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Designing a Job based RPG system Part 1

August 8, 2010terence

Adventure, the RPG project I have been working on has finally gotten to a stage where I need to design a simple RPG system to round out the features list. As far a CRPG design goes, beyond the standard stats and class driven design, one design I have always loved to design is a “Job based” RPG.

Job based RPG have often seen more prominence in Tactics oriented RPG, because of the large number of ‘party members’ you eventually recruit. The large number of jobs available, would keep players happy with being able to swap, level up and grind out different soldiers to battle. The job system has it’s origins in the Final Fantasy series more specifically developed in Final Fantasy III, later Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics. There was also the Ogre Battle series plus the other great Tactics games put out by Nippon Ichi.

My initial research into the jobs system will focus on Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics as there are some pretty interesting design decisions made there. Before that I would like to state my initial objectives in designing a RPG system for Adventure. I say initial, because some of the objectives may change after a fair amount of research.

  1. Design a non-statistic heavy CRPG system. Adventure’s basic RPG system is meant as a create a framework for potentially RPG’s systems to be created. Most RPG’s that try to ‘innovate’ try to tack 101 statistics, attributes,parameter that modify,enhance,boost a character in wierd and wonderful ways. Yes you get a very “cool” system and maybe a uber-flexible system but what you lose in end is system that nobody but most anal min-max player cares about. I know I don’t play RPG’s that way, and I am pretty sure that others who play CRPG’s don’t either.
  2. Make the statistics available obvious on what they do to a character (and for the player)..Yes 1/2 Vitality + 2/3 strength * item bonuses might to logically to a designer, not so much so to a casual player. Str=damage, that’s pretty obvious.
  3. Focus on abilities versus spell lists. That means every ability is a spell. Group abilities around a job because it makes sense.
  4. A balanced game is a myth. No game is perfectly balanced. The CRPG system simply provides a platform and needs to be flexible enough to change and change is the keyword. Thanks goodness, I am not designing a PvP system right off the bat.

Final Fantasy tactics IMHO had a great job system, where you started as “Squire” that was a generalist and could learn how to be a “Archer” or “Knight” if you reach level 2. Alternatively, you could switch to a “Chemist” and then switch to a “Black Mage” or “White Mage” at level 2. Each job allow the player to acquire job abilities specific(in most cases) to that job. So the Thief job would allow the player to “Steal” .

FF Tactics Job Tree

The job system would also however place restrictions on the how the player grew in strength and what equipment they could wear. Games such as Ogre Battles and later Tactics games would increase amount of jobs to a bewildering amount. Final Fantasy V also used a similar system but unlocked jobs through the plot points of finding specific crystal pieces. To this effect, it was less open-ended, designed to open up more powerful jobs later to allow a more uniform level progression and keeping the challenge level of the game kept in check. Players didn’t have to change their jobs, it’s just that some battles would be easier and certain game features (i.e. items, magics) would be unlocked if the player chose those jobs.

So let’s see what I can take away from these designs.

  • Job Tree’s = good
  • Locking Job’s = understandable, but not totally unavoidable
  • More abilities = good
  • Less stats in FF Tactics = good
  • Too many job choices to early = bad (for starting), good (for replay)

Next I will drill down more into the jobs system, character statistics, abilities and changing jobs.

2 responses to “Designing a Job based RPG system Part 1”

  1. Kevin Rubin says:

    Job system? Actually, I first skimmed this posting and saw the diagram you put in. But its similarity to a diagram related to the Jewish Kabalah, made me first think “job” had something to do with the biblical Job…

  2. terence says:

    Yeah…I actually have the second part in draft but got bogged down with refactoring my code. It’s incredible, the more I do the more I seem to have to refactor…Is that some kind of law like Moore’s law?

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