck.

As a real life justification for that kind of mechanic, consider the case of soldier equipped with a submachine gun. The novice will shoot directly at the target, which means if he hits, he could potentially nail any part of the body. (Which means a good chance for a critical, if he hits.) However, an experienced soldier will deliberately shoot low so he can see the burst pattern in the ground and walk the fire to the target. (Low chances for a critical, as the most likely point of impact is the legs, but much better chance of hitting overall.)

quote:

There would be (behind the scenes) about 4 trials on average per shot.

Four trials per shot doesn''t sound like it would work well. It should probably be at least six. The reason being, with only four trials per shot, and the current experience level chart, then there''s no advantage to being a veteran in combat over being regular. With four trials a regular soldier needs to win two of them to succeed, and a veteran needs to win 1.3333, and since you can''t actually win a third of a trial with your system, then the veteran would actually need two also. If you round the other way, then there''s no advantage of being elite in combat.

Also, if you want to remove explicit setting of decayed skills, you might move experience level to a per-skill basis (right now it sounds like its on a per-character basis). Then cap the number of skills you can have with experience rank. That should provide a level of play balance without needing to bother with tracking deterioration.

Alternately, you can deteriorate *all* skills. This way people would have to constantly work on their skills in order to keep their edge, unless you stick them in suspended animation when they''re not needed or something.

Or if you don''t like that, and the goal is just to ease management restrictions on the player, decay skills that haven''t been used recently. For each character, keep a list of all the skills. When they use a skill move it to the front of the list. Then when skill decay gets calculated, decay the skills at the back of the list, the number of skills being not decayed based on the character''s intellect.

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Maybe you can combine the skill decay and the relearn bonus into a single penalty. Go ahead with intellect-based caps and whatnot, but take a look at this:

When a skill is not in use, it will gradually degrade, approaching, say, 75% of the character''s earned level. However, it will never go below that, on the "like riding a bike" principle.

When you reactivate that skill, either by adjusting your character profile or just performing the task again, it will rebound at perhaps twice or three times the normal learning speed.

So, if you''ve got a 100-level deck swabber, and he hasn''t swabbed a deck for ten years, he''ll still have a skill of 75 on it, and when he gets back into swabbing, he''ll be able to re-attain his 100 within a few shifts. There''s some decay, and an incentive to keep up with training, but you can''t ever just lose a whole skill by sleeping for a week, or transferring to a different position for a few missions.

Also, you might want to base the decay on a proportional scale, so that the reall, really high-level skills (like a 970 or something) will degrade more rapidly if you don''t really keep up with it. I know from my pistolcraft training that once you get really sharp, you have to stick with it or else your more finely honed skills will bomb. You can still go out there and impress your friends, but you''re nowhere near where you were.

--------------

I still don''t quite get how the trial system reconciles with real-time, instantaneous actions. Maybe when I understand the Project system it''ll make more sense.

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quote:
Original post by SiCrane
Well if we want to go realism, I think losing at a proportion of the original knowledge is reasonable. I hardly remember any biochemistry any more, and the knowledge I lost went away pretty darn quickly after I stopped being exposed to it. And the details I lost first would be the ones most likely to mean that high skill level.

How long did it take you to forget? I can''t remember some of the details of the stats test I just took a week ago. However, I remember salient points of a show about the CIA and Vietnam that I saw over 5 years ago.

quote:

Keeping down details like this helps the "eyes glazing over" factor in your text.

Gotcha!

quote:

But the elites will also see negligible success more often as well. Which I suppose you could interpret as success being seized out of the jaws of defeat, however, it might fit player expectations better if you modified higher experience levels so they get less negligibles. And maybe less criticals as well.

I see what you''re saying. This looks like one of those decisions you can only make when you see how it plays. I''m not opposed to automatically changing the table once rank goes up, so this may be just fine.

quote:

Four trials per shot doesn''t sound like it would work well. It should probably be at least six.

Right, good point.

quote:

Also, if you want to remove explicit setting of decayed skills, you might move experience level to a per-skill basis (right now it sounds like its on a per-character basis). Then cap the number of skills you can have with experience rank. That should provide a level of play balance without needing to bother with tracking deterioration.

