The skill system in DarkFall is one of the more hotly debated topics among players actually playing the game (and not just playing ForumFall). Some believe it’s too long a grind (oh nooz, you are not maxed out in two months!), others dislike its general confusion (does archery go up faster if you hit something when shooting? (yes, but not much faster)), and some just wish they could get XP per kill (back to WoW noobiecake!)
For me the issue with the skill system is that it lacks direction. When you are in-game and working on your character, it’s not an issue of direction to take your character in, but which skill you are aiming to max out today, since eventually they will all be high. The skill system is not an open-ended ‘create your own class’ system, but simply a long path until everyone becomes a multi-weapon tank/mage crafter.
The system resembles UO, a game which had a hard-cap of 700 points. It worked for UO because overall the skill system was more limited, and the game itself was not nearly as complex as DarkFall. I don’t think the same type of overall hardcap would work in DarkFall, as it would be too limiting and force players to pick between a ‘needed’ character (guild crafter) and a ‘useful’ character (tank/mage). EVE has no cap on its skill system, but since it’s based on real-time gain, it’s not a good comparison.
The first fix to DarkFall’s skill system would be the removal of pointless, easy-grind skills like swimming, running, riding, sprint, etc. Everyone will eventually have all these skills at 100 whether they aim for it or not, and as they already provide a minimal advantage, just remove them and stop the far-to-easy abuse of macroing them for stat gains. Skills should be limited to activities a player ACTIVLY does, not basic stuff like getting around.
The next fix would be to change how skill gain works. Currently swinging at a goblin gives you the same gain as swinging at a dragon. Swinging at a naked player gives as much gain as swinging at someone in full plate. Crafting a dagger gives as much gain as a top-tier weapon. That not only seems wrong, but also encourages silly grinding. Scale skill gain based on challenge, without ever ‘graying out’ the easiest levels. Already skill gain goes up quickly 1-25, moderately at 25-50, and rather slow at 50+; why not allow those with 50+ skill to increase their gains by taking on bigger challenges, be it mobs/players or crafting? If a guild group heads into a tougher dungeon, and spends a few hours swinging at top-tier mobs, shouldn’t they get more skill gain from that then someone killing goblin scouts over and over? Would it not make more sense for crafters to always be challenging themselves by crafting tougher items, rather than pumping out daggers until they cap out? Would that not encourage players to leave the ‘easy’ parts of the game, and be more rewarded for seek a challenge?
Finally, a skill cap should be added, but not the traditional UO hardcap. Instead, every skill should fall into a category, be it crafting, weapons, magic, or whatever else. Each category should then have its own skill cap (whatever number would work best for balance), and a final, overarching category of master skills should be added.
Let’s use crafting as an example. The skill cap would allow you to either max out all gathering skills, the majority of the crafting skills, or a combination of both. A player looking to be a traditional blacksmith would pick up mining, weapon and armor smithing, and perhaps one other supplemental skill (artillery, boats, architecture). His crafting choices would not impact his other skill categories, so one blacksmith could also be a fire mage, while the other would be a mace fighter.
For combat skills, players would again be limited. One could focus on close combat, and pick both a one hand and two hand skill to max, along with parry and defensive skills, while giving up something archery-related (but not completely losing the ability to shoot an arrow). Or a player could try for a jack-of-all-trades build, and pick only one weapon, focus more on archery, and giving up some of the armor focus. Someone looking to be a top-tier archer could max out those skills, at the sacrifice of either close combat abilities or defense.
Magic would work similar to how it does now, with a player picking to focus on Fire magic losing the ability to train in Water. Additionally, the cap could work in such a way as to block the ability to train ALL related magic skills, so a player would have to decide between focusing on stronger basic spells, or weakening those in exchange for better supplemental Fire magic skills.
Finally, the overarching “Mastery” category would allow a player to pick 2-3 master skills to work on. This category would contain all the crafting mastery skills, all high-end supplemental magic skills (damage boosts, mana efficiently, etc), all weapon mastery skills, and all higher-end defense skills like ignore pain. The goal here is to allow further player specialization and focus. If someone really wants to be a top-tier crafter, they sacrifice weapon and magic mastery skills and dedicate themselves to the weapon crafting mastery. They won’t be as effective in combat (but they will still posses say 80% of the power of a master), but in return they will be able to craft more powerful and durable items (which would allow them to charge a premium over standard crafters for the same items).
At any point, a player would be allowed to ‘lock’ a skill, preventing it from gaining or losing points. If a player is at the cap and gains skill, an unlocked skill would decrease to compensate for the gain. Regular skills should be fairly easy to reach a level of 50 or so, but much tougher to max at 100. Mastery skills should be far harder to level in general, and changing your mastery skills would be a major directional shift for a character. Titles could be added to identify players by their masteries like in UO.
Any major change like this would be difficult to add midway through, but the opening of the NA-1 server could be the perfect time, and something needs to be done with the skill system in DarkFall, or in 3-4 months everyone is going to look eerily similar.