Practice makes perfect

I’ve been pondering how skill advancement works recently, and I’m starting to get dissatisfied with tallying up performing actions to measure practice of skills, particularly combat skills.

This isn’t how it works in reality, you pile a huge amount of time into practicing a skill so that you can perform it proficiently when needed. Sometimes this fits (notably crafting, you do just craft stuff over and over to get better in reality), but for shooting, melee, dodging, or most other active skills, you do tend to learn things in more “real” scenarios, but you’re looking for insight not skills. To hone your skills, you again perform the same actions over and over again, you PRACTICE.

It also makes it into a grind, you end up using an interface that isn’t necessarally suited for performing the same action over and over again. Once again, crafting works ok, partially because each invocation of the command takes a significant amount of in-game time, and therefore your progress per command is fairly high. Also it turns into a minigame of accumulating the tools, components needed to practice, more engagement = more fun!

What am I getting at? Here’s an outline of what I think is a better way.
The fundamental skilling action is practicing, you’re investing time and the associated externalities (fatigue, hunger, thirst, attention/morale, and any consumed resources) and getting higher skills in return.

Actually doing the activity also practices, but it doesn’t get special treatment as far as actually gaining skill (caveat later), it’s mostly good for fighting off rust.

Speaking of, rust would follow the planned system we have where it assesses penalties to using the skill, but never degrades your progress in absolute skill, at worst it shows down further skill increases by diverting some practice from skilling to removing rust.

Some skills, like crafting, will probably still be dominated by actually performing the action, but will likely also have a “practice” activity to avoid micromanagement of crafting/uncrafting things just for practice.

The UI for practice would be -> practice actions menu (similar to crafting menu), then probably pick a duration.

Also like recipes, practice actions would have json definitions, with durations, inputs, and outputs. For example they might consume components like sewing practice does, shooting practice would consume ammunition

Some practice actions would practice several skills simultaneously, and would divide progress between them, some might expend different resources in order to practice the same skills, we might have a system where effectiveness of different practice actions falls off and recovers over time, so cycling between actions would be encouraged.

Also also like recipes, practice actions would need to be LEARNED.
Here’s where that caveat from above comes in, what you get from using a skill “in anger” is insight, we represent this by e.g. combat actions having a chance to unlock practice actions of various kinds, which you can then use later for more efficient or targeted practice. You’d get a decent selection of practice actions that you learn just from using the default brawling style, or melee with weapons.

You can also gain insight->practice actions from reading books, from NPC teachers, and possibly just from skill levelling.

I’m thinking martial arts would supply a lot of this, because martial arts are not only a way of fighting, but a way of learning. You might train a lot with capoeira for the dodge boost, but not use it that much in combat.

Finally, progression.
I keep coming back to the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. That’s a damned imposing number, and it SHOULD be. “This is a GAME man! I don’t want to spend 10 simulated years practicing a skill!” is a valid argument. How about this though, that’s the baseline, and we “gameify” it to the extent necessary for the purposes of fun, but the basic concept is “X hours of practice to master a skill”. Also, that’s the amount of practice time to reach world-class skill level, the top of our skill scale. Past that point, you only have to practice to keep rust off (which will accumulate relatively rapidly at the upper end, but also gets practiced away rapidly, probably with a bonus if the skill is capped). Finally, progression falls off exponentially yes? So it’s of course very front-loaded.
Breaking the 10,000 hour number down, with 10 levels, and remembering both of these numbers can change:
(I’m alternating 2x and 5x between each level, mostly to keep the base-10 numbers nice and round, in reality we’d probably have the same multiplier for each level)
lvl 0: no practice time
lvl 1: 12 minutes
lvl 2: 1 hour
lvl 3: 2 hours
lvl 4: 10 hours
lvl 5: 20 hours
lvl 6: 100 hours
lvl 7: 200 hours
lvl 8: 1,000 hours
lvl 9: 2,000 hours
lvl 10: 10,000 hours
I don’t know about you, but the early part of that curve makes a hell of a lot of sense to me.
12 minutes to not tripping over yourself? ok
An hour to work out the kinks and start feeling a little proficiency? sure
Another hour to figure out some more subtleties? reasonable
A solid day of practice (8 hours) to really solidify the skill? yea

With even progression, it seems the progression is roughtly 2.5/level (10th root of 10,000)
lvl 0: none
lvl 1: 2 1/2 hrs
lvl 2: 6 1/2 hrs (4 hours past 1)
lvl 3: 15 1/2 hrs (9 past 2)
lvl 4: 39 hrs (23 hours past 3)
lvl 5: 97 1/2 hrs (58 hours past 4)
lvl 6: 244 hrs (148 hours past 5)
lvl 7: 610 hrs (366 hours past 6)
lvl 8: 1525 hrs (915 hours past 7)
lvl 9: 3814 hrs (2280 hours past 8)
lvl 10: 10000 hrs (6200 hours past 9)

