How many skills is too many?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by PhxFire, Jul 31, 2019.

  1. PhxFire

    PhxFire The Eternal Flame Veteran

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    So my game has 9 different elemental types and I would like to make 2-3 skills for the player to learn in the game plus a few non-elemental skills.... My question is, should I limit the amount of skills they can posses at 1 time? Should I allow them to learn as many skills as they can find? Some other option? What's you personal taste/ opinion...

    Thanks!
     
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  2. Poryg

    Poryg Dark Lord of the Castle of Javascreeps Veteran

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    If you have three skills, Blizzard, Blizzaza and Blizzazaza, it's three skills too many.
    If you have fifteen skills, each offering new strategic potential, then even larger number is justifiable.
     
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  3. ShadowDragon

    ShadowDragon Veteran Veteran

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    it depends on your game, i saw some good games that has only 7 spells, some have 4 characters, each with 10 different spells.
    other has over 1000 spells to learn or used all over the world.

    if it fit the class and game, you can add as many as you like.

    But in my opinion, give a class up to max 4 elemental and each different in their own way.

    Example:
    Class Earth: ground skill like earth quecks
    class earth 2: fall rocks, summon builders etc ( can be good for some puzzle path ways

    Class water: make icy path, throw icecles etc
    class water 2: pure water skills, like waterfalls, gyser etc (if you get the point.
     
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  4. Heirukichi

    Heirukichi Veteran Veteran

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    I think it greatly depends on what you want to do. It goes without saying that an action game where the player has to kill enemies with combination of attacks doesn't need that many skills. Based on my experience with many action games, the best result is always based on the player skills, rather than on characters' skill. Truth be told, the same can be said for turn based games. The word META is a matter of fact that you cannot remove as long as you have many different options in your game.

    That said, I generally agree with @Poryg when he says that having three skills that do the same thing, with a different cost and stronger/weaker effect is not really worth it. I don't think they are useless, but in the vast majority of games they are unnecessary. On top of it, do you have enemies that are weak to that element? Are skills of that element extremely powerful/useful compared to other skills of other elements?

    If the answer to both these questions is negative, then consider removing that element (and every related skill). It does not give the player the possibility of making meaningful choices and is always going to be "just an extra" as other elemental skills will always have either an equal strategic value or a greater strategic value.
    However, as I mentioned, there are situations when you might want to have skills of the same element with different strength and different costs. One - probably the only - possible situation is a game where the player has to manage resources (mana and health) until a new checkpoint is reached, and checkpoints are very far from each other. In this situation, wrong resource management might force the player to restart from the previous checkpoint, therefore, saving mana by using cheaper skills with lower damage against enemies with low health, that are eventually weak to that element, is a wise choice.

    If your game features a situation similar to the one above, having more elemental skills that simply vary in their cost and magnitude is a good way to offer strategic options to the player; if your game does not feature such a situation, it is better if you create meaningful skills instead. Even a more engaging basic attack can be the answer.

    A good way to go is that of offering different strategies to the player. A skill should not act on its own. You should offer the player an interesting way to combine skills together (even among party members) to maximize the effectiveness of "weaker" skills. Doing that is a great way to add depth to your game system.

    Anyway, you should also consider the learning curve of your game. I said that it can add "depth", but "complexity" is a different thing. A complex game can have no depth at all. When that happens your game is just unnecessarily complex. If that complexity is not going to add any depth, it simply makes the game harder to master and less fun to play. You could (and probably should) have done the same thing with a simpler system and fewer skills.

    That said, even a game with a total of 6 skills can have depth, as long as those 6 skills are meaningful and offer different game-play possibilities.
     
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  5. PhxFire

    PhxFire The Eternal Flame Veteran

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    So a little background for my game, there are no classes, simply the main character and his partner. The main character can learn all elemental skill types and will be battling wild monsters/ other people who all use varying elemental types... heres a quick guide to show how the elements are weak/ strong to each other
    [​IMG]

    Each skill will be unique, and not all of them are offensive types, some invoke special states/ are defensive
     
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  6. Soryuju

    Soryuju Combat Balance Enthusiast Veteran

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    It’s generally advisable to have some sort of limit on the number of skills simultaneously available to your player in battles, though that limit doesn’t necessarily have to reflect the total number of skills available in your game. Assuming we’re talking about turn-based combat, there are a number of issues that go along with giving characters large skill lists in battle. For example:

    - You can safely assume that players will generally prefer using the skills which let them win battles most efficiently (spending the fewest amount of turns and resources possible, in this context). Sometimes players will deviate from this if another skill gains value in certain contexts (e.g. a skill which can strike an elemental weakness, or one which gives resistance to a certain status ailment that a boss uses regularly). But the problem is that characters only get so many actions in battle, and the more skills that are competing for usage, the harder it is to ensure that they’re all still used with some regularity. Many will just collect dust, even if they’re just slightly less useful than the other skills the character knows. Secondary mechanics like skill cooldowns can help correct this to some degree, but they can’t stop the problem completely.

