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The Skill Web

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Ok, I'm bringing this up again because I'm going to actually try to get to dwarfsoft a decent explanatin to put in the doc. First, the skill web changes many things: - No Classes - No Experience(as we know of it) or Level - Removes emphasis from combat - Facilitates actual roleplaying - Varying range of professions The actual web is this: From a Root Node (that does nothing really) Branches off however many divisions you want. For now we will say "Combat", "Magic", and "Thievery". I will explain it in tree form becaause it's easier to represent. A sample "tree" would be: -Combat - Swords - - (all kinds of swords) - etc... - Double Weapon Combat -Magic - Cantrips - Evocation -- Fire - etc... -Thievery - Silent Movement - - Silent Rapid/Heavy Movement - Pick Pocketing - etc... The Web would be such because skills such as "double weapon combat" require skill with (say...) 9 different weapons at a certain experience. Each Skill has experience and use of the skills benefits that skill and all before it on the web. (explained later) the double weapon one is an excellent example because it is a compounded skill, eg. It is used on-top of the two weapons used. Thus, clerics advance using clerical magic which is of their diety. (healing...or killing for evil gods) Thieves advance by stealing things. Fighters advance through combat situations. Monks advance by use of their skills (as they seem to excel at most everything). Experience is interesting...the Effect of the skill is measure and experience is awarded based on it. In this way, a magicuser cannot powermax by casting a fireball on the ground because it does nothing. ('cept scorch the grass) Although if he knew there was a mine tunnel just under the ground...and he managed to cave it in with his fireball, THEN he'd get some experience. Whew...Hope that wasn't too long...Comments? [EDIT - fixed tree] I forgot to mention that such a web could be adapted to let the computer control fighting for the player. This was brought up earlier (and clarified) and I believe agreed upon as a good thing to take some emphasis off combat. (AS well as allow the game engine to display some incredible matrixy effects. Ya know...Watching your guy run up a wall and patting yourself on the back for developing that skill) It also eliminates gigantic key combinations (real-time) Edited by - C-Junkie on January 25, 2001 4:31:45 PM

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My thoughts on skills:

I think that skills are (or should be) games by themselves. If a game has 100 different skills, there are basically 100 different games to play. Cast fireballs, pick locks, move silently, etc. In MY opinion, skill should only be put into a game when they have an actual effect. And each skill should SHOW what the difference is between a low skill and high skill.

Example: Fireball.
A character FIRST has to have a high enough skill in magic casting to even be able to attempt to start learning this skill. But, when he finally grasps the beginnings of this spell, he can start practicing it.

Let''s start with putting some straw dolls up on an empty field. Now, put the magic user at a distance and start practice.

What are the things that can go right and wrong when casting a fireball spell?

Fireball is cast
Fireball has enough distance to reach target
Fireball is accurate
Fireball is strong

No Fireball is cast (or even another spell instead)
Fireball falls short of target, or passes by target
Fireball is to right or to left of target
Fireball is weak

I''m sure there are lots more, but those are just a few that pop up. Now, the higher the skill the more chance the magic user should have to have the fireball be ''right''. The lower, the more chance of a ''wrong'' fireball.

I''d love it when the player can actually see what went wrong with the spell and then somehow adjust his practice. For example, the fireball falls short the first time. Maybe, if the magic user spends more time concentrating (player manually ups the time it takes to cast the spell in a special menu) the effect would be better. Training would involve fine-tuning the spell. Once it''s good (best chance of hitting target) the player can save the configuration of the spell and use it in combat. The higher the skill, the more a player can do with a fireball (adjust strenght, distance, speed of casting etc). But, the player will have to train himself to know exactly what he can or can''t do.

Now, to increase the casting ability:
Practice makes perfect. Powermaxing comes to mind, but... is powermaxing really all that wrong? I mean, if in real life I want to become good at something, what I do is... practice, practice, practice. Still, that practice needs to progress. I can''t simply keep reading the first page of a book over and over again to learn what is says inside. I have to keep flipping the page until I get to the end of the book.

