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JasRonq

What am I? RPG classes.

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JasRonq    156
I'd like to make an assumption to start with (which may turn out to be a bad one, but I hope not) and move onto my question. My assumption is that for a player, the character classes of RPGs answer the question of "What am I?". There are of course other things (which may be very similar, ie, professions) that can answer this question, but in general, the class seems to define what the character is by defining its skill set. What I would like to know is, how should I design classes to best answer this question? If I make the purpose of classes in my game to answer that question (regardless of whether or not it normally is the answer) how should classes be designed to best give the player that answer? I ask because I have a feeling the answer may be deeper than just skill trees, graphics that are themed to match the class, and a label. [Edited by - JasRonq on May 16, 2008 10:31:04 AM]

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Humble Hobo    255
I'm also assuming your classes are combat classes (like every other RPG). It's interesting you make the distinction between combat classes and non-combat classes (professions). In all RPGs, the combat class is important, and the professions are just fun little time wasters.

If you want classes to relate to a player's style or personality, "What am I?", then you should offer a wide variety of diverse classes. (Because there are a wide variety of diverse people playing).

Generally, you get the standard options. Each appeals to different people. Forgive my MMO terminology, but it works in Single-player games as well.

-Tank
-Mage
-Stabby McBackstab
-Some hybrid
-Healer (MMO only)

Every 'class' is just a way of dealing damage (lowering the enemy's HP bar faster than they lower yours). They way in which they deal damage will appeal to different people.

Some people like the fast-paced, flurry of stabbing blades feel. Others play exclusively mages in every RPG, because they like to nuke things. Everyone falls somewhere in the continuum, so make classes that cover the main points of the spectrum, then let them customize their class to a certain degree to cover the entire spectrum.

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JasRonq    156
Most single player games are centered around combat. Non-combat classes are a sort of co-class found in MMORPGs to give the player something to work towards when they dont want to go kill things and as a source of crafted items. It can work in a single player RPG too, but rarely is used.

If there was a system which allowed the player to choose skill sets that operated internally to support a specific style of behavior, (i.e. acrobatics for the players who like to jump in and out of the enemies range and dodge a lot) how could such a group of skill sets be used to create a semi open class system? I'm thinking about a skill group in terms of a mini skill tree that covers a single tactic in a certain way. I would still want the skill groups to blend cohesively to provide an identity. What if the skill groups were under classes and you were allowed to pick a set within your class and maybe a few from outside it? Then your class and identity (your answer to "what am I?") would be the class your skill groups are mostly under. Could that work?

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sunandshadow    7426
Classes usually are geared toward an overall preference for one type of tactic: ignore damage taken by being a tank, avoid damage taken by shielding or using a distance attack combined with something to keep the monsters stuck over there, negate damage by healing, do a huge burst of damage that takes out the monster faster than they can kill you, avoid damage by choosing to fight a group of low level monsters rather than a single high level monster, avoid combat by being invisible or by taking an animal form monsters perceive as another monster or by running really fast. Some of these are harder to balance than others, especially the ones which prefer to avoid combat because they will probably get less xp, money, and drops per time played, as well as being unable to group effectively with types who don't avoid combat because the latter will take all the damage. There are also social styles - those who prefer to solo, those who prefer to heal and buff others, those who prefer to melee ignoring everything except the monster, those who prefer to carefully pull and nuke from a distance, and those who prefer to do everything because otherwise combat is too boring.

Then classes also have a second function, expressing personality or a very simple form of faction. For example druids are supposed to be nature lovers, there's usually one class which is animalistic and uses ally animals, paladins are supposed to be religious, rogues are supposed to be amoral and possibly kleptomaniacs, one class may be evil and associated with demons or vampirism, melee fighters are supposed to be cocky and not too bright, mages are supposed to be intelligent and probably sarcastic, etc. Some games use an overlapping grid of classes and races where one specifies the combat type and one the personality. Personally I'd like to see a system where either class or race determines personality, but combat style is totally determined by how the player builds the character's talents/abilities and which they choose to use in combat.

[Edited by - sunandshadow on May 16, 2008 12:47:28 PM]

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deathtojohnny    142
You could always do a questionnaire in game so that you can choose the best class, skill levels, and personalities traits for their characters. RPGers typically love surveys, especially if it makes their character more like who they want it to be.

