TMS

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This is a somewhat broad topic, but it's one I've been thinking about a good deal as I prepare to get serious about my first game. I know that traditionally in RPGs characters tend to be specialized to some extent, with skills that reflect their assigned roles (the designated healer comes to mind). In your opinion, to what extent is such specialization desirable? How much overlap should there be (or not be) among party members' abilities? I'm also concerned about whether or not it's important to have a number of skills of a certain type (among both party members and enemies). If one skill has a certain element, or causes a certain status ailment, is it alright for it to be the only skill of its kind in the game, or should there be several skills for each element or ailment?

Here's a little information about my game, to show what I'm looking at if it comes to talking specifics. I have five playable characters: a swordsman, a magician, a thief (knife user), a hunter (spear user), and a dancer/musician (who carries a fan-like instrument that can double as a weapon). Currently I have the swordsman, thief, and hunter set to focus on physical attacks, with the thief perhaps specializing in status ailments. The magician and dancer I imagine as what might be termed magic users, probably with the former focused on offense and the latter on defense. I have a lot of skill ideas for the magician, while not as many for the other characters. Is it alright to give all the elemental attacks to the magician, or should I give some elemental attacks to other characters as well? Is it alright for both the magician and dancer (and perhaps someone else as well?) to have healing skills? These are the kinds of questions that keep bugging me.
 

XIIIthHarbinger

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I would say that with most things there isn't a right or wrong answer, but rather certain formulas work better for certain formats.

For example in my own project I have one primary character, & three secondary characters. The three secondary characters each representing one of the classic archetypes of RPGs namely fighter, rogue, & spellcaster. But the evolution of those archetypes I leave to the player. For example they could develop their spellcaster to be an AOE damage focused Mage, while the fighter archetype develops into a Paladin type tanks healer. & I add variety by having the player essentially create the main, by choosing their starting archetype, & developing it as they see fit.

So the player can have one fighter one rogue & two casters in their party, one fighter two rogues & one caster in their party, or two fighter one rogue & one caster in their party. Because so much of my game is focused on player choice, potential overlap is fine for me, because it simply provides more options for the player to work into new & interesting combinations. For example a rogue who uses buffs & healing, & fighter who uses debuffs & DOTs. & those choices were what the player wanted those character to be.

You on the other hand seem to have very specific roles in mind for your characters, so I would suggest having no overlap at all. So if you have two characters who have healing, have one who uses focused direct healing, while another used diffused healing over time like a regen. If you let more than one use elemental magic, make sure each one uses different elements.

In other words, each character should be as dissimilar in playstyle from the others as possible, so that each character has a distinct feel. It also adds a degree of personality to the character that isn't directly articulated, but the player is never the less aware of. So I would use their skill sets to reflect who the characters are.
 

TMS

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Hey, a belated thanks for the response! Each of my characters has a definite background and personality, so I may follow your suggestion and have each skill type limited to one character. Though if there does wind up being overlap when it comes to attack elements, and I am leaning that way, at least I can make sure that no skill is exactly the same as any other, sort of like the direct healing vs. HP regeneration example you gave.
 

Tai_MT

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For me, personally, I prefer to be in control of what my character's specialize in. As a player. I don't like being "shoe-horned" into a set specialized class. All that usually does to me is guarantee I'll use the most optimal characters and never switch them out. Healer, DPS, Tank, whatever seems most useful of the remaining characters (usually a Thief that can Steal).

I prefer kind of the way Dragon Age 1 did it in which every character was a set "archetype" (Warrior, Rogue, Mage), but what you did within that archetype was what you wanted to do with them. I've turned my "Bard" type character into a regular stabby thief... sometimes I turn her into an archer... and sometimes I just have her stand back and buff the team.

I, personally, just like being able to pick the things I need from the characters I like. I don't want to get saddled with a character that I might not like just because they are necessary for optimal play.

As for your questions about overlap and such... I prefer no overlap, that way each character can at least feel unique. As for multiple skills that do the same thing like two that might cause poison... I'm on the fence about that one. I prefer that if you have two skills that do the same thing... you should make one do it in a different way. Maybe one ability is a physical attack that causes burn. Maybe another is a magical attack that causes burn. Maybe one has a really high chance to cause burn... but the other a lower chance to cause burn, but it also deals basic damage. Skills shouldn't be equal if they attempt to cover the same ground, they should cover the same ground in a different way. Doing it that way also adds a little bit of strategy to your combat system.

I hope that's helpful.
 

Wavelength

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Ideally, you want your characters to feel as different as possible, without pigeonholing them so far into a single role or pattern that the player has no interesting choices to make in battle. There's so much here that depends on what type of battle system you're using, and what mechanics you've added to the battle system - but in any good battle system, there will be multiple ways for the player to accomplish what they want, so in general it's a good idea to focus each character on one or two of these "ways" to do things.

MMOs can provide some good inspiration here. Many MMO roles come down to "do damage to foes" or "keep your party's health high" (tanking/distracting foes is another role, but it's often one-dimensional so I'll forego discussing it here). But the ways that each class does it are radically different. A warrior makes calculated charges into the frontline and deals consistent damage to enemies. A ranger keeps their distance, using positioning and timing to deal damage without taking much in return. An assassin bursts in for tons of up-close damage in a short amount of time, but needs to find a way to escape before he's burst himself. A paladin uses their allies as vessels to deal damage to enemies, creating an entirely different style based on synergy and coordination. Same with the roles that protect the party - a priest might be able to heal allies quickly but infrequently; a shaman might be able to exercise zones of control that heal; a paladin might specialize in shielding the party from damage before it occurs.

