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Character Development (Skills-Attributes-Traits)


AlteOgre
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INTRODUCTION
As part of the future RPG elements of the vanilla game a Player Character Development System (PCDS) may be expected.
When pondering what such a system should entail if it were match with the vanilla game, I thought of the following concepts and starting points that I wish to bring forward for consideration.
The vanilla game leans on the principle of ‘no grinding to max player capabilities’ and I am personally a huge fan of that. I think the way the players max hp is managed in dependency of a balanced diet (nutrient intake) in time while making use of moving average ‘intake’, should also be the template for other systems affecting player capabilities. Therefore I propose to use this same concept for a future PCDS.

So, which appropriate starting points could further be considered for such a system?

TRAIN, SUSTAIN ... OR DRAIN
Player characters can improve their skills through practise ('training'), but if they do not sustain them, the effects of any training gradually decreases, or ‘drains’ off. Any 'muscles' of both body and brain weaken through lack of activity. This implies a ‘moving average’ record is to be kept of character ‘training’ (executed actions that contribute to some level of skill). This concept is very similar to the way health is implemented.

PLAYER CHARACTER SPECIALISATION
Players should be able to specialise, i.e. to maintain a high level of skill in specific pursuits through focussed efforts. This will offer interesting dynamics on servers where a cook can prepare the most nutritious meals, hunters and livestock keepers can produce the most animal products from any ‘harvest’, a forester can get the most usable timber and saplings from logging, and a miner can get the best and most of breaking ore containing rock.

CLASSLESSNESS
Despite the use of names of 'professions', I do not suggest to implement a system using 'class' or 'profession' identifiers in any way. I’d rather recommend to not use such ‘artificial, immersion breaking tags’ at all. Players should be free to develop whatever combination of specialisations for their character. It would be nice-to-have if somehow NPCs and/or players in the environment of a player character can recognise specialisations.

ATTRIBUTES AND SKILLS
An attractive PCDS would consist of a set of physical and mental attributes ('muscles') that can be trained to get better at a set of in-game specific skills who all relate to player actions like breaking and placing blocks and items (‘mining’ and ‘building’) and processing resources to ‘craft’ products (‘crafting’).

Ideally, every activity contributes to training a specific skill and improve one or more attributes (as to reward the player for their in-game performance), even if the effects would just be hardly noticeable on short term. Also ideally, each attribute can be trained with multiple activities and also affect multiple skills, but improving an attribute through training in only one specific activity will not allow for the same specialisation for all attribute affected skills as all skills require a different mix of attributes to be put to use. Such a system could lead to the following example. Imagine a melee specialised warrior with formidable might (a physical attribute) able to chop down trees and break rock faster than any cook can, but their friend specialised forester or miner will get a better yield from logging or mining (specific skills) than said melee warrior. This would be due to the fact that in melee combat (sword wielding) the warrior player's training mainly affects their attributes might, endurance, reflexes and resolve, while through logging the forester player's training mainly affects their attributes might, dexterity, knowledge and caution. As only the improved might attribute will effectively contribute to the warriors ability to cut down trees, he will not be as effective and efficient as a forester, even if their might would be superior to that of the forester.
This part will require a lot of thorough thinking in order to design a fair and balanced system of attributes and skills in agreement with all other starting points addressed here, but the basic mechanics can be implemented in a quite straightforward and well-known manner.

1) For clarification, the present set of nutrition values and the resulting maximum health value of a player can be considered as 4 specific 'constitution' attributes of the character that each add to their maximum health. This maxium health value of a player can therefore be considered a 'skill' that can be trained. The proposed attribute-skill system can be implemented in the game code in much the same manner, with values of attribute increasing and decreasing dependent on the (in-)activities of the player and these values being used to calculate the effects of player actions in the game.

