How should I determine when a character learns a new skill?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by DRG, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. DRG

    DRG Orange juice lover Veteran

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    my previous two games had every character learn a new skill at intervals of five levels. but when I look at other games like persona 5, pokemon, and other RPGs i see characters learning new skills at random levels, like 4, 7, 12, etc. I never understood why. Is there a reason why you should learn skills at random intervals and not at regular intervals? and how should i determine what level a skill should be learned at?
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
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  2. Andar

    Andar Veteran Veteran

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    game balance
    new skills are usually more powerfull, so if they are learned too early the game becomes too easy or if they are learned too late it becomes unbeatable.
    and sometimes it's easier to change the level a skill is learned on than to change all enemies on the maps that are intended for a player of that level
    almost every game starts developing with skills leveleling on regular intervalls, but that rarely stays that way after playtesting.
     
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  3. Finnuval

    Finnuval World (his)story builder and barrel of ideas Veteran

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    What @Andar says... Basically when they're just about to need that skill. Not before and not after...
     
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  4. bgillisp

    bgillisp Global Moderators Global Mod

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    Varies by game and many other factors. To give an example, the old D and D gold box games you pick a new spell to learn with every single level up. Though, these games are designed so that you usually go from level 1 to 6 through the entire game, so a level up is very hard to come by there.

    Wizardry 7 and 8 uses the same system too, pick a new spell to learn when you level up. And there getting to level 25 can easily take the entire game, if not more too, so there is that to keep in mind.
     
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  5. MushroomCake28

    MushroomCake28 KAMO Studio Veteran

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    It's very subjective and depends on the game. It also depends on the type of skill: some skills are vertical upgrades, while others are horizontal upgrades:
    • Vertical upgrades: it simply means that the new skill is more powerful and/or more useful than the previously gained skills. You must be more careful want granting those skills, as it may affect game balance.
    • Horizontal upgrades: those are skills that aren't more powerful than other skills, but that offer a better range of option. The best example: Fire spell, Ice spell, and Lightning spell: they can all have the same power, but each skill offers a different elemental damage source, maybe different state infliction, etc.
     
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  6. Animebryan

    Animebryan Feels like I'm slowly dying! Veteran

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    There's also different ways to learn skills. Some are usually learned from reaching a certain level, or if you're using Yanfly's Job Points & Skill Learn plugin, have them learn them through a skill list that's always available (but you can demand a high amount of JP for). You can also have items to teach skills & have that item given at an exact point in the story so they never learn it too early.

    There's also the ability to attach skills to a piece of equipment as well. You only get to keep the skill as long as that piece of equipment is equipped, so you could put a really good skill on a really weak piece of equipment & leave it to the player to choose between keeping a good skill but weak equipment or equip a stronger piece of equipment & give up the good skill for maybe a weaker one.
     
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  7. woootbm

    woootbm Super Sand Legend Veteran

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    Another reason is pacing. It can be very overwhelming if you have 4+ characters available to play, and each one has 10+ skills, and then they rapidly gain more skills. You have to think about not just players having enough variety for them to be interested, but also how much to limit that variety so they don't get an information overload.

    There's also some thought that should be given to teaching mechanics of a game. Like I have this area in my next game where enemies start healing a lot. And then, lo and behold, you are soon after able to get access to an anti-heal skill.

    Along those lines, you can plan this path where just as things get comfortable, you introduce new wrinkles in the gameplay. And it becomes something fresh again.
     
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  8. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

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    Assuming you're granting skills through Level Ups rather than other means, I find this approach to be the best general rule of thumb that can be broken for several good reasons:
    • Start early characters out with 2-3 skills (any less than 2 makes for really boring turn-based combat)
    • At early levels, make the new skills come pretty fast - maybe every two levels for the first few
    • Once the character has a repertoire of about 6 well-designed skills, it's probably enough to keep skill usage interesting on its own, so you can slow the pace a lot; maybe offer another skill every 5-7 levels, or every 3-4 hours of gameplay
    • A game's skill learn curve might look something like this: 1, 1, 1, 3, 5, 8, 12, 17, 25, 35, 50, 70. Notice how the further you go in the skill list, the more levels you wait between each new skill. This does two things: it keeps the player's interest curve high in the early levels ("ooh, wonder what comes next!"), and it avoids burdening the player with lots of new information when they already have a lot of skills to manage and remember later on
    • For characters that join your party deep into the game, start them off with about 4 skills (so as to not overwhelm the player as they adjust to the character). Give them a new skill every two levels or so until their kit is nearly as packed as other party members', then slow the pace down
     
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  9. Kes

    Kes Global Moderators Global Mod

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    This is more of a mechanic than a general theme, so probably best over in Game Mechanics Design.

    I am, therefore, moving this.

     
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  10. ave36

    ave36 Veteran Veteran

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    I think that a unique way of learning new skills is part of the game's uniqueness, its je ne sais quoi. The method with spells automatically learned at certain levels is standard and trite, it screams "Oh, another sloppy RPG Maker game". When you learn skills by equipping colored gems, you think: "Oh, Final Fantasy VII ! Nice. Oh wait, it isn't Final Fantasy VII, it's an el cheapo imitation thereof". However, when you learn skills in a certain new way, it makes you think: "Interesting! Never seen this before. What a well-thought game!"
     
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  11. Andar

    Andar Veteran Veteran

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    @ave36
    the problem with that is that there are absolutely no "new ideas" about skill learning anywhere.
    Learning skills by leveling was there even before the first computer games existed (Dungeons&Dragons was published 1974) and assigning gems for skills or other bonuses is also a lot older than FFVII which copied that idea from other sources.
     
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