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Mephs

Class system or freeform characters?

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Looking at the characters in my game, I think I’m going to adopt a freeform method of building characters, rather than fitting them into class categories. I also think that I am not going to apply any limitations on usage of items/etc. I believe that a wizard should be just as able to don a suit of armour as a knight. They may not be as effective, but it may be that the player wishes to create a battle mage style character, and I think that we should allow them the flexibility to do so if this is what they desire. Do you think that this kind of system may give the player too much control perhaps, or do you think that players should be free to create whatever character they desire? I think this would help solve some balance issues though, as players will not be able to complain that they are unable to use uber ability X while another player can. Should we impose some kind of limitation on the system to stop the appearance of masters of everything type characters appearing? It does make some sense to me that players should not be able to become masters at everything, and I’m not sure that this should be achieved by simply placing the mastery of everything so far out of their reach that it makes the game one long grind. Perhaps instead we need some kind of compromise? What do you think? Thanks, Steve

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Is this a party based or single character game?

In my opinion, classes perform an important role in making a good party based game. In short, they encourage teamwork. Each character relies on the others to cover his weaknesses, and in turn brings the strengths of his own class to the team.

In a party based game with more freeform characters, there is less incentive to work as a team, and characters can often end up becoming generic and the relationships between them uninteresting.

In a single character game, the player *has* to be a one man army (unless it's party based) in which case the chances are, he'll either need to be vaguely competent at everything, or the game will need to be structured so that you don't *need* to be competent at everything to succeed.

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My game is actually going to be a small scale multiplayer RPG (NOT an MMOG!). I can see what you are saying regarding the promotion of teamwork, but that then begs the question: What do groups do when they lack certain key characters such as a healer/buffer/tank etc? This shouldn’t matter so much in my own game, as games are likely to be played between small groups of friends rather than strangers, but it could still be a factor. It becomes very annoying when you are unable to do anything in the game because you are unable to find a certain class. I suppose this is a symptom of bad design, but I do think that cookie cutter classes make life harder as a designer.

Any further thoughts?

Thanks,

Steve

*Edit* So to answer your question, you will play a single character, but fight as part of a group, though I'm considering a single player option as well, it may be more work than I can handle! I'm currently getting together a fairly complete design doc, renewing my webspace, cleaning up my WorldSpawn editor code before advertising once again on help wanted with everything in a fit state to start converting it to a team project that stands a real chance of getting somwhere!! (I've even written my help wanted post in advance!)

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Quote:
Original post by Mephs
My game is actually going to be a small scale multiplayer RPG (NOT an MMOG!). I can see what you are saying regarding the promotion of teamwork, but that then begs the question: What do groups do when they lack certain key characters such as a healer/buffer/tank etc?


To be honest, it's a bit of a non-question. It's a bit like asking what a football (soccer) team would do if they lacked a goalkeeper, or had no strikers. If you end up with a 'team' like that, it was never really a team in the first place.

It's certainly never been an issue in any pnp rpgs I've played. You don't need all that many players to get the main bases covered, and even if you're slightly lacking in a particular area, it shouldn't be too difficult to work around it. If the party is a bit thin on the healing side, then they'll just have to be more careful at avoiding getting into heavy fights. If they're a bit short on strong melee characters, they'll have to work to try and keep the enemy at a distance.

Quote:
This shouldn’t matter so much in my own game, as games are likely to be played between small groups of friends rather than strangers, but it could still be a factor. It becomes very annoying when you are unable to do anything in the game because you are unable to find a certain class. I suppose this is a symptom of bad design, but I do think that cookie cutter classes make life harder as a designer.


I do think there's an argument to be made for avoiding too much class rigidity - a certain amount of potential skill overlap between classes is not a bad idea, and it gives you a certain amount of redundancy.

Of course, coming from a pnp rpg background, my perspective may be slightly different. It would not surprise me in the slightest if a large number of crpg players tend to think in terms of making their own character the biggest and baddest guy in the game, and would see class systems as an annoying obstacle to this. I do think though, that they're missing out on one of the main things that makes these games fun in the first place.

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Some good points there, just to clarify though, I do originally come from a pen and paper RPG background myself having played mainly Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and CyberPunk. I do have a lot of experience with CRPGs as well (Baldurs Gate, Fallout, Planescape: Torment, etc etc), finally I also have a lot of experience with EverQuest.

