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Poll Level-Based or Career-Based Abilities?

Discussion in 'Build 15 Brainstorming' started by Pieter Boelen, Feb 13, 2016.

  1. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    As mentioned in Notice - The Way Forward | PiratesAhoy! , he current Level/Abilities system seems rather arbitrary/arcadey to me.
    @Armada suggested an alternate approach for Hearts of Oak and I have been giving that matter some thought.
    It seems to boil down to the question of having Level-Based or Career-Based abilities.


    Level-Based Abilities
    This is basically the original game system. Every time you level-up, you get an ability point.
    You can freely spend this on any ability that isn't locked by a prerequisite ability.

    As a modification to this system, @konradk and @Levis added some extra limits on what abilities you can get when.
    This includes a direct Level requirement, so you cannot get abilities that are "above your current player level".
    Additionally, certain abilities can now require more than 1 point each.


    Career-Based Abilities
    @Levis made a start on something like this with the "Locked Abilities" feature.
    With that enabled, for some abilities you need to do something specific before being able to get it.
    This could be "finishing a certain random quest" or "reaching a certain national rank".
    Details can be found at @Talisman's Wiki page: New Horizons Abilities | PiratesAhoy!

    This applies to only a handful of abilities, but of course this could be expanded on.
    And it is pretty much possible to get all abilities no matter what "career" you choose.

    But what if that were NOT the case?
    What if far more abilities are linked to "being promoted as privateer/pirate/naval officer/merchant"?
    And what if getting to the highest rank of merchant would NOT give you privateering abilities and vice versa?


    Current Situation

    At the moment in PotC, the above two systems are basically used in addition to each other.
    That can either make it very interesting OR very complicated, depending on what player's like.
    And I know that not everyone is equally fond of this concept.
    But there IS an alternative, that I think @Armada was getting at for Hearts of Oak:


    Alternate Concept
    How about EVERY SINGLE ability in the game being tied to a specific gameplay element?
    This could be a quest or talking to a certain character, but would mostly be linked to a promotion of sorts.
    Then once you get to that point, not only is that ability "unlocked", but you IMMEDIATELY GET IT.

    This means that the whole "gain 1 ability point for each level-up" can be completely skipped.
    "Prerequisite" abilities also don't need to be enforced the way they are now, because that can be handled through the order or progression through the ranks.

    So rather than choose where to spend your arbitrarily gained points, you learn these abilities through doing.
    It would be sort-of like an "Auto Skill System for Abilities" and can be used to distinguish the various careers from each other.


    Time for Feedback
    So this is of course just be brainstorming on @Armada's original idea (for which I take NO credit!).
    But now that I think about it this way, it is actually beginning to make a lot of sense to me as a complete replacement for the unmodded game's "Level-Based Abilities".

    The big question is: Does it make equal sense to our other members as well?
    And would this be an idea worth pursuing at some point, either for PotC or later on Hearts of Oak?

    Plus the biggest question of them all, directed specifically @Armada:
    Did I actually understand your idea properly or have I managed to interpret it in a completely different way than what you actually had in mind yourself? :wp
     
  2. Armada

    Armada Sea Dog Staff Member Administrator Project Manager 3D Artist Storm Modder

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    I'll just add a couple of things to clarify the concept I talked about:

    Unlocking Career-Based Abilities
    My suggestion was to tie certain abilities to certain ranks in each career path, but also to have a choice of abilities to unlock at each rank.
    For Hearts of Oak, I'm thinking of this in terms of two 'branches' (i.e. playstyles) of abilities per career path, but the player can't have ALL the abilities at once.
    For example, if there were ten ranks and two abilities per rank, the player could choose ONE new ability per rank, adding up to a total of ten abilities for that career path.

    However, I'd imagine this working slightly differently for PotC. Instead of having two ability branches per career, we could let the player unlock ALL the abilities for their career by the time they reach the highest rank.
    To make this more interesting, perhaps all career-specific abilities could be unlocked by certain player actions as Pieter suggested, BUT the player could gain an ability point for each rank and use that to unlock an ability for free.

