Sunday, December 03, 2006

On Teaching

Edit: I've revised the teaching system here. This post is no longer relevant but for historical purposes.

Having one player teach another is no new thing; Star Wars Galaxy had a teaching system, in which newbies could learn skills while more experienced players enjoyed free experience. This, however, doesn't reflect the reality of time spent teaching and learning. How, then, would I implement a reasonable teaching system?

Teaching is not an easy subject. One has to remember that it must be rewarding to both the teacher and the student and must not be boring for either of them. How do you do that? By making teaching and learning an offline activity.

I believe players should not waste the character's time while offline. To this goal, a player should be allowed to learn while offline. How much you can learn depends on the skill : half of what you have learned through experience for regular skills, and any amount you want for purely theoretical skills (more on that later). The rate at which you learn should be slower than learning from experience, so hardcore players can still learn faster than casuals.

So how does the teacher come in? A student can learn by him or herself for most subjects, as long as they have some experience already; a teacher simply improves the rate of learning. How much faster the student learns depends on the teacher's skill in the taught skill and in their Teaching skill.

How this would work is similar to a localised auction house : a teacher going offline would offer their teaching skills at a local house of learning for a certain price. Students going offline can then see if any teacher is available for the skills they want to learn, pay the appropriate price (which may be fixed, time-based or skill-based) and learn while offline. In this sense, Teaching becomes just another tradeskill, which allows a trader to convert a resource (time) into cash.

With the possibility to learn skills theoretically, why not make skills that are purely theoretical? Skills like Biology, Tactics, Arcane Lore or Arts could be learned only by studying, alone or under a teacher. Those skills would give bonuses to other skills (Biology is good for healing, for example, while Arts could help a variety of tradeskills), making them a worthwhile pursuit.

This could also encourage social interactivity; friends could set up private lessons, while guilds could give priority or exclusivity to guildsmates, or even build their own, private school, renting their classrooms to other teachers.

I believe teaching would add another nice variance to killing stuff for XP, while giving players' characters something to do while offline (making hardcore players pay extra is just a bonus). There's no reason teachers couldn't make a living in a MMORPG.

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