Thursday, April 19, 2018

Howdy everyone!

Thomas "Blixtev" Blair here, and today I want to introduce you to the latest updates to the skills system

Skills system! Haven’t you done this before?!

Yes, we have. Progression and long-term character growth are extremely important in MMORPGs (including Crowfall®), and we recognize that they are a cornerstone of the experience. Each time the system was updated, we learned new things by watching our backers play. Their feedback helped highlight areas that needed improvement — this is why playtesting is important! — and we’re willing to keep iterating until we feel it meets the goals we have for the system.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the skills system in Crowfall, here’s a quick overview: Skills are one of the main methods of character progression. They train passively over time, whether or not you are online, and the benefits they provide are based on the account – not the individual character. This means that when you train in crafting proficiency, you'll receive those benefits to any character on your account, even new ones that are created later.

Every skill node maps to at least one statistic on the character, (i.e. One-Handed Sword Specialization grants +50 Attack Power to any character that is wielding a one-handed sword) and multiple skill nodes can grant the same stat (i.e. Weapon Mastery also grants an additional +50 attack power). Additionally, skill nodes can unlock new gameplay features like crafting recipes and passive powers.

On to the changes!

In previous versions of the skill system, the player would select a specific skill node and activate passive training on that node. When that node gained a pip, training would shut off and time would start accruing in the Time Bank of that skill tree. Players would be able to log in at a later point and spend that built-up time on skill nodes.

After implementing the Time Banks, what we noticed was that most players were just setting the Time Banks of their skill tree to train and not bothering at all with skill nodes. When they had amassed a chunk of time, they would spend it all at once. This meant every time the players logged in they had could start their play sessions on a positive note. (Always nice logging in with points to spend!) A nice secondary aspect was that the skill trees became passive both in action and in consideration. Instead of counting down how much time until the next pip and feeling pressured to change it on time, players could simply set their Time Bank to train and not worry about it until later.

Looking at these positive aspects we asked ourselves, “Why don’t we just make the whole system work this way?”

So we did! And while we were in there, we made a few other adjustments.

Players can now have a primary and secondary track for each sphere of training, based on account status. There are three spheres of training (Profession, Race and Class), and each sphere contains different types of skill trees:

Profession: Combat, Crafting and Exploration
Race: Mankind, Sylvan and Monster
Class: Fighter, Mage and Rogue

Skills 1

Within each sphere, a player may select a primary track to passively accrue skill points. The maximum amount of skill points able to be accrued is 72 hours for non-VIPs and 30 days for VIP players.

VIP players will also have a secondary track where they may passively accrue skill points in a different tree. The rate of accrual for secondary tracks may be at a different rate than the primary track, and we are still figuring out what that speed is.

In 5.6, we have all skill trees accruing skill points at 10x normal speed for both tracks to enable testing on skill nodes deeper in the trees.

In short, players can now turn on skill trees to begin earning skill points, and those points are then spent on skill nodes within that tree. VIPs get one additional track per sphere (for a total of six tracks), and can accrue a larger amount of skill points before hitting the skill point cap.

One of the aspects that none of us were very happy with was the inconsistency of the rules. Currently, a VIP player can train two Profession skills; however, they can only train one skill in the Combat tree but can train two at the same time in the Crafting or Exploration trees, and every second Tuesday of the month they get bonus time but only when they face North and cover one eye!

Okay, the second Tuesday thing is a joke, but you get the point. It was overly complicated, and the skill trees didn't seem to follow their own rules. In every tree other than Combat, VIP could train two skills in a sphere at once. There was no way to clearly communicate this, and many players reported it as a bug. Not to mention, the VIP players were able to double dip in the Race and Class spheres, which clearly wasn’t something we intended.

We wanted to unify the rules and make the whole system consistent. The rule that made the most sense with that in mind were “a track may train one skill tree type from a sphere at a time.” No double Combat, no double Crafting, no double Exploration, no double Monster, no double Fighter. When all spheres follow the same rules, the messaging is much more clear and easier to understand.

Skills 2

For example, picking Fighter as a primary track for Class means that the secondary track can only have Mage or Rogue in it. (Basically, pick two of three types.)

Another way to look at the change is that each sphere contains three types of skill trees. Non-VIP players can train one of each of these types at a time (e.g. Crafting, Monster, and Fighter). VIP players can train two of these types at a time (e.g. Combat and Exploration, Sylvan and Man, or Mage and Rogue).

Skills 3

We also used this opportunity to eliminate the Class Basics and Race Basics skill trees and pushed their stat allocations deeper into their respective sphere trees. This cleared up any remaining double dipping problems caused by VIP.

We also took some time to make spending skill points faster and more rewarding. The old method was pretty clunky to use, and took a considerable amount of time if you had more than a couple of days banked.

Skills 4

Even the tooltips are more streamlined. Each one has all the information you need about that particular skill node including how many pips you currently have, what the maximum pips are, what the skill does and a breakdown of your current available skill points.

Skills 5

The highlights of this update are streamlined training selection and spending, and more unified rules, plus a bit more UI polish. The new skill system is easier to use, faster, and feels more satisfying.

Hopefully this illuminates the changes we recently made to the skill system. There will be more updates in the future as we collect feedback and suggestions on what to adjust. You'll see this new skill system with the 5.6 update.

As always, please feel free to leave comments and questions on the forums.

See you in game!

Thomas Blair
Design Director, ArtCraft Entertainment

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