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Letting players select their own skills vs. having multiple classes / characters?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Deleted User, Nov 4, 2014.

  1. Teila

    Teila

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    So, what new and innovative ideas to you have for Skill or Class based systems, Slay. :) I would love to hear about them. I find class based systems to be too rigid for my style of play and would prefer to give players the ability to choose their own path. I like the idea of all player characters being different. On the other hand, I look at the web of skills in my huge flowchart and think...Aghhh!

    Classes feel artificial, skill based feels daunting. Neither feel all that original anymore. I used to think our skills would be so new, so cool, but now we are moving behind that, realizing that skill system is not going to be that much different than most skill-based games in a similar setting. Our innovation will have to come from elsewhere.
     
  2. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    It was a semi rhetorical question and you hit the nail on the head. Gotta focus on player fun. I think if anyone's going to sell any games ever it's going to be because you focus on the players fun not on what you find interesting or curious sometimes you have to put that aside and you know make a job out of it. What I try to do is find a way to be interested in the more commercially viable aspect of this game stuff.

    I made it my hobby to find out what things people respond well to and what kind of things typically work out well in games that are popular. You might call it selling my soul but I still think it's kind of interesting.
     
  3. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    "Neither feel all that original anymore."

    I still find neat little quirks in both systems. I think we will be having fun with this stuff indefinitely.

    I keep bringing up the game Castle Crashers cause it's one of my favorites. You have to pick your character and each character's magic had a fundamentally different timing or range factor to it, but even within the context of that you could still choose to be a stronger melee character, focus on shooting arrows more quickly and running quickly, increase you HP to max or become a mighty magic user. So it was neither purely class-based or purely skill-based it was a hybrid of everything.

    ... And in the end people actually did find ways to use certain combinations of the abilities to create ultimate exploits.

    But then again some of these exploits were the most fun part of the game.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2014
  4. slay_mithos

    slay_mithos

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    Yes and no, the triad, and more largely the roles of each player in a situation (battle or not) is important and integral to the question.
    Even in single player, vague archetypes are important, because they play completely differently because of their main focus, and should definitely offer an experience that's not completely like the others.

    Even without classes, magic skills won't be the same as attack skills with a sword, resisting attacks through using a shield, or using stealth.
    It is important to at least understand those differences, because even if your game happens to not have actual classes, it just means that the players are making some up on their own.

    "I want to make a tank that can take heavy punishment from both magical and physical damages, and use weak live weapon summons as my main mean to attack." ~Player A
    "I want an gigantic mana pool, and use it as my health bar, while I will attack via short daggers and small thrown items tipped in poisons for the medium range attacks." ~Player B
    This might be what your player A thinks, and it makes a class of sorts, even if it's not hard set in your world.
    If you want your "open skills" game to feel right, any of those combinations should end up as fun for the player, and as different enough from what player B's choices to make each choice actually matter.

    We see way too many game that advertise themselves (or even trully believe themselves) as open, being in skills, in exploration, whatever, but more often than not, it means that everything has been averraged so nothing is "bad", but nothing is "great" either.
    We feel the need to defend it more often than not, and cover up for the flaws that are glarring (skyrim and oblivion, anyone?), because they are among the few games that even tried to do it, and even if it was barely ok, we want more, so we herald them as "best thing ever".


    Definitely, that's why I even bought chrono trigger again when it was released on DS, and why we see many games like the old dragon quests and final fantasy do well.
    I mean, the mechanics are not everything either, and a whole lot can be done with humour, graphical style, small effects, story, and probably others too.

    I mean, games like final fantasy had very little actual gameplay changes over the years, but each installment sold millions.
    The story telling, the art design, the characters, the powers, the worlds, that's what sold those, because they make for very compelling experiences.
    Well, recently, they are starting to change, but still, it's amazing how much they managed to do with a simple base game mechanics.

    On the other hand, you have an other J-RPG series that's almost as long running in the name of "tales of".
    They decided to change their combat system nearly every game, slightly, but having pretty deep impact into the players around the skill ceiling of those games.
    During that, the graphical fidelity remained OK, but never ground breaking, the graphical style kept solid, but nothing very special.
    The story is never really ground breaking, but is solid, and it's telling follows to the letter the "town > route > cave > town" example, with bits of story on the route, and big chunks in both towns and the end of caves/dungeons.
    The whole franchise is built around its combat system, and even if the changes only impacts the average player slightly, only giving them new fun tools, it changes a lot of things for those playing at the highest player skill level, where a few frames differences in reaction can make difference between winning and losing.
     
