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Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

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Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Nox » April 6th, 2012, 3:32 pm

First, arbitrary points investment leads to end game problems. This is a fallout truism from 1/2/and even FT. Most people (myself included) had no idea that by end game if you didn't have energy weapons that without aimed shot you were doomed. The DR was just too high (without using .50 cal MG, etc.) to get past it.

I personally don't need to have a finite point investment system like SPECIAL anymore. I would really REALLY prefer just to have a 'skill gain as you use it' system, especially if I'm going to have NPCs that can and are expected to fight and die. If this is a save/reloadfest then I guess it doesn't matter.

For example, in FT there were only 2-3 NPCs you could EVER get who had certain combinations of skills / traits / perks. Only ONE had both fast shot, good perception, and heavy weapons at a low level so you could invest points sanely as he levelled up. If you let him die, you were unable to ever have another NPC that would ever be as good with heavy weapons.

I would really like to avoid that kind of system, and instead be able to recruit random shithead and bootcamp them myself. So what I am saying here is please avoid 'tag' skills and stat pre-investment. An early UO-style "grow as you go" would be much better, I think.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby GodComplex » April 6th, 2012, 5:29 pm

The problem from the 'learn as you go mechanic' is that it is incredibly difficult to get the pacing right.
1/3 of my brain says blue radiation might be cool
1/3 says stop being overcritical
1/3 says a Baby Ruth could have prevented this situation
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Nox » April 6th, 2012, 6:33 pm

GodComplex wrote:The problem from the 'learn as you go mechanic' is that it is incredibly difficult to get the pacing right.


only if skill gain is the only gate...

you can model anything. just making skill gain be a log scale for growth and inverse log scale for impact would eliminate most of that.

By that I mean, have 80% of a character's effectiveness occur within the first 20% of their development.

That's the exact opposite of fallout, where you have to jiggle and juggle stats and perks so that 'sniper' pops up at level 24, enabling every shot to be a critical and whatnot.

Qualitative advancement is bad, really bad for balance and gameplay (and pacing)
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby paultakeda » April 6th, 2012, 6:55 pm

Nox wrote:I would really REALLY prefer just to have a 'skill gain as you use it' system

Okay, sure. We'll just not use the Fallout SPECIAL system based on GURPS and stick with the Wasteland MSPE system. The one designed by Michael Stackpole based on his creation, MSPE, which is based on Tunnels and Trolls, designed by Ken St. Andre, both RPG system creators who were on the Wasteland dev team and signed on to the Wasteland 2 team.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby jrodman » April 6th, 2012, 7:21 pm

Speaking personally with the "skills that you use grow" -- I have a hard time not just grinding my little heart out to bring up all my skills. This is really kinda fun for a while, but i typically wear myself out and lose interest in the game.

Crawl has an interesting tweak, though it is unlikely to be directly applicable. You get experience points traditionally and then can practice things until your pool is used up. This leads to the "victory dance" where you kill some evil demon and then cast 3 venom darts at nothing at all to exercise your poison magic. Which is wonky. But I prefer it to casting spells thousands of times at nothing.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby paultakeda » April 6th, 2012, 8:47 pm

FYI to readers: the thread "Describe the gameplay in Wasteland" describes the leveling method in WL's MSPE system:
Skills and stats:
While everybody had the same set of basic statistics, there was a fairly sizable pile of potential skills and no character could learn more than thirty of them. Skills would improve through use, or through training. The latter required skill points, which were gained by choosing to increase the IQ stat when leveling up.

Training required more IQ-derived training points per tier, so to get to Medic 3 you would need 7 training points (1, then 2, then 4). The maximum skill level was 4, so grinding may not show that much improvement as it isn't as broken down as, say, Skyrim. This may be different in WL2, but honestly, I don't see how the granularity in Skyrim provides feedback on usefulness. 4's a good number, especially if balanced against the fact that when training up with IQ you only got 2 training points per attribute point raised (WL had a high value point economy).

Many skills were impossible to improve through use simply because it never came up that much (e.g. Toaster Repair, Helicopter Pilot) yet if trained would open up options when they do come up. Basically, you could definitely have your entire team to Pistol 4 rather quickly, but Knife Throwing may stay at 0 or 1 for all but maybe the one dude you decided is gonna be a blade afficionado.

