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Author Topic: Discussion of skills  (Read 1691 times)
intrinsic_parity
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« on: July 10, 2018, 06:37:28 PM »

I think there is a major undiscussed reasons the combat skill tree is often overlooked:
There are a couple super strong skills that are far more valuable than any other skills and the aptitude point system heavily incentivizes you to keep taking skills in the same tree once you have invested several aptitude points. I think the incentive is both psychological and value based. You are psychologically inclined to take the immediate value (skills in a tree you already unlocked) vs. delayed value (having to wait for 3 extra levels to get similar value). Additionally you can get an extra 3 skills in the trees you already unlocked if you don't invest in another tree which is an actual major value proposition.


The two skills I think are most unbalanced are:
-load out design 3. It basically improves all other combat skills by allowing you to take advantage of them with better weapons/hull mods. Most ships already feel like they are tight on OP, even with load out design 3.

-officer management 3. I've found that in the late game, I don't deploy many more than 10 ships anyway, so this skill is functionally 20 skill points worth of buffs to every ship I deploy... that's insanely strong. Officers (and fleet-wide skills) also allow you to deploy less ships that are stronger meaning you gain a significant economical advantage as well as a combat advantage. Stronger ships mean you are less likely to lose them or take damage, saving money and supplies. Less ships means you spend less fuel and supplies to kill distant bounty fleets and you spend less on deployment costs. You also can have more empty fleet slots, or you can bring a bunch of extra ships for extended battles (assuming you deploy less at once). Some of these also tie into the advantages of using more cruisers/caps and less frigates/destroyers.

Once you take these two skills, you have spent 12 skill points, a quarter of your total, and now you are incentivized to take additional skills in those same trees since you already spent the aptitude points.

This is compounded by the fact that two very good player ship buffing skills are in the tech tree (gunnery implants 3 and power grid modulation 3). Imo, dissipation and range are two of the most important ship stats and they can only be buffed for the player ship by taking tech tree skills. I can achieve substantial player ship buffs using these skills and other fleet wide skills in the leadership and industry trees so I often forgo the combat tree to save the aptitude points.

Another issue with the combat tree and the skill system as a whole is that it is somewhat bloated with average skills that represent an additional investment before better skills can be reached. There are also several redundant or simply bad skills (think advanced countermeasures lol).


I think a lot of this could be solved by a simple reorganization of the skills by combing sub-trees with similar effects, moving skills and sub-trees between trees, and removing a lot of the bad skills. I would rather have a skill system where I pick half as many skills but I'm super excited about every single one.

Some initial ideas I had for reorganizations (note that when I say combine, I mean take the best skills from each and reorganize, not necessarily just merge):

-Combine ordinance expertise and target analysis
-Combine evasive action and helmsmanship into one
-Move gunnery implants and power grid modulation into the combat tree and move coordinated maneuvers into the tech tree
-Combine Power grid modulation and defensive systems (assuming previous suggestion)
-Combine gunnery implants and ordinance expertise (alternative to suggestion 1, could combine these 3 skills into two in many ways)
-Eliminate advanced countermeasures (its just bad)
-Move Combat endurance into leadership and combine with fleet logistics
-Combine some of the fighter sub-trees

Some skills like missile specialization are difficult to deal with. Missile specialization is very niche and also difficult to combine with anything else. Maybe combine it with some of the bomber related skills or something.

I don't necessarily think these are all great ideas but I think there are ton of ways to consolidate skills so that each skill is more on par with the best skills and so that the value of placing 3 aptitude points in a tree is more equal between all the trees. The total number of levels could be balanced to reflect the increased value and decreased number of skills. This could also make room for more outpost related skills.

Additionally I think officer management should be removed and replaced with a soft cap, either using supplies or credits directly. Sure you can have 20 officers but you will pay 200,000 credits a month or something. It's just too strong compared to the other skills.

I think even just removing officer management and loadout design would improve balance drastically (I would probably add the extra OP as default and use the officer soft cap instead).
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Megas
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2018, 05:34:08 AM »

I consider Electronic Warfare 1 up there with Loadout Design 3 because suffering an automatic 10% or 20% range cut if the enemy has it but you do not hurts too much, and the only way to avoid it relatively painlessly is to pay the skill tax.  Since OP budgets are low, putting ECM Package on everything is a huge cost in OP.

Fleet Logistics 3 is great too.  Extra CR for several minor combat bonuses or outlast a cowardly AI fleet if it wants to stall... or keep up with AI fleet if it has Fleet Logistics 3 too.  Fleet Logistics 3 alone is not as great as Loadout Design 3 or Officer Management X, but combined with the other great perks in that skill (especially supply use discount), Fleet Logistics is great for everyone.

Officer Management is like old Fleet Logistics before 0.7.  Currently, you can get away with no or low Officer Management if you play with mostly capitals and do not increase battle map size.  On the other hand, if you want better Combat, it is much cheaper to get this skill and train two officers to get the skills you want but cannot afford, without giving up every other useful skill (especially those in Industry).  I would want to get at least one in this skill, preferably two.  (I gravitate toward a capital and cruiser fleet, so I cannot deploy too much even at max battle map size.  Then again, I would like to try Xenoargh's elite Enforcer pack, if only good weapons were more common!)  It would probably be better if there was an officer cap like in the 0.7 era, just like the ship cap.  It does not need to be ten.

