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SKILL VS LEVELING IN MMOs

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I personally think the way Oblivion handles it's leveling/skill set is a very good way. Not that it's an MMO but anyways. The more you focus on certain skills the better certain areas will improve when you level up. Makes perfect sense to me that way. If I can't choose a hybrid system like that though I'd prefer skills. Improve what you use most in the game and ignore the things you don't use as much. Only becomes a problem if you decide to change up your style half way through the game (I do this all the time) and you're lacking horribly in the area you wish to accell.

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Original post by CornyKorn21
Only becomes a problem if you decide to change up your style half way through the game (I do this all the time) and you're lacking horribly in the area you wish to accell.


That isn't really much of a problem. In class based games you would have to create a new character. At least in a skill based game, changes like that are an option.

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Since you said mmo and not mmorpg, then Planetside ftw. Nearly completely skill based. The level is just an incentive to keep playing and allow for more specialization.

One tends to not see this kind of thing in an mmorpg where PVE action is prevalent. I mean if PVP fighting was the same at every level, but PVE fighting was different then maybe. However the varying spells for each level drastically changes the final outcome of a level 5 fighting a level 25.

Also tstrimp brought up a good point about classes. If an mmorpg was based on skill and not level the class system would make it painful to balance to everyone's liking. I mean just look at planetside. It has 3 factions and it took 3 years before everything was balanced enough for players to agree that PVP was rock paper scissor without the use of skill.

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Classes are good in mmorpgs. They encourage players to band together in groups such that each player's class strengths complement the other player's class weaknesses.

With a purely skill based progression system you run the risk of having a world full of generic jack of all trades characters who just run about killing everything solo.

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Original post by CornyKorn21
Only becomes a problem if you decide to change up your style half way through the game (I do this all the time) and you're lacking horribly in the area you wish to accell.


That isn't really much of a problem. In class based games you would have to create a new character. At least in a skill based game, changes like that are an option.


touche

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Original post by Sandman
Classes are good in mmorpgs. They encourage players to band together in groups such that each player's class strengths complement the other player's class weaknesses.

With a purely skill based progression system you run the risk of having a world full of generic jack of all trades characters who just run about killing everything solo.

That's where the gameplay mechanics come in. If the player isn't allowed to be a jack of all trades it forces specialization. The more choices the more specialization generally. Granted the choices have to coincide with how players want to play. Like if there's a general skill/spell tree that players can choose. The starting branches might have healing/offensive/defensive abilities and then branch off and reconnect with one another. Then if stats/armor/weapons are geared toward different play styles then players will specialize.

You seem to suggest that if the game is skill based then players all of a sudden don't need each other. Why would this be true? The incentive of having 2+ people around has the advantage. If you've played Vanguard on the PVP server you'd know this to be true. Running around by yourself is a surefire way to get PVPed.

Best way I know of to add skill to a game is to give the player many more options than can be made in a single time. Most mmorpg games do not do this. The fights are generally predictable and players know what spells/abilities to use and in most cases already know the outcome of the fight.

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Original post by Sandman
Classes are good in mmorpgs. They encourage players to band together in groups such that each player's class strengths complement the other player's class weaknesses.

With a purely skill based progression system you run the risk of having a world full of generic jack of all trades characters who just run about killing everything solo.

That's if you can create such characters. In the real world, one cannot be an expert at everything. A jack of all trades is, perforce, a master of none.

Suppose you have a skill system where skill is increased by use. A way to look at this is to suppose that skills atrophy if not used. If you run around hitting things with swords for a month, you'll become very skilled at hitting things with swords. If you then run around throwing fireballs at things for a month, you'll become very skilled at throwing fireballs at things, but lose your skill with swords. Naturally, a group of adventurers with a mix of people who are highly skilled in specialized areas would, except in strange situations, be more effective than a lone adventurer with merely average skill in all areas.

