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Character Progression Modernization
Are characters too static for a dynamic world?

I think it's fair to say that the tempo of game updates and changes has increased dramatically, both over the last year and especially since the move to ToastStunt. I think this is overall very good, especially when it comes to adding systems for underrepresented archetypes.

I think this development pace is good! I think there are a lot of underserved concepts that are iconic cyberpunk elements, and I'm happy to see them start to filter in. I also think players on the whole would be screaming bloody murder if the balance swings on some of these systems over the last year had happened to PvP combat.

I do think as well that the greater fluidity of changing tools and game systems does not really lend itself to a very rigid and permanent character development, especially when characters can take several years to progress. World of Warcraft can make live balance changes with some freedom because player characters can rebuild their skills in a moment, and rebuild their entire characters in days or weeks.

Players make largely permanent character choices based on imperfect information, and some hope that the systems they're learning and tools they're using more or less work the same way tomorrow as they did yesterday. I want to see updated and new systems, but it can be pretty dispiriting to invest time and resources in something just for it to become worse and worse through code updates.

I think there are several problems with the current progression system, and if the development and updating and balancing pace continues the way it has, I think it's worth revisiting it. For example: Making respecialization work as advertised rather than a limited skill haircut, allow max UI skill retraining via forget, issue yearly skill adaptions at the level of current respec guidelines, let character unlearn skills through IC AER retraining.

I would certainly like to see some sort of shift away from the current system. I feel that culturally we've moved so far away from what things were, that a lot of oldbies are re-experiencing the frustration of the 'balance by obfuscation' system that SD currently uses.

That being said, the current system seems designed to force people to retire and reroll characters. So perhaps as a compromise, simply compressing the time investment to make re-rolling more attractive would work as well?

In many regards, I would like to see character progression sped up. However, I think we as a community need to do a better job of embracing perma-death first.

There really isn't enough meaningful character turnover and I worry this would just result with a bunch of UE bloat at the top by individuals who wouldn't apply that power responsibly or know how too. The level of stagnation this can cause in the game can be brutal.

@RSB: I think the 'eternal' progression of 90s-era MU*s shows up in Sindome's DNA even after the addition of a UE cap. I'd say the nearest 'modern' comparison would be EVE Online which asks similar timescales from veteran players, although they allow for infinite progression and get low-skilled characters started more quickly because the skill curves are weighted far more at the maximum end of specialization.

Skill curves could be flattened across the board to bring midbies and oldbies more in line with one another and get new characters into things more quickly, or early UE progression could simply be faster.

@Reefer: I think the character attrition rate is way too high at the low- and mid-level, and players shouldn't be encouraged to just start over at the drop of a hat because it contributes to community apathy towards characters 'sticking around'.

I'd say lower turnover rate at Max UE more to do with the fact that it takes years to get there and disincentivizes players from giving up that investment, and these players tend to quit from burnout rather than reroll as it is. Faster early progression I think would see a change starting to happen there.

I would certainly agree with the need for more ability to change skills than we currently have. First off, there is no worse feeling than sinking tons of time into progressing a skill only to have a game update change the use of that skill in a manner that makes it no longer appealing to the player. Or, conversely, to have avoided a skill because of (for example) information given on the website, or other information learned ICly made the skill seem unappealing or useless, and then to have that skill suddenly made appealing.

Secondly, there are a number of skills I'd like to try out to see if they're interesting enough to go further with, but I can't get them to a level where I can do anything to give me a good idea of how they will play without going beyond the "forget" limit and being permanently stuck with them.

So, i'd prefer to see a higher limit on when skills can be "forgotten," and at least a partial refund of UE invested in forgotten skills to take out some of the sting of lost time when game mechanics and functions are changed.

I agree with BOTH sides.

I do think that the character progression pace and the permanence of choices should be relaxed some. The skill degradation system is a nice start though I would love to see it work with ANY skill, stat or whatever as long as it took enough time for the changed to be noticed and monitored IC if other characters chose to do so.

On the other hand, I think Reefer is right. I think Character turnover is a net positive for the game and when I last talked to staff about this, many agree. It's part of why there is some resistance to allowing players to slowly change the nature of their PCs over time. They would rather you play them to death and start a new one.

This doesn't mean that there should be no chance at all for characters to change or that all PCs should be throw always that are replaced every week or two. But I do think that character turnover is important. We can't have the sane X PCs sit in the same X top spots forever. It is good for story and player engagement if opportunities open up and situations change now and then. In my opinion at least.

Lot of good points made here so I don't really have anything new to add, just wanted to chime in with my agreement on the rigidity of the system on top of what can often feel like a painfully slow progression rate being a little too punishing, particularly for new players who come in mostly blind and make build/character concept decisions based off of vague skill information and like Blackbird said, can't really dabble later on without several weeks' worth of non-refundable UE investment. Some leeway with skill adjustment, especially with how much the game has been evolving, would go a long way in solving those nagging little regrets.

