I would like to preface this by saying that I am a long time AQ player, having played literally every single AQ game since their conception - yes, even Pony vs Pony and that one hack and slash game that everyone forgets the name of. And I've seen what works and what hasn't, and yet I feel right now as though AQ3D's team is dedicating their talented team to the wrong areas and inefficiently.
AQ3D has focused in my opinion, far too much on creating 'new content' that is mechanically identical to what already exists and hence offers literal zero new gameplay value. Most new equipment AQ has provided is gorgeous to look at but at the same time, isn't gameplay nor a substitute for new experiences. Eventually, furthermore, too many items leads to item bloat and hence new 'rare' sets lose their value - if there are hundreds of different 'flavor of the week' rare sets none of them have very much either.
Instead, I believe AQ3D needs to focus on developing new game content. I was ecstatic to see not only the login rewards, providing a new incentive to log in, but class ranks and additional 'cross skills', fleshing out the limited combat system. This is new gameplay, improves the game and makes it also feel more developed.
However, there has been little focus on other areas of enjoyability of the game. Few minigames (aside from parkour, virtually nil) and rather poorly done 'skills' like fishing which was certainly a flop. New dungeons and new monster areas are, as I have stated, not substitutes for gameplay. They're essentially the same thing underneath a different appearance. Looks different, but considering how most mobs are essentially the same experience but with different damage and health values, feels mechanically restrictive and very quickly boring. Hence a lack of player interest.
Indeed, you can see how big of a factor this is when even the most loyal and hardcore AQ3D fans such as Goldraven and the 'AE Federation' resort to creating player driven 'minigames' such as a rock paper scissors variant with emotes, due to a sparsity of things to do.
Hence I believe, aside from PvP, that player skills are the most important thing to invest in. Skills with genuinely important incentives, relatively fun and not one dimensional (like the ridiculous click and wait of Fishing) systems that players care about and can be good time and money sinks. Fishing was bad not only for being boring, tedious, with little player input, but also for having no real reason to level it up. Your ranks meant nothing, there was no reward, no good perks for spending time on it.
Yet I also know that AE stretches their already limited resources incredibly thin and much of what they do is a labour of love. Hence to create an abundance of skills, such proposed skills can't propose outrageous new systems that are too absurdly code intensive. At the same time you can't get lazy and create a few new armours as rank up incentives because frankly, such an incentive doesn't work at all in the long term and means little to players.
And hence I propose a couple of systems and mechanics that ARE relevant, important in the long term, that all players care about and have an incentive to level up, employ more enjoyable and more unique gameplay and do not involve creating entirely new systems from the ground up. They are all connected to existing activities and involve quality of life upgrades for existing player mechanics.
Firstly, a reward system. Just like PvP, a daily and furthermore, weekly and even monthly reward system needs to be implemented. A problem with AQW's reward system was that, again, dew to item bloat and PvP gear having merely aesthetic value, most players could care less about rewards and therefore felt like they were wasting time doing PvP as there was no important tangible reward.
There are two resources in AQ3D that ALL players care about, regardless of level. Gold, and Dragon Crystals.
Armor, resource and weapon rewards are okay but not in the long term, especially as players can easily obtain all existing armors in a short enough time and therefore have no more incentive.
But for example, if the 'top 10 daily players with most PvP victories' were to receive 8000 gold and 500 dragon crystals, the top 50 to receive 4000 gold and 200 crystals, the top 100 to receive 2000 gold and 100 crystals, and the top 50% to receive 1000 gold and 50 crystals, players would begin to have a permanent interest in said facet of a game. Add weekly and/or monthly leaderboards with such rewards and it becomes not only a one day venture but something some players may find due cause to join in on for weeks at a time.
Such a reward system could be implemented for player skills where ranks and experience were involved. Such that once you DID arrive at max rank, you still had reason to level up. (Not only is a reward based system with time frames important, an all time leaderboard like in EpicDuel, as was seen there, is very effective).
Furthermore, each skill must have some impact on player quality of life. This means not aesthetic rewards but something tangible that influences and improves the ease of the game, e.g. the rate of loot drops or the price of NPC bought items. Hence, ALL players have an incentive to work a skill rank up and it always feels important, relevant, and rewarding to have done so, unlike armors obtained for ranking up that you might never wear.
Finally, not merely leaderboards but something like a title may add additional prestige to ranking up a skill. For example, in a 20 rank system, a rank 1 'crafting' skill may provide a 'Novice Crafter' badge, 5th rank a 'Proficient Crafter', 10th rank a 'Veteran Crafter', 15th a 'Master Crafter' and 20th, 'Legendary Crafter'. And I would recommend streamlining such titles for all skills, not introducing different style titles between skills, so there is some level of innate recognition that, e.g., 'Master Forager' would be a rank 15+ Forager and Legendary would denounce a rank 20 Crafter without having to learn more about the different titles between skills.
