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Author Topic: Thoughts on skills  (Read 10419 times)
Gaspard
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« on: March 12, 2009, 01:30:22 AM »

So, as was pointed out the discussing of certain topics has become.. scattered, to say the least.
As we now have the Experience System topic then I thought it wouldn't hurt to have another thread for something that's related to gaining Experience (advancing your character in whatever fashion) in PARPG, but also a topic of interest in its own. We should also discuss skills - these will be affecting our succeeding and failing in the interfering with the PARPG world.

this http://wiki.parpg.net/Zenbitz:Thoughts_on_task_resolution could also be integrated into this discussion

Zenbitz' thoughts on skills as they're on the wiki now:
Quote
  Some open questions

    * Values (i.e, "scores") or "ranks" (could be named or numbered)?
    * Linear or Non-linear values (compare 3d6 to d100 or d20 for integer skills, for ranks consider a rank2 might be 4 times better than rank1?
    * How to handle defaults (player has not "paid" for skill? (typically attribute or talent based)
    * Tree system or flat (i.e, does having a score in skill X give you a better-than-default roll in skill Y?). This can work both ways - e.g., maybe a first aid of 80% gives you a "medicine" of 40%. OR if you have have pistol at 80, and you have practiced with the Wather PPK, you have a 85 due to weapon proficiency/familiarity
    * Should there be prerequisites? Do you need a "math" rating to get a "physics" rating?
    * Should we attempt to balance "Jack of all trades" vs. "Specialist" player.

How to "price" skills for character generation, experience

The basic assumption here is that player pays points for skills. To avoid unbalancing, the more "popular" or "useful" skills have to cost more. This was also mentioned in a forum topic
Incredibly Useful (used in basic, day-to-day game play - but most PCs are not good at ALL of these.

fighting, survival (including area knowledge), "trauma" medical (i.e, from bandaids to bullet removal), stealth
Moderately Useful: (you might have a few, NPCs might help you out (recruitable or no)

communication, barter, tech repair, vehicle, "internal" medicine (disease, pharmacy), crafting, tactics, leadership, farming and agriculture, brewing and distilling, food preservation, animal husbandry
Once in a life time: (0-1 sidequests... NPCs MUST be available for help)

Hard sciences (biochemistry, nuclear engineering), air craft mechanic, seamanship, computer programming
Utterly useless (but might get into the game as pure flavor)

Game design, mathematics* (possibly could be used as prereq for engineering/sciences), fashion sense, music, history, philosophy, Television trivia, Wiki mastery, sports.

Hmm.... "Utterly useless" perhaps... but what if they represent your characters' INTERESTS. And NPCs would have them too - the game function is simply that they are more likely to be your friend (better reaction roll, "escape valve") if you share interests. It would cool if this was like secret easter egg feature, hidden from Player.

I'll start with some queries

Quote
The basic assumption here is that player pays points for skills. To avoid unbalancing, the more "popular" or "useful" skills have to cost more. This was also mentioned in a forum topic

The link to the forum topic was lost in the migration perhaps ?
Anyway we now have this thread and relevant thoughts can be copied here for example.

What do you consider more "popular"/"useful" ?
The cost of each skill point escalates proportionately with it's advancement ?
(e.g. I get X points for completing a quest, but to raise skill A, which is already pretty high, I'd have to spend X/n points (which I acquired by completing the quest) to raise the skill A another point. But I could raise skill B, which is significantly lower than skill A, by X points, because the cost is so much lower)

Quote
  Incredibly Useful (used in basic, day-to-day game play - but most PCs are not good at ALL of these.

fighting, survival (including area knowledge), "trauma" medical (i.e, from bandaids to bullet removal), stealth

wouldn't these Incredibly Useful skills be considered the main ones that are used to complete quests ?
if so, then I'd escalate Communication to this level. I would consider the Diplomat a character type that should be able to survive through the whole game as a pretty 'pure' character type (instead of 'multi-classing' (I know we don't have classes per se, but I generalize still) to a more military-type character).

