Global Skill Synergies

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Global Skill Synergies

Postby Jerich » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:38 am

I love the new skills. I love how there are no shared passives and all the classes seem more interesting to play than the default TL 1 classes. I am really excited about being able to play Torchlight 2 some more once beta hits. It is shaping out to be so much better than the first game.

Anyway... I have been writing some coverage and have also listening to all the comments about skills from both Flux and the Community. One of the issues that people keep bringing up over and over is how some people love passive skills and some dislike them all lot. This led me to think a ton about skills and all of a sudden an idea about skills came to me.

Problems with Active Skills:
  • People max their chosen skills and then have nothing left to invest in or get excited about.
  • Low level skills often don't last the entire game and feel like wasted points (one of the primary reasons people want respecs)
  • If people don't invest in lower end skills, then they are using crappy skills as they level and this is less than fun.
Problems with Passive Skills
  • Lots of people don't find it as fun to invest in a passive skill compared to an active skill.
  • People feel compelled to min-max by investing in passive skills and therefore don't have as diverse an active playstyle.
Problems with Separating the Passive and Active tree
  • Like Travis said in the podcast, spending three types of points is extra paperwork.
  • Also... if Runic did this, then people will eventually run out of active skills they are interested in and have nothing to spend points in.
Problem with Skill Synergies
  • While designed to combat many of the other problems, they tend to make people into one trick ponies.

A Possible Solution: Merge Active + Passive Skills together.
Basically, I think it's possible solve most complaint people have about skill trees if we remove passive skills and instead give each active skill a passive component. This makes it so that people always have cool active skills to play with and also never run out of places to spend points. It also encourages people to diversify (as you could make the first point give the most passive bonus then work with diminishing returns after that).

Example Outlander Skills:

  • Combine Zombie Dust and Zombie Ammo into One skill.
  • Combine Poison Burst and Master of the Elements

If balance was a problem, the passives could be toned down and spread across two active skills. Anyway... I think this works like an improved skill synergy system that would make people super excited about skills. I don't think you would need as many skills if you did this since it would make people more interested in each skill as a whole.

What do you guys think? While is probably too late for Runic to do something like this... would it be a mod you could see yourself playing if I tried to mod something like this? Do you think it would be too hard to design a balanced skill system using something like this?
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Strongbadge » Sat Dec 10, 2011 12:29 pm

This is like what the MOBA genre does with its Champions, and it makes them really cool. I don't see why it wouldn't work here. The fine folks at Runic have probably become masters at balancing by now, yeah?

So Activate skill to do 500 magic damage or whatevz and while it's on cooldown maybe it does a small amount of true damage per attack.

In conclusion, I think you nailed it on the head.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Brixtan » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:14 pm

Very good points Jerich, a lot to think about. Regardless of which way it pans out come release, I just hope that the new TorchED gives users an easier to understand + more control over skill modding so that we can add some of these ideas you suggested.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby hawkn » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:27 pm

Glad you got around to posting this.

I agree completely with Jerich.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Dusho » Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:38 pm

Hi Jerich
so do I understand it correctly? You would put passive bonuses as part of leveling low level skill? So then later in game even though using the low level skill is useless, you would still put points to it due to its passive bonuses?
That could actually be fine, but then it would be really problem to come up with large variety of skills. Runic filled the skill panes with lots of shared passives in TL1, just to have there something. If you would put nice passive bonuses into active skills, you would end up with like 10 active skills per class.
Maybe I would try to solve the skill problems just with simple trick:
With every level-up you will gain one skill point BUT additionally you can release one point from skill you invested the point before and reinvest it somewhere else. So imagine you have level 5 Firebolt spell, but in level 8 you got Fireball available. On level up you will invest point into Fireball to have it level 1 and at same time you will 'steal' one point from Firebolt (made it level 4, now) and invest it also in Fireball (now at level 2).
This way you can even try out spells to play a bit with for certain time (level up) and get rid of it, if you don't like it.
Everything (whole respec) will happen nice and slowly, so no drastic changes in your class specialization (higher replay-ability) and you can slowly map your skill points where you want it. Devs still have freedom of balancing to control number of skill points in skill at certain level or character.
Decreasing skill (and putting it back to free skill pool) can be just simple right clicking the skill in skill tree.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Jerich » Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:49 pm

