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The WuXia Project - A Theoretical MMORPG Design Discussion - Skills and Attributes

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Hey guys, WuXia is the temp name that I have given to my MMORPG design project. I've been working on it for a couple months now, and I thought, just for fun, I'd post parts of the design here and get some feedback. So starting with this post, I'll post a single design section (either for new/interesting or controversial subjects related to MMORPGs) every week and see if we can get some discussion about various design challenges in MMORPGs going. Enjoy! The first subject, the cornerstone of any traditional MMORPG: The Character Stats/Skills System. At first, my initial goal when trying to design this system was to go for a no-numbers concept, but after some more thought I decided to go with a skill/attribute hybrid system with a lot of checks and balances. The goal was to create a realistic character development system that made sense, with ways to represent achievements outside of repetitive tasks, no classes, and lots of balances in terms of player power-ranges. Here it is:
Quote:
Overview All player characters in WuXia are treated as humans with innately supernatural ability. They learn faster, die harder, and can achieve more amazing things. Attributes In this system, attributes represent the potential of a character. They do not represent knowledge/experience, but rather what a character is capable of. Therefore, attributes do not decay. An increase in attributes represents a significant accomplishment of the character, not skill gained from repetitive training. Primary Attributes These three attributes all begin at the value of 5, and they are used in general non-specific calculations. You could say that primary attributes are similar to 'levels' as they show the progression/overall power of a character. - Physical. The health of a character, an ability to act with strength, stamina and dexterity. - Intelligence. The 'smarts' of a character, an ability to process information and make decisions, creativity. - Charisma. The social skills of a character, an ability to lead, hit-on girls, bargain, etc. Secondary Attributes Each primary attribute has three secondary attributes, all of which affect calculations for specific actions. For any primary attribute, the secondary attributes may be "moved around" through the use of time points. The total amount of secondary attributes is that of the primary attribute x3. Physical - Strength. A character's muscle, affects calculations related to strength. - Dexterity. Agility, affects calculations related to quickness or control. - Endurance. Stamina, affects calculations related to fortitude and stamina. Intelligence - Logic. Ability to process information and to remember, affects calculations related to complexity or thinking speed. - Wisdom. 'Common sense' from knowledge and experience, affects calculations related to instinct and complex logical connections. - Ingenuity. A character's creativity, affects calculations related to the creation of new things. Charisma - Amiability. How much people like a character, affects calculations related to social skill. - Leadership. An ability to lead, affects calculations related to the command of others. - Willpower. A character's will and determination, affects calculations related to perseverance in difficult situations. Secondary Attribute Relations At any time, a secondary attribute can not surpass another secondary attribute under the same primary group by more than 100% Skills and Titles Skills represent the accumulated knowledge and experience of a character. Skills may be trained easily and may also be lost. The Nature of Skills A skill is a percentage based statistic which plays a primary role in almost all actions committed by a player. Skills start off with 50% ratings, representing a period of 'learning of the basics' as a player trains a skill to 100%. After 100% the learning curve begins to grow steep, and the character is granted a % based bonus (skill - 100%) on all actions related to that skill. The equation for calculation action bonus is: action_bonus = (SkillA_rating - 100)skillA_weight + (SkillB_rating - 100)skillB_weight Where total skill_weight[x] = 1 and %s are rounded up. Skill Decay Even brain surgeons will lose skill if they don't stay in practice, if a character does not use a skill for 40 hours, then that skill will decay 1% every 8 hours, to a maximum of 10% less than the value before any decay. Retraining skill decay happens at a 250% rate. Training Skills To train a skill, a character must use a related action successfully, and he/she will gain a number of skill points (specific to individual skills) based on the complexity of the action and the weight of the skill in the action. Upon acquiring a certain amount of skill points, the character is granted a 1% advancement in that skill. The Tier System The number of skill points required to gain a 1% advancement is governed by a tier system in which each tier represents a 100% range and raises the required number of skill points exponentially. The equation for required skill points is: (Skill Rating / 25) ^ (Tier Level) Where the remainder is ignored in the skill rating calculation, and tier levels are structured as follows: Tier 0: 50%-99% Tier 1: 100%-199% Tier 2: 200%-299% Etc. Tier 0 Failure As a skill is trained from its starting value of 50%, actions which depend on this skill (regardless of its weight) may fail with a probability equivalent to 100% - the value of the skill. Skill Availability All characters start off with many basic skills. To unlock more skills, a character must 1) Find 'master' NPCs and pay a fee to obtain a skill 2) Get taught by other players 3) Achieve titles. Unlocking a skill starts it off at 50%. Titles There are no 'classes', only 'titles'. Titles are gained by achieving certain %s in certain skills (ex. To become a swordsman you must achieve 150% sword skill and 150% parry skill). The acquirement of a title can grant a character a variety of bonuses depending on the type of title. These bonuses include but are not limited to: weapon bonuses, permanent primary/secondary attribute points, social influence with NPCs, new unlocked skills etc. Titles are things that a player wears proudly. - Title types. There are many types of titles in addition to skill titles, all of which influence the character in different ways. - Class titles. These titles represent a specialization of the character, granting them bonuses in calculations with certain actions, and possibly a secondary attribute. - Master titles. These are like class titles, except they grant a permanent primary attribute bonus as well. - Organization/membership titles. Joining a certain clan/guild/band/corporation/city/nation/etc. grants the bonuses given to members by the specific organization. Many NPC organizations grant additional titles based on skill and affiliation ratings. - Political titles. These titles are granted to governors, generals, etc. and grant very specific abilities to players that allow them to have more control over NPCs, ability to control domestic affairs, diplomacy power, etc.
[Edited by - PinFX on August 25, 2004 1:50:31 PM]

