Thoughts on an Equipment-Based Skills System?

shadefoundry

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Hi all,

So I'm at the point where I'm designing my combat system, and to make skills a bit more interesting I was thinking of than learning them by leveling up, the characters get access to different skills based on their equipment. Think like maybe a flame staff lets you cast fireballs, and maybe a bow lets you use wind attacks, etc. The idea would be to provide a sense of strategy in which equipment you use, rather than just buying whatever makes the numbers go up, while also limiting how many skills the player has access to at a given time. Personally I think this would add some depth to the game-play since there could be weaker equipment that gives better skills, or maybe sets of skills.
I figured I'd post here for some feedback, especially since I'm not sure how well this would go if I'm not letting them learn the skill permanently.

So, let me know your thoughts guys, does a skill system like this pique your interest?
-Shady
 

Poryg

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I think it could be an interesting one if it's well made. I'd just not make like 200 of them, because that would be overwhelming.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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Sounds like a good idea. I would suggest some items to equip that have a basic set of skills attached though. Maybe 'cure ring' gives 3 skills: one to heal HP, one to heal Poison, and one to raise DEF. Something like this would allow the player to have a base of skills, and then to be able to expand based on equips that have more specialization. Neat idea though.
 

shadefoundry

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@Poryg Ideally I'd like to avoid having 200+ skills. Maybe something like 50 at most, and even then that would be pushing it since I'd rather have the skills each feel unique as opposed to just being "this one's strictly better with no downside lets use that".

@HumanNinjaToo That's actually a really good idea! It would keep the system a bit more consistent than having a constantly fluctuating skill set. Maybe I should have Accessories be what provides that sort of basic set?
 

SOC

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I dunno', I get stressed, annoyed and bothered when I have to "math" my way through what's truly an upgrade: bigger numbers/different skill, or this old skill? What about monster weaknesses, what if I need this later, etc.. I hate that crap. Just give me the bigger number and do something else with skills IMO. I do like games with limited equippable skills so you do make that decision of what you want to bring to battles, I just don't like that also being tied with gear.
 

Frogboy

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I like the idea and have even thought about it myself. The engine supports it right out of the box so you don't even have to rely on plugins or anything to pull it off which is a nice plus.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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@shadefoundry Yeah, maybe just dedicate one of the equipment slots entirely to allow for a basic class set of skills. This could essentially be a basis for the type of character being used. Maybe one could take it a step further and allow for matching equipment sets to enhance those base skills. I think you've got a very good idea and I hope it turns out well for you.
 

kovak

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As far as i know that's how you learn skills in Breath of Fire but FF IX has the bling.
It give the possibility to retain those skills wile using them in combat.
 

Kawers

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I like it! It would definitely up the strategy element, particularly if you had enemies that were only weak to certain things. I wonder if you could have a switching mechanic to swap equipment in battle so you could rethink on the fly?

I had a vaguely similar, but more rudimentary, idea about equipping tools as an off-hand item, which would give access to different skills. My idea was just to do something very simple that would only be used by one "techie" character; just to add a bit of personality, rather than a major game mechanic (along the lines of Edgar in Final Fantasy 6).
 

TheoAllen

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Pros - It makes player explore what a certain equipment can do
Cons - It makes player explore what a certain equipment can do

The problem with this system is a micromanagement the player need to do. What if I entered the battle with a wrong equipment? I have no idea what kind of encounter I will meet in next area. Will I get punished for not using the correct weapon?

To solve this, you might want to make a player can change equipment during battle with a cost of a turn maybe. But I'd suggest if you make a certain stage, make the enemy weakness is homogeneous. So player won't spend much time changing equipment.

It's an interesting idea I'd say
 

shadefoundry

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@Kawers @TheoAllen I think you guys are right in that I should probably allow the player to equip during the battle. I am currently running a scan system that allows you to check weaknesses in battle after discovering it the first time, so those features should hopefully mitigate players being punished for not using the right equipment.
 