Consider an alternate skill system where you increase skill by training. For every point you add to a skill, you must take half a point away from another skill. Alternatively, each time you train you automatically lose a point in every skill before adding the points you've earned: if people don't get enough points at each level to replenish what they lose they'll be forced to specialize.

But none of that may even be necessary. If there are 20 skills but only 10 skill points to spend per level (with, say, a maximum of 2 points per skill per level), then a party of four 20th level jack of all trades can only have 10 points in each skill, whilst a party of four 20th level specialists could, between them, have 40 points in every skill.

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Classes are good in mmorpgs. They encourage players to band together in groups such that each player's class strengths complement the other player's class weaknesses.

With a purely skill based progression system you run the risk of having a world full of generic jack of all trades characters who just run about killing everything solo.


This can be handled by limiting the players overall potential through inventory. If a player were to run around like say, the Doom guy with a hundred guns and a bazillion rounds of ammo in his magic backpack then you'd have a abit of a problem on your hands. But by forcing the player to be able to carry only one or two weapons (ala Halo), along with a very limited inventory of items (such as that extra clip of ammo, or the pair of lockpicks), then the player would have to choose carefully and work his playstyle around his loadout limitations. He could still end up being a master of all trades, but its kind of hard to do 12 different things amazingly when you can only carry the proper gear to do 2.

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You can certainly force players to specialize, but then aren't you just doing the same thing as classes but with less transparency?

Grythok's suggestion is interesting; you could be a 'jack of all trades' but you for any given mission you still have to pick your role when you choose your equipment loadout.

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Original post by Sandman
You can certainly force players to specialize, but then aren't you just doing the same thing as classes but with less transparency?

Grythok's suggestion is interesting; you could be a 'jack of all trades' but you for any given mission you still have to pick your role when you choose your equipment loadout.
Look at the bigger picture. Take planetside for instance. At one moment you are specialized in destroying heavily armored things then after a few days you change your specialization slowly. This is much like if you slowly changed your class to another. Not to mention take planetside again, when you get all of your stuff ready and you head out you specialize your skills even more. Carrying a rocket launcher instead of a big gun or more armor. Or you use less armor since the vehicle you use doesn't allow a certain armor type. This is an FPS, but the idea can be used in an MMORPG.

What I'm trying to say is that with classes you force the player into one play style. If they suddenly want to change then they are forced to create a new character with another specialized class.

As for skill this also changes the gameplay. I mean at one moment being specialized in say healing is bad and at another it's a good thing. For a person stuck with a class they are forced to do the best with what they have. Sounds like bad game design to me personally, but some people like that.

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Original post by Sandman
Classes are good in mmorpgs. They encourage players to band together in groups such that each player's class strengths complement the other player's class weaknesses.

With a purely skill based progression system you run the risk of having a world full of generic jack of all trades characters who just run about killing everything solo.



Of course you could then have a skill cap (total of all skill points) to limit that. A similar cap could be placed on the players stats to keep them from being maxed out in all attributes. Add a system which has the max points in any one skill get harder to achieve as they reach maximum. Locking skills to prevent slippage of costly points when doing easy fain skills (constant use of skills with low points being easy to gain and take points from other skills once the cap was reached). Ultima Online did all that (and then they started adding items that added skill points and/or higher maximum caps and other ways to circumvent the cap system).

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Wouldn't the main problem with having the ability of changing, is getting it to be fair? I mean, yeah, if you hack on stuff with a sword for awhile you'll get better with it at some point... Then threw you fireballs and you'll get good at it, but at the same time, you wouldn't completely forgot how to use a sword. So after a shorter-than-the-first-time period wouldn't you be able to swing a sword just the same? But then after that short period of time, you wouldn't completely forget how to throw fireballs either, so therefor after awhile you could throw fireballs and swing a sword pretty well...

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I'm a proponent of skill based systems or mix it with templates where you cannot be good at all things.


I see many gamers ask 'why cant I just infinetly level?'? Well skill based makes it so you can always level + always enjoy teaming. no barriers between us. I love skill based coop RPGs like crackdown 360 for this reason!

