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MMORPG.com Staff Blog

The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

Author: staffblog

Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Why Don't We See Classless Games?

Posted by Stradden Friday August 21 2009 at 8:34AM
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A few weeks ago, I wrote a Staff Blog entry telling everyone why games with no levels weren’t likely to catch on within the industry. Going hand in hand with the idea of a game with no levels is the idea of a game with no classes. Again, there are many down sides to class-based systems. Classes are restrictive; they tend to shoehorn players into gameplay categories, specifically the familiar DPS, Tank, Healer triad. Classes as they are most often presented in MMOs also tend to highly restrict player choices, creating a feeling that every, say, 20th level Paladin is just like every other 20th level Paladin from attacks and abilities to armor and weapons.

Classes though, like levels, are a tried and tested game mechanic, going back all the way into the roots of the RPG genre and while some players will, perhaps rightfully, blame classes for the current woes they see in the industry, classes do play an important role in MMO design. Aside from the obvious and unnecessarily ominous sounding fact that classes allow developers to more easily predict and control player actions, there’s also a little system near and dear to many players’ hearts that would be hurt in the absence of the good ‘ol class-based trinity. Grouping.

In a world where many old time players are asking themselves what ever happened to MMO design that encouraged grouping, removing classes from the equation is going to throw an even bigger monkey wrench in the gears. There are two reasons to group. First, there’s the fun of playing with friends. Second, there’s the statistical and game mechanic advantage. The first is pretty self-explanatory and in an ideal world, the idea of fun and socialization would be what drives players to do anything in an MMO. The reality though is that the bulk of players will fall into the second category. Classes make it easier for players looking for the statistical advantage in group content to know who to invite into their party. You know, for example, that at minimum you’re going to need a tank a healer and a DPS, probably ranged and melee.

In the end, classes exist to create archetypes for players to follow in order to take the maximum advantage of what different role builds have to offer. Sure, you could let players choose their own abilities and build their own characters from the ground up, but in the end you’d wind up with a game that is almost impossible to balance, where rules lawyers and statistical bean counters would hold a distinct advantage.

The irony of this scenario is that in the end, after the best possible build in a classless game had been found and posted on every MMO website online, the game would actually be left with less diversity than classes have to offer as everyone rushes to build the ideal character.
 

Dreamion writes:

eve

Fri Aug 21 2009 8:41AM Report
VirDan writes:

Technically EVE has classes and levels.  Are they something you can read about in the "manual" for the game?  No, they are not.  Yet as people pursue various professions, they are pursuing various classes.  Yes, character creation has changed over the years - but you are still defining a loose class; which is only further refined as you pick which skills to train.  Which brings us to levels and the simple fact that the easiest basis for the level system in EVE would be what kind of clone you sport.  When you look at corp recruiters, they are looking for a minimum amount of sp - they are looking for a level.  EVE is a great game and all, but it is still a class/level game.

Fri Aug 21 2009 8:48AM Report
gedece writes:

 Exactly my thought as I read, Dreamion. Eve online has a skill system where everyone has a chance of learn every skill, so you don't have class, you use a certain kind of ship to fit in one role and other kinds of ships to fit into other roles, all with the same character.  It's more like using the right kind of tool for the job than belongin to a certain class. 

An though skills do have level, the characters have no level at all. 

 

Fri Aug 21 2009 8:53AM Report
VirDan writes:

Yes, everybody has a chance to learn every skill - but with the skills training being real time; people are generally going to specialize into what could easily be considered classes - trader, miner, manufacturing, combat pilot (PVP and PVE requiring different skills), etc.  Yes, you can muddle through without specializing - but you will never be as good in that situation as the specialist - much like systems that allow players to multiclass are not as good as the individual that selected to specialize.  UO actually did something long before EVE in that fashion, as people raised skills creating their own classes - ah, the good ol' days of tank mages.