    - Even if you do a great job of making useful skills and balancing them against each other, you can run into a new problem where the player has too many viable options each turn in battle, and it becomes difficult to make choices quickly. This drags out your combat as the player is forced to consider each option individually. They’re likely to get tired before long and just opt to take the fastest/most straightforward approach, even if the overall results are worse.

    - Big skill lists require more scrolling through menus in battle. This sounds like a minor issue, but the time will add up if the player has to do it regularly, and your combat will get boring more quickly.


    You get the idea - skill bloat doesn’t usually make for fun battles. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help correct it even if you make it possible for players to acquire many different skills. Here are some ideas:

    Skill Evolution: Building on some of the discussion above, if you have a series of skills that do basically the same thing, but each skill in the series is just stronger than the last, you can have the stronger skills just replace the weaker ones in the command list. Be careful doing this if the stronger skill costs more than the weaker one, though. Similar to what @Heirukichi mentioned, there are times when a weak, cheap skill is useful for finishing off enemies at very low HP, and you probably don’t want players “opting out” of evolving their skills for reasons like this.

    Skill Equip Systems: You can have a large pool of available skills and simply have players select from among them outside of combat. Skill balance is still an issue, but if players are free to combine skills in whatever way they please, having a large range of options makes it easier for them to specialize characters in certain ways and develop multiple viable approaches to combat. You can also impose limits on equipping certain skills, such as giving characters a selection of different “Ultimate” moves and only allowing them to equip one at a time.

    Skill Trees: Skill trees let players specialize in just one segment of your large overall skill pool, narrowing their selections in battle and forcing them to accept the tradeoffs which come with their chosen specialization. It’s a popular way to offer the player customization which is still railroaded to some degree, and it can even be combined with mechanics like the Skill Equip system mentioned above.

    Skill Clusters: Having mechanics which give characters skills in fixed groupings is another way to accommodate a large overall skill pool. For example, say you have elemental stones which characters can equip, and their current stone determines which elemental spells they have access to. Or maybe skills are built into different types of weapons instead. This gives you some different options for balancing, too, since players have to weigh the value of entire skill clusters against each other instead of just looking for the single most efficient skill.

    The above methods are just a sample of what’s possible - there are many ways you can keep skills manageable in battle without limiting your game’s total skill pool. Just make sure you’re designing each skill with a clear purpose in mind, and that those purposes are actually worthwhile compared to just using the most efficient skills to power through each fight. Best of luck with it!
     
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  7. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    In my experience there are three different symptoms that point to a character's skill kit being too large:
    • Some skills feel very similar to other skills in their function and the scenarios you'd want to use them
    • Some skills feel like they would almost never be the best way to spend your turn
    • The character feels like they can do a little (or a lot) of everything
    If any of those describe your character, their kit will be more fun to play if you pare down or consolidate some of their skills.

    Is that to say you will have characters who can learn 2-3 skills from each element, plus additional non-elemental skills? If so, then unless your entire party is a single character, it is far too much. A character who has 30 different skills, encompassing all of the elements, at the same time, is going to feel like they can do a little of everything. After all, what will be missing from their kits? What will they need to rely on other characters for?

    You can explore a system like @Soryuju mentions above to allow the player to decide how to specialize each character's talents, which can be very fun and intellectually stimulating, or you can take the quick-and-easy approach to good kit design, which is to assign each character one or two elements that they can use (and make sure that each element plays differently).
     
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  8. PhxFire

    PhxFire The Eternal Flame Veteran

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    @Wavelength Ya it's just the MC and he has a juvenile dragon in his party that is rather limited with his elemental possibilities..

    @Soryuju So I do like the idea of a skill equip system, currently you learn skills by finding masters and obtaining a skill scroll, I'm thinking altering it to need to equip the scrolls to determine what skills are available in battle. What is the best route for this? Is there a plugin that would work best for this equipping system?
     
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  9. Heirukichi

    Heirukichi Veteran Veteran

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    @PhxFire I think you can do it without any plugin at all, similarly to how skills work in Pokemon. You can pick a limited number of skills (let's say 3) among the scrolls you have. Scrolls can be key items that do not disappear after using them, and whenever one of them is used, a skill is added to the pool. If the main character has more than 3 skills (you can have more, 3 is just in my example), the player has to pick one among them to be removed. This can be done with just event commands in any engine by simply using variables, conditional branches and show choices.

    You should be careful when assuming that. I mean, the assumption is true if and only if managing resources is meaningful in the game. If the player is able to reach a checkpoint and replenish all of his or her resources before running low on them, then the whole game simply becomes a spam feast where the skill with the highest overall effect is used and everything else is neglected. This does not mean that I disagree with you, on the contrary, I wholeheartedly agree, but I have to point this out as balance is even more important in that situation (in this case "balance" refers to the balance in resource management).

