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Reader Comments (6)

Posted: Apr 20th 2009 1:35PM Snow Leopard said

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I’ve never understood the problem so many people have with classes. I’m happy as long as the classes are interesting and distinct. When a game presents you with this, you aren’t left with rigid frameworks to develop your character. Instead you’re presented with heroic archetypes that give your character an instant basis in the world.

Therefore, I’d argue that if you are going with a class structure, you need classes that are fleshed out with lore and flavor. FFXI is one such title that I feel forgets this. There’s no lore or explanation behind the base classes and many of them share the same abilities. Dungeons and Dragons third edition diluted its class lore even further by allowing for multi-classing to the point where every player felt the need to have a fighter/mage/harper scout in order to have depth. I truly enjoyed playing third edition D and D games, but I always felt that as a paladin I was merely a fighter with a few extra abilities and the ability to cast cleric spells at some point. Furthermore, I felt like I was missing on something if I didn’t pick a prestige class. Overall, in both the mentioned titles, the selected starter class just didn’t feel adequate or solid enough. It was more a rigid framework that could be tweaked and combined with other ones than a fully fleshed out and flexible archetype.

World of Warcraft is a title that I find refreshing in that it embraces the aspects of the class/race structure that make it fundamentally enjoyable. All the classes have unique abilities, talents and fleshed out lore. They’ve also limited certain classes to certain races as to better emphasize what those races and classes thematically embody. When I play a Night Elf Druid, I feel like I’m playing a Night Elf Druid, not some elf with extra bonuses and a cleric that can shapeshift but can’t wear plate.

Overall, the class/race structure is not a more primitive way of character customization, but merely a different and more formalistic one. Sometimes we want to make our character whatever we want and experiment, but sometimes we just want to grab a lightsaber and call ourselves a jedi; plain, simple, and iconic.

Posted: Apr 20th 2009 2:08PM (Unverified) said

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I have no problem with classes really however I do believe they are too restricted at times only leaves room for what the company wants you to be rather than what you want to be.

My biggest complaint about MMOs of today is the the same old pve game play of 'tank, dps, heal' with a little bit of 'move to this area when this happens.' I would love to see this type of game play re-invented into something completely new.

Posted: Apr 20th 2009 5:32PM (Unverified) said

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Your idea of the Titan game mode in space is essentially the premise of Eternal Silence, a modification for Half-Life 2.

Worth noting that they started it for battlefield.

Posted: Apr 21st 2009 1:43AM (Unverified) said

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I believe your article misses some key points needed in any MMO design.

(1) Make sure everyone has a meaningful role. For example, your aircraft carrier attack concept could violate this rule, since if the ship captain is very successful and destroys the enemy ship, a boarding action isn't necessary.

Well, say you prohibit the ship captain from destroying the aircraft carrier - all the captain can do is cut through the carrier's shields to permit the boarding party. That's fine until you get to the boarding party action - does the ship captain twiddle his or her thumbs while the boarding action is going on?

Well, say you give the carrier the firepower to destroy the captain's ship, and the captain can't hold things together long enough for the boarding party to succeed. Won't the captain be the target of the whole group's hostility? And besides, how do you solo such a situation? While you could jerrymander a way around all these issues, do you really want to invest all that development resource just to make one type of mission work? I wouldn't unless the whole game is about properly conducting and supporting a spaceship boarding battle. Then I'd ask - do you think there is an audience of millions eager for such a title?

(2) Make sure activities are easy to grasp, but hard to master. This design mantra is found at companies as diverse as EA and Blizzard. The advantage of a class system is that everyone's potential role is easily grasped. The acid test is simple: can you use three words or less to communicate the player's role in the team - in a way that a random PuG (Pick up Group) will understand? If not, the "working together" part of the game is going to have BIG problems. More to the point, a newbie is going to be adrift in a sea of endless detail, without a course to map (not unlike EVE newbies trying to figure out how to outfit and fight a spaceship).

For example, one of Planetside's problems was that the training and advancement system didn't sufficiently communicate the in-game fighting roles of players. Therefore, when it came to putting together a team, you could end up with a lot of mutually incompatible skill-sets (such as transport drivers without infantry to carry, or aircraft without ground troops to support, etc.).

Now, you COULD make a game that's a sandbox only a detail-demon could love, but your career in game design is definitely going to suffer, not to mention all the other people in the development and publishing company who relied on that design concept to earn them nice bonuses and continued employment.

SUMMARY: Ultimately, game design isn't about what the game designer wants, it's about understanding the audience and pleasing them.

Posted: Apr 21st 2009 9:12AM (Unverified) said

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I don't really know if I consider this a new trend. There are plenty of class-less games in the pen and paper world. Systems such as White Wolf's World of Darkness, and Big Eyes Small Mouth, have offered advancement through skills and stats, without the concept of level for awhile.

Even in the MMO world, the original version of Star Wars Galaxies threw out the ideas of levels, and gave you various skills trees to advance through as well. This was eventually scrapped( for the worse) for the NGE.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's a good idea, just make sure to give credit where it's due.

Posted: Apr 21st 2009 1:36PM (Unverified) said

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"So, take these ships off the ground and into space. Then it becomes a massive space battle where some players are attacking/defending capitol ships, while others are infiltrating said ship in order to take down its crew. This would probably have to be a rather large encounter, with a lot going on both the design and tech side."


Sounds a lot like "Wintergrasp in Space" to me. Which would be fun, yes, but not exactly revolutionary. There are lots of different PvP systems that can be created, but they all come down to "kill him before he kills you."

It works because it's simple, and it's simple because it works.

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