Aug 082011

For the past few months I’ve been intentionally vague about Skill Tree specifics. The information filter is partially due to the fact that with an update as big as this many of the specifics don’t get worked out until it’s actually close to completion, but also because some players tend to take tidbits of information about sweeping changes and freak out unless they have the whole picture.

Today I’d like to show you the whole picture. Or most of it. This is part one of a two part blog series that should give you a much better idea of what to expect from the forthcoming v1.52 update. The best way to present all of this information is in Q&A form, and if you have additional questions after reading this post then feel free to ask them in the comments section.

All screenshots of class skill trees displayed in this post are subject to change during testing. Without further ado:

What are NEStalgia skill trees?

Skill Trees are just NEStalgia’s take on the way that most modern MMOs and RPGs handle character talent customization. The best way to sum up our approach is to skill trees is to think of the system as the 8-bit child of Mass Effect (or KOTOR) and Diablo 2. Progression through the skill trees is very simple and easy to understand, yet offers each class a wide variety of new customization options.

All of you are familiar with NEStalgia’s current talent system: Moon Blessings and Milestone Boosts. The new skill trees will simply take the amount of customization to the next level, and add a heck of a lot more variety to the classes and the gameplay itself.

Why implement skill trees?

As time has progressed, we’ve come to realize that the greater a player’s ability to customize their character, the more enjoyable and re-playable the game is. There is a tipping point, however, and many games cross the line into being overly complex and too intimidating for first time players. If you haven’t noticed by now, I have an almost Steve Jobs-like obsession with keeping things simple… but I’m always open to adding new layers of complexity when necessary.

My objective with the skill tree system was to make it easy to use while simultaneously giving it a lot of depth… and I feel that I’ve accomplished that. The answer to the question “Do skill trees make sense in an 8-bit inspired game” is a resounding yes.

How do skill trees work?

Players earn Skill Points by leveling up, which are then spent to purchase individual skills within their Skill Tree¬† HUD. Each classes’ skill tree set is spread out across three pages. The Foundation Tree is basically the same for each class, but the first two pages vary wildly between classes. You progress through the trees by investing points from left to right. The down arrows allow you to move a step lower and begin spending points in connected branches, although certain branches also have a minimum level requirement.

In addition to passive bonus skills and stats, you can also learn new abilities (spells and special moves) in the skill trees. It’s important to note that each class still learns a limited set of abilities automatically as they level up. Clerics will always learn basic healing spells, and classes like Soldiers will always learn special moves such as Guard.

Can I reset my skill trees?

Yes, and you don’t have to be a subscriber either. There is a new Master at Arms NPC in both Balzackia and Ardan who will reset your skill trees and refund all of your skill points anytime… for a 40,000 gold fee.

This also comes packaged with a new subscribers only feature: the Master at Arms can store a second skill tree set, or Dual Spec for subscribers which can be accessed anytime. This means that you can fully invest your skill points two entirely different ways and swap between your specs with a quick visit to the Master at Arms.

So what about Sacred Scrolls of Invocation/Revision?

All existing Scrolls of Invocation and Revision obtained from Metal Slimes will automatically be converted into Sacred Scrolls of Conversion. These level 20 items allow players to switch to their stored Dual Spec anywhere in the world, instead of just by talking to the Master at Arms. Metal Slimes will continue to drop this new type of scroll.

What’s happening to Greater Moon Blessings?

Moon Blessings as you know them are out. They are no longer selected during character creation, and they no longer bestow stat bonuses. Instead, players can visit the existing Altar of the Moon to receive a one-time Moon Blessing, much like they do now with Greater Moon Blessings. A Moon Blessing still costs 100,000 gold, and now gives the player 4 additional skill points. Players who have already purchased Greater Moon Blessings will be credited as having purchase the new type of Moon Blessing.

Coming soon in Part 2:

What does the big rebalancing entail?

Will spell animations be included in v1.52?

What are Fire/Ice/Storm Enchants?

What changes are coming to Soldiers and Merchants?

When will v1.52 be released?

…So did this blog post provide you with the answers you’ve been craving, or did I pull a LOST on you and just raise more questions? Let me know!