As for Loadout Design 3 itself, I consider it, among other things, an indirect EMP resistance perk because the only way to get EMP resistance since 0.8 is through Resistant Flux Conduits hullmod, and having more OP to pay for one hullmod of your choice is like having an extra floating perk.  Loadout Design 3 is so good that it makes up for the mediocre perks before it.  1 is junk, and 2 is useless without the extra OP from 3 (because base OP totals are low).

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Once you take these two skills, you have spent 12 skill points, a quarter of your total, and now you are incentivized to take additional skills in those same trees since you already spent the aptitude points.
No, all that does is make skills points get wasted on dead aptitudes.  I have no problem spending only seven on Loadout Design 3 and Electronic Warfare 1 in Technology because they are universal skills critical for every single character.  Also, Fleet Logistics 3, Fighter Doctrine 3, Coordinated Maneuvers 1, and Officer Management X in Leadership.  Even Combat has Combat Endurance 1 and (if you use fighters) Helmsmanship 3.

In short, it encourages cherry-picking the very best (skills useful for every character) from all trees, which may be undesirable too.

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This is compounded by the fact that two very good player ship buffing skills are in the tech tree (gunnery implants 3 and power grid modulation 3). Imo, dissipation and range are two of the most important ship stats and they can only be buffed for the player ship by taking tech tree skills. I can achieve substantial player ship buffs using these skills and other fleet wide skills in the leadership and industry trees so I often forgo the combat tree to save the aptitude points.
If I knew I would not be married to a carrier, Gunnery Implants 3 would be an automatic pick up there with Loadout Design 3.  The only reason it is not because if I want to pilot a carrier, I have no use for guns (because fighters take all of the OP), and I need to put skill points into carrier skills, at least Carrier Command and Wing Commander.  (Strike Command is a junk skill aside from 3.)  As for Power Grid Modulation, it is good, but the bonuses are so puny that it can be cut if you do not have enough skill points.  That said, if you want to use Mjolnir on low-tech ships, blaster spam on high-tech, or other flux hogs, you need it.  I do agree that, aside from Helmsmanship, the best combat skills for conventional gunships is in Technology.

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I think even just removing officer management and loadout design would improve balance drastically (I would probably add the extra OP as default and use the officer soft cap instead).
I would not mind removing Loadout Design if everyone gets the extra OP.  We have too low OP without it, especially carriers.  Officers (and presumably administrators to come) should be given the same treatment as ships.  Either remove Officer Management (I prefer this) or add a skill that extends the fleet cap (like 0.54 and 0.6 era Fleet Logistics).

Quote
-Combine ordinance expertise and target analysis
-Combine evasive action and helmsmanship into one
-Move gunnery implants and power grid modulation into the combat tree and move coordinated maneuvers into the tech tree
-Combine Power grid modulation and defensive systems (assuming previous suggestion)
-Combine gunnery implants and ordinance expertise (alternative to suggestion 1, could combine these 3 skills into two in many ways)
-Eliminate advanced countermeasures (its just bad)
-Move Combat endurance into leadership and combine with fleet logistics
-Combine some of the fighter sub-trees
I would combine Power Grid Modulation and Loadout Design (1 and 2).  Loadout Design 3 could either be its own skill (+4% or +5% OP per level) or removed (with higher base OP to compensate)… or simply tied to character level (+1% OP per four character levels) make aptitudes useful skills again like in pre-0.8.

Advanced Countermeasures is only bad to player because he has better things to spend his points on.  On enemy ships, it is nasty because you cannot use kinetics to punch through armor.  Kinetics become worse than fragmentation.  Even the shield buff vs. HE is not trivial.  It means your ships cannot punch through shields with overwhelming HE damage (either Reaper spam or Hound/Mule/Heron plinking with Heavy Mauler).

* * *

As for rebalancing skills, a quick idea is to have all of the personal skills be at level 1, maybe 2, and have the fleetwide stuff at 3.  For example, Combat Endurance 1 gives more peak performance to flagship, 2 gives more CR to flagship, and 3 gives more CR to the whole fleet.  Do this for other skills directly related to combat.  That way, player can spread his skills to have a great flagship or concentrate his skills for a good fleet.  Officers max skills at level 2, since only fleetwide is at three.

P.S.  A problem with highly specialized pilot-only skills like Missile Specialization and various carrier skills is they lock my character into a narrow subset of ships.  If I take the three pilot-only carrier skills, I am stuck with Drover, Heron, or Astral for the whole game.  If I want to change ships, my carrier skills go to waste.  Thus, I am incentivized to stick with universally useful skills for my character, and use Officer Management to train specialists that I can fire if I do not need them anymore.  Officers can effectively respec.  My character cannot.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 06:51:04 AM by Megas » Logged
intrinsic_parity
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« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2018, 02:58:55 PM »

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Once you take these two skills, you have spent 12 skill points, a quarter of your total, and now you are incentivized to take additional skills in those same trees since you already spent the aptitude points.
No, all that does is make skills points get wasted on dead aptitudes.  I have no problem spending only seven on Loadout Design 3 and Electronic Warfare 1 in Technology because they are universal skills critical for every single character.  Also, Fleet Logistics 3, Fighter Doctrine 3, Coordinated Maneuvers 1, and Officer Management X in Leadership.  Even Combat has Combat Endurance 1 and (if you use fighters) Helmsmanship 3.

In short, it encourages cherry-picking the very best (skills useful for every character) from all trees, which may be undesirable too.