THERE'S ONLY SO MUCH ONE BLUE MAN CAN DO
To suppress any ‘mindless’ grinding of players trying to continuously keep up their maxed levels, the effectiveness of training shall be restricted. To ensure this, training effectiveness should be reduced in dependency of the training intensity (‘training per measure of time’). The more a player trains per measure of time, the less effective their training becomes. Assuming skill training and ‘experience’ is calculated in the same way as health now is, the time dependency will be taken care of. Additionally, the ‘experience gain’ will have to be dependent on the training intensity. Simplest way would be to have a linear dependency where above a certain threshold training intensity, the experience gain per action linearly reduces to some minimum value (say 10%) when reaching the practical maximum training intensity. Smart setting of sample time periods (for moving average intensity calculation) for each type of activity will be essential.
This mimics the realistic limited ability of characters to train their ass off while still resulting in improved level of skill. No, characters get tired after some intense training and will have to recover before being able to get better at something. And the nett effect of training reduces at some point when physical, and mental, limits are met. This also implies that players shall not be able to ‘max all skills’ and they will have to choose what to train dependent on what they wish to achieve in-game. Each trainable skill will also have capped maximum ‘experience’, see below for more on that.
Nonetheless, ‘Grinder’s gonna grind’. Duh. 😁

IN REALISTIC MODERATION
Another starting point should be that characters cannot develop super-hero like capabilities. To both ensure the game maintains a feeling of realism and to ensure the capability differences between players with maxed skill levels and other players (servers!), and their environment (also in single-player!), it would seem appropriate to ensure that maxed capabilities do not exceed a base capability with a performance factor of 50 to 100 %, i.e.: players can train to get 100% better reflexes and/or more agile resulting in double the chance they can avoid a blow to the nose, or they can get 50% faster at whacking a pick axe into a wall of igneous rock, but no player can get better than that. As a rule of thumb, I recommend to aim for the relative ‘strength’ of highly specialised characters to be maximally twice as high as that of untrained characters in any (set of) skill(s).

LEVELLESSNESS
In line with the spirit of the game and the above, I propose to not distinguish '(experience) levels'. Instead, players will be able to view a scale from 0 to some maximum value (or percentage), indicating the degree of mastery they achieved in any distinguishable skill.

HIGHER UP, THE SLOPE GETS STEEPER
In line with both realism and most RPG games, improvement gets harder with higher 'level' of skill. This simply implies that the mathematical relationship between skill 'level' and effect will have to be non-linear, possibly some exponential function with an asymptote approaching 'max effect' for high skill 'level' (or 'experience points').

PERKS
Finally, perquisites aka ‘perks’. Based on the above starting points, player skill can degrade due to inactivity and that can be quite discouraging for players. To counter this effect perks can be used as lasting rewards from intense specialisation. These can for instance be special abilities for sword wielding warriors to develop a chance to cripple their adversaries (chance to impose a 'slow effect') or for smiths to acquire the ability to create a special tool. When those warriors and smiths turn to farming for a while, they may respectively lose part of their attack strength and ability to recover nuggets for re-smelting after forging. But they will not lose the perks they acquired when they were active as warriors and smiths. So the once-warriors still have a chance to cripple their foes with a sword and the once-smiths can still use that special 'recipe' they learned.

2) Perks can be unlocked upon reaching a threshold value for an attribute or a skill.

TRAITS
On top of that eventually also traits can be added to the PCDS sauce. Traits would be related to a player character's intrinsic mix of pre-set attribute values, or 'defaults' they would have. This can be considered to reflect the genetic map of a player character which can be a result of their ancestry, inherited when they enter the game. This may add another interesting feature for future VS (whether or not part of the vanilla game, some specific expansion or only in mods), as this can support introduction of player character races, each with their specific subset of pre-set base attribute values. A possible additional way to express 'traits', next to using pre-set attribute values, can be by using trait-dependency in attribute learning rates ('experience gain').

TAKE IT STEP BY STEP
A complex PCDS requires careful functional design specification and a stepwise approach to realise the code and roll out the implemented features. Not all has to be released in one update and not all will have to be optimally tuned between two. There’s a logical hierarchy in the system’s features determining what should have to go first and what last.

So, that's about it. I think the above starting points could provide an appropriate foundation for a 'Player Character Development System' for VS.

I hope the VS team will find some of the above useful for their plans. Any constructive feedback is highly appreciated. If useful, I will adjust the above based on feedback provided and further discussion in this thread.

The next post is reserved to add my own sauce regarding concrete attributes and skills in VS.

Edits:
1) Added explanation regarding relation between nutrition - hp and the proposed system of attributes - skills.

2) Added remark on the possibility to connect perks to both attribute and skill levels.

