[MUD-Dev] I Want to Forge Swords. [Another letter to game

Paul Schwanz - Enterprise Services Paul.Schwanz at Sun.COM
Thu May 10 13:09:03 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Adam Martin wrote:

> (Wishful thinking) I've long wanted to get a skills system working
> where there was no limit on the number of skills you possessed; but
> you had to continue to practice them in order to keep them from
> degrading. Limits on which/how many skills you are allowed to "try
> your hand in" so to speak have always felt painfully artificial to
> me. I'd love for someone to reply to this with "Yep. Done that, it
> works. And it works very well too." but I've not yet seen a complete
> fulfilment of the idea.

[snip]

>  4) On one side we have players' oft-cited adverseness to having
>  things taken away from them, and also to not getting big rewards
>  for big time-investments in an activity. This would imply degrading
>  skills is a bad thing. On the other hand, everyone could see that
>  in a non-regressing-skills game there will be skill "inflation",
>  period.So....  >

What if only big investments of character time were required for big
rewards to the character?  It seems to me that I would be much less
upset about losing skill that my character had worked hard to achieve
than I would about losing skill that *I* had personally spent long,
boring hours of work on raising.

>  5) Any significant effort to improve a skill should result in SOME
>  permanent reward - you have "regression limits" where once you
>  achieve a certain level in a skill, it can't slip back below a
>  certain other level. Alternatively (or in parallel?) the skill
>  would regress as normal, but it is very easy to get close to the
>  highest level you've previously attained in any particular skill.

> Thoughts?

Yes.  ;-)

It seems to me that an extremely flexible system could revolve around
giving each character a certain amount of time resources to expend
each day on the skill(s) of his/her choosing.  Those time resources
could be used for crafting, skilling, and travelling.  As proficiency
in a skill gets higher, it would require more and more time to raise
it or even to maintain it.  Whereas the amount of player
time-investment can vary widly, the amount of character time would be
an exact, known quantity, allowing for accurate predictions about how
long it would take someone to reach a certain proficiency in a skill.

I think that there can be many benefits to such a system, beyond it
being flexible and perhaps easier to balance. For crafting skills, you
would need to choose between using 8 hours to actually create a fancy
dress or using it to raise your dress-making skill.  In this schema,
one supposes that if you use your limited time resource to create a
fancy dress, you do so for the result of a fancy dress (whether for
the economic or personal prestige the fancy dress will bring you) and
not to raise your dress-making skill.

The downside of such a system is that in making skill advancement more
character based, you may take away from the player some of the feeling
of accomplishment (although the 'accomplishment' of sitting at a
keyboard and mashing the same button over and over again for hours on
end is debateable, IMHO).  The solution to this might be to break
skill into two parts: skill knowledge and skill proficiency.

Skill knowledge would model the sort of things someone can learn from
reading a book, watching someone else demonstrate, receiving secret
information or recipes, attending a lecture, etc.  We understand that
reading a book about the fundamentals of basketball, though written by
Michael Jordon, isn't going to turn us into a star overnight.

Skill knowledge would be tied closely to questing, although I think it
would be great to allow PCs who had a high level of knowledge and good
teaching skills to raise anothers skill knowledge to a certain degree.
In any case, this is how the player is involved in advancement.  The
player undertakes a quest to find the long-lost secret recipe to
really good brownies.  So, the player is involved in advancement, but
not mindless skilling.

Skill proficiency would model the character's ability to actually
complete a task successfully.  As stated previously, skill knowledge
wouldn't raise proficiency automatically.  However, it would be
impossible to raise your proficiency beyond your level of knowledge.
Skill proficiency is what the character spends offline time
accomplishing.

In this way, you can take things away from the character by having
proficiency degrade automatically over time if not maintained.  But
maintenance doesn't have to have player involvement, so you won't have
a case where the character has dropped significantly in advancement
simply because the player went on vacation for a few weeks.  On the
other hand, you don't take any player accomplishment away from him,
since the knowledge would never degrade.  Once the player quests to
find out how to make brownies, he will always know *how*.  Of course,
his success at actually making brownies will depend on his
proficiency, which will in turn depend on the amount of his
character's time resources he chooses to spend toward raising or
maintaining his brownie cooking prowess.

--Phinehas


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