So would you have less available slots for skills the better any one skill is? This seems about right, since as you come to master any one discipline you have less opportunity to master otehrs.

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Alternately, you can deteriorate *all* skills. This way people would have to constantly work on their skills in order to keep their edge, unless you stick them in suspended animation when they''re not needed or something.

*shudder* I think players would hang me for this one. It''s already expensive / tough to raise skills as it is.

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Or if you don''t like that, and the goal is just to ease management restrictions on the player, decay skills that haven''t been used recently. For each character, keep a list of all the skills. When they use a skill move it to the front of the list. Then when skill decay gets calculated, decay the skills at the back of the list, the number of skills being not decayed based on the character''s intellect.

This is workable, but I still see the player having to juggle management. The player is a captain, so there''s a certain level of self-development of crew that she/he should not have to worry about, theoretically.

There''s another, totally oblique approach to this that may be better: I could make NPCs much more responsible for the skills they know and don''t and link their improvement to their personality and individual drive. You could still assign them to learn, but whther or not an NPC ends up with a bunch of skills, or skills that decay is up to the NPC more than the player. If you hire someone who''s lazy, maybe they''re less inclined to improve themselves; or if you hire a motivated NPC interested in combat, his combat skills are more likely to improve over time.

This potentially removes a bit of the management headache of being RESPONSIBLE for the state of NPC stats (you now just worry about your own). Your job is just to get the right personalities and the right facilities, then make sure the NPCs have enough free shift time to naturally improve themselves. And since you could still provide "on the job training" by sacrificing time on duty to training sessions, you''d still have some control over how they improved.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
Maybe you can combine the skill decay and the relearn bonus into a single penalty. Go ahead with intellect-based caps and whatnot, but take a look at this:

When a skill is not in use, it will gradually degrade, approaching, say, 75% of the character''s earned level. However, it will never go below that, on the "like riding a bike" principle.

When you reactivate that skill, either by adjusting your character profile or just performing the task again, it will rebound at perhaps twice or three times the normal learning speed.

Yes, I see, but what''s to stop you from taking every skill in the game for every character and letting them all degrade? Since you know that they''ll jump immediately, the only problem for you would be an intellect cap on how high they''d eventually rise. Wouldn''t every character potentially end up as a "jack of all trades?"

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There''s some decay, and an incentive to keep up with training, but you can''t ever just lose a whole skill by sleeping for a week, or transferring to a different position for a few missions.

Let me say that I do like this side effect. It seems I''m a bit stuck between wanting skill decay for strategic and suspension of disbelief purposes, and not wanting it for the troubles it causes. I DON''T want players having a crew that can perform every task because that kills some of the RTS gameplay I have in mind. When everyone can do everything, it''s like having only a single unit type.

Granted, this situation only occurs when the player spends TONS of money to train their crew. However, this just means that the game will become less strategically interesting the richer / more successful you become.

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Also, you might want to base the decay on a proportional scale, so that the reall, really high-level skills (like a 970 or something) will degrade more rapidly if you don''t really keep up with it.

This could be good way to balance things as well, especially if you have alot of money.

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I still don''t quite get how the trial system reconciles with real-time, instantaneous actions. Maybe when I understand the Project system it''ll make more sense.

I''ll post more about this as soon as I can. In brief, Projects simply allow you to plan an action ahead of time and add bonuses to that action when it comes time to implement it.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
quote:
Original post by TechnoGoth
Well, It seems like a solid system, not very intersting to read but then math isn''t suppose to be.

Yes, I''ve learned my lesson, never again will I post something so dry. (It''s funny, though, because math is the nuts and bolts of game balance and game systems-- no wonder so many of them are screwed up! They''re the least interesting thing to work on! )

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One thought under skill improvement, what about mentoring? You assign a more experinced crew member to mentor a less experinced, one. So they work together and the students recives a percentage of the mentors skill.

Okay, kind of like on the job training. What do you think the cost / tradeoff of this should be? This is like training, but you wouldn''t lose staff, so it wouldn''t be a labor tradeoff. Simply requiring an extra workstation doesn''t seem to be a steep enough tradeoff either.

