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Update #7: Non-combat Skills with Tim Cain

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We are over 1.8 million dollars and climbing! I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to make this dream possible, and in return we promise to make you the most amazing game we can. I know you all have asked for more details about the game, so let's talk about non-combat abilities.

 

Most role-playing games can be divided into two sets of mechanics: those rules you use in combat and those you don't. For many people, an RPG is really defined by its combat. These people spend most of their time killing things and taking their loot, and leveling up is just a means to kill bigger things and get better loot. But for other people, an RPG is about the elements of the game they experience when not in combat. It's about the NPC's they talk with, the places they travel to, and the choices they make, including the choice to avoid combat altogether.

 

Non-Combat Abilities

Let's talk first about your goals as a player, about the things you would like to do besides fighting. Then I'll talk about our design goals and explain how we are putting the non-combat systems together.

 

Player Goals

When you are not fighting, that's when non-combat abilities come into play. We plan to add abilities that will let you become better at achieving four different non-combat goals.

  • Learning new things. This includes finding out previously unknown information, like the location of town or a hidden door, or uncovering secret knowledge, like a potion recipe or the true name of a demon. Or maybe you just want to know a good place to gather materials like ore or herbs. We will make abilities that let you find things out.
  • Traveling around the world. You will want to improve your movement capabilities (such as sneaking around some ruins), or traveling across the world map faster or more safely, or even teleporting directly to your destination. And sometimes movement requires removing barriers like locks or traps, so you will need some way to unlock and disarm. We'll add abilities for these actions.
  • Getting new items. If you are not going to kill a creature to take its things, then we will give you the means to make new items, buy them, or steal them. Or maybe you will choose to support NPC's by bringing them the materials or the recipes needed to make new items for you. We congratulate you on your non-violent and cooperative plans of wealth acquisition, and we'll give you the means to do it.
  • Interacting with companions. Once we have added many interesting and useful NPC companions, we will have to give you ways to recruit them, improve their usefulness, and keep them from dying (or even worse, disliking you!). We will make non-combat abilities that interact with your companions, so you can keep them alive and filled with a grudging respect for you.

Now each of these goals represents a whole slew of related non-combat abilities. For example, for player traveling, we could have all kinds of abilities, including stealth and teleport abilities, as well as abilities to make world map travel faster, less likely to have encounters, and able to make use of alternate transportation routes such as over mountains using passes or over water using ships.

 

Design Goals

In putting together our non-combat system, we have made a list of goals for the design of these skills and the rules they need to follow.

  • Non-combat skills are gained separately from combat skills. You shouldn't have to choose between Magic Missile and Herbalism. They should be separate types of abilities, and you should spend different points to get each one.
  • Non-combat skills do not use the same resources as combat skills. You don't spend the same stuff for a non-combat skill as you do for combat skills. Some don't use anything at all to use, so you will never find yourself unable to blast an opponent if you get caught sneaking.
  • All non-combat skills are useful. If we add lockpicking to the game, we will make sure that there are locks to pick and worthwhile rewards for getting past them.
  • All non-combat skills can be used frequently. If you take disarm traps as a skill, you should expect more than two traps in the entire game world. Frequency of application has a large impact on how useful something is.
  • Combat can be avoided with non-combat skills. There will often be ways to avoid fighting. Yes, we will have the standard methods of talking your way out of a fight or sneaking around an encounter, but there will be other ways too. Perhaps you can re-sanctify a desecrated cemetery to prevent any further undead from rising, or maybe figuring out a way across a ruined bridge will always avoid the bandits on this side of the river.
  • Avoiding combat does not lead to less experience gain. You shouldn't go up levels any slower by using your non-combat skills rather than your combat skills. We plan to reward you for your accomplishments, not for your body count.

We are still in the early design stages, but our plan is for non-combat abilities to make the game as fun and enjoyable outside of combat as it is in the heat of battle.

 

Thanks for keeping up to date with Project Eternity and stop by the Kickstarter site or the Obsidian Forums for all the latest information. Next update will be on Monday!

 

Tim Cain

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I wonder about two things: whether or not one can be more of a diplomat/crafter/thief or whatever than a fighter, and is perfect pacifist run possible. I really, really hope the answer is yes to both.

Edited by horocaust

Updated my journal.

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Great update. For me, non-combat abilities are just as important as combat skills and rewarding players for their accomplishments is definitely the right way to go.

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Update sounds good but I have a little request.

You say you will not get any less experience talking/sneaking/whatever your way out of things than the person that takes the combat route, and will level up just as fast. The problem here is, to me, it's a little lame to say, get 1000 experience for killing 10 bandits or get 1000 experience for talking/sneaking your way out of what should've most likely been a combat encounter. How it should be balanced out is that certain encounters yield better experience for certain characters/playstyles.

