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 TreeΒ  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!

  26 Responses to “NEStalgia Skill Tree Details Extravaganza – Part 1”

  1. Very nice πŸ™‚ Though am perhaps slightly worried by the 40k cost for reset initially. Perhaps this could be lowered initially whilst we all get to grips and then gradually be raised as more player base knowledge exists?

    • Yeah, giving players one free or discounted respec is something I’m going to explore during testing.

      I honestly can’t believe that I’ve reached the point where I’m allowing unlimited respecs at all, much less dual specs. I grew up playing Diablo 2 where if real men needed to respec they just rolled an entirely new character πŸ˜‰

      • Meh, I headed back to Classic HC after xpac came out from all the cheese cookie cutter stuff :p

        Just think that given we want a nice mix (and hopefully avoiding said cookie cutter builds) as much early experimentation as possible can be no bad thing.

        Perhaps maybe have a sort of milestone system where people earn one free respec at levels 22, 27, and 32? if botch it up after 4 attempts can happily withhold sympathy from you πŸ™‚

        • ^I like that idea. Saves the newbies some trouble. And of course, this sort of thing should not be able to be saved. I do think it would be better as a level 10, 20, and 30 thing, though; 10 for the first start of being able to be pvped, 20 for the level 20 tournament phase, and 30+ for the final levels. Perhaps when levels get extended, the next respec choice to be given at 40…

          Example: at level 22, Choose not to respec. level 32 comes around, you still only get ONE offer to respec.

  2. Looks promising! I would really like to see the Soldier’s skill tree.

  3. A little nervous about the change, but overall excited! I especially like the wizard specialization! I just hope this means each element will have a use in some way and none being the ultimate of all ocassions.

    • Oops, just saw the screenshot where the Ice specialty, “Freeze” can have a small chance to cause slow status. AWESOME! Sounds like Nasca’s topic about wizard elements and specialties MIGHT have helped (or damn near coincidental).

  4. Much better looking then the first pics of the trees, cant wait.

  5. I’m sure everything will be great. I can’t wait for the update!

  6. I also have fond memories of the “Make a new character if you want a different spec” days but that model seems really outdated now.

    I love the skill trees; but (and I know I’m just echoing other posters) I’m afraid that the extreme cost necessary to respec will lead players away from open experimentation on the live servers. As much as I hate to use WoW as an example I think they did a good thing with having early respecs be very cheap and having the price rise the more and more you reset your points.

    The skill trees support a lot of variety in what you can spec yourself for. But I’m concerned that chunks of trees won’t see any use if experimentation is too expensive and players will want to play it safe. Players will quickly develop cookie-cutter builds, and the heart of having character development choices will be undermined as every Soldier who wants to PVE will take X/Y/Z numbers of points in the exact same places because that’s what the popular thing to do is.

    You see this kind of behavior in any game with skill trees. But I do think it’s nice to have an environment in which players feel they can play with rogue specs without feeling they’re bleeding money just for going off the most popular development paths.

    • I disagree. I think that something has been lost in modern RPGs that make respeccing your character about as painless as equipping a different piece of armor. Progression through a talent tree loses a lot of its impact if you know that you can simply start over anytime and essentially have a completely different build on a whim.

      If every player was constantly respeccing, then I figure that I might as well not add skill trees in the first place. If every class can swap to any build at a moment’s notice without a penalty, then everyone who plays that class is essentially identical anyway.

      Dual Specs are slightly different, which is why I decided to add that option. A dual spec swapping system simply makes things things more convenient for hardcore players who would probably end up leveling a second character of the same class anyway just in order to have fast access to a different build.

      To address your concerns about experimentation: I think that NEStalgia’s current Stat Seed setup demonstrates how a 40,000 gold fee probably won’t be much of a deterrent for those wanting to play around with unique builds. Swapping out stat seeds right now is a time consuming and costly pain in the ass, but a lot of players do it on a regular basis to experiment with new setups.

      I can see the value in making respecs a bit less costly for lower level players (or having the first respec be discounted), but apart from that I’d like to see how things play out before making any changes.

      • I understand that stance. And while I agree that you don’t want to trivialize choice by allowing said choices to be easily undone; you do want to enable actual choice making.

        The reason the 40k is scary to me isn’t because I’m burning 40k gold to try out a new build. It’s because if I decide I don’t like it and want to return to my old one I’m out 80k with nothing gained other than the knowledge that Putting Points Into X Isn’t For Me.