It goes with the idea that all quests should have the following solutions: a combat-heavy one, the diplomatic one, the stealthy one. In addition there'd be special ones for specific quests/puzzles/problems like having high science lets you hack a system which turns off automated security and opens doors, having high gamble lets you bluff your way out of a poker game...
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zenbitz
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009, 07:08:09 PM »

this http://wiki.parpg.net/Zenbitz:Thoughts_on_task_resolution could also be integrated into this discussion

Just so everyone is clear here - There's a reason this is called "thoughts" - it's not polished or complete at all.  My ideas was to try to hit every area in Mechanics with some "thoughts" then go back and polish them into proposals.  Especially since they have a tendency to depend on each other...
    * Values (i.e, "scores") or "ranks" (could be named or numbered)?

I think both.  software is going to handle the ranks numerically internally anyway.  I think that there maybe a "hidden" base 100 where there are 10 ranks.  But a "14" is not really _functionally_ better than a "13".  They are both 10s. (rank 1)  The sub-graduations just indicate how close you are to rank 2 ("20").  Lots of d20 games do this implicitly.  But I am not really married to one idea or the other - but "naming" ranks I think makes it easier for game designers because the skill ranks can be "matched" to task difficulty.

    * Linear or Non-linear values (compare 3d6 to d100 or d20 for integer skills, for ranks consider a rank2 might be 4 times better than rank1?

Probably non-linear.  3d6 is a bad example though.  That's just how the probability distribution is generated.

    * How to handle defaults (player has not "paid" for skill? (typically attribute or talent based)

Can default to a second skill, attribute, or talent, or none.

    * Tree system or flat (i.e, does having a score in skill X give you a better-than-default roll in skill Y?). This can work both ways - e.g., maybe a first aid of 80% gives you a "medicine" of 40%. OR if you have have pistol at 80, and you have practiced with the Wather PPK, you have a 85 due to weapon proficiency/familiarity

Tree, for sure.

    * Should there be prerequisites? Do you need a "math" rating to get a "physics" rating?

I think yes, but it's probably a very small part of the game.

    * Should we attempt to balance "Jack of all trades" vs. "Specialist" player.

I don't think this is relevant at this stage.... but it might become relevant later.  This more relates to quest design than character mechanics.

Quote
How to "price" skills for character generation, experience

Quote
Quote
The basic assumption here is that player pays points for skills. To avoid unbalancing, the more "popular" or "useful" skills have to cost more. This was also mentioned in a forum topic

The link to the forum topic was lost in the migration perhaps ?
Anyway we now have this thread and relevant thoughts can be copied here for example.
Quote

No it's buried somewhere, I will try to dig it up?

Quote
What do you consider more "popular"/"useful" ?
The cost of each skill point escalates proportionately with it's advancement ?
(e.g. I get X points for completing a quest, but to raise skill A, which is already pretty high, I'd have to spend X/n points (which I acquired by completing the quest) to raise the skill A another point. But I could raise skill B, which is significantly lower than skill A, by X points, because the cost is so much lower)

What I meant by "Useful" is how many quests it pertains to, or how often you have to use it for non-quest duties (like staying alive).   This was really meant as initial buying cost.   Cost to improve is a different subject...

Quote
Quote
  Incredibly Useful (used in basic, day-to-day game play - but most PCs are not good at ALL of these.

fighting, survival (including area knowledge), "trauma" medical (i.e, from bandaids to bullet removal), stealth

wouldn't these Incredibly Useful skills be considered the main ones that are used to complete quests ?
if so, then I'd escalate Communication to this level. I would consider the Diplomat a character type that should be able to survive through the whole game as a pretty 'pure' character type (instead of 'multi-classing' (I know we don't have classes per se, but I generalize still) to a more military-type character).
Exactly.  Just an oversight.  Perhaps I was thinking that players eschew communication skills in favor of the above.
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riidom
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« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2009, 06:28:42 AM »

I am not sure if there is need for another idea of how a skill system could look like, but I got this in mind and worked it out a bit, and now I have to post it ;) Let me point out the fact, that I cover only certain aspects here, and leave other, elemental ones untouched, so it may be combined with some other idea about skills in the forum. This threads wears "thoughts" in title, this fits quite well, so i add it here, hope its ok.

