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Reader Comments (74)

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 10:59AM Sleaker said

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@Jeromai Fallen Earth is a pretty good example of this. It's skill based, but if you don't focus properly on a specific weapon set and it's subsequent abilities you get pretty hosed.
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 1:30PM Jeromai said

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I have no issues with making lots of alts when I want to switch playstyles, as long as the combat is fun. So a classed system isn't a problem for me as long as it has variety. CoH has 10 (no, wait, there's the epic ATs too, er... 16?) archetypes and plenty of the powersets play differently.

It took me 3-4 years to start getting tired of the basic mission content when the spawn size and spawn points finally became too predictable and in the meantime, I went through tons of alts. I suspect a little more flexibility in difficulty setting like a "randomize spawn for _ to _ players" and I would be able to handle mission leveling again.

Classed systems like Guild Wars and Rift throw in an immense amount of variation from the dual or triple classed hybrids, plus the ease of respec'ing. In Rift's case, the max you need is four alts for the four Callings. Coupled with the dynamic content of rifts and the different functions in a team, I can see myself not getting bored too quickly.
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 10:58AM Sleaker said

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I enjoy skill based systems a lot, but the problems I've found with that have generally been attributed to too slow advancement or lack of newbie areas. The game having too difficult a learning curve etc etc. EVE is just so big I don't feel as if I can be in the action, Darkfall just felt too slow, and Mortal again too big with little direction.
Wish was probably the only game that I've truly liked for skill based MMOs other than Star Wars Galaxies (which was subsequently butchered by SOE)

All this in the end leaves me stuck playing Class based games quite heavily.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 11:01AM alzeer said

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i like mix of both like ffxiv. the system has the potential but will pain to balance

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 11:06AM Anatidae said

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classless

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 11:24AM yehoo said

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i liked the system used in planet side best

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 12:12PM Valdamar said

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@yehoo
Yeah Planetside's system was great for an FPS - I really loved being able to potentially respec every week (even though I rarely did more than switch one cert per week) - I'm not sure it would work as well in an MMORPG though, with deeper character customisation and more longevity.
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 11:26AM MacDexter said

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The only classless MMO I played so far was Ryzom and in respect to the skill advancement and the freedom of choice it was sheer brilliance, especially due to it's additional stanza system.

So I'd prefer classless, but there are obviously more important areas to cover as well for an MMO to be enjoyable.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 11:28AM wfseg said

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I like Perpetuum's system a lot. It's similar to EVE's, but instead of choosing which skill to train, you accumulate points over time and then choose to spend it on the skill you would like.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 11:56AM oxlar said

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Class system with many options for customization.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 2:36PM oxlar said

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@Tempes Magus

1) I don't PVP, so I don't care about balancing PVP. It can be unbalanced for all I care.

2) Class system with many options for customization does exist and works very well in some games like EQ2. There are more options in that game than Rifts, which advertises that aspect as being one of their selling points.

3) And how exactly are classes meaningless in COH/COV? Me thinks youv'e never even played the game after a comment like that. There is no gear. All you have is your class and costume.

4) Your designing a game and your this out of touch with whats out there? Please let me know which game it is so I can avoid it in the future and save myself some time.

5) While your at it, pass me some of whatever your smoking cause my arthritis is acting up today and I could use it.
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 12:03PM Vanpry said

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I'd much prefer a classless system similar to UO but at least Rift is attempting to give us some class customization.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 12:03PM Chiren said

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Classes help create content. I think FFXI had, on a high level at least the best way of doing it - allowing your character to level up any and all of the available "Jobs", it just that you could only perform as one job at a time, having to go back to town into your player housing to switch jobs.

