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The idea of swapable Utility Spells

does it really work?

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#1 Cronos988

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 10:48 AM

There are currently 2 main Systems for Skill progression in MMO- or Action-RPGs the "vertical" and the "horizontal" progression:

In the "vertical" progression you have unlimited skill slots, but in order to make skills usefull you need to invest a limited ressource in them, mostly skill points.

In the "horizontal" Progression you can generally get every skill (or almost every skill) and they will always be at maximum effectiveness. However, you can only use a limited number of skills due to limited slots.

In the past, most RPGs would use a vertical progression, where higher level and better gear where what mattered to make skills powerfull. This has worked incredibly well in say DIablo 2 or WoW.

Nowadays, horizontal progression seems to be the new trend, with DIablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 for example going for this system. The idea seems to be that this reduced the need for any "grinding" to get good skills and instead focuses on the players ability to select and correctly use the skills. To this end, the skills are usually significantly less powerfull individually than in a vertical progression and have to be combined for good effect.

While a "vertical" progression works by the player deciding for a build that, in his opinion, can master all the situations he wants to get involved in, and then sticking to it, a "horizontal" progression works by the player deciding what build is best for the next task.

Technically, this should give players flexibility to play however they want. However, I feel like that idea is somewhat flawed: It assumes that during normal play of an MMORPG, Players will know what situation is coming up ahead, and prepare their skills accordingly. But that implies that you already know what you are facing, which usually only happens when you grind the same encounter numerous times or when you are playing PVP.

During levelling, you cannot really switch skills based on encounters, because you are already IN the encounter when it happens. So you need to select a skill build that gives you maximum flexibility. However, horizontal progression systems usually do not give you such a build, because that would eliminate the need for any further progression.

The result is a feeling that none of your skills are really "good" for what you are doing, which seems to be voiced by quite a lot of players regarding Utility spells. Personally, I miss the feeling of looking forward to that one spell that would drastically change my game e.g. in Diablo 2.

In PVP, Vertical progression systems can be designed to require player ablity (Just look at MOBA games, most have very traditional, although short, vertical progressions), and hence horizontal progression looses a major selling point.

tl:dr: I think that the Idea of swapable Utility spells instead of a more traditional skill point system does not work well for MMORPGs without a complete PVP focus, i.e. with a traditional PVE leveling system. Horizontal Progression only works well in games without a level system or some kind of non-traditional system. Since Guild Wars 2 already uses a different form of Character for PVP anyways, why not combine a vertical PVE progression with a horizontal PVP one?

Edited by Cronos988, 05 December 2012 - 09:06 AM.


#2 Sword Hammer Axe

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 11:26 AM

Good point, though I don't agree with you.

Most MMOs are designed with an intention of replayability. You may call it grind, or at least in some cases, but fact is that farming/alts/replaying for fun, makes people redo much of the content willingly, and most actually like that to some extent. Just look at rare drops for instance: These items have only a small chance to drop, sometimes even from only a certain sort of mob, meaning chances are you won't get this item on your first try. You can buy it of course, but mostly the market of the MMO in question have this item in high regard, making it rather pricy, which again means that you won't get enough money for it on just one playthrough. Even if you do every dungeon or kill every boss once, you probably won't get that item. What I'm saying with this would be that even if people don't know what's coming up the first time, they'll know about it the second, and chances are there'll be a second.

Another point would be strategies. True, not all people like to strategize before doing some content, but there are often people who likes to plan out their characters or the run of that hard content they're about to enter, meaning they'll find guides or experienced players to team up with who can have an idea about the utility skills needed, setting you up right before ever trying the content.

Though I do somewhat agree with you that games like Diablo 2 had a certain sensation with the vertical progress. Even though Guild Wars 2 have a bit of it, it's mostly horisontal progression, which can make you miss out on that good feeling of gaining a level. Sure, we have the traits and skill points, but they only give you a minor sense of accomplishment. It'd be much cooler, imo, if you couldn't get some of the skills until a certain level, but that sort of progress kind of stops at level 30 where elites are unlocked.

