Today I’ll introduce the Ascension gear system. I’d like to talk a little bit about what we are going for, and how it differs from the typical RPG class system. We are still playing with some different ideas under the hood, so I’ll keep to the bigger picture for now. Be sure to check our blog for more about the perk system later!
No need to reinvent the wheel
So, we all know there’s a ton of RPG’s out there and a wide variety of class systems and character-building mechanics spanning all the way back to table top d20 games, some are intuitive and compelling and some… not so much. In most cases a bad class system isn’t a fun factor death sentence, but it diminishes the gratification we all seek for spending hours and hours developing our character. Let’s take a quick look at a couple well known games that we really like… that almost nailed it.
I’m a nostalgia junkie and despite it’s many flaws, Secret of Mana hits that button for me.
Its class system is unique for it’s era, in that you have all classes available at any given time, but they are split between multiple playable/ai controlled characters. You could pick and stick to one class for the whole game or learn them all and swap in and out as required by the situation. While this offered a truly innovative way to add variety to play style, the lack of any sort of character growth customization lends absolutely nothing to replay-ability.
Many RPG’s force you to select a class and abide by simple, linear-focus build rules like ‘a wizard can’t use a battle axe’. This is easily relatable to everyone’s favorite hack and slash dungeon crawler… let’s call it ‘el satanica mexicano’ for legal and comedic purposes. It feels great finding a new weapon that your current class can actually use, but finding a legendary weapon for another class inspires you to reroll a new character…carrying forward none of the rewards you’ve already spent so many hours to earn.
One could argue that this allows you to enter new content with less of a handicap, but why not have the best of both worlds!
Other RPG’s allow you to select a class and then diverge from it as you see fit making the initial choice utterly pointless. One example of this is the Dark Souls series, where the class system feels somewhat left behind when compared to the more dominant forefront mechanics that make the game enjoyable. Your class selection applies to the first hour or so of game play, starting gear and stats.
Then for the next 40+ hours you can play as a mage with no spells and a 2 handed sword. There’s no inherent downside to having classes, but really… what’s the point?
What does all this have to do with Ascension?
These are just a few of many great games that crossed our minds when we approached this game’s equipment and leveling mechanics. Spending so many hours playing RPG’s has helped us to try and focus on what works for us as players. We wanted to give the player an opportunity to thoughtfully build their character however they see fit without titles or boundaries, able to diverge from one path to another at any time. To be as concise as possible, your class is whatever you make it.
When we considered what ‘equipment’ could offer the game, and how the player should interact with it we decided it should be more than a utility item serving a single function. This isn’t necessarily an original thought but here’s our take on it.
Of course, as you use different gear types this will increase your proficiency with those types – but we also wanted it to affect the way your base character evolves over time. Rather than tying you to a standard RPG class description and forcing you to abide by certain rules we want you to be bound by the decisions you make regarding the way you like to play. A little ranged combat and a little hack and slash? Sure. Heavy tank with massive splash damage and defensive magic focus? Absolutely. Jack of all trades, master of none? You got it, it’s your world.
To give a little more purpose to the items we build your equipment choices into the ‘class system’. This allows the player to make decisions that benefit their character growth in a way that suits their play style. We offer no defined class selections and you are free to
experiment without restrictions, but not always without penalty…
Changing your main weapon halfway in to a session will mean giving up some benefits that you’ve earned along the way. However, there is a little balance in the weapons that allows some skills to carry forward to similar weapons. The goal is to be allow players to make decisions, and still be able to change your mind at any time without needing to start the game over from the beginning. You may even find it necessary to evolve different play styles to suit different encounters.
While many RPG’s structure classes in a way that makes it impossible to advance without your class gear or aggressively change your build mid game.. we also wanted to ensure that you could completely restructure your character mid-session and have a way to be successful long term. Again, you may find intrinsic penalties accompany such a decision… but
like most decisions in Ascension, it must come with a cost.
I’ll talk more next time about the weapon based perk system we are currently developing. Our perk system will have a big effect on the mechanics discussed today, so be sure to check back for that!
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