1. To give every playable character an engrossing history and related quest line.
1. To give the player as much customization as possible in character creation. I.E. to maintain or augment the level of customization in the original Wasteland.
2. To balance customization so that it has relevance to the game world beyond the player's own imagination.
3. To maximize replayability. DILEMMA
I've seen some express, on this forum, interest in both 1) having backgrounds and stories for every playable character, and 2) being able to write your own background and story for each playable character. I think these are both awesome ideas, but how do you keep the latter from becoming a practice in LARPing? Use archetypes... or presets of a kind... wait... SOLUTIONSUMMED UP:
You get all the customization of the original Wasteland, but with the added bonus of being able to choose background stories (that influence character relationships and open up a character-centric quest-line) that make sense with the attributes you choose. You have the added option of having the game organically apply a background story while you're creating your character, at no additional sacrifice to customization.SOMEWHAT MORE SPECIFIC:
InXile would provide an array of archetypal characters who's names and stats could be tweaked - tweaked to the extent that those names and stats remain relevant to the character's "archetypal" background story and related in-game quest-line, also provided by Inxile.
While the background and quest-line for a specific archetype (doctor, thief, etc) would not be editable, the character's name and stats would have more of a flexible symbiotic relationship (the f- am I talking about? I'll deal with this in the implementation section below).
This limitation provides InXile the ability to give all four of your starting characters interesting quest-lines and special inter-character relationships. If you're a doctor, expect a quest-line relevant to your doctor-iffic background story, and expect other characters (non-playable included) to react to you, at times acknowledging something about you, like your doctor-iness.
You, the player, would still have the option of not choosing any archetypes, but you'd be cutting yourself out of four potentially pretty cool quest lines and a number of character interactions.
Having more available archetypes than the number of starting characters immediately adds to replayablity. By choosing four or less archetypes, you are necessarily shutting the others out of that play-through, and their relating backgrounds, quest-lines, and character interactions. IMPLEMENTATION
I find it easier to get people on board for an idea when you can show them your idea is not so pie-in-the-sky or maybe as evil as it sounds. That in mind...CHARACTER CREATION INTERFACE:
All the choices necessary to character creation should be viewable and editable simultaneously. This shouldn't be a Bauldur's Gate affair. It doesn't have to be. This is also important since implementing the above solution requires, for ease of use, that the player sees things as they're automatically, or symbiotically (I'll explain it soon), updated.
Here are the character "attributes" that should be visible: First Name, Last Name, Age, Gender, Nationality, Stats (ST, SP, etc), Skills (Brawling, Climbing, etc), Archetype (showing full written background story on screen as well).
Archetype would likely be a drop down, and upon selecting an archetype, all other applicable character attributes would be altered and the background story refreshed to show the relevant one. In some cases, some attribute customization would be limited. For instance, if it is essential to an archetypal story that the character be old, the player may only be able to tweak age four or five years from the default older age of that archetype.
So you've seen how choosing an archetype limits customization. Well, here's where symbiosis comes in. From the archetype drop down, you could choose "automatic" ...SYMBIOSIS:
Choosing an automatic archetype will automatically select the archetype while you customize your stats. In other words, you create the character, and InXile applies to the character you've created, a relevant background and subsequent quest-line. If you continue to tweak your stats, the background may switch to something more relevant.
How does this work? By tethering an archetype to a specific but flexible array of attributes. Mainly, it could determine an archetype according to whatever the highest skill is, and then by other attributes within a relevant range.
For instance: Let's suppose that while you're customizing your new character, you give him 12 stat points in Charisma, the most skill points in Bureaucracy, and an age of 20. Now let's suppose there is an archetypal background story revolving around a young up-and-comer with aspirations to become a politician. In order for this background story to automatically apply itself, the character being created must have greater than 10 stat points in charisma, must have the most skill points in Bureaucracy, and be between 15 and 25 years of age. Thus, the Politician archetype automatically applies itself to the character you're creating WITHOUT altering any other attributes.
Supposing you named your character Winthrop Bubblegump, your character's background story might begin (with more literary flare than I can muster): "Winthrop Bubblegump, a younger man with high hopes for the return of a republic to the wasteland, [etc...]"IMPORTANT:
When choosing "automatic" archetype, the archetype, when applied, does NOT overwrite any attribute.
Only if you switch from automatic to a specific archetype, will attributes be written over - and even then, they can be tweaked.
For instance: If you've selected the Politician archetype mentioned above, and begin tweaking your stats further, you'll find that the interface 1) won't allow you to go below 11 Charisma, 2) won't allow you to lower Bureaucracy to the level of any other skill, and 3) won't allow you to set your character's age below 15 or above 25 years old.
And here's another potentially interesting element (budget permitting): If you choose Mexican as your Nationality, expect some surprise, racism, or support from npcs when they hear about your goals in the USA. If you pick the bare minimum age (15), expect some reaction to that with respect to your characters political actions or aspirations as well. SUMMED UP AGAIN
You get all the customization of the original Wasteland, but with the added bonus of being able to choose background stories (that influence character relationships and open up a character-centric quest-line) that make sense with the attributes you choose. You have the added option of having the game organically apply a background story while you're creating your character, at no additional sacrifice to customization. CHALLENGES
1. Balancing interest with symbiosis: The more specific an archetype's requisites, the harder it will be to automatically apply it when automatic archetype is selected. However, the less specific an archetype's requisites, the more general and bland a background story must be.
2. Balancing multiplicity and budget: I think 16 is the magic number. If there is enough in the budget for 16 unique background stories, (not so big) quest lines, and intermittent character interactions, this system could work beautifully.
***(PM me if you find typos.)