Ok, here we go:
We define for each situation the perfect fitting skill, what will be in total a quite big number. Next thing is defining a "tail" of more general skills.

Example:
fight with a baseball club - fight with an 1-metre club - fight with an edgeless melee weapon - fight with a melee weapon - fight
(left side: the "perfect fitting skill", right side: the most general one)

The number of steps in this tails should be varying, they should be as long as they have to be (but we need an allowed max number of links, see below at "increasing"). To find out if there are senseless steps inside, ask following question: "What is the difference between this skill and the following, more general skill?" If there is no (good) answer, the more specific one needs to be erased. In the baseball club example, the answers would be:
-a baseball club is imbalanced, that makes him special, so it gets an extra skill
-a 1-metre club is one thing out of possible lengths of clubs, i would seperate them in 1/2m (means like onehand usage), 1m ("bastard" usage) and 2m (only twohand usage)
-... (from now on its quite obvious)

If the player wants to punch with that baseball club he got a few days before, all skill points of the skills in the tail get added. This sum gets multiplied with the number of skills used, and that is his final value, that gets tested (how this happens, is not covered here).
If he is missing one or more of them, only the existing ones will be added (what will lead to a lower sum and, even worse, to a lower multiplier).
E.g., the guy was using guns all the time before, he has only his "fight" skill and nothing else - so, he knows that he has to watch his enemies eyes and not his hands to see what he will do next, but thats it.
Simple example: Guy A has in every of the five touched skills a "2": Sum is 10, all five skills used, gives him a 50. Guy B has a 2 in "melee" and a 3 in "fight", gives him a (3+2)*2=10

Every skill has a scala of points, that should be quite decent, lets say from 0 to 10 (what can be verbalized like 0: no clue/not having, 1-2: basic, 3-5: experienced, 6-9: professional, 10: master), and they are stored as floating point numbers, but each time a skill value gets displayed or used, it gets rounded and shows up as integer.

Now, how to increase them:
I assume, from time to time a single "1" drops on a skill. "When" and "why" is not the topic I want to deal with here, just the "how".
Only the "perfect skills" can be primary subject to an increase (the ones on the left side of tail, in my example it is "fight with a baseball club"). It is not important if the player has the skill or not, the combination of object and usage determines the skill.
Depending on number of skills to increase, we have a "spread key", that tells us how the "1" gets distributed over the several subskills.
2: 0,6+0,4
3: 0,5+0,3+0,2
4: 0,4+0,3+0,2+0,1
5: 0,3+0,2+0,2+0,1+0,1
(stopping at "5" means, no skill tail is allowed to have more than 5 steps)
Now, lets look at some cases:

a) player has all skills in tail:
This is like "the seeds are planted already, its just growing", so the fivish-key gets used.
"fight with baseball club" +0,3, ..., "fight" +0,1

b) player has only "fight with melee weapon" and "fight":
He is lacking something (obviously), and his borders may get expanded. Of course, he increases the skills he has already, but also the adjacent (in other words: the first missing) one, in this case "fight with an edgeless melee weapon" - the more specialized ones do not get trained in this case. So we use the threeish-key in this case, filling up with zeros (having 2 of the skills, plus one for learning something more specialized)
(according to skill order on the top): +0 ("fight with baseball club") / +0 / +0,5 (that is the "new" one) / +0,3 / +0,2 ("fight")

At this point, there is an urgent question: What means "having" a skill? Just, having a value of >0, so that it shows up in the skill table. If it is lets say 0,3, it will show up as an "0" because it gets rounded, but at least it shows up - if it would be =0, its simply not listed. This means the player does not get beaten by an awesome list of skills and a nice row of zeros, he sees only things, he got in touch with.

Ok, I know: This sounds weird, senseless complicated and senseless in general perhaps. But (at least I hope!) this way of dealing with skills represents some natural aspects of specialisation vs. generalization.