Skill based is natural for MMOs because the character progression never ends. but - their issue is 'botting'. If you respawn the mobs in an area people will setup bots and skill up their characters. Then again even level based MMORPG has botting so nevermind that much. Lineage is known for botting

guess might be ways to detect bots I dunno how those are written


You can also go time based progression (like EVE).

Really I think if you can do it I'd say skill based. I'd love to play a skil based MMO. thinking of looking into working on one at some point (MMORPG)

You can have a sort of atrophy where you cant be good at all things or go EVE-Online route where it impossible to acquire all skills or go template based. Theres many ways to stop being a 'god at everything'.

and if flavor of the month happens somehow well good for you! That will keep the buggers busy!

edit- cleaned up post a bit

[Edited by - vajuras on July 18, 2007 8:12:15 PM]

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Original post by Sandman
You can certainly force players to specialize, but then aren't you just doing the same thing as classes but with less transparency?

I don't think so, for three reasons:

1. If you begin to specialize in a particular field but later decide you don't like that field, it's not too late to specialize in a different field instead. In a class-based game, if you can't switch classes then you have to redo your character if you want to change roles. If you can switch classes this reason might not apply, depending upon how class switching works.

2. Depending upon how fine-grained skills are, you can specialize in whatever fields you like. Most games won't have a specific class for fighters with powerful fire magic and pick-pocketing, but a purely skill-based system would allow a character to set himself up that way.

3. You're not actually forcing players to specialize. Players that want to go it alone will be better off not specializing. They'll just have to accept that a lone adventurer can't beat challenges as tough as a party of specialists can: but that doesn't prevent them from facing challenges and having fun whilst doing so. (Unless you want to force players to join a party. But the kind of player that has to be forced to join a party probably isn't the kind of player that his partymates would actually want in their party.)

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Original post by Sirisian
For a person stuck with a class they are forced to do the best with what they have. Sounds like bad game design to me personally, but some people like that.


I strongly disagree with that. Doing the best with what you have is a fundamental part of what makes games fun, in my opinion. It forces you to develop creative and interesting strategies to cope with problems you aren't optimized to deal with.

You can't play chess with fifteen queens. You have to make do with the pieces you have. Even more so as you lose pieces throughout the game. That's an important part of what makes chess interesting.

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Original post by Nathan Baum
I don't think so, for three reasons:

1. If you begin to specialize in a particular field but later decide you don't like that field, it's not too late to specialize in a different field instead. In a class-based game, if you can't switch classes then you have to redo your character if you want to change roles. If you can switch classes this reason might not apply, depending upon how class switching works.


Strictly speaking, this is potentially just as big a problem for skill based systems as for class systems. It all depends on how they are implemented. For that reason, I don't this point really counts.

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2. Depending upon how fine-grained skills are, you can specialize in whatever fields you like. Most games won't have a specific class for fighters with powerful fire magic and pick-pocketing, but a purely skill-based system would allow a character to set himself up that way.


Again, much depends on how classes are implemented, but I suppose this is a somewhat reasonable point. However, bear in mind that a properly designed class will always be useful, having a set of abilities that are synergistic. Throwing fireballs is not terribly synergistic with melee combat, unless you're OK with being stabbed in the face whilst casting, and then incinerating yourself when your spell finally goes off. It doesn't even work that well with ranged combat, since you can't shoot a bow and launch a fireball at the same time. Those two skill sets are exclusive rather than synergistic, which makes them a sucky combination.

A class system can cut out all the silly combinations that don't work well together, reducing the player's chances of inadvertently gimping himself to the point of uselessness, and reducing the likelihood of the player saying "oops my character sucks, time to rebuild".

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For a person stuck with a class they are forced to do the best with what they have. Sounds like bad game design to me personally, but some people like that.


I strongly disagree with that. Doing the best with what you have is a fundamental part of what makes games fun, in my opinion. It forces you to develop creative and interesting strategies to cope with problems you aren't optimized to deal with.

