The question was,
"When you write about how all classes in Project Eternity should be "useful", what does that mean? Does it mean they need to be equally powerful and "balanced"? If so, what dos that even mean in a single player, party-based RPG?"
Here's his answer:
The conversation continued in chat and here was what was said:
Q: You didn't address the "party-based" part of my question, though. _Should_ players even care how well any individual character in the party performs compared to another as long as the party as a whole manages to perform its tasks adequately?
Also, FYI, the reason I write "balance" in quotes is because I'm not sure the definition of balance you're thinking of is the same one most people think of when they read the word "balance". Balance of what? Power? Usefulness? Choose your words carefully.
A: Yes, they should still care because if there are weird imbalances in the party that are assumed to be solved with a "correct" party composition, that implicitly suggests "incorrect" party compositions. It's pretty common in D&D groups to "need" a healer.
Arguably in BG2 there are places where you absolutely need an arcane spellcaster. I think that limits potential party compositions and is not a benefit to the player.
I think we should move away from class designs that shove classes into a niche that have little/no overlap with other classes and then make content that effectively demands you have a character of class x/y/z to move forward.
From my perspective, it's actually not important if the player doesn't care about individual class balance. But I'm the designer, not the player. I can't see any benefit for myself or players for me to *not* consider balance and utility in their design.
Q: Re: "Correct" party compositions. See, thing is, that was kind of a part of the core D&D experience for a lot of people. Assembling the crew, like in a heist flick. Gotta have the healer, the mage, the tough guy. You'd carefully "hire" for each position.
What about what I'm suggesting would stop you from making/building that party?
Q: Presumably, your balancing of the classes would change them in such a way that the familiar dynamic of the classical D&D party would be irrevocably altered. Everybody would be sort of healer-ish, everybody would be sort of fighter-ish, etc. No diversity.
Not if drawing outside of traditional lines is an optional activity. Want to build a wizard who wears no armor and stands in the back with noodle arms while the huge full plate fighter pounds on dudes' faces and the rogue scoots around backstabbing? Cool
Q: Moreover, you might wish to consider that the traditional distinct classes had a sort of elegant simplicity to them. You've no doubt seen how every first-time player goes and rolls up his first Human Fighter. And not a Half-Elf Fighter/Mage/Thief.
I might be getting a bit theoretical here since this is hardly an issue for me, but the traditional classes also had a secondary function, serving as a kind of additional difficulty setting. Fighters were for the beginners, mages were for experts.
Nothing will prevent you from building a simple, straightforward, low-maintenance fighter (if you want to) in PE.
Q: Oh, I don't doubt that. But of course that leads to the question of whether this great freedom and flexibility in character development will inevitably lead to poorly balanced combat encounters and other content. The most important type of balance.
Inevitably? Come on.
Q: Heh. I share your optimism! Unfortunately I can't say the same for everybody I know. You know, it would be great if you or somebody else at Obsidian could tell us a bit more about how you guys design and balance individual combat encounters in your games.
So, what do you think? Let everyone know. But, please please please please please please please please keep the conversation on-topic. If you're going off on tangents, just start a new thread.
Edited by Hormalakh, 13 December 2012 - 06:58 PM.