    As an example scenario: the player gains a career rank, one ability point, and two new abilities become available to unlock. They then spend that point on one of the new abilities; the other one must then be unlocked through a gameplay action of some sort.
    In other words, both new abilities have prerequisite gameplay actions, but the player can use their ability point to immediately gain one of those abilities for free.
    Does that make sense?

    All this depends, of course, on the number of ranks and abilities per career. If there are too many ranks and not enough abilities to offer two per rank, then it might need to be one new ability per rank, in which case it might be best to stick to unlocking them with ability points earned by promotions.
    If we do use gameplay actions to unlock them, I'd say these actions must be made clear to avoid any confusion. Asking the player to figure that part out themselves might be too harsh.

    'Core' Abilities
    Instead of dividing ALL the abilities between the four career paths, it might make sense to keep a few as 'core' abilities that can be unlocked normally and shared across all careers.
    Some examples might include basic fencing and ship defence abilities that would be useful for all careers, though perhaps some of the advanced versions might be career-specific.
    This would ensure that normal levelling-up remains an important part of character progression, and would stop some careers becoming 'underpowered' if they lacked basic abilities.

    I would also suggest that these core abilities are NOT unlocked by gameplay actions, instead leaving that to the career-specific ones.
     
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  3. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    I think I pretty much agree with all your points there, @Armada! :onya

    PotC has 10-12 ranks per nation (read: career).
     
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  4. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    There doesn't seem to be a poll. But I have always hated locked perks and one of the first things I do whenever an update overwrites "InternalSettings.h" is to edit it to disable locked perks again. The fact that most perks cost more than 1 ability point is sufficient to slow down my advancement and require me to find suitable officers to fill in the perks I haven't been able to afford for myself.

    Also, I don't like this idea of pigeon-holing the player neatly into one specific play-style, or career, and then forcing him to stick with that. One of the great things about PoTC is that you can do pretty much what you like (and face the consequences of attacking ships or smuggling, for example), and it would be a shame to lose this flexibility of game play. It would become significantly less fun to play than earlier versions, and possibly less fun than even the stock game.
     
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  5. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    There isn't one, because I don't know what options to put in there.
    First I was hoping for some feedback on the general idea. So yours is very welcome! :cheers

    I definitely agree with you there. In fact, I've been arguining that exact point on the Hearts of Oak forum last week.

    The idea isn't to "lock you into any specific play style" though.
    My own thinking is that you should always be able to "mix and match" just like you currently; with sensible consequences, of course.

    The difference that I am brainstorming on though is to have certain abilities given at certain promotions instead of having them be based on ability points that you can spend.
    So, for example, if you would want to get "Advanced Commerce", you'd have to become a good merchant first.
    But you can still get that, then turn Pirate afterwards. Or have a Letter of Marque on the side.

    If you can get certain career-specific abilities only by playing that career though, then that could potentially add to the roleplay aspect.
    The "distribute points on whatever you want (within the given limits)" always struck me as being quite an arcadey system.
    With this alternate approach, you would learn specific abilities by doing specific things that of course do need to make sense in relation to each other.
    So the abilities end up fitting into the "player story" that you play through.
    And the abilities you managed to get sort-of "tell the story" of what you have done during your playing.

    I personally think both approaches are technically valid. So if we ever do this, probably there should be a toggle on it.
    Perhaps then we could replace the "Locked Abilities" with "Career-Based" ones.
    That would revert the current system to how you already play right now; and would hopefully make the "Locked Abilities" a nice and potentially interesting alternative.

    And of course there would still have to remain various "personal abilities" that aren't linked to any career at all, as @Armada pointed out.
     
  6. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    Or learn "Advanced Commerce" simply by doing lots of trading; or you got some professional tips from your quartermaster; or you read some books; or you figured out for yourself. So a privateer or pirate could believably get it as well.

