I'm not as aghast as some at the inclusion of trap-disarm and lock-pick XP. Obsidian are trying to solve a problem: Mitigate the drought of reward between quests. This is a real issue. I felt keenly while playing the backer beta. There are a lot of encounters, a lot of time spent away from quest givers (aka experience dispensers) with no progress to show for it.
A combination of exploration, trap, and lockpick XP will at least give us something for our troubles, some cookie crumbs to encourage us while we work toward the jumbo chocolate chip that is our current quest. Those little rewards sound hokey in concept, but in practice they're better than waiting to arrive to in town, collapse across the finish line, then get a massive XP chunk. That might work in pen-and-paper scenarios, where imagination and camaraderie overshadow content and reward, but it's too punitive for computer games.
The IE titles solved this by awarding experience for combat. Obsidian can't do this due to expectations set forth in kickstarter:
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.
So, how do you sprinkle experience into your game without reneging on this promise? Well, what are the options? Exploration, traps, and locks are obvious choices. There are probably others as well, like crafting something you haven't made before.
Design is a series of tradeoffs. There is a cost to decoupling combat from experience. It doesn't come for free. You have to provide another source of incremental progress to the player. If you don't, well, you've sacrificed fun for RPG purity. Is that really worth it? Player reaction and Metacritic will answer for you.
We should be less concerned with what is the "right RPG thing to do", the "purest and most consistent design", and more with what will make PoE a more engaging experience. I agree that a quest-only experience system is more consistent than one which rewards the player for little things, too. But it's dry, and it's dull. I'm glad Obsidian realized this.
Edited by PrimeHydra, 07 October 2014 - 07:31 AM.