In a roleplaying-focused game, people use either skill-based systems, or class-based systems, and you can find almost an equal number of both. Both seem to be equally popular, but I can't seem to find any good discussions on which is better.
So discuss away! =)
Personally, I like skill-based, class-less systems, in that anyone can do anything they like with any character. By fuzzing the boundaries of classes, they can make multi-purpose characters, who will, however, have a definitive lack in at least one or more skills.
Since I've been more or less distracted from AntWorld's coding, I have been drawing out, in computer Notepad and on actual pen-and-paper notepad, plans for my sci-fi MUD, which is going to be a revamped version of the former squad-based realtime strategy TekForce game.
(Basically, a Cyberpunk/Shadowrun/Fallout/original game, which, instead of magic, has "psi", "chi", "phi", and "omega" psionic energies. I haven't made any code for it, though! I'm still true to my AntWorld-devoted word, mostly. =)
My main issue is, that when I'm designing my combat system and the world, it's obvious that some skills will be used way more often than others, and some skills will never be used.
Which is the precise problem with a skill-based system; people tend to abuse the skills to pick only the excellent combat skills, and tend to ignore the specialty skills. So you could have Billy the Berserker with maxed out skills in everything but non-combat skills like Disarm Traps and Pickpocket, since those skills are almost useless in a combat environment, and a large portion of the game is centred on those. And Billy would make a killing, literally and figuratively.
The major problem is to find ways of rewarding people for using the obscure skills, but at the same time not upsetting a balance; so if a bandit took Pickpocket, Lockpicking, and Support Weapons, that bandit would be practically impossible to defeat, and they could also get high rewards for using Pickpocket.
In other words, it's nearly impossible to make any lesser skill worthwhile without upsetting a balance, since a character will just focus on combat skills in addition to that lesser skill, as a kind of exploit.
Darn, huh? I have no idea what I should try...
A class-based system, on the other hand, is more restrictive as to the tasks that a player can follow, but at the same time the class-system prevents abusing the system, and rather raises the question as to "Which class is better if I want to win" rather than "Which skills should I take if I want to win".
(Of course, you can always learn something from reading through the source of Roguelikes, whose character classes are excellently balanced. But that's a digression.)
I like well-balanced class systems, too, since playing as either a wizard or a warrior has its challenges and benefits. In a Roguelike, a wizard has a tough start, but once they get going they're almost unstoppable, except by freak coincidences. Likewise, a warrior has an easy start but it begins to get harder and harder to stay alive.
The problem I have with class systems is that, usually, none of the classes mimic what I want to do precisely.
Anyway, questions, comments, ideas, input, output, throughput, bandwidth, bandwagon, suggestions?
Apr 24 2001, 8:10 pm