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Class Systems

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My current project is a Turn Based Tactical RPG (Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force, etc). Now, I don't find that there is an outright _need_ for a class system in alot of RPG's ... I think that the player's choice of skills and the character's attribute development (Str, Agi, Int, whatever) pretty much define the role that the character fills. However, there certainly are advantages to having a class system. It provides a way of managing skills, provides guidance for how the player develops a given character, and for the particular genre I am working on I feel the most important aspect is that it provides a method of categorization of responsibilities ... each class having it's own role, specialized enough that a player would require a given number of different roles to succeed in battle. And a class aids in abstracting "numbers and abilities" into particular roles, vital for a Tactical game of any sort. Now that I have justified a class system (and by all means, feel free to comment on my justification), there comes the biggest question of all: how? How should I go about identifying roles and creating appropriate classes? I'll run down through my process thus far (this is one of those things I would really like advice on). To start off with (and this depends on your actual game mechanics) I try to get a few core groups established. For my current game, I broke any player up into 3 roles. Melee, Ranged, or Magic. Now, one of the things I was debating about this was whether or not to have the Magic group, because hypothetically a magic user could just be tossed in to the Melee or Ranged group. However, I specifically included the Magic group because there is a fundamental difference between a magic user and the other two ... that is, their damage is pretty much generated solely through skill (not physically attacking with a weapon), and they are unable to function (well, pretty much) when their MP/Mana pool runs low. So now I have my 3 groups. Not nearly what I need, since one of the features of games of my genre is the large number of classes (FFT had 30+ IIRC). So I figure out some more roles. For Melee, I want to have a character whose purpose is to take damage (tank), a character whose purpose is to dish out damage in large quantities, and a character whose purpose is to attack fast and move quickly, so if I located a weak point in their position I can hit it. When I say all this, it doesn't mean that they are mutually exclusive. Some characters will be effective at taking lots of damage while all along dealing out lots of damage, etc. But I am just splitting it up in terms of how I would use a Melee character in a game. Im going to stop there, because my goal was to describe the system I have developed for analyzing class roles. But there is even more things to consider in a class system, and this is the part that really haunts me: mechanics. How exactly should the class system work? So far I have thought about 3 different systems. The first, I refer to as action based, is like that of Dungeon Siege. A class is really more of a title, and it varies depending on how the character is developed. I feel this is a poor system for a TBT RPG, because at the scope of managing 10-20 total characters and identifying the roles of your enemy (important for the tactical/strategy part of the game) it really confuses things. However, I do feel this sort of system works well on a single / few character RPG. The second system I have thought of is similar to Diablo 2 or Ragnarok Online. That is, you pick a role from the beginning and develop it. In both cases the skills you are able to use are influenced by your class (I think this is a good thing for my project). In Ragnarok Online's case, there is a bit of "evolution" in which you can become a more advanced class. But for the most part, your role does not change. This sort of system is good because classes have definite roles, and developing a character throughout the game becomes a process of specialization. Finally, a class system like that of Final Fantasy Tactics. Each class has a predefined role, and there is a sense of evolution to it, but the character can become pretty much any class the player chooses. I can take my character and specialize him in Melee combat, and then pretty much on a whim start becoming a magic user. Now, you still do have to evolve the character, but classes become less deciding of a character's future. I still have not come to a decision about what is right for my game ... and another thing to keep in mind is that I am pragmatic enough to copy FFT's job system if need be, I would much rather try to innovate. But I haven't played enough games similar to what I am trying to create (im getting there though) and I just seem to have trouble with innovation. Any ideas on the subject?

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Well, players often find the idea of being locked down at the beginning of the game pretty scarey. Imagine being told to pick a class for a game you have never played before, and be expected to hold that class for the entirety of the game. I prefer the idea of being able to develop my character. I start as a simple peon or something. Depending what skills I choose to increase on level ups (I think this is important: let the player choose what to level up when), the character could evolve into certain things. For example, lets say we have these class skills (choose better names would be my recommendation ;) ):

MELEE
RANGED
MAGIC

Or something to that effect. Within each of these class skills, you could have a subset.

MELEE:
ATT - attack
DEF - defense
AGL - agility
RANGED:
DEX - dexterity
LCK - luck
MAGIC:
PER - perception
WIS - wisdom
INT - intelligence


So when a player levels up, he gets a certain amount of "level points". The player is then able to apply these level points to ihs character in any way he wants.

To choose what "class" the play is, you simply see what section has more points: melee, ranged, or magic. However, to see their subset, you do more intense calculations. For example, a "tank" could have high def, and low attack. A "knight" could have high attack, low def. Etc, etc.

You could even compare these "top classes" to create some new classes like "arcane archer", who has high RANGED and high MAGIC.

Deciding exactly what subclass a character belongs too becomes a game of numbers, and extreme number crunching. However, that number crunching only has to occur every time a player levels up, so it shouldn't be that difficult to include.


Thats just one way I see that you could include an evolutional class system within your game, melding ragnarok, FFT and dungeon siege. Something similar might work well.

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