    Maybe, but it's still the only way to keep the flexibility of allowing you to develop how you wish. Compare to any number of paper and dice role-playing games which, upon receiving enough experience points, either let you gain a level which allows you to gain or raise the skills or abilities of your choice; or allow you to trade those experience points directly for improvements in skills and abilities. (The former tend to be like PoTC, with skills measured by relatively small integers; the latter tend to measure skills as percentages so you gradually build up your skills.)
     
  7. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    In theory you could learn everything in every way. But some ways are more likely than others.

    Maybe it would be an idea then to list for EACH skill what would be a realistic way of learning it.
    And then see if we can indeed make you learn them using those ways, rather than the "spending points" option.

    If you learn an ability from a book, then make sure there IS such a book that you can read. If you learn it from your quartermaster, then same story.
    And actually, both those options do currently exist with @Levis' "Locked Perks" feature.

    But I do like the idea that you need to do certain things to get certain abilities.
    So you wouldn't just need to level-up, then decide what you want; your actions would need to match with what you want.
    That makes it similar to "an Auto Skill System" for abilities.

    I understand that is not for everyone, so for certain there should be a toggle on it.

    I think it comes down to an RPG as "computer-based version of a paper and dice game" (with plenty numbers and technically arbitrary stuff) and RPG as "playing the role of a character".
    In the second case, I wouldn't just want the character to get better during the game; I'd want the character to become better for specific reasons.
    The original concept of RPG is, of course, perfectly functional as a game and there is nothing wrong with that.
    But it does seem rather arbitrary when taken from a "realism" point of view.
     
  8. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    Paper and dice games also encourage you to play the role of the character, which is why they're called "role-playing games". ;) But the idea is that you can either choose to specialise in the skills with which you started due to your background profession, or broaden out so you learn new things.

    One mechanism which I've seen is that you can indeed spend your points on whatever you like, but it's easier, i.e. cheaper, to raise skills which you actually used. It's also cheaper if there's someone who already has the skill who can teach you. So, "Advanced Commerce" could cost 4 points by default, 2 if you have a quartermaster who already has it, 2 or 3 if you've been doing a lot of buying and selling, and maybe down to 1 if you've been doing a lot of buying and selling and have a quartermaster with "Advanced Commerce". It doesn't matter if you're working for the English governor, the East India Trading Company, the Pirate Brotherhood or totally independently - if you've been trading and/or have someone who can teach you, it's easier to learn.
     
  9. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    The suggestions I have been posting can be done with generally little effort.
    Unfortunately your idea would be decidedly harder to implement. Still a good idea though. :onya

    For some skills, indeed it wouldn't. But how about "Master of Disguise"? That sounds quite piratey, doesn't it?
    At least decidedly NOT merchant-ey.
     
  10. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    "You are a master in disguises, which decreases the chance of your false flag being detected by 10%." So it's potentially useful to anyone who has to get into a hostile port for any reason, including but not limited to playing side quests, or playing in "Early Explorers" in which almost all ports are hostile if you're not Spanish. Otherwise if you don't think you'll need it then don't buy it, spend your points on something which will be useful. (Personally I've never used "Master of Disguise" anyway, despite being as un-merchant-ey as you can get. There are always more important perks to buy. :D)
     
  11. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    Once I get my way, it will be possible to DECREASE your fame if you want to as well, because I would like to link it to reputation.
    That would give you some measure of control over your own false flag detection chance.

    Anyway, I am not referring to "thinking you need it". I am referring to "logically being able to get it".
    The system proposed here is probably not going to be to your liking, one way or another.

    It is what @Armada was suggesting for Hearts of Oak though, so I figured we might as well discuss it here.
    I'm curious to hear what he thinks now, having seen the above discussion.
    If we find the opportunity, we might even experiment with implementing it. With a toggle, of course.

    Until he comes back with his comments, maybe we could think along the lines of "assuming that this IS a valid idea, what would be the best way to make it work?"
    What would be interesting things to do with a system? And what kind of things should decidedly NOT be done with it?
     
  12. Armada

    Armada Sea Dog Staff Member Administrator Project Manager 3D Artist Storm Modder

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    I understand the sentiment of not wanting to be "locked" into a single career path/ability set. I'm not entirely sure if it's the way I'd want to play PotC, either.