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  5. RockoDyne

    RockoDyne

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    You're still kind of conflating the subjects here. The point of the trinity isn't to define classes, but to define what classes do in combat (or even more importantly what role any character does in combat). These are the meta positions of any combat. Even games without classes will still have people fall into these roles, just with much less understanding of what their role is actually meant to be since they are completely responsible for putting themselves in those positions.
     
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  6. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    ~Player A
    "I want an gigantic mana pool, and use it as my health bar, while I will attack via short daggers and small thrown items tipped in poisons for the medium range attacks."

    Sounds like fun

    now get a skill that counters with fireballs when you take damage, and something to drain mana from enemies, triggered to cast when your mana runs below 50%
     
  7. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    Yes if we were to give everybody all abilities tank DPS and healer would emerge organically.

    And as much trash as I talked about tank mages... Tank healers are the worst. You will run out of skill points and recovery items before they even reach half health
     
  8. Teila

    Teila

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    Yeah, I am. Because the trinity is not the subject of the thread. However, it is now! LOL

    I find your discussion fascinating regardless and a good read but I just wish we could have had a discussion on the original topic. I concede. I will wait until this one goes to the bottom and post my own thread on skill based vs class based systems. :)
     
  9. slay_mithos

    slay_mithos

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    See?
    That's exactly what I would want from an open skills system.
    If it's done correctly, you won't be able to be the "best", and every choice should both impact your gameplay and give you potential weakness.

    My build was only reliant on mana pool as health, yours tries to build on that to create a potential invinsibility. But it also introduces a potential weakness, because you will act like an invincible, but what if they manage to prevent the drain?
    It can be done by scealing the magical energies, draining their own mana before you can, having none to begin with...
    Obviously, it leaves you with still what you had with the previous build, but the "points" (time, experience, levels, whatever system is used) to acquire new skills, where the player B might have chosen to include others, or making the existing ones stronger.

    Depending on the system, you could in theory get everything, and at that point, you can do so many different things that even if one is countered, you have tens of others ways, but still, the level of choice and what it can also bring as weaknesses is something that is often forgotten.
    It's easy to just look at the hard line weakness, and to put debuffs and such attached to specific skills, or make mutually exclusive skills just because you don't want that "everything goes in" mash characters (again, skyrim?), but that's still a somewhat easy way out that don't empower the player's choices.

    For such an open system to be successful, it has to provide rewards and pitfals on each and every choice. Chosing to add a fireball spell to your mostly warrior should come at a price too.
     
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  10. RJ-MacReady

    RJ-MacReady

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    I've heard of that system before I think everybody can get everything but it just costs them more. A sort of traveling fee for going too far across the skill tree. Have you ever thought of just limiting the total number of skills they can learn if they want stuff that's on the mage class typically then they're not going to be able to learn a lot of their warrior skills?
     
  11. slay_mithos

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    You might not think about it, but I have been ponderring on how to make a good open skills system for nearly 3 years, with experiments with various smaller works, including trying it out during table rpg.

    In the end, there is no "best" answer, as far as I could see, but my personal preference is for a system where the more "points" you put in skills, the harder it is to acquire more (and you obviously can't stockpile them).
    It leads to a curve where, for most people, it is similar to a skill cap, but for people wo really waht to invest efforts and time (not just bland time-based grinding, if possible), it is possible to get bits here and there to complete their view of a "perfect" build.

    Those can also be more branch specific, with all the skills being leaves on a big tree, and each point invested on a leaf gives weight to its parents, making it still easy to continue in related branches, but making the player really work for it if he wants to diversify after putting a lot into one part of the tree.
    That is what I am trying to implement right now, and the very reason I even downloaded unity in the first place, along with other ideas way less fleshed out that I want to at least try to implement into a prototype (most of them might get scrapped though).