Fri Aug 21 2009 9:07AM Report
Kithca writes:

While the professions comment about is EvE is a good point... It's STILL not really a class, as a class-based system  will not allow you to diverse from a defined skill set to another; you are what you are and no more.  This is not the case in EvE, especially for people who have been around for a long, long time and are quite capable of performing multiple roles.  The closest to this a Class-based system gets is multi-class, as mentioned aboe, but because of the boundries of a class-based system, the results are not always satisfactory.  The major differences for class-based and skill-based systems can be summed up by the difference in dynamic potential and static potential.

Fri Aug 21 2009 9:53AM Report
VirDan writes:

The dynamic and the static... I like that.  Though I would still label various specializations in EVE during the first couple of years as classes, the dynamic nature of the skills in EVE is much different than being locked into a static class as in most other mmorpgs.  I think I was looking at it from a distance instead of up close and basing it on a history with the original four classes (every class can be related to them).  I think that we would find that if more games offered dynamic classes, that the players enjoyment would go up and the developers headaches would get worse.  :)

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:01AM Report
Tyrian writes:

I don't buy this at all.  Asheron's Call was a classless system that worked very well.  People grouped just fine.  There was, of course, the bean counters who poured over there sacred spread sheets.  They did try to mini-max.  How is that different from any other game?  I never did see any godhood builds, although I did see plenty of flavors of the month.  AC also had some of the most balanced and playable PVP.  I see no reason why a classless system cannot work just as well today.  Hopefully game designers won't self limit themselves like you suggest or we will end up with the same regurgitated crap we have been getting for the last five years.

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:05AM Report
gaandar writes:

Asheron's Call is a classless MMORPG.  It is skill-based where every char has the ability to train whatever skills they want.  They even have an end-game capability to untrain skills recovering the experience points to use to train another skill.  The combination of skills trained end up defining the "class" of the character.

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:07AM Report
Khalathwyr writes:

Jon, game developers on the whole go out of their way to make their games so solo friendly in every aspect that I don't think the "classes" part of the equation is going to affect grouping that much. The vast majority of players don't group. If they do it's with 1 or 2 people they know and many times even though they are grouped they are in different locations doing their own things.

I guess the trick, then, is for these developers to make a classless game that doesn't allow for a "best build". I mean, isn't that what Beta testing is for?

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:09AM Report
Khalathwyr writes:

Oh, and as Gaandar pointed out, you guys never give any respect and hold up Asheron's Call. Perfect example of a classless MMO that was a success.

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:10AM Report
rgdelta writes:

 Before Eve and AC was Ultima Online which is a skill based classless system yes you could choose a "class" on char creation but that was to ease people into the skill based and was a success (remember Ultima Online was released a year before Everquest and about 2 years before Asheron's Call

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:23AM Report
Kithca writes:

Khalathwyr: Sadly, I never played AC.  :(

Virdan:  I totally agree with you on the Dynamic Classes statement.  I do believe that is why so many MMO's stick with a strict class based system because:  A) It gives them less balance issues to juggle.  B) Class-based systems are so well known, it cuts back on the learning curve for players. As it goes in MOST MMO's if you want character variety you have two choices: Kill or Craft.

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:26AM Report
Merxion writes:

AC was alot of fun UO was alot of fun.  The argument that Archtypes encourages group is simply not true.  What encourages grouping is encounters that are too hard for 1 person to kill.  If I can solo monster A and get 400 xp but i cant solo monster b I wont group.  But If I can group monster b and get 600xp in the same amount of speed I could monster A then guess what happens.  you get a mix of grouping and non grouping.  If you create Loot drops on monster c and make it so powerful I have to go get friends and the Monsters DPS requires Healing you get healers and tanks.  if you make it so its regen is so high that you need x amount of dps guess what you get?  DPS.   You dont have to tell a person your a dps class..  When they can say ohh wow if I choose more sword skill i do more damage.  OH WOW if I take dual wielding I do ALOT more damage.  HOLY $$$$ if I take double attack as well %%%%%.  shesh.  Balance Max Damage Against MAx Defense in PVP and min damage vs max defense  and Max damage against min defense and balance until its fun.  *rolls eyes* in a baby voice *its too hard to do  memememe*  *sigh*  give em books send them to school and they eat the teacher.

