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Custom Skills and Sword Arts in 3.0

Bahr

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Custom Skills and Sword Arts in 3.0  

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  1. 1. (READ ENTIRE POST FIRST) Which option to you believe is best?

    • Allow players that reach the benchmark a choice between creating a Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art.
    • Allow players that reach the benchmark to create only a Custom Skill.
      0
    • Allow players that reach the benchmark to create only a Custom Sword Art.
    • I do not want either of these mechanics to be implemented. (If so, please explain why.)

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  • Poll closed on 06/12/2020 at 06:00 PM

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Custom Skills and Sword Arts in 3.0

Hello there, fellow vestigial remnants of our casually decaying reality. 

There are some big changes coming in 3.0 when it comes to your Skills and how you can sort them. There will no longer be Skill slots, meaning you can collect as many standard Skills as you want. We will, however, be implementing a cap on Extra Skills, as well as reclassifying certain Skills into the Extra Skills category. As the system is set up currently, it's all too common to see players at a higher level filling a "Jack of All Trades" sort of role, where they simply have so much SP that they can spec into any specialty. Someone can be a tank, DPS, support, medic, and scout all at once. While we enjoy the versatility that our system allows, we do believe that there should be some element that forces players to pick and choose which role they are fulfilling at a given time. Changing the Extra Skill system into one with a limited number of slots and designating certain key Skills as Extra Skills accomplishes this without compromising one's ability to acquire and utilize as many standard core Skills as they desire. 

Here's the table for how the Extra Skill slots would work. 

Slot 1 - Unlocked upon completion of the Gemini.
Slot 2 - Unlocked at Tier 2
Slot 3 - Unlocked at Tier 3
Slot 4 - Unlocked at Tier 4
Slot 5 - Unlocked at Tier 5
Slot 6 - Unlocked at Tier 6
Slot 7 - Unlocked at Tier 7
Slot 8 - Unlocked at Tier 8
Slot 9 - Unlocked at Tier 9
Slot 10 - Unlocked at Tier 10

Extra Skills will be unlocked via completion of certain quests. Similar to the way that mods work now, which Extra Skills you have active in your available slots can be changed freely while out of combat - but this must be declared. This means that you still have a great level of control over your kit, and can be as versatile as you want to be within reason. You just simply won't be able to do everything all at the same time, which will encourage cooperation with your peers when it comes to more difficult challenges. Role designation will be important as you coordinate party optimization with the rest of your team, but you won't be stuck in that role forever if you don't want to be. 

As with most things in 3.0, this may be subject to change before the final draft of the project is produced. But this brief explanation was necessary so we could dig into the good part. 

Custom Skills and Sword Arts.

The part I'm sure you've been waiting for. You probably read the title and were like, "Woah, that sounds awesome." Then you had to sit through my boring Systems lecture. You may have thought to yourself at some point, "What does this have to do with Custom Skills and Custom Sword Arts?" All will be explained with time, you eager beaver.

You see, there are going to be benchmark rewards for reaching certain Paragon Levels in 3.0. One such proposed benchmark reward would be a choice between creating a Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art. For additional clarification, the benchmark reward would be creating a single Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art. Let's break this down. 

Custom Skills

If the earner of this benchmark level opts to create a Custom Skill, they will get to do just that. The Custom Skill will cost 10 SP to add to their kit, and will behave as an Extra Skill. Given its cost, it will be expected to be a Skill of middle-of-the-road quality. Good enough that 10 SP is worth the purchase, but not so good that 10 SP seems cheap for it. All Custom Skills will go through staff for approval via your evaluation thread before use. 

Custom Skills should be seen as an opportunity to either round out your build, or push your specialization further in a way that makes it unique and stands out from the crowd. There are no strict rules for constructing this Custom Skill, only that it should be reasonable and comparable in value to the other Extra Skills that exist. As these Custom Skills will be handled on a case-by-case basis, there is no firm rubric for how they should be constructed. Once you've reached the benchmark Paragon Level, you need only submit your Custom Skill concept. If staff does not believe that it can be approved as-is, we will give our feedback and suggestions for how it should be adjusted. 