So, I think for each and every skill a certain build-up has to be set up. For example, once the magic user practices and gets his first accurate hit on the straw target, his skill might (chance roll or something) increase by one. Then, once he hits his first target in combat, his skill maybe increases one more. Then, when he kills his first big monster with it, another skill increase could happen. Powermaxing should only work to a point. Example:
A magic user wants to raise his skill by practice on straw target. He''s hit the target a few times already, but still hasn''t learned anything (no skill increase). Then, on his fifth attempt, he finally gets it and his skill increases. The powermaxing would be, attempting something until you learn something.

I also like to combine skills. For example, the magic user might first have to reach a certain skill level with his ''knowledge'' skill (just a random example, I have no idea what a knowledge skill would be) before he can learn something from his straw puppet practice.

The most important thing to me though, is that the skill level should SHOW. If I have skill level 1 in fireball, then my fireball should be a pathetic little stream of smoke. But if my skill level is in the hundreds, a big blazing ball of fire, as big as a house, should spring forth from my fingers and disintegrate everything in sight. If I have a skill of 1 with daggers, I should drop the dagger after my first feeble attempt to stab an enemy. At skill level 100 I should be able to dazzle my opponent with moves, throw the dagger up in the air, spin, jump, catch it and throw it right in my opponent''s eye.

Skills should not be put into a game just because... they should all be mini-games.

C-JUNKIE: I agree... no classes, no experience, no levels. And yes, even if players tend to stick to combat, when designers create enough non-combat skills to have fun with, players will eventually leave combat behind and explore the world instead of killing another goblin.

Skills could be so much more than they are. Right now, they''re just numbers that increase when you just click your mouse enough times (Everquest''s Sense Heading skill comes to mind).

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I like skill-webs! :-) Already did something like them in my game but not this thought through... ;-)
But I have another thing to add: Player usually like to have a class and ranking! That''s why you could look at the skills, pick the best one and name the player after it. So if any fighting skill is the best trained the character should be a fighter (and maybe ranked, depending on how good he is at it, "Sword-Master" etc.)
Just think it''s a good idea, so players can easily compare their characters...
"What is your hero?"
"A War Wizard!" *grinning*
"Cool, mine turns out to be a Sword-Master!"


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The skill web idea seems an excellent one. The only thing is, I think there should still be guilds.

Before I get shot down in flames, hear me out. Guilds should exist as fluid entities, basically as a name-tag for the particular skills an individual has.

For example:

character 1 is skilled in swordsmanship, brawling, stealthy movement, parrying, and shieldsmanship. Therefore the guild- or, if you like, profession-name appended to their own should say ''Warrior''.

character 2 is skilled in brewing, philosophy, arcane storage, thrusting weapons, enchanting, and lore. Therefore, ''sage'' is appended to their name.

The way to do this would be to group the skills together, like against like, and have guild-names for different groups. If a player/NPC has more skills from one particular area than any other, they belong to that group.

Also, there is no reason why ability groups couldn''t overlap, with the same skill being applicable to many guilds, depending upon what it is combined with.

Anyone who doesn''t have a majority of skills in any one group, or whose majority isn''t large enough to count, would be a @jack of all trades'', or ''joat''


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Guest Anonymous Poster
I was thinking of a similar system too, where there are only actions (which are equvailent to your skills). As always there are 2 major questions to be asked in a RPG.

How do characters advance and Why?

Advancement through the use of a skill ? This leads too rewarding repetive bot behavior. And possibly a feedback loop, as you get better at a skill do you have to use it less for more advancement?

Advancement through fighting? Cheapens combat and dilutes its purpose. Used by many CRPGS as a simple form of reward/risk system.

Advancement through treasure hunt? I like this idea, which combines a major element in CRPGS (exploration/risk), and allows for some good designer created levels/play experiences. In the system which im thinking of, skills/actions are available to all, but the retrival/attainment is where the fun is at. Also this allows for some non-linear gameplay. If you have 10 skills you must attain to become an acolyte in your school for the slightly gifted magic persons, you can choose to do them in any order. Depending upon the order it could be easy or difficult, but as they say each path has its own rewards (difficult path perhaps rewards with overall better skills of the same class of skills or more skills etc...). Actually this is a viable option and computationaly sovleable, I would go with this one.

