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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Joystiq - Why skills are in, attributes are out

Default Joystiq - Why skills are in, attributes are out

May 1st, 2012, 03:09
Joystiq's Rowan Kaiser looks at the shift in modern RPGs that have embraced Skills to the exclusion of Attributes:
The importance of attributes comes directly from the computer RPG's origin as a representation of tabletop RPG combat systems. Wizardry, the game which really kicked off the genre, was mostly Dungeons & Dragons with the serial numbers filed off. By the late 1980s, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons games officially translated the tabletop rulesets to the screen. Creating a character was known as "rolling" because you threw the dice to discover his or her inherent Strength, Agility, Charisma, etc. In D&D, those statistics were largely permanent, defining the character through the entire game or campaign. Some video games, like Ultima, took advantage of the malleability of the medium to allow attribute increases. But apart from spells, attributes tended to be the bulk of character customization in terms of mechanics.
But computers and consoles can process information faster than a dungeon master with a set of dice, so more complicated statistics were introduced. Wizardry VI and Wizardry VII introduced a complex system, balancing permanent character race with dynamic class and attributes, using dozens of different skills as the primary mechanism for character progression. Other games in the early 1990s followed suit: Betrayal At Krondor made skills far more prominent than attributes (which only included Speed and Strength anyway). The Elder Scrolls: Arena, first in that series, used both skills and attributes.
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May 1st, 2012, 03:09
I don't need to read the article to know the answer to that question.
Early RPGs were designed for geeks… Modern RPGs are designed for dimwits.
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May 1st, 2012, 03:17
If you think about it a little, attributes are just bundles of skills that use a similar physical quality. They are a convenience for minimizing the number of stats you need to describe a character. Splitting out the attributes into a multitude of skills gives you more flexibility in building your character, but at a cost in added complexity. Skill trees are an alternative approach, but really they serve a similar purpose as abilities.
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May 1st, 2012, 04:59
Yeah attributes and skills aren't really all that different. In one game you might have a constitution attribute that raises your hp. In another game you might have a toughness skill that does the same thing. In one game you might have a strength attribute for damage, and in another game a sword mastery skill might have the same effect.

I generally found the early attribute based games to be far more simplistic. If you were a fighter you put your points in strength. If you were a mage you put them into intelligence. It wasn't exactly rocket science and you generally had 0 customization options beyond that.
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May 1st, 2012, 05:17
Originally Posted by fadedc View Post
Yeah attributes and skills aren't really all that different. In one game you might have a constitution attribute that raises your hp. In another game you might have a toughness skill that does the same thing. In one game you might have a strength attribute for damage, and in another game a sword mastery skill might have the same effect.

I generally found the early attribute based games to be far more simplistic. If you were a fighter you put your points in strength. If you were a mage you put them into intelligence. It wasn't exactly rocket science and you generally had 0 customization options beyond that.
Do give examples.
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May 1st, 2012, 05:32
Originally Posted by fadedc View Post
I generally found the early attribute based games to be far more simplistic.
I take it that you've never played the Realms of Arkania series.
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May 1st, 2012, 06:14
Actually only very few games had just attributes and most had multiple parts like skills, abilities, ect. along with attributes. It has been a while since I played Realms of Arkania but I think it had 3 parts that made up the character build.

PS. I think most of the games that only had attributes were either very early rpgs or console rpgs.
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May 1st, 2012, 06:46
Yes, Realms of Arkania had skills and attributes… but simple, it was not…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kytI…eature=related
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May 1st, 2012, 07:11
Realms of Arkania was not an attribute based game. It did have attributes, but the primary method of customizing your character was through skills. For it's time it had a pretty advanced skill system, although it didn't always do a good job of integrating them into the game.

Games like the wizardry series, and the infinity engine games (ie Baldur's Gate, Planescape, Icewind Dale) were far more attribute based. Although some later versions of both did start to add some minor skills. Then of course there was Ultima, Bard's Tale, Might and Magic, the Gold Box series such as Pool of Radiance. There were some games that used skills during this time, but for the most part it was the era of stats and classes as being the only customizable character features.

