Is Class Choice too much? How do you balance it?

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by AMGLime, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. AMGLime

    AMGLime Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    87
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    First Language:
    English
    So I've been working on my side project recently. In it, I use a Class System, as well as a Sub Class that is mostly minor and just allows extra skills. I've been talking with my friends about it, as well as my usual graphic designer, and some of them are thinking I have too many Classes for this game.

    SO you follow a party of 4 Wanderers who are traveling through this island to try and redeem themselves, and help the people. The characters themselves are mostly minor as I'm focusing more on dungeon crawling, but they all start out as a Wanderer, a Class that is literally meant to be used in the beginning only and is immediately outshined by others. Very early in the story you gain the Warden, the Elementalist, the Scoundrel and the Cleric Classes and these are the only ones you're forced to gain as all the others are part of Side Quests. In total, not including the Wanderer I have 13 Classes. Each one having their own weapon type, but sharing Armor types with other classes.

    I have each class limited to learning 6 Active Skills, and then Passives and then relying on Sub Classing to customize that class more. Like a Warden is a super beefy tank, and then they can subclass Cleric to become a Paladin and gain access to the Cleric skills that Character knows as well. As of right now, Wanderer learns no skills and falls behind stat wise around level 3 lol.

    So that being said, back to the original question, Is 12 Classes, in a 4 Party System too much? One friend thinks it'll be impossible to balance the classes, another thinks Class Systems are useless, so I wanted to get the opinion of other game makers. What do you guys think of Class Systems, Game mechanic wise, balance wise?
     
    #1
    Andronius and Arithmetician like this.
  2. Arithmetician

    Arithmetician Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    416
    Likes Received:
    648
    First Language:
    English
    I love class systems like FFV, given all the mixing and matching you can do. I have 17 classes myself in my game for a party of four. But balancing becomes very time-consuming... be sure to limit the skills to a reasonable number... but I don't think that's an issue with your plan as described.

    I'd say more, but I have to get to sleep momentarily.
     
    #2
    Andronius likes this.
  3. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    California
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Also a fan of FFV, but general consensus is largely what your friends said - hard to balance and largely worthless. Allow me to go on a bit of an opinionated tangent...

    Class systems in most games are ultimately unbalanced by nature. This is perfectly clear to see in MMORPGs, where class balance keeps going in a roller coaster ride right up until the game finally shuts down for good. You can't avoid it - multiple divergent classes *will* be unbalanced, or they will be bland and meaningless.

    What games like Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics do, in my observation, is embrace this and roll with it since, as a single player game, balance takes a backseat to the fun factor. These games are absolutely filled to bursting with overpowered, utterly broken combos and abilities - so much so, that in Dissidia (a Final Fantasy mashup fighter), the character representing FFV used a well-known broken combo as his ultimate move (Spellblade Dual-Wield Rapid-Fire). In my own playthrough, I found that you could easily powerlevel by bringing a bard to an undead dungeon and spamming the undead-killing Requiem. Made the class a superstar for a while. The designers know these games are unbalanced, and they don't hide it. :kaopride:

    Let me put this another way... instead of trying to make a multiple-class system where everyone is balanced, try to make one where the game remains fun, even if they're unbalanced. Make it fun to find out that your fighter is darn near invincible if you subclass a certain ability, or that the cleric is utterly broken against a certain undead boss. In my humble opinion, that is where these multiple-class games really shine. :kaojoy:


    (Do remember... all opinion. Successful games have been made that take a more balanced approach, see Bravely Default and Final Fantasy XIV)
     
    #3
  4. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,374
    Likes Received:
    3,644
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    This kind of "job system" (freely-changeable and interchangeable classes, as you seem to be describing) tends to be popular with a lot of RPG fans. My personal opinion as a designer and player, though, is that job systems are overused and overrated - I feel they lie in a less satisfying middle ground between really well-constructed character kits (whose combat abilities reinforce and inform their personality/backstory) and highly customizable character-building system (where players have the freedom get creative with character builds and have fun figuring out exactly what they want their characters to be or even just min-maxing). Job systems tend to put you in a situation where you tell a character "you're the knight" and then 15 minutes later you switch it up with "no actually, you're the healer... she's the knight!".