With more agressive rounding:
lvl 0: none
lvl 1: 2 hrs
lvl 2: 6 hrs
lvl 3: 15 hrs
lvl 4: 40 hrs
lvl 5: 100 hrs
lvl 6: 250 hrs
lvl 7: 600 hrs
lvl 8: 1500 hrs
lvl 9: 4000 hrs
lvl 10: 10000 hrs

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about (often when I’m supposed to be listening to my t’ai chi instructor, bad Kevin!)


Sounds reasonable. It’d definitely be an improvement on the current system, and it’d certainly be cool if you could use the shooting ranges at the gun shops to gain skill in the different types of guns.

Does sound tedious: grind for the ability to auto-grind? :-/

I’ll see the effects on recipes, specials, etc; if you’re capping things at 10, that means a significant rework for mechanics at minimum, and likely quite a lot elsewhere in the code. (Mutation attacks come to mind; recipes obvoously, etc.)

How would practice affect Focus? I should think that if it’s considered focus-draining like learning, that ought to adequately account for practice becoming less effective over time.

I’ll ask that high-stress use provide a bonus (perhaps highly-rustable) to learning: military Basic, for instance, is intended to get the lesson through quick by making people feel that their well-being depends on learning it NOW.

(Conversely, they then need to practice the stuff. So, perhaps using skills at <50% HP or something levels it to X(99%) in half the time, but can’t put one over the top. Cf. JA2’s skilling method.)

I’ve long been a vocal proponent of giving the player the ability to “practice” skills be dedicating in-game time to it (instead of grinding, which uses up valuable player time and is the current way to do it).

I also actually really like the concept of the insight system to acquire practice abilities - in the proposals I’ve made of this type before, the limiter was always resources (requiring players to scavenge to increase their skills), but this is a really nice alternative for the combat focused variants. And it could still require equipment - maybe practicing dodging to a high level requires setting up some sort of motor-powered spinning machine like in all those TV shows.

Only thing I would add is that each type of practice unlocked by an “insight” should have an absolute cap on how high it can bring your skill. You can’t just practice flashlight assembly until you can build a plasma cannon or whatever. Remember, it’s not “10,000 hours to master a skill”, it’s “10,000 hours of studious effort” - you make gains when you operate at your limits, and in far more important gameplay terms, it provides an additional sense of progression and purpose.

It means higher-level training can require more equipment, for example - so for a beginning player, learning some of a basic skill just requires some time, food, and water, and a safe place to practice. Maybe very basic tools. But for the highest level, you need to actually make an investment. You must become Lara Croft!.. or something.

Out of curiosity, how do you foresee this system interacting with book learning?

I like the outline, especially the idea of practicing instead of grinding (and hey, give those gun ranges a use!)

This is why we actually CAN have nice things.
However, I see one minor flaw - fighting techniques
How would they interact with this system?

Funny… at the same time I wish this thing would happen and I also wish it would not.

Caveat here is that “realistic training” offers realism that is generally good idea. But realism is boring.

Game should not be boring but interesting and create diversity in game experience, and something like “You train a little” x 600 is not interesting content.

Now I feel this game should divide into two branches. “Hyper-realism survival” branch and “Classic Roguelike” branch.

This idea belongs to “Hyper-realism survival” and it would suit it perfectly.

And while were at subject, there could be something like “familiar” with something, like if you use golf club as weapon you’d be somewhat better with golf club (and especially your own unique golf club) than with some other bludgeoning instrument.

This “familiarity” could be singular item object relatated, item (general) related and similiar item related. You’d have a one screen that shows you your familiarities with different things, and you’d practice this when using these things. It would have slight-to-moderate effect on the outcomes depending on what item is in question.

For example for very exotic weapon you’d need to be very familiar with it to use it effectively, while familiarity to 2x4 would be marginal.

Reloading unfamiliar weapon you grabbed from the shop? … That could take 5x normal reloading time, especially on first time doing it. Etc etc.

This familiarity thing would sit on top of skills.