The skill list in WL is rather long considering the age of the CRPG. MDF_MadDogFargo started a thread where he combined the PnP MSPE with WL MSPE lists as a start for discussion on WL2's list.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby MDF_MadDogFargo » April 6th, 2012, 9:12 pm

paultakeda wrote:FYI to readers: the thread "Describe the gameplay in Wasteland" describes the leveling method in WL's MSPE system:
Skills and stats:
While everybody had the same set of basic statistics, there was a fairly sizable pile of potential skills and no character could learn more than thirty of them. Skills would improve through use, or through training. The latter required skill points, which were gained by choosing to increase the IQ stat when leveling up.

Training required more IQ-derived training points per tier, so to get to Medic 3 you would need 7 training points (1, then 2, then 4). The maximum skill level was 4, so grinding may not show that much improvement as it isn't as broken down as, say, Skyrim. This may be different in WL2, but honestly, I don't see how the granularity in Skyrim provides feedback on usefulness. 4's a good number, especially if balanced against the fact that when training up with IQ you only got 2 training points per attribute point raised (WL had a high value point economy).


One small quibble, the max isn't 4. It depends on the skill. You can ramp up Gambling, for instance, all the way to level 20 using macros and spending thousands of game turns. The limit to skill levels is the players current rank's numerical value, which isn't explicitly stated in the game.

It's also really a waste of IQ points to buy skill levels in WL. You can do it, but the game offers many more ways to raise your skills by doing.

paultakeda wrote:Many skills were impossible to improve through use simply because it never came up that much (e.g. Toaster Repair, Helicopter Pilot) yet if trained would open up options when they do come up. Basically, you could definitely have your entire team to Pistol 4 rather quickly, but Knife Throwing may stay at 0 or 1 for all but maybe the one dude you decided is gonna be a blade afficionado.


Some skills in the MSPE system are not intended to level up; these include Language & Literacy. It's maybe not something that Wasteland inherited precicely, but certain skills in Wasteland also do not effectively level. That just means that having the skill or not having the skill is the important factor. Bureaucracy and Confidence are like this.

One more thing to note is that the experience gained by using a skill depends on the difficulty involved. Succeeding at picking a difficult lock will give you more experience than picking an easy lock; so there is a natural progression you should follow, to get the max experience and raise levels the quickest, by mastering easy tasks and then using that experience to master difficult tasks. It's a good model of real learning.

paultakeda wrote:The skill list in WL is rather long considering the age of the CRPG. MDF_MadDogFargo started a thread where he combined the PnP MSPE with WL MSPE lists as a start for discussion on WL2's list.


Thanks for the shout out. :) And thanks for noticing the latest incarnation, where I integrated the MSPE skills and de-emphasized my own invented skills. I still think there might be room for some more unusual skills, but maybe that discussion is best set aside for mods and such.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby paultakeda » April 6th, 2012, 9:21 pm

MDF_MadDogFargo wrote:One small quibble, the max isn't 4. It depends on the skill. You can ramp up Gambling, for instance, all the way to level 20 using macros and spending thousands of game turns. The limit to skill levels is the players current rank's numerical value, which isn't explicitly stated in the game.


I knew someone would catch me on a false memory! Ah, well. 20 is still better than 100. Seriously, I could not comprehend why there were so many levels for a skill in Skyrim. I love playing that game but the skill system's granularity was a bear.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby MDF_MadDogFargo » April 6th, 2012, 9:46 pm

paultakeda wrote:
MDF_MadDogFargo wrote:One small quibble, the max isn't 4. It depends on the skill. You can ramp up Gambling, for instance, all the way to level 20 using macros and spending thousands of game turns. The limit to skill levels is the players current rank's numerical value, which isn't explicitly stated in the game.


I knew someone would catch me on a false memory! Ah, well. 20 is still better than 100. Seriously, I could not comprehend why there were so many levels for a skill in Skyrim. I love playing that game but the skill system's granularity was a bear.


