Swashbuckling Part 2: Skills and Fighting Schools
Welcome back for part two of our in-depth look at our swashbuckling system. Today were going to look at the different the Fighting Schools and the skills they contain.
Swashbuckling combat will be, at release, a sword fighting system. We fully intend to expand this system to include other types of armed and unarmed combat, but that will have to wait for the future. There are three schools of sword fighting: Dirty Fighting, Fencing, and Florentine. Each school will make use of a single type of sword: Cutlass for Dirty Fighting, Rapier for Fencing, and Small Sword and Dagger for Florentine.
The decision to link sword type to fighting school was a difficult one. On the one hand we want to allow as much player flexibility as possible. On the other hand we want swashbuckling to look really engaging, and the different fighting schools to be visually distinctive. Ultimately we decided to slightly limit player item selection in order to create a system that looked right. A swordsman holds a rapier very differently from how he holds a cutlass, and use of the weapon is entirely different. So if we want a particular attack to be usable with any weapon, we have to do three animations for it. Instead we decided to limit our animations to a single fighting school for each animation, but include a much wider range of animations overall.
Mechanically the primary difference between the Fighting Schools is their skill choices. The skills in each school are broken down into 9 skill chains. Each skill chain is composed of 5 related skills that must be purchased in order. To acquire the 5th skill in a chain you must first purchase skills 1 through 4; however, you can spend your skill points in different chains freely. The result is that you get a great deal of control over how your character develops as he levels up. If you really want one of the 5th tier skills early on you can head straight for it, or you can spend your points more broadly, making your character more well-rounded early on.
Your character receives 26 skill points in the course of leveling up (1 at level 1, and 1 additional point at every even level thereafter). He must spend his first point to purchase his fighting school, and each additional point purchases one skill within that school. In addition to the 45 skills within each school, there are also many skills that you receive without skill point cost for mission completion. On top of that we also offer a handful of skills for purchase outside of the fighting schools, although were not yet ready to release the details on those.
So what are these skills youll be purchasing? Skills fall into 6 broadly defined categories: Preparatory Attacks, Basic Attacks, Finishing Moves, Passive Skills, Defensive Skills, and Special Skills. These categories exist mostly to group skills that are conceptually similar. Lets take a look at each type of skill.
Preparatory Attacks are the opening moves of a Swashbuckling fight. If successful they reduce your opponents Balance and increase your Initiative. They dont do any direct damage to your opponent, but they reduce his defenses, leaving him open to further attack, while simultaneously building up a pool of initiative for other skills to use. The most basic Preparatory Attack is Beat. All characters receive it free at level 1. If successful it reduces your opponents Balance by 30, and gives you 20 initiative.
Basic Attacks are the workhorses of the Swashbuckling skill system. There is no auto-attack in Swashbuckling; if you just want to hit someone with your sword, these are the skills you use. Basic Attacks deal an amount of damage based on the weapon you have equipped, modified by equipment and other skills. Strike, the free basic attack that everyone gets, only does weapon damage. Basic Attacks that cost skill points are improved in some way: an increased chance to hit, increased damage, a chance to apply a damage over time effect (bleeding or a poison).
Finishing Moves are the heavy artillery of Swashbuckling Combat. Finishing Moves deal a large amount of damage in addition to your weapon damage. This damage comes at a cost, generally in both Initiative and Balance. All Finishing Moves require that you spend a significant amount of initiative in order to execute them, and most of them also reduce your balance significantly.
Passive skills provide a passive bonus to your abilities. Theyre not as flashy as other skills but the boost from passive skills can make a huge difference. These skills can modify virtually any combat value, from weapon damage to balance regeneration. We have tried to weave passive skills and active skills (the other skill types) into the skill trees in an interleaved manner so that you get a mix of both as you level. We dont want to overwhelm you with too many buttons to push, but at the same time active skills tend to be a bit more exciting than a passive boost to your chance to dodge.
Defensive skills exist to provide an active complement to the passive defense we talked about last time. There are defensive skills that automatically parry the next incoming attack, instantly restore some of your balance, debuff the accuracy of everyone attacking you, or drain your opponents initiative (reducing his ability to launch powerful skills). I expect that we will expand on this defensive arsenal before release.
Special Skills is our catch all for skills that dont quite fit in the other categories. This includes Stuns, skills that instantly give you initiative, first aid skills, and ranged attack skills (pistols and throwing knives). It also includes many of our mission reward skills including improved first aid skills, chemistry skills for mixing up a range of interesting concoctions, and skills for interacting with our Supernatural Content.
Currently the base fighting school skills are all in the game and ready to go. We will be tweaking and balancing those skills as beta continues, and in addition to that we will be adding new skills as the game goes forward. I want to thank you all for your time and attention, and I look forward to all of you having a chance to try the system and tell me what you think of it.