Arithmetician

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Job systems  - wherein the characters have the ability to assume a number of different class roles throughout the game, and frequently can learn abilities that they can use while in other classes.  Final Fantasy provides some of the quintessential examples, but similar systems appear in many other franchises as well.


What do you think makes a good job system?  Lots of mechanically different classes?  Learnable/equipped skills?    How does one best balance such a system, both between classes and considering their potential combinatorial power?  What are your preferred methods of advancement through a job system?  Do they have "Job Points" or some equivalent?  Are jobs unlocked a few at a time?  Are the characters mostly the same, with minor differences between them, so they may be freely shaped by the player, or do they have greater inherent differences, such as through personal skills or stat leans?  What is a good number of characters for such a system?   What sorts of mechanically interesting classes have you seen that stand out from what we see in the standard Final Fantasy formula?
 
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Canini

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At the top of my head (and I will probably write a bit more when I have had some time to think) I think the most important thing is to pace yourself and make every class truly useful. All too often a class turns into a gimmick useful for one or two occasions. Final Fantasy 3 is a good example, where the geomancer class is useful for exactly one dungeon and one boss. And the game pretty much comes out and tells you to use that class for the boss.
 

Arithmetician

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@Canini  I agree. It's one thing for a class to make a boss easier.  It's another thing for that class to be practically mandatory for the boss and good for pretty much nothing else.  Likewise, the class should not duplicate the functionality of another class.  Even if they have similar roles, how they approach them / the options they provide should be substantially different.


These considerations suggest that one should carefully limit the number of classes available, although one also wants there to be adequate variety among them.
 

Meteodros

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Hmm, in my opinion, whether you should have a job system or not should depend on the game itself.


Some games work with job systems and some don't.


For example, could you imagine making Cloud from Final Fantasy VII a white mage when he has that huge sword?


Now onto the mechanics, I think that having loads of jobs can make testing a lot more harder.


Since there are so many different combinations of jobs to choose, if you test a boss, and it happens to work fine with one team of classes, that doesn't mean that every single combination of jobs in the party will be able to fight that boss (I found that out from a complaint I had from my mother when I beat a boss easily with one class, but she didn't stand a chance...)


However, if you want to make it that the player has to stick to one job, or that one job is better fighting a boss, then fine, go with it, I'm not disagreeing, I'm just saying that what if the player has no way of thinking a certain job is right or something.


I also agree with @Canini, it's a good idea to make every job useful.


I also agree with @Arithmetician, don't make a job duplicate the functions of another, otherwise there'd be no point of having one of the two classes.


If you're going to have a job system, I'd recommend allowing the player to switch jobs during the game. While there are disadvantages and advantages, I mainly think that you should be able to. What if you ran into a boss which was resistant to magic, and your entire team were mages? Then there'd be almost no hope. 


(sorry if this sounds a bit confusing, I'm awful at explaining things :p
 

Arithmetician

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@Meteodros  Yes, the ability to switch jobs is one that I view as important to job systems.  If not in battle, it's good design to have a save point before a boss (or some other indication that a boss is imminent if people can save anywhere) so that they don't lose too much progress and can quickly try again with a different set of jobs.  Good design will encourage different tactics and classes for certain encounters, but it shouldn't require them.  Either way, you're right that more jobs demands a lot more play testing.


And yes, the choice of a job system dictates certain things about the characters and story itself, or vice versa.
 
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consolcwby

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I never really cared for games which had a job system. I think the reason is a pitfall:


Some jobs are really just spiced-up/down versions of a more robust class. This can lead to over-specialization and makes certain jobs either samey or useless in the late game. So, my suggestion is: Robust and useful jobs which have a clear delineation from each other and are all treated equally within the overall design.
 

RHachicho

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A job system can be interesting in a combat focused rpg. Something like a tactics rpg or something based on an entirely player generated cast works quite well with it. It is almost anathema to most jrpg settings. Which are almost always primarily focused on heavy characterization and a relatively linear .. but detailed plot. It can fit quite well in more western rpg styles however. Something that focus's on an adventuring party. Or a mercenary band.


As for mechanics. I think the best way to implement jobs is when learning jobs keeps benefits even when you take another job. Usually there is some kind of secondary system that grows with character's base level that allows them to equip skills and traits from other jobs. This results in a very large degree of character customization. However to include this you have to sacrifice that bespoke creator designed character model that most jrpg's have. Therefore I think the primary thing to consider is that you have to allow the player to make their own character. With their own unique flavors. This means the job system has to be quite complex and interact in interesting ways. I think this is one of the reason a lot of people avoid them. Making a job system work in a game without making it either boring, convoluted or having it break the game is tough work. However it can be very interesting when done right.


Like I said the most compelling way I saw it implemented was to have a kind of "skill weight" stat that grew with a character's base level. And have it able to equip skills/traits that have been learned in any job the character has already learned. However this does present some pitfalls.