It sounds to me like this is swapping skill grinding for skill practice grinding. Training firearms is going to be very difficult in early game because ammo is very hard to come by until you’re reasonably well established. I think a system with a combination of bonuses and diminishing returns makes the most sense. Every item you make that you’ve never made before gives a bonus, every new gun/ammo that you’ve never shot before gives a bonus, while every thing you’ve made before has increasingly diminishing returns. Make 200 pairs of socks? Well you stopped learning anything after the 15th pair. Make one t shirt, one pair of socks, one bandana, and one knit cap? You’re way ahead of that other guy. Failures would have to become a little more common when making things close to your skill level. Skill rust means that there would be lots of tweaking to make sure you can keep up. I don’t think skill rust for most weapon skills makes sense, especially firearms. I can go months without going to the range, but once there, I can usually get back to my old accuracy in a few rounds.

Depends on implementation, really. If it was just as simple as push button to practice for hours, repeat for days on end, that’d certainly suck. On the other hand, if you’re putting together your own personal gym out of different bits of scrap (utilizing different skills and tools to assemble the mess), and then using the different equipment sets you’ve collected in different ways to keep all of your skills sharp // develop them further, than that puts a different spin on things.

And its significantly less boring than “hit this key then that key then this other key 10,000 times to gain skills”, which is our current system.

I’d like to hear an actual argument how this would be more grindy (or even as close to as grindy) as the current system is.

Because of…

The UI for practice would be -> practice actions menu (similar to crafting menu), then probably pick a duration.

Also like recipes, practice actions would have json definitions, with durations, inputs, and outputs. For example they might consume components like sewing practice does, shooting practice would consume ammunition

Some practice actions would practice several skills simultaneously, and would divide progress between them, some might expend different resources in order to practice the same skills, we might have a system where effectiveness of different practice actions falls off and recovers over time, so cycling between actions would be encouraged.

Also also like recipes, practice actions would need to be LEARNED.

It sounds like it’s just adding a practice system that is essentially crafting, but instead of crafting a craft, you craft a practice. It feels like the same system, except you don’t get an item out of it after the training. Our current system is not perfect, and it’s not realistic, but it is accessible, and it resembles some very established systems. I feel like a practice system like described would make more sense in a multiplayer type situation, where one person can put in their 10,000 hours to max out electronics, while another can do the same with their mechanics skill, and then they can team up together, but I think asking one playing to put in that much effort for a single skill is a little much. I understand the given times were just examples, but 10,000 hours is the equivalent of roughly 29 default in game seasons. My longest lasting character went about 10 seasons before I got tired of him. That is roughly 3360 hours in game. In my opinion, it is going to be very hard to balance this system to keep content accessible to players in the time span they’re likely to be playing, especially if you consider the average character lasts less than a week, and established characters around a year or so before the game starts getting a little stale without external objectives. You don’t want players to get to the point where they are established, and now they just 'p’ractice from dawn til dusk, just to get that point in computers so they can hack that thing they saw a month ago. In my opinion, at worst, this change will leave things just as grindy and keep content away from people that aren’t willing to put in a lot of time for relatively little gain, and at best is fixing a problem that doesn’t exist and taking resources away from bigger problems.

I like it, mostly because it gives you something to pass the time once you’ve ‘settled’ into a living space and have plenty of food and water. And have run out of books to read. ‘Passing time’ can become a problem later on. Most of my deaths in the game are the result of exploring for no real reason other than because I am playing a game and sitting in a dark house pressing ‘wait’ until I run out of food or water and need to find more - just isn’t that entertaining. Especially because skill rust kicks in if you stop using skills for a day. Using books felt worthwhile, but practice would fill in the gap nicely as well.

So yeah, in favor.

I’d still like to recommend skill rust being a different animal from actual skill progress. I never liked the idea of actually losing skill levels to rust. I have a background in neuroscience, and I can tell you without a doubt that skills and tasks simply don’t work that way. As you learn new skills your brain builds neural pathways that strengthen with usage. When you stop using them, the pathways weaken but they are still there. Restrengthening these pathways is much easier than forming new ones. That old adage ‘It’s like riding a bike’ is a great example; even after ten years of not riding, it took me just a few minutes to feel comfortable on a bike again, and I didn’t have any accidents in the process. Even though when I first learned I know I fell plenty of times.

I’d rather see your skill rank be a permanent thing while rust is an accumulated degradation that builds up over time. It never changes your actual skill rating, but it does impact the quality of your work. It is much faster to ‘practice away’ skill rust than to raise a skill from scratch. Obviously you would need to overcome skill rust before you could begin raising your actual skill to the next rank. This would mean that things like recipes and actions that are only available at certain skill levels would not go away due to rust - but your chance to fail the recipe would be increased until the rust was worked away.

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So it would be better to put in 10,000 hours throwing individual rocks at individual squirrels rather than use a practice menu to spend 10,000 hours throwing rocks?