I didn't mean that you would never take skills in other trees, just that skills in trees where you have already spent aptitudes are incentivized because you have already spent the aptitude points. Those skills become more valuable than they already were because you (potentially) can get several extra skills instead of the dead aptitude points. This would be okay if all skill trees were equal in value and any initial choice was roughly equal, but since there are several must-have skills, you always end up putting 3 aptitudes in tech and leadership, and thus the other skills in tech and leadership always have extra utility compared to skills in the combat tree that might be abstractly equal in value.

Quote
As for rebalancing skills, a quick idea is to have all of the personal skills be at level 1, maybe 2, and have the fleetwide stuff at 3.  For example, Combat Endurance 1 gives more peak performance to flagship, 2 gives more CR to flagship, and 3 gives more CR to the whole fleet.  Do this for other skills directly related to combat.  That way, player can spread his skills to have a great flagship or concentrate his skills for a good fleet.  Officers max skills at level 2, since only fleetwide is at three.

This is a very good idea.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 03:03:03 PM by intrinsic_parity » Logged
Megas
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2018, 06:58:08 AM »

I get what you were saying.  My point was that Combat and Industry may very well have must-haves like in Leadership and Technology, and the player will spend twelve points in aptitudes.  If all four aptitudes have must-have skills, instead of every character wasting six points on dead aptitudes, they waste twelve.  Player will spend twelve in aptitudes if Combat and Industry have critically important skills that not taking them hurts more than grabbing more skills in Leadership and Technology alone.

For example, if the player wants his flagship to use fighters, then getting Helmsmanship 3 is non-negotiable.  It is such a game changer that he will spend six points for that skill alone (then probably one more for the universally useful Combat Endurance 1).  Even if player does not care for fighters, spending two for Combat Endurance 1 is a very good idea.  Added to Leadership and Technology, player has sunk nine into dead aptitudes.

You yourself posted a topic about separating combat and campaign skill points some time back.  If you want to play the exploration game, then you need to spend nine points in Industry to play (three in dead aptitude, three in Surveying, and three in Salvaging).  If player got level 3 skills in the other three aptitudes, he now has spent the full twelve points into dead aptitudes.  For combat junkies like me, I am forced to abandon this part of the game because the skill point price is too high.  I kind of worry some of the colony skills (and Surveying for that matter) next release may be too useful to pass despite NPC administrators, if nothing else changes for skills.

The danger of every aptitude having universal must-have skills (like Loadout Design 3) everyone needs to take to be the best is everyone will waste twelve in dead aptitudes, and every optimal character will appear mostly the same due to lack of remaining skill points.  (And those that do not are playing joke or underpowered characters.)  Currently, if you do not care about fighters and exploration, you can get away with only six points wasted in Leadership and Technology aptitudes, as you pointed out.  It is annoying that Leadership and Technology have universal must-haves everyone needs to take, but if Combat and Industry gain some too, and nothing else changes, the problem gets worse because everyone will need to spend twelve in dead aptitudes to be the best.

Of course, even lemon builds like mostly pilot-only, solo flagship builds need max Technology (for Gunnery Implants, Electronic Warfare, and Loadout Design) and maybe Leadership (for Fleet Logistics to add more time to the CR clock) to be best at the job, which could be survival against the entire simulator fleet.

It would be nice if none of the aptitudes had universal must-have skills everyone needs to take.  If that cannot be avoided, then aptitudes need to become skills like they used to be.  For example, Combat aptitude gives max peak performance or CR, Leadership gives more officers or reduces supply use, Technology gives more OP, Industry can give more loot.  In other words, if universal must-haves cannot be eliminated, they should become the bonus given by aptitudes themselves.  Loadout Design becomes the Technology aptitude, instead of being one of many Technology skills gated behind the aptitude, due to how vital that one skill is to every single character.  Aptitudes could be renamed fundamental or prime skills, skills you need to learn before you can learn the rest. 
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intrinsic_parity
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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2018, 05:35:24 PM »

I agree, I think we are getting at the same point:
When skills that are outliers in terms of value are introduced to the aptitude system, it significantly reduces the amount of choice the player has in picking skills. In the scenario where there is one must-have in each tree, the player must spend 24 points (assuming all must haves are tier 3) before he can choose a skill and any other strong skills reduce choice even further. Even in the less serious case of 1 or 2 must-have skills, the aptitude system still changes the value proposition of skills, effectively reducing player choice.

It seems like the possible solutions are to rebalance skills such that they have similar value across tiers, or to rework the aptitude system as a whole.

I personally think that balancing all the skills well enough to eliminate the problem is not very feasible.

Systems like pure skill tree systems embrace the significant differences in value of skills by offering increasingly better skills as you level up. This creates progression and reward for playing the game. I know Alex does not want to do this Sad.

The idea of adding value to aptitudes is good, as long as the value is not so much that it makes the aptitudes must-haves again. To be fair, increasing the granularity of something like extra OP does make it less required. You need some more OP but + 5, 10 or 15% (taking 1,2 or 3 aptitudes) might be more of an actual choice than 0 or 10% as it is now. I still think I would always take +15% OP regardless of if I wanted any tier 3 skills in the tree.

Maybe something like a 'skill web' where unlocking a skill unlocks adjacent nodes and the starting nodes are selected in the tutorial. Then there would be different ways of reaching the same skill and thus there would be many viable characters that include the strongest skills.
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2018, 12:57:25 AM »

Looking at the discussion so far, it seems everyone focuses on the value of each skill and most ideas surround revaluing skills making every skill a viable selection. But because some components of the game reward the player more than others like officer numbers and fleet wide benefits, any change will result in a new meta/min-max selection strategy.

