On the opposite side of the spectrum, is Project Entropia. This is a game based entirely on skills. In the beginning, you start with almost nothing, with lvl 1 skills in everything and not a penny to your name. Every skill has a very high skill cap (2000 for most I think), and if you want to be very good at it, your skill needs to be very high.
To earn skill levels and points, you have to use the skill. For mining, you have to use your mining tool and find ore resources, for rifle damage you have to shoot stuff and hit with a rifle, for sweat gathering (yes, that’s a real skill) you have to mind meld with animals and steal their mind sweat. This is good as everyone starts at the same place, and what you do in the game determines what you are good at. The bad part is that in the beginning, it is very difficult to get those first few skill levels of skills that can fail a lot (like mind sweating). Also, near the upper levels of skills, it becomes hard because you need to earn enough skill-up points to get a full skill level, and the requirements increase rapidly.
Another part of the game is the ability to sell your skills. Basically, you pop an implant into your brain, it absorbs some of your skills in a certain thing (like mining) and you put it on the market to sell to someone who doesn’t want to level their mining skill. It is dangerous to use (you loose 10% of your skill level). I’m not a huge fan of this method, but it works well.
The benefits of a skill system like this are pretty basic. It provides a more involved game, as your character is developing his skills as you play. Skills level up gradually, and as opposed to a level-based system, you abilities don’t jump every time you level. The game encourages play (where level-based encourage grinding or Power leveling). Project Entropia’s skill system is also very challenging for the experienced player. You feel rewarded for leveling your skills up.
The bad of it is that it is very difficult to earn your first few skill levels in certain skills. It took two hours of animal sweating to get my first skill up (and that was only half of a skill level, not even a full one). With being able to sell your skills, there’s a chance that you can make money with just that (not really, as the margins are too low for it, but you can try) however this also means that players with a lot of money can just buy their skills and become super powerful almost instantly.
It’s largely a mixed bag with the base system. Which you will use depends on your player base and goals. MindArc’s goals are to make money by encouraging people to invest in the game, and making the game hard enough that people will spend their money. This lends itself to a more mature audience, and so the game system should be more complex and harder.
Coming up next, I will dust off my Star Wars Galaxies memories and show exactly what I mean by choosing for your player base and goals, and the benefits and consequences.