    @PhxFire do not forget about that when balancing your game, regardless of the skill system you are going to pick. How many games out there can be played simply by spamming a single powerful skill? I am sure you know at least a dozen of them. Everyone played a game where a single overpowered skill completely overshadowed everything else. If that happens, be sure to create a viable powerful alternative to that skill.

    Having powerful skills, especially when they require a certain level of skill (as in player skill), is not a bad thing, what is bad is when there is only ONE powerful combination in the whole game and everything else is meaningless.
     
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  10. Soryuju

    Soryuju Combat Balance Enthusiast Veteran

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    @PhxFire

    I think you can ask about specific plugins that fit your needs over in the Plugin Requests section of the forum. Pretty sure Yanfly has something like an Equip Skill plugin, though, and there are probably at least a couple others.

    @Heirukichi

    Maybe I could have elaborated a little more when I said that, but when I mentioned “turns and resources” in the context of efficiency, I was thinking that “turns” implied the skills which clear out enemies the fastest. After all, if resource management is temporarily or completely out of the equation, then whatever saves the player the most time is the most efficient. Thanks for pointing it out, though - hopefully it helps to clarify the idea for others!
     
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  11. PhxFire

    PhxFire The Eternal Flame Veteran

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    Thanks everyone for the replies, I've got a lot to reflect on and some great new ideas for my game!
     
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  12. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    Right, if it's just one "primary" character in battle, then you're fine having 30+ available skills to learn (even triple-digits is reasonable), as long as you either have some kind of skill equip system or you have some kind of clever way to make it very efficient to use skills in battle with 3 button presses or less (hotkey combos, for example). It's okay for a "single character" party to be able to do a little of everything.

    The main issue with having more than 16 skills available in battle, using RPG Maker's default schemes (especially pre-MV where there is no mouse control), is that it's going to require a lot of button presses to move around the menu and get where you want to go. Navigating menus is never exciting gameplay. It's doubly aggravating if you have to scroll to find what you want to use. So if you have a way around all the sifting through menus, there's really no limit to how many skills you can load onto this character and still have it be fun. But if you're using default RPG Maker-style controls, keep it to 12-16 skills available in battle.
     
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  13. Engr. Adiktuzmiko

    Engr. Adiktuzmiko Chemical Engineer, Game Developer, Using BlinkBoy' Veteran

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    Depends on what those skills do... If each skill gives the player a different approach possibility, then adding as many could be fine... If there are a lot of similar skills with very minor differences, having even just 3-4 skills might look too much
     
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  14. lianderson

    lianderson Veteran Veteran

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    Got over 700 in my game. Was never told there's too many. The secret is to soft cap how much they actually learn.
     
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  15. Black Pagan

    Black Pagan Veteran Veteran

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    I personally prefer only 3 ~ 4 Skills for all my Character Classes. The reason is simple, I combine multiple skills with each other and make them more Interactive and Unique. If you have played any Old School MMORPG, You would know what I mean.

    Instead of a boring Fireball Skill that does damage, You could make something like a Fireball + Curse Enemy with "% Chance to Recover Health back to You" as a Bonus Feature (With Common Events). This way you can plan some 3 ~ 4 Skills similar to this that are Unique and set Cool-downs and Warm-ups for them making the entire Combat even more complicated and not just a Skill spam fest.

    The Player is then forced to shuffle through them depending on the Situation. Skills need to be Unique, Fun and Situational, It's not about "How many Skills you have" that matters.
     
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  16. Diretooth

    Diretooth Lv. 23 Werewolf Veteran

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    For one of my games, I'm sticking with 10 Character Skills each (Specific characters are the only ones who have these skills), four Limit Breaks (Obtained over the course of the plot and at the end of specific sidequests), and a slew of Mortal Arts (Skills given via equipment and plot. The ability to use Mortal Arts is allowed at a specific point in the plot).
    There are five Main Characters, one is a Warrior with the majority of his skills being stances that change how he fights (which in turn gives the basic Attack more versatility for him), one is like a Cleric (Healing spells, Buffs, and damaging Holy magic), The third is basically a Black Mage (Their main gimmick is that they handle the four basic elements, have non-elemental spells that deal extra damage based on if their MP is above a certain threshold, or their HP is below a certain threshold, and their upgraded elemental spells deals damage based on how many times they've cast their lesser brethren with a given limit to prevent one-shot kills, as well as spells that deal more damage if a given enemy has a specific state), the fourth is a debuffer with Dark elemental spells (opposite of Holy, and also sets up the Black Mage for status-reliant spells), with the fifth being a lightning bruiser with access to the earlier abilities of the four prior characters as well as being the first character to have access to Mortal Arts.
    Mortal Arts are limited to such fun abilities as dual/triple hit, or the ability to access a fast travel hub. (Basically, any skill that doesn't fit with what the characters learn through leveling and cannot keep permanently.)
     
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