    Let me throw another example out there from The Witcher 3. That game gives you three 'groups' of abilities to choose from based on different playstyles, and each time you level-up, you gain a point to spend on any of those abilities. Most abilities can be upgraded a few times by spending multiple points on them. The catch is, you won't get enough points to unlock every ability, so you have to choose where you want to spend them.

    Some higher-level abilities are also 'locked' until you have spent enough points in the same group, so you can't access those without some amount of dedication to that playstyle.
    This means you could either take a broad approach, picking some abilities from each group, or you could spend all your points to get every ability in one group only.
    If you decide you don't like your chosen abilities, you can use an in-game item to refund your points to spend them in a different way.

    For what it's worth, I quite like that system for its flexibility, but again, it's just one more idea to think about.
     
  13. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    That's not far from what we have right now. Each time you level up, you get a point to spend on your choice of perk. As most perks cost more than one point, you need to save up, and you're unlikely to earn enough points to buy every perk. Some high level perks require one or more lower level perks first, especially "Professional Cannoneer" and "Sea Wolf".
     
  14. Black Bart

    Black Bart Corsair Storm Modder

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    I've been thinking about this a bit, and having played the different versions where the changes took place i guess these are my conclusions.

    I agree the default method was very gamey, and also pretty quickly you ran out of abilities to give your char and officers. However it did give you the feeling of control and choice in the matter, which can be important from a game design point of view.

    Now in Beta 1 that was all still default PotC, and had the problems above associated with that.

    Beta 3.1 - in this build you had started to increase the number of ability points required to gain access to a specific ability, but all were still able to be accessed like in the default game. I would say in this version it was not especially well balanced, e.g basic defence costs 1 and so does advanced defence (so you could get really good defence bonus with just 2 ability points to spend).

    Beta 3.4 i did not play much off, but it seems it was very much like Beta 4 in terms of locked abilities and requirements for them?

    Beta 4. In principle it seems sound, more logical (sometimes) requirements to get at an ability and more barriers to entry to spread that out. Trouble is it feels pretty restrictive, and going back to the point about player control and choice, that is an issue perhaps. Also say where 'advanced defence' seems it requires a book (and basic defence) as a pre-requisite, as the player i have no idea what book this is (does the books description (info) mention it is required to give this ability?), and when, if ever, in my game i'm likely to come across it. So this sort of 'removes' this ability from my planning i suppose. I'll just manage without it and look at what other ones i can get more easily. You can then repeat this process for all the ones that have more complicated requirements.

    So what happens is most of my Officers all end up with pretty much the same abilities, regardless of relevance to their role.

    Also in this new system i have noticed a few seemingly odd things. My Gunner can't seem to get the abilities he should be able to, not sure exactly which one it was, but i think it was 'Increased Volley Range' (one of the first you might want to consider) which shows it as costing 1, but even with the ability point to spend i can't select it (the 'ok' button is greyed out and non selectable). There is no clear explanation why this is unavailable (no pre-requisite ability mentioned etc). This is probably a bug.

    I've never come across any friendly highwaymen in the jungle, so 'Toughness' is also a blocked ability it seems? I think this is because you need to be a certain level to get the encounter, but am not sure based on the info the game gives me.

    My overall feelings having played Beta 3.1 (the most) and Beta 4 (the second most) is that on balance i think i prefer the system in Beta 3.1, but to be more finished. So what i will do is look to change it so maybe the ability points requirements are increased for each ability, with the normal requirements as per the default game (or whatever they are in the early Build 14 stages). So for example having 'basic defence' cost 1 point is fine, and a good starting choice for most chars, but 'advanced defence' will cost 2 or maybe 3 ability points (and require basic defence) to slow down progression through the abilities.

    I think simply gating them via the ability points you get from levelling up should be enough of check to stop the rather easy (and quick) way you could get them all in the default game and early Build Mods. This is also easy to do, and does not require complex (as in making the already complicated Build Mod code more so) extra code that the new system does. It also gives this choice to the player, so they can level up their NPC's as they choose.

