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Eyra

From Fighter to Rogue

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In my design for a skill-based rpg, I'm now contemplating ways for players to change from one build to another, so to speak. I've thought of several ways to do this. Players could... A)..."forget" a number of skill points, and may then advance in a different skill B)..."forget" a number of skill points, and immediately be able to put them into other skills C)...directly exchange a number of the points under one skill for an equal number of points in another. I also considered a sort of degeneration that might happen to a skill over time, but that just seemed like a cruel, discouraging feature to me. Besides any other ways to do this, the other thing that stumps me is what sort of in-game explanation would explain the process, as skill points are directly related to a character's age. How would you do it?

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I personally am a fan of the degenerative skill point idea. As you use a certain weapon, you level up using that weapon - most likely by using it on enemies. However, you 'forget' or get clumsy with weapons that you previously used. It doesn't have to be a linear decline of the skill, it could have a square root decline to it, so that it has a big hit in the short term but does not decline more then a certain amount (say, 10 + sqrt(x)).

The tricky part is implementing a time scale for this method. Characters will switch weapons quite often, if you have many weapons to choose from. They will go from Dagger to Axe to Quarter Staff in a matter of a few hours.

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I think I need a bit more context: What's the major justification / value in letting players switch builds? I think that should weigh in when determining what happens when you switch. If your goal is to let high level players experience many different ways to play the game (without a huge time investment) then maybe the penalties should be light

I'd personally not recommend this. If a player made certain choices throughout the game sticking to those choices and having to adapt them to new situations is what gives them value. The player is forced to weigh risk and reward, and in a sense this makes any choice more satisfying.

If you are intent on allowing them to respec I actually would go with skill decay or some other penalty. A may work best here. B seems to open you up to exploits where a player levels low skills then uses that relatively easy work to boost higher skills. C may work but again you may cheapen the value of risk, allowing players to say garden their way to being an awesome dragon fighter (Horticulture points flowing directly to Swordfighting, for instance).

In terms of a reason, btw, maybe it's tied to the lore of the land. If it's fantasy game then maybe the spirits give people their skills, similar to the ancient ideas of little beings in us that created our moods and personalities. I thought of something like this in a futuristic game and used the idea that skills were cybernetic plug in modules that imparted temporary knowledge which faded upon removal.

The main thing probably is to instill in the player the idea that ability is external to their virtual self. This makes it easier conceptually to part with.

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Original post by RealMarkP
I personally am a fan of the degenerative skill point idea. As you use a certain weapon, you level up using that weapon - most likely by using it on enemies. However, you 'forget' or get clumsy with weapons that you previously used. It doesn't have to be a linear decline of the skill, it could have a square root decline to it, so that it has a big hit in the short term but does not decline more then a certain amount (say, 10 + sqrt(x)).


With this idea, I'm worried about newer players losing interest as their hard-earned points go down the drain. When you put it that way, however, it doesn't sound that bad at all. If nothing else, it could encourage focus, and increase gameplay time for those who'd rather be a jack of all trades.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I think I need a bit more context: What's the major justification / value in letting players switch builds?


To be honest, I haven't given it much thought. It was something of an afterthought as I was updating my documents, and I thought it might be a friendlier alternative to replaying whatever tutorial phase there might be.

I can see how it might decrease the time a player might put into the game, though, and I suppose the issue could be fixed by making the tutorial phase optional.

Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
B seems to open you up to exploits where a player levels low skills then uses that relatively easy work to boost higher skills. C may work but again you may cheapen the value of risk, allowing players to say garden their way to being an awesome dragon fighter (Horticulture points flowing directly to Swordfighting, for instance).


I was thinking of the possibility of exploitation, and was thinking about assigning worth to certain skill points. It's a given that the first five points of swordfighting, for instance, would be earned more quickly and easily than the thirtieth. If a player wanted to boost their Lock-picking skill (Level 26) with points from their Sword-fighting skill (Level 7), perhaps the first five points would only be counted as a percentage of a whole point each, so the player couldn't become a Level 33 Lock-picker in an hour or so.

It seems like there might've been an easier way to say that, forgive me if I made a meal out of a mouthful.