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:37AM Report
Brenelael writes:

Classes can restrict grouping just as much as a classless system just in a different way. If your class is not considered particularly useful to a group you won't be allowed in. Some people spend months building a character in a specific class just to have that class nerfed by the devs and made pointless to group with.

One example is my SE I had in L2. The SE was the healer of choice for years until the 5th Chronicle when they had their heals nerfed all to hell and became just a buffer class. After if you were a SE you were treated like a leper by most groups and shunned.

This can happen from day one in some games as certain classes are viewed as detrimental by most groups. What you end up with then is a pointless class that no one plays. This is usually followed by a balancing nerf attack by the devs and everyone else suffers because of it.

In a classless game this doesn't happen as much as nerfs are felt across all characters. This is because no one type of character is tied to any one skill. If a skill gets nerfed to uselessness by the devs you simply stop using it and pick up another. Skill balancing is a lot less traumatizing on the playerbase than class balancing can be.

 

Bren

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:43AM Report
vanirblade writes:

hmmmmm... how about games where you can switch between classes? like domo :D I loved that system

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:53AM Report
bronislav84 writes:

The Chinese side of Silkroad Online is classless, but there are levels. I guess the game is half classless, since Europeans have classes?

I liked it for a while, but quit eventually.

Fri Aug 21 2009 10:58AM Report
johnspartan writes:

FF XIV is going to be using an interesting system where you have "classes" or "jobs" but are free to swap between them at any time by simply swapping out your gear and more importantly equipped weapon.

Will this encourage more or less grouping? What about balance? If anyone can figure it out, it'll be SE.

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:00AM Report
illanadan writes:

 Ultima Online and Asherons Call were two of the greatest MMO's ever created and they are a skill based system. I never had and still have no problems getting good parties together for various reasons. With a classless system it makes it more important to have a social aspect to the game. You can't just look at a player and tell what class they are for the most part in a skill based system. Maybe thats why everyone went away from skill based. Today there is no MMORPG's. Instead we are faced with MMOAG's (Massively Multiplayer Online Action Games) were the social aspect is not important as it once was. No one wants to take time to learn about their friends or possible party members skill sets, and classes help that along. Instead people just want to grab a tank, healer, cc and nuker/dps class to get into the instant action. It feels that there is no vested interest in MMO's anymore on the players parts. Sure, you will always have a few of the true MMORPG players attempting to socialize and they will find other like minded players, but the majority is only there for the action and instant gratification.

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:02AM Report
legacyhax writes:

Even in a game where there are no classes players generalize classes by what skills they have learned.

Ultima Online for instance, if I train melee skills and throw in the paladin skill set I would call myself and others would call me a paladin.

Just like in cases where things are mixed I would be a hybrid class.  We are at fault for making classes by generalizing the first of games and then accepting Everquest with its upber class based model as a permier game.

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:02AM Report
grimfall writes:

AC, EVE, UO, all had 'the best builds' and all have build archetypes that wind up as classes.  I think the key to making a game that is classless is being able to attract those certain players who are self-dellusional.

One thing he forgot to mention here is that 'Role playing" is you know, role playing and playing the role of a healer or nuker or knight fits in with the genre.

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:02AM Report
lestaticon writes:

And before UO were (and are) all the various MUDs and similar games which are still developing today. All successful in their classless systems.

Also, I noticed you find min-max types of guides in all game communities. You find players hunting for the ultimate game guide that essentially tells them what skills to choose and when to choose them, where to go level, where to do quests, and when. It's the same in class based games.

