Thursday, September 10, 2009

separating skills and loot

A question came up while I was thinking about Borderlands. In a loot-driven game, must skills and loot be related?

I'd say no, they don't have to be. Yet they usually are, aren't they?

Weapon specialization skills are common. I've never been sure if I like them. On the one hand, specialization can give a character personality. In Diablo 2, I imagined my Barbarian differently depending on whether he fought with swords or with giant two-handed mauls. On the other hand, it deters players from using items they aren't specialized in, thereby reducing the fun value of other loot.

Overall, I think I prefer no specialization skills. That reduces the likelihood that I'll loot something I can't comfortably use. But a few games, like Diablo 2, do offer enough skill options that one can avoid those of specialization entirely.

The regular bond between loot and skills isn't limited to specialization, though. Magic users are often limited to staffs, wands and "focus" items. Incidentally, why must magic classes always be intellectual pansies who lob spells from afar?

Melee characters get skills that involve spinning, slamming, or jabbing. Ranged-style characters get skills for accuracy, long shots, and reload time. Many, if not most, skills in games rely heavily on whether a character is a melee or ranged fighter.

Anyway, I'd like to see some games consciously separate skills and loot... meaning any character can use any weapon or other item, and character types are divided by skills unrelated to what they're using.


  1. Not *quite* what you're getting at, but what about DDO where *everyone* has the Hide skill, which makes total sense. Anyone can sneak around in the shadows, not just a Rogue. Rogues can just do it *better* if they put points into the appropriate skills.

    Anyone can equip any weapon or shield even, although it may end up having a negative effect, such as unbalancing a monk's stance if a shield is equipped.

    Guild Wars is sorta-kinda similar. I always have a shield available (actually a shield and spear!) for PvP or even for Hard Mode in the event my monk starts getting pounded upon. Not having the necessary attribute for shields, I only get 50% of the armor rating, but that's 8 more armor than I had without it. The spear won't do any damage since again I don't have the attributes they require but if someone else casts a one-use enchant, I can toss my spear at them and the 1 damage will negate it so my party can lay into them.

    Again, not entirely what you were getting at -- not at all -- but similar ideas of at least using equipment we were not originally intended to use at all. Too many games outright prohibit even equipping so-called unusable gear, and that's a shame when some sneaky or indirect use may come out of it.

  2. I think that Fallout 3 does a good job overall.

    You could use any type of weapon in Fallout 3, but if you put skill points into a particular type of weapon specialty you would do more damage, criticals, etc.

    I see what you're saying, but I think there are other good examples of how you can work around it.

    Jason (resident drunken idiot of Channel Massive)


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