Maybe the requirement should be that the two individuals can''t be more than 50 or 100 points apart in skill level? Or that they have to be compatible personalities? Hmmm... I like it, but I''m not sure what the cost of having someone tag along as you do your work would be in gameplay terms.

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Just waiting for the mothership...

Well for mentoring I would say there should be some kind of cap, maybe 25% of the mentors skills after which point the student can no longer improve through mentoring. It wouldn''t require any additional equipment the only trade off would be the decreased man power since you have two npcs doing the job of one. It would serve more a purpose of improving raw recurits then for training skilled npcs. Perhaps the mentor''s teaching skill could increase as well if such a skill exists.

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Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Yes, I see, but what''s to stop you from taking every skill in the game for every character and letting them all degrade? [...] Wouldn''t every character potentially end up as a "jack of all trades?"

A valid concern, but I don''t really see how you could get every skill high enough for this to be important. With the pace at which skill increase and the limited time you have for training (with morale activities etc.), it seems that it would be as difficult to master everything in-game as it would be to do it in real life. Unless you save up a bajillion dollars and build a cyber-super-sailor, your crew will always have considerable room for improvement in their area of specialization. A micro-engineer will only get to that 1000-level after years of training and experience. It is unlikely that he''ll jack that skill, switch over to something else, and so on until he''s unstoppable.

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I''m a bit stuck between wanting skill decay for strategic and suspension of disbelief purposes, and not wanting it for the troubles it causes. I DON''T want players having a crew that can perform every task because that kills some of the RTS gameplay I have in mind.

Maybe this would be a good way for you to re-introduce the active/passive skill system. Active skills hold fast at 75% (or whatever) and recharge more rapidly, while passive skills degrade more rapidly, and drop lower. A "professional" skill will never go below 75% and you''ll get a 3x bonus when rebuilding it. A "hobbyist" skill will drop to 25% and you get a 1.5x bonus when rebuilding it.

And on a tangent...

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Original Post by SiCrane
an experienced soldier will deliberately shoot low so he can see the burst pattern in the ground and walk the fire to the target.

What? Who taught you to use an SMG? As with any small arms at close distances, you put the sights on center-of-mass and control your fire. An elite gunner would use his muscle memory and an aiming device to know where his fire was going to go before he pulls the trigger. "Walk the fire to the target," indeed.

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Here''s an idea to prevent jack of all trads, why not impose a total skill point cap? Say based on the primary stat for each skill point so if a npc has 75 intellagence that could amount to 75* 200 = 15000 max skill points for intellagence based skills. In this mannor the player can still choose to take alot of diffrent skills however the cost is an overall low level to those skills or take a view skills and have them at higher levels.

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Writer, Programer, Cook, I''m a Jack of all Trades
Current Design project: Ambitions Slave

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quote:

How long did it take you to forget? I can''t remember some of the details of the stats test I just took a week ago. However, I remember salient points of a show about the CIA and Vietnam that I saw over 5 years ago.

Over the course of about a year, I had forgetten probably the equivalent of three or four 200 and 300 level biochem courses. At which point, I had to help out a friend doing a grant proposal, which is when I realized that I''d heard of NF-kB, but I couldn''t remember what the heck it did, and I couldn''t remember the names of any of the amino acids except asparagine, but only because it sounds like asparagus, etc.

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This potentially removes a bit of the management headache of being RESPONSIBLE for the state of NPC stats (you now just worry about your own). Your job is just to get the right personalities and the right facilities, then make sure the NPCs have enough free shift time to naturally improve themselves. And since you could still provide "on the job training" by sacrificing time on duty to training sessions, you''d still have some control over how they improved.

This kind of thing has really cheezed me off in games before. If you do this, try to make it aparent up front what kind of predilictions an NPC has, and give a wide variety of NPC selection. There''s nothing quite as annoying as choosing someone for a role and then realizing after you''ve sunk in a lot of play time in developing the character that they''re completely unsuited for the job. (Which admittedly imitates real life, but its one of the little realism details I can live without when I''m looking for entertainment.)

quote:
Original post by Iron Chef Carnage
quote:
Original Post by SiCrane
an experienced soldier will deliberately shoot low so he can see the burst pattern in the ground and walk the fire to the target.