Now here's the kicker. Custom Skills can be taught to fellow players. If you are in possession of a Custom Skill, simply roleplay a scenario in which your character teaches the Skill to another. Once the relevant thread is closed, the Custom Skill will then become available for purchase for the other character. That character may then also teach the Custom Skill to other characters. In this way, players can pick and choose who has access to the Custom Skill in question. You can create a Custom Skill to share with only your group of friends, or create one to share with everyone! How the Custom Skill propagates, if it does, is completely at the discretion of the player(s) that has/have it.

One important thing to note is that, under the current proposal, there is no limit to the number of Custom Skills that can be slotted congruently. A player could, conceivably, acquire four Custom Skills and fill up all of their Extra Skill slots with them in Tier 4. The only limitation is the limited number of Extra Skill slots itself. Filling up all of your Extra Skill slots with only Custom Skills would deprive your kit of other fundamental Extra Skills that exist. We are leaving this open at the time being to see how it plays out. However, we reserve the right to change this and impose a limitation to the number of Custom Skills that can be equipped congruently, or forbid the combined equipping of particular Custom Skills, at any time. If a combination of Extra Skills comes about that is particularly game-breaking, we will take steps to mitigate their abuse. 

Custom Sword Arts

If the earner of this benchmark level opts to instead create a Custom Sword Art, guess what? They get to make a Custom Sword Art. The Custom Sword Art would be added to your SA list as a Rank 5 Sword Art. It will have the same cooldown as the already existing Rank 5 SA, and when you use one of your Rank 5 SAs, it will proc the cooldown for both. You get your choice of which attribute(s) to apply to the Custom Sword Art, between Stun, AoE, Delay, and Focus - even if what you choose doesn't coincide with the weapon type's standard attributes! All Custom Sword Arts will go through staff for approval via your evaluation thread before use. 

Custom Sword Arts should be seen as an opportunity to round our your weapon type's versatility, and an allowance to pull off unique feats with your weapon that would otherwise be inaccessible. The rules are slightly more strict when it comes to Custom Sword Arts. High damaging Custom Sword Arts (read: high multiplier) will be limited to one attribute, but if you sacrifice some damage and go with a lower multiplier, you can choose up to two attributes for the Sword Art. In addition, a player may only have one Custom Sword Art equipped at a time. Just as with Custom Skills, Custom Sword Arts will also be handled on a case-by-case basis. Reach the Paragon Level benchmark, submit your concept, and staff will evaluate it. If it cannot be approved as-is, we will offer feedback for what would make the SA acceptable. 

Custom Sword Arts may be taught, just like Custom Skills. The methodology of doing so is the same as with a Custom Skill; simply roleplay a scenario in which your character teaches the technique to another character. When the thread is closed, that Sword Art will then be available for the other character to use so long as they have achieved Rank 5 of their weapon mastery. That character will then be able to teach the Custom Sword Art to other characters. The really neat thing is that, unless specified by the creator, Custom Sword Arts are cross-compatible with other weapon types of the same handiness. So a Custom Sword Art made for a two-handed weapon will be compatible with all two-handed weapon types. Likewise. A Custom Sword Art created for a one-handed weapon will be compatible with all one-handed weapons. The creator of the Custom Sword Art may choose to designate a specific weapon type in the description of the Custom Sword Art, if they don't want to allow cross-compatibility. 

Being that the current rules and restrictions are already fairly concrete, we don't expect much to change with them. But just as with the Custom Skills, we reserve the right to add additional rules, restrictions, conditions, addendums, or any other change we deem necessary at any time. If game-breaking exploits of this system are recognized and abused, we will take steps to mitigate this. 

Summary and Concerns

We believe that this extra level of customization will really allow people to carve their own niche and flesh our character builds in an interesting way. It's also a fantastic reward for having put so much time and effort into the website. Being that the Custom Skills and Sword Arts need to go through the evaluation process, there is an additional burden placed on staff to process them. But rest assured, this is a particularly high benchmark to hit, and that itself will bottleneck the workload. It won't be another Father Wuotan situation where we are juggling dozens of requests at a time and scrambling to get everything sorted and approved. 

