Pathfinder builds character: A look at our Character Sheet
Creating and developing your character is one of the pillars of any RPG, be it a computer game or pen-and-paper gaming. Most beginners find this process very complicated. A lot of them make their first characters with the help of experienced friends learning the rules, tricks, and nuances on the way. The Pathfinder Role Playing Game provides a deep, rich and complex system for character generation, which allows creating characters, which are interesting to play with, follow archetypes players want and feel useful not only in battle but also in exploration or social interactions. These characters could be quite simple, consisting of just one class, skills, and feats selected from recommended lists and some class features; or characters could be a complex build from several classes, each of them modified with archetypes, complete with carefully picked skills, traits, feats, and spells from myriad of rulebooks and equipment that complements the character's strengths.
We really like the depth of this system, and we use it to create those complex and nuanced characters that together are capable of overcoming any challenge in the pen-and-paper adventures we play. And it is one of our most important goals to provide that same freedom and depth to the players in Pathfinder: Kingmaker. For that we need to make the description of the character as clear as possible, providing information for the elements that are already present as well as for those that will be available for the character later. And that makes creating our UI a great challenge. Our UI designers started studying various charsheets, which elements of the development they show and in which way, as well as how those elements are grouped. Next came applications that help with character generation as they are solving the same task we had ahead of us, but covering more choices and providing enough information to simplify the entire process and greatly reduce the amount of time required to create a character.
We tried to combine all of the information on one screen, but it always became a cluttered mess of icons, numbers, and lines of text. There is just too much information to fit on one screen, even if somehow we managed to achieve that, the result would be rather intimidating for... well, essentially everybody, as even dedicated players would have to spend a lot of time finding the elements they are looking for. We decided to separate all of the information into several tabs, each dedicated to one specific facet of the character. We tried various iterations on how to divide the information and how to present it on each tab as you can see on the picture below. Just for the first tab our UI team created 16 different versions until we came to the result we really liked. You can see all of them in the picture below. A bit of warning: those are all concept screens. The numbers on them are not representative of anything and used just to showcase the interface elements:
Let's start our tour with the first tab, one that contains general information about the character. The Central part of this screen shows alignment (and we follow the alignment system from the Core Rulebook, as you can see). All the decisions that changed the main character's alignment lead to the line appearing in the circle, showing consequences and shifts in alignment. A log below the circle provides additional information and reminds you of the decisions you've made on your journey. Computer RPGs are all about decisions, it is a pillar for this genre, and it deserves representation at the center of the screen of your character.
Our companions are far less flexible in their alignment, they follow it, and only rare events can force them to evaluate (and probably change) their views. Because of that, we felt that it will be inappropriate to use the same amount of space to depict alignment for them. Their central block is all about their personal quest, the journey they have in the Stolen Lands. You can see important events and decisions they made as well as their next goal.
The second screen is all about abilities of the character, class features as well as feats - basically an encyclopedia of the character's capabilities. Take note of the left-most block of information; it does not change between most of the tabs and contains information that is frequently needed or relevant to other tabs (like Stats, Experience or Level). This is also a concept screen for the Abilities tab and does not represent build of any character or abilities and feats that are existing in the game.
The third screen provides information on the martial prowess of the character, to hit rolls, different kinds of AC, damage from attacks... As you can see, there is no magic counterpart of this screen, and that is on purpose. We discussed this a lot and decided that it will be more convenient to see that information on the special tab on the screen dedicated to selecting spells and meta-magic. So there is a dedicated tab in the spellbook (or book of prayers for divine casters) devoted to the stats and values important for magic-users.
The fourth screen is the most difficult one to develop, as we want to showcase all of the possibilities for character development, those that were already selected as well as those that are far in the future. We want the player to be able to plan the character in detail. In fact, we are hoping to introduce a feature, that will allow leveling up a character with a single-click, if all of the abilities were selected in advance. We spent a lot of time putting all of the information on just one screen and organizing it in such way that does not make your head explode just from looking at it.
So we came to this screen as a result of that search. It is simple enough if a character has just one class while still showing elements of the development both in the past and in the future. In case of multiclassing (especially if there are 3 or more classes), the screen becomes more complicated, but still convenient, as it shows most of the directions in which such a character could be developed. Please note that what you see below is a concept of the screen, not a screenshot from the game and can have some inconsistencies.
The last screen is devoid of game mechanical information; it is all about the story of the character: biography, alignment, personal quest and of course full body portrait.
This concludes our tour of the tabs on the character screen. We have to mention that all of those screens are not final and their looks can change after we make several more rounds of UX- and playtesting. What did you think of today's update? Got any feedback or questions for us? Let us know in the comments section, and we'll get back to you in no time!
* All specific names are used only as reference to original Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (R) entities and could be subject to change in the Pathfinder:Kingmaker CRPG.
Hail to the Kings!