Your standard turn-based battle system won't have the levers to simulate things like this until you create them. For the assassin, you could add a character-specific mechanic where, for example, if he Guards for two turns in a row he gets a buff that gives his next skill a 100% chance to Crit, and his next X skills also have a 100% chance to Crit as long as he keeps targeting the same enemy. For the ranger, you could consider whether it's worth adding in a mechanic like Marks. A big part of good battle design is lining up a character's "dream" (what the player dreams of doing with this character) with their kit of abilities & stats.

I'm even working on a game where the entire cast of 6 are mages! Magic plays an important role in the setting and in certain other non-battle gameplay mechanics, so it didn't make sense to have the normal menagerie of warrior, mage, rogue, ranger, etc. Six mages. This probably sounds very limiting from a design standpoint, but it actually gave me a lot of freedom to examine what I wanted each character to do in battle instead of just saying "okay warriors usually use basic attacks and mages usually use elemental spells to target weaknesses". A fire mage, wind mage, and time mage are all going to do very different things in battle! What I came up with is:
  • Wind Magic: Generally focuses on Single-Target Damage, Battler Speed and manipulating Enemy Position.
  • Fire: Generally focuses on Multiple-Target Damage and Status manipulation.
  • Energy: Generally focuses on Damage to Weak Enemies and KO bonuses.
  • Light: Generally focuses on Critical Hit Damage and manipulation of Weaknesses/Resistances.
  • Water: Generally focuses on Heals, HP Drain Damage, and Curing Statuses. (It's worth mentioning here that in this game healing is a very niche tactic - it's more of a 'nice to have' than a 'must have for boss battles'. So Water Magic is a style you can opt into, not a staple that will be in every battle party.)
  • Time: Generally focuses on Skill Cooldown manipulation and advancing/delaying the onset of Timed Effects.
The nifty thing about this is that it feels like all characters can do some general things ("spell damage", "inflicting statuses", "protecting allies") well, but each character also has a certain niche that feels special and therefore gives the player the sense that she made a good decision no matter which party she decides to form for any given battle. I personally think that's the secret to getting classes and skill specialization right.
 

kirbwarrior

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each character also has a certain niche that feels special and therefore gives the player the sense that she made a good decision no matter which party she decides to form for any given battle
I'm quoting this because this is the big takeaway. But I have more to add;

Characters can have overlap without actually overlapping. In one of my games, the witch had access to every status ailment in the game (eventually). All of their skills used the same formula as a normal attack but with magic stats with a guaranteed chance of adding the ailment. The "wizard" (I don't remember it's actual name) had access to a few status ailments because it was the elementalist class, but it was all about hitting all enemies. It's poison skill did no damage but hits all enemies.

However, there doesn't have to be overlap. Dragon Quest 3 had no overlap whatsoever with the six basic classes*. Each had a distinct role and it was up to the player which roles to bring in the party. And many games don't even give the player that much control; Final Fantasy 4 each character had their own gimmick and similar characters still stood out in their own ways, but the game chose your party based on the story's needs (*SPOILERS* aka who lived).

The more characters/classes there are, the more they should be specialized. The less there are, the more versatile they should be. These aren't actually opposite concepts. You can have 'the healer' be quite versatile.
 

Milennin

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I like it when there's a bit of overlap between the characters, so you aren't completely reliant on a single character to get stuff done. Like, in a boss battle, if the healer dies, you're screwed because nobody else has access to healing. Or if the assassin dies, you're screwed because nobody else is capable of dealing enough damage to finish the fight. Or if the tank dies, you're screwed because nobody else can protect the party from dying. Those kind of scenarios suck.

In my most recently finished game (RTP), I gave every class access to a strong self-heal. But these all functioned differently, in a way that made sense for their class. Then there was the Cleric, who obviously was supposed to be the healer arch-type. She could still heal more, and do it better than any of the other classes (but mainly because she could heal her allies instead of just herself), plus her skills synergised with her healing ability.
I also had every class capable of dealing good damage, but then there was the Berserker. I just made it so the Berserker had the potential of dealing the highest numbers of damage, and BAM, he still feels like the king of damage.

Basically, characters can do more than the absolute minimum you'd expect from their class, but their secondary abilities get outclassed by those who specialise in those fields.
 

TMS

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Just looking over everyone's varying responses, I think that I'm on the right track. The way I have it currently planned out, each character can do a number of different things, but each sticks to a general theme of their own. The advice given with the selection of party members in mind will probably be useful for future games, but since my current project only has five playable characters, I'll probably allow the player to use all five of them at once. Since it will be my first game, I don't really want to do anything complicated like the "marks" system or character customization, the latter partly because the characters are actual characters rather than blank slates.
 

kirbwarrior

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but their secondary abilities get outclassed
I like this idea, especially considering my favorite classes are "red mages" who are second best at everything.
each character can do a number of different things, but each sticks to a general theme of their own
I remember in rm2k3 each character had nearly the same suite of skills to pick from but were each based around two elements. By defining what those elements "were" (water is always aoe, fire had huge variance, etc), I defined each of the skills differently and each character cam across as unique, even though each one could theoretically play any role.
Since it will be my first game, I don't really want to do anything complicated
Unrelated to this thread, but remember these words. It's hard to make a simple game. It's hard to recreate Dragon Quest 1. It's much harder to have complicated systems. Your first game should be as simple as you can like.
 

fireflyege

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Just feel your character, and you can easily make the best for them. Make characters fit their character in battle.
 

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Quite the versatile cast so far :p

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Degica Games Turn Komodo | RPG Maker News #77

Well, rats. Was really looking forward to trying out FPS Creator, but trying to install and set it up was pretty much impossible for my tiny brain to comprehend. So much for that, then.
Ah, home once more! I think I can safely work on my games now.
Let's hope power remains on for the day

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