I expect the following advantages of this system, so please examine this, and if you detect some unwanted side-effects or simply that some of the points are not fulfilled, we need to modify or skip this one.

1. Once the algorithm is finished, implementing new skills is quite easy. You just need to create this tail, and thats it. The very big danger is here to "double-implement" things (e.g., one calls the most general one in battle section "fight", another one calls it "combat" - but both mean the same).
2. If you want to train your general skills primarily, use as much new/different weapons as possible, the guy in example b) gets +0,2 on fight, the melee-pro in example a) only +0,1
3. If u want to specialize, always use the same thing, the guy in a) always gets a +0,3 on "fight with baseball club"
4. You extend your personal skill tree by using new things. The guy in example b) extends his skills by using the baseball club more and more in direction "edgeless weapon", and some skill increasements later he discovers the specialities of an imbalanced baseball club - but though he uses the baseball club all the time, he learns about the usage of clubs before.

I focused here on the principle, so all formulas, scales, the spread keys are more or less invented on the fly and may be object to heavy fine-tuning. I am wondering for example, if the spread keys should be inverted perhaps, so giving the highest value to the most general one and not other way round, like I described above.
Another thing I am not happy with, is that "multiplying with the number of used skills" thing. Something like this needs to be there, or everyone would focus on increasing the general skills, because the points there are worth same as the points in the specialized categories, but they have the advantage that u can use them in more situations. But it weighs so heavy, that the most important thing is to have as much of the available skills in the tail to push the multiplier - the value of each skill is the minor factor in the calculation. Some more balance here would be great.

And, the last thing before I finish the next oversized post, let me list the things, I am especially *NOT* talking about:
- in what cases skills get increased, and how much (by doing, by exercising, by getting teached or by theoretical studies, to be more specific)
- if there is anything beside skills, like attributes, e.g., and how this interferes with each other
- how to deal with the skill value, I simply deliver a number here, nothing more
- and an infinite number of other things, but the above ones I wanted to point out

Ok, please get out your magnification glasses and scalpels and lets see if the patient will survive the surgery ;)
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zenbitz
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2009, 01:16:14 AM »

The basic "tree" system sounds like what we already have... which is fine.

Now, how to increase them:
I assume, from time to time a single "1" drops on a skill. "When" and "why" is not the topic I want to deal with here, just the "how".
Only the "perfect skills" can be primary subject to an increase (the ones on the left side of tail, in my example it is "fight with a baseball club"). It is not important if the player has the skill or not, the combination of object and usage determines the skill.
Quote
Depending on number of skills to increase, we have a "spread key", that tells us how the "1" gets distributed over the several subskills.
2: 0,6+0,4
3: 0,5+0,3+0,2
4: 0,4+0,3+0,2+0,1
5: 0,3+0,2+0,2+0,1+0,1
(stopping at "5" means, no skill tail is allowed to have more than 5 steps)
Now, lets look at some cases:

a) player has all skills in tail:
This is like "the seeds are planted already, its just growing", so the fivish-key gets used.
"fight with baseball club" +0,3, ..., "fight" +0,1

At this point, you lost me...      Also, it's a baseball "bat".   
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riidom
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« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2009, 06:20:27 PM »

Ok, maybe my explanation was a little bit very weird... the question I tried to answer with this part was:
What skill should get increased? The specific one or the general one (or one inbetween)?
The "easy" way would be to let the player decide this. But I dont think it is very realistic to do so, I would think its better to spread the points by an algorithm. Cant really prove why, its more like a feeling. And as i reread my post, i must say, it probably is possible to find an easier way to do this. If there are some opinions like mine, this can be reworked, otherwise skipped.
You said, there is an existing tree structure.. I wasnt able to figure out by thread headlines, where is described what is said about skills so far. Until I dont know how things are now, I better stay out of theme ;)
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2009, 11:57:54 PM »

