Deathfire’s Character Generation – the stats at the heart of the game
Usually when starting a new role-playing game, one of the first things you begin to work on is the underlying game system. Deathfire was no different. After a few programming tests to prove general feasibility of certain key features, the first thing we turned to was the game’s character generation. Because the player’s stats, attributes and traits are at the heart of any role-playing game, it was only natural to begin zoning in on that aspect of the game and lay down some underpinning ground rules from which to build the overall game system.
And with that we were off to the races. It was decision time. How should character creation work? Should the player roll attributes which then decide which kind of character he can play, or should the player be able to pick archetypes himself and we fit the attributes around that?
The first approach is the one we used for the Realms of Arkania games and upon replaying Shadows over Riva, I felt that forcing the player to re-roll a character in its entirety over and over again in order to make it fit the necessary class requirements just didn’t feel user friendly enough any longer. Therefore, I opted for a different approach that seemed a little more accessible to me. After all, the key to this entire project is “fun.” We don’t want to typecast the game in any way. We’re not making a hardcore game or an old-school game, or a mainstream RPG or whatever other monikers are floating around. We want to make a role-playing game with depth that is fun to play. It is really as simple as that. Anything that smells of tedium will go out the door, which includes things such as click-fest combats. But that’s a subject for some other time.
So, when getting into the character generation, the first thing the player will do is pick a race he wants to play.
Naturally, we allow players to decide whether they want to create male or female heroes to add to their party. Therefore we have male and female counterparts for all six races, the Humans, Wood Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Snow Elves and Tarks.
Most of them are pretty self-explanatory, except for Tarks, perhaps, which we created as another kind of half-breed class. Think of them as half-orcs. Not quite as ugly and single-minded – meaning stupid – as orcs, Tarks are incredibly strong humanoids with tremendous instincts and roots in nature. At the same time, however, they are not the most social, charismatic or intelligent of sort. But if brute strength and endurance is what you need, a Tark may just be the answer.
The next step in the creation of a hero is the selection of a class. Players can pick from eight available classes in Deathfire.
It is here that you can decide which role your hero should play in the overall scheme of things. Again, most of the classes are pretty standard fare to make sure anyone with a bit of role-playing experience will quickly be able to pick their favorite.
Both, the race and the class, affect a character’s attributes and they will be internally adjusted as you make your selections.
Once this step is completed, you will finally get to see the character’s core stats. At the base, each character has a Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma attribute. These are the very core and will be used to calculate a number of additional attributes, such as the attack and defense values, among others. They will also affect the damage the character can do, the amount of magic points he has, and the armor rating. Also included here are the Weapon Skills, controlling how well the character can handle and use various types of weapons.
To create a role-playing experience that has real depth and gives the player breadth in shaping their in-game characters over time, the core attributes are not nearly enough, however. Therefore we added a number of traits to Deathfire. Thirty-four of them, to be exact, at the time of this writing, packed together into various groups to easier keep track of them.
The first group contains Resistances, controlling how well the character can withstand various types of damage. The Body Skills determine how well the character can handle himself physically and is therefore home to things such as Balance and Speed among others. The list continues with groups such as Nature Skills, Craftsmanship, and Mental Skills, as you can see from the screenshot below, each with a number of attributes that determine the character’s innate abilities.
And then there are the Negative Attributes. Everyone of us has lost his cool before, so why should our game characters be any different? In my opinion, negative attributes bring zest to the game. They give heroes personality and, from a design standpoint, open up an endless array of opportunities for great character interaction and mishaps.
What we are looking at here runs the gamut from ordinary Temper tantrums, to a person’s Fear of Height, or Arachnophobia. But it also includes values such as Greed, Superstition and Pessimism. As you can undoubtedly tell, there is a lot to allow us to color characters and create interesting gameplay moments. I’ve been doing these kinds of things since 1987, so of course, I am fully aware of the fact that all of these attributes will only be of any value if they are actually used within the game. We already have an ever-growing list of situations, moments, quests, events and encounters that will help us put these attributes into play, and there will be many more as we actually move along to flesh out the various areas of the game. You might even be interested to hear that we cut a number of traits for that very reason. We realized that within the confines of the game we are making, the traits would have no real value or would be severely underused.
I am sure you will agree that we have a lot to work with here, and our intentions are to make use of the attributes to the best of our ability.
Another large area that defines characters are the Magic Abilities, but I will leave a discourse on that subject for a future post. In my next update I will take you a little behind the scenes of the actual character generation section of the game and talk a little about the technology we are using.