1. It encourages the player to spend large amounts of time in the early stages grinding out "Job XP" To get as many basic jobs maxed as possible. This is boring ..


2. You have to balance around those players so either you allow the player to do a hard grind to make the game silly easy or you make that grind almost mandatory. Depending on how you do the balance.


3. Characters are significantly underpowered when starting out on a new job. No one likes being underpowered. This also encourages more grinding.


One way to do it would be to make the jobs seriously hard to master  .. but not include too many of them. This encourages the player to commit, But also removes some of the customisability the hob system was included for in the first place.


Regardless I think getting this kind of system right is a tricky balance. And one that is rarely done right. I wish you luck if you attempt it. I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole XD
 

RogdagoR

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I don't really like a "Jack of all trades" character with the possibility to have tons of jobs, i do prefer a game with characters with 2-3 jobs and each one is relative to others. I mean, for example, a white mage can become a summoner o a scholar, but not a ninja or a warrior.


In my game i'm doing something similar because i want the player to think how to build up the party for win fights and i'm planning to force him to develop it for each new zone, because i don't want a fixed party with spam attack logic, so having 2-3 jobs for character will help me to don't have to create 4273485217348 actors.
 

Dr. Delibird

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The main problem with having class changing as an option is balancing. Look at bravely default (haven't played the second game yet so I don't know if this is different in there), there are like two or three really broken combinations that just make the game a walk in the park.


The second main problem (which is almost as major as the first in it's own way), is the players pre-concieved thoughts of a class. Your Cleric class may be different to what I know from my own experiences of what a cleric is (this goes for all classes with names that refer to something that is fairly commonly known). You might have a cool way of making the cleric more than just a healer but if I don't want a just healling class to be on any of my characters I will go with something else like an alchemist which implies to me anyways that potion brewing or something to that effect can take care of the healing. To avoid this you would have to make all the classes fit the stereotype of what they are known for which is a problem in itself because it will come off as cookie cutter (though this problem is not as big of a deal if combat isn't a major part of your game but in that case there would be no need to have multiple classes for the player to change into).
 

Arithmetician

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To the points others have raised:


Yes, job systems may often encourage grinding, and that is why playtesting is important to determine that the game can be beaten with a variety of parties with different jobs, ensuring that each is useful.  One must remain cognizant of "broken" combinations of skills from different jobs... but some people enjoy finding or making such builds in a job system.  So if this is the case, one would want to make sure that there isn't just one ultimate combination, but several powerful combinations that support different and viable builds in the endgame.  Balancing difficulty becomes tricky yes, though at least in the postgame/for superbosses one can safely assume that players will have some of these combinations.  


Yes, games with job systems could be narratively weaker than games with fixed classes, because characters may feel too similar to each other / generic.  That was one reason why I asked the question about character-specific skills or giving them more pronounced statistical biases, so that while they may be used in any class, they are more useful in certain ones, differentiating them and giving them more character.  Distinct personality quirks would also help. 


Alternatively, one could take an approach more like Fire Emblem Awakening's class system.  In this, each character has access to a subset of all available classes, usually chosen based on different aspects of their personality, and may switch between these jobs and learn skills from them.  While there may be some overlap between characters, each has a unique combination of jobs available to them.  Of course, in that system, the Avatar is the one who can do everything, though that got toned down a lot in Fates, where he/she simply has access to his/her base class, another class of the player's choice, his/her spouse's class, and his/her buddy's class.  Such a more powerful character may or may not be desirable, according to the story / whether the player is supposed to identify as them.


Back to games where anyone can take any job, narratively it would make sense that the characters are relatively inexperienced, and thus have plenty of time to pick up new skills (e.g. why generics in Final Fantasy Tactics start as recruits in a basic squire job, but later specialize as they become veteran fighters).  Of course, mastering many jobs in a short time is normally implausible, which is why Final Fantasy and Bravely default used Crystals / Asterisks, containing the crystallized knowledge and experience of masters of the various jobs, which the heroes could then harness for themselves.
 
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Omnimental

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I'm a bit on the fence in this regard. On one hand, Final Fantasy Tactics is still one of my favorite games, and I loved the robust class system in it, despite some glaring balance issues.


Currently, my favorite way to handle classes is by having each actor have access to a different selection of classes, that all make sense for the character. The atheist can't take the priest class, the frail scholar can't take the sentinel class, so on and so forth. One of my biggest issues with everyone-can-be-every-class, is that it dilutes what makes each character interesting. In a tight character focused game, that feels almost like a crime. Who the characters are should come across in their mechanics just as much as it does in their lines.


All in all, I prefer when a class modifies what an actor can do, but doesn't replace their core identity.