You can't play chess with fifteen queens. You have to make do with the pieces you have. Even more so as you lose pieces throughout the game. That's an important part of what makes chess interesting.

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Original post by Nathan Baum
I don't think so, for three reasons:

1. If you begin to specialize in a particular field but later decide you don't like that field, it's not too late to specialize in a different field instead. In a class-based game, if you can't switch classes then you have to redo your character if you want to change roles. If you can switch classes this reason might not apply, depending upon how class switching works.


Strictly speaking, this is potentially just as big a problem for skill based systems as for class systems. It all depends on how they are implemented. For that reason, I don't this point really counts.

Quote:

2. Depending upon how fine-grained skills are, you can specialize in whatever fields you like. Most games won't have a specific class for fighters with powerful fire magic and pick-pocketing, but a purely skill-based system would allow a character to set himself up that way.


Again, much depends on how classes are implemented, but I suppose this is a somewhat reasonable point. However, bear in mind that a properly designed class will always be useful, having a set of abilities that are synergistic. Throwing fireballs is not terribly synergistic with melee combat, unless you're OK with being stabbed in the face whilst casting, and then incinerating yourself when your spell finally goes off. It doesn't even work that well with ranged combat, since you can't shoot a bow and launch a fireball at the same time. Those two skill sets are exclusive rather than synergistic, which makes them a sucky combination.

A class system can cut out all the silly combinations that don't work well together, reducing the player's chances of inadvertently gimping himself to the point of uselessness, and reducing the likelihood of the player saying "oops my character sucks, time to rebuild".



What is useless to a Game Developer can be insanely fun to the player. In skill based games you'll see all kinds of crazy creativity. Right now in EVE I'm a combination of manufacter and fighter pilot. Sure, I might get my rear end handed to me in a fight but I'm happy because I invested time into what I really want to be

When players are forced along a treadmill you might end up with a character you don't really like. In City of Heroes, players all the time try to build their healer/tank/warrior how they want but they are still powers people expect them to include. So what happens people have to drop the powers they find really fun just to make their 'guild' happy so they can be productive on a team

Skill based squashes all that. You build the toon you really want to be. Non-combat professions become totally viable. In old school SWG-pre CU/NGE, you saw a ton of non-combat professions where players really built the avatar the really wanted to be rather then being forced into a linear treadmill dictated by the Game designer into cookie cutter roles we have seen in a lot of MMOs at this point.

All the MMOs are trying to innovate their class based systems but they all still end up with holy trinity- Warrior, Healer, and Mage. Sandbox / Skill based MMOs totally escape all that madness. We are not forced along some hardcoded chaarcter progression in a Sandbox like eVE. We can pursue the careers we really want to be. PRovides so much rich gameplay and experimentation


Classes still provide guidance. But we can provide Guidance as well by asking the Player what type they want to be and suggest skills they should pickup.

Classes make it easy too easy to turn away players. Its a sort of elitism we see. I know my friend that plays World of Warcraft poor guy he has to always respec his character to please his guild. I suppose some gamer's love the tight control Game Developers have over their characters but I've seen it too much for a game that is supposed to be infinite. Classes reach dead ends

Good points you have but I think if a developer really wants to stand out they should go more freeform it has really paiud off for EVE. But if you have a huge budget and a good Intellectual property I suppose you can borrow bits from World Of Warcraft and of course still be popular

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Original post by Sandman
With a purely skill based progression system you run the risk of having a world full of generic jack of all trades characters who just run about killing everything solo.

One could point out that RL shows it doesn't really work this way. Take for example any regular armed force -- while there's certain common skills that each average soldier share with others, there's enough practical incentive there to make them specialize in very different things. And they certainly don't 'run about killing everything solo' either, simply because the only thing one can really kill solo is another lone guy of similar strength. Anything bigger, and you need to start grouping up to stand chance.

