Sunday, March 29

A followup to a deeper skill system

In response to Towards a deeper skill system

Ok, that could have been more... nurturing :-s
Sorry for that first response. It wasn't quite phrased the way I should have done.

I really do like Evil Geek's concepts and have been thinking about them off and on. While I'm still inclined to say stay with classes, I'm warming up to your Skill-tree thing. On a side note, you'll probably want to include a 'self' icon too, unless every skill & spell you devise will affect foes / allies /pets&minions only. Which could be a design choice.

Anyway, some things you said and what that made me think of are finally coming together in my mind. For one I share your dislike of too large skill-bars. I'd prefer 20-24 skills maximum. Distributed over 4 hotbars of 6 hotkeys.
  1. st row uses 1-6
  2. nd row uses CTRL 1-6
  3. rd row uses ALT 1-6
  4. th row uses SHIFT 1-6 (or CTRL+ALT) or META if available.
Hotbars can still be 10 long (not 12!) but that's for incidental stuff you don't need in a fight. This really ought to apply to every game.

Something else:
Age of Conan has a very cool melee system where you use directional attacks 7 or 8 in total in a string or chain combo. This makes the game stand out. Sadly, Casting is pretty much the same as in every other MMO. Making the game stand out not so much anymore.

Something (not quite) else:
Your Skill tree concept. Why make that a once in a blue moon thing? How about if you have to make those choices on the fly? In a combo maybe?
See where I'm heading?

Now for the U turn:
Dungeon Master. A very old game, but it had an incredibly advanced Spell casting system, the Wiki page of which has been removed by a Wikipedia Editor jockeying for administrator rights by making as many article edits (deletes) as possible. Luckily, it's been saved for prosperity here and here, but I'll quote for convenience:
Dungeon Master uses rune combinations in sequence to produce magic spells. They form the magic casting system for all the games in the series: Dungeon Master, Chaos Strikes back, Dungeon Master II the Legend of Skullkeep, Theron's Quest and Dungeon Master Nexus.

Dungeon Master spells are composed of two to four syllables (runes). The first syllable (rune) is the power of the spell (which affects the strength, duration and mana cost). The second syllable (rune) is the elemental influence, the third syllable (rune) is the form, and the last syllable (rune) is the class or alignment. Note that the third, and forth syllable is not used on some spells.

The user interface displays six syllables (runes) at a time from which you may choose one. First is the group of Power runes: Lo Um On Ee Pal Mon. The second set of runes represents Elemental influence: Ya Vi Oh Ful Des Zo. The third set of runes represents the Form: Ven Ew Kath Ir Bro Gor. The fourth set of runes represents the spell's Class Alignment: Ku Ros Dain Neta Ra Sar.

When learning a spell the Power syllable (rune) is generally not included in the description of the spell, and you can practice the spell with any sufficiently low level Power syllable (rune).

High power spells cannot be cast by low-skilled champions. (...) You need to add a power syallable (rune) as the first syllable (rune). Each syllable (rune) costs mana points, depending on the selected power. If a champion does not have enough mana points, the syllable (rune) cannot be used. You have to wait, sleep, drink mana potions or equip items that increase your mana.

The game documentation does not come with a list of spells. Rather, the player discovers the spells by finding scrolls in the dungeon. There is nothing in the game to prevent a player from discovering spells through trial-and-error, and of course once you learn the spells you can attempt to cast them before finding the scroll that reveals it.
Bear in mind, this describes the spell casting system of the first 3D realtime action computer role-playing game which was released in 1987 and today, more than 20 years later, you could really wish the Funcom developers had remembered playing it. I mean doesn't this sound like an awesome system to use in an MMO, especially in conjunction to the Melee combo's of Age of Conan?

Imagine your Hotbars looking like this:

Ok, with slightly more colorful Icons maybe :-)

Bottom row are the Power Runes, then Element (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Ether and Death) followed by Form (like airborne, shield, weapon buff, bottle, e.t.c.) and finally class alignment.

Just imagine each Rune having a .6 seconds animation attached to it, with variations so that both Lo Ful Ir and Mon Ful Ir (weakest and strongest fireball respectively) have animations that go fluidly. Just imagine the wacky fun results that might occur if a spell caster gets interrupted in between Rune 3 and 4... Remember, that's 216 different combinations to design results for, each with 6 degrees of power. Maybe the power rune should be the last rune cast/said?
Now, in Dungeon Master some spells could only be cast by Wizards and some by Priests. Also a lot of combinations did nothing, which means room for improvement. That's where Geek's original concept comes back in.

The trial and error I'd leave in, the learning of scrolls would result in highlighting of available runes. I.e. after hitting Mo Um both Bro and Ew light up, provided you have read on a scroll that this works and you're of the correct class. Yes, still stubbornly sticking with classes.
Geek's system fits in nicely with what I'd call spellweaving. Make up your own spells. Find one that is usefull, let's say Explosive Fireball, you can assign a color-scheme to it, so that Runes for that spell light up in that color when you start a combo.

We might even drop the Power Rune altogether in favor of your 6 favorite spells as starter buttons as we're not bound to fully follow this system. The class alignment runes for instance could be replaced with target runes:
PointBlank (self) - PointBlankAoE - Foe - FoeAoE - Ally - AllyAoE
Or some such.

The only problem I see with it is that you'd end up doing things like:

1, CTRL+3 ALT+2, SHIFT+5 Kaboom!!!!

which might strain the fingers a bit.
But wait, there's another mmo that tried and failed to be renewing. The Chronicles of Spellborn, which touts as its renewing feature that revolving skill deck. Which, because most of its developers were to young to have played Dungeon Master and were thinking too much along the lines of a FPS game with 8x5 weapons, is stacked with single shot skills where 1 is a "hit stuff" 2 is a "heal me, 3 a "hit stuff at a distance" and 4 a "heal another, maybe".
But if you were to combine that with a sytem like described above, you might be getting somewhere. Though Age of Conan probably still has the better Melee system and I don't see either system working well for Bows and Arrows or other ranged attacks not involving gesticulatiing and chanting.


  1. hey don't worry, I got caught up in playing with the idea of the system and didnt think through the mmo ramificatiions, thats where you came in :)

    I like your idea here alot, its the caster version of the combos in AoC but with a hell of alot more choice.

    I'll come back and comment more later as my bed is calling.

  2. I wasn't apologizing for pointing out the ramifications, but about how I went about it.
    I got caught up in thinking about those ramifications and all and it came a cross a lot blunter than I intended.

    As for AoC casting: I still don't understand why they didn't make casting almost the same as melee. You could set it up so you use the exact same system. Gestures in stead of attack dierctions. Each step of a combo does 5-10% of what the succesfully completed spell does but in a short PBAoE circle. I.e. You do a spell to hit 100 lightning damage, this is a 3 step combo. While casting you do minor electrical damage to any foe in base contact. Same with healing.
    All it takes (dangerous phrase that) is to separate spellcasting particle effects and animations.