 

 

 

 

Edited by AlteOgre
See edit log in post.
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Reserved to add my own sauce regarding concrete attributes and skills in VS.
Alright, let's spam some more detail here. Assume this post to be WIP.

Attributes & Skills
Attributes are player character qualities (physical and mental 'muscles') that can be trained through performing actions, or in other words 'through effectuating skills'. Improving character attributes will help to enhance the efficiency or effectiveness of these actions.
In principle skills are directly related to in-game actions a player can perform. Their success depends on the player characters attributes. Effectuating skills by performing their connected actions is considered training and therefore contributes to improvement of the character attributes required for executing an action. So there is a clear, hard coded, interaction between attributes and skills. Not all attributes contribute to the success of each skill and not all skills contribute to the training of each attribute.

 

ATTRIBUTES
I’d distinguish between physical and mental attributes and make sure there are not too few of each so the entire PCDS can provide for (future) variety and flexibility in agreement with the abovementioned starting points. A broader range of attributes also adds more ‘flavour’ to characters, providing each with a more ‘fingerprint’-like, unique feel of the character each player developed. Oversimplification would undermine those aspects.

Physical Attributes
These all reflect a measure of characters physical ability regarding specific qualities.

·         Agility: Manoeuvrability and flexibility of the body. Determines the ability of the body to change position when commanded. This can affect the speed to turn, jump and climb but also the chance to deflect or avoid incoming danger (in combination with Reflexes).

·         Constitution: Hardiness. This is covered with the present value for the characters maximum health (the length of the health point (hp) bar), which is the sum of a base value plus 4 nutrition attributes.

·         Dexterity: Capability to perform accurate actions on a smaller scale, requiring good eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. This can affect the speed with which ranged weapons are aimed, the accuracy of ranged attacks, but also the speed and efficiency with which tasks like mining, logging, panning and butchering are performed.

·         Endurance: Capability to perform long lasting straining tasks. It factors the characters nutrition processing efficiency. Endurance can have a base value of 1.0 and be increased to values in the order of magnitude of 1.2. The effective saturation decrease in time will be divided by the character’s Endurance after correcting for strain factors in dependency of the type of activity the character engages in.

·         Fortitude: Capability to withstand damaging impact to the body. This is independent of Constitution and defensive armour worn by the character. Fortitude can have a base value of 1.0 and be increased to values in the order of magnitude of 1.2. The effective damage taken will be divided by the character’s Fortitude after correcting for armour protection.

·         Might: Physical strength. Capability to hit hard, run fast, jump high, carry much, etcetera. Any action requiring muscular strain can contribute to improved might, and improved might can contribute to any force the character exerts on their environment, resulting in higher speeds and/or higher impact. This is a physical attribute that can be trained in many ways and have very broad impact, affecting many practical skills. Might can dwindle though, obviously by being idle, but also while just wandering around (not sprinting), roleplay chatting, or performing low strain tasks like cooking.

·         Reflexes: Capability to quickly respond to rapidly changing circumstances. Hunting and fighting typically train ones reflexes. But hunting chickens will not be as effective in building excellent reflexes as fighting wolves or nightmare drifters.

Mental Attributes
These all reflect a measure of characters mental ability regarding specific qualities.

·         Caution: Degree of a character to take higher risks for higher rewards. The higher the caution, the more accurate and precise a character operates. High caution can result in better rewards from mining and harvesting activities, but also reduce their visibility for predators and monsters.

·         Intelligence: Problem-solving ability. Higher intelligence is achieved by performing tasks with a high degree of complexity and/or that require much focussed attention. Forging and hunting contribute most, but cooking does too. High intelligence can lead to improved efficiency of a number of activities and combined with knowledge, unlock new insights.

·         Knowledge: Insights in cause and effect relationships. Knowledge of the environment is built on experience through interaction. All activities aimed at extracting resources from the environment lead to increased knowledge. Mining, digging, logging, panning, farming, butchering and collecting lore information all contribute to this attribute. The way knowledge expresses in action in-game can be quite different than for other attributes. Knowledge hardly wanes and has the potential to unlock new insights, especially when combined with high intelligence and wisdom. Knowledge will typically enable acquiring perquisites that allow for special recipes, or even allow for the character to find resources others cannot perceive.