    It would be hard to say for sure without seeing your game in action, but we can start here: how are you hoping that your class system will enhance the player's experience with your game? When players make use of the class system that you are working hard to create and implement, what about it will cause them to find your game more fun, strategic, enjoyable or immersive? Maybe with an answer to that, I could give you a better judgement on whether I think your system will hit the mark.

    Also, I don't think that 12-14 jobs is too much for such a system (even with only 4 party members), and I also don't think it will be impossible to balance sufficiently (it will just require a heavier playtesting effort where you and your playtesters try out lots of different combinations of classes within the party).
     
    #4
  5. Arithmetician

    Arithmetician Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    416
    Likes Received:
    648
    First Language:
    English
    Well yes, making broken combos is part of what makes such systems so fun... but it also gives you an excuse to make enemies more difficult to balance things out again.
     
    #5
    Andronius likes this.
  6. AMGLime

    AMGLime Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    87
    Likes Received:
    45
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    First Language:
    English
    Funny you mentioned this, my one room mate told me I should just make things fun instead of entirely balanced, and looking through what I've made so far we can make the Warden be basically invincible later in the game. So instead he's been helping me look over my notes, and stopping what could make one class individually strong, and we've been working on how other classes can make other classes really strong. Like Warden+Cleric Unity skill can make the Warden have an ungodly amount of health and really be the tank of tanks.
     
    #6
  7. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    182
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    My gut feeling is you need at least six characters for that system, but here's a more important note: The majority of Classes should not be obtained through sidequests. That doesnt necessarily mean all Classes fall into the main story arc. Tactics Ogre offers random-drop items for changing Class, and Classes you don't want can be sold like regular items. The thing about sidequests is, the player has to want the rewards in advance. Why would my characters undertake a sidequest to get something they already have (a different Class, but a Class nonetheless)?
     
    #7
  8. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,374
    Likes Received:
    3,644
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Unlocking an entire class would be a dayum good reason to undertake a sidequest, in my opinion. It's not so much about why the characters take on a sidequest as it is about why the player takes it on - as a player, extra variety in the way I can build my characters is an extremely enticing reward! To each his own, of course.

    I would suggest making the hooks (and rewards) to these sidequests very obvious, though, so that the player doesn't accidentally miss them. A player who starts your game wanting to play as the Alchemist he's heard was fun, and never finds the way to unlock it, will be missing out on a lot of potential fun.
     
    #8
  9. Failivrin

    Failivrin Final Frontiersman Veteran

    Messages:
    189
    Likes Received:
    182
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    I definitely agree about making the rewards obvious. I also agree that unlocking a class is a good reason to take a sidequest. But in terms of numbers and balance, 8 out of 12 Classes obtained by sidequest is too much in my opinion. Maybe a good solution would be to keep the 12 Classes but reduce the number of sidequests, making some Classes available by other means? I would say 4 sidequest Classes for a party of 4 characters. Ultimately though, I think most gamers have specific tastes in this area, and I think your game will find an audience no matter which avenue you take.
     
    #9
    Titris Thrawns and Wavelength like this.
  10. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    California
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    It depends on the game's other systems, but sidequest-granted classes are dangerous at two extremes: If the player can progress without them then they come across as meaningless fluff, but if the player needs them then there's the very real chance of being left high-and-dry without the tools they need to play. Most games I've seen only use sidequests for "special" classes while granting important ones (like tanks and healers) though main story progress.

    Sidequesting aside, this is food for thought with changing class systems in general. Always consider the possibility that the player will either intentionally or unintentionally fail to acquire any and all missable content. The more classes you make "missable", the greater disparity there will be between diligent and minimum-effort players, if those classes bring anything worthwhile to the table at all. Sidequests are missable by nature, so consider something a little bit more in-your-face. :kaoswt:


    For reference, I'll again point to the Final Fantasy games. "V" granted every class over time through story missions, with one especially strange class granted through a sidequest. "Tactics" unlocked new classes based on progress with old classes, which can be considered missable content but was always available if you trained hard enough later on, making it a form of horizontal progression.
     