Originally Posted by Vindicator View Post
I take it that you've never played the Realms of Arkania series.
Last edited by fadedc; May 1st, 2012 at 07:30.
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May 1st, 2012, 07:56
Originally Posted by fadedc View Post
Realms of Arkania was not an attribute based game. It did have attributes, but the primary method of customizing your character was through skills.
While customisation can really only be done with skills a character with high relevant attributes and a lower skill value normally has a far better chance than someone with high skill and low attribute as every time you use a skill it rolls against 3 attributes and modifies each roll that fails using the available skill value.

In the end game it actually becomes just as easy by attributes/spells/magic items due to the difficulty of making the success skill increase rolls. I found that one of the most frustrating parts of the game once a skill gets to around 10 and it becomes less than 50% chance of making the increase. It is certainly no fun when your main fighter fails his main combat skill increase roll 3 levels in a row. Meanwhile attribute rolls always succeed.

Favourite RPGs of all time: Wizardry 6, Ultima 7/7.2, Fallout2, Planescape Torment, Baldurs Gate 2+TOB, Jagged Alliance 2, Ravenloft: The stone prophet, Gothic 2, Realms of Arkania:Blade of destiny (not the HD version!!) and Secret of the Silver Blades.
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May 1st, 2012, 10:10
while not every game adhered to this premise, the basic conceptual difference of attributes is that they define your character's potential - they were fixed numbers or followed a preset progression. modern systems allow more flexibility, tho they scrap the old ideas of storytelling through numbers. i used to do weird stuff like imagine a klutz who wanted to be a great thief etc. i remember the old ways fondly, and would still enjoy them, but think it generally makes more sense to assume that we are playing games, not engaging in character simulations, and so the respec-able and attributeless, classless systems make sense (while often reducing replayability).
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May 1st, 2012, 13:06
I'll tell you what though. I hate that RPGs nowadays changed 'character creation' systems to just appearance. So basically you always start the game as 'Joe the schmuck'. One of the things I enjoyed a lot in old games was creating my character(s), and that meant initial stats, skills, spells, etc.
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May 1st, 2012, 18:33
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
I'll tell you what though. I hate that RPGs nowadays changed 'character creation' systems to just appearance. So basically you always start the game as 'Joe the schmuck'. One of the things I enjoyed a lot in old games was creating my character(s), and that meant initial stats, skills, spells, etc.
I completely agree. Presumably the trade off is an enhanced game experience since they don't have to balance it for a multitude of character types. But a big drawback is a significant reduction in the replay value.
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May 1st, 2012, 20:02
Originally Posted by Vindicator View Post
I don't need to read the article to know the answer to that question.
Early RPGs were designed for geeks… Modern RPGs are designed for dimwits.
Geekiest avatar ever. Congratulations, Johhny Sokko

'nut
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May 1st, 2012, 20:32
Originally Posted by wolfing View Post
I'll tell you what though. I hate that RPGs nowadays changed 'character creation' systems to just appearance. So basically you always start the game as 'Joe the schmuck'. One of the things I enjoyed a lot in old games was creating my character(s), and that meant initial stats, skills, spells, etc.
Too many people whined about being forced to make decisions that they didn't necessarily understand the repercussions of until it was too late. Me, I like experimenting with different character builds. I think we've given up a lot in the quest for lowering "player frustration".
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May 2nd, 2012, 00:17
Originally Posted by crpgnut View Post
Geekiest avatar ever. Congratulations, Johhny Sokko
Yeah, I always liked robots… Speaking of which, why hasn't there been an rpg with robots?
You could customize your robot using spare parts from those you slay, upgrading the transport, weapons, armor, shields, sensors, cpu, etc.
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May 2nd, 2012, 00:47
Originally Posted by Vindicator View Post
Yeah, I always liked robots… Speaking of which, why hasn't there been an rpg with robots?
You could customize your robot using spare parts from those you slay, upgrading the transport, weapons, armor, shields, sensors, cpu, etc.
There are, but you have to play them in a PS2 (I specially liked the Front Mission games, except the last one they made for the PS3 which basically made it an action game)
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