Monday, August 1, 2011

Adventures in Amateur Game Design, part 4: Customization Systems

In my last post, I mentioned that the specializations give you a fixed list of abilities as well as some customization options. The decision to give the different classes different customization systems just arose naturally out of my desires for how I wanted them to operate.

For the Warrior and Rogue: Learned Magic
In the setting, there is this idea that every person knows some magic, it's just part of society. So to that end, at certain points while leveling (roughly every 4 levels, for a total of 5 choices planned before level 20) the character must pick between a mage-like ability or a priest-like ability. For example, a dagger rogue may have to choose between a short-range teleport (from the mage) or a short-range knockback (inspired by the Earth/Wind power of the priest). Another part of this idea is that you can't have both abilities, you have to choose.

This system is adopted from Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. In the game, as you progress, you have to choose between certain augmentations for your buildings/units. In Starcraft II, there are separate progression trees for Zerg and Protoss inspired upgrades. In my game, each specialization has it's own progression trees. So each warrior will pick abilities out of the progression trees for each spec. The difference is that you'll get a total of 5 choices from your primary spec, 3 from your secondary and 1 from your tertiary spec.

For the Mage and Priest: Spell Augmentations
It wouldn't really make much sense for mages and priests to have the same customization system as the warriors and rogues do. So I wanted something different. One of my problems with other RPGs is that for the casters there is a great breadth of abilities, but they often become outdated as you level. So I want my abilities to scale nicely as you level, which means that I don't need for there to be a wide selection of spells. In order to keep the spells feeling fresh, there will be a point based upgrade buying system for the spell that will allow you to change the way they function.

My go-to example is for Magic Missile. The standard Magic Missile spell fires several unerring projectiles at the target. The first customization option may be to allow Magic Missile to be cast as a free action and therefore in the same turn as another spell. Another option would be to allow the missiles to each have different targets, giving it the option for AOE (area of effect) damage. The last option would be to add some forcefulness to the missiles, giving them each a slight knockback effect.

I would like for the upgrades to be evenly priced, but for them get more expensive depending on how many augmentations you already had for the spell. So maybe the first augmentation would cost 1 point, the second would be 2 points and the last augmentation 3 points. The real trick to this system is figuring out how many points the character will receive. Too many points and they can get everything they really want. Too few points and they feel restricted. There's a delicate balancing point somewhere in there.