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Not trying to sounds mean or anything, but aside from some of the formulae, it's not really that different from most other stat/skill systems. I expect it'll have some minor issues to fix once it's running, but you haven't included any information on how the player interacts with stuff. All you talk about is "using a related action", and that's not good enough. The complexities you've added are interesting, and will add a little something extra to the game, but it'll still play pretty much the same way. If you're just looking to add a little spice to an existing game style, I think it sounds good, and I think it'll work fine.

The only potential issue I see is the way you assign titles. I think you'll run out of different skill combinations to give titles to quite quickly.

tj963

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I like your system, but a bit of it might not be all that intuitive to new RPGers. For example, your skills start at 50% and go up to 299%. Wouldn't it be easier if your skill started at 0% and goes to 249% and you just add 50 somewhere behind the scenes? Better yet, what if it went from 0 to 100, and you just scale all the math relative to those numbers? Or is it important that there are 250 intervals?

I also don't completely understand the Tier 0 failure percentage. Is this failure roll separate from your regular skill success roll? Or is there no failure for Tier 1+ skills, just bonuses? Maybe you could give me an example of how that works.

I like the idea of your Title system. I'm personally getting sick of class systems, so the idea that your skills determine your occupation rather than visa versa is appealing. One of the problems with open skill systems in MMOs is players tend to minimax them and make uber tank mages (characters that are as strong as any warrior specialist and as powerful as any magic specialist at the same time). Does your Title system serve to restrict this at all, or force some level of specialization via the locked skills?

All in all, it looks pretty thought-out. Good work.

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tj963, you are completely right, without the actual skills and abilities the system doesn't really present anything groundbreaking. This system is more for behind the scenes or character sheet type uses, and I don't include the actions system which is what the players will be using to do things. To complete the concept and make it really interesting would require including a complete set of skills that contain skills which will be used a lot but in many different situations, as opposed to many skills used in the same situations. Hopefully the final count on skills will be around 3x the number found in the Fallout series. Following other skill-based systems, there are no levels or experience aspects, so this fundamental system has to be rock solid in order to bring everything together properly. Thanks for the critique, and do you have any ideas on the skill combinations problem you see?

SuperSpy, I agree with you that the system is a little counter-intuitive, and it would probably be a good idea to hide the 50% start marker behind the scenes (once its balanced into the right place). And starting at Tier 1 and above, skills simply don't fail, but there are factors which can reduce skill level to under the level of Tier 1, so that tier 0 failure rolls are made, the reason no failure rolls are made after tier 1 is because each character in WuXia is supposed to be someone who has innately strong ability, so any kind of skill failure with significant impact on combat would have to go. This also ties into your question about the title systems and if it restricts uber "multi-class" characters. Although I haven't really decided on anything, I was thinking about simply allowing players or even encouraging them to make well-rounded characters that have a decent level of skill in each area of combat. My thoughts on this were to take this idea so that every character has a well-rounded base that they can play using their own skill level and combine that with their specializations, making combat more dynamic as opposed to a more rock-paper-scissors balance. And yes, some skills cannot be unlocked until you achieve a certain level with other skills so specialization will always occur. Your thoughts on this?

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As long as characters cannot become overly-rounded, I like it. If you can make a character that is Expert Swordsman / Below-average Mage / Novice Healer then you still have need for my Expert Healer / Average Macer in your group.