(In my opinion, 10-20 hours of dedicated grinding to fully rank a skill seems like a sweet spot for a less hardcore game like AQ3D. For casual players who hop on and off, that'd translate to 30 or so hours of ingame time, or weeks of playing to fully rank a single skill if they were to put all of their focus onto one skill. Whereas for hardcore players in one or two days they could be done with it and instead focus their attention on skills either to get to the top of the leaderboards, or be done with them and benefit solely from the passive skill perks and their impact on primary gameplay, i.e. monsters and combat.)
And without further ado, here are the skills I suggest:
Passive perk: Loot Finder
Increases the chance of miscellaneous item drops by X%.
By miscellaneous items I refer to items usually used in crafting, such as Screaming Ingots from Bludroots or Runed leafs. This has a greater connection to the skill's theme of foraging and has an important bearing for essentially all players.
A balanced percentage may be something like 1% per rank, up to 20% for a 20 rank player. Which is a significant impact but not something that would make the game absurdly tilted for experienced players over new arrivals, just something that feels hefty enough for the substantial time investment of reaching rank 20 at all.
Levelling up this skill would involve missions to run around and find items on a map (like existing quests). This type of quest could be appropriate and enjoyable for a skill if such quests involved a different map everytime. It seems like a shame that, after reaching the highest level, there's not a big incentive to explore many lower level areas. With skills such as this one the wonderful environments of AQ3D could have importance once more as players hop from Doomwood to Greenguard to Ashfall to finish their foraging mission.
Passive perk: Potion Potency
Increase health and mana restored by potions by X%
Same percentages as for Foraging, 1% per rank. Not game breaking but adds up and feels very significant at higher levels. Such numbers when related to combat must be relatively low (20% already comes close to stretching it) as more would make it too difficult to balance monsters for a large group of players.
Levelling up this skill could involve a minigame as in Dragonfable. Or, like Foraging, it could once more involve the gathering of resources travelling around all of the maps.
Passive perk: Treasure Hunter
Increases the chance of obtaining equipment drops from monsters by X%.
Part of why I would suggest that Foraging only increases the chance of misc. drops - to diversify skills more. This skill essentially involves identifying monsters. Could involve killing a specific monster but could also just involve finding one to complete the quest to gain rank experience.
Passive perk: Extraordinary Athlete
Increases base movement speed by X%.
This one's a little debatable if keeping a constant movement speed between all players is crucial, but given that travel forms exist a max 20% disparity in speed doesn't feel like a stretch. Furthermore, it might wait on implementation until further parkour maps are added, as my suggestion would be adding checkpoints on parkours (from beginning, possibly in the middle of parkours, and at the finish line) and rewarding experience based on completion and amplified by the quickness of completion. At the same time, completing parkour maps may be even more enjoyable and a welcome break from grinding on monsters. Perhaps a half an hour detour spent on practicing on parkours would be a fun little break, getting one or a couple of ranks in that short time and then returning back to regular gameplay - questing, grinding, or other skills. With more parkours with different attributes (e.g more cool additions like lasers and disappearing platforms), this could shape up to be a great skill.
Passive Perk: Deft Hands
Reduces the time taken to craft an item by X%. (Potentially 2% per rank? This one is slightly more niche so a bigger perk effect would be in order)
This was the first skill I thought of as it's an existing mechanic in the game, yet it's only used as a means when it could truly have potential being called a skill.
Not only crafting unique items, but perhaps a set of more general crafts that have resell value could be a wonderful addition such that levelling crafting ranks is rewarding not only for the perk but for the monetary benefit. E.g. all rank crafters have access to making a 'Crude Sword' and 'Rough Tunic' to resell for 50 gold, but 5th rankers can make a 'Basic Sword' for 100, 10th a 'Refined Sword' for 200, 15th an 'Superior Sword' for 500 and 20th, 'Flawless Sword' and 'Flawless Tunic' for 1000 gold per item (and with a longer craft time, but proportionally shorter still such that profits per hour increase also). Hence one has always got a crafting grind pick to casually work away at instead of searching too much for new items to craft. Of course, crafting other items should reward more experience to encourage players to explore the game's content more.
That was another extremely important advantage of the skills I have suggested - they provide reason to revisit dead content. In AQ, Dragonfable, AQW, and many other games from other developers, a big issue is that once certain items and areas enter the foray, others have no more value. With skills like crafting encouraging one to revisit older crafts, foraging (and possibly alchemy) to explore other maps, agility to look at all the parkour available, and loremastery to find older monsters, the issue of dead content is partially fixed.
Thank you for reading my suggestion. I hope my arguments over the benefits of such a system are persuasive and the particular ideas I proposed were well made enough, or at least sparked an interest in skills of such a nature that they become a part of AQ3D's ever improving experience.