    That whole tree system is very heavy to make at first, you have to categorize everything, try to figure out groupings that makes sense for a player, rather than just in a gaming sense, and there are a lot of things that don't make it viable as is for an actual commercial project.
    But if I manage to make a convincing prototype, I can then refine it, until it can be incorporated in games in a way that makes sense and that serves the game to deliver to the player.

    Plus, I am one of those people that poored hundreds of hours into some games and mmos, and got slightly frustrated to hit an arbitrary ceiling, where it made little sense in the actual game, so I'm fairly biased.
     
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  12. Teila

    Teila

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    This is basically how we are doing it as well, hence the huge flow diagrams on my computer. Once concern I see pop up everywhere is how to limit players to specialize rather than diversify too much. Complex branches could work but in our game, we want players to depend on each other and the community rather than have the ability to do everything alone. Some games give skill points and once you spend them, you have to "unlearn" skills in order to get back skill points. Others allow you to only learn a few branches at a time. I am trying to find a more natural and organic way to "guide" players toward specializing without making it feel artificial or too unrealistic.
     
  13. RockoDyne

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    It depends on the diagram, but it is usually way too easy to become unspecialized in those systems. Final Fantasy 12 is a good example where eventually everyone is just going to learn all the skills and not give a damn.

    A thought I've had for something I would probably use for a tactical RPG is using classes as a way to structure growth. The idea is to enroll a character in a class (no real commitment there), and have experience be divvied up across stats as defined by the weighting of that class. For every twenty exp given to a warrior, you would put nine exp in strength, six in defence, four in dex, and maybe a point in charisma or something, and the stats would level themselves up.

    For your system, you could keep the skill tree/web/whatever, and have the classes have unique ways to block off chunks of it and/or give sections of it different weights so it would be cheaper to progress down areas in only certain classes.


    The catch to all of this is that you're trying to get a character to fit an archetype without actually telling them that they are being directed toward said archetype.
     
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  14. slay_mithos

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    Not being specialized often also means not being as useful in any way.

    Personally, I kind of enjoy trying everything out, and becoming a mostly "jack of all trades", and then try to focus on 1-2 branches that I particularly enjoy, often more going toward non-combat roles or pure support, but it takes a significant amount of time to get to that point, because I explore a bit of everything first.

    Having the possibility of generalists does not reduce the effectiveness of more focused players in their specialized field, and it can even complete the experience from both player types a great deal.
     
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  15. Teila

    Teila

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    Generalists and jack of all trades are fine. But what I want to avoid is the player who can fight, heal himself, craft whatever he needs, build his own house, etc. Doing those things at a low level is fine and I would encourage that, but I don't want the ability master everything. Our game is about a society so want to encourage interaction.

    Our idea is to actually do this through a guild system. Not player guilds, but actual medieval-type guilds. One is not forced to join a guild, but if they do and are accepted, they have access to skills they otherwise would not have. Those that choose not to do so, can still do a lot, but they won't be as "specialized". Our game is heavy role play, and so far, prospective players seem to be okay with this. It creates social classes as well which could be a boon to our game.

    Of course, it has yet to be tested.
     
  16. Gigiwoo

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    The first decision is the worst. I hate RPG/MMO's that force me to choose a class before I've even created a character! I bought first edition AD&D books in the 80s, and I played MUDS in college, and EQ1, and WoW, and a hundred others. And that's exactly why I know that the class decision is the most important decision I will ever make in a game. And the whole time I'm exploring the new game, I have this niggling buyer's remorse, "maybe I'd like the game better if I picked a better class."

    There are lots of solutions. One is to not have classes, though that's hard. Another is to only enable one class when they first start, so they see there are other classes to unlock (Hearthstone does this). A third is that all players start the same, and reach decision points, 'Before you ascend, you must chose your path!' And a fourth is to go the way of Skyrim, where paths are pretty wide open. A fifth is that the class is driven by the equipment - hop back to town, swap our your gear, and walla, the priest is now a mage!

    Any of these are better than being slammed with the paradox of choice, before I've typed my first, 'Hi, I'm new!' Nothing drive me from a game faster than that.

    Gigi
     
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  17. slay_mithos

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    Arf, Teila, hurry up and release, it makes me want to see what you guys are making.

    The problem posed by mastering everything is that the player doesn't need anyone else.
    Yet, it should still be a technically atteinable goal, that requires an insane amount of time, and potentially an insane amount of player skill/mastery in the game's mechanics.