My take on this problem is:
1) We shouldn't view this problem by comparing every skill to each other, instead, carve each skill for a particular type of gameplay
2) We need to add more consequences to balance out each specific skill while creating more opportunity to engage in the game more
Let me explain Wink.

Choices matter when there are consequences to every choice, and in-game there's only two consequence when it comes to skill point distribution, the dead aptitudes and the opportunity cost between each skill in that tree.

So here's some general ideas on making choices matter more:

 -Adding conditions/consequences on skills

    eg, Officer Management: gives you the ability to have more officers but for every officer above x number your entire fleet suffer from increasing (Supply usage) and non-officer-helmed ships suffer (peak performance time and top speed penalty) as a consequence from officer personality quirks and envy. (This change keeps the small elite fleets more supply hungry while making their support/backup ships much more weaker as a consequence)

    eg, Loadout Design 2/3 : A choice of 1) lower max peak performance time and increase resupply time to compensate more complex designs or 2) Lower flux venting to compensate for more power hungry equipment

-Rewarding the player on focusing their points on one skill tree with "perks"

    Fallout new Vegas had a large selection of perks and benefits that the protagonist can acquire if they invested in eg, intelligence-hacking. It made each play through different. I think Starsector would want to go down a similar path.
    My mind: Only if you can compensate for only choosing combat in some way so that you can also have an alternative way to gain extra officers and OP, maybe even something better?

    Lets say every 5 levels starting from level 5 you get to select a feat of your liking. Lets also say that there are a few general feats that include skills you can use on the map, but some are only available if you invested enough points into a particular tree.
    What if you spent all your points in combat and get to have a feat where ALL your ships fleets in YOUR FACTION will gain x% of the skills which you got in the entire combat skill tree.
    What if gaining half of all technology skills give you the ability to gain +25-100% radar range

    -With these options, the game will become much more repayable as every skill tree may have some surprises that counteract a perfect balance of point selection which is present in the current version of the game. Even if it may be game breaking, it is a every interesting game reward for a unique character progression.

-Have some skills locked behind payment / artifact walls
   
    Want Load-out design 2 and 3? Sorry only the High tech factions sell the books to learn these skills.
    Want more officers? Your current faction doesn't allow that, unless you have a better reputation with xxx (Go to xxx on xxx to receive a background expanding non-plot mission)
    Want better Industry abilities to upgrade your faction? Sure find it yourself or make a dedicated research lab on one of your colonies for it.

That's a lot to talk about, so now I'm thinking about creating a new topic for each one.
Generally, my ideas follow the rules of: let there be more replay potential, let it create more resistance before you choose and let it create opportunity to have more in-game fights. Hope this enlightens someone Smiley. What do you guys think?

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Megas
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2018, 05:50:13 AM »

As long as there are skills that are so good that every character needs to take them (to be the best), it does not matter if there are skills that curve out different paths because there will not be enough skill points left.  Currently, player can be a solo combat flagship junkie (weak), CP micro-commander, carrier master, jack, or gimp his combat power to play explorer.  Currently, Leadership and Technology have those universal must-take skills.  Combat has few critical skills for various builds.  Industry is required for exploration, but exploration is optional since they only yield one-time cash rewards.

Skills that are sidegrades probably feel bad.  I would not want them.  What is the point of skills if the sum power of my character is zero due to power-up letdowns, sidegrades, or poison mushrooms?  Currently, taking Defensive Systems 3 hurts because (aside from spent skill point) phase ships lose peak-performance faster, despite other useful bonuses.  Before 0.8, Gunnery Implants 10 was possibly harmful for AI due to faster fire rate increasing flux usage, and AI does not manage flux-intensive loadouts well.  Even all-powerful Loadout Design 3 has the price of two very mediocre perks before that.  1 is bad since no ship needs super-max capacitors (some are good for some ships, but max is usually more-than-enough, let alone super-max), 2 is useless without 3 because stingy base OP totals make it hard to exceed max vents without cutting out other vital stuff for ships without bonus OP from 3.  Then, some skills like Ordnance Expert has a small but nice bonus at 3 (for pilot-only) that is gated behind two mostly useless perks (one is +25% shot speed, what a ripoff).  Paying skill points for power is already a hefty price, which is a reason wasting points in aptitudes that do nothing feels bad.

Do not want skill access tied to factions.  Do not like the idea that character requires training at Tri-Tachyon to level up (for a bunch of dangerous sidegrades).  I should not need to pay someone to teach me how to breathe.  Tri-Tachyon or Persean League are already no-brainers to join due to the nearly exclusive access to various hullmods.  Hullmods already fill the book learning aspect.

Quote
Rewarding the player on focusing their points on one skill tree with "perks"
It tries to do this with dead aptitudes, so that those that do not touch other aptitudes get more skills.  In practice, that fails because the must-haves are spread across from two to all four aptitudes, and everyone who wants the best spends more-or-less nine points into dead aptitudes.  Also, exploration is gated behind Industry.
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2018, 06:18:37 AM »

IMHO there shouldn't even be any player- VS fleet-specific skills. Skills should affect all ships in the fleet equally, regardless of who's piloting them.
Then there'd still be skill trees focussed on frontline or carrier or fire support ships, as they are now, but it wouldn't feel so bad to get one or the other.

That said, the entire skill system is, in my opinion, misplaced in this game. OFFICER skills as a sort of specialization fine, but the player skills turn me off more than anything. Why do I have to permanently lock myself into one doctrine or the other? Why can't I effectively adapt over time? Why can't I hire people that know the salvaging/carrier/tech/frontline business?