HumanNinjaToo

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I like it! It would definitely up the strategy element, particularly if you had enemies that were only weak to certain things. I wonder if you could have a switching mechanic to swap equipment in battle so you could rethink on the fly?

I had a vaguely similar, but more rudimentary, idea about equipping tools as an off-hand item, which would give access to different skills. My idea was just to do something very simple that would only be used by one "techie" character; just to add a bit of personality, rather than a major game mechanic (along the lines of Edgar in Final Fantasy 6).

I think he's on to something here. If skills only available depend on what type of equipment, you would almost have to make it possible to change gear in battle.

@TheoAllen mentions the same thing, you never know what is going to come in battle if it's your first play-through, so the player should have that luxury.
 

jonthefox

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i've thought about doing this in the past, but found it pretty challenging. how many skills are you going to give the player for each weapon? too few and the player lacks options, too many and the player has a large learning curve every time he equips a new weapon. also, how do you avoid overlap? seems like every sword should have a basic slashing ability...

overall, i think it could work for a few small and/or simple game where you don't have many different weapons in the game overall. but for a typical jrpg where there's at least 10 weapons for each character, i have trouble seeing how it would work out.

a possible suggestion: maybe have skills work normally, but then have each weapon provide an additional unique skill (or two). This way, you still have that element of strategy of choosing your weapon based on the kind of unique skill you want to have. Dunno, curious to see how this works out for you though.
 

HeathRiley

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Hello @shadefoundry , yes I would be interested in this type of game, and have in fact played some games
similar in the past. Final Fantasy 9 and the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance games are two that I can think of
off the top of my head.

Pros: its fun, not something that every game does, can add variety/strategy (do i need to learn this, or should
I be focusing on highest attack for a tough fight)

Cons: time consuming, can feel grindy, can feel restricted, ability bloat.

Ability bloat can easily be taken care of by weapon/armor classes, so not every character can wear and therefore
learn everything. This could be taken further by only being able to equip a certain amount of abilities, or 1 or 2
ability trees. (attack magic, heal magic, swordsmanship, etc).

Approaching the rest of the cons really just comes down to balance and playtesting. Making sure that the
player feels rewarded a most points along the way. Good luck and keep us in the loop!
 

Titanhex

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I've set up a game in this fashion.
It's baked right into RPG Maker, so that's nice.

Changing equips in battle is a mixed bag. The player is losing a turn to do so. There's plenty of intelligent ways to keep the player informed before they enter a dugeon.
However, it does allow a player to adapt to punishing situations where a monsters weakness may require more specialization by the player.
It could largely depend on how you design such a system.

There's easy ways to also make it so the player can't attack with certain weapons, such as a staff or book, or can't defend without certain weapons, like a shield.

You may benefit from categorized skills and a tiered system. HEAL I, II, and III. You can save unique skills for the latter half of the game.
It really is a system that benefits from simplicity.
 

Wavelength

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Yes, it makes your equipment far more interesting. But also consider that it will probably make your skill system far less interesting.

When you make "skills" an important part of the equipment choices in your game, you need to either make the skills more powerful/useful than the characters' natural skills, or you have to give the characters very few (or zero) natural skills in order to make the additional skills gained from equipment relevant. Either one of these will heavily limit the number of strategic options available during combat, and kind of locks the player into doing what they intended to do before combat started.

Some games (FF9 comes immediately to mind) allow you to build characters the way you want by having the skills from equipment become permanent once you've worn that equip through enough battles. This is a fairly popular system that gets around the above drawbacks, but I feel that it does require the player to hold off on trying new equipment they earn, as well as encouraging heavy amounts of grinding, both of which are not always desired dynamics of play.

If you're looking for a way to make equipment choices more interesting, consider adding conditional passives to most of your equipment - for example, "If you land a Critical Hit, heal 10% missing HP" and "When you drop below 25% HP, cast all spells for free". This kind of thing encourages the player to shoot for different situations and styles during combat, based on the equip they're wearing, and the passives don't need to be gamebreaking because they don't need to "replace" choices that are natural to the character.