·         Perception: Awareness and alertness of a character’s surroundings. Interacts with other mental attributes. May get more relevant as VS introduces more player dependent mechanics like quests and tracking.

·         Presence: Combines charisma, charm and social characteristics. Affects the interaction with NPCs on various aspects, like price levels with traders, the potential to hire NPCs / have them perform tasks for you, the accessibility of quests or just speech bank usage. For future major mods or expansions bringing factions/civilisations to VS, this may also affect character ‘alignment’, ‘fame’ and/or ‘reputation’.

·         Resolve: Mental resistance/hardiness, determining the degree to which they can fight fear and pain. Resolve strengthens the more a character hunted, fought foes and has endured temporal instability.

·         Wisdom: General degree to which a character reads other sentients’ intentions and is aware of long term and long range effects of their own interactions with the world. Will get more relevant as VS expands long term and range mechanics and adds more NPC interaction, including quests.

If ever VS would include magic in some more or less advanced form, and/or alchemy and/or more advanced technological concepts, the mental attributes will get more relevant and get more distinct functionality.

 

SKILLS
I’d distinguish a number skill classes related to the type of player actions connected to them in-game.

Mining Skills
Breaking or taking of full block items like rock, dirt and gravel.

  • ·         Digging: Dirt and Gravel in any form while using a shovel.

  • ·         Stone mining: Any type of rock while using a pickaxe.

  • ·         Ore mining: Any type of ore while using a pickaxe.

  • ·         Prospecting: Any type of stone or ore while using a prospecting pickaxe.

Picking up loose stones, boulders or nuggets does not contribute to any attribute or skill.

These activities typically contribute to attributes like Agility, Endurance, Might, Caution and Knowledge.

HOLD: To be completed.

Harvesting Skills
Extraction of live tissue from plants and animals, including fishing, logging and the separation of potential valuables from sand and gravel through panning.

  • ·         Fishing: Any type of fish while using a fishing rod.

  • ·         Logging: Any type of timber while using an axe.

  • ·         Clearing: Any type of grass and branches while using knife or scissors.

  • ·         Crop harvesting: Any type of crop, regardless where they grow.

  • ·         Planting: Any type of seed, root and sapling.

  • ·         Butchering: Any type of animal while using a knife.

  • ·         Panning: Any type of sand and gravel while using a pan.

Picking up loose sticks does not contribute to any attribute or skill.

These activities typically contribute to attributes like Agility, Dexterity, Caution, Intelligence and Knowledge.

HOLD: To be completed.

Building Skills
Placement of structural elements to erect housing, infrastructural elements and other structures.

  • ·         Wood building: Any type of wooden structural elements.

  • ·         Stone building: Any type of stone structural elements.

  • ·         Finishing: Any type of shingles and glass structural elements.

  • ·         Assembling: Any type of technical structure consisting of more than one component.

These activities typically contribute to attributes like Dexterity, Might, Caution, Intelligence and Perception.

Training in each of these skills leads to increased deconstruction speeds. The more stone elements you place, the more easily it will be for you to remove them.

Fast placement leads to rapid tiring, so for these types of actions, the nett training effectiveness will relatively rapidly decrease with increased training intensity.

Note that any ‘building’ action aimed at placing devices, containers, light sources or furniture is excluded.

HOLD: To be completed.

Crafting Skills
Conversion of resources into intermediate or finished products, via usage of the crafting grid and barrels, knapping, clay forming, cooking, smelting, casting and forging.

  • ·         Knapping: Any type of stone and product.

  • ·         Tool making: Any type of tool.

  • ·         Reed working: Any crafting activity where reed is used as an ingredient.

  • ·         Clay forming: Any type of clay and product.

  • ·         Grinding: Any grinding process involving a quern.

  • ·         Linen working: Any crafting activity where linen is used as an ingredient.

  • ·         Leather working: Any crafting activity where leather is used as an ingredient.

  • ·         Wood working: Any crafting activity where log or planks are used as crafting ingredient.

  • ·         Stone working: Any crafting activity where rock or stone is used as crafting ingredient.

  • ·         Cooking: Any cooking process involving a firepit and food ingredients.

  • ·         Food preservation: Any crafting activity resulting in a food item with enhanced shelf life.

  • ·         Hot processing: Any baking or smelting process involving a firepit, a forge or a bloomery and non-food ingredients.