Advancement through barter? Why not buy a skill ? This mechanism has the fatal flaw that most CRPGS have is that high level characters rake in the dough much faster and more of it than low level characters. This obviously leads to a feedback loop, which then the designer has to balance by using exponential cost for advance skills etc.. A difficult system, but could be workable. In this case level would mean characters with more/better skills becuase they have been playing longer. Most CRPGs use this concept in the form of buying scrolls, potions, etc.. They get around the problem of balance by not offering very powerful potions/scrolls/etc.. for sale.

Advancement through intent? This novel system is floating around on this board. Its too new for me to really anaylze it in depth.

Why should the character advance?

Advancement for fun? In Diablo you advance to gain new skills as which to slaughter hordes of monsters which then drop cool stuff you can wear/trade. The fun factor is in the cool stuff more so then anything else. It preys upon the pack-rat mentaility, which is quite powerful in humans and the desire to create a totally custom/unique character.

Within the proposed game the actions/skills will be a goal as well as the ability to create a totally custom/unique character. It should be as fun as Diablo in that regard. However I propose it will have something over Diablo, in that it will have purpose/story behind those skills/actions which are created by the player. The player solves/plays through the method of how to aquire those skills, which if the deisgner has done their job, will lead to many memorable experiences for the player. Much more memorable than a Diablo experience.

Well Good Luck on your endevaor.


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O, after trying to skim oveer these long posts...ummm...where was I?

Silvermyst: I think the fireball example would actually be part of the magic system. The skill web part only corresponds to the MS and provides a "skill level" of sorts to give some idea of the N/PC''s proficiency with tha skill. The dagger example...exactly. except I would think that that would involve many skills. (several acrobatics and Dagger throwing) and I also think that you perhaps over exaggerated weakness with no experience. _I_ would be deadly with a dagger assuming I was up against someone just an inexperienced as me. btw, You still get better with experience, it''s just localized to the skill.

DM: That''s more of a social aspect to the game. In my opinion they can call themselves whatever they want to and call their occupation whatever they want to ("Rich man''s social alignment adjuster" aka theif) I prefer to keep things like that away from the game system core. (if you want, you could create names like "Sir" that, even though people could parade around calling themselves "Sir Robert II"; If (in this case) that idiot met up with the queen, or any nobles, he would surely be shot down.) Guilds themselves are purely social. Someone with the same set of skills could be a Ranger or a Thief, depending on which guild needs someone like them. (although afterward, they''d start getting a little more differentiated)

AP: Your flaw in describing the "advance by skill use" does not exist. The skill gains xp by effect of use. Therefore the skill cannot be used repeditively, because 1. There would soon be little effect he could do in an area (everyone''s dead, everything''s scorched); 2. He would run out of magical power quickly; and 3. He''d probably be dead. Real quick, casting fireballs indescriminatly. What more perfect target

The "why?" part is fairly simple. What ever the goal of the game is. Diablo guys advance to beat diablo. Everquest guys advance to...ummm...uhhh...oh yeah! To..wait...Just Because!

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Original post by C-Junkie

- Swords
- - (all kinds of swords)
- etc...
- Double Weapon Combat
- Cantrips
- Evocation -- Fire
- etc...
- Silent Movement
- - Silent Rapid/Heavy Movement
- Pick Pocketing
- etc...
Edited by - C-Junkie on January 25, 2001 4:31:45 PM

Yeah, I'm the lead designer an RPG for WolfHeart, and we're trying something like this...it's still early in development, but if this thread is still alive when we post some information about it, I'll let you know...

Edited...Actually, I guess I should clarify, we're still using some leveling and classes, but rather than having a class and basing skills on it, you pick your skills as you level and then once you reach a certain point, the highest primary skills will define your class. Then, skill point prices are locked in, but you can still access any skill you want to learn.


