Reading a thread on Reddit about skill-based character progression system design set my imagination wandering in a slightly tangential direction. What about tying character development or skill acquisition to the virtual world of the game? What about, for instance, if you could only learn specific spells at certain wizard colleges or from the spell’s creator? Certainly earlier Elder Scrolls games had this style of system (not the MMO though).
Maybe take that to a broader context beyond spell recipes. Different martial skills could equally be tied to certain cultures or master trainers that you have to go find. What if you have to do them a favour or prove your worth before you can learn that new skill? Guild Wars 2 had a hint of this with the skill point system. Some were simple “click on the glowy light” affairs but others required you to fight a champion or trainer to prove you were worthy of the skill point reward. A very simplistic idea but one that could be fleshed out into something more varied and robust – where you receive a specific skill instead of just a skill point.
Stepping away from combat-oriented spells or skills there’s other examples of this kind of learn by finding/exploring. Back in early World of Warcraft if you had engineering as a profession you always wanted to run the Black Rock Depths dungeon to grab the schematic for making the ever useful Repair Bot.
I suppose one reason why this idea might be less common or never fully realised in MMORPGs is the overwhelming deluge of wiki sites and databases that give detailed locations and instructions for finding every last item or NPC that you might need. So exploration doesn’t really come into it anymore unless you shut the browser and play in self-imposed “ignorance mode”. Even before such sites became popular it was difficult to avoid spoilers – if the self-same WoW engineering character ran dungeons and responded to a request for a repairbot with “I don’t know that recipe”; it’s likely they would be told “go run BRD”. But maybe the wonder of randomly finding such items, NPCs or skills is only one side to this – the other side is to give meaning to character development beyond selecting bland, yet balanced, talents or skill options as characters grow in power. It would link character development with your character’s journey and actions.
Do any modern MMORPGs do this?