But then they also allowed you to have a sub-job, which gave you that level of flexibility to your play style. So want your warrior to heal? Go as warrior main job white mage sub job. Of course there's reams and reams of additional commentary both positive and negative on that, but on a high level, its a great system.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 12:10PM Valdamar said

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I'd prefer a classless system if it was done well, but I've yet to see it done well. Class systems have three major advantages -
1) level-up progression isn't too complex (personally I don't mind complexity, but if level-up choices are too numerous and too frequent then it can really slow down gameplay having to assign level-up points - I'd rather bigger decisions but less often, such as which class/sub-class to play);
2) classes can bring a lot of contextual richness to the lore/world that you lose with classless systems (where everyone wants to be a tankmage that can do everything, so while you have more choice everyone still ends up being the same - generalists);
3) in role-based combat such as the traditional tank & spank holy trinity gameplay (which I find too restrictive/dull anyway, but that's a different discussion) of most MMOs at least you know what role you can expect other players to fill by their class and what they'll be doing in combat - in classless systems you can end up with players just playing individually and not really cooperating/interacting in a meaningful way in combat because they have no idea of each other's capabilities at a glance.

On that last point, one novel thing in Rift: Planes of Telara is that when setting up a team you have to ask players what roles they can fill, not what classes/souls they have - it's fun for a while until you realise not all tanks or healers are equally capable, and that's when prejudicial preferences start to creep in - in release I'm sure some souls are going to end up being shunned for certain roles by groups, just as a kind of shorthand so that they can quickly pigeonhole people into certain roles - because if there's one thing human beings as a whole love to do it is to label other human beings with a "type" - class systems accommodate human prejudice/labelling a lot more easily than classless or (in Rift's case) hybrid systems.

Though personally my favourite system would be a combination/hybrid of classed and classless. My ideal would be an MMO where you could pick a certain number of sets of abilities/skills, but then develop within those sets however you wish - so you might decided to take 1H Mace Fighting, Holy Magic and Shield Defence to make up a Paladin style character, but it would be your decision which of the spells in Holy Magic you took and improved with your level-up points, or which attacks you took/upgraded in 1H Mace - or you could switch out Holy Magic for Death Magic to make a Shadow/Death-Knight style character, or switch 1H Mace for 1H Sword or 2H Mace or Sword, or whatever. For a ranger type character you might pick Nature Magic, Bow fighting and 1H Sword Fighting.

That way you could build the character you wanted, within limits, but there would still be some kind of structure that other players could look at your ability/skill sets at a glance and surmise what kind of character/role you were playing. Then I would balance armour not by sets/skills, but by penalties - so cloth would be the average with no benefits or penalties, while using armour up through leather, chainmail then plate types would increasingly add more damage absorption/deflection but reduce run-speed/attack-speed/dodge by similar proportions - then it would be personal choice of how much mobility/speed you wanted to trade away for more protection (though plate would be a lot more expensive than other types of armour too, like it was historically, so it would be something to work towards, if you wanted it).

In fact we have a hybrid system in City of Heroes - though I would have preferred it if they'd got rid of archetypes and just let us freely pick which two powersets we used together (like you can freely pick which power pools you use) - interestingly in CoH beta you could pick any individual power you wanted, but personally I prefer the idea of grouping similar powers together (e.g. all katana attacks together, all fire powers together) into powersets as it helps players to make more cohesive characters.

Guild Wars has a lot of freedom within its structure too because while you pick (and are stuck with) your primary class, you can use any secondary class and it's up to you which attributes/skill-sets you focus on from either of your current classes, and of course which 8 skills you put on your action bar each time you leave an outpost to go out adventuring.

I like some structure, because when I tried CO and had a free choice of powers it just seems like you could make very generalist characters with no strong theme/focus to their builds unless you self-imposed one - e.g. you could see a character using a gun, fire powers, mind powers and punching people in the face - so some characters just looked thrown together rather than put together in a way that would be believable in that world.

Also in Asheron's Call which was classless it seemed like a lot of players would end up following similar builds - melee with a bit of magic thrown in to support it, or occasionally bow combat with a bit of magic thrown in to support it - when I played AC it was rare to see dedicated casters so basically most characters seemed quite similar at first sight, even though you had unlimited choice in how you developed.