So if you snuck around the bandit camp you would get less experience than the one that chose to fight. But later on you may get more experience out of a different sort of encounter than the fighter type might.

I hope that makes sense. Mix it up! Don't just dish out the same reward for everything.

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I agree that non-combat skills are just as important as combat skills, but I'm concerned that by keeping them separate you risk discouraging the use of non-combat skills. Since learning non-combat skills would then have no associated cost in terms of reduced combat effectiveness, this system encourages dabbling.

 

I like my level-up choices to have both benefits and costs, and I don't see costs here. Choosing to specialise in combat should make me less effective at stealth. Choosing to learn both stealth and combat should prevent me from being as good at combat as someone who didn't learn stealth.

 

Having a combination of combat skills and non-combat skills offers the character versatility. Where is the cost for that versatility? Where is the reward for eschewing it?

  • Like 5

God used to be my co-pilot, but then we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him.

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I agree that non-combat skills are just as important as combat skills, but I'm concerned that by keeping them separate you risk discouraging the use of non-combat skills. Since learning non-combat skills would then have no associated cost in terms of reduced combat effectiveness, this system encourages dabbling.

 

I like my level-up choices to have both benefits and costs, and I don't see costs here. Choosing to specialise in combat should make me less effective at stealth. Choosing to learn both stealth and combat should prevent me from being as good at combat as someone who didn't learn stealth.

 

Having a combination of combat skills and non-combat skills offers the character versatility. Where is the cost for that versatility? Where is the reward for eschewing it?

 

Will entirly depend on implentation, both in terms of the skills and how they are used in the game itself.

 

Anyway, great update.

Edited by C2B

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Great update. I like that you're trying to avoid skill progression turning into a straightforward and simplistic 'kill stuff to get XP' affair.

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Awesome update! Again, it's great that we'll be equally rewarded for using combat and non-combat skills.

I always prefer to use non-violent methods in the game but hate to lose xp because of that.


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Maybe its because I'm a bit lubricated right now, but I can't see an y reason why you would be unhappy with this update. If it encourages folks to rely on non combat skills.... so whay? This is one of my favorite updat es. It shows that the design is committed to giving us ways to overcome obstacles in the way that we prefer as a player. Now, I don't think they should make every battle avoidable through non combat skills only to make key combats unavoidable. That would suck. But if you make a truly sweet talker or a super stealth character vialbe, all good!


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I'd also like to see the pickpocket skill been more emplasized than in most infinite engine games. Usually there's only a few unique items that you find only by pickpocketting and from a players perspective it's extremelly rewarding experience when you are able to find an unique item by pickpocketting some random NPC.

 

I think it's a good design choice to put noncombat and combat skills under separate development points.

 

I'm not sure whether it would be a good design choice to eliminate the experience gain from killing monsters entirely. I agree that the main pool of experience should be gained from completing quests but players also feel rewarded when they are able to defeat some really tough enemies and gain significant amount of exp from them.

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That sounds a bit like a "learn by doing" system. Only that you learn potency in a whole given category of abilities where you then assign points freely (somewhat like in the first Fable game). I'm not sure if I like the premise if it goes like how I understood it in the update. I sure appreciate and applaud the making of noncombat abilities as useful as combat abilities, no two words about it, but I also a concern that the system might end up being a bit wobbly (for my tastes) if my first impression on the info is a correct one.

 

Nonetheless, a good informative update that gave some food for thought. :thumbsup:

Edited by Undecaf

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This is an awesome update. I felt the design update this time is very ambitious. Like the one where Tim is promising if they put in lockpicking, they will make sure there are plenty of locks to pick and there will be worthwhile rewards to picking those locks. The general idea we can go the non lethal and yet progress similarly as those who went the hack and slash is very good to see. I especially look forward to our companions being fleshed out and built to help the player not only in combat, but to have a important role in doing mundane tasks better. To have a companion like/dislike meter is also great. I wonder will this mean that some companions will never get along with others? I am referring to the companion system in Mount and Blade, where companions will interact with the player and with each other. Party banter between the Player and his companions, and between the companions I hope will shine. I am very excited by the potential outlined in this update!

Edited by Krios

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Hi!

Some suggest.

 

First :

- It can be great if exploration skills not only allows to get faster, or climb, dislock things. I think that should allow us more information on map. And better, to avoid to be lose in savage world.

My idea is that when you leave the road to get into the wild, the mini map only indicate the immediate proximity of your group, and the way you have go become unexplored when you leave them. The only other information are : what you can see in distance (a tower ie), if you have a map, you can also see some of the annotation of this map, and more information with your exploration (or region knowledge) skills (location of river, mountains, well, oasis, island,...)