    #10
  11. Fernyfer775

    Fernyfer775 Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    1,299
    Likes Received:
    802
    First Language:
    English
    I personally love games where you can change classes, but I've yet to play any Rpg Maker games that do it right. In fact, most Rpg Maker games that do use class change mechanics have it there for the sake of having yet another feature, but it's usually not fleshed out enough to even warrant it. From a developers standpoint, it feels like waaaaaay too much effort to minimal gain to create all these classes, with all these unique skills, and bla bla bla, just to have players stick with X Y and Z, due to imbalance.

    Long story short, I look at it two ways:
    • Have static classes that are fully fleshed out and noticeable different between party members OR
    • Have multiple classes and try in vain to make it balanced, otherwise, why have 10 classes if only 3-4 of them are viable?
     
    #11
    FirestormNeos and Andronius like this.
  12. deilin

    deilin Ranger/Elementalist Veteran

    Messages:
    1,189
    Likes Received:
    173
    First Language:
    English
    In my current game, there are two main races, Humans and elves. I have the humans generally more stronger, but their classes are more specific, (tank, range, healing, elemental magic), while the elves are physically less strong (but better agility) and their classes are a bit mix of physical and magic both.

    Though, in my opinion, I like having more class options, especially when they leave a void in some area of battle. I loved FF VIII, but hated that if you didn't have a healer, you just stole healing magic from the enemy, or strong offence magic. I don't think your party should be able to cover all basis, because, if they do, there's no challenge, and the game gets boring. If you expect a certain battle, than yeah, be able to change class to better war the expected enemy, but you shouldn't be prepared for every enemy all the time.

    With some of these new games coming out, you can study everything, and master everything with one character, and use all the power at the same time. Boring. I think modern games are just getting cheap, especially game with just a single hero. There really isn't such a thing as "The Power of One". One person can make a change start, but they never do it alone.

    Keep the classes, but make them distinct and unique from one another so they have their function.
     
    #12
  13. Arithmetician

    Arithmetician Veteran Veteran

    Messages:
    416
    Likes Received:
    648
    First Language:
    English
    Make sure that all classes are meaningfully different from each other, offering either skills or passive abilities that no other class can fully replicate. And while mixing and matching from different classes is great, do limit the number of skills that can be used at a time in this way, rather than drawing on the whole pool. I allow 4 supporting skills to be used from other classes in my own game, along with the main command ability of a subclass.
     
    #13
    Andronius likes this.
  14. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,374
    Likes Received:
    3,644
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    Wrong. Chuck Norris can do it alone.
     
    #14
    SuperMasterSword and kaukusaki like this.
  15. XIIIthHarbinger

    XIIIthHarbinger Part Time Super Villain Veteran

    Messages:
    676
    Likes Received:
    795
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    I really think that when it comes to classes, like a great many things in RPGs, there really isn't a right or wrong answer, it's more a question of how everything comes together.

    Some classes will have greater all around utility gamewise, that is all but inevitable, you can attempt to minimize it, but it will happen regardless. Just as some classes will absolutely dominate in certain scenarios, & other classes won't be able to stack up. Once again, all but inevitable.

    I think probably the key points of consideration is how the characters evolve, & how much control over that evolution you give to the player. Even rather minor stat alterations become important to the player, if the player is who chooses those stat alterations.

    My current project I allow my player to select a limited number of active & passive skills, rather like a tactical loadout. The overwhelming majority of which all character classes can potentially use. However, what classes they will unlock, is determined by what skills they use & their starting archetype. & the classes they unlock in turn provide bonuses towards certain skills & parameters.

    So a Rouge archetype who focuses on Archery type skills, unlocks more powerful Archer type classes, more powerful Archery type skills, & bonuses to Archery type weapons. It works in my project, because a great deal of my project I want to be focused on the player's choices shaping their game.

    Needless to say, side quests to unlock classes within my own project, wouldn't work very well. But that doesn't mean that using quest rewards to unlock classes are bad, it just means it doesn't fit very well within the system of my own project. A system where all classes are based around quests & side quests is completely viable, if done well. In fact it can incentivize your player to explore beyond the main quest, to discover all the potential classes they can gain.

