Skyrim and the Suspension of Min-Maxing
I’ve previously talked about the concept of leveling the abilities you use as you use them instead of the rather arbitrary experience points/level up systems that are out there. There is a huge load of issues with this concept and it is therefore not very surprising that its implementations are pretty much always flawed. One big advocate of such systems is the Elder Scrolls series of games. Its newest part, Skyrim, will be no different in that regard – but it will do away with classes completely.
Now, this is not the first time that we see a classless RPG nor the first time that we see this type of skill progression, but the combination is not something we see very often. As always when this discussion comes up, I’m intrigued. The idea of starting simply as a guy (or girl) instead of being shoehorned into a class and then simply playing the game as I like it and getter better at the things that I enjoy doing is very attractive to me.
The success of this system – if it is successful at all – will owe a lot to the fact the Skyrim is a single player game. People don’t min-max nearly as much when playing for themselves than they would in a competitive environment. In an MMO, players would figure out what the best combination of skills at the maximum level is and then purposefully just use those abilities while leveling. They wouldn’t simply play the game using the abilities that seem right and/or fun at specific points in time but always shoot for the maximum possible yield.
In Morrowind, jumping was its own skill that you could level up by, well, jumping. Each skill would belong to a certain skill set and influence what attributes your character would be able to get at the next level up. For certain characters it would therefore be very good to jump a lot to improve their strength (or whatever it was) while others would actually hurt their character development by jumping (because they would gain strength instead of another attribute they’d rather want.)
In a single-player game, players might just be able to ignore these aspects for the most part and enjoy the freedom the system gives them instead. Actually, games like this require something akin to the concept of suspension of disbelief, a suspension of min-maxing so to speak. Once you figure out that you will be better at the game by not jumping (or jumping lot) you’ll likely never be able to go back. But if you manage to suspend that desire you’ll be golden.
I wish I had a good term for this, maybe I’ll add one in later when I come up with one. But I believe that this concept of suspending you desire to game the system is something very important.