        I appreciate the notion of allowing lower level players to respec more cheaply or allowing the first one to be cheaper. And I totally understand the idea of waiting to see how it plays out before anything related to cost is adjusted.

        What I hate to see is new players going “What’s the best skill tree build for Cleric?” and be answered by three different people with the exact same build without any sort of thought or actual choice making happening. You are right that the hardcore people in the community will experiment. And probably would regardless of what the cost or time investment to do so ends up being.

        I guess what I’d like to see in the future is enough discussion about specific ways to invest in said skill trees to warrant class specific forums and open debate about how to spec any given class. Rather than just staple builds after two weeks of said skill trees being in the game. But perhaps it’s a bit silly to speculate too hard about how the community as a whole will react to the trees at this point.

        Also; the dual spec thing is a really pleasant surprise and I am glad you guys decided to go that way. This was a pretty hugely exciting blog post and I can’t wait to see the second part.

  7. Not to sound like a douche but 40k is a little harsh for a respec, I’ve been knowing to rage quit games for good by making mistakes in things like this. I can totally see me trying a strange spec, then suddenly be faced with the fact that I’ll have hours and hours of fruitless grinding to put things right. I just don’t have time for things like that anymore.

    I’ll never have the patience for that when I come to that kind of realization, and will more then likely quit. You want to be nostalgic of games, but old nes games never had skill tree’s or were that punishing of a mistake with the equivalent of HOURS AND HOURS of gold grinding. You use diablo 2 as a point, but I’ll also point out world of warcraft where you start off paying more and more gold every time you respec with the freedom of 2 talent tree’s and look at how well people respond to that freedom. Heck, rift you can have 5 and change them any time you want. You just have to pay out your ass to have that option.

    If you want to be more modern with talent tree’s in your game, I don’t understand why you want it to cost players so much to change.

    • Like I said, I don’t agree with a lot of those respeccing design decisions in recent RPGs. I’m not opposed to following design trends when I feel like they’ll improve the game (hence the Dual Spec option), but I’m also not afraid to buck those trends when I believe that I have a better way of handling things.

      When it comes to WoW I personally believe that although it has improved in many ways over the years, it has also been really dumbed down on some very basic levels and is a much less enjoyable game for it. Reducing the level of challenge and designing almost everything to ensure instant gratification has seriously diminished the experience. In other words, I think that when they took some of the “work” out of playing WoW, they took a lot of the fun with it.

      A large part of NEStalgia’s appeal is the fact that it doesn’t hold players’ hands like a lot of modern games do. Having seen how much gold the average player has (and earns on a regular basis), I think that 40k for a respec is a good starting point. If that doesn’t work out then I’m always open to changing things, but right now I’m firm on that number.

  8. Everyone is worried about the cost to reset the trees it seems.

    Oh and I hope you added in something that says ” Are you sure you want to add this point to this skill?” because if not then I hope you do because I always misclick the wrong skills in other games haha.

  9. Hmmm all this sounds good, and to all the people who are worried about the 40k respec just do like i am planning. Just wait until the new content and pokemon updates to do your respecing, by then other players will have tested out the trees and have found the ideal builds and you will be able to emulate it in some way, i mean you really dont need to do your respecing till then anyways, unless you are still running bs and leveling alts, which then i say thank you for testing out the skill tree builds for my characters :).

    • I don’t know why you want to copy everyone else. The whole point of the skill trees was so you could have more customization to how YOU like to play wasn’t it? Maybe that’s just how I saw it. But I guess if following everyone else is how you like to play go for it.

      • Ehh, the point may have been for more customization, but honestly we had that before, heck you could play as a str cj if you really wanted to. My point is that their will be builds that rise to the top just like always and for the most part will be the most viable. I will use those builds because i prefer being useful to groupings and like to have a chance at winning tournies. In the end Josh if u want to make a character that no one else uses, kudos to you, but don’t be upset that other people optimize the builds.

        • This is one thing I hate with skill trees. After awhile people tend to feel pressured to go to this build or that because everyone thinks a certain build is the so called best. All I really play is my soldier and I like being able to hit as big as I can. Are other soldiers going have similar builds? Ya most likely.

          Im not a pvp master but if everyone is using the almost exact same builds like you say, then I’m going to have fun crushing every single one of you :P. Pvp builds im hoping to see a whole bunch of creativity and not copying each other.