Each question can have different answers and give different points, so that no character/class is ever the same... for example:

If you saw a puppy with broken legs, what would you do?
a. Carry it all around and nurture, until it gets better. (Nature/Good: +10, Personality = Loving)
b. Find it a good home for someone else to take care of it. (Nature/Good: +5, Personality = Caring)
c. Put it out of its misery. (Nature/Evil: +10, Personality = Stoic)
d. Walk away. (Nature/Good: +5, Personality = Regal)

Anyone that chooses A, or questions like A, will probably be set up as a monk, while someone who chooses option D, will most likely end up as a warrior.

Just an example.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
If you want classes to relate to a player's style or personality, "What am I?", then you should offer a wide variety of diverse classes. (Because there are a wide variety of diverse people playing).

I don't think this is a good idea. In my opinion, it helps to defeat the most vital role of pre-rolled classes: giving the player a strong sense of identity, sense of direction and purpose, and most importantly, giving the game world preconceptions about the player. The more classes you have, the less interesting the differences between them will become.

For example, a game can change gameplay, dialog, and plot arcs when dealing with a Knight rather than a Thief. This helps to give a person role playing as a Knight a different sense of direction and purpose than one role playing as a Thief. The fewer of these that you have, the stronger those traits can be implemented.

I would recommend leaving most of the skills and character advancement seperated from the class system. Allow it to have a small influence, but not so much that it restricts choices to the degree that classes do in most RPGs. The game should present the roles to help define purpose, and players should ultimately have the ability to choose what skills they need to fulfill that purpose.

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JasRonq    156
I have been thinking in terms of a class/sub-class system for that reason. A class that gives identity and in a general way defines the skill sets available, but the sub classes (which may not really look like subclasses) would be where the game play differences that are big come from. For instance, I rather like the skill system of D2, the skill trees were good, the classes had identity, the synergies were wonderful. In any case, I look at the three skill trees of each class as sub-classes. After all, in many classes the characters can be played well using only one tree and each tree is very different from the other two. In a more defined class/sub-class system these trees could be used to provide specific play styles for each class while not watering down identities of the classes. I'm still working out how to mesh together play styles, which are numerable, with distinct character identities which should be relatively few and memorable.

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Humble Hobo    255
I think I used the wrong wording there. The idea wasn't that there was a class for each hundredth point on the spectrum, it was that you offered a variety that covers different playstyles.

It's just the standard RPG thing. Give the players some archetypes and they will pick the style that they enjoy. You offer 3 or more styles of dealing/taking damage.

Type 1 - Large damage output, but dies if you so much as trip
Type 2 - Low damage output, but can take massive amounts of it in return
Type 3 - Medium damage output, medium resistance to attacks, but can deal damage really fast.

Hybrid(s)

And there you go. 3 or more classes that cover the entire spectrum. People will choose the class that they most identify with (like the feel of best).

By no means is this the best (or only) way to let people 'identify' with the character. This is just the easiest way of implementing it through classes.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Humble Hobo
I think I used the wrong wording there. The idea wasn't that there was a class for each hundredth point on the spectrum, it was that you offered a variety that covers different playstyles.

I just misunderstood, because it looks fine now that I get your meaning. Since I disagreed with the opposite of your suggestion, I obviously fully support it. Having diverse classes is a big plus, and having many similar classes makes classes less functional.

On an unrelated note, one thing I would like to see implemented would be AI strategy changing because of preconceptions about characters. A designer would need to be careful to make it have actual meaning and depth, though, and that would take a fair bit of planning. You wouldn't want the player to be able to simply develop outside of their class to obtain an edge in the game, but it would be interesting if such a thing could be used sparingly or discretely. A grenader pulling out a sniper rifle (secret weapon) to battle a clever foe who is trying to take advantage of range, for example.

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thelovegoose    101
Look up personality theory for a few different ways to divide up personality types.
Perhaps you could match a class to each of those?

A handy thing about that is if you choose a well researched classification, you will have some good evidence to suggest how that type of player will behave in certain siutations (provided they pick the class that suits them! Which I expect they often wont).

So actually yeah, take note of what I'm saying, but don't actually do this.

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makeshiftwings    398
As some have said, I think the only reason the class seems to represent "who you are" the most is because combat is the focus of so many RPG's. When you're crafting, you are your profession. When you're choosing which quest to take, you are your alignment. But 90% of the time, you're killing monsters, so you are your class.

You could probably change the player's focus on different parts of his character sheet by changing how much time you put into each aspect of your game. If you make your RPG 90% about crafting, then players will define themselves by profession much more than by class.

