I need to identify a maximum number of characters in a game so that I can provide a high number of choices without overwhelming the player. How do I determine the optimum set of characters to use in this case? Every set I come up with is either overwhelming for players or have too few choices.
closed as primarily opinion-based by Sean Middleditch, Nicol Bolas, Anko, Seth Battin, bummzack Jul 21 '13 at 12:34
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A simple litmus test: does this new character add anything to the game or is it just fluff?
As a broad guideline on what feels bloated and confusing versus short and under-featured, I use the following:
The magic number 7 plus or minus 2. This is the sweet spot of human short term, working memory capacity. More than this number of fundamental choices at any one time will confuse and frustrate a player. For a character this would be the core archetypes like plate tank, melee dps, ranged healer, etc...
The magic number 3. As a side effect of the 7 rule, combinations of up to 3 elements/features will get you from 1..9 (i.e. within the 7 +- 2 range) end results. Any more than 3 features on any given character will similarly confuse and frustrate a player because choice suddenly blossoms to 16 and up, breaking the rule of 7. For a character this would be the core play style choices like weapons, shield, mobility, or fire, ice, earth.
You have to ask yourself, "Is there an optimum set of characters?"
The answer is maybe. The optimum number will be different for every game, genre and developer. This decision is very specific to the design of the game. There are a few ways to go about finding what you believe to be the optimal number, I've ordered them based on the time/effort required to acquire your optimal number:
Unfortunately, there's not hard and fast rule for this. The number of characters you require to be optimal depends a number of things, including:
If you decide the number of characters is 10, here's a question you can use to decide their color.