As you can see I'm approaching this with a wide range of knowledge on different approaches to gaming, and am actually aiming to make my cRPG much more like a pen and paper RPG than anything that has been created before. Anyhoo, this is all not too relevant to the discussion, but just wanted to make sure I wasn't being mistaken for someone who played a single crpg and became an overnight expert :P

Cheers,

Steve

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Quote:
Original post by Mephs
Anyhoo, this is all not too relevant to the discussion, but just wanted to make sure I wasn't being mistaken for someone who played a single crpg and became an overnight expert :P


No not at all, I was more referring to the how the players might see things. I 'm worried that many CRPG players are used to playing in a much more self centered way and might react poorly to a game in which working as a team is paramount.

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If you want to see a balanced classless CRPG, I'd suggest taking a look at the Avernum and Exile series from Spiderweb Software. Each level gained gives a character some skill points to spend improving skills. Skills don't destructively interfere with each other (so taking a melee skill doesn't mean that you suddenly are worse at magic) but they may constructively interfere (some skills get extra bonuses if other skills are high). As a skill becomes higher level, the cost to improve it increases. Finally, as players get to the higher levels of the game, they start getting fewer skill points per level. All this combines to mean that each player should probably specialize to some degree, but has the freedom to dabble in other areas without being penalized. I have completed all three games with a single-player party (they're designed for parties of four), in which case my character was average at everything: couldn't get the highest spells, and only an OK fighter (but actually, fighters who can use magic are very effective since they can bless and haste themselves).

For a multiplayer system, you might want to make it slightly less easy for a jack-of-all-trades to do everything "well enough"; there should be some incentive to work with the team. If you're missing the party healer, you could have someone else who knows some healing magic, but you'll be really wanting to have had that healer around when you were playing. In other words, specialists should be useful, but if they're missing, they should be (poorly) replaceable by someone who has dabbled in their realm.

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Your average player (imo) can appreciate not being limited to a specific character role. Actually looking at many MMO's, many specific classes have players that ask for more abilities from other classes so they can be self sufficent.

Fallout, Morrowind, and Dungeon Siege are the three games that come to mind first, for leaving character creation up to the player. It works well if you use the Fallout system, where you choose one skill, it turns others off. This stops players from being able to be everything, but still allows them to create a "unique" character that is different from others.

Dungeon Siege was equipment based. Players had the "option" of choosing different skills as they developed their character, but if you didnt focus in one area you wouldn't be able to use the necessary equipment to handle the next set of challenges.

Too much free-form can be very harmful. A player could possibly pick enough different skills to not be effective at anything. Not to mention the overwhelming feeling initially (of actually having too many choices).

I think a blend of the two could be a good way to go. I know I've seen it before, I can't think where. Basically you choose a primary class, and a secondary class. The primary would level faster (and you can still have skills to choose per class), keeping the player in step with the current game difficulty, and a secondary class, which levels at half, or a fourth of the pace, offers versatility to the player.

D

[Edited by - dggamer on December 3, 2004 12:23:38 PM]

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I like a "recommended class" open ended system. I'm trying to do a good job with this in my project, so I'll tell you a bit about it.

All skills are available to all player characters in a large grid. The user gains experience and option points, experience is what allows you to buy skills, and option points allow you to move around the grid to the other different skills. Individual skills are stackable, so you could just stay where you are and learn the skill's next, more powerful level. Or you can use option points and learn varying skills. This allows the user to make whatever form of character they want.

A very simplified grid example would be below... (very simplified!)
111--112--122--222
113--123--124--224
133--134--234--244
333--334--344--444
Skill types are 1, 2, 3, and 4... whatever they may be, stuff like magic, psionics, technical, and strength skills.

The "recommended class" is determined by which skill you start a character on. If a user decided to start a wizard character, they would start on skill 111, farthest from strength skills. This represents that, although not impossible, it is hardest for them to move across the grid to get to different skills. By the same token, a barbarian would start on purely strength skills, 444, with the hardest skills for him to learn are magic ones. He's have to earn a lot of option points to move across.

I think this is a good way to give the option of both class driven characters and freeform as well. Just up to the player to decide. Hope it's understandable and helpful to you.

As ever,
***Cosmic***

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I think the type of game that dggamer was talking about at the end of his post would be one similar to Wizardry 8. You choose your primary class, and everytime you level, you have the option of switching your character to another class (Wizardry has limits on which alternate classes any given primary class can play). This allows a character to level up without being restricted to just one set of skills, so if you were missing a healer, somebody who had played a few levels as a healer would have the skills (albeit at a much lower level) to take the place of that healer. The next time they leveled, they could switch to the healer class, allowing them to learn new healing skills to help the party out, with the downside being they would not be leveling in their primary role. This should keep a checks and balances on character development, because if you spend too much time playing in other classes, you will not be able to fulfill your primary role.

*******
Gwyddion

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