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Dragon Oath Official Developer Blog

Developers of ChangYou's Dragon Oath, the F2P True Martial Arts MMORPG, write about Dragon Oath and the gaming industry. We'll also bring you insights about MMORPGs made in China and published in the West. Share your thoughts with us!

Author: changyou

Class And Culture: Bringing RPG Classes To Life

Posted by changyou Monday May 10 2010 at 4:41PM
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The dawn of a new Wiki is an opportunity, not just to collect information about your game, but to add to the lore of the world. When we launched our Official Wiki a few days ago, it was with updated information about  the nine classes in Dragon Oath, which we hope will form the basis of a shared cultural identity. When relating this archetypal identity to the classes, I tried to make every association both logical (tied to the stats/abilities of the class) and satisfying (easily related to Western imagery.) This is the kind of cultural translation that goes above and beyond localization, and seeks to provide a sense of meaning not directly embodied by the Chinese martial forms.

Taoists = Cowboys
Wandering across the countryside, the Taoist martial artist is a drifter with no ties to any town. If they see a person in peril, they can shoot down the attackers from a distance with deadly accuracy. Their weapon is their will, honed through meditation and isolation. After saving the day they move on, not even waiting to be thanked. That is the Taoist way. To aid their nomadic lifestyle, they pass down the secrets of taming the giant and solitary Cranes to new members.
The Taoists are the most effective long-range class, and often help people overwhelmed by mobs of monsters in the way described. So I took the savior aspect and the "sharpshooting" and turned it into something reminiscent of the nomadic hero of cowboy stories.
Shaolin = Bodyguards
Damage that would kill a normal person is nothing to the Shaolin. These stoic warriors can shrug off fists, fangs, even blades, and keep fighting unfazed. Given their talents, they are highly sought after as bodyguards. Many do not choose this role, but frightened young heroes will hide behind them nonetheless, as if sheltering behind a wall. The fearlessness of the Shaolin makes them get along well with the giant tigers of their native land, which they tame and eventually learn to ride.
The Shaolin are the "tanks" of Dragon Oath, and often help their team by absorbing damage and protecting the others. Also, if people begin paying the Shaolin to act as bodyguards (which they are well qualified to do) it will stimulate the game economy and encourage interpersonal commerce.
Lotus Order = Helpers
“To heal, to help, to teach and to guide” is the Lotus Order motto. These are martial artists who gained so much compassion for their opponents that they were driven to become healers, and repair the damage they had done over their lifetimes. Out of respect for this transformation, the Phoenix, who is reborn each year as a new creature, will consent to carry only members of the Lotus Order.
The Lotus Order are the healers of Dragon Oath. I tried to expand this role into something that would appeal to the kind of helpful, compassionate player attracted to this class.
Royalty = Nobility
The Royalty were born into their Class, their station, and their traditional way of life. Good horsemanship is prized, so all children of the Royalty learn to ride at a young age. They practice their own form of martial arts to prove that luxurious living has not made them soft. Indeed, they are some of the toughest combatants in the martial arts world, vying constantly as they are with each other for status within their Class. They are able to strike their foes from a distance, so they can deliver a slap to their inferiors without dirtying their noble hands.
The Royalty were one of the classes that needed the least revision to be understandable to a Western audience. We understand the concept of someone that is born into power, is socially superior to others, and lives within a somewhat restrictive set of cultural mores. "Nobility" is a powerful enough concept that it can easily define a class of people.
Minstrels = Entertainers/Tricksters
Entertainers, tricksters, clowns – those are the minstrels, the bards on their jolly reindeer. But one takes them lightly at their own peril. Their tricks can be downright deadly, and they will laugh merrily as you stumble into their traps or are confounded by their strange powers.  It is traditional to give gifts of gold to a minstrel who has entertained you – whether to reward their performance or to stay on their good side, is unclear.
Minstrels primarily fight with traps, a sort of devious and indirect attack that lends itself well to a mischievous trickster figure. By suggesting that Minstrels should be paid for entertainment, this stimulates the game economy in a similar way to promoting the Shaolin as bodyguards, and gives people interested in roleplaying opportunities something to do with their creativity.
Voodoo = Black Magic Users
Practitioners of the Voodoo class are warriors who discovered that they could gain greater power through communion with the spirit world. To outsiders, their goals and eldritch preoccupations are mystifying.  Others do not understand them, but they are right to fear them. The Voodoo practitioner’s intense connection to the spirit world allows them to inflict damage through their ghostly minions, and cast powerful curses on their enemies which drain health over time.  Blood is required to speak with their Voodoo gods, so they ride an Ox which can be sacrificed if there are no enemies handy.
The Western world understands Voodoo well enough to see a practitioner as someone to be feared. My main challenge here was to make the skills and characteristics of the class fit this image. This is difficult, because the original class from the Chinese game only SOUNDS like "Wu Du" or "Voodoo". So I rephrased their poison abilities (which lowers HP over time) as a curse, and their baffling ox mount as a potential sacrifice. Now they make at least a little bit of sense. You're welcome.
Assassins = Silent Killers
The Assassin is wedded to death, bound to the shadows. Silent, deadly, faceless, they are the last thing many an evildoer sees. They hide their face with a mask, to show that even when you can see them, you cannot know them. Their true nature is hidden, as are any human expressions or emotions that may cross their faces beneath the featureless masks. They have tamed the giant eagles as mounts, so they can strike from the sky without warning.
This was the easiest class to work with. The concept of Assassins is familiar to Western audiences, and the mask that covers their face also translates well. As would be expected, they strike from hiding through various invisibility skills, which can be interpreted as "from the shadows."
Beggars Alliance = Loners
Most people care about wealth and status - not so the Beggars Alliance. Priding themselves on knowing what is truly important, they live a simple and austere life, focused on perfecting their combat abilities. While sharing a strong companionship with others of their class, they are self-reliant and do not need others to survive. As outcasts to society, they share a special bond with the lone wolves of the plains, whom they can tame and ride. They are not above using poison to get an edge over better-equipped foes.
The concept behind this class, martial artists who are purified through austerity, hard living, and lack of luxury, is foreign to the Western mindset where beggars can only be weak and pathetic figures. I played up this exotic contradiction - the Beggar who is a great warrior - and related it to the rebellious antihero of Western lore. The Beggars Alliance are outcast from society not because they have failed, but because it has failed them. They have left the comfort of materialism to live on the edge and ride wolves. Now that's cool.
Pyromancers = Hotheaded Brawlers
The smoldering coal that becomes the uncontrollable rage of a wildfire – that is the temper of a Pyromancer. They are capable of channeling their anger into tangible form, which becomes a magical attack. Their aggression being their greatest weapon, they stoke the coals with resentments and rivalries, tending their anger like a flame.  They make excellent brawlers, and can put aside their anger as quickly as it came, becoming calm and cheerful with mystifying swiftness.  Two Pyromancers in love will either remain in love despite all of their arguments, or will end up killing each other. The great lions respect the fierceness of the Pyromancer and will carry them as mounts.
The Pyromancer has very little to do with fire. So instead, I emphasized the anger of the Pyromancer, similar to the Berserkers of Norse lore. The idea that rage can be destructive, and can be channeled to be useful in battle, is nothing new to the Western mind.
The ideal goal in these situations is to give your players enough to hold onto, so they can add to the cultural identity of their class and feel more of a connection to it. This is how you make an RPG character into a person that lives and breathes, who exists in a world of meaning. This is how you make a class into a place to call home.
- Lucy Song,
Community Manager