    For that matter an RPG with no classes whatsoever is also, completely viable. So long as the player doesn't feel forced to play a certain build/spec. Honestly sometimes it can be fun to run a less effective build, as a character. For example running an Orc mage or a Altmer warrior in an Elder Scrolls game, so long as the player gets to make the choice themself. & your player can see the growth of their character demonstrated in other ways.
     
    #15
  16. Andronius

    Andronius Apprentice Veteran

    Messages:
    101
    Likes Received:
    111
    Location:
    Mab's Realm
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    :kaoluv: What a wonderful and super important thread @AMGLime ! Thank you for making this question.

    Just an hour ago, I was precisely making a very similar inquiry here.

    All the feedback here is very helpful indeed. Very good points to bear in mind: I also believe that is a matter of taste, like @XIIIthHarbinger rightly put it. I tend to like more steady, balanced, well-defined classes (and a lot of them!) like @Arithmetician, but @Rhaeami raises very good points too. I couldn't agree more with @Failivrin when he says "the majority of classes should not be obtained through sidequests". On the other hand, @Fernyfer775 is right when he points out that in games with too many classes the player tends to stick to just a few (balanced or not, or just out of their personal liking, whatever the case may be). And I'm totally with @Wavelength when he WISELY says
    After all, in the Good Ol' Days (when job-systems, Cross-Class skills-trees and Cross-Discipline Actions were not even a thing) we just had the characters, with their locked-classes and specific skill-trees, and we loved them all the same! At least I never thought something like "I don't like FFVII because I'd rather Cloud be a Black Mage instead of..." well, whatever he was. :guffaw:

    [​IMG]

    Researching a bit on this question, I found a very interesting document, very useful to read carefully (also the comments at the bottom). I thought it would be nice to share it here, because it echoes some of the opinions here, and adds much to the topic.

    What d'you guys think about this ?
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
    #16
    Wavelength likes this.
  17. Wavelength

    Wavelength Pre-Merge Boot Moderator

    Messages:
    4,374
    Likes Received:
    3,644
    Location:
    Florida, USA
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    In fairness to "Eric" the article it's focused more on MMO adventures than on traditional RPGs where PvP balance is a very real concern, but even then, I think his wise cautionary statements are too intertwined with laziness and falsehoods to really be valuable. Eric seems to be laboring under the delusions that MMO adventuring is only engaging if the player is just barely winning each fight, that it's never okay for balance to be a moving target, and that players simply Google the "ideal" build for a character and spend the next 300 hours doing nothing but trying to achieve that build. That is the only way I can parse statements like this:
    In practice, the engagement in an MMO for a lot of players comes from interactions (with other players and the world), achievement, and expression. Having a wide latitude to build your character (rather than be told how your character builds from a tightly-designed class) goes a long way toward fulfilling "expression", and also can tie in well with "achievement". In Guild Wars, it was fine in PvE to make a build from whatever skills you could find in your adventuring. Only in high-level PvP (where you could create a max-level character with any skill you've ever learned) was it necessary to use a really "good" build, and even then, many classes had four to six radically different skill builds that were competitively viable (contrary to what Eric claims).

    Expression is about "this is what I want to be", "this is what I want to do", or "this is what I want my character to be/do". If the game tells you what you are and what you do, you don't get to express yourself. In a game where the player wants to "be somebody" as they travel the world, Expression is a really important aesthetic to focus on. Imagine if Skyrim told you exactly what skills you were going to learn, what professions you were going to take up, and what you were going to wear, instead of letting you decide that on your own!

    If I were designing an MMO, I would start every player without any (major) class or specialization. I'd let them choose two or three different specializations ("classes" or "professions", if you want to call it that) as they went through the game, with a diverse set of choices within each "class". I'd allow the player to respec their character to a different class, with a moderate time investment. And - most importantly - I'd make each class feel different; I'd tie the ability to play a class well to a different set of player abilities. Maybe some classes require you to cooperate with teammates really well; others require you to read your enemies well; some require you to focus on your positioning; others test your APM-style mechanics; others still require you to make split-second situational calls in every battle.

    Eric would probably point out that in such a system, the designer has no way to know what a player's "power level" will be because it relies heavily on the player's actual talent. I would argue this makes for a much more engaging game than one where the designer knows every player will be putting out about 200 DPS at Level 40 so they make the Level 40 monster put out 180 DPS.
     