[Edited by - Eyra on December 27, 2009 2:48:37 AM]

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I believe in the case of "Magic Knight" a trope refer to all classing or the ability to use any class. I do not like the limitation of specializing. In real life, even specializing does not increase a person overall abilities. The total time a person puts in is the typical total skill level a person has, so it should not matter if that particular person puts the skill in one class or another. The reason for specialization is because repeated actions require less thinking, and that repeated actions are also in correct position to do the same action again. Majority of multi-step skills require the repositioning of your hands and thus less time effective during the transitional period. However, if a person develop enough muscle memory, they will be able to reposition themselves into position for the next step without thinking. Thus, the same level of performance can be developed.
example:
Person A wants to develop a 2 step skill.
Person B develops step 1
Person C develops step 2
In 8 hours:
Person A spends 3 hours in step 1, 3 hours in step 2, and 2 hours repositioning hands (one repositioning from end of step 1 to start of step 2, and the other repositioning from end of step 2 to start of step 1).
Person B spends 7 hours in step 1, and 1 hour taking resource / give partial finish product to Person C.
Person C spends 7 hours in step 1, and 1 hour during the waiting time for Person B to give the partial finish product.
As you can see, Specialization gives higher time productivity, but it is the time develop in each skills that matters. If Person A develops the same amount of time for step 1 as Person B and the same amount of time for step 2 as Person C, then the overall productivity of Person A is equal to Person B + Person C. Nevertheless, the total time Person A needs to reach this level is slightly more than Person B + Person C because of the inefficient time at the beginning. Latter on, Person A will exceed Person B and Person C because the switch from step 1 to step 2 becomes faster than Person B giving the partial product to Person C.

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The wizardry serie let player change profession so maybe you want check them out. Try a walkthrough for wizardry 7.

Personally i would not be too happy about "forgeting" my skill, at least not "forced" by the game mechanism. And I totally agree with you that a systematical "degeneration" is discouraging, and above all not really fun.

A good approach would be to think about why the player wants to change profession first. The old profession got boring? The only way to get a powerful weapon is to steal it? The NPC you want to marry loves Thief only? The game has balance problem? Certain areas are restricted to certain class?

After that you could think about the the cost and reward of a class change. Maybe integrate it into the overall story and so on.

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A) Transfering skill points from one to another is, in my opinion, a reasonably bad idea. The main (if not only) reason being that, as mentioned above, players could exploit the system. A solution to this could be to make the skills experience based. This way you could easily limit the amount of experience you could dump into a higher skill from a lower skill making it essentially, if not entirely, pointless to do so.

B) Though if you don't want to do experience and you don't agree with or prefer degeneration, try something plausible and realistic like amnesia (pills, magic, whatever) for basic and simple skill resets. It allows player to connect to the concept and immediately understand the risks. I'm partial to the degeneration idea myself.

C) I've built systems that use a slightly different method or approach to the degeneration of skills (and or attributes) which I tried to model around my current understanding of the real world.

For example, you never really forget how to ride a bike, but you do lose the ability to manipulate the skill at a finer level. Call that permanent/innate skill or in real world terms, and as mentioned above by Platinum_Dragon, muscle memory.

This concept allows the players to feel free to dabble in other skills or different "career" paths without the fear of losing all their time spent in that skill or area. It also allows them a "preview" of what they could go into.

Hope this is coherent and not too long.

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Quote:
A good approach would be to think about why the player wants to change profession first. The old profession got boring? The only way to get a powerful weapon is to steal it? The NPC you want to marry loves Thief only? The game has balance problem? Certain areas are restricted to certain class?


Well, I hadn't thought of anything so specific. One of the other reasons behind my wanting to include this was that one exactly: people, real and fictional, are often required to undergo changes to adapt to one change or another.

Quote:
For example, you never really forget how to ride a bike, but you do lose the ability to manipulate the skill at a finer level. Call that permanent/innate skill or in real world terms, and as mentioned above by Platinum_Dragon, muscle memory.

This concept allows the players to feel free to dabble in other skills or different "career" paths without the fear of losing all their time spent in that skill or area. It also allows them a "preview" of what they could go into.


I want to thank you for your responses so far, Nyight and Platinum Dragon especially - your input helped me to think of another alternative (not to say that the alternatives you've all suggested sound unreasonable to me; this is simply another idea I want to throw out there.)

It would operate based on the similarities between skills or lack thereof. For the sake of example, say there are two categories of skills: combat and magic. These types would be considered opposites, and focusing on one field would mean degeneration in another.

The degeneration of a skill would not be equivalent to the progress the player was making in the opposing category, however, perhaps subtracting one half of a point for each point gained. The result would be say, a master-level swordsman, who has become half the summoner he used to be due to his training. Or a character equally skilled in two fields, while not especially advanced in either.

I guess the more complete model would involve a sort of spectrum of relating and opposing skills so they would all interact logically. I hope I haven't simply repeated what you meant to suggest.

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Original post by Eyra
I want to thank you for your responses so far, Nyight and Platinum Dragon especially - your input helped me to think of another alternative (not to say that the alternatives you've all suggested sound unreasonable to me; this is simply another idea I want to throw out there.)