    A quick list of the system i'd be looking to build (that will change as i playtest it):

    Basic Defence = 1
    Advanced Defence = 3, requires Basic Defence
    Toughness = 3, requires Advanced Defence
    Improved Critical Hit = 3
    Professional Fencer = 4, requires Advanced Defence + Improved critical Hit
    Gunman = 2
    Professional Gunman = 4, requires Gunman

    etc.

    No added blocks based on roles or anything like that that adds to complexity (and bugs). A player may change the role of their Officers a number of times depending on situations, and seeing bugs stopping you from gaining an ability is annoying to the player, and a pain to bug test and fix. KISS (keep it simple stupid) as much as possible.

    Just my thoughts on this subject.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2016
  15. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    My personal suggestion would be relatively simple:
    - Have two separate modes, one being the current PotC system and one new and experimental one that is a sort of "Auto Skill System for Abilities"
    - "Locked Perks" could then be remove from the current PotC system because having too many different things being able to lock your perks might end up being a bit too complicated
    - The new system would have as many perks as possible be given to the player through specific gameplay actions/career promotions

    Does that sound reasonable?
     
  16. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    The book item description does mention it. But the title of the book could easily be mentioned in the ability description too.

    Well, THAT's no good! :shock

    Please post that on the Bug Tracker along with a savegame.

    Now THERE's an idea! :cheeky
     
  17. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    The book is "Advanced Blocking Techniques" and its description does indeed mention that it unlocks "Advanced Defence". You still need to be lucky enough to find it on sale, though.

    You don't have to buy perks as soon as officers earn ability points. ;) You can always save up until they can get the perks you want, then buy them.

    Which exact version are you running? There was at one point a problem in which, if one character in the party had a perk, nobody else could take it because it was marked as already taken. That was sorted out fairly soon and shouldn't be happening in any recent version.

    They aren't friendly. If I remember correctly from the last time I played with locked perks enabled, they give the standard dialog, you give the response that you're going to fight them, and if you're lucky they then decide to run away. In any case, "Toughness" requires "Advanced Defence" so you won't get it anyway until you've solved the first problem.

    So basically, you want expensive perks but not locked perks? That's easy. Edit "InternalSettings.h", find "ALLOW_LOCKED_PERKS" and set it to 0. Never worry about locked perks again - well, not until you install the next update, which overwrites "InternalSettings.h" so you need to edit it again.

    Have a look at "PROGRAM\Characters\perks\perks_init.c". That is where costs and requirements are defined.
     
  18. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    It is entirely possible that those kinds of books could be affected by the same problem that made maps disappear from the game depending on character levels.
    Maybe we should apply the same fix to ability books? Should be doable.

    Thanks for responding to that! I was going to, but forgot. :facepalm

    Whistling innocently... :wp

    Just so you know, that isn't because we deliberately want to enforce the default settings.
    Problem is that if we make any changes to InternalSettings.h, then it needs to be added to the installer and as a consequence gets overwritten every time. :(
     
  19. Grey Roger

    Grey Roger Sea Dog Staff Member Storm Modder

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    Understood, and I wasn't complaining about that! I was simply pointing out that anyone who wants to edit "InternalSettings.h", e.g. to disable locked perks, will need to do it as a matter of routine when they install updates. Personally I regard it as just a part of the update procedure, and "InternalSettings.h" isn't the only file I edit. "engine.ini" gets edited too, to disable on-screen hints - someone went to a lot of effort to draw pretty loading screen pictures and to me it's a shame to then have writing scribbled all over them. xD
     
  20. Pieter Boelen

    Pieter Boelen (Not So) Old Seadog Staff Member Administrator Storm Modder Hearts of Oak Donator

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    The installer should leave "engine.ini" alone on updates. I'm pretty sure it does, because it remembers my screen resolution whenever I test the process. o_O

    That someone was me. Glad to hear that is appreciated! ;)
     

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