Many games uses numerical values to indicate how good the characters or units controlled by players are. The Skill values can be used directly to determine success or failure or let players know the likelihood of success or failure before doing the actions associated with the skill values. Further, having certain levels in particular Skills can allow extra effects to occur when the action is performed.
Example: tabletop roleplaying system such as GURPS or d20 use skills as the primary way of showing how experienced a character is in a particular area.
Example: the Deus Ex series of computer games allows players to develop skill areas by acquiring implants.
Designing use of Skills in games depends on the type of game. Real-Time Games usually let the success or failure depend on how the player performed the action but let Skill levels affect the difficulty or allow Privileged Abilities linked to the action. Turn-Based Games make richer use of Skills, both regarding the evaluation functions used as well as the number of actions that are determined by Skill levels. Skill levels may be adjustable by players before gameplay to allow Handicaps to be set to achieve Player Balance.
Actions based on Skills can in Turn-Based Games either have dynamic or static evaluation. Static evaluation promotes Predictable Consequences but may ruin the Illusion of Influence if the value used in the evaluation functions is known. Dynamic evaluationusually contains some form of Randomness and thereby gives players the chance to have Luck, and can give players the Illusion of Influence through the use of Dice. Skills in Turn-Based Games can be further detailed by the introduction of prerequisites, specializations, maneuvers, and the process of basing skill levels on other skill levels.
The possibility to increase Skill levels instantiates Character Development (and Team Development) and can be done in several ways: the increase can be a Reward for completing a goal; Extended Actions in the form of Investment may have Skill increases as their main result; or Improved Abilities through Tools, Power-Ups, or Chargers. The chance of increasing may be governed by Randomness, or may be automatic given use of the Skills. If players can affect which Skills can be raised, this allows for Planned Character Development. Budgeted Action Points can be used to control the amount of Skill increases in games with many Skills, and may ensure Player Balance in Multiplayer Games. Another way to limit Skill increases is to use Diminishing Returns, either by requiring more Investments to be done to increase the Skills or by making the chances of improving the Skills lower as the Skill gets higher.
Skills are one way of differentiating Characters and thereby giving players Competence Areas. When this is used to create Orthogonal Unit Differentiation it promotes Varied Gameplay and Team Play in Multiplayer Games.
Having numerical values to indicate competence levels make it easy to implement Improved Abilities or Decreased Abilities. Being above certain threshold values can also be used to determine if one has access to Privileged Abilities. The possibility to increase Skills can be used to give players Gain Competence goals and advance the Narrative Structures through Character Development. Decreased Abilities are typically the effect of Penalties or Damage.
Known Skill levels give Predictable Consequences and thereby a Perceived Chance to Succeed. This can not only be used by players to make Risk/Reward choices but allows game designers to set the Right Level of Difficulty by adjusting the Skills of Enemies.
Modulates: Predictable Consequences, Multiplayer Games, Team Development, Enemies, Characters, Perceived Chance to Succeed, Risk/Reward, Orthogonal Unit Differentiation, Right Level of Difficulty, Handicaps
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