Atypical Skill System for Combat

 
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Parhelion



Joined: 20 Mar 2010
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Location: Tempe, AZ

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 2:12 am    Post subject: Atypical Skill System for Combat Reply with quote

Most commonly, when I log into a MU*, I can fully expect that its combat system is weapons-based... so, you train a skill called "swords" if you want to use swords effectively.

I'm wondering if anyone has attempted a combat system that was based around STYLE, rather than weapon proficiencies? What were some of the difficulties involved with this? Did it solve some problems caused by broad weapon-type skill systems?
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ide



Joined: 21 Feb 2006
Posts: 105
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2011 8:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think most often you see systems based on both. Godwars 2 has something like this, I'm sure there are others.

An old PBM game called Duelmasters had an approach more similar to what you're talking about, where a fighter was a 'lunger', 'basher', 'slasher', and so on, and while they could use any weapon + armor combination they wanted some were obviously more effective than others. DM was a very fun game, but as it was strictly a gladiator game (and you had five fighters in each 'stable'), the goals were rather different than in a mud.

As a player I would feel a little restricted if I was limited to one fighting style -- of course there's nothing to say you have to limit PCs like that.

Regardless, I'm not sure what the problems of a weapon-based skill system are, exactly, maybe you could elaborate on that.
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Parhelion



Joined: 20 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 5:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, my problem is that I am going for bald realism, but still with a great deal of (hopefully fun) playability. I don't want a combat system that is going to dominate my game, as it is in many others, but that's a completely different issue altogether. I also am looking for something that, to the player at least, will be simple but customizable.

One of the problems I have with a weapons proficiency system in a game like this, where you might be able to use any object as a weapon, is that you get a lot of unrealistic weapon grouping, or weapons skills that are too broad.

An exaggerated example of this is if you have a skill called 'blades'. This covers a LOT of potential items in your game, from steak knives to bastard swords to lawn mower blades. However, because these items are all quite different in how they are used, someone who is trained with short blades may not be able to effectively use a heavier blade or one that is weighted differently.

I also don't want to break up that skill into smaller skill sets -- that was always frustrating to me, as a player, when I had this enormous host of combat related skills.

The second thing is when someone is fighting with objects that may be used in a similar fashion (stylistically) or be used with the same efficiency, but are NOT the same kind of weapon. In a game where you take into consideration someone's weapons' skill (and in the code of several games, I often see this, with some lighter mixture of stats to determine outcomes), you can severely handicap a character in combat who otherwise would be much better if he can't get to his "preferred" weapon. Example: Someone who is trained in close combat with punch daggers or knives PROBABLY knows how to continue being a nuisance close-range even if he was unarmed. He wouldn't instantly terribly suck.




Something I'm mulling over pulling off is allowing characters to learn fighting techniques, that they will naturally use to their advantage in combat. Players may even use this to create their own custom styles... for example, an experienced brawler. Or, they could devote a lot of time and energy into becoming masters of a particular martial art. No matter what path they choose to take, their chosen style will always have strengths and weaknesses against other NPCs or players.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2011 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As Ide mentioned, a lot of muds implement both weapon skills and fighting styles. In GodWars muds, weapon skills and fighting styles increase through use, so there's nothing stopping you from maxing them all - indeed this is a fundamantal part of character advancement, an alternative to the level-based progression used by most muds.

This design concept was carried over to GW2, with the addition of combat talents to represent specialisation - for example a claymore and a rapier both use the 'swords' weapon skill, but the former benefits from Large Sword Mastery and Expert Two-Handed Parry, while the latter benefits from Fencing Mastery and Expert Duellist. Thus the swashbuckler can still use a claymore with reasonable skill, but he won't use it as effectively as the highlander.

The fighting styles give generic bonuses, but each weapon also has a selection of style-specific combat techniques, so there's a clear benefit in using the Lion style while wielding a falchion, or the Fox style while wielding a katana, etc. This encourages certain combinations of weapon and style, and increases diversity among characters.

If you look at some older muds, you'll see that many of them don't implement either weapon skills or fighting styles, and as a result everyone tends to use the same weapons (perhaps limited only by class). If your fighting styles encompass all weapons then you're going to run into the exact same problem - but if they're locked to specific weapon types, they'll effectively become de facto weapon skills.
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ide



Joined: 21 Feb 2006
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Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2011 4:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This gave me an idea for a rather odd/ridiculous (or I guess, atypical Smile ) skill system for combat, or potentially any game system. What if instead of relying on skills that you choose beforehand, your skillset is composed of, for lack of a better term, 'skill tags'.

Skill tags are little bits of behavior/data associated with actions and the environment. When your character engages in some action in some environment, they gain proficiency in the 'skill tag cloud' of that situation. So this is kind of like learn by use, but you don't choose any skills beforehand, you only gain them in play by seeking out certain situations.

So tags can be quite atomic. The question then becomes how do you actually know what your character is good at, like the OP said, you don't want an enormous set of skills you need to page through.

The secret is to hide the atomic nature of the tags from the player, and have the game parse the cloud into a meaningful 'skill story'. For example, when you type 'skills' you wouldn't see

Code:

Brass knuckles: 45%
Biting: 20%
Headbutt: 12%
....


But something like this,

Code:

You're a [N power rated] brawler.


You could add as much color to that story as you want of course, and determine the power rating however you like. I personally think assigning a number to it is important, but you wouldn't have to; what I'm imagining is the you could have a collection of skill tags make up 'brawling', and the player doesn't have to know all of them to get some power rating in brawling. So one player might have headbutt, another might have leg sweep, etcetera.

The player then needs to know what actions they can do, but this is somewhat separate from the question of the skill system; while many skill systems don't allow you to do actions you don't have the skill for, that's not necessarily a hard and fast rule I think.

So there you have it, maybe the first web 2.0 mud combat system Smile.
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Parhelion



Joined: 20 Mar 2010
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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2011 8:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's actually VERY similar to what I originally had come up with when trying to determine what kind of combat system I wanted to design -- although, instead of "tags", I thought of them as behavior/technique sets.

I wanted to use this system as a way to have a variety of different "styles" in the game, while still letting players try them all out. The biggest problem I ran into was balance -- I could cap off what players could learn, by making them forget their least-used combat skills as they learned and practiced new skills, as a way to keep a player from "mastering everything". You can choose to be an elite master at a given martial art, or you can choose to be a fairly balanced brawler that may be a better utility character.

The skill listing could be a pretty generic term, like Ide suggested, "You're a great brawler" or whatever, and then players may choose to investigate further, getting a list of known/mastered techniques from a separate list or inspecting what makes him think he's such a great "brawler."
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