I’m in favor of a practice system because it’s a good option for when you don’t have any more useful things to do for skill gains.

Yeah, vache, it seems like your only problem is with the actual numbers being considered, then, not with the actual system.

And personally, I think the numbers given are crap, and the justification of “I heard someone say it takes 10,000 hours once so that’s how long it should take in the game” is also kind of crap. But that isn’t really a core component of the system itself.

I’d much prefer a much more attainable experience target coupled with hard caps on benefits from any specific insight-inspired practice type, to maximize the time actually spent playing the game instead of practicing. I think:

lvl 0: none
lvl 1: 3 hrs
lvl 2: 6 hrs
lvl 3: 12 hrs (About how long a player can effectively dedicate to just practicing in a single day unless they’ve already spent time on a previous day preparing for it)
lvl 4: 24 hrs / 2 days
lvl 5: 36 hrs / 3 days
lvl 6: 48 hrs / 4 days
lvl 7: 60 hrs / 5 days
lvl 8: 72 hrs / 6 days
lvl 9: 84 hrs / 7 days
lvl 10: 96 hrs / 8 days

Is much, much more reasonable as a progression, considering you’ll actually putting significantly more time than what is listed here into achieving that, since you’ll need to collect the materials, equipment, and insight to practice up to a given level. It means that maxing out a single skill would still require 36 days of survival and dedicated effort purely for training to obtain max skill level, but a far more reasonable skill level of 7 could be achieved in half the time. Honestly, this might still be taking too long, since it’s expected that most players will need at least a few skills to survive, but it’s certainly not as terrible as the original numbers. Do you think this would be an improvement?

Well the numbers given were one thing, but my main problem is that it seems to me more like a second crafting system, that doesn’t actually craft anything. Also, I feel like it’s fixing a problem that doesn’t really exist right now, when there are several other major problems that DO exist.

I’m thinking the crafting system we have now is fine for crafting skills, maybe with a few tweaks to discourage grinding. A few examples would be to make disassembling items give less components than what it takes to craft (waste), strong diminishing returns system for crafting easy level items + bonus system for crafting new/difficult items, higher chance of failure when making things approximate to your skill level, making most recipes require either disassembling several items or reading them in a book, and including a quality system for the items you craft (a shoddily made radio that can’t find any signals is not very useful, but it’s a nice start, maybe make a couple more and you can fine tune that)

I could see a practice system being more practical if it were only used for combat and other physical skills. It makes sense to gather a pile of rocks and sit in your bedroom throwing rocks at targets to train your throwing for a few hours, but it doesn’t to gather a pile of scrap parts and just start hooking things up to practice electronics.

Moreover, there’s also the matter of time compression. In game, a year passes by in the span of about of an 8th of a real-world year, so it would only make sense for mastery to take place in a similar amount of time in game. Even then, we’d still need to agree on what levels equates “mastery”; I personally think that IRL, training to level 3 in most skills takes far more time, and that 10,000 hours of practice should equate roughly to about level 6, not 10.

But that’s all just nip-pick number grudging. The training system proposed here would definitely be something I’d want, it’s just a matter of tuning the numbers to make things less tedious than the grinding we already have in the game.

"Some skills, like crafting, will probably still be dominated by actually performing the action, but will likely also have a “practice” activity to avoid micromanagement of crafting/uncrafting things just for practice."

All this does is streamline the “Craft Flashlight x 100; Deconstruct Flashlight X 100” grind into one action from the user. So long as the practice routine is more or less as accurate as doing such a thing manually, I’m not following how this is a problem.

I would rather get rid of the ability for someone to craft and then deconstruct 100 flashlights to gain skill, not wrap that up into some action that takes an ambiguous amount of time and produces no real item. There are other ways of preventing the player from doing that that don’t require a fairly large overhaul to the skill system.

OK, so if we’re playing at ~1/8th of normal time scale (IRC), then mastery is 1250 Cata-hours of consistent use.

Second the request for book-interface. I’m thinking “polish”, a sort of anti-rust that can get you to 99% but not over. Recipe knowledge would carry on as it currently is.

As for the grinding issue, grinding for the abiity to auto-grind came from the combat skills. After X amount of strikes, kills, wev: “OK, you managed to earn the Taekwondo Kata. You can take this Practice Action to eliminate rust and build skillXP in Unarmed and TKD, up to level L.”

YAY! now I can just push a button and have the game grind for me. Functionally identical to skillbooks, except I can’t just find one in the library, but have to grind for it (and possibly craft a gym or somesuch).

So this would benefit non-combat skills, but nerf combat skill development.

Re vache: I think the XP from crafting is OK the way it is, thx.