DevDiary 9 - The Royal Court Part 2: Skills
Hello friends, and welcome to the 9th DevDiary for “Knights of Honor II: Sovereign!” In this Diary we shall return to a more gameplay-related topic – the characters’ skills. We already talked about the knights’ classes, but there is much more that makes each knight unique besides just his class.
What we first wanted to figure out was the sweet spot for how deep and complex the progression of characters should be in our game. On one hand, the knights are an important part of the KoH series and we felt we could add a bit more content and flavor by expanding their functionality. In the first game, most classes had only ranks (stars) and only Marshals were able to learn unique skills. Though some of these skills were not as useful as others, it turned out they make the Marshals significantly more interesting than the other classes. This seemed like a good direction for us to explore in the sequel. As we now have more depth overall in the economy features and the other classes, we decided merchants, diplomats, clerics and spies all deserve skills as well.
Another risk we had to be careful with was the importance and attachment to a particular knight. As in the first game, the knights are a valuable asset to a kingdom, but not a permanent one. They get assassinated, imprisoned, bribed, die in glorious battles, or simply become venerable and pass away. Losing an experienced knight shouldn’t be overtly painful, since that would force the players not to take any risks with their knights – and we don’t want that either.
Thus, we reached the following conclusions:
- Number of skills shouldn’t be too high: a knight can learn up to 5 skills;
- Progression of skills should also be rather limited: each skill has 3 ranks;
- Progression should be fast: each knight can learn a skill immediately after being hired, and learning new skills or ranking them up should be just one click away, provided that the kingdom has the needed resources;
- Progression should be available on global, kingdom resources: knights can learn or improve a skill, by gaining experience from their deeds, but a price in “gold” and “books”, paid from the kingdom’s resources, is an option to instantly improve them as well;
- Skills should have supplementary effects: they should open new opportunities and strengthen the abilities of knights, they should feel rewarding and provide valuable benefits, but not earth-shattering effects.
So, each knight, regardless of their class, can learn skills, and the skill set is shared between the different classes. They have strong affinities, though – the skills are “primary” and “secondary” to specific classes and many of the benefits of a skill are received only by a knight from a specific class. For example, Cavalry Tactics: an additional benefit Cavalry Tactics provides to Marshals is the “Hit and run” tactic. Imagine how valuable this can be for a marshal of a steppe kingdom, having large variety of mounted units and often fighting in vast grassland terrains.
Additionally, knights have significantly higher chance to have skills, primary to their class, available to learn in the first place. When a new skill can be learned by a knight, they have a few choices that are presented. Now besides the aforementioned class-related affinities influencing the random skill options available, there will be mechanics where players can make a specific skill available to learn, but without taking advantage of those mechanics, the available skills will be random and weighted towards their class’s preferences. You’ll have to wait to learn more about how this works in a later DevDiary though, since these mechanics are part of other game elements and systems.
Once learned, there are different effects a skill can have. Some provide statistical or production bonuses, others increase chances of success when performing related actions; many unlock specific abilities, effects or even battle tactics. Usually a skill provides a combination of all these features with a variety of factors determining how useful it will be for a knight. This depends not only on their class, but on other factors as well – for example there are governor-related bonuses or even some skill effects that only apply if the knight is a King himself!
As an example, let’s take a look at the “Bargain” skill. It is primary to Merchants and increases the gold from trade to merchants. Spies and Diplomats can also learn this skill of course, but their benefit is the cost reduction of certain actions, e.g. bribery and others. But if the knight, skilled in bargaining, governs a province, there will also be an additional gold income, generated by the goods, produced in that province, and if that character is king, the price for hiring knights in the royal court will be significantly reduced.
Now for some good news for our fans that want to get creative: skills, and their balance and even which effects they will have, are completely and easily moddable – this part of the system is rather straightforward for modding and very powerful. So, if you are fond of creating your own “house rules”, you’ll be able to change a lot here and have some fun!
We will talk more about Skills in our DevStream on Thursday, August 6th, @ 4:00 PM GMT / 12:00 PM EST. Note the time is one hour later this DevStream, we’re trying a new timeslot as some have mentioned the previous time was a little too early. The Twitch stream will be hosted on the THQ Nordic channel: http://twitch.tv/thqnordic and we’ll be grabbing responses from this post as well as answering questions live during the stream.
Needless to say, we are still testing different possibilities and balances of skills – making changes big and small – which might and probably will continue even during the beta. So, as always, we’d love to hear your opinion on this topic and we are open-minded to suggestions! What is the preferred depth and complexity of the skill system in such a game for you? Would you prefer to focus on your kingdom and not manage knights’ progression at all? Do you think knights should gain experience from their own deeds, or do you see their progression and “education” as something, that is more of a function of the kingdom itself?
Next time we will continue this topic and shed some light on Kingdom Traditions – a different system, yet strongly related to skills, and a very important part of the game!