design that promotes and rewards a more "balanced" playstyle
I think this is an excellent idea in general, however perhaps some players don't want
what you or I think is balanced play. Perhaps some people only enjoy one kind of play: there are those who only want to partake in social activities, and others who only want the combat aspect of things. While I think that having many options available is a very good thing, perhaps it would be good to pick a theme for the game and focus on that. Instead of doing several things well, it might be better to do one thing very well. I'm not completely sure about this, but I often wonder how feasible it is to accurately balance very different styles of play. Perhaps the solution is to offer several games, not several facets to a single game, although of course that has issues of its own...
One thing I may try to do is have the VR xp be lower than non-combat xp gain on the basis that it really is just virtual experiences, but I'm not positive exactly how to balance the xp to begin with.
It's an interesting question. I've never learned things in a VR before so I don't know exactly how it works.
That said, I think there's something to be said about learning when something really valuable (as opposed to simply real) is at stake: you have a much higher incentive to try hard, to reflect, etc. I've seen people play games they don't care about and make stupid mistakes over and over again because they're not trying, but then the same person, when put in a situation that matters to them, will start learning much more quickly.
Either way though, by establishing this bias you establish the bias of the entire game, which might be exactly what you want to do in the first place. Since you seem to want social activities to be the main focus, and the combat grind to be a pastime of sorts, it makes sense to encourage the former over the latter; the XP bias is a way to do just that. Working out the numbers is an interesting question, but even a rather small penalty on the XP gain would (should?) be enough to indicate the intended main activity.
Of course, without a cap on the XP, the grind can still give more XP than anything else, as long as you can repeat it enough times in the same amount of time.
I figure, once you got the "what" in mind, the "how" usually finds a way of working itself out... eventually. *chuckle*
I agree with you, and it's certainly a much better approach than working out the "how" before knowing the "what".
(Seriously though: it can be a big problem to just start coding without having an idea of where you're actually going with it. You might end up having to scrap many hours/days/whatever of work.)