Aaand cut. That's my thirty seconds of rant done with.
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« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2018, 12:55:44 PM »

My problems with pilot-only skills:
  • They were balanced for officers, and do not power-up the playership enough compared to fleetwide skills.
  • It costs more to raise a single skill to three than it is to powerup two more officers with one more point in Officer Management.
  • We can respec officers by firing old officers and train new replacements.  We cannot do that with our skill-locked fleet commander.
  • Officers cannot take fleetwide, meaning you can delegate pilot-only stuff to them, but not fleetwide or campaign stuff.  You may be strongly pushed to play support to make your fleet the best.
  • Due to current point budgets, it is easy for a max level officer to be more powerful than you, because either you took plenty of fleetwide stuff for optimal power fleet by endgame, or you took QoL/exploration skills to play the exploration game.

If it costs more to powerup the fleet than to powerup your flagship, that would be okay.  Currently, it is cheaper to powerup the fleet.  Of course, even if it powering-up the fleet was not cheaper, there is still the problem where officers can fight just as well as you, but they cannot do anything else.  If you need a balanced party to be the best, you will be delegated as the support class just so you can force-multiply your fleet instead of adding yet another grunt.
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« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2018, 04:13:53 PM »

My take on this problem is:
1) We shouldn't view this problem by comparing every skill to each other, instead, carve each skill for a particular type of gameplay
2) We need to add more consequences to balance out each specific skill while creating more opportunity to engage in the game more
1) This sort of what the current system attempts to do with the skill trees, however it doesn't work well at achieving the effect you describe. IMO, there are a couple things the skill tree system would have to do in order to incentivize this sort of specialization in gameplay:

- each type of gameplay would have to be relatively balanced in terms of some power metric. If one type of gameplay was very strong and another was relatively weak, no one would play the weak style. This is sort of what happens now, it is much more effective to take less skills (because of aptitudes) among all the trees than to focus on one tree, so no one focuses on one tree.

- There has to be some mechanism to incentivize the player to focus on one tree (or prevent diversification directly). Currently the strongest aspects of a tree are available to the player for relatively little investment, so he will cherry pick the best skills only. The two ways I see of achieving this are to:
    a) significantly increase the investment in a tree required to unlock the best skills (more similar to a conventional skill tree that Alex has expressed disinterest in)
    b) add some sort of stacking bonus for investment into a tree

Solution A would probably require making the tree deeper and less wide. Currently there are many different sub trees but only 3 tiers. An alternative system might have 6 tiers but only 3 subtrees. In order to avoid excessive aptitudes (horrifying), you could have a system where aptitude 1 unlocks tiers 1-3, aptitude 2 unlocks tiers 4-5 and aptitude 3 unlocks tier 6. This way the best skills (tier 6) require a very large investment (9 skill points) to unlock so cherry picking from multiple trees is much less viable. This also allows high tier skills to be significantly stronger than low tier skills without ruining balance. Perhaps officers might only have access to tiers 1-3. It would be important to make sure that skills are not required as some are now though. It could result in the player being even more restricted if he had to take tier 6 skills from multiple trees. This is again about ensuring that skills of the same tier provide similar value so that specializing in one tree is similarly viable to any other play style.

Solution b would be much simpler. Similar to what you suggested, it could be as simple as a % bonus for each skill taken in a tree. So each skill in tech might add 2 OP or 2% OP or something like that. You could also do a non-linearly scaling bonus so there is more benefit for each skill taken. This could ensure that focusing on one tree was more viable by giving substantially larger bonuses for large investments and create several distinct and very powerful play styles with little intersection.

It seems like Alex's vision for the game is not to have such focused play styles though.



2) This is just another way of balancing the opportunity cost of skills. It's a pretty good idea but ultimately the goal is still to ensure that all the skills have the same opportunity cost. This method just avoids nerfing skills and chooses to add a separate drawback instead.



I agree with Megas that locking skills behind faction relations would be frustrating. I wouldn't mind some story elements leading to new abilities but I think the game is too sandboxy for that to happen. It would definitely require a significant change in how skills work (to have some unlocked by story progression), or a new mechanic entirely.
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« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2018, 11:35:01 PM »

Note:Summary at end

Regarding skill nerf / drawbacks / sidegrades etc
Quote
Skills that are sidegrades probably feel bad.  I would not want them.  What is the point of skills if the sum power of my character is zero due to power-up letdowns, sidegrades, or poison mushrooms?
Quote
This is just another way of balancing the opportunity cost of skills. It's a pretty good idea but ultimately the goal is still to ensure that all the skills have the same opportunity cost. This method just avoids nerfing skills and chooses to add a separate drawback instead.

Seems my intentions have not been on point, let me discuss this idea more in detail. Remember System overdrive? Increasing flux venting but at the cost of shields, this is a good mod to demonstrate the reward-consequence and decision making that takes place when an amazing power-up is bonded with a consequence that must be taken into account before usage. On a ship by ship basis, some will outshine others with these mods but others will lose their appeal to the player.