    If you completely disallow such nearly impossible goals, you will end up having to put hard barriers, that will always be complained about, even if nobody manages to actually hit it, because your basis is freedom of choice.
    If those barriers are your choice, and you firmly believe in them, it's fine, I am just stating what completionist driven players will most definitely feel, when they see that the limit is on a much more subjective scale (or at least feels like it) than limiting to X number of different skills.

    And anyway, you will most definitely get loners that will do it alone, no matter if it's efficient or not, just because that's how they chose to enjoy the game, even with a lot of players around.
    Later, they might decide to go teach some basics to newcomers, or come to towns to sell the few crafts and resources they don't need, and will get somehow included in your community, because the small interractions will multiply as they keep playing, be it from their will, or because their caught the eyes of others (good or bad).

    Anyway, you should not dismiss those that seem to not fit into your world, because they might end up adding quite a bit of meta depth to it, or find hidden gems that nobody else found (maybe you didn't even know about).
     
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  18. Teila

    Teila

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    Well....our game is a niche game so I suspect that a lot of those achievement oriented people won't care for it for many other reasons. :) So while I see your point, in order to please those folks, we would have to fundamentally change our design and that I don't want to do, not because I am 100% sure we have a great game, but because it all seems to be flowing very well so want to see the end result before we even consider making drastic changes.

    Doing it alone will definitely be possible, but it will just be a different experience. Some players will choose the "pioneer" life, alone in the woods with a little cabin and a garden. Others will choose fame and still others fortune. Each path will be unique though. And of course, the loner in the woods could always change his mind, join society and pick up new skills. Either way, he will find challenges and discoveries so I am not too worried about complaints. Yeah, they always happen, but I am not trying to make a game that pleases 100% of the people out there. There are lots of those.
     
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  19. Nubnubbud

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    I am by no means an amazing designer, and primarily work on proof of concept, but what you are discussing sounds (as already said) very much like D&D. I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of Neverwinter Nights to study.

    However, I'm more intrigued by the RPG aspect. I would also suggest looking up the skills in the Pathfinder tabletop RPG. It incorporates battles, encounters, and dungeons, but also non-battle roleplay. You'll have a lot of trouble if you don't put points into non-battle skills, and will have trouble fitting into society. At the same time, this will act to push the player back toward adventuring and looting rather than crafting and barter. Even more unlike D&D, there are entire systems regarding working as a professional, employee or artisan. For example, you can adventure, and come back to sell things, but if you haven't considered appraisal or diplomacy, you won't be able to sell it for much, or will have to gamble on the appraisal cost being worth it.

    The basis of this system is:
    --There are never enough spec points. This makes it so what isn't specced much easily becomes a weakness.

    --Your base stats only apply small bonuses to your skills, but affect battle greatly, and their growth is natural, and is influenced by their current usefulness.

    --Intelligence provides more spec points, but is not overly powerful in adventuring, leading more intelligent characters that are naturally less "strong and fighty" or "dexterous and underhanded" to do more in society. Casters need it to spec their many different knowledge and spell skills.

    This allows the player freedom to be anywhere between a cook and killer, or even a child growing up, a traveling performer, or a king that starts and grows a kingdom. Obviously this would be hugely ambitious for a game, but simply including enough for a character to lead an average non-adventure, yet still engaging life is something hugely underrepresented in gaming.
     
  20. Teila

    Teila

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    I play in a Pathfinder tabletop Campaign at the moment as a Venetian Courtesan Bard. LOL It is a very enjoyable game.
    :)

    However, like most DnD games, most of the skills are combat or support based, like my bard's skills.
     
  21. Nubnubbud

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    My pathfinder character is a artificer and alchemist, but moonlights as a monster slayer with a great sword to get ingredients. The system really works for open ended things. Hell, it even has a background generator. True, a large amount of the skills are combat based, but combat is not so simple and straightforward as working at the smithy and shoveling coal. The one thing I wish it had was ingredients to make custom or modified weapons, like in Legend of Mana.
     
  22. LiberLogic969

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    Has anyone played Path Of Exile? I think that game is a great example of a middle ground for the subject. In case anyone hasn't played it before I'll explain how its designed.

