Believe it or not, I’ve been hard at work on a single-player RPG. Unfortunately, from a coding perspective, I have very little to demo just yet; therefore, I’ll stick with some design documents. So far, I’ve only touched on a high-level overview. I hoped to move to a discussion of combat soon thereafter, but I think that’s getting ahead of myself. Instead, today I’ll touch on my concept for Archetypes, Classes, and how those relate to Abilities. (While I’d love to avoid a Class-based game, I elected to follow a Fable-esque “discover your class” approach — your Class isn’t selected; it’s determined by your gameplay choices!) Classes are defined by a player’s two highest Skills. With 22 Skills in a grid, this leads to a triangular matrix of 231 potential classes. Each class falls into one of four broad player Archetypes. Phew! (If this method proves unwieldy and unworkable, as it may, a single Class may be represented by multiple Skill combinations — to be investigated later.)
Archetypes are the general player types: Adventurer, Leader, Merchant, and Crafter. I’m going to spew a few paragraphs from my initial high-level design document here to describe them. These Archetypes are designed to correspond with four distinct (but interactive) modes of gameplay — adventuring, empire-building, mercantilism and trade, and crafting.
Archetype 1: Operations (Adventurer) – similar to player archetypes in most Console RPGs, this kind of player will focus on combat skills (melee, ranged, healing/buffing, debuffing) and combat- (or possibly stealth-) oriented solutions to game challenges. This player should be extremely powerful at combat in comparison to most NPCs. Adventurers will be weakest as leaders of empires, but will excel as “prime” warriors in league with NPC parties.
Adventuring will focus on tactical events, at which success or failure will dictate aspects of empire growth and a strategic war scenario.
Archetype 2: Politics (Leader) – this archetype will focus on empire-building and management through the territorial-control game aspect. In combat, healing, buffing, and information control will be strong skills for the player, although an Adventurer would be stronger at combat skills, and a Merchant stronger at information control. Combat and persuasion can both be useful tactics for a Leader, depending on the specific skill focus of the build.
Politics will focus on maintenance of an empire of allied city-like structures, and strategic (rather than combat-oriented tactical) guidance of a “war” scenario. When forced into combat, Leaders will focus on the recruitment and guidance of more powerful NPC party members than might otherwise be available.
Archetype 3: Mercantilism (Merchant) – this player archetype will focus on trade and financial aspects of the game, with strengths possible in combat, information control, and stealth. This kind of player will tend towards stealthy or persuasive solutions to problems, possibly even including outright bribery skills. A Merchant can also make a reasonable leader.
Mercantilism will affect territorial control, as well as economic factors of the player’s empire and personal wealth. A successful Merchant will be able to “buy” equipment and “hire” cohorts/employees to compensate, to some degree, for missing skills and to influence the territorial-control game.
Archetype 4: Invention (Crafter) – this archetype will focus on puzzle-style games to “personally” create and improve in-game structures, items, and other sorts of enhancements. A Crafter may be skilled at combat and the use of combat-oriented equipment, or may focus these skills in more peaceful directions. A Crafter may focus on the use of almost any skillset to achieve success, based on the type of crafting performed – combat, leadership, stealth, or information control. A Crafter will experience weakness in mercantile skills (although Crafter-Merchant hybrids should overcome this, at cost to other potential skillsets).
Crafted equipment can be employed to transform a Crafter into a hybrid player nearly as powerful as any other archetype, but more versatile. Optionally, a Crafter may have the ability to change roles often (but be slightly less effective at each).
Archetypes exist to give both me (as a developer) and players (especially those unfamiliar with the world) a frame of reference. Nothing in the game will FORCE play in accordance with these archetypes; they’re intended to provide conceptual guides only.
Classes and Abilities
(Don’t worry, this section is MUCH shorter than the previous…) Abilities are the actual “moves” used in gameplay — Bribe, Shoot, Dodge, Craft, Harvest, etc. Abilities come from two sources: Skill levels and Class. Reaching certain target Skill levels (currently, I am shooting for 1, 41, 81, and 120 — yes, Skills can reach 120%) opens abilities related to those Skills. All players will be granted level 1 in all Skills by the completion of the tutorial. Abilities will also be granted by the player’s Class. Abilities for each Class will reflect upon the Archetype for that class. If I do my job right, the “signature” Abilities of a given set of Skills and Class will lend a unique feel to that Class. Further, Class titles will be bestowed when the Class is achieved, allowing a game of discovery as players learn what Classes are available.
In my next installment, I’ll go over a general game flow, and start to discuss the four game modes that correspond with today’s Archetypes.