Now lets put this framework onto skills, like my pre-mentioned:
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Officer Management: gives you the ability to have more officers but for every officer above x number your entire fleet suffer from increasing a%/b%/c%...(Supply usage) and non-officer-helmed ships suffer x%/y%/z%...(peak performance time and top speed penalty) as a consequence of officer personality quirks and envy. (This change keeps the small elite fleets more supply hungry while making their support/backup ships weaker as a consequence)

Instead of a direct upgrade to officer size and making a fleet much more capable, my intended consequence is to make an elite few ships with officers and support ships appeal more than a fleet with the same amount of officers but in a larger fleet. Unlike a Nerf or drawback that hinders a skill, this would be giving a choice to the player to further enhance their play-style at the cost of less effective officer-helmed ships. I would go further to say that as the player invests more into the skill they will not be forcing themselves into a specific play style, because the downsides should not be made to force the player. If anything, my example would encourage a a band of large ships with officers while all other ships would be high-speed chasers/ harassers/ support/ fodder to the meat grinder Wink.

This shouldn't be making all skills into a zero-sum gain, it should be a way to counter mechanic-wise better selections by keeping their advantages while tweaking other parameters to maintain game balance, nor should it be game-play restricting that forces one play-style, rather it should only enhance one while leaving others as an option.


Stacking bonuses / "perks"
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As long as there are skills that are so good that every character needs to take them (to be the best), it does not matter if there are skills that curve out different paths because there will not be enough skill points left.  Currently, the player can be a solo combat flagship junkie (weak), CP micro-commander, carrier master, jack, or gimp his combat power to play explorer.  Currently, Leadership and Technology have those universal must-take skills.  Combat has few critical skills for various builds.  Industry is required for exploration, but exploration is optional since they only yield one-time cash rewards.
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Solution b would be much simpler. Similar to what you suggested, it could be as simple as a % bonus for each skill taken in a tree. So each skill in tech might add 2 OP or 2% OP or something like that. You could also do a non-linearly scaling bonus so there is more benefit for each skill taken. This could ensure that focusing on one tree was more viable by giving substantially larger bonuses for large investments and create several distinct and very powerful play styles with little intersection.

Megas seems to have misinterpreted my intentions but his great review of the current meta makes this topic much easier to explain. What I meant was this:

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Lets say every 5 levels starting from level 5 you get to select a feat of your liking. Lets also say that there are a few general feats that include skills you can use on the map, but some are only available if you invested enough points into a particular tree.
These would be the general ideas behind skills gained by investing into a particular tree

    -Combat: perks that make pilot only skills influence non-player ships. eg, a perk / staking bonus that gives non-player ships 10%/20%/30% of what the player gains from this skill tree, a perk that gives 2 personal officers that have 50% of your skills and doesn't take up the normal officer space (but can die with no way or revival), a final perk for fully investing in the skill tree: Faction wide bonuses equal to 20% of your skills in this tree.
        This should make solo combat flagships a viable option, mainly for people new to this game who want to be the hero of the show. By sacrificing tech/leader skills
    they directly gain combat focused skills while improving his entire fleet passively at the same time, simple.

    -Leadership: should have some carrier-based perks and mainly stay a support based skill tree, but should have perks that lower drawbacks of some skills and something like the 'aura' concept someone mentioned earlier. Maybe the final perk would change store prices and relations with other factions.

    -Technology: A singe upgrade-able perk that allows more skill points at the cost of all other perks. This should balance out how this tech tree appeals more than to others.

    -Industry: Allows the ability to learn/find other skills when salvaging as the final perk. Like the go-to option for all achievers, making salvaging a alternative way to gain skills at late game (and motivation to salvage more). Not sure how colonies will change this so this is for the current version.

    -Because of the gated industry, there should be universal perks that includes weaker versions of level 3 industry skills granting access to salvaging.

(More perks must be thought up too so that there are more perks than what is possible to select.)

This is just my exploration of the possibilities of perks, as they can address problems like how leadership and technology have many universal must take skills. It should provide every play-style a reasonable way to include otherwise lost opportunity that the current skill tree doesn't provide. In the end, it should be both a tech tree balancing tool as well as a way to ramp up the current skill tree to be much more involving and interesting.


Faction access to game skills
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Do not want skill access tied to factions.  Do not like the idea that character requires training at Tri-Tachyon to level up (for a bunch of dangerous sidegrades).  I should not need to pay someone to teach me how to breathe.  Tri-Tachyon or Persean League are already no-brainers to join due to the nearly exclusive access to various hullmods.  Hullmods already fill the book learning aspect.

Exactly, right? Who wants skills that are tied to a specific faction. I was my bad to under-explain this, but now that you have addressed the problem, let me put some more thought into this. What if the opposite of what you said was true? What if you joined the Luddic path, they dislike tech and have some of the worst stocks of weapons. Really, a bad choice. But, what if, you grew in their ranks and gained faction specific skills that uses these downsides to your advantage? A spy network that keeps track of the world economy or ship finding resource networks and other terrorist like activities. (Now think of adding stupidly unfair mods that allow extreme burst damage by suicidal bombs and doubling missile ammo sizes, etc (Just stupid ideas, don't mind me))

So, what is the current tool to balance different factions? By balancing hull-mods? Different types of ship tech? The cost of supplies in different star sectors? There isn't much that directly impacts one faction at a time, and there are yet to be faction specific quests to flesh out the background of each faction. I believe Alex will address these problems in the far future, or maybe not b/c of his sandbox focus. Anyway, this is my far stretching idea on how factions could pan out different end games and give further diversity to the game's challenges (faction quests), better not discuss this here Lips sealed.