As for turnover, I can see the benefits but it's important to keep in mind that there are probably a lot of players who wouldn't want to reroll, myself included. I'd rather my character change and adapt over the literal years of investment than start a whole new one, assuming I'd even have the energy to if the worst were to happen. 0x1mm makes a great point about this system contributing to apathy towards other characters as well which, I think, goes directly against the insistence that we should be worrying more about roleplay than mechanics.

I get that. Nobody (aside from another PC) is going to force perm your PC for you. But there is a point where you've climbed the ladder and your PC's choices have painted a box around them that will be come harder and harder to work your way out of. As PCs age it seems to me that their options decrease and it gets harder and harder to increase them.

Regardless, you can keep at it and you can just hold onto the same role as long as possible. Nothing stops anyone from trying. I just don't feel that the game's systems and structure (IC even) are really great at supporting the forever PC and while I think some changes will come about to make the forever character a bit more comfortable to play I can't imagine them ever being fully embraced as the game, as I was once told, is designed to encourage players to cycle through PCs.

I would favor one of a few options.

I'd love to see a little faster progression or more points at creation. I think it does take a very long time to get good at something which certainly will predispose people to be risk averse. If you stand to lose years of progress, then yeah... there will be fear and mitigation of what you want to do. Plus, making people better quicker allows them to engage in more parts of the game. Yes, you can make an impact, but new characters rarely make a huge splash other than something more established people might fight over.

The second thing is that more vacation options, to the point of letting people take frequent breaks from their "main". Maybe not a concrete six months. Maybe let people explore short term characters to cause some chaos. Here's your short timer. They get a little skill bump, or a percent of their prior UE, but you have a cap on how long you can play them, 1-3 months or something like that. It might encourage people to sample more risky play styles and see if they like them. Or let them continue after their hard cap and if they choose so, their "main" dies.

Just my thoughts.

As someone whose been here, like, barely two weeks, I will say you can make a lot happen for you as a brand new player, via just rp and adaptation. But at the same time, I sometimes feel like I can't really do anything mechanically wise - which, I guess one could argue is the point, but I also don't really feel like I'm getting anywhere when I level up things, until it just sort of happens.

It'd be cool if there was like some kind of message when you put UE into something like "You feel yourself improving slightly at [x], your [x] might increase soon/in a while/in a long while/etc."

or "You have a short/long/ways to go before you improve you [x], but you feel yourself getting the hang of it." or, just, like, any sort or feedback to indicate you're slowly climbing that hill, or how far you might be to the top of the current hill you're climbing. I dunno.

I also kind of think the UE limit per day could stand be raised by like .5, or 1 more, because it can get discouraging to progress so little, but I dunno, I'm sure there's been a lot of thought behind the balance current limit. It's just daunting sometimes.

@Kalii

Just offering an oddball opinion here, but I think that certain skills become useful mechanically and in RP as a function of where the player is in the bell curve of other players, rather than as a function of the absolute UE investment. Like... having 5 months' worth of combat UE does not have any intrinsic value on its own, and is relative to the skill level of other active players and NPCs. So, a "viable" PC in this case becomes so due to having invested time in a skill longer than most people, who get bored and go do other things or are permed. If UE gain was faster, this would do nothing to change the amount of time you need to invest in those skills, since you'd still be competing with others who have the same boost you now have, it'd simply just make the NPCs weaker.

I also suspect this would work the same in other non-combat skills, but if it doesn't, this would basically be an unnecessary buff to non-combat people while also not solving the issue with the lack of character flexibility.

@Cinder

On the contrary, speeding up UE gain while not changing the maximum compresses the bell curve. That reduces the time it takes characters to reach the higher end of the bell curve, and more importantly, the time it takes to hit the stat/skill cost curve, meaning newer characters can catch up to older characters faster, or at least be more competitive earlier.

This isn't so much an idea as a theme or game problem and complaint. Be sure to post in the correct forum!
I'd appreciate consistent messaging from the GMs. Here we have one who has directed the conversation to a different forum section, yet when someone attempted to move the discussion to that forum as directed, another GM shut it down. These sorts of cross-purposes are confusing and frustrating for players.

https://www.sindome.org/bgbb/game-discussion/game-problems/character-progression-modernization--557/

I think Slither was just reminding me to put stuff in the right place rather than shutting down discussion. This started as an idea post but five paragraphs in I realized it was 4 AM so the idea part evaporated, and I blanked on opening a new post.

Yeah, Slither was just reminding to put things in the right place.

Thread didn't need to be moved. :)

If you haven't seen it, please review this thread which outlines some changes made as a result of this discussion / town hall feedback.
Neat! I think it's fair to say a lot of players tend to be long-term, so a cumulative re-roll bonus is likely to apply to a healthy chunk of the player base in meaningful ways.