And may be, you can add some script for someone with no exploration skills, with the maps who make him turn even if he always go on the bottom of the screen ie. Of course, if someone follow roads or path, there is no problem.

 

Someone with good skills can go everywhere without map, and the best, he can write his own map for sell there, or it can be a quest to explore unexplored area (desert, forest) and came back with a annotated map, price depending of the quality.

 

 

Second : make wilderness deadly. Thirst in desert, cold in north region, quicksand in swamp, etc (of course most of them can be avoid with many ways, and when it happen, character can be save in a way or another, not just "hey, you are die!")

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No matter what, but please don't make the speech skill a winning buttom. It's time to refine this skill.

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I agree that non-combat skills are just as important as combat skills, but I'm concerned that by keeping them separate you risk discouraging the use of non-combat skills. Since learning non-combat skills would then have no associated cost in terms of reduced combat effectiveness, this system encourages dabbling.

 

I like my level-up choices to have both benefits and costs, and I don't see costs here. Choosing to specialise in combat should make me less effective at stealth. Choosing to learn both stealth and combat should prevent me from being as good at combat as someone who didn't learn stealth.

 

Having a combination of combat skills and non-combat skills offers the character versatility. Where is the cost for that versatility? Where is the reward for eschewing it?

 

I could not disagree with you more. You should NEVER have to choose between being a strong idiot or a competent wimp. That was the single worst design aspect of Torment, and I'm so glad to see that they're going in a different direction here. I'm sure there are still going to be some tradeoffs, such as points put into stealth limit points put into conversation abilities, choosing between martial prowess and magic, etc. but there should absolutely be two different pools for combat and non-combat skills.

 

Having to choose between combat and non-combat abilities necessarily pigeonholes your character into a certain type, and limits your role-playing options. I don't want to be forced to handle every situation I come across the same way. If I want to kill my way through a group of bandits, I want to be able to do so. If I want to charm my way past a nice guard, I want to be able to do so. If I want to intimidate my way past a rude guard, I want to be able to do that as well. In short I want to be able to pick a situationally appropriate option, without being forced to do the same thing every time by my character sheet. One dimensional heroes that always act the same are boring, predictable, and I don't want to play one.

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No matter what, but please don't make the speech skill a winning buttom. It's time to refine this skill.

 

I liked the way that was handled in Alpha Protocol -- to be truly persuasive you had to gather information on your target and know what approach appeals to him and what doesn't. Just please don't make it a mini game like in Deus Ex 3. The conversations felt so fake and unnatural as the result of that that it literally ruined the game for me to the point where I couldn't even finish it.

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I agree that non-combat skills are just as important as combat skills, but I'm concerned that by keeping them separate you risk discouraging the use of non-combat skills. Since learning non-combat skills would then have no associated cost in terms of reduced combat effectiveness, this system encourages dabbling.

 

I like my level-up choices to have both benefits and costs, and I don't see costs here. Choosing to specialise in combat should make me less effective at stealth. Choosing to learn both stealth and combat should prevent me from being as good at combat as someone who didn't learn stealth.

 

Having a combination of combat skills and non-combat skills offers the character versatility. Where is the cost for that versatility? Where is the reward for eschewing it?

One would assume that the cost for being good at stealth would be being less able at other non-combat abilities. Like basket weaving.(To Obsidian: I strongly suggest basket weaving as a skill. Just for ****s and giggles you should be able to create a giant basket-weaving trade empire)

 

Somehow when they speak of stealth I don't think they're referring to hiding in combat for tactical advantage. I imagine such an ability, if it was present, would be a use of combat resources.

Edited by ravenshrike

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Non-combat skills are gained separately from combat skills. You shouldn't have to choose between Magic Missile and Herbalism. They should be separate types of abilities, and you should spend different points to get each one.

 

I am also a bit confused about this, but otherwise it's a great update. Perhaps "you should spend different points to get each one" is the key here? Not sure how it will work though. I am more used to Arcanum and Fallout system where you are forced to choose between combat and non-combat skills.

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I'm not 100% sold on splitting the combat and non-combat skills into different "pools" so to speak. I've just always enjoyed, purely roleplaying-wise, that I could create a character in Fallout that could not fight at all. It's fun and still pretty different and rare in RPGs.

Then again, Project Eternity *is* class-based so it's not a fair comparison. I'm definitely willing to see how it plays out.

 

The best news is that there *will* be support for many ways to overcome obstacles, and that XP rewards will depend on completing objectives rather than killing stuff. Exciting stuff overall!


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