[Suggestion] Skill Tree Rebalancing


#1

While playing Generation Zero, something that quickly stuck out to me was the skill tree system, with which I quickly noticed some oddities. The following are some notes about the failings of the skill tree system, and my suggestions on how to rebalance the skill trees. Additionally, I have given you a little program you can play with that is a mockup of the skill tree changes that I am advocating. Hopefully this is in the correct area of the forums - if not, feel free to move it.

Failures of the current skill system:

-Trees are unbalanced, point-wise. This makes some trees more expensive than others.

-Some trees lack direction. It feels like a lot of skills were created, a few trees got their skills logically placed, and then the left over skills were randomly distributed amongst the other trees. This is confusing because the trees end up lacking cohesion, and players have more difficulty planning their skill trees out because the skills that are compatible with their playstyle end up being spread out through multiple trees, which require skills that they don’t need being a requirement to take.

-Solo players are at a disadvantage because the entire tree currently has 88 points, and a player only has 30 points to assign. A full team of players has 120 points, more than enough to get every skill (and still have points left over).

-Some skills are not actual choices, like inventory expansion. Skills that are always going to be chosen should be simply given to players so that they can make actual choices in the skill system. Other skills are acquired very early in their trees and are only useful in multiplay, which makes them required (but useless in solo play) to unlock later skills.

-Some skills are negated by later skills, such as the 3 levels of Weapon Sway skill being completely negated by the later Specialization Marksman. This means there is no point to even putting more than 1 point into Weapon Sway, effectively making it a single-point skill but ultimately useless once Marksman is acquired. Also, XP skills become useless once the end-game is reached, and thus become wasted points.

-Utility skills that unlock abilities rather than simply affect existing abilities are found randomly throughout the trees, sometimes in later skill tiers. This makes basic changes to how the gameplay is experienced for a player expensive in terms of skills.

In order to do a rebalance, several changes were made, but of extra note:

-Level cap goes from 30 to 40, giving players 40 points.
-Players have all inventory slots unlocked at start, and the skill Carry Capacity has been removed.
-Players are now able to always heal each other, and the skill Healer is removed.

The Fixes:

-Skill trees are now balanced in terms of points, and each tree is very predictable and follows the pattern of 2, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1 points in each tier. This makes it very easy to mentally and visually plan out trees.

-While each tree still has two branches, the branch on the left of each tree now tends to be skills that are “long range” skills, which benefit combat or gameplay at a distance, versus the branch on the right of each tree which tends to be skills that are “close range” skills, which benefit combat or gameplay up close. This setup also allows players a “hint” at which skills might be better for their particular playstyle and keeps them from wasting skill points.

-In the old system, a four player team has effectively 120 skill points to use. Single player has 30. This means that, in order to stay competitive, early skills should be “worth more” than later skills. Therefore, the first skill point gives more value than second one. This allows solo players to benefit by only taking the first point if they want to, while letting players in teams (or solo players that want to min/max) take both points and still remain stronger in that skill. Solo players now get a little more benefit to taking a skill they might not want, and still have the freedom to maximize a particular skill.

-Inventory space is “illusion of choice” because players will almost always put skill points into it, even if they have to take at least one point in skills they won’t want to use (which essentially increases the cost of the inventory space beyond only two skill points). Giving all players inventory space unlocked by default means players will be able to create more varied skill trees. Additionally, the ability to heal other players is given to players by default for two reasons - first, in a cooperative game, players should be able to heal each other because it encourages team dynamics without skill point investments, and secondly, it is a skill which is useless in solo play, but still costs a point in order to unlock skills later on in the tree which makes it a wasted point for solo players - skills like this should be avoided as much as possible (and in the changed trees, only found very late in a tier, if found at all).

-Weapon Sway skill has been removed, in order to make Marksman Specialization more interesting to achieve, and to not waste points. Additionally, skills relating to increased XP gain have been removed because they serve no function at end-game.

-“Utility skills” that unlock abilities, rather than simply make existing abilities stronger, are placed lower in the tree to allow solo players the chance to take most if not all of them, which keeps sections of the game or gameplay accessible to them.

The Windows program that allows you to play around with these changes can be found here: http://www.aemaps.com/genzero_indev/GZSkillTreeMockup.exe

It should be fairly self-explanatory. In the interest of speed, there is no functionality to remove skill points except by clearing the appropriate tree. This has been tested on Windows 10, but it should work on other versions of Windows. As always, run at your own risk, etc, etc. I may update this file later with more functionality, depending on feedback I get from this post.

