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Problems with skills

Posted by Chris Jones
On April 16th, 2006 at 19:19

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Posted in Cyberpunk MMO

Over the weekend, I’ve been considering skills in the Cyberpunk MMO design, especially how they’ll be obtained and advanced. To require all known skills to be capped before going up a rank doesn’t allow players to specialize. Depending on how hard it is to cap skills (how skill advancement is tweaked in testing), it may make sense to only require one skill, or one skill from each group to be capped. Characters may advance through the ranks very quickly if I do this, but they’ll feel less frustrated than grinding skills on missions they don’t enjoy. (“Why did I ever take lockpicking? Now I have to take the stupid espionage missions that I hate every time I want to gain rank.”)

Skill rewards from missions may take the form of new skills that the player doesn’t possess, but the player may not want the reward. They make take the form of increasing a skill by one point: this works well when skills do not improve through use.

At this time, I’m leaning away from improving skills through use, despite how realistic practice is. I found myself thinking, “Players will advance character skills too quickly. I’ll need to improve skills by 1/10th, or maybe 1/100th per improvement,” which begins to turn the game into a grind. By providing skill improvements as a reward for completing a mission, or as an in-mission reward, players advance at a well regulated rate. The goal isn’t to stop characters from hitting the 10th rank, and the game doesn’t essentially change at that point, but I do want players to learn the skills they’ll need to survive and succeed at the more difficult, higher-ranked missions. Characters may need to have at least 89 successful missions to reach maximum rank.

Notes on missions
Player characters should be able to work on more than one mission at a time. A low limit should be in place, but this will allow players to help their friends with missions without abandoning their own.

Players may invite other player characters to join missions. Missions rewards will be granted to all player characters who participated for sufficient time and helped with objectives–this will be prorated.

Missions should be achievable by player characters of all ranks. Nothing will stop a rank 1 character from joining and succeeding at a mission received by a rank 10 player character, although the role of the rank 1 may be necessarily limited.

Missions may take more than one session to complete. Missions may involve multiple tasks or types, especially at higher ranks. A player may be given two real weeks to surveil NPCs or other player characters (on their own, related missions), gather evidence, infiltrate buildings, perform combat, capture NPCs, etc. Many missions will be available that can be completed in 30 minutes or less (find and capture and NPC, or enter an urban combat zone and eliminate a threat).

Missions may have sub-objectives. These are related sub-missions or targets of opportunity.

Missions are scored by individual:

  • points are given for participating in combat
  • points are given for good teamwork
    • using first aid on wounded teammates
    • staying close to teammates
    • attacking the same target in combat
    • using abilities to distract or protect teammates from damage
    • making sure all current (logged in) teammates are present when an objective or sub-objective is achieved
    • in surveillance missions, communicating with teammates (a UI feature to copy data to other teammate HUDs)
  • points are given for each objective achieved while the player character is present (points fall off based on range)
  • points are given for each subobjective achieved while the player character is present (points fall off based on range)
  • points are given for time spent surveilling targets (keeping the target targeted) while not being detected (targetted by the target)

Players are expected to be active participants, not sitting back at the base and letting the points roll in (powerlevelling through missions).

Successful missions will have completed all main objectives. Everything else that has been completed or scored provides bonus points, which can be used to improve multiple skills, provide extra cash or item rewards, or improve the chances of increased rank. The player may be able to select this at the time the rewards are given for a successful mission.

As an example, a player character completed all the main objectives and can receive up to three rewards (satisfactory, but not outstanding success). The player chooses two skill improvements and a cash payout.

Failed missions may have consequences: at higher ranks, this is more likely. A failed rank 1 mission may result in drama (NPC dialogue) but little else. A failed rank 5 mission to stop arms smugglers may result in lower prices for a type of weapon for opposing factions for a limited time (until ten of the lower-priced weapons are purchased). A failed rank 10 mission may result in the destruction of buildings in the city, including the possibility of displacement of NPCs who occupied the building (i.e., a fixer or merchant NPC associated with the faction that failed the mission).

Partial Skill List

  • Ranged Combat – defaults to Agility
    • Bow
    • Carbine
    • Crossbow
    • Grenade Launcher
    • Integral Gun
    • Machine Gun
    • Missile – Ground-to-Air
    • Missile – Anti-Personnel
    • Missile – Anti-Tank
    • SMG
    • Pistol – Automatic
    • Pistol – Flechette
    • Pistol – Laser
    • Pistol – Revolver
    • Rifle – Bolt Action
    • Rifle – EMP
    • Rifle – Flechette
    • Rifle – Laser
    • Rifle – Semi/Automatic
    • Shotgun
    • Thrown – Blunt
    • Thrown – Knife

Skill Revisions
Skills are obtained in three ways:

  • by gifting (at character creation when joining an organization),
  • as loot in a mission, and
  • as a mission reward.

Skills are improved in two ways:

  • as a mid-mission reward (loot, for an existing skill),
  • as a mission reward.

Character skills are capped at 10 times the rank, such that a rank 1 character will not be able to advance skills beyond rating 10 until they have entered rank 2. A prerequisite for advancing ranks is having one skill for each attribute capped. Additionally, all natural humans have skills capped at 45 (all skill tests have a maximum 60.80% chance of success) in order to provide incentive to have characters purchase cyborg bodies and to recognize the difference and advantages that the improved human possesses.

Skills do not increase through use or practice. They only increase through the application of rewarded skill points. Player characters may not purchase new skills (except as a reward for a successful missions), nor may they learn skills from other player characters. This is not meant to break realism, but to instead reduce twinking and encourage players to participate in missions.

2 Responses to “Problems with skills”

  1. Tayman Says:

    I’ve learned quite a bit from playing so many different mmorpgs. The best form of skill advancement is variety.

    There are some times (most times) where I would like to obtain skill from actually performing the skill.

    There are times when I would like to grind on mobs.

    The occasional quest is also a great thing to have. Variety helps stop the monotonous grinding.

    If I could only choose one, it would be skill based. People will always find a way to automate leveling, so you might as well ignore that aspect.

  2. NCortex Says:

    Skill based is a good skill framework to use. One of the things that stuck with me from the time I first played an MMO (Ultima Online) was that not only were there no “levels” but that even someone having mastered thiet skillset, still found themselves not to be all powerful.

    Also just as a players focus on one aspect or another shifts, so could they shift thier characters emphasis.