Yeah, the biggest challenge would be coming up with a large number of interesting skills. I honestly don't think you would need more than 15 to 20 per class though. If you increase the max skill level to 20, players would be able to max 7.5 of them.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby wolfmane » Sat Dec 10, 2011 5:59 pm

Sounds a bit like the Mythos system, if I'm understanding this correctly. Which is a plus in my book.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby xani » Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:37 pm

I hope someone will mod ability to "release" 1 SP every lvl, seems a smooth way to test new things ;]

Synergies like that have one problem: If you don't like skill A but it have passive that you want, and skill B passive is not that good for your build but you prefer it's active part... well "choose the way you're screwed" :D.
In MOBA games, you just have 4-6 skills, so authors have to be creative ;]. Like skills that change how other skills work or skill that changes form of champion, changing other skills to something else till changed back.
I like WoW Masteries, for each point you put in tree you get some kind of bonus related to that tree. It could be expanded to something more flexible like:

- Each tree have 2-3 masteries, each with say 3 points
- You get first mastery point at lvl 5 and then every 5 lvls up.
- Each mastery is a passive that gets stronger the more points you put into skill tree, and amount of points put into masteries multiplies that (skill points * mastery points)

That way player can mix and match passives he wants, for example if "defense" tree would have mastery giving elemental resistance, and other reflecting some of dmg done, one player could put 2 points in each, other could put 3 points in reflection and spend rest on something else
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Cogzwell » Sat Dec 10, 2011 7:57 pm

I really like the idea behind this system. It would really shake up talent trees though, it'd probably create more of a skill pool, which I have no problem with. My only worry is it might make it too easy to get everything. Also certain skills (like the classic Adventurer buff i.e. +xp and potion effectiveness) if linked to active skills would cause skills like those be very prominent. It also takes away a certain degree of experimentation as it now connects one passive idea directly with a skill, it's more of a mental effect but it's still there.

I have no quarrels with this system but I think it's just more structurally sound to let players divvy up points the way they choose. But I do believe boring passives should go the way of the Dodo.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Moja » Sat Dec 10, 2011 9:41 pm

Disagree with this idea since it really dilutes player choice. I prefer the finer control of taking skill 1 for a passive crit boost and skill 2 for a linear AOE attack as opposed to taking skills with a mish-mash of properties which I only need certain parts of.

In MOBA games it makes since because the heroes are so limited, but not so much in RPGs imo.

One thing that DOES make sense to me is having points in skills have some significant effect on gameplay. So instead of saying lvl 2 firebolt just deals more damage and has a higher cost than lvl 1 firebolt, just have an active "firebolt" skill, and several passives that affect it like "fire spells deal +% damage" or "fire spells cost -% mana" or "fire spells have +% AOE" or "fire spells have -% cool-down". This is a much deeper system that really lets the player have a high degree of control to match the skills to their play style.

Edit: In a way it's kinda like the difference between manually assigned stats and auto-stats. With auto-stats you get a mishmash of attributes as you level up, while with manual stats you get finer control over your build (and in a well balanced game, there's not a dominant strategy in stat assignments, but multiple viable options).
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby arsonist88 » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:15 pm

I would like to play a mod like this to see how it works out.
Can you give some examples with the berseker's skill tree of active+passive = new merged skill

Thanks
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby turnipz » Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:46 pm

This is a really cool idea, I can see a lot more builds coming into play with something like this. :o
Really fixes what is wrong with synergies. I'm suprised this hasnt be thought of before, I actually prefer this to diablo 2's rune system by how simple it is while exponentially allowing more customization and build tweaking.

Would it be just random passives or passives that affect everything though, with zombie ammo the passive only affects gun skills, would it be changed to all types of attacks? Also how do you solve the problem of people investing 3 points in every skill in the game to get an advantage instead of specializing in a few.

Allows what types of passives should it be, auras? Procs on attacks of novas style skills, projectiles, curses? % boosts to damage/defence?
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Hermokrates » Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:11 am

I had to read this a few times to not say something stupid.

Merging the Passive and Active skills together could work if there were enough passives, but that flows into a build-your-power kind of system.
There is a finite limit to how many different active skills you can make without bleeding over into another skill. That limits the Passive skills in a form of redundancy. Would you rather have Skill A or Skill B which is pimped out to be like Skill A? The one that costs less points.

I believe that Loose Synergies, or Skill Combinations could help out with this problem by improving the quality/changing the properties of the skills. Similar to Guild Wars 2, you can use various skills together; like throwing a firebomb and shooting through it for extra fire damage. Loose Synergies can come from various passives and actives, but would have to be done carefully to not "waste" points. Maybe skills of a feather help boost each individual power and increase potency. Bonuses for sticking to a group.