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Wavinator    2017
I think one thing that's often overlooked is how classes telegraph to the buyer the core content of your RPG. Take the lack of a viable purely non-combat class in almost every single player RPG-- we're telling the player that they're going to be some kind of exterminator. What you offer in classes tells them what kind of exterminator they're going to be: good guy exterminator, sneaky exterminator, exterminator with exotic pest control options, whatever.

I think grouping classes and skills is good because it allows you to be upfront about how you expect the player to play the game. Don't allow the player to group things together in such a way that it creates false expectations. It would be bad design, for instance, to allow players to invest solely in non-combat skills like acrobatics, sneaking and lock-picking to the exlusion of combat because it allows the player to think that they can win the game solely through these skills.

I don't think you can provide the player much identity through the combat options, though. A really good tank and a really good sniper are just going to feel like really good fighters, nothing more.

Unless you have radically limited roles, the raw material for identity is probably going to come from the missions you present, how you allow them to be solved, and what identity the game world gives you based on your actions. In Fallout, for instance, when you become the "Savior of the Damned" it's not solely based on skills and savvy in a type of combat: You can win this identity as a sniper or a brute or other mix. But your role emerges because of who you've exterminated or spared and how you've resolved different quests (compare this to the moniker in that game of "Child Killer" and how the world treats you).

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JasRonq    156
You are right, Wavinator, about the identity not being impacted much by the combat role. it is something I hadn't realized before this thread but classes have two roles. They provide your skill set, but they also provide an image of who you are, and those two things are very separate. Compare these: Two special OPs agents, one melee, knife fighting master with a sneaky back stabbing dark side, the other a lone sniper god on a roof. They feel fairly similar but their combat roles are very different. Now instead imagine this: An emaciated undead knife fighter gutting his enemies, and a (cliche alert) elven priestess with a bow sniping from the trees.

Same roles, very different identities though.
Honestly though, I'm not really sure how to take this into account in a character creation system. How do you let a player choose the identity and combat role separately? Make the class the identity alone and then allow them to choose combat abilities separately?

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sunandshadow    7426
Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
Honestly though, I'm not really sure how to take this into account in a character creation system. How do you let a player choose the identity and combat role separately? Make the class the identity alone and then allow them to choose combat abilities separately?


Like I mentioned above, some games let the player separately chose their class and race. Usually class is the combat ability and race the identity. Class is kind of a loaded term, you could substitute 'fighting style' or simply 'weapon' to remove any stray identity connotations from particular classes. Other systems substitute faction for the philosophical and political part of the character's identity, whether faction is chosen at the beginning or developed through choices made in the game.

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
I don't think you can provide the player much identity through the combat options, though. A really good tank and a really good sniper are just going to feel like really good fighters, nothing more.

That's true with some classes, but not all of them. There are many classes that really do present different types of identies for characters. A paladin and knight are both similar and combat related. The knight is a patriot, and the paladin fights against evil for all that is not evil. But you would probably never talk a paladin into killing a group of normal humans to benefit a king, and you would have a difficult time convincing your knight to kill his dark king to save another country. They both fight, but they fight for very different reasons.

That's a worse-case scenario. There are plenty of classes that can offer a huge degree of variation with purpose and NPC interaction, which is the majority of identity in a role playing game. Most games already employ varying combat styles, but do very little for the rest.

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Bearhugger    1276
One very important thing to consider if you want to make class role-playing better is that classes might bear totally different stereotypes depending on the game world. For example, the stereotypes for melee class (usually called "Fighter", "Warrior", or "Knight") is a brave and bold knight in shiny armor in Final Fantasy worlds and many other Japanese RPGs while it is a salvage hulking berserker in the Warcraft universe and most other Western RPGs. In FF, the salvage fighters is the "Dark Knight" and in Warcraft the bold knights in shiny armor is the "Paladin". (Although it is also the class of religious and zealous bigots in this universe, see Arthas and the Scarlet Crusade in WoW.) Also, in many games, healers are cleric/priest/bishops/pope/whatever and thus bear a strongly religious themes, while in other games they are another magician just like the wizards and the warlocks.

So, if you want to reinforce role-playing in your game, it is important that you specify what is the stereotype for a class exactly, even if you think it is obvious.

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wirya    101
Unless you can design the classes in such a way so that they can really work together as a unity, there won't be any real "identity" the players can get from any of them.

