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maffyew in z2kdev

Skill Development Concepts

Concept: Player and Non-Player characters develop skills faster by failing than they do by succeeding.

As per the previous post, I've been looking at the core game mechanics of Z2K's character creation/development system today, and I just had this idea that needs to be written down and explained so I don't forget it later.

Z2K is utilising a character development system that shares more in common with Jagged Alliance than it does with the Fallout series, although it borrows ideas from both.

Some background. In Fallout, you gain a level by earning a specific amount of xp, which then gives you points to spend on increasing your skills as you see fit. In Jagged Alliance, your skills increase through use, in a similar way to the Elder Scrolls games. However, these games have often only improved your skills on successful attempts to use them - probably to prevent abuse by repeatedly failing the same task over and over until you are proficient.

I'm not that concerned about that abuse aspect in Z2K, due to the way it measures time. Perform an action, and it takes a specific amount of time to do so, depending on the action. (successfully barricading a door might take 5 minutes, for example.) At this point, if you fail an action, not only does the desired outcome not happen, it takes you a longer time to realise that what you're doing is not going to work. Time's precious in this game and ties in to a number of other unrelated game mechanics.

What I'm toying with now is the idea of rewarding characters with more marks toward improving their skill when they fail than they would by succeeding. I've always felt that I've learned more through failure than I do through success. Not only that, it means that you as a player benefit a little by trying even if you don't get the desired outcome. (Provided failing the desired outcome doesn't kill you through other means, of course ;P).

It'll be interesting to see if this idea works in practice.


An interesting idea. I've always found that skills that work on a pass/fail basis like lockpicking (as opposed to something scalable, like chance to hit or damage inflicted) are really frustrating to improve. There's too much temptation to save, attempt and reload on a failed attempt. Your method seems like an elegant solution to this issue.
This is the primary advantage to using a "roguelike" save system for this game. There is no saving and reloading. You do something, you live with the consequences.

It makes you think before you act. You might be a moderately skilled lockpicker facing a difficult door. You've got zombies in the next room - probably enough time for one attempt. Your character (or an ally) is strong enough to belt down the door using a strength roll, but they'll take a stamina hit for doing so, wherelse lockpicking won't incur the same penalty.

Do you take the risk of lockpicking the door - possibly failing and having to engage in dangerous melee - or do you belt it down and take the stamina hit, which could be problematic if you're walking into a dead end and have to engage anyway?

This genre needs tension. Put in a standard save/reload system and you lose a great deal of it. The key thing here is trying to make failure fun - I'm considering implementing a system similar to the "ghosts/bones" system in roguelikes - you might encounter your past failed attempts in zombie form and be able to salvage some of the equipment your predecessor had. This doesn't fit in with the timeline as such, (each new character starts at the beginning of the crisis) but it's a "fun" addition.

March 2007

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