So I want some structure, both to give players guidance and to make characters that at least have some kind of focus, but not so much structure that there is hardly any player choice (such as all the MMOs with strict class systems then have to graft a talent system on top to give the illusion that you have a lot of choice in how you build, when really you don't).

The good thing about having structure is that it gives you a major meaningful decision to make about your character (what class/subclass to pick, what powerset to use, etc.) that can define that character thematically - if you're given a totally free choice then sure, you make lots of small decisions, but none of them seem that meaningful at the time and as a result you can end up with characters being rather undefined in theme and seeming just like everyone else.

So I like the contextual richness that the structure of class systems bring to a game, and don't want to throw that away, but within that structure I want as much free choice as I can possibly get as to how my character develops.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 1:37PM Valdamar said

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@Tempes Magus

So you keep saying.

Now I understand why you can't be specific about your ideas, but be honest and level with us - is there any chance whatsoever of your ideas ever being realised? Because otherwise there's not much point cryptically commenting about them on this site. MMO ideas are ten-a-penny - every MMO's suggestion forum is overflowing with them, good and bad.

Do you have funding? Do you have industry contacts? Do you have the ability to bring a team together that can realise your ideas? Do you work in the games industry now or have prior experience? Are you willing to amend your design as necessary in response to technical, economical and balance challenges?

If you can't answer most of those questions with a "yes" answer then you may as well print out all of your MMO ideas (with a disclaimer saying you relinquish the right to profit from them or be recognised for them), then fold each page up into paper planes and loft them into the building where the next MMO Developer's Conference is being held - because that's about as likely to get your ideas into an actual MMO as anything you type on here. Or you could just be more specific about your ideas here and pray an MMO designer actually reads your comment and thinks it has merit (which is the main reason I think any of us ever post our ideas here)

Good ideas are like the braincells that think them up - everybody has them, but not everyone has the opportunity (or the persistence) to make use of them productively.
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 5:28PM Valdamar said

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@Tempes Magus
I probably worded it rather harshly, but I've worked extremely hard to get my own work into print (both in RPG gaming years ago, not videogames I hasten to add, and in literary form in the past decade - although I have tried to break into the gaming industry from the CSR side as well) and I know how hard it can be to get ideas turned into a finished product in even low profit industries, let alone the multi-million dollar world of MMOs.

I just wanted to know if you were serious about making your MMO, or just theorycrafting, because I was starting to get interested and excited in the fact you were hyping your ideas so much that I wanted to know if there was any chance we would ever see them realised - because you seem to like the kind of games that I like, and if you were in a position to make your perfect MMO as something that wasn't just vapourware then it was very likely to be an MMO I would like too - after all, it's rare you and I have disagreed about gameplay features at all (we normally only disagree about payment methods, though I've come around more to your way of thinking on that, heh).

So I'm sorry if my words sounded overly harsh (they don't sound as harsh to me as your last comment was :p ), but now I know you're just theorycrafting for the fun of it then I'll butt out and leave you to it.

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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 8:32PM Valdamar said

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@Tempes Magus
Normally if I find a comment someone has written is ambiguous - i.e. I could either take it badly or constructively, I try to look on the bright side and at least treat it as constructive until the other person replies in a way that leaves no doubt whatsoever what they meant. Where I probably went wrong was trying to attempt mild humour with the paper plane comment - on a re-read I can understand how it looked like I was being snarky, but I thought you and I had fenced often enough on this website constructively in a civilized yet adversarial manner that you'd take it in the manner it was intended ;) I should have been clearer instead of making assumptions - sorry for that.

>> "Once I have those figured out, I can pitch it to companies to get help from people who actually know all the details to coding and are actually artists, unlike myself."