I like Wasteland's skill system. There aren't arbitrary skill levels. Bethesda games don't give you any sort of reason why there ought to be 100 levels of athletics, for example. Your skill levels really mean something in Wasteland.

20 levels might seem arbitrary, but you really have to grind the casino games (Fat Freddy's is the best) to get there. That's another good thing about Wasteland. It rewards you for grinding your skills, but there are diminishing returns at a certain level. The game doesn't tell you to stop doing those things, but you've got to find somewhere else more difficult to keep gaining experience.

If I believe correctly, in Bethesda games (which may include FO3) using skills for more difficult tasks doesn't give you varying amounts of experience. That doesn't make sense. If I already did something and gained XP from it, then I shouldn't gain as much experience doing the same thing again.

I haven't met a skills system in a game that makes more sense than Wasteland.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Lanatir » April 6th, 2012, 11:34 pm

Wastelands skill and Attribute System is a gazillions times better than SPECIAL.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Woolfe » April 7th, 2012, 5:44 am

I can't actually remember WL's skill system too well. I am pretty certain I have gotten my WL and FO systems merged in my brain.

So bear with me.

I like 100 over 20.

But I would like to see a combination for skill increases.
As in theory and practice
Theory is the book learning type thing, where you basically just sit there and think about something, without ever doing it. Whereas practice is the act of learning on the job.

My fevered brain has built an ideal around the concept of being able to "practice" up to a point, after which you have to do some theory stuff to be able to advance, but then you get practice up to a new point.
My completely unrefined example would be allowing 1-10 as "practice points" But to get that initial 1, and to move onto 11, you have to pump in a bit of theory.
This doesn't mean you can't pump more theory into it, but even theory should eventually hit a limit. So the best people are those who not only practiced the skill, but thought about it as well.
As a mod I am here to uphold the Forum Rules, feel free to pm me or the other mods with concerns.

My opinions however are my own. Mostly cause no one else wants them :)
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Keaton » April 7th, 2012, 6:58 am

One thing I learned from the SPECIAL system in Fallout 1 and 2 is that a good CRPG system can be quite forgiving and still very much fun to play. In these games you could heavily invest in completely useless skills and still be able to beat the game without problems.
The most important thing is that the skills/levelup rewards are fun and rewarding to use (Fallout: death animations for criticals, repair/science/unlock/traps toolbox for great environment interactivity, useful perks) and that not everything in the gameworld depends on skillchecks (kinda realistic, because that's the way the real world works, most people share at least a basic skill set that enables them to deal with most problems they face) so you are not railroaded into a predefined class specific walkthrough without having a say about how to do things.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby paultakeda » April 7th, 2012, 9:09 am

Keaton wrote:One thing I learned from the SPECIAL system in Fallout 1 and 2 is that a good CRPG system can be quite forgiving and still very much fun to play. In these games you could heavily invest in completely useless skills and still be able to beat the game without problems.

A lot of that comes from the same mentality that went into WL's MSPE-derived system. Seriously... TOASTER REPAIR, requires an IQ of 20.

Here's the original WL skill list.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Crinkles » April 7th, 2012, 10:11 am

But I would like to see a combination for skill increases.
As in theory and practice
Theory is the book learning type thing, where you basically just sit there and think about something, without ever doing it. Whereas practice is the act of learning on the job.


I actually really like this idea. If I may commit minor heresy by completely making up my own skill system, how about you level up a skill through experience (practical learning), but after a certain amount of practical learning you require more theory to unlock the next levels. However, theory should not just be book learning. My idea would be that for anything which provides practical experience, you have a chance of gaining "insight"; theoretical experience. Thus, you can eventually have an epiphany and unlock the next skill levels, even by repeating the same set of practical actions. The chance of having an insight should depend on your IQ/intellectual skill. Alternatively, you could find a book or clever person to provide the theoretical insight for you.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby paultakeda » April 7th, 2012, 10:50 am

Crinkles wrote:
But I would like to see a combination for skill increases.
As in theory and practice
Theory is the book learning type thing, where you basically just sit there and think about something, without ever doing it. Whereas practice is the act of learning on the job.


