This is an idea for an rpg with this characteristics: soft player classes, fully automatic point distribution (experience base), tree base skill/attribute organization, immersive and intutive player evaluation, reputation based.
The rpg starts like all rpgs. The player as to chose a social background, a name, a race, sex and appearance. The background (biography) can be selected by answering a couple of questions if the player feels he wants to try or by making concrete choices like: i was a thief, have bad reputation with this guild and good with the other, i was borned with these special characteristics. The player can also customize his attributes in the usual process in the "roll attributes panel".
If the player doesn't want to bother himself with all this customization he can simply choose a template char (note this is not a class).
The player then starts a game in a location dependent of what character and backgorund he has picked. The immersive player evaluation starts here. The player doesn't have a sheet of stats to look at. The only interface available is: an health bar, a stamina bar, a mana bar, a row of icons for displaying sensible effects, a mini-game window (like thief pick-lock wheel), an inventory window for examining containers, the necessary players journal and the usual game menu. There are no character stats window and there are no stats in weapons and armor except those the player could feel in reality like weight and hardness. If the players wants to know more he has to use a lore (examine) skill that depends on his intelligence. On a fight there is no meter that indicates when the opponent his near death. This is shown with immersive and intuitive indicators like the oppoent animation changes , he makes different facial expressions, he begs for his life.
Being reputation based means that npcs are socialy organized in factions and guilds. Factions are groups of people who share a common objective like the javagaming faction. A guild is more explicit in the sense that it allows people to join and offers a rank and benefits. These social groups affect reputation in the sense that its more likely that a players action effect on his reputation will propagate through factions in a similar way either good or bad. Reoutation just means how each faction reacts to the players actions. There is no good/bad reactions just reactions. There is no general reputation and reputation can be local and spread geographically based on a network of politics and influence. Again there are no reputation meters or statistics window. The player will know his reputation through how he interacts with other players.
Next comes tree based skill/attribute organization and fully automatic experience based system. This overly complex description means two things. One is that there is no point distribution window and no level up. The player raises his skills when he uses them. Harder foes give a bigger raise. Weak foes give almost nothing so the player needs to avoid them to economize resources. But what about attributes ? This is where the tree organization comes in. Each skill is governed with a certain strength by an attribute so when the player raises a skill he is also, automatically raising a fraction (proprotial to the influence strength) of all attributes that govern that skill. There is stll another important detail: attributes are grouped and skills are grouped in skills or skills group forming a tree like structure. For example skills can be grouped in combat/strategy, lore/craftsman, magic, security/thieving. If the player has a lot of experience in one group its more easy for him to more experience in that group. This is called specialization. A player who knows a lot about weapons and combat will more easly gain point on skills inside that skill group.
The last and more difficult to explain is soft player classes versus hard player classes. An hard player class is like a class you chose in a class pick window. In most games once you chose a class you have to stick with it until the end of game. There are penalities for playing outside that class and the player only levels up if he uses his class related skills. In a true roleplaying environment you, the Player, would most likely be stuck with a class you find later in the game you don't want to progress with or you just wish you could shape your class in time as you play the game. Some games like Fallout are classless but they restrict the player (in the benefit of specializaton) with skill tags and class based perks. With the skill tree method i mentioned above this isn't required. As for hard classes we can live without them like Fallout has shown so well.
What are soft classes then ? These are social classes that the player obtains by playing the game not by going into a class description window and picking up a name. For example a Warrior could be considered a warrior in the simulated world an rpg represents if the player as at least gained some fighting tournments, made some heroic warrior like actions, his affiliated or was accepted with a warrior like guild, has commited no crime, his loyal to his emplyees. If by a sort of strange events the player is acused of commiting a crime (even if in an unfair way) the player soft class changes from respected warrior to an outlow, burglar or murderer. The change his in reputation and in the social position the player has obtained while playing the rpg.
Thats it. If anyome is interested in making a game similar to this and want some ideas im available for that. If not then i hope this is useful to java gamers in making good games in java.