In addition, we would very much like you to help us spread the word, tell others about Deathfire to help make this game a success. Therefore, we are hosting a give-away, offering up a Blu-Ray/DVD copy of the video game based movie Silent Hill: Revelation. In order to be eligible for the drawing, simply answer the question below. But you can increase your odds manifold by liking my Facebook page, the Deathfire Facebook page, or following me on Twitter. Also, tweeting about the project will give you additional entries, allowing you to add one additional entry every day. Good luck, and thank you for spreading the word!
15 Replies to “Deathfire’s Character Generation – the stats at the heart of the game”
I’m digging those screenshots. And yay for disadvantages. I hope that there will be some kind of trade-off, like raising a disadvantage at creation gives you more points to spend otherwise. 8)
Yes, there will be trade-offs, naturally. Just as you have the chance to raise regular traits only within certain limits per level, lowering Disadvantages will be equally limited and will require you to sacrifice regular trait points for it.
I love all races and classes.
Nature skills 🙂
I hope for a lot of plants and animals spells.
Is shadow dancer a rogue?
Why not a bard?
I will love a bard with harp and song spells.
Can you please allow redistribution of stats after choosing your race and class. The predetermined stats may not fit the character a person may want to roleplay.
OMG, Realms of Arkania is still one of my most fond RPG memories. The utter sense of mystery and true exploration was never really topped by any game afterwards. I hear there’s a RoA remake in the works, I take it this isn’t news to you?
Since you pick the race and class first, you can re-roll your base stats until they are to your liking and once you are happy with those you can tweak your traits by assigning additional points to to those, following a certain set of rules.
Woao! I love the system itself but I can’t help but think it’s pure overkill design. In my experience deep character systems aren’t a good match for action packed games. Don’t get me wrong, though: I’m not against action-RPGs, but “action”, in my dictionary, means essentially “relying more on player skills than on character skills”. With such a depth in your character system you should consider the turn based option.
There seems to be a misunderstanding. Deathfire is not an “action-packed” game as in an action game with twitch controls. We are making a deep character-based role-playing game in the traditional sense but one where a lot is going on and where environments are more dynamic than in other traditional RPGs that often have a very static feel – hence my use of the term real-time. These real-time aspects do not, however, preclude us from creating a proper combat system that is either turn-based or something similar.
I hope that explains it a little better.
Oh I thought you meant by not re-rolling that you weren’t going to have rolling of your stats. What did you mean then about “Forcing the player to re-roll a character in its entirety over and over again just didn’t feel user friendly enough any longer” since keeping the rolling for your stats pretty much keeps the aspect you said that you are changing.
@Guido, that sounds great (balancing disadvantages vs. traits). I’m also relieved at your comment about all skills/ traits in the game being worthwhile. I commented on that before, specifically, I was thinking of Realms of Arkania. There were too many cases of useless skills and spells (specifically I recall putting lots of points into one spell that created an elemental bridge that was usable exactly 1 time over the course of three games). But I know the problem there wasn’t you, but the license. 😉
@guido: oh,glad to hear that. I love games like Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Lands of Lore and the recent Legend of Grimrock, but I’m also eager to play something along the line of Realms of Arkania. So, keep up the good work!
It sounds very interesting, what about doing a “dev diary” for the whole thing? Hungry games want more frequent updates 🙂
I’m really interested in the game. Is there any chance of a Linux version, since you’re using the Unity engine?
Sounds (and looks!) very good.
I like the style of the screenshots (the design looks a little bit like Planescape), also the attributes remind me of a nice mixture between the D&D und DSA systems.
Finally your statement concerning the combat-system sounds great.
I think this time you are doing it right, I have to admit I’m a little hyped (and that’s a very good sign)! 🙂
@Adriel, yes the screens look a little like Planescape and the reason for that is fairly simple. The design of the GUI for Planescape was mostly my doing. All these circular elements we had in the game screen, the round pop-up menu etc, all of those were things I thought up at the time and suggested to the rest of the team.
@Lelala, these blog updates are about as “dev diary” as I will get for now. Writing these blog posts takes a lot of time, especially because I have to turn over every sentence in my head ten times before committing to it, to make sure it is concise. Otherwise people will tear into me with assumptions or misinterpret entirely what I am trying to say.
@Guest, yes there certainly is the chance for a Linux version. We are cross developing already – I am coding and working on a Mac while the rest of the team is working on PCs. Fortunately with Unity that is not problem at all and I don’t think making a build for Linux in the end will be a problem.