Natural Skill Development

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Because Revival is a game of immersion and freedom of choice, we’ve taken a far more fluid approach to developing a character’s numerical stats and attributes, their RPG skills. With Revival’s approach to RPG style skills:

  • There are no character classes or levels
  • Characters increase the value of their RPG stats and attributes by using them
  • Stats decay when they are not used, but you will never completely lose a skill you know well or have mastered
  • Any skill can be mastered by any character, with enough effort and dedication
  • Characters reflect the path they took to get where they are: Heroes evolve, they are not built.

Good games are about feel

If we are critical of the course MMORPGs have taken over the years, it is primarily because evolution of the genre across the last decade took with it the very the things that drew us in droves to the concept of MMO worlds. When developers found game elements that were difficult to implement, those features were cut, along with the related experience and the feel of performing those tasks. Even when we keep the “feature” we simplify it to make it easier to implement, stripping away the sense of immersion and reward that comes with it. This leaves games very easy to play, but not particularly fun, since boredom sets in far too quickly. Revival exists in no small part to address this problem, and our solution starts with the way characters are made.

A world without class

One of the places where we have oversimplified the genre is the realm of character development. In the past, games have offered players hundreds of skills and allowed players to develop those skills as they saw fit. What did we gain, as players, from reducing this to a dozen abilities that cannot be individually progressed at all? We believe the answer is nothing: We believe that in fact we lost something important: the freedom to be the characters we want to be.

The concept of character class is another limiting factor, isn’t it? Imagine stepping into the shoes of a fantasy hero, expecting to wield axe in one hand and spell in the other, only to discover that there is no “Spellsword” class in your game of choice. How does that let you live your fantasies? How is that better than a game that lets its players create their own character classes by developing their skills through play? In essense, the game isn’t about what you were born to be, but about what you are: If you want to become a spellsword or some other esoteric “class” it’s more a matter of finding the people in the world who can teach you the skills to play that way, or for the more hardcore, it’s about finding the knowledge that makes it possible for themselves.

That’s why we’ve decided to eschew class and focus instead on natural development of skills. In Revival, you won’t pick “Dark Paladin” as your class when you start the game. Instead, you’ll create your character, telling us about your character’s past and their basic aptitudes before stepping into the world. Once there, it’s on you to take up the sword, driving yourself to hone your skills with the blade as you cultivate your devotion to dark gods.

So far, we’ve used combat as our example of choice, but in truth the concept of stripping out of this style of game isn’t limited to combat. In fact, a major goal of Revival was to create a system where a player’s success or failure didn’t depend on combat. Theleston is a rich world with opportunities for people from all walks of life. A player can, for example, rise to prominence and mastery through crafting, trade or even statecraft. In the end, what sort of character you play will not limit your ability to succeed in Theleston, that depends on your own resourcefulness and prowess. In truth, we expect that, for much of the world, it will be merchants and diplomats who wield the most power, however subtly. So what is natural skill development?

Simply put, it’s the philosophy that your character should develop as a result of how you play. The “standard form” of an MMO today does the opposite: The way you play is a result of what must be done to develop your character. This makes these games little more than massive to-do lists; checklists of the steps necessary to become great at the end of your progression.

But this isn’t how life works, is it? This isn’t even how a good quest-based adventure novel works. Instead, no matter what we plan, things happen along the way that fundamentally change who we are and how we feel about the game. Imagine being stuck a Dark Paladin your whole life, simply because you made the choice as an uninformed child, decades ago. It doesn’t seem like a great time, does it? You have no freedom to change your mind, to redirect the course of your life as you see fit.

With natural skill development, on the other hand, you can have a plan or no plan at all and either way, by the time you’ve lived a long life, it will have been a full one that has left its mark on your character. Perhaps all you ever really wanted was to be a Dark Paladin and thus that was the thing you set out to do as a child. When you finally attain that goal in Revival, you’ll be more than just an evil guy in plate with a big sword because you will have naturally developed other skills along the way. Did your quest take through the forests of Agthorn? Chances are you emerged on the other side with knowledge of how to camp, cook and gather wood. Or perhaps you decided midway on your quest that the life of a dark paladin wasn’t for you and instead devoted yourself to recapturing the history of Theleston as an archaeologist. Years later, as you considered the final edits of your latest scholarly tome, you’d realize that you’re probably the most badass archaeologist on the planet. After all, how many of your peers not only know how to summon a Deep One, but have the will and spirit to control it safely as well?

This is the point of natural skills development. As you work your way through the world, your skills will change based on your actions. Undertake strenuous physical tasks and your physique will improve; devote yourself to the scholarly pursuits and your intelligence will raise, but let those skills lie fallow for too long and they may begin to decay. After all those years you may find your control over that Deep One isn’t as great as you remembered, because you’ve grown rusty in your sedentary life.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll forget how to deal with Deep Ones completely. Riding a bicycle is a skill, and as the old adage goes, you always remember how to do it once you’ve mastered it, no matter how rusty your riding skill might be, Revival’s skills work in much the same way: Gain command of a skill -- train it and know it well enough -- and you’ll never lose the skill, even if the skill does decay to a certain point.

The benefits cannot be understated

What natural skill development offers players is freedom. We’re saying that it’s not our place to tell you how to make your way in the world of Theleston. To us, seeking our own way forward is at least half the fun. And for us, good games are about experiences -- about the way they make you feel -- not about feature sets or “genre expectations.” Player Classes, fixed progression paths and level banded stat progression all stand in the way of players experiencing the world as anything other than a series of game mechanics. Revival isn’t meant to be a machine, but a world, and our player characters aren’t simple sets of stepped or tiered numbers. They’re organically developing beings in their own right, each with its own unique history, and natural skill development is one of the ways we make this possible.