I actually really like this idea. If I may commit minor heresy by completely making up my own skill system, how about you level up a skill through experience (practical learning), but after a certain amount of practical learning you require more theory to unlock the next levels. However, theory should not just be book learning. My idea would be that for anything which provides practical experience, you have a chance of gaining "insight"; theoretical experience. Thus, you can eventually have an epiphany and unlock the next skill levels, even by repeating the same set of practical actions. The chance of having an insight should depend on your IQ/intellectual skill. Alternatively, you could find a book or clever person to provide the theoretical insight for you.


Hmm. In WL you could level by training or by use, but here it sounds like you want to breakdown a skill stat into two properties and that you would have to invest in both to maximize its use.
This is a thread related to the idea of splitting skill leveling, though this one is more about categorizing skills while this is about how a skill itself has two properties rather than one, I think that either this should be merged with that thread or we continue the discussion of skill stat split/breakdown there.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Crinkles » April 7th, 2012, 11:06 am

paultakeda wrote:
Crinkles wrote:
But I would like to see a combination for skill increases.
As in theory and practice
Theory is the book learning type thing, where you basically just sit there and think about something, without ever doing it. Whereas practice is the act of learning on the job.


I actually really like this idea. If I may commit minor heresy by completely making up my own skill system, how about you level up a skill through experience (practical learning), but after a certain amount of practical learning you require more theory to unlock the next levels. However, theory should not just be book learning. My idea would be that for anything which provides practical experience, you have a chance of gaining "insight"; theoretical experience. Thus, you can eventually have an epiphany and unlock the next skill levels, even by repeating the same set of practical actions. The chance of having an insight should depend on your IQ/intellectual skill. Alternatively, you could find a book or clever person to provide the theoretical insight for you.


Hmm. In WL you could level by training or by use, but here it sounds like you want to breakdown a skill stat into two properties and that you would have to invest in both to maximize its use.
This is a thread related to the idea of splitting skill leveling, though this one is more about categorizing skills while this is about how a skill itself has two properties rather than one, I think that either this should be merged with that thread or we continue the discussion of skill stat split/breakdown there.


Thanks for pointing me to that thread---I'll take my thoughts there, instead; it seems more appropriate.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Thorium » April 7th, 2012, 12:41 pm

Nox wrote:First, arbitrary points investment leads to end game problems. This is a fallout truism from 1/2/and even FT. Most people (myself included) had no idea that by end game if you didn't have energy weapons that without aimed shot you were doomed.

Not true. Gauss rifle uses small guns skill and is a good end game weapon. You can even beat the game just with unarmed.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby SniperHF » April 9th, 2012, 8:14 pm

Thorium wrote:
Nox wrote:First, arbitrary points investment leads to end game problems. This is a fallout truism from 1/2/and even FT. Most people (myself included) had no idea that by end game if you didn't have energy weapons that without aimed shot you were doomed.

Not true. Gauss rifle uses small guns skill and is a good end game weapon. You can even beat the game just with unarmed.


Yep, I agree it's not a "truism". But even if it was a truism, Choices and Consequences baby :twisted:

I actually never played Fallout with aimed shots until several years later. Always chose fast shot since I wanted the AP bonus. Had no idea for years how powerful aimed shots were and I beat the games just fine without them.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby Shatterbrain » April 10th, 2012, 9:55 am

'Learn as you go' is awful imo. The biggest problem is that it can lead to every character being the same, or having no inherent weaknesses from the start. You have to grind to up your stats. You have to suffer the frustration of doing things you're awful at to get any better at them. Like level scaling, it's a symptom of Bethesdian casualization. I'd rather not see it here.
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Re: Lessons learned from the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system

Postby krellen » April 10th, 2012, 10:08 am

Shatterbrain wrote:'Learn as you go' is [..]a symptom of Bethesdian casualization. I'd rather not see it here.

Considering that Wasteland had "learn as you go" skills back in 1988, no, it was not a symptom of Bethesda. And please note that Wasteland's implementation thereof was not like Bethesda's, either. Skills could be studied in a library for exorbitant cost in skill points, or you could level your skills by using them - but your character still earned experience and levels independent of the skills, and those levels could be used to increase whatever attribute(s) you wanted.
in my opinion
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