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Eco Peaks: Weekly Developer Blog for ‘Eco’

Dev Blog: Skill System
March 2, 2019
Hey Eco Citizens, it's been over one year since we launched on Steam Early Access, and my how things have changed.

Since then we’ve grown the team quite a bit, made a ton of new changes, and are generally moving forward quite quickly.

For that reason, we want to keep the community up to speed on the new changes and the changes coming, so we’ve started this weekly dev blog.  Each week we’ll have a different developer go into details about a recent or forthcoming part of the game, with lots of details.

For our first newsletter our programmer/designer extraordinaire Craig Jong explains the what-why-and-how of the new Skill System that dropped in 8.0.

New Skill System

The recent 8.0 update brought about a large number of changes to the skills system and I think it’s pretty important to first look back to see why those changes were needed and what we wanted to keep from the old system.

The recent 8.0 update brought about a large number of changes to the skills system and I think it’s pretty important to first look back to see why those changes were needed and what we wanted to keep from the old system.

Skillpoints were one of the reasons cooking became so important and, later in development, housing as well. By allowing players to improve their skillpoint per day gain through nutrition and housing, it gave players a real motivation to both keep their nutrition in balance and their houses at a high level. The second thing we wanted was to keep players who either joined late or couldn’t play enough relevant. One of the goals of the old system’s time gating was that specializations could be chosen even if the earlier specializations hadn’t which would allow player who couldn’t invest enough time to still be useful. In spirit, this is what we wanted but in practice it often fell short.

 

So why did we feel the need to overhaul it? The main problem we had with the skills system was what it encouraged. Unlocking a specialty should be an exciting milestone but instead it just becomes something you have to unlock in order to put points into efficiency and speed. Instead of unlocking a specialty and immediately utilizing it, people often just waited until they had enough skillpoints to hit maximum levels in some of the skills before even crafting anything. We wanted to encourage players to take actions in the game while simultaneously making the act of taking a specialization feel more important.
There are a three major components of the skills overhaul: unlocking most recipes, the removal of skillpoints, and the addition of talents.

 

Previously taking a specialty would unlock the related crafting recipes. While this forced a high level of cooperation, it usually restricted players from branching out, trying other specializations, or even being able to function if a player went missing or couldn’t log on for a day. This lockout also meant that the only reward for researching and reading a skill scroll was the property claims that came with it.

In the new system, almost all of the specializations recipes are unlocked by reading the scroll. You don’t need the bricklaying specialization to make bricks; you just need to have researched bricklaying. But this freedom comes at a bit of a cost: all recipes are now more expensive than they used to be, specifically when you don’t have the specialization. To offset this increase in cost, taking a specialty grants an immediate 50% efficiency and speed bonus.

Gaining Specialties

The second part is how specialties are gained. Previously, specialties were gained by spending increasing amounts of skillpoints. Now that skillpoints (at least in name) are completely gone, you now accrue experience at an equivalent rate which translates directly into gaining new specialties in the form of character levels. Every character level allows you to choose a new specialty. Similar to the old system, this rate is determined by your nutrition and housing. For those of you who played 7.8, the rate of new specialty gain should be almost exactly the same, but there are no longer skillpoints to track.

Leveling Up

The third part is how the specializations level up. Prior to 8.0, skills would improve through skillpoint investment which was always gated on time. Simply waiting was the only way to get better at a skill, regardless of whether or not you used it. Now all specializations are leveled up through usage at a rate determined by your nutrition and housing. If you want to get better at hewing logs, you have to hew logs. The initial 50% efficiency you gain is significant enough that even the first few logs you hew as a specialist are still better than those of an unskilled worker and, as you improve, that gap will only widen.

 

The hope is that, despite this favoring players with large active playtimes, the initial bump will allow players to better integrate themselves later into the game without having to worry about the skillpoint costs of skills within skill.

Talents

The final major addition are the level-locked talents. Talents were introduced to the system to hopefully make having and leveling specializations more meaningful. The provide unique bonuses to the specialists that change or encourage different styles of play. The current group of talents is small and limited; most of the crafting professions share the same groups and they’re more of a test run to see what kind of effects we might want to bring to the game.

Next on the Horizon

So what’s next? Other than the constant balancing that will be required with the interlocking nutrition, housing, and skills system, the main thing we’re going to look forward to is improving talents.

 

As mentioned earlier, the initial talent set is extremely limited and essentially just a test run. We want to expand the system to make each specialization feel unique not just through the generic bonuses and unlocks. Talents at different levels, more choices in the tiers that already exists, and hopefully more interesting talents overall to really flesh out the skills system. We want the levels to feel meaningful and the effects of talents will certainly play a big role in that.

 

We want to make the specializations more tied together within their groups. We have a number of ideas on this subject, but essentially the goal is to get someone who hews logs a benefit for also learning to cut lumber. It hopefully won’t get in the way of people taking specializations outside of the professions, but rather give some encouragement for players to stay a bit more specialized without completely locking down everything.

 

Speaking of unlocks, another thing that is likely to change is how unlocks are handled. Currently different professions handle this differently: cooking has a lot of recipes locked behind levels while others are mostly unlocked from the start. We want to see what works best and tailor the specializations towards the unlock scheme that works the best.

 

We’re still looking at ways to improve the skills UI, so there might be some changes in that department as well.

Hopefully you’ll check out and enjoy the skills changes in 8.0 and look forward to a slew of coming improvements we can make to the new foundation.

And next week Sean will be writing about his work on improving animal performance.

Eco is available in Early-Access on Steam

Thanks for all your support!

– Craig

The Eco Team is a collection of introverted and sometimes genius programmers/designers based in Seattle and Australia. We all grew up and thrive in the video game culture, so of course making them is our dream job. We look forward to continuing to put out quality games for the community of players.

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