If you're looking for a way to limit the number of skills a player has with them at any given time in combat, consider a Skill Equip system where a character can learn any number of skills, but must select six to ten skills (changeable any time outside combat) that will actually be available during the battle. Additionally, add Cooldowns to most skills. Together, this creates a fun CCG-like dynamic where the player is encouraged to experiment with different skill setups and try to take advantage of multiple skill synergies.
 

Hercanic

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Guild War 2 attaches half your skills to your weapon type and offhand choice, and the other half is free choice.
  • A one-handed sword gives 3 sword-type skills.
  • A shield gives 2 shield-related skills.
  • A second sword in the offhand gives 2 more sword skills.
  • A two-handed weapon gives a full set of 5 skills.
Classes all have their own skills. A Warrior will have different sword skills than a Thief wielding the same sword. These skills form a set designed to work well together and are your main offensive abilities. Your 5 free-choice skills round you out with a variety of support options.

No matter if you have a rusty starter sword or an epic Dragonslayer sword, the sword skills are always the same. Your main decision as a player is what weapon type to use. Finding a better sword will not interfere with your skill choice.

Weapon Swap allows you to change to a second set of weapons, effectively giving you the ability to swap half your skills on the fly during battle. You can change out your free-choice skills at no cost, but only outside of combat.
 

Ellie Jane

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Guild Wars 2 is a blend of the two ideas. You unlock skills by other means, but equipping an item gives access to a build you've chosen. So switch to a staff and your skill roster is replaced with your staff spells, but those individual spells still have to be unlocked.
 

WickedWolfy

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One of this things I was looking at was a change in skill based on equipment.

Example:

"Stab" and "Slash" skill.
With equipment "dagger", "sword" and "staff".
With a dagger you would slash twice, but less damage. Stab would go for "weak point for massive damage" (probably increased crit).
With a sword, you have one slash, but the damage is slightly increased. Stab has higher chance to miss, but if it lands it would deal a decent amount of damage.
With a staff... I have bad news for you.

My issue is figuring out if I would need separate skills with vanilla system, or change something to have one skill and have a math formula for skill use.
 

Lord Balen

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Hey, I'm a nobody who knows little to nothing about RPG Maker (So please excuse me if what I suggest may be outlandish), but I was searching for information about this type of equipment system and found this wonderful thread and I thought I'd share an idea I've been pondering regarding this design mechanic.

Instead of having a completely equipment based skill system, what about having specific types of skills being able to be "memorized" or "learned" ?
For Example (Similar to FFTactics Advance):
A "Tome" that when equipped, provides the Magic skills: X, Y and Z.
If the player uses (X) Magik Skill 10 times, that skill is stored in the character's "memory", allowing them access to (X) when the Tome is not equipped.​

Beyond this, designers would decide the limitations of the "memory bank".
For Example (Similar to Guild Wars 2):
- Players may only be able to memorize and/or equip a maximum number of skills (outside of their standard equipment)
This option (if possible) would give players an expanded set of skills to choose from in addition to their equipment, without being too limiting or overbearing.

- Unlimited memory storage, but can only memorize "lower to mid tier" spells and skills.
This second limit encourages completionists, and players who like to "collect", but still leaves important choices on what to equip at higher levels.​

Access to these learned skills could also be dictated by what types of items are equipped, creating a "meta-class".
For Example (Somewhat similar to Guild Wars 2):
- Players have access to all of their learned equipment skills, but only while they have the appropriate equipment type on.
- A set of basic skills are always accessible regardless of equipment
IMO any combination or variation of these would allow a great amount of depth without being too convoluted or limiting.

Hope I have contributed something worth a read.
Cheers 'mates.

EDIT:
Or for a more simple solution:

What about just having skills that can be obtained by collecting items or completing quests in addition to the skills provided by equipment?
With this, it is possible to give players optional content while giving them access to more varied strategies, without implementing anything particularly fancy.
 
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