February 22, 2009

Let players change their minds

As Tesh pointed out in the comments yesterday, an important complement to letting players make informed decisions is making more decisions reversible.

Some current games are designed in such a way that basic class and faction choices are intended to be permanent, although that doesn't necessarily have to be true. Respeccing and even changing classes can be good things in games that have planned for them in advance, and almost every game's design should allow for easy respeccing of powers and specializations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 3 games that served as my examples of letting players make informed decisions also exhibit some nice features for letting players change their minds.

Provide frequent opportunities for respecs

Guild Wars allows its players to respec almost everything simply by walking into a town:

Allow constant, gradual respeccing

Planetside allows any player to unlearn a skill instantly at certain skill terminals. The full number of points that skill was worth are instantly refunded and can be spent immediately.

However, this process is only allowed to happen once per 24 hours of real time. As a result of this, a player can respec almost completely, but it will take them a significant amount of time to do so.

This feature allows full flexibility but the time limit still puts some weight into the player's initial decisions. This limitation seems reasonable in a game where there are no classes and where character progression is based almost entirely on what certifications the character has purchased.

Let players branch their characters

Tabula Rasa has a cloning system which allows a player to save off an exact copy of their current character and then develop each of those clones in a different direction. A player could then later choose to branch either or both of those characters into another 2 characters, and so on.

By default, characters receive a clone token right before each time they have to select a new sub-class, but they can also perform certain quests in the world to earn more of them.

There are plenty of games that offer full respecs of a more standard sort, but these 3 methods are different from the norm in a way that's well-suited to their respective games, which is why I find them interesting.

1 comment:

Eolirin said...

Huh, where is that GW screenshot from? That doesn't look like the current UI...

Good post too. heh.