Ok, maybe my explanation was a little bit very weird... the question I tried to answer with this part was:
What skill should get increased? The specific one or the general one (or one inbetween)?
The "easy" way would be to let the player decide this. But I dont think it is very realistic to do so, I would think its better to spread the points by an algorithm. Cant really prove why, its more like a feeling. And as i reread my post, i must say, it probably is possible to find an easier way to do this. If there are some opinions like mine, this can be reworked, otherwise skipped.
You said, there is an existing tree structure.. I wasnt able to figure out by thread headlines, where is described what is said about skills so far. Until I dont know how things are now, I better stay out of theme Wink

That's much clearer, critical piece of information.  It might make sense to have some kind of reverse defaults.
So, if you have "Gun" skill of 80 you have something like 65 skill with a particular pistol you have never used before.    You shoot some fools with the pistol, and "gain" a skill with that particular pistol.    I would say that in  a hierarchy like:

Missile Combat
   |________Fire Arms
                     |________Pistols
                                        |_______Wather PPK

If you have say, an 80 in Firearms translate into a 70 in pistols and 65 in "new" pistol (PPK).  After a few uses, Your Wather PPK skill would equal Pistols skill (70).    This would be the equavlent of an "Unfamiliarty" penalty for a new weapon.    The next skill bump you would get would maybe bump your PPK skill to 75, but leave other skills alone.  Then PPK skill to 80 and equivalently bump Pistols to 75.     If your pistols skill (via training or use of actual pistol) increases past 80, then it could increase your "Firearms" skill.

(I am just making up the ratios off the top of my head, they don't really have any meaning - the long and short of it is that there would be some "fractional" multiplier (<1) for all the connections between two skills.  Not sure if it would be the same in both directions, but it probably would be.

Player would (except possibly in character creation) NOT get the option of bumping the most generic skills... in general I am not in favor of generic experience points that get spent on "whatever you want".
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« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2009, 02:22:48 AM »

Reminds me of Shadowrun. You could specialize in a specific weapon for a low cost (lower than improving your general firearm weapon in this regard)
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« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2009, 03:08:28 AM »

<shevy> ok i think you want me to start a skills thread Tongue
<Zenbitz> My experience is that its better to draft some talking points first. 

Let's proove him wrong!

Ok, basically I liked the skill system in Fallout except that it was too much tied to the level
of the character.

My idea for PARPG would be to basically allow skills which aren't inherently great all the time
but may in certain situations give you clear advantages. Also, I think we should allow skills
to have a bigger influence on the game than stats alone.

- Skiing:
if the character carries skiis with him, and he moves over specific terrain, he could use
those skiis to move faster. One nice thing for skiis would be that we might even get
NPCs to teach this skills (unlike for stats... i dont think NPC should be able to raise
stats)

- Cooking:
Sounds a bit useless, but lets say the character needs to hunt a deer, eating the
deer without cooking may make him "diseased". Yeah, this skill is a bit useless...
but hey, it all boils down on what skill system we would like to have.

- Tracking:
Not sure if this could be doable from the game, basically we would claim that
whenever a NPC moves, he leaves "tracks", and with a good tracking skill,
and a proper check the PC could find out who went where, and what (i.e.
a pack of wolves or whatever)

- Lore skills / Survival skills:
Basically how to survive in areas... or find ways if someone is lost... Hmm

- Anatomy:
This might help in combat, when you aim for weak spots.

Hmm .... cant think of more skills right now, will be adding more examples
lateron.
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« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2009, 06:41:49 AM »

Current skill list:

http://wiki.parpg.net/Proposals:SkillTreeSystem

Some of these will probably never be used.  Others probably need to be added.  Most of them are self-explanatory.
Still need to assign defaults, possible cross-defaults, prerequisites, and "value" (i.e, how useful are they)

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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2009, 02:22:35 PM »

Note to self:
- We should give players some kind of hints about those skills. A basic description when they hover over such a skill with their mouse perhaps.

I am a tiny bit worried (but really not much) about skills such as "Eye Surgery". It seems like a specialized skill? Not sure it could be useful ever.

Fallout did not have enough skills IMHO, and binding them to the level is not ... perfect. You kill monsters, then raise your speech skill. This appeared odd. Sure it is fun to grind for XP and have the char develop but I am not sure that this is realistic ...

