Rock, paper, scissors? ‘Natch!
Mark Jacobs addressed the Class System for Camelot Unchained in a recent official blog post:
The RPS approach does not need to have a ton of races and classes to work, what it needs is having those races and classes be truly unique, well-balanced and fun to play. As I’ve said elsewhere, I was really impressed by how guys like Notch and the folks at CCP built their games over time and I want to apply some of those lessons to CU. Start small, iterate and then build, baby, build.
The *rock, paper, scissors* approach is one clear indicator and the reference to Eve Online and to sand box design elements are also another big clue.
More and more gamers are coming to the same conclusions concerning the current state of the MMO genre. The time is now more than ever to clear out a small corner of the MMO market stall and sell a product that differs from everything else out there.
It's refreshing that Mark Jacobs has already said that CU will be class and role based.
In a such a system you could implement a dynamic variance to allow for a player to tailor their character. This could be as simple as allowing for player to gain a skill set that was geared more for combat healing or one that centered around defensive buffing, etc.
Also, weapon choice could be another method where a player can specialize with his class by choosing to go with a two-handed hammer or a mace and shield. These choices could allow for different combat experiences and effects. MJ has already indicated that skills can be leveled, this would fit right into the idea of tailoring for player choice even though we have set class roles.
So the key is to have distinct classes and roles that operate in a window that can be tailored to individual players but still remain as identifiable as a class:
From The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust Blog:
So, why not a purely horizontal MMORPG, or an HMMORPG?
Picture this: you log into the character creation module, and part of that is a weighted stat distribution system. You get to not only pick your race, looks, etc., but your stats, traits, skills, etc. You also get to pick your gear, which has strength and other stat requirements (to create a trade-off system for gear & stats). IOW, you get to custom design a fully maxed-out character.
When you leave the character creation module, you can either log into the world, or log into a training area to test out your build and practice with it. You can to into WvW, PvE, or PvE areas. By playing in those areas, you can gather up various kinds of rewards with which you can buy different traits, skills, weapons, gear, and other horizontal commodities. Let's say that when you log into any action area, your character is committed to 10 traits and 10 skills with weapon-swapping ability. Let's say that when you first log into character creation, you have 30 traits and 30 skills available, and an assortment of standard weapons and gear (that all have a max distribution of stats). You can pick from the starting variety to initially build your character from.
Is it just me, or does anyone else want something like what Wintyre Fraust is describing?
The trait and skill system would be based on the use of "non-comparables", much like the League of Legends system, but instead of each character being locked into a certain set of non-comparables, the player can custom-build his or her characters however they find suitable, mixing and matching stat distribution, skills, traits, weapons and gear. They can collect a stable of characters (or character templates) to use as they see fit in the game.
The beauty of this system is that developers would no longer have to figure out how to keep the non-end-game areas relevant, because in fact the whole game (outside of the optional training area) would be the end game. No more starter or mid-level areas to get your character "leveled up". You can just start in a single city (whatever your race) and head out any direction you want, go anywhere you want, because the entire game is designed for max-level characters - which you start the game with.
Another key aspect of this is that the developer could initially create a relatively small world because most of what now occupies MMOG worlds would be unnecessary; areas for leveling your character up. Like League of Legends, they could even start with relatively few initial traits, skills, weapons, gear, etc. It could be modest start-up to test the market, and then easily grow by adding to the existing game.
This system fits Project CU to a "T".
The MMO experience would broaden out and no longer be an endless vertical ladder, progress would be measured in widening one's capabilities and not in some bolted on exponential level curve.
This is what I am hearing when I read the CSE blog posts, and it is a distinctly wonderful thing for a player who has finally found out why most of the MMO products on the market today have come off as stale and repetitive experiences. GW2 lost my passion when a new gear tier was introduced just two months after release. I have always found ever growing gear tiers to be pure fakery and a gimmick to keep you on the treadmill longer. If you have to be led around by the nose in such a way that's usually an indicator that the game is based on some bankrupt ideas like power creep.
But, again, this is why Mark Jacobs & CSE are not making a game for every gamer, because every gamer isn't at the same point in their gaming life. Every gamer hasn't arrived at the same conclusions or started a dialog with themselves about why they become burnt out or lose interest in some of the most beautifully created virtual worlds they have ever experienced. Many gamers will always view character progress as a vertical progression and fail to see that something can't go up forever and still be a grounded and fresh experience. Bringing new players into vertically designed games becomes harder and harder because the disparity between old and new players is jarring and rather demoralizing.
Vertical design invalidates and sacrifices older content in order to sustain its upward momentum. Wide swathes of the game world content become underpopulated and no longer relevant. And with hardly an exception, the whole of the MMO genre is based on this vertical model.
Camelot Unchained might just be the small game that breaks the stranglehold of the vertical progression model in the MMORPG market place.