If someone can make an Expert Warrior / Expert Mage / Expert Healer, then they can take either of our spots in a group. Now we all make Expert All characters until you have a world that's full of more cookie cutouts than a class system could ever dream of.

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I'm dealing with a similar (though only in concept) skill system right now.

The Bob Syndrome (as I like to call the cookie-cutter-character problem) is prevalent in all games. It was what the class/level system was originally designed to prevent; however, with computers to back our calculations, classes and levels are outdated (never in pen and paper; I don't see them ever going away there).

To prevent Bobs from appearing, it is necessary to make the learning curve very steep on the higher skill levels. Also, a faster decay rate would do wonders for you. The way you have it, anybody should be able to make Expert everything. With a faster decay, and a more permanent one, then it'll be practically impossible to do so. To maintain an 'Expert' rating in more than 3 things should be hard merely because of time issues.

I belive in decay to a threshold; I practice Taekwondo, and acutely feel an absence of more than a week (usually through numerous head bruises caused by somebody's foot); the threshold in a game should probably be lower than is realistic, as the game's characters do nothing but practice with a sword or magic. If they had a day job, a family, and a few night classes at the community college, a higher threshold would be in order, but unless you want to create the Sims + swords and fireballs (mmmmmmm...burning Maxis animations....that'd be fun....), it's probably not a good idea.

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SuperSpy, again I have to say I agree, I remember back when I played Baldur's Gate II multiplayer, there were a lot of uber multi-class characters that were simply invincible. However, I've been inspired by lots of different forms of media and especially newer fantasy type media like anime. The specific series that comes to mind is Naruto, which is about ninjas who, although all are well rounded and have a mastering of the basics in combat, also all specialize. Getting down a fundamental "basics" that are both useful and realistic for skills as well as combat is something that I feel is important if you want to create a world that has combat that makes sense.

DesignerGuy, I was thinking the same way as you when I was designing this system. However, in the end I decided that people should be able to attain masteries in several different fields, they do possess supernatural ability after all. The way I deal with the problems that arise from this is to implement: 1)The decay system and also a Time Points system which involes using points gained over time to practice skills and keep them sharp, 2)An Achievements system that makes questing and special events a big part of character development, and 3) A diversified range of skills with equal focus on those which are non-combat. I've already received quite a few crits about my decay rate being too fast (hasn't been tested yet though), and you would be the first to say it should be faster, any other reaasons for making it faster?

Great discussion so far!

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Your definition is fine, but I have a comment.

Why do you use a percent system? Or a los star value system (values of 5). That is fine when you are playing a pen and paper game and you must compute all in your head. But you will be running in a computer, think about a big scale system. Something like:

Strenth:
Mars (God of War himself) 20000
Wyrm Dragon 12000
Titan 10000
Heracles 1000
Hill giant 400
Demigod 300
Hero 220
Ogre 200
Human 100
Goblin 50
Child 10
Pixie 1

You can let them increase some points of strength each level... say... 2 points each level. So a 50 level fighter will be considered a hero level human... but he will never be able to wretle with a Hill Giant.

Now... let the 50 level hero find some things to pickup:
Gauntlets of Ogre Power: +50 Str
Girdle of Giant Strength: +150 Str

Come here hill giant...

That way your characters may become more powerful than a standard human, and with additional weapons they may overcome many foes, but they will never play arm wrestle with a Great Wyrm... that would be illogical...

So, my advice, think your universe as a global simulation and then put the characters inside. Dont do it the other way.

Luck!
Guimo





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Decay rate needs to be fairly fast. Maybe not begin quickly, but when it starts, it should eat through the skills pretty quickly. If they're using the skill with any sort of regularity, then they'll keep it in shape. If they're not using it, then they should fall out of practice, as it obviously isn't as important to them.

Of course, any system of decay needs to be tested very thoroughly.

Social skills are nice, but they're difficult to implement on a computer. The easy thing to do is combat.

I still think that a faster decay rate will be needed, but without testing the game, I couldn't say for sure.

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Guimo, I'm going to assume "los star" was a typo of "low stat" ^^

However, I still don't really understand what you are trying to say. Are you saying that I should increase the range of reachable stats? I don't know if you realized this but in the system I have outlined above there are no levels, so any increase in attributes has a pretty big impact on character power. I could see why it would be easier to make a giant hierarchy of power levels using that kind of system, but why would I want to, wouldn't it put PvP and the game as a whole off balance?

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