I’m away and not thinking about gaming that much, but as we have been spending time on outdoor activities, I’ve thought a bit about what would be called lifeskills in some MMORPGs (e.g Black Desert Online).

That’s not to say I’m busy at the pottery corner crafting items, but rather wandering around a forest, or swimming in the aquatic centre, has me practicing things that would be skills in a pen and paper rpg, yet that are largely absent in the online gaming equivalent.

After searching for semi-tame deer in the forest to photograph them, I tried to think of any MMO tracking skill examples. Recently we’ve done a mission in Secret World in Kaiden where you follow emotional tracks, but that’s a special one-off mission skill, not something characters can develop as a player choice.

Likewise swimming is only an actual character skill in a few old-school games. In Dungeons and Dragons Online it drastically affects your character’s ability to hold their breath underwater. Everquest 2 has a swim skill too that levels as you swim about, but my main characters have abilities or items to avoid the tyranny of the breath meter, so I’m not sure if that skill actually means much?

In pen and paper rpgs, it’s usually possible to develop your character in lifeskills like this. Are there other good examples of character skills in MMOs that are not specifically combat or crafting related?

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5 Responses to Lifeskills

  1. bhagpuss says:

    Original EQ had the infamous Sense Heading skill, which very, very slowly improved to give your character a compass that worked. In a game that had no maps, knowing whether you were heading north or south was a significant advantage. LIke all skills in EQ at the time it only improved with use, so rather than keep pressing the hot key thousands of times people would bind Sense Heading to their forward movement key, meaning it had a chance to improve whenever you travelled. It still took weeks to get it to a usable state.

    Sense Heading was eventually replaced by a spell/ability called True North, which you could cast to make your character face in that direction. By then, though, there were in-game maps too and a compass that worked. I may have the chronology wrong…

    Forage was another skill that incremented on use. You would find more or better things the higher the skill went. Again, people would bind it to movement although I found that having berries appear spontaneously on my mouse pointer as I travelled was too irritating to deal with.

    EQ has a Tracking skill but oddly it works in a completely different way – you just get an infallible list of everything in the area and the skill isn’t one that can be improved. I can’t think thatI’ve ever seen an MMO with a proper tracking skill, where you look for prints or spoor. It seems like a strange omission.

    • Jeromai says:

      A Tale in the Desert has desert rat tracks for the Test of the Safari, but it’s not an incremented by numbers type of skill.

      The game literally plonks desert rat tracks somewhere in the desert and it’s up to the player to find them, figure out which way it’s going, follow the deliberately obtuse crisscrossing tracks until they reach the point where the tracks stop. That’s where the player is supposed to place a trap, and if they got it right, the rat is caught. Otherwise it makes more tracks and continues to silently taunt you until it despawns.

  2. Non-combat skills like this are something I like in theory, but in practice they always seem to turn into tedious grinds for underwhelming rewards. I’m not saying it can’t work, but I think devs need to go back to the drawing board on how to implement them.

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