What is it with talents?

| Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Let's imagine a realistic scenario. Start college in chemical engineering. Switch to applied mathematics. Then switch again to psychology. Even if a degree is granted, unless the individual in question is a genius or unusually hard-working, he's not going to be as good in any of those fields as someone who started and ended with the same major. Time has been wasted. It's realistic. But is it fun? Fun? Oh... oh no, of course we're not talking about college.

This is about talent specialization of the many, similar forms it takes in RPGs. Start off with an idea, and very little information, and make irreversible choices about what you want to become. It's certainly realistic, but is it fun?

Personally, I don't enjoy talents that I can't switch at some point. Sure, with proper theorycraft and research, I could get them right the first time. But you know what? Fuck that. Yes, fuck that. It's bad enough in a multi-player game that people are expected to research every single footstep ahead of time, but in a single-player game? Fuck that. It's a game, let's start playing!

Torchlight has no default way to reset talents, not even for a cost. That means the early "ooh that looks cool, let me try that, and that, ooh what's that?" is extremely costly, permanently. There is a developer-accepted mod to add a pricy respec pot, but yeesh, now you're downloading mods to the game that you're probably still learning? Is that fun? Immersive? Adventurous?

Knights of the Old Republic, either one, have somewhat similar systems of talents. You buy more powers or abilities or whatever, and these make you stronger in some way or another. And I've yet to find a way to relearn them (I've not looked very far). It's not very fun to realize that the cool abilities you were picking up, ye they don't work quite so well when you don't have the energy to support all those abilities, or they're hard to use when alone and getting beaten up. That could be worked out ahead of time, but aren't you supposed to be stabbing Sith rather than tabbed out reading walkthroughs?

WoW has a more forgiving system of paid respecs, which work fairly well in a game of unlimited time, gold, and... gold. However this almost feels too restrictive and too lenient. I do agree with Blizzard that talents should be a careful decision, though not irreversible, so having some cost to respec is a good thing in my mind. However having a cost early on isn't good. It frightens noobies. Oh yes it does, I would know, I was half-resto for quite a long time because I didn't know I could respec. Sure the guy asked if I wanted to unlearn my talents, but that sounds scary. Do I have to go relearn all my spells? My levels? Will my shaman get sent back to the character creation screen? This shit is scary when you're a noob!

Meditate on Your Path
That's all I'm asking for, is just one time the relevant guiding NPC talks to us about the many paths and possibilities, gives us a chance to think things over, maybe offers some advice based on how we've been playing (you keep meleeing, perhaps enhancement is a good choice for you), and then we're given the ability to redo our talents. In WoW this would be a low level quest, somewhere in the 20s or 30s, while in a RPG it would be in maybe the first third.

Imagine that, jumping in to play and explore, without irreversibly damaging your character later on, when you learn that Rainbow Happy Wave doesn't work well with a melee-based Dark Side character.

5 comments:

Andy said...

Reminds me of the time I wanted to unlearn tailoring so I could do inscription instead, so I went to the trainer and paid 1g to unlearn my talents. The priest trainer, that is.

Klepsacovic said...

Oops?

Leah said...

oh I hear you about torchlight, but....that's why I'm playing on easy mode and saving up pretty pieces of armor in my common pot so that if I decide to play through on higher difficulty? I can do it better second time around :P the whole - cannot respec thing was in Diablo as well, so I'm pretty used to it.

the beauty of single player games is that you can do them at your own pace your own way with zero recrimination from anyone. doesn't matter how terrible your spec is - NPC's don't care and easy mode is extremely forgiving. I'm starting to remember why I usually prefer single player games to multiplayer ones. I don't have to worry about what's best, keeping up with the rest of the player base, etc - I just play, explore, do what I want when I want.

that said, I'm an altoholic, so re-rolling characters doesn't bother me so much :P

Tesh said...

Respecs are absolutely necessary in my book. If I wanted "realism" and another college degree, I'd go back to school for Astrophysics like I've always wanted to. I play games to explore and experiment.

Titan Quest has limited and expensive respecs... so I went and got a little hack program called "TQDefiler" to respec at a whim. It made the game a lot more fun for me.

Ultimately, the lack of respecs is a time sink. That's more tolerable in an offline single purchase game, but when respeccing means rerolling in a game where time costs money (a sub game), it's extremely annoying to me. The WoW system is decent enough... but I've argued more than once that I'd rather it go further, allowing us to respec to different *classes*. That's just me, though.

Klepsacovic said...

@Leah: But on ezmode you shouldn't be able to see the last level or get any drops!

@Tesh: I don't think I'd want class respecs. There's enough to relearn just switching specs, but an entire class? That wouldn't lead to a very skilled playerbase. Possibly worse is that it would wreck the class feel. I like that my rogue has done quests to steal while my shaman has done quests to balance the elements. To just have a class without that backing, I'd not like that much. But maybe it should be the choice of others to skip that experience.

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