    The game consists of 3 main stats, Strength, Dexterity, and Intelligence. Classes are split into 2 combinations of those 3 core stats. The way the game specializes these classes is by using a Passive Skill Tree (similar to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid). The class you choose doesn't determine what spells or abilities you can use, it just determines where on the tree you will start. You gain skill points which you can use to traverse the tree by leveling your character and completing certain quests. Some of the nodes on the skill tree can drastically change how your character plays.

    The way POE handles spells and skills is best described as a combination of Diablo 2's Gems and the Materia system from Final Fantasy VII. Spells and abilities are contained in Skill Gems. Skill Gems are split into 3 color categories, each corresponding to a stat type (Str = Red, Int = Blue, Dex = Green). Your characters gear can contain sockets of these three colors which you can equip appropriately colored Skill Gems into. These Sockets can also be linked together which allows the player to equip Support Gems (a sub-type of Skill Gems) which alter various properties of whichever Skill Gem its Socket links to... For example, there's a Blue Skill Gem called "Ice Lance" (which casts a spear of ice towards the mouse cursor) and a Green Support Gem called "Lesser Multiple Projectiles". If you have a piece of equipment with a Green Socket that is Linked to a Blue Socket and equip those Skill Gems to them, your Ice Lance would now cast 3 spears of ice towards the mouse instead of one...

    This all combines into a seriously deep and open system. This is a very basic overview to it all though.. Check out the game, its literally Free to Play... Just thought this may be a useful RPG system to look over, its pretty unique in my opinion and allows for a lot of freedom and creativity when building characters while also being (surprisingly) balanced.
     
  23. tiggus

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    My two favorite games as far as skills go:

    1) Eve Online - tons and tons of skills, time based training, and although you can theoretically "master them all" you can only use a subset of them at any one time because the skills affect what kind of ship you can fit and pilot. So you can be a master of small frigates, battleships, capital ships but a newer player who only mastered frigates has a good chance against you in a battle where you're both flying frigates(skill wise probably not knowledge wise). Within a specific ship class tons of skills to affect what type of weapons, support, navigation, and other fittings your ship might decide to equip resulting in huge numbers of builds which all fit a specific niche and only overpowered if they find themselves in a particular situation.

    2) Shadowbane - This is the character creators wet dream of a game when it was around. Levelling was intentionally quick so players would get ideas for a new build and spend a few days grinding their prototype character up just to test them out. High regeneration builds, speed centaur priest builds, flying barbarian builds, you name it. You could customize not just their stats(every single point mattered in some builds), but skills, and runestones(drops you had to hunt from specific mobs in the world or trade for that modified your abilities/stats), and of course equipment(which you could craft in player cities but was randomly generated so could take awhile to get your set "just right"). Most players I knew had 4+ accounts of 10 characters each just to hold all their different alts with different builds. Again, every build had situations it shined in and situations it was weak in.
     
  24. Kinos141

    Kinos141

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    Easier game design and most gamers are familiar with that setup, i.e WoW, LoL. It's also easier to get those gamers to try a new game when said new game plays like their old game, with new paint.
     
  25. Teila

    Teila

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    Maybe, but there is a large group of gamers who are tired of the same thing over and over again. We can't compete with WoW so why not try to do things a little differently?
     
  26. Kinos141

    Kinos141

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    I say try different things if you want and I hope it works out and becomes a success. IMO, few people know what it takes, have the time and resources to make a game hugely successful. Sometimes, a successful game is a shear fluke.
     
  27. RockoDyne

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    I don't think you read into that quite as intended. Most people like familiarity, control schemes being an easy example. Play any five first person console games from before Halo and tell me if you don't dread every minute of it. It's kind of the same as being familiar with a specific class. If you get comfortable playing a ranger in one game, you should be comfortable playing a ranger in another (so long as they don't completely subvert that class's archetype).
     
  28. Kinos141

    Kinos141

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    Brother, you ain't lying. Only pre-HALO game I can play is Doom and Wolfenstein.
     
  29. Juice-Tin

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    It's just preference. When possible, classes give more replay value.

    Have multiple playthroughs, and feel attached to your character and their playstyle.

    or

    Have 1 playthrough and modify/mold your character like dough, so they have no real defining characteristic.