Anyway, one advantage of having more skills is that we could also give the actor more ways to improve their skills. If they shoot a lot, it might be simple to improve combat related things and such. Reading books may give new insights as well.
And every once in a while a player may just raise specific skills "just so", perhaps completing sections of the game or something. (In betrayal at krondor, the stats increased automatically after some time has passed. The skills improved by "learning by doing", the maximum you could get in a skill was 100% but some items raised skills, like a lockpick helped pick a lock and so forth)
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2009, 08:09:18 PM »

"Eye surgery" was just an example of "depth", and not a particularly serious one.
In the end - there is no harm to HAVING the skill available, as long as it's balanced.

No one points out the inconsistency that Medicine is a child of Biology in the example and not in the main skill list... you guys are slipping!

Actually, I am not sure Medicine should be a child of Biology.... although I think there would be some very small defaults between the two.  If this is not clear, what I am saying is that if the game wants to test Biology and all you have is "Medicine" - you should have some reduced shot (1/4th Medicine skill?) of success.  Vice versa as well.

As for raising skills... that is a whole other can of worms (and another thread).  But just "shooting" does not improve the skill, in my opinion, it has to be either "training" (target practice) or "purposeful and challenging use within the game" (i.e, some fight that 'matters' somehow). 


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« Reply #11 on: January 19, 2010, 09:04:49 PM »


just capturing an exchange with maximinus:

Quote
One thing that strikes me is that you have 178 skills in your tree skill system and it could still said to be incomplete, since I see no Music skill, for a start. I know you're a realism orientated gamer person, but to me the gamer it just seems like a bit of overkill. I'm really thinking about - how do I display these easily to the player, and then how do we make them actually all useful in game? Things like 'anti-aircraft guns' just seem a bit OTT. I must say that mainly my problem is making this apparent to the player, and of making all this info not over-bearing.

That's why it's a tree system.    Obviously, anti-aircraft guns are not likely to show up (but they might), however the skill is under "Support Weapons" which is a catch-all for all kinds of military heavy weapons and hardware.    The point of the tree is that you could actually BUY the skill 'Support Weapons' and it would be used for bazookas and recoilless rifles and infantry guns and what have you.  But you if you had this skill (and not the sub-skill "Anti-aircraft weapons") and were _using_ an AAG, then your skill in AAG would increase (with a much smaller, concomittal increase in the parent skill "support weapons").   

The point of having 200-odd skills (since I know I left a few out... although I don't know how I forgot "music") is to give any writers/level designers the freedom to specialize.   The lower level "leaf" nodes of the tree aren't actually that important, you can always use the less-specific skill (either as a player "choosing" the skill, or as a lazy game designer)

I envision the tree just like a file system or jTree with little "+" icons to expand when necessary. 

Quote
Finally, what's in the wiki is pretty easy to code. I figure the hard part will be in balancing the combat, so we know what is 'easy', 'hard' and 'impossible'. So we'll need a test suite of some kind.

I did request a little "text only" combat simulator several months ago in the Programming forum, but it got deprioritized.
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2010, 01:55:50 AM »

I did request a little "text only" combat simulator several months ago in the Programming forum, but it got deprioritized.

Consider it prioritised  Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2010, 02:23:16 PM »

As I love simple development ideas, I somehow believe we need some Excell gurus for testing and ballancing mechanics. I did some serious Excell hacking some time ago (pinhole calculator), but I'm no that much into it yet.
No, this is not a joke.
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« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2010, 03:23:14 PM »

As I love simple development ideas, I somehow believe we need some Excell gurus for testing and ballancing mechanics. I did some serious Excell hacking some time ago (pinhole calculator), but I'm no that much into it yet.
No, this is not a joke.

I'm sure you can do it many ways (for the seriously geek out there we could uses Kenny's cells libs for Lisp). But since this project uses python, and we will have to end up porting the equations to the language, I'll be starting right there.

Mmmm... propagation - reminds me of hacking away at neural nets  Cool
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