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While its true that RL doesnt work that way, there is at least one important difference in RL to most games. Namely, in RL developing a skill is difficult enough that it requires a significant investment and skills learnt have no hard limit on how far you can develop it, and will atrophy if not practiced with some regularity.

This means that skilled specialists in RL will lose some of their skill in that area if they attempt to train themselves in additional skills. In most games, especially traditional RPGs, skills have a set limit that a skill can be raised to, and the skill does not decrease if it isnt used, so there is no penalty for attempting other skills after you master the first.


Thats not to say that RL cant be used as a guide on how to prevent "jack of all trades" characters, though. For example, instead of set limits on skills (eg, all skills stop at 60 skill points, or the like), use some form of logarithmic curve, where investing time in the skill will always have benefits, but with diminishing returns, so that specialists are rewarded without becoming grossly overpowered. Skill atrophy is another option... but unlikely to be too popular with gamers used to the current crop of RPGs.

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Original post by caffiene
While its true that RL doesnt work that way, there is at least one important difference in RL to most games. Namely, in RL developing a skill is difficult enough that it requires a significant investment and skills learnt have no hard limit on how far you can develop it, and will atrophy if not practiced with some regularity.

This means that skilled specialists in RL will lose some of their skill in that area if they attempt to train themselves in additional skills. In most games, especially traditional RPGs, skills have a set limit that a skill can be raised to, and the skill does not decrease if it isnt used, so there is no penalty for attempting other skills after you master the first.

Skill-based games that I've seen generally seem to go about it in slightly different way than RL, but ultimately to very similar effect -- there's overall cap on how many things you can teach single character.

Note even if there was no such cap and a character was allowed to eventually learn everything, it still doesn't make them capable of 'soloing everything' ... it just makes them more versatile. But there's still physical (so to speak) limits how much damage one person can do and withstand, and content that requires more than that in order to beat, would still require grouping. The only difference is that the player has more freedom who they group with, vs sitting there idle for long periods of time in hope a healer/tank/damage dealer interested in doing the same content happens to be online... but removal of that particular "feature" isn't bad thing in my eyes.

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If I ever get around to fully designing any of the MMO or RPG ideas I have, they will most likely be class base and skill based.

Classes offer bonuses and penalties to certain skills, and even could limit certain advanced skills to a given class. Then I'd use a "Libra" system that could balance the jack of all trades by applying further bonuses or penalties if a player chose to specialize in their class or be more versitle and choose more off class skills.

Players could also reallocate skill points via in-game trials.
Players would not be locked into anything permanently, and could even do a repeatable task to change classes ( at a loss of experience and a permanent penalty to previous class skills however).

Branching out too much would mean you can heal, buff , debuff , deal damage , and take damage; but you could only do those things at 10-20% of the strength of their potential.

Leveling would increase skills you are "focused" on and decrease skills you arent focused on. On class skills detierorate slower than off class skills.

I think this system would offer alot to various player types, and with careful balancing, be pretty good overall.

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This is another thread I've been eyeing. First off, I want to start out with some light reading. Opinions are great and all, but enlightenment can be found only through research and study, not one's own backside (I include myself in that comment).

"Classes (plus, If Quoting History, You Should Know It)" Damion Schubert (Ubiq)'s blog post regarding Class v. Skill - He starts the following blog responses
"Ubiq's a Classy Guy" - blog by Lum
"Stay Classy" - blog by Jason Pace
"Class Systems suck, Skill Systems Swallow" - blog by Ryan Shwayder (Blackguard)
"MMORPG Classes" blog by Steve (Sierra Kilo)
"Like School in the Summertime" - blog by Steve Danuser (Moorgard)
"Do Classes Suck?" - by Raph Koster
IMGDC Class vs. Skill Debate - Follow-up after a roundtable discussion
"Social/Political based MMO vs 'level' based? (Academic)" Thread here started by Talroth

Preface: I am going to assume that everyone is okay with me calling "Levels" a "class" system. For the most part, those go hand in hand, but not always. So, if you have an issue with that, state so in your comment so we can follow you.