I don't mind passive skills if they are truly passive. Everyman skills. Not just a general bonus either. "Barter" was a good one, the same thing with the Pet bonus and the magic find skill.

Lastly, the best way to balance the skills would to make them real crappy at the beginning, and only worth it when you invest. Even the "last tier" skills should only be marginally better, to focus on the 'now' instead of storing points like a OCD patient. Runic should make situations where even the "greatest" skill is complete **** in a situation, and let every skill have it's time of failure.

But that is just Theorycraft.

TL;DR. Have skills affect/buff each other and limit the passives to non-combat skills. Every skill should be a mistake, the player makes it work.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby fkl » Sun Dec 11, 2011 4:45 am

it's great idea overall, if I understand it right :)

only counter arguments I can think of are;
one, skill complexity. answer of the question "what does this skill do?" becomes more complicated and less accessible. it would not matter for a hardcore gamer, but as the skill becomes more complex, possibility of that skill intimidating the casual players raises.
second; less freedom of choice. when you present skills as couple of skills packed into one, selection process becomes less atomic. like when you want only one of those abilities, you can't do that. system could evolve into those "buy this one, get that one for free" special offers.

i think this idea makes the most sense in the cases of basic skills. like the most basic fire skill, a fireball equivalent, acts like a fire mastery too. it could give you damage and resistance improvements. since those skills are the ones that become useless quickly, those are the ones that could really use this kind of backup.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Webbstre » Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:28 am

I think Jerich's on a parallel track with some ideas that focus around one thing: powering up skills. Let me point out all the examples of games I've played (or have seen) where I can still remember steps leading to this:

Diablo 2 - Synergies were introduced as a way to be able to continue to power up some skills farther into the game. They worked both ways because the bonuses applied from one skill to another sometimes also applied backwards, making both skills more viable than they would otherwise be.

Titan's Quest - Some of the skills in the trees gave you a primary skill and let you power it up a bit via later skills.

Mythos - This one had more focus on what was just used a little bit in Titan Quest, and had several primary skills for each character that you could make stronger by putting at least one point into a primary skills, and then more points into later sub-skills that would make that attack stronger. For example, Blade breaker sent out one shockwave in a straight line with one point into it. The next skill let you send out more shockwaves in more directions using the same attack. The later skill gave each shockwave a chance to spawn even more shockwaves that went out in all directions when hitting a monster. You could put something like 6 points or so into each of these three skills, eventually resulting in a fully powered Blade Breaker attack.

Diablo 3 - Introduced skill runes. You a certain number of main skills, and you can apply a rune to each skill to alter its effects, essentially either powering it up or transforming it altogether.

Path of Exile - You collect skill gems, which you can level up with experience to make stronger. Additionally, you can get equipment which links sockets together. By putting a skill gem in a socket linked up to a passive gem (containing something like additional projectiles, elemental damage, larger range of effect, etc) you can essentially continue to power up a skill until you have absolutely perfected equipment for your build, which can be difficult to achieve because of the sheer number of socket possibilities.

So what I'm thinking here, is that it shows that the ARPG genre is in general heading towards having less skills in general, but many more ways to customize those individual skills. Honestly, I'd LOVE to Torchlight 3 or the Torchlight MMO or something go in that direction. Imagine a mage character that just has a series of basic elements, and then all the later things you can put skill points into are just ways to power up those base skills in the customization method you like. An example tree:

Level 1 - Fire, Ice, Wind, Lightning, Poison, Earth
Level 5- Projectile, Nova, Wall, Chain, Shield
Level 10 - Rebound, Split, Retaliation,
Level 15 - Duration, Distance, Multiplier,

...I'm gonna have to finish up that idea later, cause I have to sleep now, but my thought is basically that I think the ARPG trend is moving away from "make more skills" and towards "make more ways to make skills customizable" and I hope the next Torchlight game takes advantage of this, cause it's probably too late to see that exact kind of change for TL2.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby xani » Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:57 am

