I do like the mastery quest idea. Most of the issues with it could be hashed out through balance and mechanics changes…like instancing the mastery quest line and scaling the mobs with the character level.
I feel that this also accomplishes most of the problems with the system itself.
first off, the current system is counter-intuitive already. 5 points magically appearing are going to make anyone wonder what they heck just happened, and drive them to the forum for answers. it’s simple, but not intuitive. so even if we went with the “magic” unlock in my first example, it would probably be at the least as counter intuitive as the current model, if a bit more complicated.
Mastery quests solve this by using the quest system to explain the intricacies of the new class and possibly even challenging you to use some of the classes abilities during the quest. Once completed, you have the option of unlocking that mastery.
Obviously putting points into another skill tree and getting to 30 unlock another mastery quest and complicate things. But it’s still intuitive. players can go talk to their “master” at any time once they’ve completed a quest chain and choose that “mastery” if it’s available. But at some points your master will force you to choose a “path” thus unlocking the tree and subsequent skill points. If a player decides to abstain from choosing at that time, and then puts 30 more points in another tree, they can do the mastery quest line for that tree as well, but it will still ultimately fall down to them choosing a path from their master.
here’s my example:
Knight puts 30 points in the Sentinel tree, where they get a quest to go talk to a Master Knight somewhere in Knightly land of fluffy panda’s. Master knight indicates that they are ready to learn more about one of the true knights of the fold, the “Sentinel” and to do this, they have to travel back to the past and relive his life events that led him to being the Sentinel of all Sentinels.
So you do the quest, get some cool stuff, learn some cool things, and learn about a few of the advanced skills (perhaps given as temporary skills during a solo instanced event). you get to try them out, and once all is said and done, you return to your master, and they say, “Are you ready to ascend Knight of the round port-a-potty!” you say Yes! and you get the unlock and perhaps some cool gear item focused on the class (in this case a shiny shield would do good).
But lest say your not sure, so you tell your master that. He responds with “many paths are their to the mighty port-a-potty” and tells you to go learn more, opening the option to try other things. So you try the Route of the void knight, unlocking that mastery series. The master now sends you to a future where all is bleak and dark, and the void knight reigns supreme over dark lands consumed by dark…uh…darkness.
You come back, and he says, “gratz! you know have two paths before you, which shall you choose?” And when you chose one, the other is lost.
Or perhaps they’re all future possibilities based on you, and your deciding your own fate. Lots of cool possibilities in this, but it all falls down to the same thing. It’s smooth, it teaches players about the advances classes they are trying out, and gives them the option of NOT choosing that advanced class and unlocking another. If they’ve done all the quests for that class, they have 3 options! not even sure if that’s doable (are we going to be able to reset points in this game?), but it still works well, because you have done the quests for each AC, and you can choose one or another at any time.
Only downside is developer time. But I think it’s worth investing in!