So a brief summary for those who don't want to read the specifics:

skill nerf / drawbacks / sidegrades etc
Skill drawbacks shouldn't be making all skills into a zero-sum gain, it should be a way to counter mechanic-wise better selections by keeping their advantages while tweaking other parameters to maintain game balance, nor should it be game-play restricting that forces one play-style, rather it should only enhance one while leaving others as an option.

Stacking bonuses / "perks"
It should provide every play-style/tech tree a reasonable way to include otherwise lost opportunity that the current skill tree doesn't provide. It should be both a tech tree balancing tool as well as a way to ramp up the current skill tree to be much more involving, interesting and rewarding.

Everyone intrested? Now, let's discuss the flaws of these ideas and get Alex's attention Wink.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2018, 11:39:55 PM by Algro » Logged
intrinsic_parity
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2018, 01:48:57 AM »

drawbacks
I think you are misunderstanding what I mean by equalizing opportunity cost. Balancing and equalizing opportunity cost are two ways of saying the same thing.

In order to 'balance' skills, you have define what 'balance' is. I think the most reasonable definition is that two skills are balanced with each other if they both equally increase the probability of achieving the players goal. Naturally there are many different ways of achieving any goal, and certain skills may benefit in one way rather than another, but ultimately, when a player considers what skill to take, he is trying to select the skill that will most benefit him in achieving his goal. He does this by considering how each skill helps and hinders his goal, and then decides which skill provides the most overall benefit. Earlier we were discussing how a skills location in the skill tree might hinder the players goal if the skill require extra aptitude points to obtain and thus prevents the player from obtaining other skills. In this case, the skills benefits are reduced indirectly, and thus the overall benefit is less. This isn't some abstract way of balancing, it's just the human decision making process. In choosing a skill, you are inherently comparing them all to one another, and so they all must be balanced w.r.t. one another, otherwise how do you determine what 'balanced' means?
This is what I mean by 'equalizing opportunity cost': ensuring that each skill provides a similar amount of support for your goal. It's just balancing the skill.

You have determined yourself that some skills provide too much benefit and thus require some offsetting factor to ensure that the overall benefit of the skill is in line with other skills. Offsetting the benefit by adding a drawback is certainly different than reducing the benefit directly, but they are two means to the same end.

I agree that drawbacks are underutilized in the skills system as a balancing mechanism, but they are not universally a better balancing mechanism than straight nerfs. Take the unstable injector hull mod for example. It offers increased speed with the drawback of reduced range. This drawback is often a bit too much for warships, but it is inconsequential for carriers. This is an example of how a drawback might create more balancing challenges than it solves. It's a worthwhile conversation to have though.

perks
I'm not quite clear on what you are suggesting? Are you saying that every 5 character levels, you get to choose from some set of potential perks? Or are you suggesting that for every 5 points invested in a tree, you gain access to some specific perk?

Apologies for my 2am ramblings
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2018, 05:07:02 AM »

When talking about balance, we must be on the same page to why we balance each skill in the first place. For games like Overwatch and LOL where a multiplayer competitive environment must be maintained, balance would be of the top priority. But even in these games, issues with balance arise because of different playstyles and roles (classes and lane heros). When regarding Starsector, a singleplayer game, the reason behind balance shouldn't be vigorous tuning of each individual skill in regards to another skill, instead, it should be making every playstyle a viable choice to the player, think Boarderlands 2.

But that's not to say Starsector doesn't have these issues, because there are still are things like the must have skills. More specifically, the aforementioned OP, officer number, salvage and fleet-wide improvement skills.

My propositions are indeed another way to 'balance' these issues the game already has. But unlike changing the numbers so that each skill have similar utility, I think drawbacks bring into the game high risk high reward skill selection. Or in-other words, more meaningful choices and less one sided decisions.

In regards to the unstable injector, it's very much like the skill which increases officer numbers, they both reward too much without any downsides (unstable injectors don't cover the downsides of carriers). The only options are to lower the rewards potentially killing off the usefulness/uniqueness of the skill completely or under-Nerf the skill; Another option is to widen/include drawbacks so that the any misuse of the skill is considered, but potentially making the skill too complicated; Or maybe, as the final option, drop the skill altogether.

I would not want to see a viable skill killed off just because the change the skill makes in game mechanics makes it too powerful compared to other skills. This is why I wish Alex could implement drawbacks to reward those few who find the high risk high reward usage in their preference. I mean, if there is a way to both make the game more complex, hard and rewarding while only giving the option to those who would want to take advantage of it, I would gladly take it.


Now, regarding perks
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I'm not quite clear on what you are suggesting? Are you saying that every 5 character levels, you get to choose from some set of potential perks? Or are you suggesting that for every 5 points invested in a tree, you gain access to some specific perk?
Both. Have you played DND before? If you have, I'm using the concept of leveling up and getting feats from ability improvement.

Translated into Starsector (Forgot the specific numbers):
Level 1 5 skill points (SP)
Level 2 2 SP
Level 3 2 SP
Level 4 2 SP
Level 5 2 SP + 1 Perk
Level 6 2 SP
...

There are, for example
8 universal perks to choose from
5 For each tech tree

The tech specific perks are unlocked by putting enough SP into the tech tree (6/9/12/18/24... numbers are up to consideration), the perks that become available are like the ones I already mentioned before (Still very broad and just an idea).

Perks are meant to be another balancing measure to provide each tech trees option that are available to other tech trees but are not possible / to high of an investment while including tech tree specific bonuses.

