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JasRonq

What am I? RPG classes.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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