I hate to be a killjoy again, but I'm struggling to think of any MMO development studios that would accept a pitch for any kind of game at all - MMO development is not like an individual pitching a novel to a publisher, or a scriptwriter pitching to a producer - there are far more ideas flying around than the money or people to make them, so ideas are usually the last thing that any Dev team lacks and needs to obtain from outside their studio.

You could try pitching to a publisher that has a 3rd party publishing program (e.g. like SOE did for PotBS), but they'd expect you to have already found some funding on your own, put a team together, and have started work on the project before reaching that stage, just to show good faith and commitment if nothing else - they wouldn't enter into a contract with someone who had no track record. Normally even established Dev teams don't pitch even a single player game to a publisher until they have a working alpha.

Most people who want to design games spend years working their way up to a top design job at a studio - often going through QA or CSR first, moving on to a department like art or programming or if extremely lucky straight into a content creation or itemisation job for the design department, picking up the skills they will need to be able to design a game - putting in years of work at every level of the studio just for the chance of being in the right place at the right time when the studio starts a new project, just so that they can get that golden opportunity to work on their own ideas.

Some experienced developers even break away from their comfortable well-paid job with a top studio, at great personal financial risk, to set up a new start-up studio with other like-minded devs, just for the chance to turn their own ideas into a game.

So I'm not sure there could ever be a game design idea that was so absolutely incredible that it would convince a Dev team to give up the chance to work on their own ideas just to realise the ideas of a gamer from outside their industry. Sure, if that miracle was ever to happen then I wish you luck and hope the lightning strikes, but I think your best shot would be to get near a game design position before you try pitching an idea to anyone.

Sure, there are other ways to get a game made - Love was made by a single person, as was Minecraft, but they were multi-skilled and obviously knew programming, which you say you don't.

Hehe I was actually excited when I got the email about your first reply to my comment, because I was hoping to get some good discussions going with you on the merits of a hybrid system that takes the best of both classed and classless MMOs, but none of our replies have had the slightest connection to my original comment and we've probably scared anyone else off from commenting on it now - oh well - I guess I deserve that for getting carried away and typing comments that are far too long in the hope of sparking a debate :p
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 12:13PM Djinn said

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I think that DDO has a pretty good system. You have a good variety of classes and then can add quite a number of facets to that class through Feats and Enhancements. So a Fighter (usually a Melee character) can specialize in using Bows, etc.

Posted: Feb 10th 2011 1:49PM Valdamar said

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@Djinn
The problem I had with DDO is that the system seems rather arcane and complex to visualise/plan out your character while in-game - imho you actually needed to use a 3rd party planner to make sure you don't make a mistake while levelling and pick a poor feat/enhancement that won't work so well in your eventual build. CoH can be quite similar in that respect, though at least you tend to get better feedback in-game as to what each choice means, and undoing mistakes is relatively easy to do.

I never played or GM'd AD&D (I was a WFRP/RuneQuest/Rifts/Shadowrun GM predominantly - I owned some AD&D stuff but used it mainly for inspiration, not to run it "as is") and I found the DDO system a bit uninteresting, but worse it was difficult to understand upon actual level-ups - I would find myself hoarding level-up points and then just spending lots of time in the planner every few days trying to work out where to spend those points, or trawl the forums for builds just to make sure I avoided any major mistakes.

Admittedly as a min-maxer I probably care more about those sort of decisions than the average player.
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Posted: Feb 10th 2011 2:45PM Djinn said

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@Valdamar

While I understand your concern, DDO has less choices than a completely classless system. The choices you can make for your character are almost completely geared toward that class for instance. But yes, a min-maxer would have to do some research in order to make the choices that would make his character the absolute best. But I imagine that's true of almost any game. I have to look up a talent build in WoW to make sure I choose the right talents. The difference is with DDO you can ad "sub-classes" like Pale Master for a Wizard which allows the Wizard become a Necromancer that summons skeletons and can ultimately turn into a Lich. I find that kind of sub-class ability to be a major improvement over WoW but not as complex as choosing from every single skill/ability available in the entire game :)
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