For mage best system I've seen is in magicka. For those that didn't play, you have 8 elements and make spells by combining them for example:
-fire - flamethrower-like fire cone
-fire + earth - fireball
-fire + shield - fire shield
-fire + arcane - fire beam
-fire + water =stream + arcane = steam beam
-arcane + fire + shield = fire mines
etc.
Translated to RPG, you could have skills enchanting each element (+ 40% of fire damage as DoT, Ice slows by 30% more etc.) as well as skills enchanting general abilites ( +X AoE range, missile speed, shield amount etc)
Tho that would work only for mage-like classes.
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby turnipz » Sun Dec 11, 2011 2:30 pm

Keep magicka away!
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby Dusho » Sun Dec 11, 2011 3:23 pm

fkl has a point with skills being too complex with this idea. It would feel also strange to invest points into active skill just to have some passive bonuses from it.
And I definitely like how Webbstre is thinking. Less skills, more control over how it works.
Even passive skills are some kind of 'movement' from active skills. In old old times I believe there were skills like increase fire damage by 20% for 2 minutes as active skill. Player then ended up with 15+ active skills to use. And that is just crazy. It's like playing flight simulator.
The less keys to use the better, I think.
Even make skills that take time to charge by holding the mouse key - like chargeable fireball or some chargeable AoE spells with increasing radius over charge time. And casting can be interrupted. Then having skill modifiers, to increase duration, decrease casting time, increase AoE.. things like that.
...but ye, maybe only in TL3
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby xani » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:32 am

Dusho wrote:Player then ended up with 15+ active skills to use. And that is just crazy. It's like playing flight simulator.
The less keys to use the better, I think.

I do like to use a lot of different skills, if I can bind it to something fast to use. Thats about 8 (2 rows of 4 keys, 1 finger for each key) + 2 reserved for pots. More skills more fun :D. Altho skill "modifiers" (add effect A to skill X, effect B to skill Y, effect C to skill Z) are fun too :)
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Re: Global Skill Synergies

Postby momichaella » Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:34 am

Webbstre wrote:I think Jerich's on a parallel track with some ideas that focus around one thing: powering up skills. Let me point out all the examples of games I've played (or have seen) where I can still remember steps leading to this:

Diablo 2 - Synergies were introduced as a way to be able to continue to power up some skills farther into the game. They worked both ways because the bonuses applied from one skill to another sometimes also applied backwards, making both skills more viable than they would otherwise be.

Titan's Quest - Some of the skills in the trees gave you a primary skill and let you power it up a bit via later skills.

Mythos - This one had more focus on what was just used a little bit in Titan Quest, and had several primary skills for each character that you could make stronger by putting at least one point into a primary skills, and then more points into later sub-skills that would make that attack stronger. For example, Blade breaker sent out one shockwave in a straight line with one point into it. The next skill let you send out more shockwaves in more directions using the same attack. The later skill gave each shockwave a chance to spawn even more shockwaves that went out in all directions when hitting a monster. You could put something like 6 points or so into each of these three skills, eventually resulting in a fully powered Blade Breaker attack.

Diablo 3 - Introduced skill runes. You a certain number of main skills, and you can apply a rune to each skill to alter its effects, essentially either powering it up or transforming it altogether.

Path of Exile - You collect skill gems, which you can level up with experience to make stronger. Additionally, you can get equipment which links sockets together. By putting a skill gem in a socket linked up to a passive gem (containing something like additional projectiles, elemental damage, larger range of effect, etc) you can essentially continue to power up a skill until you have absolutely perfected equipment for your build, which can be difficult to achieve because of the sheer number of socket possibilities.

So what I'm thinking here, is that it shows that the ARPG genre is in general heading towards having less skills in general, but many more ways to customize those individual skills. Honestly, I'd LOVE to Torchlight 3 or the Torchlight MMO or something go in that direction. Imagine a mage character that just has a series of basic elements, and then all the later things you can put skill points into are just ways to power up those base skills in the customization method you like. An example tree:

Level 1 - Fire, Ice, Wind, Lightning, Poison, Earth
Level 5- Projectile, Nova, Wall, Chain, Shield
Level 10 - Rebound, Split, Retaliation,
Level 15 - Duration, Distance, Multiplier,

...I'm gonna have to finish up that idea later, cause I have to sleep now, but my thought is basically that I think the ARPG trend is moving away from "make more skills" and towards "make more ways to make skills customizable" and I hope the next Torchlight game takes advantage of this, cause it's probably too late to see that exact kind of change for TL2.


I'm a bit slow in instructions like this, but im really trying to suit everything on you are saying so that I will be having no problem in playing this. As a newbie, I'm really quite not familiar with the skills. But anyway, thanks for this
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