It has been tested to be virus free by Kaspersky VirusDesk:

Scan result no threats detected
File size 83.50 KB
File type PE32/EXE_MANAGED_ASSEMBLY
Scan date May 16 2019 21:36:34
Databases release date May 17 2019 00:49:00 UTC
MD5 02076e744154402d2eeda9f16b53b295
SHA1 6c36abe4c5da425d56104571e2e80fee3e69c8a7
SHA256 44f4bed08accf371e0453ebf3f8df57f913fb13f8ab71dc4ebc9a12c16e7d9e2

Hopefully this is interesting to you, and may provoke discussion about the current skill system in the game. Developers, if you like this, feel free to contact me, or freely use this stuff in the game.


#2

A really nice post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. After hitting level 31 on my first character, I’m right now playing with my second one, currently at level 27 I think.

Here are some loose thoughts based on what you wrote:

  • I agree with you that are forced to “sacrifice” (i.e. spend points) on some skills in order to reach your desired skill further down the tree

  • yes the carry capacity skill doesn’t feel like a skill and should be available to all when starting up the game. Alternatively, it could open up as a bonus skill at a certain point in the game. For example when reaching level 5 you get one row in addition to the skill point, and at level 10 you get the second and final row. Just an idea, but in essence I agree with you that it seems pointless to block two rows that everyone needs.

  • you didn’t mention lockpicking. I feel lockpicking should also be available to all at the start, but at a certain % rate of success. “Everyone” (almost) enables lockpicking since important mission items and loot are behind locks. You could use a skill to up your % rate of success at lockpicking, rather than having it at either 0 or 100 % as it is today.

  • I like the duality-idea: having two branches in the same tree focused on two different things. But it shouldn’t be limited to closed vs. ranged combat. There are tons of dualities you can play with, such as damage resistance vs. healing capacity, single-fire vs. auto fire, damage-by-combat vs. damage-by-sabotage, deployable vs. throwable, stealth vs. assault, to name but a few.

  • SP and MP. This is a tough one since it mixes in with what the intention of the game is. Designers of the game were for sure intending on making a co-op game first and a single player game second. I’ve played both styles immensely and dare say that co-op MP is just so much more fun. This is just my personal opinion, but having SP abilities and MP evenly mixed out in the trees seems like a compromise to try to engage all players when levelling up.

  • I totally agree that each tree should be better defined in terms of playstyle. With my first character, I went full-on with tech, having both hacker and engineer specializations. With my second character, I wanted to change things up and specialized vanguard instead, in my mind making it more combat focused. Here’s the thing: it’s very hard to manifest the changes with your playstyle. The similarities are just too obvious, and the changes between the characters are quite minimal. For example, wanting to do engineer I need to get good at explosives, increasing damage output and radius of effect. But wait, these skills are highly relevant for my combat focused character as well! It would have been better with a tree that makes you have to choose between which type of damage output you wish to have, instead of having both. Same thing goes with damage resistance vs. healing. These two, in essence, do the same thing: making it easier for you to survive. But they do point at two different ways of handling damage in the game. To avoid being able to maximise both, creating a possibly OP character, you should have to choose between one or the other.

I didn’t download your file yet, but these were just some loose thoughts on the matter.

AND HERE COMES THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

When you hit level 30 - you should be able to respec your character ONCE. I definitely regret all the points I spend at my hacker specialization since it turned out to be useless for the way I play the game. But right now it’s like “haha too bad, all your skill points are gone now boohoo for you”, and that just isn’t too nice.

I know that @Avalanche_Graham likes Fallout very much. Well, what do you have after the opening scenes when you make it out of the vault in both Fallout 3 and 4? A RESPEC OF YOUR CHARACTER.

mic drop


#3

I honestly believe you should be able to respec pretty much whenever you want to. It’s difficult to encourage experimentation with different abilities and skills when the “cost” to experiment is leveling up another character from scratch (or even only being able to respec once) - that discourages experimentation and only encourages cookie cutter “optimal skill tree point assignments” because players don’t want to “make the wrong choice”. But then again, I feel like locking skill points in is needlessly punishing for players.

To clarify, I agree if someone was to suggest that there should be some limiting factor, like a cooldown, only at certain locations, or a currency required, but I’m against the idea that we have either a hard-code limit to number of respecs, or make it so difficult to respec that we might as well not have the ability.

Additionally, you end up creating a problem when a skill you took has been changed, or does not work as expected (like the redesign of the Hacker skill you mentioned) - wasted skill points.

The rest of your comments, I think are generally correct. As far as lockpicking goes, I do agree that it’s almost a required skill, but at that point, why have locked doors? So I do think that lockpicking ultimately has a place as an acquired ability, as long as mission items aren’t locked behind them (I’m looking at you, “The Spotter” mission).


#4

totally agree on all of this, i hope the devs take this into account


#5

Me too, I quite agree with this thread. Thanks for your analysis. I support the @Bawson82 idea of more than once skill tree respec limitated by some cooldown mechanism. I hope, when the major bugs will be fixed, the devs will look into this feature. Or maybe if modding support is added we will have a skill tree mod.