Hopefully this makes my idea more fleshed out
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2018, 05:41:18 AM »

Currently, nothing marries the character to the faction.  Next release, players can be rewarded from completing bounties regardless of reputation (so that farming cores from Remnants will not be the only way to restore reputation that reached Vengeful).  In theory, player can get all of the faction-exclusive goodies (like hullmods) if he plays long enough.

Next release, some Surveying (probably 1 or 2) may be very important to be able to colonize planets.  Then, there may be some colony skills that might be vital.

As for salvaging, the problem is rigs.  Unskilled cannot use rigs at all to boost what little loot they can get from blasting objects.  Max skilled characters not only can properly salvage objects for full loot, but also use rigs to get double loot (instead of only half gained from blasting objects).

Next release, I want to build my own colonies so that I am not reliant on other factions for hardware, although I could temporarily join a few to get blueprints and hullmods I cannot find.  Although I suspect I might be reliant on factions for income if I build a powerful self-sufficient set of colonies.  (Ultimately, I want to build self-sufficient colonies so I can declare war on the sector and kill everyone, then my faction reigns supreme over the sector.)

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   -Technology: A singe upgrade-able perk that allows more skill points at the cost of all other perks. This should balance out how this tech tree appeals more than to others.
If this means more skills but perks become null-and-void, then you just shot yourself in the foot by destroying all skills and effectively become an unskilled character.  If this means spending points to get even more points back (and perks are not voided), then this is a no-brainer!

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I mean, if there is a way to both make the game more complex, hard and rewarding while only giving the option to those who would want to take advantage of it, I would gladly take it.
I do not necessarily want complexity for its sake, especially if the extra bells-and-whistles make the game worse (like CR in early 0.6).  Simplicity can be good.

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Both. Have you played DND before? If you have, I'm using the concept of leveling up and getting feats from ability improvement.
Pre-0.8 Starsector was probably like this, and it was problematic because only the perks mattered.  For example, the difference in power in the Combat tree from 9 to 10 was greater than from 0 to 9.  It was really bad.  On the other hand, there was no level cap, and if you could grind long enough, you can get everything.

Re: D&D 3rd edition
I have read humor/horror stories about this edition.  It appears characters are incompetent (even with take 10 or 20) unless they max ranks.  This does not include RAW absurdities like being unable to see the sun because you auto-fail Spot check due to distance modifiers, or reliably identify humanity and kin, which is used as the joke explanation why humans breed with everything and there are so many hybrid races.  Spellcasters need max Knowledge Arcana (or Religion or Nature), Spellcraft, and Concentration (especially if Epic rules are used), which means you need above average INT just to do your job regardless of class - bad for WIS-based cleric or CHA-based Sorcerer, with only 2/level + INT mod.  Some splats even assume magic items to reach competency.  This is like in Diablo II where level 20 from skills alone is not enough damage to kill things, and you need to get endgame +skill equipment (like rare Stones of Jordan) and fill your inventory with (relatively rare) skill charms for level 40 to be on par.
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« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2018, 08:25:22 AM »

A player gaining all faction-exclusive goodies by befriending them all? (That will take A LOT of time (with mods)) I thought the ability to blow up space stations were a way to take them by force, getting hull mods along with conquering the galaxy.

As far as next release goes, the industry tech tree will become one of the most important, if not, the only way to get a all powerful colony started. Add this with the already important leadership skills for officers and carriers, technology tree for fleet-wide benefits and electronic warfare. The current skill point number will not be sufficient to open up all play styles in one game. The perks I just mentioned was a way to deal with this.

I couldn't understand what you meant by 'destroying all skills and effectively becoming a unskilled character' when you only gave up perks and points spent on the technology tree in order to use the extra points, and as a result, becoming proficient in salvaging / colony management / leadership. Or you meant perks would define a skilled character and cancelling out this will make a character unskilled? I'm sure this would only happen when someone used all their points in one tech tree. I need some clarification, thanks.

I remember 0.6 where supplies dictated what you can and cannot do, I get what you mean by not wanting complexity for its sake. Maybe I used the wrong wording for this, and depth would be a better word in this case. If there was a way to create depth and challenge, rewarding to players who find interest in a particular skills strengths and overcome its downsides. Now this sounds better, I hope everyone talked more about the concept of Perks and Drawbacks and how my examples can be improved to fit your tastes, or that the implementation of it has xxx downsides, and therefor unnecessary in the game.

Wait, I see your problem now Megas. My wording of perks doesn't mean the result of spending points on a particular skill in a skill tree (I meant perks for investment in tech, leadership... not Officer management and load out design). Think of perks as a second skill tree that relies on the first, or sub classes that open up as a result of heavy investment in a particular group of skills (leadership, combat, etc). I previously used tech tree to represent combat, leadership, technology and industry, sorry for the confusion.

What do you think of implementing perks just to alleviate the necessity to go into industry to gain the basic (bare minimum) ability to salvage, survey and colonize planets? This would be a great quality of life change.

And about dnd 3rd edition
I've heard rumors about its complexity too, but because I play the 5th version, I'm not completely sure what the specifics are. The 5th version did a amazing job at simplifying everything so that it welcomes newcomers, but at the cost of character development, like a history summery leaving out the specifics of every major event / war. The upsides though are easier role-playing so I wouldn't say the change wasn't worth it, and it has made DND grow again. But generally as you have said, the 3rd edition is years of expansions put into one, and more rules meant the core mechanics had to break at some point. But isn't that alike the power-creep we see in card games where the original game cards lose against new editions of the game? Years of development made on 3rd edition DND created a power creep that made earlier powerful magic items a necessity in-order to play the game.
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