One potential concern raised by my team is that this system, and the teaching mechanic that comes along with it, will create somewhat of a new economy within the roleplay. Custom Skill and Sword Art information has the potential to become a powerful bargaining tool. Moreover, there may be particularly tantalizing Custom Skills or Sword Arts that the creator chooses to keep more exclusive, teaching the Skill or Sword Art to only an inner circle of trusted peers (or even choosing not to teach it to anyone). It is because of these aspects that we have chosen to take this concept and put it to a vote with the community, rather than simply implementing it when it might not even be something that the community wants. 

You are encouraged to include a post in response to this poll along with your vote to share your thoughts or concerns. When voting, please do not select the option for wanting neither of these mechanics just so you can insert a personal opinion about a different system you would like more. We would like to keep discussion on this poll relevant to the topic at hand, and not let it spiral into other concepts or debates. Please also do not select the option for wanting neither of these mechanics to propose an addendum to one or both of these mechanics. If you like the concept, but would like to see something detailed here adjusted or changed, vote in support of them and explain the change you would like to see in relation to the content of this blog. Following these basic rules will help keep our data accurate. Voting on this topic will automatically close on Friday, June 12th at noon. It did not specify if this is my noon, or a website-wide arbitrarily assigned noon, so don't ask me what kind of noon it is. It's just... noon.

That's it. You finally reached the end. Why are you still reading this? Go vote already. 



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I meant to select the 1st option: "Allow players that reach the benchmark a choice between creating a Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art." Sorryyyy

Edit by Bahr: Elora's vote has been moved in accordance with her intentions. Her name will not appear in the "See who voted for this" link, so that is why one might see a discrepancy between the number of names in the list and the number of people who voted for this option.

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The idea of customization is nice, but I’m wary about the diversity and controlling these Custom Skills. Someone is going to find a loophole and abuse it with that much versatility. It’ll also make profiles a bit of a mess if someone goes all custom. I do not support the custom skills as presented above.

As for Custom Sword Arts, I find that a nice flavor addition. A good reward to personally add something unique and different to a kit. Something to surprise in a fight and a trump card maybe?

I do not, however, agree with the idea of teaching across weapon types. A dagger SA should stay with dagger users. Giving a dagger skill to a mace user and vice versa... I do not agree. Keeping it within weapon types, I think, enforces more of that special niche and a master/student dichotomy.

A compromise is to permit any one player to either have one unique skill or one unique sword art. The benchmark would still allow the option to create one or the other. That would permit your damage dealers some options for weapons and utility characters some options in utility. I believe there would be too much room for chaos if you permitted players to have both (via teaching). Especially an excess of skills that are taught and spread. 

That is my .02 cents.

Edited by Snow

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3 hours ago, Snow said:

The idea of customization is nice, but I’m wary about the diversity and controlling these Custom Skills. Someone is going to find a loophole and abuse it with that much versatility. It’ll also make profiles a bit of a mess if someone goes all custom. I do not support the custom skills as presented above.

As for Custom Sword Arts, I find that a nice flavor addition. A good reward to personally add something unique and different to a kit. Something to surprise in a fight and a trump card maybe?

I do not, however, agree with the idea of teaching across weapon types. A dagger SA should stay with dagger users. Giving a dagger skill to a mace user and vice versa... I do not agree. Keeping it within weapon types, I think, enforces more of that special niche and a master/student dichotomy.

A compromise is to permit any one player to either have one unique skill or one unique sword art. The benchmark would still allow the option to create one or the other. That would permit your damage dealers some options for weapons and utility characters some options in utility. I believe there would be too much room for chaos if you permitted players to have both (via teaching). Especially an excess of skills that are taught and spread. 

That is my .02 cents.

I hear your concerns. If it helps assuage your worries, all Custom Skills would be catalogued with a special section in the Skills list in our Resource Guide, which mitigates confusion when it comes to people posting stat blocks. 