As to what makes for good classes... each one should have a unique niche. And even when they do do the same thing, they should do so in different ways. They should be evenly balanced, unless you're utilizing a tier system where certain jobs are strictly improved versions (or combinations) of other lower-tier classes.
 

Arithmetician

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@Omnimental  What do you mean atheists can't take the priest class?  Azama does it in Fire Emblem Fates!


"This fruit is proof that god exists and loves us....  Just kidding!  Life is meaningless!"  - Azama


Okay, trolling priests or scam religions aside, I take your point.  


Yes, maybe a more limited class system is the way to go as a means of differentiating mine from Final Fantasy.  Everyone can have a pool of available classes, with some significant variety among them but still thematically relevant, and equip skills learned from any of these classes, but they cannot learn everything.  Basically, hybridizing FF's standard JRPG gameplay with a class system akin to Fire Emblem Awakening/Fates.... though not necessarily with tiered classes.  


To use an example of the sort of class variety I'm talking about, with reference to Fire Emblem Awakening:


Henry is a jolly, cheerful fellow from the nation of Plegia... who happens to like killing things.  His base class is Dark Mage.  However, he also has access to the Barbarian class, which is usually associated with Plegia in the campaign and reflects his bloodthirsty tendencies, whereas his more mischievous side is represented by the Thief class.  


Another example, from the same game:


Cordelia shows considerable talent at a variety of tasks, leading some to call her "perfect".  This is reflected in diverse class options.  Her base class is a Pegasus Knight,  a mounted unit flying through the air and skilled with lances, and can promote to classes with supplemental healing or magical attacks.  But she can also become a Mercenary, representing her proficiency at hand-to-hand fighting on the ground with a sword (later gaining access to axes or bows depending on promotion).  But she also has  a magic base class, the Dark Mage, just as Henry does.
 

Adam1013

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Im working on a game currently that is near first demo status.


the main mechanics focus around 4 characters in a class based system. The characters are all varied personality wise and each have access to 3 classes that accent their personality. 


There are 6 basic classes total therefore 2 characters overlap with classes giving the option to choose different combinations while not ever really sacrificing an option of job choice.


Later in the story, you can sub one of the basic 6 jobs (gain stat bonuses and some skills based on support job) opened by a quest. 


You can also unlock 2 advanced jobs based on each or the main 6 basic classes providing you with 12 advanced and 6 basic. All stem the roots of the basic classes touching on the strengths and weaknesses. Basic job are the only jobs able to be support jobs. 


So far its working well for my game and will hope to have a demo out soon for you guys!!
 

Arithmetician

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@Adam1013


That seems like a promising job system... four characters, each with access to have of the classes in different combinations.  It offers versatility while preserving their identities... much like the Fire Emblem examples above.  It also keeps the number of classes down to a reasonable number.


Do you have any classes among them that stand out from the standard assortment of classes that we usually see?


Unfortunately, since you mainly use RMVX Ace, I will probably not be able to try your game when it comes out, because such titles are rarely compatible with Macs, due to having been made with Windows.  
 
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Adam1013

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Im not sure how to change that but I am using MV for this project. 


The basic 6 jobs are pretty standard but 9/12 advanced jobs are as far as I know pretty unique or at least my attempt to make them that way. Sure they will resemble jobs seen in other things but ive tried to put my own spin on them making each specialized and with a different style of play. 


For example, the extension of the basic job "warrior" will be Paladin and Berserker. 


The Paladin will be pretty much standard sword shield, holy magic, high defense. While the Berserkers class is based around applying a "Bleed" effect. When the enemy is under the bleed effect, the berserker gained stat bonuses, crit%+, etc. so your goal with the class is to stack bleed and have high damage output. 


The berserker is also limited to light armor and uses axes. 


Ive also made most job skills revolve around support / buff / debuff to compliment the job itself. For example, the warrior has acces to "power break" "armor break" and so on while most of the big damage dealing skills come from "weapon skills" specific to what weapon is equipped which requires TP to execute and magic of course. 
 

Arithmetician

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@Adam1013 That's good to know.  Maybe I can give it a try later then.


It's good that you've come up with some different mechanical twists on the jobs.
 

kovak

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Any game with too much classes gives me a strange feel and when i look at them they are butchered or does more than they were supposed to do which kills their uniqueness.
I'd ratter use the subclass system instead of creating more classes.
I'm having a bad time right now designing 2 of the 4 main classes, but naming their combinations (main class + subclass) is fun and gives an unique vibe for me.


For me a subclass system feels more consistent and i can expand each of the main classes without feeling like one of them is too strong or too weak or that the right combination will allow you to wipe enemies as if they were made of butter and cheese. The biggest issue would be how to handle passive states.
 

Adam1013

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The whole job system thing can be tricky to get right but in my opinion, all the jobs need to be about equal in usefulness / strengths / weaknesses but specialize in different areas. Having over powered jobs make the game no fun. Ex: dark knight in ff x-2 or dark knight in the ff tactics. 


