Don’t Make These Skills

by Iskvarren on July 23, 2015

in Code Updates, Instructional, Iskvarren's Blog

A bit of the thought process that goes into creating a new skill.  These are examples of skills that are frequently suggested and why they don’t make it into the game.

The Cloned Skill
Every skill you create should be compared to existing skills.  If it’s essentially the same as an existing skill, then you should use the existing skill.  This exercise would have removed a lot of the redundant mental-element attacks on shifters.  You would have ended up with something like “Mental pain is like mind blast except stronger!  Disruption is like mental pain but stronger!  Mental scythe is like disruption but weaker and decreases int and wis!  Radial Distortion is like AoE disruption with slow!”  And that’s one of the problems with shifter now—too many mental-element spells when only 1-2 are used with any frequency at level 50.

The Fail-Safe Skill
One category of skill that’s often suggested is a skill that’s meant to be insurance if you experience an unfortunate outcome.   This is the flaw with the inebriation skill.  Yes, it does give you some small bonuses if you get hit by a drug-type toxin or get drunk.  However, the penalties you suffer from drunkenness outweigh the bonuses you get.  It would be better to not be drunk at all.  Likewise, a skill that has a chance to resurrect you from death isn’t useful if you never do anything dangerous to tempt death.  Even if you get automatically revived, isn’t it better to not die at all?

The Increased Damage Skill
Many skill suggestions boil down to “You do more damage.”  The skills that I try to avoid adding are skills like enhanced damage that add a bit of extra damage to everything.  Why does a warrior have enhanced damage but not enchanter?  Doesn’t a warrior get better damage stats to begin with?  Doesn’t a warrior get more powerful weapons?  Why does it need another blanket damage increase skill on top of that?  How is this skill interesting when it’s automatic?  Variations of this suggestion are include “The character has higher chance of critical hits when using swords” or “The character does more damage with swords.”  This is slightly more interesting but the net effect is “increases damage.”  Critical hit skills tended to fall into this category until the change that made them undodgeable.

The Reduced Damage Skill
This is any skill that boils down to “You take less damage.”  The prototype for this is sanctuary, which was recently modified so that it wouldn’t result in outrageous damage reduction for NPCs (65%+).

Many suggestions fall into the category of “This character takes less damage from ___.”  If the blank includes groups like “all animals,” “all humans,” “all magic,” then it’s the same as giving that character a limited sanctuary spell.  The old second wind for barbarians accomplished the same goal by making barbarians last longer; however, with the massively increased damage, it was no longer fair for barbarians to have two pools of HP instead of one.

The Stun Skill
To illustrate the wide range of melee skills we used to have, we had:

  • kick, a damage skill that has a chance to stun
  • trip, a skill that stuns non-flying targets
  • bodyslam, a skill that stuns and has a chance to disarm
  • grapple, a skill that allows you to remove levitate and stun if you’re barehanded
  • charge, an opening skill with spear/polearm that stuns
  • shield attack, a skill using a shield that stuns

The problem with stunning skills is that pretty much whoever can lock up the enemy in stun for more turns wins.  Since mage characters do most of their damage with attack spells, they suffer even more from stunning.  This is one reason a relatively new warrior could defeat an established mage by only kicking.  (The other reason is a relatively new warrior was finishing with about 10,000 more experience worth of exchanges to HP, mana, and move compared to an enchanter.)

The Skill With High Opportunity Cost
I’m defining opportunity cost here as “giving up the chance to use another skill instead of this one.”  Consider the grapple skill, which requires a warrior to be barehanded to drag a flying character out of the air.  What are the costs of using any skill that requires you to be barehanded?  Consider what you could be doing instead:

  • You lose the chance to do damage; you’re going to be punching with your fists for at least one turn.
  • You lose the chance to wield your sword for crescendo or your polearm for charge.  Or any weapon for disarm.
  • You lose your turn to use a supportive combat skill like assess, aegis guard, or anticipate.
  • You lose future turns in which you can use upperslash to deal high damage to a flying enemy.

And this, on top of the hassle to wield/unwield weapons, is why grapple is not a favored warrior skill by any means.

Whenever you create a skill, compare it to a basic damage spell like disjunction.  Is it worth it to lose the damage from disjunction for this skill?  What is the benefit I gain from using this skill instead?



Next time, I’ll come up with how to make skills work despite these problems.

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