This thread is rehashing the discussions that have already taken place. So where do we stand? I will state up front that I am a Skill-based proponent. It has been summed up nicely for us. Classes are easier to balance, easier to design, and just easier to get out the door. It has been mentioned that budget constraints are a reason why some designers shy away from a skill-based system. So, why is it that the topic still rages? I think it is because there is still a large portion of the gaming world that is looking for such a game. The topic keeps coming back because they have not been satiated since the days of UO (in my case).

We are now thick in an MMO market that caters to babies. That's right, you heard me. Obese, spoiled Dudley Dursley's. And what are the game designers/developers doing for them? They are giving them more cake...they are making it worse. WoW is a prime example. Give the players what they want now, without any thought of what sort of players they will become. Why does this matter? Becuase it effects the games we design tomorrow (or the ones we are designing now, for tomorrow). Players now have high expectations for their product. If it does not meet them, they don't just stop playing quietly, they go out in a blaze of glory. They flame the forums, they post on slashdot, they make their voice heard, to the detriment of the game they left. Essentially, they throw a tantrum.

So why am I mentioning this here in this thread? I am because that is what is going to make it hard for a game to deviate onto a path that only some want. Thanks to WoW (and others), we are now consigned to a niche market. Gone are the days where the true role player could bask in the glory of any MMO. We could pick any one of them and find something we liked. They were made for RPG players. MMO's are no longer made for us, they are made for the madden-playing, halo-playing, football watching mainstream. When the heck did that happen? Have you seen the debates on ESPN? Fantasy Football is what MMO's are becoming. There is money to be had, and designers who want it.

Okay, so I am getting a little sidetracked here, but I think it will all come back together in the end (I hope). My point is, I do not want a game like that! I want my nice skill-based game. I want to be able to do whatever I want in a nice virtual world that doesn't have these "others." Is this now even possible? I really doubt it. So, in this sad state, what is there left to do? Design and make one myself. Hopefully a niche market can reform and get enough attention to remind those who have lost site of what MMO's are supposed to be. They aren't fantasy leagues! They are places where we can act heroic and become the heroes we want to be. Who wants to farm gold? Argh!

So, we come back to Class(level) v. Skill. What does this have to do with the price of rice in China? This is where we draw the line in the sand and say enough. Enough cookie-cutters. I do not want to be delegated. I do not believe in a destiny that has been chosen for my by someone who wants money. I want to carve out my own future. So, I continue to rant and rave, but where does that get us? I'll make myself clear. I think a skill-based game can save the MMO industry from the Dudley's of the world. What is going to happen to this skill-based game? It is going to get trashed, griefed, picked on. It is going to suffer from what the industry has become. Then, it will press on, and in the ashes the phoenix will arise are bring forth a new generation in MMO design. Its a rebirth, an awakening.

Yes, this is all syrupy verbiage, but I think a sliver of truth lies within. I don't think a mainstream MMO is going to be able to pull this off. When there is money and publishers envolved, they are going to go in a predictable direction. It is left up to the indies, who are not tied to the puppet-master(s).

Specifically, I do not think a UO clone will do it. We (those who yearn for a skill-based game) have matured. The old isn't going to do it for us this time around. I think a hybrid system is what is going to take us to greener pastures. I am working on a skill-based design at the moment that has what I call "soft" classes. These are nothing chosen before you start. These are chosen only if a player wants to. They do not much more than give the player a title (like "warrior"), but the player can renounce his class at any time. This soft class will have some benefits, but only to those players who must have a class to find his place in the world. It will not give them any advantage over those players who wish to trek on without this distinction. The design is still raw, and is still on the chalkboard being worked on, but I hope its a step in the right direction.

I am glad to see that there are still so many who want to see a skill-based game out there. Indeed, it joys me to see so many of you (indies) working to create your own version of one. Hopefully (at least) one of us will be able stand as a beacon to those who are searching. May you fair well in your quest.

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