As far as the loopholes go, this is why all Custom Skills would be handled on a case-by-case basis and approved by staff. It's also why I included an entire paragraph dedicated to making it clear that we reserve the right to enforce additional restrictions for Custom Skills later on if an exploit is discovered so we can mitigate abuse. Rest assured, we won't be approving any Custom Skills that are busted or can be combined with other Skills to become busted (at least not without restrictions to prevent a busted combination, in reference to the latter).

It's important to note that Custom Skills would purely be classified as Extra Skills, of which characters will have a limited number of slots. This prevents someone from "going all custom." Their stat block would be majority standard Skills, with a limited number of Custom Skills sprinkled in. Not only does using one (or more) of these Extra Skill slots prevent that slot from being used with a standard Extra Skill (which are going to be essential for filling roles), there is an SP cost of 10 associated with every Custom Skill learned, which equates to two standard levels (or ten Paragon Levels) in 3.0. It's not a decision that can be made lightly, and filling up one's entire Extra Skill roster with only Custom Skills would almost certainly not be optimal. 

I can see where you're coming from when it comes to teaching the Custom Sword Arts across weapon types. That is why I made sure it was made clear that there is an option for your Custom Sword Art to be weapon-specific. As Custom Sword Arts are also ran through staff-approved evaluation, we would be keeping an eye out for inconsistencies like what you mentioned. A Custom Sword Art made for a dagger, that in its description is very clearly a dagger or blade-specific kind of Art, would certainly need to be made either weapon-specific or include an exclusion list for incompatible weapons before staff approved it.

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A sentence has been added to the post.
 

Quote

For additional clarification, the benchmark reward would be creating a single Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art.


There was some brief confusion in a conversation I had with a player regarding this. Just to avoid any undue confusion, this clarification has been added.

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I think I picked up in chat that the benchmark level being discussed was Paragon level 75, which would be equivalent of someone being level 375? I feel like that must be a typo, but it doesn't really bear into my decision.

I don't like the idea of custom skills or sword arts. For me, it goes against the setting. If we wanted to have player submitted skills that were added to the complete list, that might be one thing, as long as anyone could take them.

I also don't like the idea of power creep. Custom Sword Arts and Skills are going to be hugely dependent on who the player is, who staff currently is, what's come before them. The first player to get one might choose something entirely reasonable, but the second person might get away with something much more powerful than the first, simply because it's different. It is easier to balance certain things (like sword arts) than it is to balance something that has a "soft" function. If a different team of staff take over by the time someone reaches Paragon level 75, then the first person to get one might have an entirely different philosophy of balance to deal with. Each one being close but slightly more powerful than the last, until the first person's custom skill isn't even really that good.

By and large, I don't trust the average player to be able to determine the balance of a skill or sword art against the system holistically. While I trust our current staff group, it may be a long time before someone actually achieves one of these.

It's really hard to perceive how these will actually end up working, considering how nebulously into the future they are. We may have 4.0 by the time someone hits the benchmark level.

I do want to end this with the caveat that I think it's a cool system. It definitely has the potential to insert some interesting things into RP, but for me, setting and balance come first. If this system was implemented, would I use it? Yes. I'd be foolish not to. Would I like to see this system implemented? Not particularly. I think, in the long term, it's too nebulous and prone to abuse if certain "in" people are able to justify/balance their custom skill/sword art, and other people aren't. I don't think the current staff runs into that problem, but we have had staff in the past and probably in the future that may not be so objective.

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1 hour ago, Baldur said:

I think I picked up in chat that the benchmark level being discussed was Paragon level 75, which would be equivalent of someone being level 375? I feel like that must be a typo, but it doesn't really bear into my decision.

I don't like the idea of custom skills or sword arts. For me, it goes against the setting. If we wanted to have player submitted skills that were added to the complete list, that might be one thing, as long as anyone could take them.

I also don't like the idea of power creep. Custom Sword Arts and Skills are going to be hugely dependent on who the player is, who staff currently is, what's come before them. The first player to get one might choose something entirely reasonable, but the second person might get away with something much more powerful than the first, simply because it's different. It is easier to balance certain things (like sword arts) than it is to balance something that has a "soft" function. If a different team of staff take over by the time someone reaches Paragon level 75, then the first person to get one might have an entirely different philosophy of balance to deal with. Each one being close but slightly more powerful than the last, until the first person's custom skill isn't even really that good.

