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Non-progressive leveling

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Has anyone considered the implications for implementing RPG-type leveling that's non-progressive? An example of such a system might be where you would have to remove points from one skill to spend on another skill during experience "training". The character never becomes better in the overall sense, but becomes more customized and specialized with certain skills, while being required to lack in others. Some concerns and possibilities for this type of gameplay..
  • Skillful gameplay should still reward experience, even though it's more like the ability to trade power, rather than the ability to linearly increase it.
  • The player can slowly re-specialize during a single game to dramatically change the strengths and weaknesses of their character. These types of changes could be risky, because all of their abilities would be cut in half as the half-way point is reached between specialization types. But there's never a no-going-back point.
  • The loss of power doesn't need to be equal to the gain in power. If the gain is slightly larger, the character will eventually max out by continuing to change specialization. It somewhat emulates the concept of doing something enough times that you stop forgetting how to do it.
  • The gameplay could very slowly shift focus, or allow the player to focus on different types of gameplay. This would allow the player to continue enjoying leveling up to the newest perfect build, rather than ignoring leveling once a universal perfect build is found. The creativity and experimentation of character leveling could stay in the foreground.
  • If the leveling gameplay isn't interactive and fun, the concept would become a grindfest that essentially never ends.
Any random thoughts? If there are any games that already employ this type of leveling, it would be great to hear of the implementation they used, or how well it worked.

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I think Ultima Online used a system similar to what you're describing. Essentially your character has 700.0 points to distribute through 50 skills ranging from swordsmanship and magery to carpentry and musicianship.

You could specialize your character into melee fighting by concentrating in skills like swordsmanship, tactics, and parrying or make a hybrid character who could wield a sword, no shield, but could use magic. There were so many builds to consider and no build was "the" build to play.

A player was never forced to stick to the same skills. If he had brought his swordsmanship up to 100% he could decide to lower it and put points into lumberjacking if he wished by practicing it.

It was an awesome system if you ask me [smile]

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Guildwars also uses a similar system, players quickly reach the level 20 Cap, and can then redistribute their points to any of the 7 or so "Group" categories they want when in town. So while player can use any skills masterfully, they can only master about 2 categories at a time, and only take 8 out of a hundred or so skills. This helps emphasize strategic use and combinations of specific skills to succeed.

Quote:
The player can slowly re-specialize during a single game to dramatically change the strengths and weaknesses of their character. These types of changes could be risky, because all of their abilities would be cut in half as the half-way point is reached between specialization types. But there's never a no-going-back point.


Assuming that there's a level cap (since they're not being constantly fed new points), this shouldn't be much of a problem. Most RPG's rely on ever-increasing difficulty and more powerful monsters to keep in step with ever more powerful players, such that a drop in player power would prove fatal. Since power isn't a factor here all a player would have to do is go kill rats or something for awhile until he passed the midpoint, assuming hunting has the same benefit overall as when he was originally midway in skill points. For example the original Dragon warrior, where the further you traveled in the map, the more difficult the enemies. If i wanted to switch skill priorities i'd just travel back to where the slimes hung out and farm there awhile.

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I was picturing player character(s) starting at a state where most of their power is equally distrubuted between all skills, with minor variances between certain skills to match the character's class/background or the player's new-character options.

Rather than being forced to decrease a certain skill to increase another, the player would earn and spend new experience points on a skill, and the total value of power added to that skill would be subtracted from all other skills. So for example, if a skill is increased by 1 point, and there are 10 other skills (with points in them), each other skill would donate 0.1 points to the increased skill. This should cause negative changes to be pretty difficult to notice, while the positive effects are pretty significant. It also adds a small twist to specialization, where you may have to keep touching up your best skills as you practice others.

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It still sounds a lot like Ultima Online's system. You don't instantly change the skills. They go down as you practice other skills.

I would recommend that you avoid forcing the player to always retouch their main skills to max them out again. Nothing more annoying then losing points for nothing (it'll be more aggravating than fun).

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