What? Who taught you to use an SMG? As with any small arms at close distances, you put the sights on center-of-mass and control your fire. An elite gunner would use his muscle memory and an aiming device to know where his fire was going to go before he pulls the trigger. "Walk the fire to the target," indeed.

A former navy seal described the process to me. I will admit that I forgot to mention that this was for moderate, not close ranges. It was for a piece of short fiction that I asked him to review for realism. (An error in judgement, as he gave me even more trouble about what I had written than you did, and the darn thing never even got published.) I may be mistaken on the terminology, but he was *very* firm on the increased likelyhood of leg woods inflicted by an experienced soldier using a submachine gun at a range.

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I've just skimmed through the thread...

My opinions

I like the fact that you have a small chance of failure no matter how high your skill is.
Personally I don't like caps. The way skills are used (sp / (sp + diff) ) maks it impossible to make a GOD character.. Even if the player has 100,000 points in a skill and tries to do something with difficulty 300 he has about 1% chance of failure. He's REALLY good at what he does, but he's not god. + Noone will become ultimately good in skill. If 1000 is max then the only reason to keep it active is to not lose it.
Active skill slots is a good idea, but make it possible for the character to use all skills he has at least 1 point in, but not to gain points even if he does get a critical.

Skill decay: Personally I don't like it. I think it should at least be quicker to relearn something. If you have a crew of 15 people then it's not a biggie, because everyone will have their "station" anyway. By making it very expensive/hard/time consuming to get very high skill levels most people won't be bothered to make the helmsman with 1000 in piloting also become a master sniper, but I think it should be possible.

Raising skills: The learning curve should be (very) steep for the first (few) point and then get a bit less steep for a while and then steeper and steeper. Example: It's very difficult to learn to read if you don't even know the letters, but it gets easier after a while. When you're good it's very hard to learn something new because you already know so much.

One system of difficulty of raising skills I've seen and liked is the RuneQuest/Call of Chtuluh PnPRPG system (possibly modified )
Skills are in percentage, but you can have more than 100% in a skill. To score you must roll below what the skill rating, so if skill is 50% you must roll 50 or below. The lowest 5% of your skill is critical so for 50% you need 2.5 (3) or lower (1 is always a critical). A special is the lowest 10 or 20 % of your skill (5 or 10 in my example). Everything over 50 is a failure, top 5% of faliure is critical failure, etc. 100 is a "special event". Something weird happens - it's both a success and a failure at the same time (Note: This was added by my DM ).
To raise a skill you need to get 2 specials (Or possibly criticals - it's been a long time since I played ), and then roll OVER your current skill rating or a 100. So for 50sp you need 51 or over, and for 100sp and up you need a 100. If you succed you get 1-6 points. If not you must get another special/critical (possibly 2) to try again. Note: this makes for slightly rapid growth to 100 and then becomes linear with very slow growt. I think something like this could be adapted.
-- Sorry for the long winded explanation.. It sounds silly and rash compared to your approach, but after writing it I don't have the heart to delete it . Maybe you get an idea by reading it.

Experience rating (green,vet,elite etc): I don't quite get this. If it If a character has a high score in a ability then it follows that he's also experienced. It's illogical that an elite who has 100 in shooting has an advantage over a green with 300 in shooting (At least I think he has - probability/statistical math is not my strong side ). The one with 300 is the better shot. Perhaps it would be better to call it a "pressure under fire" modifier or something.

Summary - things that may be great for one game can be lousy for another.. It's the whole that counts. These are just my opinions, and they're not even really well thought through (I think my idea for no cap for skill points is a good one at least )

Sorry about the edit.. My computer started beeping because it got overheated (56deg C.. cpu is rated for 85deg C), so I shut it down for a while..

[edited by - frostburn on April 7, 2004 6:36:30 AM]

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I like the idea of a more complex learning curve. Maybe you could link it to experience level. For a green character, it''ll be a steep uphill battle, best fought in the classroom rather than on the job, but a regular will have enough rudimentary know-how to pick up on new technologies and gain skills pretty quickly. A veteran will be sharp, but since they already know most of the techniques, it''s going to be slower progress for them, dealing mainly with honing fine skills or using new equipment. For an elite, they know just about all they can, and what progress they make will be like the progress a master martial artist makes: They''ll get better and more confident, but so slowly that the average person won''t really be able to tell the difference in them over the course of a month or so.

