I was reminiscing about many of the great RPGs of yore' and all the interesting approaches that developers have had in how to make different character classes interesting to play.
From stat growth/progression, to perks/skills/passives/abilities/etc., to class specific equipment, to backstory, to class specific speaking styles, to even the specific visual styles/movements/animations of each class, etc. developers have explored quite the variety of simple to super complex RPG designs in the quest to bring the player something both fun and interesting to engage with.
Some different RPG Class systems I thought where interesting...
--- Star Ocean: Second Story ---
In this game, the characters/classes/voices/asthetics/roles/etc. were very defined by their back stories and in an odd manner the combat style of each class/character was very animation dependant. i.e. the actual attack animations were pre-set, but had to connect with your opponents to actually hit. This worked both ways so you could overcome some very tough enemies with certain techniques.
The game was also interesting in that you could make your characters overpowered in so many ways if you knew what you were doing early in the game. It also had interesting approaches to its crafting/passive skills systems as well.
I had a lot of fun trying a lot of different things on different playthroughs of this game. Also, there were some characters that could not be gotten on the same playthrough, so that also added a bit of variety on each time around.
--- Final Fantasy Tactics ---
This game has so much to explore when it comes to interesting characters/jobs/skills/recruiting enemies/monsters/etc. The fact you can make many silly combinations with the Job/Sub-job system just adds to its charm as well.
I got a lot of replayability out this game, so many ways to experiment even before the end of the first chapter of the game.
--- Pre-Renewal Ragnarok Online ---
This game's job/stat systems really inspired me to experiment with tons and tons of characters over many years.
This game had many many changes over its life, but the core interesting thing for me was trying to balance the stats and skills of the class I was playing.
I really liked that there were an excess of skills in a skill tree to choose from, so you had to make choices, and other people playing the same class would end up with very different balances of stats and skills.
Especially as character stats costed more and more every 10 points a specific stat increased, this encouraged players to spread character stat points out more and led to many unique builds that people would share on forums.
RPG Job/Class systems that have room for a lot of variety in progression/experimenting seem to be the most interesting for multiple playthroughs of a game. i.e. the interest with the class system itself encourages another playthrough of the game.
Where as a class-less RPG system (such as Elder Scrolls Oblivion) seem to be so super open at first, until you realize that a single character can master all skills, spells, stats, etc. in a single playthrough.
So, there isn't really much to explore once you have one character that does everything. And the progression to that master of everything character tends to not have a structured role.
A similar issue comes up with instant re-specing. You can instantly switch roles as one character at any time, there isn't any reason to explore the journey of a character's growth choices if you can just skip to each end point instantly.
In experience, it feels more like selecting a load-out, rather than a character that has grown a certain way. Which is fine in many game genres, but kind of drifts away from the RPG ethos.
I think experimenting with imposed limitations is where a lot of the fun in RPGs lay.
Too many limitations leaves to little room to experiment, but in an ironic manner, too few limitations also leads to the same result. (i.e. one character does it all and there is nothing left to explore)
So, what do you all think makes for interesting class/job systems in an RPG?
Also, What are some of your favorite ones you have come across?