I'd still love to see more flexibility in progression. I know for myself I've avoided skills that are in-development or likely to undergo rebalancing specifically because their value as a permanent investment is so up in the air. It would be fun to have a bit more freedom to experiment without having to have quasi-sacrificial characters -- though in my view the game is best when characters stick around for at least a year (and three even better) so I may be the minority.

Just throwing some other ideas out there. AER has lots of potential for IC progression mechanics. It'd be neat to see some kind of accelerated learning treatments (gain UE) or cryo-retraining (lose skill UE). Even if the cost was high I could see use, for example a faction dumping a pile of money to accelerate training on a new recruit to get them into play faster.

There's sort of some precedent here with paid services that let characters tweak their height and weight, although obviously this would have way more gameplay consequences.

Not to bang my own drum ad infinitum, but the skillsoft overhaul I think brings my point here into relief. It's not whether the changes are necessarily good or bad, and it may often be good overall to make them, but I think the carrot of a one-time highly conditional partial UE shift on respec is simply antiquated.

That said I disagree with the philosophy that players should be encouraged to reroll because their characters become ill-suited over time, so I may be at odds with staff here, as I think players should reroll when they don't want to play that character anymore and I would prefer to see more of the population sit around ~2+ years.

@0x1mm,

Some people talk about this as "incentivizing" re-rolls, I think "dis-incentivizing impotent clinging" is closer to the intention.

I venture to imagine that staff don't want people to re-roll when they don't want to. Instead, this is about people who in fact are are tired of and done with their characters who hang on to them anyway because they can't bring themselves to give up all the UE and go back to coming naked AND feeble.

(Don't take this as me saying that everyone who's unwilling to re-roll five hears after reaching max UE is clinging impotently. If you're not clinging impotently, then I'm not talking about you.)

I venture to imagine that staff don't want people to re-roll when they don't want to.

I don't know, the impression I've always been given is the game very much wants frequent character attrition, play to lose and reroll, learn systems on one character and reroll to use them. I think over time this has done noticeable damage to the character ecosystem and is a huge discouragement from investing in new characters because they're heavily incentivized to deal with mistakes by starting again before sunk costs kick in.

There was only a single meaningfully active character with a living memory of a major plot six years ago. The character churn is so great there is hardly any cultural memory of anything, rendering so much story telling irrelevant since no one is likely to remember it a year later. Six months is ancient history, let alone six years.

Even besides progression tweaks I'm raising here, I think just in general we need to encourage longer term play at this point, rather than discouraging it. If there was ever an issue with too many players sitting on Max UE characters forever it has to be long past.

To one of 0x1mm's point, I'd love to hear what Staff actually want the player base to be doing with all these changes. We all obviously have opinions but a succinct vision might be helpful to some.

Granted, we all have different styles of approaching the game but we are beholden to the creators and would us all moving in lockstep on the path instead of guessing and projecting.

Loss of lore isn't a bad thing, because we're always constantly churning out new lore that (should) be replacing the 'lore of old' a few years down the road.

I'm frankly tired of hearing about Bilbo swordman was the best blade of gangster street. It's okay to let old characters die, especially when they get NPCified.

What gets me excited is seeing some up and comer carving out a real name for themselves in the game, and leaving a lasting impression on people. Living in the moment, embracing the supposed 'harsh reality' of life in Withmore.

I'm a fan of other games that do forced character death either to character age, annual or once per 2-3 year server wipes. That's not SD, but those games aren't lacking in content or lore, is more my point.

One of the take away messages I got from the UE reroll change and the recent skillsoft change is that what was super OP standard doctrine for 1,2,5,10 years doesn't mean that it's going to stay that way. And that shakeup of things along with lessening the pain of rerolls was overall a gentle nudge from staff towards more established characters that now's a better time than ever before to start planning that CP exit.

Loss of lore isn't a bad thing, because we're always constantly churning out new lore that (should) be replacing the 'lore of old' a few years down the road.

I completely agree but there's a reason there's a 15-20 year gap in the cultural consciousness. The characters that got remembered are often either baked into the game feedback or were NPCified and long outlived their first active lifetime.

It's telling that the characters that come up are the one weird guy who spiraled that time last year, or the handful of characters who have 20 year old wiki articles. There are characters I met years ago who I have been dying to know more about, but who my character now will never hear about because there is zero surviving public memory of essentially all of them.

Tears in the rain and all that but I do think things would be better overall, especially for new players getting wowed by extant storytelling, if the character population skewed a little older. That's side tracking from the thread a little but I think I'm being somewhat coherent how I think these aspects all relate to one another.

I never took play to lose to be about sacrificing one's character's existence.

But, that's a tangent for another thread.