Unable to register Reality...what's wrong?
Dan Upton
Lead Designer
WolfHeart Software

Edited by - draqza on January 31, 2001 12:02:47 PM

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Hey all, just thought I would make a quick return for this very worthy topic

Anyway, I have to first say that I have only skimmed over the long posts because I am running short on time. The skills web as I understand it is much along the lines that CJ has mentioned. Basically you branch ever outwardly into more detailed and specific skills.

The reason as to why this could be considered a different game for each skill? My answer to that is that each skill means that a single problem can be handled differently for any or no skill that a player may have. Sorry if I am rehashing that.

The problem I have with explaining it is that I can''t seem to think of a web that goes more than three nodes deep. Does anybody have an idea of how to increase the web to be more in depth.


Also - I think that removing the ''experience'' as it is understood may not be truthful in the way I have always come to understand skills. How about each skill has its own experience level (der, like I always seem to be pushing for) and you require persistent use of a skill to get past it. How many people in Diablo II just learned a skill so that they could easily move along to the next one without ever using the skill? A skill can only become more experienced as the player uses that skill (or uses it effectively [in the positive role] or even if they use it ineffectively [negative role - discussed in ''leveling downwards'']).

Anyway... I am really losing out on time. Ideas, thoughts, inspirations or just general babble are welcomed

Back later to skim through some more threads

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche


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What you have is each General skill has its own experience, which you can distrubute between the specific skills. Then, you can distribute the experience from the specific skills down to the more specific skills. Well, kind of hard to explain, here''s an example.

Weapons: 10xp
now the 10 xp can be distributed between the weapon class skills
Weapons - Swords: 6xp
Weapons - Axes: 4xp
Then it can be distributed down further, but usually you wont have too many superspecializations
Weapons - Swords - Broadsword: 6xp (only superspecialization in Swords)
Weapons - Axes - Battle Axe 9000: 3xp
Weapons - Axes - Woodcutter''s Axe: 1xp

For a computer game, this is probably too complicated for the user to control, but it could easily be simplified. This is just the basic idea, there is definately room for improvement.

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One of the things my team and I discovered when designing a skill web was the sheer number of skills you think you will have. Two things occur. One you begin to create skills that look like other skills and really have no additional use in game except for what you have seen in other games. For us this came into play when we discussed perception versus detect illusion. We figured a good thief like character could see through illusions because his perception was so high. Well instead of thinking in terms of classes, we dropped detect illusion as a skill and broadened the scope of perception.

The other thing that occurs is that you begin to create skills with classes in mind. Our example above shortchanged the warrior type that decides style over brawn is the way to be the best fighter. It is extremely difficult to not refer to skills as they relate to a class. I call this the D&D factor. We have all played this monster and for some reason as designers it is often difficult to forget D&D (or shadowrun or vampire...) and design a new system.

Once we solved our issues with ''class'' specific skills in our web, we found that we still had over 200 skills. We had planned for skill combinations and such as has been mentioned here in this thread and the realization hit us that we could possibly have 400 - 500 unique skills that a player can build and work on. Our biggest challenge is determining how to present this to that player in a fashion that lets the newbie get started without having to overcome flight sim size learning curves. How does one plan for their character when faced with this many skills. Our answer so far has centered around professions, which sounds like classes only different. It is more like the guilds mentioned in this thread above. Given the sheer number of skills, it only makes sense to organize them into some set of professions known to the world. Using professions, a character can then guage his or her progress against other players of the same profession. To accomplish this sort of skill summary, each skill must be defined as being part of one or more professions. All it takes after that is a summation of experience in each skill to get the overall level of skill in a given profession.

For purposes of our game, we have seen it fit to limit the number of profession to anywhere between 5 and 7 professions as that number is what people can reasonably remember and deal with at any given point in time. (Explains why phone numbers beyond 7 digits are harder to remember) Anyway, that is my little spiel on our experiences with designing a skill web. Have fun designing yours. They are a pile of work, rewarding work, but none the less work.


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