To begin, the goal of this system is for the player to choose the roles they want to participate in, and from there give them a list of classes that fit that role, either strongly, or weakly. I understand that this is similar to what Rift did, but the concept here is that you are actually encompassing two roles directly, and the variety of possible classes allowed covers the entire spectrum of primary roles.
Secondly, I’m a strong advocate of leveling up multiple classes and allowing the player to mix certain abilities from each. In this sense, I’m thinking more of Final Fantasy Tactics or Final Fantasy 5. The idea is that each class provides certain abilities, and the player can choose to include one of those abilities in their build.
For now, we simply focus on the classes and not their abilities (as such things are more likely to change depending on the kind of game that is made). Roles were generated from the D&D4e Player’s Manual. They are Defender, Controller, Leader and Striker.
While Defender’s are often seen as meat shields, the better ones are almost never hit by on level enemies, meaning that they require little to no healing in normal combat situations. Defender’s role is to punish enemies that don’t attack them. They often lead combat and do better the more mobile they can become.
Controllers function best as damage prevention and improving positioning. They help by forcing enemies to scatter, since their attacks are often AoE. Scattered enemies are less likely to be able to focus on any one particular target, easing the incoming damage that everyone is receiving.
Leaders are a bit like healers, but they also act as a buffer/debuffer. Leaders also focus on team positioning, and can help move players into better situations.
Strikers are the epitome of what it means to be dps. The purpose of a striker is to do as much damage as possible, and finish targets off quickly.
Part of this requires a bit more AI from the enemies. They need to react to damage similarly to how players do. They need to get out of the fire. They need to fear crossing a wall of fire. This also implies a slower game.
From the origin of the roles, we can establish certain parallels and changes to fit a more active game type. One thing to note is that the Defender and Controller play very similar roles. This increases the amount of tank like roles in the game, as Defender/defender, Defender/controller, and Controller/Controller all fit similar functions.
The biggest change to fit an MMO is getting Leaders something that is not moving players around. While its okay to move enemies around, the current situation would allow for too much griefing. One solution is give movement buffs, shields and temporary protection from damage zones.
Combining roles would involve a primary and a secondary choice. Before locking the player in, they would be able to view all possible classes they could become with the choices they made. Unlike the Rift soul system, they would not be switching roles (dps cleric, or a tank rogue), but instead they would always function as, for example, a Defender/Controller, regardless of the class they choose. Though some classes would be a Controller/Defender the result would essentially be the same.
Some of the classes would also be just aspects of a class (like Defender/Leader getting access to the Death Knight tanking tree and the Paladin Tanking Tree, to use WoW as an example). Some combinations would also be more limited, (Striker/Striker or any choice where both roles are the same). This is scenario A.
Another way to take this is to allow for the player to choose a class, and then pick a sub role to perform, which works closer to how WoW works. This is scenario B.
Another way is to allow the player to switch how their roles fit, which in turn opens up a specific smaller set of classes. This is scenario C.
No matter the approach, the important function is that if a player is a Leader/Striker, or a Striker/Leader, they are enough to heal the team. This is another aspect of the game that needs to change from the typical MMO combat situation. It makes no sense for all enemies to focus just the tank. It also makes no sense for every swing to hit.
Essentially the proposal works better the further you get away from the WoW model, and the closer you get to the turn based model. Also, the closer skill shots matter, the better. This means that random hitting would have to be reduced, or accuracy would have to apply to spells and abilities that cause a scattered effect, therefore focusing more of the damage where it counts, versus scattering to points that don’t matter.
As for the actual class results, the changes can be made to fit different genres, but essentially would fit certain class type/styles.
Primary Defenders: Fighter, Paladin, Mage Knight
Primary Leaders: Priest, Shaman, Bard
Primary Controllers: Wizard, Ninja, Psion
Primary Strikers: Ranger, Monk, Rogue
Each primary role, then diversifies depending on what the secondary role is. For example choosing Controller/Leader would result in: Abjurer (Wizard) or Telepath (Psion). The reverse, Leader/Controller would be: Invoker (Priest) or Minstrel (Bard).
So in the A scenario, the player would choose Leader/Controller or Controller/Leader and they would be able to pick from all four classes. In the B scenario the player would choose the Wizard, and have access to the Controller/Leader role of Abjurer, but also be able to switch to the Controller/Striker version of the Evoker, or the Controller/Controller Acranist. In the C scenario they would choose the Leader/Controller and choose between the Priest or the Bard versions, they would later on be able to choose different role combinations to gain access to different classes.
In the end, there are 12 classes, or 36 depending on how it is handled. Furthermore, the ability of the player to choose their function is diversified depending on the how it is handled. I believe that scenario A would be best, as it helps focus the selection, while still providing variety. The main thing is that the focus would allow for the player to be less likely to mess up on a build. At the same time, scenario C allows for the most diversity, and also allows for the player to invest in the one character instead of having to constantly make new characters.
Other possibilities, choosing a role and having access to any class that has that role. Scenario D would mean that a Defender would have 15 classes to choose from. This may have the best of both worlds between A and C scenarios, while functioning similarly to the B scenario. The issue here is that it would result in the Rift system, and therefore cause issues in which the role has no common ground, and every level results in a different combination that plays completely different. From what I’ve read, this is one of the downfalls of the soul system, where the character does not feel owned by the player.
The strength of the 4 Role system is that it allows for a great deal of diversity and as shown can accommodate both the WoW and the Rift versions of classes. It can also become highly specialized or completely diverse. From it all class combinations and roles can be derived.