By and large, I don't trust the average player to be able to determine the balance of a skill or sword art against the system holistically. While I trust our current staff group, it may be a long time before someone actually achieves one of these.

It's really hard to perceive how these will actually end up working, considering how nebulously into the future they are. We may have 4.0 by the time someone hits the benchmark level.

I do want to end this with the caveat that I think it's a cool system. It definitely has the potential to insert some interesting things into RP, but for me, setting and balance come first. If this system was implemented, would I use it? Yes. I'd be foolish not to. Would I like to see this system implemented? Not particularly. I think, in the long term, it's too nebulous and prone to abuse if certain "in" people are able to justify/balance their custom skill/sword art, and other people aren't. I don't think the current staff runs into that problem, but we have had staff in the past and probably in the future that may not be so objective.

Just as a start to my response, I want to start by say I think there's been a serious miscommunication in how Paragon Levels work. A Paragon Level is any level obtained beyond the currently implemented level cap, which will always be the current floor + five. So on Floor 26, the level cap would be 31, and if someone who was at the level cap then accrued enough EXP to reach level 32, they would instead be level 31, and Paragon Level 1. This repeats up to an infinite amount of Paragon Levels regardless of the level cap. 

Keeping this in mind, Paragon Level 75 would be the equivalent of level 106 on Floor 26, 107 on Floor 27, etc.

The fun thing about the setting in SAO-RPG is that it is indeed so amorphous. There was no Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art system in the show or novels, but that does not mean it violates the setting. It only means that the writers did not implement such a system within said setting. Something comparable would be saying that having no Kirito or Klein violates the setting. Or that having power players like Macradon or Calrex violates the setting. Or that having a weapon such as Ominaru in existence violates the setting. None of these, of course, actually do violate the setting - they're just different from the original story. But we expect and promote this, as this is an AU in comparison to the original Aincrad. 

Virtually nothing (within reason) can actually violate the setting of of SAO. Cardinal is an ever changing entity that can create and update an ever changing world. It's how things like the 3.0 update can be justified in character. This, too, can be justified as a Cardinal-issued content patch. The history of war is one of improvisation and adaptability. People would develop and learn new skills and techniques to improve their chance of survivability. Being that that is the case, I consider it within reason that Cardinal may issue an update that adds a feature to coincide with this history. 

I can see why you may not trust the average player to determine what is balanced against the system as a whole. That's why the entirety of staff will be involved in discussions pertaining to Custom Skills or Sword Arts, with the Systems team leading the conversations and bringing possible abuse or loopholes to light (as we have arguably the most in-depth grasp of the system holistically). I also see how power creep could be a concern, which is why I made it clear that we reserve the right to make adjustments, implement additional restrictions or addendums, or otherwise change whatever needs to be changed to prevent the abuse of loopholes or the presentation of power creep. Oscar and I have already talked about coordinating regular audits of the Custom Skills and Sword Arts once they are implemented to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. 

When it comes to keeping things impartial and objective, I think you might be underestimating current staff's capacity to maintain a fair and balanced system in regard to this proposal, as well as our capacity to ensure that future generations of staff will follow suit. As the site matures, I think it is safe to say that the process of staff work, the enforcement of rules, and overall transparency of staff has improved in a way that makes it more fair, honest, and with the interests of the players in mind. This is because each generation of staff learns from the successes and mistakes of the previous generation, and builds upon it in a cycle of continual improvement. 

After all, we could have just implemented this proposal whether the community wanted it or not, as previous generations of staff may have done. But we chose instead to bring it out into the open and ask for feedback. That, to me, is nothing less than a demonstration of our commitment to remain transparent, objective, and keep the interests of the community as a whole our focus. 

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The fun thing about the setting in SAO-RPG is that it is indeed so amorphous. There was no Custom Skill or Custom Sword Art system in the show or novels, but that does not mean it violates the setting. It only means that the writers did not implement such a system within said setting. Something comparable would be saying that having no Kirito or Klein violates the setting. Or that having power players like Macradon or Calrex violates the setting. Or that having a weapon such as Ominaru in existence violates the setting. None of these, of course, actually do violate the setting - they're just different from the original story. But we expect and promote this, as this is an AU in comparison to the original Aincrad. 

