The more games I play, the more tired I become of class-based games. Of course, I fault no one for enjoying a class or for enjoying playing a role in a group, but I am just not really one of those people. I say a lot of things regularly, and one of my favorites is "I would rather be weak and unique than powerful and a clone."
Now, let's be honest. Even within the most skill-based games in existence there are still boundaries and limits on what you can do. And even within a game that has many, many skills to learn it is still very possible to be a carbon copy of someone else. No game has the ability to let us be literally anything we wish, but some are getting close. Also it is important to note that even within games that have seemingly limitless bounds for character creation, players still find a way to create templates for "MAX DPS" or for perfect healing.
Still, I am love with any game that allows me to do what I want.
So I want to talk about some of my favorite games that play like this, and why I like them. Before we start, though, I want to post a disclaimer: DO NOT MENTION THE NGE AND SWG. I HAVE ERECTED AN ANTI-NGE FORCE-FIELD ON THIS POST. I PLAYED IT BEFORE AND AFTER THE NGE, AND THE PRE GAME WAS A BUGGY PRETTY FUN GAME THAT HAS BECOME, AFTER THE NGE, A LESS BUGGY REALLY COOL GAME. IF YOU WANT TO BRING UP THAT TIRED SUBJECT, WRITE YOUR OWN BLOG.
1) Ryzom: Ahhhh, good ole' Ryzom. There's just something about this game that breeds the most loyal fan-base ever. This game has been through more owners than a thrift store couch, and yet some of the players have continued to pay that sub the entire time. While I think that achieving max-level in any of the grand skill trees (combat, magic, crafting or gathering) is an absolute grindy nightmare, the Lore, the setting and the people make this game incredible. So, pick out a speciality and settle in for a long time. Just be happy that when you do master a skill that you might have hundreds more to choose from.
2) EVE Online: People seem to confuse my calling of the EVE community a "sausage party" with criticism of the game. The game itself is magnificent, and a roller coaster ride of discovery, learning and action. This game is a perfect example of how such a varied skill game can be pin-pointed to the point of perfection by some players, but don't let that stop you from trying to make your character as unique as possible. I have only a 10 million SP character after 5 years, and that should show you how off and on I am with this game. But while many might bemoan the fact that some skills were learned and never used, thus becoming "wasted skill points", I say that those points just make my character unique.
3) Mabinogi: This game is the perfect example of players allowing their distaste for less-than-perfect graphics get in the way of an amazing skill system. Essentially you gain skill points as you level, and can add those points to whatever skill you want. As you hit the higher levels/age and run into a wall of SP earning, you can re-birth your character as a child, thus earning skill points faster and easier again. Right now my character has something like 35 skills learned, and many more to go. I am eager to see where this game goes, because right now it can only be up. It's a complicated, intense and very unique game wrapped in charming yet Anime-ish graphics.
4) Anarchy Online: I have maintained a free account for AO for quite a while, and have been meaning to get back into it. Ironically, this games graphics do set me off a bit, but then I log in and see all the choices I have as a character. With the recent sightings of the new graphics update, this game will probably be around longer than almost any of them.
5) WURM Online: I have been yelping about WURM for weeks now, and can only tell you that you need to go try it. In case I didn't make myself clear, there is combat in this game. The animations are not really...well, animations at all, but the games environments still look good. Even with the free server being capped at level 20 for each skill, this leaves so much for you to do it can be over whelming. Download the game, log in and wander a bit. Try and build something and soon you will be hooked. Just watch out for wolves!
6) Free Realms: This is basically a skill based game, when you look at it right. With so many jobs to level, your character can be a conglomeration of skills that would make any expert cry. Cooking? You got it. Mining? Yep. How about racing? Mmhmm. Free Realms often does not get the credit it deserves because it is touted as a "kids game." If Free Realms and it's advanced character creation is a kids game, then that makes games like LotRO, EQ2 and WoW the stuff of embryos.
7) Darkfall: I have recently returned to this game to find not only a deeper, more complex game that before but to find the ability to literally do what I want and to go where I want. I meet players that have crafted a trading company for themselves, a anti-PK guild or that just wander like myself. With a few coins you can learn almost anything, and you skill up these skills by just doing them. If I swim, I get better at swimming. If I fight, I get better at fighting. It's beautifully simple and a blast to play. Don't let some kind of worry or fear for "hard-core PvP" stop you from playing this game. Trust me, it's no big deal.
I know I am missing something from this list, but this is also comprised of games that I play frequently. It's easy to see that the skill-based fan has plenty to do in today's market, and that skill based games are growing in popularity. The end goal of most gaming (I would hope) is to allow the player to do what they want. In the end, wouldn't you rather be unique than powerful? A needle in a haystack instead of a cookie?
Maybe it's it's just me.