    #17
    Titris Thrawns and Andronius like this.
  18. Rhaeami

    Rhaeami The Sleepy-Eyed One Veteran

    Messages:
    250
    Likes Received:
    177
    Location:
    California
    First Language:
    English
    Primarily Uses:
    RMVXA
    @Wavelength You make good points about expression through customization, but I would also add that this sort of thing is also another major category of game design: "choice". In a nutshell, a well-made game provides the player with meaningful choices to make, which on the one hand means that they have an impact, and on the other hand means that the player understands (or, through the course of the game, is *taught* to understand) those choices.

    If you're going to make a truly open-ended game in terms of classes and skills, it's very important that you give the player the tools to understand what choices they're making. Frankly, most MMORPGs do a despicably terrible job at this, such that any given skill or attribute will have complex hidden effects that can't be known unless you read up on an internet wiki. Many (well-beloved, to be fair) single-player RPGs also have quirks like this, such as Final Fantasy Tactics and Dragon's Dogma, which automatically adjust the player's permanent stat points based on what class they have equipped upon leveling up, but never in any official documentation or in-game information tell the player that this is happening; the end result being that you are told that you can level up a mage and then become a knight, but you *aren't* told that you'll be half as effective as if you'd been a knight all along.

    I suppose my point is that the possibilities of a class system and character customization can quickly turn from "expression" to simply being an "unfair trap" if the player is not sufficiently taught how to use those systems, or is not given the tools to reasonably be expected to make sound decisions within those systems. This is one of the reasons why more restricted class systems still have a place today - it's intuitively much easier to understand "Warrior is survivable, mage is a fragile damage dealer", than it is to understand "the proper ratio of STR, VIT, and sub-class skills will make this character a 30% more effective tank!" Sorry if I'm rambling a bit. :kaoswt2:
     
    #18
    Titris Thrawns and Andronius like this.
  19. M.I.A.

    M.I.A. Goofball Extraordinaire Veteran

    Messages:
    783
    Likes Received:
    575
    Location:
    Seattle
    First Language:
    English
    Agreed 100%!! For example, my current project began as a Final Fantasy original Remake/Remix.. that I have put so much work into so far that it has become it's own thing..

    It had started with the 6 Basic Job Classes: Fighter, Thief, Black Belt, Red Mage, White Mage, & Black Mage and I was adding one more; Blue Mage. In Final Fantasy Original, each of these classes were separate and mostly uniquely different. Well, I wanted to make them even more uniquely different.

    So now here I am with 10 Job Classes (Knight, Thief, Monk, Archer, Chemist, Cleric, Witch, Oracle, Druid, & Warlock) that all play VERY differently than each other. It is challenging to balance them all so that no matter which 4 the player selects, they can be successful, but in the long run, I prefer to have 10 very well fleshed out and uniquely different Job Classes.. over 200 Job Classes wherein many are so similar you can't even discern the differences between them and balance is impossible to maintain.

    Ultimately, THE most important things to consider are:
    - Does this make sense for the theme of my project?
    - Are all options fair and equally valid options?
    - Will the player enjoy this feature?

    Hope you find my opinions helpful. :)
    -MIA
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
    #19
  20. fireflyege

    fireflyege Magic is the destination of all wisdom. Veteran

    Messages:
    332
    Likes Received:
    57
    Location:
    Turkey
    First Language:
    Turkish
    Primarily Uses:
    RMMV
    @Rheami actually Archeage's entire content is subclasses and it proved to be a success. But if you want to ask my opinion, I hate multiclassing if you have the skill unlock system because I am a perfectionist and unlocking every skill in every class is boring. Another thing is when people have games like that I want to go 4 different mages which is not quite fun either. To rival that you must concentrate on character thematics like 1 tank is not enough, you must be a physical attacking tank and a magical tank like paladin would do. In my game I have also Magitech which is a moderate health high defense tank and actually concentrates on restoring mana to the party. How the hell he can wear plate armor you say? Two words, magitech augmentations. FOR SCIENCE! MWAHAHAHAHAHA! Ahem, sorry.
     
    #20

Share This Page