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I''m just going to say this:

Why are you having skill decay? Can you honestly say that you truly have forgotten anything? Yeah, I can''t remember the names of the postulates from Geometry class and I rarely do anything with Geometry, but I sure as heck can still do the actual work. Heck, I can still work out probabilities and statistics easily enough.

On a similar note, I hadn''t fired a rifle in 10+ years (since I got out of the Army) and recently went out shooting. I shot almost exactly the same as I did when I was in the Army, or 90% kill shots.

BTW, I haven''t went swimming in a couple of years, are you saying that I should drown the next time I''m in water over my head? What about riding a bike? Haven''t done that in even longer... I''ll be a fool with scrapes and bruises all over the place if I live in a universe with skill decay.

Let''s just say that I''m very happy the real universe doesn''t have skill decay.

If you want to keep people from mastering everything, make skillups based upon difficulty (chance of skillup = success rate ^ 2), so that the chance of getting a skillup when your skill is at 100k and the difficulty is 300 is (3/1003 ^ 2), or (.0000089). Then you can decrease the chance of a skillup based upon total skill amount, so if someone''s skill total is at... say 300,000 and you want the ''softcap'' to be at 250k, their chance of gaining that skillup is 20% lower (300k - 250k / 250k). They''ll still get the skillups, but it will slow down significantly, suggesting that everyone can''t do everything... at least not completely competently.

Well, that''s my \$9.28

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It depends on how sophisticated the task is. I''m a juggler, and picking that back up after a few months'' hiatus makes the reality of skill decay totally apparent.

Solinear, can you honestly say that you would get the same grade on a Geometry test now that you got when you were just finished with the course? Maybe you remember some of the logical structure of proofs, but if you wouldn''t be at least slower doing the proofs and exercises, then you''ve got a real gift for mathematics. I took calculus in high school, and then again four years later in college. I picked it up quickly, and did very well in the class, but there''s no way I could have taken the final exam when I walked in the door, even though the material was all review for me.

Maybe you can still ride a bike, but do you think you''d be as fast or as precise at trail-riding? Maybe you can still swim, but do you think you''ll swim as quickly or as skillfully? The ability to hit a stationary man-sized target center-of mass with a properly calibrated rifle is like being able to throw a rock into the air and catch it again. It is a very simple task, and children can do it with little or no practice. When I go out and train the firearms skills I gained in the police academy, skill decay is obvious. I can still punch small groups in the paper, but my draw, my speed, my reload speed, my responses to failure-to-fire or body armor drills, my use of cover and my precision of movement are all reduced. Can I still shoot a 300? Probably. Would I want to be in a gunfight with the version of me that graduated from the academy? Probably not. He was faster, sharper and had a better command of tactics. He was also stronger and about ten pounds lighter. Lousy college. I could get back there, and it wouldn''t take as long as it did the first time, but I''m not there now.

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quote:
Original post by solinear
Why are you having skill decay?

I wasn''t doing it for reality''s sake, only for the sake of those who wanted to reconfigure characters they''d put alot of time into. There''s nothing worse than investing in a character for hours and hours only to find that they are unsuited for the task.

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If you want to keep people from mastering everything, make skillups based upon difficulty (chance of skillup = success rate ^ 2), so that the chance of getting a skillup when your skill is at 100k and the difficulty is 300 is (3/1003 ^ 2), or (.0000089). Then you can decrease the chance of a skillup based upon total skill amount, so if someone''s skill total is at... say 300,000 and you want the ''softcap'' to be at 250k, their chance of gaining that skillup is 20% lower (300k - 250k / 250k). They''ll still get the skillups, but it will slow down significantly, suggesting that everyone can''t do everything... at least not completely competently.

Won''t this just increase the amount of useless skill attempts towards the end? Perhaps if I could make this somehow an interactive challenge it could work, but I''m loathe to have anything like what Morrowind is when you first begin learning skills: A lot of clicking to attempt to raise skills and a lot of boring failure.

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Just waiting for the mothership...