It would operate based on the similarities between skills or lack thereof. For the sake of example, say there are two categories of skills: combat and magic. These types would be considered opposites, and focusing on one field would mean degeneration in another.

The degeneration of a skill would not be equivalent to the progress the player was making in the opposing category, however, perhaps subtracting one half of a point for each point gained. The result would be say, a master-level swordsman, who has become half the summoner he used to be due to his training. Or a character equally skilled in two fields, while not especially advanced in either.

I guess the more complete model would involve a sort of spectrum of relating and opposing skills so they would all interact logically. I hope I haven't simply repeated what you meant to suggest.


Here's a potential problem with how I can see this playing out (and if my understanding is correct unless when you say lose half a point you mean experience and not skill level wise.)

E.x. you have 10 points in combat and you start going for magic and get 10 points in magic, resulting in 5 points remaining in combat. Then you work on combat again and get it to 15 and magic to 5, etc...

So essentially you'll lose half of whatever you gain in the opposing skills. Given I understand that half is probably simply the arbitrary number you chose for simplicity of calculations but be careful on the gains/losses otherwise it will defeat the system and or simply annoy people... especially if they start accidentally gaining skill in an opposing skill, losing skill in another.

With this system of skill degeneration, you might want to check into how UO works. Again, this is also based on my understanding of what you said, which might be entirely off base and wrong.

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i personally like option 'a', as well as the degeneration idea. It seems logical; if one doesn't use a skill they have learned, or stay in practice, they eventually forget. And as realmark had brought up with the squareroot idea, given a long enough time without practice, one may remember the basic idea of the skill they have learned, but will not be as good as before. But what of the skills/perks one acquires from the level-ing up a skill? Perhaps simply disabled, until one practices the enough again?
As far as the class switching goes, i could see "forgetting" ones original skill then simply being allowed to advance in others. Forgetting on thing doesn't allow you to automatically know another. Which actually brings me to my other point,
what if there were a slight benefit to switching to a skill that were similar to the one you were abandoning or the penalty wouldn't be as great.
I mean, If one plays guitar, rather well and decides to stop playing guitar and play bass instead, it would be easier from them to pick it up, then if they were to pickup, say, auto-mechanics. Like if i wanted to go from agility based stuff to strength, there would be less a penalty then switching to something intel based. I dunno.

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Well, you have to look into related skills. People have to walk everyday so they will maintain strength of their legs to a certain level. Therefore, they can still ride a bike after many years of not riding because of the same muscle group usage. Skills are the same way. The finer levels come from the minor muscles that people do not usually use, so these minor muscles weaken, but the major muscle groups can still function. The person can, thus, still use the ability but at a significantly lower efficiency. Another way is they can provide the same performance at a higher energy/time cost than when they are at the peak.

The degeneration should go until a set minimum
Set the minimum to between 1/10 to 3/10 of the max level achieve.

Okay, in the States, the average person performs 8th grade level. The average person has experienced 13th grade; therefore, the average person loses only 5 years worth of education but no more even though they don't use that much academic skills. The ads bombard at the citizens, and the local newspaper are typically at 6th grade level, so it is impossible for the citizen to degrade to below 6th grade level. So what keeps the people at 8th grade level? Applications do because applications are required to maintain a 10th grade level readability. With normal performance at 6th grade level and special performance at 10th grade level (during paperwork), the average performance is somewhere in between and that is 8th grade performance.

The truth is that there are many ways to use the same skill set without even spending time one those skill sets because they are implied or simultaneous with other performances. Just take a walk down any US cities, and in one day you will get more than 3000 ads, each will give you experience towards 6th grade level reading skills. But wait, you're only walking down the streets. So welcome to the real world where you can gain experience without knowing.

How to properly use degeneration:
You must make sure the degeneration is slower than real life degeneration or your fanbase will leave.
You must make sure other related actions account towards maintaining the skills.
There should be implied relation between higher skills that requires lower skills; therefore, within skill hierarchy, the skills at the higher levels must degenerate before the skills at the lower levels degenerate.
For example:
people will lose their multiplication skills before their addition skills.

edit:
off-topic
the real world functions differently. Like I have shown, the ads give you 6th grade reading skill experiences so it can only pull you from 6th grade reading skills towards but it does not reach 7th grade reading skill level. For the same way, your experience should also be a one way (single used) ticket that cannot be given once the player should reach another level. Like a theater ticket, you can use it to watch a movie, but not the next movies. Oh, this is just an idea to keep the experience from inflating. A game too easy is boring, so this idea will come to help you keep the difficulty level from getting to low.

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