  • ·         Glass working: Any crafting activity where glass is used as crafting ingredient.

  • ·         Casting: Any activity involving the casting of molten metal (alloy) in baked molds.

  • ·         Forging: Any activity involving the conversion of molten ingots into finished metal (alloy) products.

Note that any ‘crafting’ action aimed at either packing things together for storage purposes is excluded. And crafting of firewood and fire starters does not contribute to any attribute or skill.

These activities typically contribute to attributes like Dexterity, Caution, Intelligence, Presence and Wisdom.

HOLD: To be completed.

Combat Skills
Interaction with live entities aimed at inflicting damage.

  • ·         Melee combat: Any melee combat interaction with monsters or other players.

  • ·         Ranged combat: Any ranged combat interaction with monsters or other players.

  • ·         Melee hunt: Any melee combat interaction with animals.

  • ·         Ranged hunt: Any ranged combat interaction with animals.

These activities mostly contribute to physical attributes like Agility, Endurance, Fortitude, Might and Reflexes, but mental attributes like Caution, Intelligence, Presence and Resolve can also be notably affected.

HOLD: To be completed.

Non-combat interaction Skills
Interaction with live entities not aimed at inflicting damage.

  • ·         Animal feeding: Feeding animals from a trough. The player that last filled a trough is registered as having fed the animal that fed on the trough’s contents.

  • ·         Animal breeding: Any animal breeding that was fed by a player (via a trough).

  • ·         NPC trading: Any trade interaction with NPCs.

These activities typically contribute to mental attributes like Caution, Intelligence, Perception, Presence and Wisdom.

HOLD: To be completed.

 

Edited by AlteOgre
WIP!
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"TRAIN, SUSTAIN ... OR DRAIN"

While i agree that muscles drain if not used and the brain gets a bit slower, the same can't be said about skills. I haven't ridden a Bike in quite some time, at the very least 5 years but i'm pretty sure i would be just as good as to my best time after a few minutes of getting back into it. would i be able to ride it for a long time without getting tired? no, but that doesn't mean that my proficiency droped, just that my stamina did. Cooking is the same, once you properly learned it you will not forget it. Cooking for a whole army is tiring sure but a fancy dinner? no problem.

So if your system says "train or lose proficiency" then i think thats not a good idea. you should make muscles their own system taht gives you a buff for certain actions (mining chopping, wood and so on) but proficience itself should not be affected, or at least very minor to the point that a bit of practise can counteract it with low effort.

If constant usage of skills is required then i fear at least on multiplayer some people will feel forced into a role. "ohh you have high cooking skill so you should cook", "If somebody else mines this then it would be a waste, you do it you have that rare perk and high skill level"

This is my take on your system for now.

A small recommendation for "LEVELLESSNESS" you could just use the "exponential function" from the point below and simply remove a skillcap. once you reach a certain point, progression simply takes so long that people will never reach a higher level, and thats without the feeling of "I reached the top now i don't need to improve anymore".

Just to make sure, i don't dislike the idea, it's close to what i thought would work nicely, i just have some missgivings that i wrote down in the hope that it would be constructive critic, and i hope you can look at it that way.

I hope this idea gets some more work done on it and then maybe implemented.

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Thx for the constructive response Kaelty.

I think you misinterpreted a bit there regarding 'losing' of skills. The 'losing skills' is not a thing. Muscles don't dissappear but their ability to excel in some action will decrease if they're idle for a longer period of time. That's why there are base levels and perks. And tuning to achieve a pleasant experience in both SP and MP will be a major effort (for any PCDS). Also, I understand your reasoning about skills and proficiency as it's mine as well. Yet we're dealing with a game here, not an exact real life simulation.  I'm working out the contents of the second post and expect that will help illustrate some of the concepts. I actually just added some first indicative info there.

if people feel forced into a 'role' on servers 'because of a the benefits of specialisation' with a system like this, that's their personal problem in their relationship with fellow players. A class system will certainly not make them better off, nor having no benefits of specialisation at all.

I know the concept to use an exponential function (or just any asymptotic function) to make maximum levels unachievable. Setting a fixed cap does however still make sense knowing the grinders out there. They better be told when to stop. Simple and it won't hurt. 😁

Edited by AlteOgre
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