Virtually nothing (within reason) can actually violate the setting of of SAO. Cardinal is an ever changing entity that can create and update an ever changing world. It's how things like the 3.0 update can be justified in character. This, too, can be justified as a Cardinal-issued content patch. The history of war is one of improvisation and adaptability. People would develop and learn new skills and techniques to improve their chance of survivability. Being that that is the case, I consider it within reason that Cardinal may issue an update that adds a feature to coincide with this history. 

I agree with you on parts of this, and disagree with you on parts of it, but it's mostly pedantic and not really in the scope of this discussion. I understand your point.

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I can see why you may not trust the average player to determine what is balanced against the system as a whole. That's why the entirety of staff will be involved in discussions pertaining to Custom Skills or Sword Arts, with the Systems team leading the conversations and bringing possible abuse or loopholes to light (as we have arguably the most in-depth grasp of the system holistically). I also see how power creep could be a concern, which is why I made it clear that we reserve the right to make adjustments, implement additional restrictions or addendums, or otherwise change whatever needs to be changed to prevent the abuse of loopholes or the presentation of power creep. Oscar and I have already talked about coordinating regular audits of the Custom Skills and Sword Arts once they are implemented to ensure that nothing has been overlooked. 

This is why I trust you to balance this. However, I've been around to see some pretty amazing staff abuse in the past. Had I some hope that you guys would still be the staff leads in a year, or 2 years, then my opinion on this point might change. It's a scar that comes from having been through some bad staff, and I realize it's not fair to lay it on you, but it is part of the perspective I have having seen things like the old unique weapon roll out.

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When it comes to keeping things impartial and objective, I think you might be underestimating current staff's capacity to maintain a fair and balanced system in regard to this proposal, as well as our capacity to ensure that future generations of staff will follow suit. As the site matures, I think it is safe to say that the process of staff work, the enforcement of rules, and overall transparency of staff has improved in a way that makes it more fair, honest, and with the interests of the players in mind. This is because each generation of staff learns from the successes and mistakes of the previous generation, and builds upon it in a cycle of continual improvement. 

I agree with this mostly. That's certainly the current trend. I hope it continues, because I would love to be wrong. The tempo is set by the Admin and the GM team, which has historically taken some wide swings in the past. I hope those days are behind us, but I'm afraid you're just gonna have to chalk me off to jaded.

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After all, we could have just implemented this proposal whether the community wanted it or not, as previous generations of staff may have done. But we chose instead to bring it out into the open and ask for feedback. That, to me, is nothing less than a demonstration of our commitment to remain transparent, objective, and keep the interests of the community as a whole our focus. 

Agreed. But I can only offer my opinion based on my experience here. As I mentioned before. It's a cool system. I'm obviously completely in the minority here. My arguments are mostly pedantic, or only important to me. I do love the examples people came up with of Baldur teaching his students some secret skill he created. The idea of that appeals to me, but the system itself doesn't.

I do wish there was a way to incorporate something like player skill into the mix, rather than something of the system. I know that's splitting hairs, but all of this is just my opinion/feeling about the system. That's also not a conversation for here and now.

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@Baldur
As I understand it, the crux of your contention is that if, hypothetically, the current GMs were replaced in the near future with a different team, then the whole concept of Custom Skills/Arts might go through a more/less rigorous system of approval. I will say one thing on that: as far as Bahr and I are concerned, we spent over five years trying to manage a community somehow more toxic than League of Legends. This community is like a vacation for us. Outside of emergency situations, I don't foresee either of us leaving anytime soon.

But let's say that happens. Bahr and I are forced to disengage from the site. Would you then be willing to work with us to create something of a rubric people should go by in order to create a Custom Skill or Sword Art? I find that such a thing would make the actual creation easier on the player and would help carve through any bureaucratic issues on the staff side of things. I agree that this system really necessitates trust between players and Staff. It sounds to me as if the solution is creating something to facilitate this that cannot be abused by either side.

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