And I think that's true for so many RPGs out there. Not including pure non-combat classes, while at the same time designing the overall world as a place where non-combatants live... that's such a huge contradiction which serves no purpose except only for keeping the players away from finding any real "identity" within the provided classes.

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Eronakis    122
Are you doing this for an MMO or console/pc RPG?

If MMO.. here is where to start...

Find your archetypes. Archetypes means what type of class they are and usually their primary role. The most common archetypes are Tank, Healer and DPS (Damage per second). You can go as far as making a support, crowd control and puller archetypes as well. What ever you feel. IMO one of the best ways is to have the primary role of the 3 main archetypes and then give them a secondary role. The best balance for this is, imo..for mmorpgs that is...that if you balance the tank, dps and healers well, the secondary role shouldnt define you as much. Also if you can figure out a way to be creative and make new archetypes heh.

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JasRonq    156
If I were to make an MMO, which I am not, I would mix up the standard archetypes to give players something new instead of feeding them the same classes they have seen in every other MMO for the past decade.

As it stands though, my idea is for a single player RPG. I have realized that the combat role and the 'personality' of the class are separate things and need to be selected separately.

btw Kest, the knight and paladin have the same combat role (except the paladin might be a secondary healer) but their personalities are different. This falls in line with my example of a even bowmen or a special ops sniper, same combat role, different personalities. this should place them as different classes, this should mean the player has some way to select the personality they are going after and the combat role they want.

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Wavinator    2017
Quote:
Original post by Kest
There are many classes that really do present different types of identies for characters. A paladin and knight are both similar and combat related. The knight is a patriot, and the paladin fights against evil for all that is not evil. But you would probably never talk a paladin into killing a group of normal humans to benefit a king, and you would have a difficult time convincing your knight to kill his dark king to save another country. They both fight, but they fight for very different reasons.


Very true, and as you note this is rarely expressed in a meaningful fashion. I think one of the biggest challenges is that it is very difficult to make a game world or story that is dynamic enough to be impacted by taking on a really different identity. In your example, there would need to be an opportunity to kill the dark king-- and then what? What happens to the world or story?

It's interesting that some of the most legendary RPGs (like Fallout) gave you these kinds of identity creating choices. Is that what made them so enduring?

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Kest    547
Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Very true, and as you note this is rarely expressed in a meaningful fashion. I think one of the biggest challenges is that it is very difficult to make a game world or story that is dynamic enough to be impacted by taking on a really different identity. In your example, there would need to be an opportunity to kill the dark king-- and then what? What happens to the world or story?

But it wouldn't be so hard to change NPC dialog, quests, and the player's dialog options for typical interactions. For example, a specific NPC may never ask a paladin to do something that he would ask of a thief, or vice versa.

I don't even think it needs to be integrated through the whole game. Just where it should make a difference for the class types. How many games have you played where the game or NPC characters ask things of you that contradict your class or role identity? Why would an assassin want to help a man find his missing wife with no promise of reward? And how many people would offer a "hit" on someone's life to a typical adventurer? Just the little things would really help to solidify a sense of identity.

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makeshiftwings    398
Quote:
Original post by JasRonq
Same roles, very different identities though.
Honestly though, I'm not really sure how to take this into account in a character creation system. How do you let a player choose the identity and combat role separately? Make the class the identity alone and then allow them to choose combat abilities separately?


Well, in your example, you are defining identity through race, so you can separate them by letting every race be any class. (So you can have an elven priestess knife fighter and an undead archer in the trees). You just need to add other elements besides class to character creation and put more identity into them, so the player can mix and match. Race is an obvious one. Alignment is one that's in many games. You could also include factions, and have the player pick one at creation or early in the game. Or just let the player start off as a mostly blank slate, and put a lot of morally/physically/intellectually interesting scenarios in the first hour of your game: let the player define themselves.

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Kest    547
It seems a little backwards to me - linking race to identity. Should it not be race that determines physical traits and abilities, while class/career determines identity? A certain career can be a measure of what type of person you're dealing with, while a certain race can not. An orc, elf, ghoul, dwarf, or human can be good, bad, protective, deceitful, cunning, powerful, sneaky, crazy, or strategic. There's no intuitive identity there. Just a general concept of natural weakness and ability.

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JasRonq    156
true, I think class gets all of that though because class as your combat career defines abilities and skills. Personality gets blended into that or else left to race. Honestly, I ask because for my game at least, I only want one race. So I need other ways to create identity separate from the combat role.

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