They all should offer something unique to the party and give the player options for how THEY want to play the game. 
 

Feliaria

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The main problem with having class changing as an option is balancing. Look at bravely default (haven't played the second game yet so I don't know if this is different in there), there are like two or three really broken combinations that just make the game a walk in the park.

Oh yes. Dual-shielding Paladins with Ninja secondary Job to force the enemies to attack only them and healers that heal the whole group for 9999 with spread-Cura. :/

Yes, games with job systems could be narratively weaker than games with fixed classes, because characters may feel too similar to each other / generic.  That was one reason why I asked the question about character-specific skills or giving them more pronounced statistical biases, so that while they may be used in any class, they are more useful in certain ones, differentiating them and giving them more character.  Distinct personality quirks would also help. 

Actually, the original idea for my game addressed this(it has since changed drastically, to the point it's an entirely new game. However I am still planning on making the original concept at a later date, lol). The game had 4 characters and 16 classes. Each character had access to 6 to 8 classes (One character could access 6, one had access to 8, and the other two had access to 7 each). The classes were split into "Archetypes" or Arcane, Primal, Divine, and Martial, as well as into "Roles" of Damage, Defender, Healer, and Support. Each of the characters was assigned one Archetype and Role (Arcane/Damage, Primal/Defender, Divine/Healer, and Martial/Support). The Arcane, Primal, and Divine Archetypes all had one class for each Archetype, while the Martial Archetype had two Damage classes but no Healer. So, for example, the Arcane/Damage character had access to the four Arcane classes and the four Damage classes outside the Arcane Archetype.


However, despite the fact that there was a large amount of overlap in the true classes, each character had their own unique flavor for their specific class. For example, the Arcane/Defender class had a different flavor for the Arcane/Damage character than it did for the Primal/Defender character. The Tank character's version was more of a combination of Arcane and Primal for purposes of flavor. In the case of this class, the Arcane/Damage character took on the forms of Demons (Demonologist) to mitigate damage, while the Primal/Defender character called on animal spirits to aid them in doing the same (Animist). On the same hand, the Arcane/Damage character's Martial/Damage classes were more like spellswords than the Martial/Support character's versions (one was based off a staff-wielder like certain types of Monks, while the other was more like a Rogue).

While the Berserkers class is based around applying a "Bleed" effect. When the enemy is under the bleed effect, the berserker gained stat bonuses, crit%+, etc. so your goal with the class is to stack bleed and have high damage output. 


The berserker is also limited to light armor and uses axes. 

Hehe- I've got a Barbarian-type class, too, though revolving around a different mechanic. Rather than basing it around Bleed (one of my other classes already fits that), my Barbarin class, called the Soulrager, focuses on management of a "Fury" buff. Most of their skills build or require a certain amount of Fury (and their Ultimate skill aids in this). Fury raises the damage the user deals with each stack (it begins with a small boost to ATK and MAT), but also decreases the Soulrager's defenses and Accuracy (this gets to the point where, at the Fury stack cap, they have essentially 0 defense, Fury reducing defense by 5 in a game where before buffs you'll only ever see 5 defense if you min-max for it (weanwhile that same combination nets you only 3 attack, 0 magic attack, and 0 agility, not to mention the resource mechanic that can reduce defense even further if you're not careful in managing it (at the advantage of extra attack. At most, the resource mechanic boosts the user's attacks by 6 at the cost of lowering their defenses by another 3. Just keep in mind that enemies utilize the same resource mechanic and with at most 34 health, an extra 5+ damage per hit is huge. Though the stats do have a minimum of 0.)


...Yes. My game revolves around quick, though none-the-less strategic (hopefully. Still in early development), combat. It's kind of like Paper Mario: Thousand-Year Door, but with more thought in available choices.
 
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M.I.A.

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Personally, I tend to view open job class systems as a way to customize the characters "in battle". What I mean is that their Job Class has virtually nothing to do with their personalities or plot, and is merely a utility for the battle system itself.


I don't mind open job class systems in the rpgs I've played.. I also don't mind it when characters are locked into specific job classes either. I also don't mind it when the characters have access to specific job classes that highlight their personalities or the plot either. :) What it all really boils down to for me, is that "is the job class system management a CHORE for me, the player, or is it seamless, balanced, and enjoyable?.."


Having 400 job classes that you can freely switch between, but so many of them are similar, is a waste.


Having 8 job classes that you can freely switch between, but leveling and developing are such a pain.. is tedious and unenjoyable.


Having all characters locked into classes, where each class is useful and balanced, adds to the fun of learning the characters!


Having all characters locked into classes, where there are CLEARLY better or weakest classes, doesn't make me want to use certain characters.


I guess my zen non-answer, as usual, is "it depends".


;)


-Mia
 

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