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The Search Skill - How Should It Work?

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Search in a lot of RPGs is pretty standard: You have one or more characters in some environment with a skill called search which, if it succeeds based on some test, reveals something not otherwise obvious (a hidden door, treasure, a trap, etc.).

 

In a lot of games its pretty generic pass or fail. In some you can spam it at no cost. I've been thinking about making search resource based (maybe you need special particles to "scan" an environment), in order to give it an opportunity cost, with a kind of "getting warmer / colder" dynamic.

 

Are there better implementations out there that you've heard of?

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I think it needs to be "fixed efficiency" which means no randomness and no resources. Otherwise the load/save routine will be repeated by the player over and over again. Unless, you can disable/restrict the load/save somehow (which usually is ugly).

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Resources might be useful, such as launching "probes" when you've identified something you want to know more about. But as Acharis mentioned, it's possible to game the system and reload any 'misses' until you get a favorable result, or to save yourself a resource that didn't return anything.

 

Neverwinter had a passive search skill, which polled hidden objects within your vision every few seconds. If a check passed, it was brought into view, though you had a penalty while moving around. You could enter a slower movement mode to improve your chances, or just add more points to be a more reliable searcher.

 

I don't see false positives used anywhere, though I think it could make for a strong mechanic. In real life, noticing something is less a pass-fail thing, and more about screening information. Getting the player to evaluate their chances based on more than a single roll adds a layer of strategy, and lets them pick their own opportunities on what to investigate.

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I would assume that Search would be a stat that you could augment with special glasses, contacts, and/or magic. It would be a skill you train like any other skill.

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Why not allow searching, but once an area is searched don't allow any further PRODUCTIVE search of that area by the same searcher until skillup (including buffs from items, etc.)?

 

Just a thought!

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I think the lockpick skill in Skyrim solves this in a neat way, It has the probes (lockpicks) and the target (chest/door). The result is a function of five parameters: your number of trials, your skill level, your number of lockpicks, the difficulty of the lock and finding the door (traditional exploring). Just because you can quick-load does not mean you want to spend forever trying to lockpick something which is out of skill for your character. Of course, if it's a really important loot or if the player is really obnoxious and wants to 100.00000% the game, then they can cheat. But for most players, its a good filter.  Note that they used to have luck, which was reflecting how much loot you would find, but that was a bit... like cheating.

Edited by mipmap

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You could activate the skill to have it point you towards the nearest hidden object, which would only be findable if the player used the skill on it in the first place.

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I remember the old might and magic games had a search spell that depending on your magic level marked treasure, and lootable corpses on the mini map and at higher levels highlighted hidden doors and switches in red on the screen. Or the more recent batman arkham games where things were highlighted when in detective mode.

 

What about if the player has a tricorder, sonic screw driver, cell phone, omni gadget whatever you want to call it.  The player can install and activate different modules that have different effects.  Passive modules decrease available energy while switched on while active modules temporarily use energy while in use.

 

So if it has 100 energy and I switch on the life form scanner which uses 20 energy then I can see nearby lifeforms. If I switch on the weapons detector which uses 50 energy it highlights weapons on npcs and tells me what they are armed with.  Both of those on reduces my available energy to 30 which means I can only run the hacking module for 30 seconds at a time.

 

Another option for more a survival type game would be to give the player the option to use probes to boost treasure drops from certain searchable areas.  For instance a junk pile might normally give level 1 drops, but you can use a probe to boost that to level 3 drops. In this way search is used to boost the quality of what you find from certain containers.

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