#3 Cobalt60

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 11:32 AM

View PostCronos988, on 03 December 2012 - 10:48 AM, said:

During levelling, you cannot really switch skills based on encounters, because you are already IN the encounter when it happens. So you need to select a skill build that gives you maximum flexibility. However, horizontal progression systems usually do not give you such a build, because that would eliminate the need for any further progression.

You're serious aren't you?

#4 Cronos988

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Posted 03 December 2012 - 03:41 PM

View PostSword Hammer Axe, on 03 December 2012 - 11:26 AM, said:

Good point, though I don't agree with you.

Most MMOs are designed with an intention of replayability. You may call it grind, or at least in some cases, but fact is that farming/alts/replaying for fun, makes people redo much of the content willingly, and most actually like that to some extent. Just look at rare drops for instance: These items have only a small chance to drop, sometimes even from only a certain sort of mob, meaning chances are you won't get this item on your first try. You can buy it of course, but mostly the market of the MMO in question have this item in high regard, making it rather pricy, which again means that you won't get enough money for it on just one playthrough. Even if you do every dungeon or kill every boss once, you probably won't get that item. What I'm saying with this would be that even if people don't know what's coming up the first time, they'll know about it the second, and chances are there'll be a second.

Another point would be strategies. True, not all people like to strategize before doing some content, but there are often people who likes to plan out their characters or the run of that hard content they're about to enter, meaning they'll find guides or experienced players to team up with who can have an idea about the utility skills needed, setting you up right before ever trying the content.

Though I do somewhat agree with you that games like Diablo 2 had a certain sensation with the vertical progress. Even though Guild Wars 2 have a bit of it, it's mostly horisontal progression, which can make you miss out on that good feeling of gaining a level. Sure, we have the traits and skill points, but they only give you a minor sense of accomplishment. It'd be much cooler, imo, if you couldn't get some of the skills until a certain level, but that sort of progress kind of stops at level 30 where elites are unlocked.

Well, I agree, you might have a number of different builds for different situations, like a special build for a dungeon with many ranged characters. However, that is not unique to horizontal progression. Vertical progression will usually also have you use different skills for different encounters.

What puts me off the system is that while it is supposed to give me more flexibility by allowing me to freely switch between skills, it really just narrows down my abilities to specialize.

Sure I can switch out abilities between fights, but I usually wont unless I have a very special encounter coming up. Even if I do switch builds, there are certain rules they must conform to: I have to make sure I have healing, stat removal escape mechanisms etc. And when I am just exploring the world, I usually simply take my cookie cutter build. Sure I could equip specialized skills, but the chance that I come across a mob that will require them is pretty low. Some skills might be worth it if I could specialize in them, but as it stand just being ever so slightly below the versatility of another skill makes a skill completely useless (unless there is a special trait for it, but there aren't a lot of those, either).

It seems to come down to just having different characters in one: One for normal play, one for bosses, one for larger groups. It just lacks the feeling of playing one character, the character you have build by choosing your skills in a certain way.

#5 Serris

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:21 AM

View PostCronos988, on 03 December 2012 - 10:48 AM, said:

There are currently 2 main Systems for Skill progression in MMO- or Action-RPGs the "vertical" and the "horizontal" progression:

In the "vertical" progression you have unlimited skill slots, but in order to make skills usefull you need to invest a limited ressource in them, mostly skill points.

In the "horizontal" Progression you can generally get every skill (or almost every skill) and they will always be at maximum effectiveness. However, you can only use a limited number of skills due to limited slots.

In the past, most RPGs would use a horizontal progression, where higher level and better gear where what mattered to make skills powerfull. This has worked incredibly well in say DIablo 2 or WoW.

Nowadays, horizontal progression seems to be the new trend, with DIablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 for example going for this system. The idea seems to be that this reduced the need for any "grinding" to get good skills and instead focuses on the players ability to select and correctly use the skills. To this end, the skills are usually significantly less powerfull individually than in a vertical progression and have to be combined for good effect.

While a "vertical" progression works by the player deciding for a build that, in his opinion, can master all the situations he wants to get involved in, and then sticking to it, a "horizontal" progression works by the player deciding what build is best for the next task.

Technically, this should give players flexibility to play however they want. However, I feel like that idea is somewhat flawed: It assumes that during normal play of an MMORPG, Players will know what situation is coming up ahead, and prepare their skills accordingly. But that implies that you already know what you are facing, which usually only happens when you grind the same encounter numerous times or when you are playing PVP.