          But hey am I going to have a different build just because I want to be different? Nope it’s because I think my build is fun and it’s how I want to play not how everyone else thinks I should play.

  10. I find it rather silly for people to worry about the costs of re-specs. Most people run around with well over 100,000 gold in their vaults and can farm gold with ease just by running outside of Ardan. Another thing to consider is the ammount of grinding everyone is going to be doing just to level their monster companions which is going to lead to even more gold, lets not forget that after those updates new contents will be around the corner. Who knows how much more gold monsters will drop then ?

    Just play the game and be happy.

  11. Might be just me, but I am (And always have been) against total and unlimited respecs. All it does it make everyone the same based on what is the ‘flavor of the week’ for that class.

    Don’t have a lot of time to review, but I definitely like this news. It sounds like it’ll be epic.

  12. Ok, I have more time so I am going to make a more detailed response. I like a lot of what I saw here, it’s good news, and I love the Dual Spec idea.

    That said, I already displayed my displeasure on the respeccing issue, and this is why. As a Wizard, what is the best to take to get out of the low levels, what about the mid levels? And once the level cap rises, what will the next thing be? Starting out it is fire, current end game is ice, and once the cap rises, it will be storm. If you wanted to have a badass end game wizard, you needed to suffer through being a bit lack luster at the start. The addition of the Scrolls ended that, and it actually annoyed me. It’s the concept of getting everything you want at all times that just infuriates me. People say the cost is too high, I say it’s too low. If you want to respec your character, I want it to hurt even the richest of us. 100K to respec your character. I mean, we are letting you completely rebuild your character from level 1. In a game like NEStalgia where some people gimped themselves from level one just to be good at 32, I think it’s a fair price to pay. People say expensive respecs will cause cookie cutter problems, keep them like they are and instead you’ll see:

    Take X build until level 14, then respec into Y build. At level 22 take Z build and then go all the way to cap when you will go to ZZ build.

    EDIT: I would like to suggest one last thing. In a MMO I played (Champions Online) you were provided with a place to test out your new powers before they became ‘set’. I think it’ll be cool to have a room like that, where you can fight monsters for no EXP/Gold, but to try out your build before purchased points become ‘locked’.

  13. Talent Trees in an of themselves will Always become cookie cutter builds from other players, no matter how you try to handle it. Someone will experiment and theory craft, or just plain do a little math, while building specs. Once they find the “Perfect Build” they’ll tell Joe Blow over here to try out his “Awesome Spec”. Joey tries it out, likes it, tells his friends, and the cycle continues until every Ranger is using the exact same Talent Build.

    I personally enjoy the Idea of a “Talent Pool” Where players are given a pool of talents to choose from up to a certain level. No spec differentials, just an assortment of Random Talents that a player can use. Basically like Tree Mixing. More Talent Pools open up when the player reaches a certain level. A Soldier can look at the pool and choose only talents that do a ton of damage. Or one can use a build that is based on protection an armor. Or a combination of the two. Yes, of course there will always be a “Perfect Build” that someone comes out with, but players who don’t like the “Kill it as fast as I can” routine can opt and change it more easily than when they’re stuck inside of a specific Talent Tree. Players can honestly mix it to how they like it more readily.

    Of course in a Talent Pool like this, you can always have Higher Tier Talents require you to have one or more points in a Lower Tier Talent. Or being able to even place Points in a Higher Level Build requires you to have 5 or so points in the previous Tier.

    Just an Idea to throw out there.

  14. I believe this is an amazing change. Though I’ve only played a short time, the old roleplaying feel is definitely being captured here.

    I dislike the amount of negativity for the idea and the amount of “Well in World of Warcraft respeccing” comments, however. I think most of you guys are missing the purpose here. This isn’t supposed to be a modern MMORPG. It’s supposed to be taking some of the modern influence and putting it into an 8-bit inspired game.

    By saying, “respeccing should let you experiment”, and what have you, you are essentially saying you should just be playing World of Warcraft. And that door is of course always open. But don’t try to make this game a WoW clone just because you don’t want to spend the gold to fix your own mistakes. Respeccing shouldn’t be allowed at all – But he’s giving it to us. Respeccing I believe is a modern creation – developed to cater to casual gamers who do nothing but complain.

    The talent pool idea above is just a talent tree… In a pool. πŸ˜€