During levelling, you cannot really switch skills based on encounters, because you are already IN the encounter when it happens. So you need to select a skill build that gives you maximum flexibility. However, horizontal progression systems usually do not give you such a build, because that would eliminate the need for any further progression.

The result is a feeling that none of your skills are really "good" for what you are doing, which seems to be voiced by quite a lot of players regarding Utility spells. Personally, I miss the feeling of looking forward to that one spell that would drastically change my game e.g. in Diablo 2.

In PVP, Vertical progression systems can be designed to require player ablity (Just look at MOBA games, most have very traditional, although short, vertical progressions), and hence horizontal progression looses a major selling point.

tl:dr: I think that the Idea of swapable Utility spells instead of a more traditional skill point system does not work well for MMORPGs without a complete PVP focus, i.e. with a traditional PVE leveling system. Horizontal Progression only works well in games without a level system or some kind of non-traditional system. Since Guild Wars 2 already uses a different form of Character for PVP anyways, why not combine a vertical PVE progression with a horizontal PVP one?

you've got it pretty much completely wrong.
vertical and horizontal progression is about your character getting stronger.
vertical means your stats keep going up and up (like in wow, where every raid tier is better then the last).
horizontal means you diversify your options. like in wow the horizontal progression is a DPS palading gathering tanking or healing gear, so he has multiple sets.

gw2 was meant as a horizontal progression, where you gather gear to support different playstyles.

#6 farkov47

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 09:36 AM

still wondered what would happen if the game has like ... one or two more utility slots...
would it make some classes overpowered?
think about it.

in WoW, there's no limit to how many skills you can activate. maybe some are skill tree specific.. but there's more than 20 skills to choose from.

in GW2 - yes, pre-fight - you can pick from a pool of 20+ utility, but once the fight starts, you're limited to 10-20 moves you've selected.
that's the major difference between the two games.

#7 Cronos988

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 03:56 PM

View PostSerris, on 04 December 2012 - 09:21 AM, said:

you've got it pretty much completely wrong.
vertical and horizontal progression is about your character getting stronger.
vertical means your stats keep going up and up (like in wow, where every raid tier is better then the last).
horizontal means you diversify your options. like in wow the horizontal progression is a DPS palading gathering tanking or healing gear, so he has multiple sets.

gw2 was meant as a horizontal progression, where you gather gear to support different playstyles.

I am confused, I thought this is exactly what I wrote.

Vertical progression makes you stronger.
Horizontal progression gives you options.

in GW 2, getting a new skill is horizontal progression, while getting a new skill slot is both horizontal and vertical progression.
since you get far more skills than skill slots, the progression is mainly horizontal.

But despite how everyone states purely horizontal progression is the best, I feel that just giving me more option is not enhancing my gameplay. With the focus on exploration and quick events/quests in normal lvl 1-79 PVE, I feel that there is only a handfull of viable skills for any one Weapon/Trait combination and the only real choice I have lies in what trait build to run.

It seems to me that the idea to add more variety via swapable spells does not work so well.

#8 jirayasan

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 04:28 PM

No, add more weapon skills and utility skills and traits. Let us play in more different ways.

#9 EinarT

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 04:39 PM

View Postjirayasan, on 04 December 2012 - 04:28 PM, said:

No, add more weapon skills and utility skills and traits. Let us play in more different ways.

Adding more weapon skills, in the way you can with utility skills, would be nice to change things up a bit, in my opinion. Seeing weapon skills are the ones that get the most repetitive.

#10 Juanele

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 05:01 PM

View Postjirayasan, on 04 December 2012 - 04:28 PM, said:

No, add more weapon skills and utility skills and traits. Let us play in more different ways.

Indeed. I think the combat is great but I wish it had the customization that GW1 had. If someone makes a bad build, so what. There is too much hand holding as it is.

#11 Asudementio

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:41 PM

I think skill capture signets bought with skill points would be awesome in GW2, you'd capture an alternate skill for the weapon you are wielding at the time. These skills would be added to a pool then you could make up to 3 weapon template of 5 skills a piece (3 for mainhands and 2 for offhands ) that could be selected as one of our 2 weapon swap bars.

#12 Gruunz

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 06:42 PM

I'm sorry, I got puzzled after the first few sentences. What game has "unlimited skill slots" most if not all have set amount of skills and slots to place the skill in. I've never heard of a game that has 99 skills and 99 slots for different skills. How would someone be even able to play that?

View PostCronos988, on 03 December 2012 - 10:48 AM, said:

There are currently 2 main Systems for Skill progression in MMO- or Action-RPGs the "vertical" and the "horizontal" progression:

In the "vertical" progression you have unlimited skill slots, but in order to make skills usefull you need


#13 Serris

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:03 AM

View PostCronos988, on 04 December 2012 - 03:56 PM, said:

I am confused, I thought this is exactly what I wrote.

Vertical progression makes you stronger.
Horizontal progression gives you options.

in GW 2, getting a new skill is horizontal progression, while getting a new skill slot is both horizontal and vertical progression.
since you get far more skills than skill slots, the progression is mainly horizontal.

But despite how everyone states purely horizontal progression is the best, I feel that just giving me more option is not enhancing my gameplay. With the focus on exploration and quick events/quests in normal lvl 1-79 PVE, I feel that there is only a handfull of viable skills for any one Weapon/Trait combination and the only real choice I have lies in what trait build to run.

It seems to me that the idea to add more variety via swapable spells does not work so well.

okay, my apologies, i was thrown off by:
"In the past, most RPGs would use a horizontal progression, where higher level and better gear where what mattered to make skills powerfull. This has worked incredibly well in say DIablo 2 or WoW."
i read that as exactly the opposite of what you were saying.

the problem with the horizontal progression in gw2 is that there aren't that many spells available to you. in gw1 you had hundreds of spells available. some of these were exact copies of one another. and you needed skill points for these, which you got by levelling. now it's possible to unlock most of your skills by 80 (i have not unlocked my racials, but all others are unlocked). at 80 all your traits are unlocked.
so yeah, you're right. horizontal progression isn't working in gw2 because there's not much to progress beyond gear (which makes a lot less impact than traits and skills).

#14 Cronos988

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 09:19 AM

View PostGruunz, on 04 December 2012 - 06:42 PM, said:

I'm sorry, I got puzzled after the first few sentences. What game has "unlimited skill slots" most if not all have set amount of skills and slots to place the skill in. I've never heard of a game that has 99 skills and 99 slots for different skills. How would someone be even able to play that?

I think WOW has pretty much unlimited skill slots, or at least more than you can use anyways. People have hotbars all over their screen.
Diablo 2 also had unlimited skill slots, as in you could use every skill you had, but you could not put all of the on skill slots. In any event, the premise is that skill slots are not the limiting factor.

Serris said:

okay, my apologies, i was thrown off by:
"In the past, most RPGs would use a horizontal progression, where higher level and better gear where what mattered to make skills powerfull. This has worked incredibly well in say DIablo 2 or WoW."
i read that as exactly the opposite of what you were saying.

Oh, my bad. Thanks for pointing that out, fixed now.

Serris said:

the problem with the horizontal progression in gw2 is that there aren't that many spells available to you. in gw1 you had hundreds of spells available. some of these were exact copies of one another. and you needed skill points for these, which you got by levelling. now it's possible to unlock most of your skills by 80 (i have not unlocked my racials, but all others are unlocked). at 80 all your traits are unlocked.
so yeah, you're right. horizontal progression isn't working in gw2 because there's not much to progress beyond gear (which makes a lot less impact than traits and skills).

You make a valid point. But I think the feeling of not having a lot of choice does not stem from not having enough different skills. Even if there were more skills, I would still only have 4 skill slots. Many skills I will never use, which means that while I do have more options, I do not necessarily have more choice. If I need to decide on skills based on my weapon and trait choice, I don't need the ability to swap skills. It would enhance my gameplay far more to be able to switch complete builds.

All in all, while I think it's a good idea to try different systems, linking completely different forms of progression (purely vertical level progression, mostly vertical gear progression, about 50/50 Trait progression, mostly horizontal utility progression) together has a disjointed feel to me.

Edited by Cronos988, 05 December 2012 - 09:21 AM.





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