I really think it's that certain player mentality that tends to seek for a defined and very specific role (the min/max style), and that tends to eventually morph into a certain class.

At the same time, there's a population of players in the classless games that better understand the system and create a character that is perfect for THEM and how they play or what they want to accomplish. That's what makes the classless system shine, in my opinion.

 

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:05AM Report
megagame writes:

Champions Online has no class system. you are free to combine powers/skills as you like.

there are a few classless mmo out there, a few of the new skillbase ones has no class

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:12AM Report
Weijyan writes:

I quit playing UO a long time ago, but I really do miss the skill tree system.  This is why I was so hyped over Wish, and I loved the hell out of the beta.  It was basically UO  in a true 3d system.

I have played a lot of mmos and have had to deal with being declined from groups just because somebody min-maxed it and declared what combination was best, or that people didn't understand the benefit to having my class in the group.  (I loved the kinetic defender in CoH, but because I merely made characters unbeatable killing machines and didn't post a lot of heals, kinetic defenders were 'useless'.)

I have never had that problem in UO, or the brief beta of Wish.

Fri Aug 21 2009 11:26AM Report
ruegon writes:

 

While I don't agree with this post. I do think some basic class structure is neccesary  in the early parts of a mmo. But clearly restricts a player at the end game. what is needed is both, some basic structure, (less as you develop). Untill end game you should be able to be exactly what you want to be, and with some game play. Change your char. any way you want !


 
Fri Aug 21 2009 11:57AM Report
Dittiepe writes:

Classes are there to allow players the ability to maximize their group with minimal effort and thought. Want to make a challenging game, take classes out of the picture.

Fri Aug 21 2009 12:03PM Report
Venger writes:

"classes allow developers to more easily predict and control player actions"

Problem one why do developers need to predict and control players actions?  UO had it's short comings but they didn't need to predict and control players actions.

"removing classes from the equation is going to throw an even bigger monkey wrench in the gears"

Not true you only need to look at tank/dps/heal in a different way. 

For example:

Tank ability could easily be described by defense.  Which could easily be a formula including armor, dodge, parry, deflect, weapon skill ect.  This way someone who wants to play their character as a ranger/rogue/barbarian like class could still build their defense up enough to tank without having to wear heavy armor.  For pet classes the master and pet could share in the damage and defense adding another diversity to tanking.

Healing could be a simple formula based on various skills like nature healing, holy healing, channeling healing.  There is just so many possibilities.

DPS every combat skill should be able to damage in approximately the same.

Fri Aug 21 2009 12:03PM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

Classless games shines the most in a skill-based game. I'm not talking about your 3-4 skills you use all the time but the ability to aim, move and manually dodge your opponent's attacks.

In classless games, players still try to find a build that will please them meaning that if they like to support a lot, be the tank, be the DPS: they can. But they are not forced to select only a few skills, they can expand their choice and fulfill different jobs in different occasions. Grouping mostly happens with guilds.

In true skill-based classless games, even the "best-uber-build-in-the-world" doesn't mean he's invincible. He can be defeated should he find a player more skilled than he is regardless of that player's skill choice. (we're still talking about pure skill-based game and not point&click with a homing fire ball that will follow you even if you hide behind a wall)

Fri Aug 21 2009 12:25PM Report
Kyleran writes:

So far, from what I'm observed, in most classless games people do not chose to specialize, they go with the ranged, tanking, casting, healer hybrid with little variation.

But games that have no classes have been successful in the past, some new ones are coming out now that look good.

I think there's room for both mechanics in the genre.

 

 

Fri Aug 21 2009 12:50PM Report
FastTx writes:

johnspartan posted:

"FF XIV is going to be using an interesting system where you have "classes" or "jobs" but are free to swap between them at any time by simply swapping out your gear and more importantly equipped weapon.

Will this encourage more or less grouping? What about balance? If anyone can figure it out, it'll be SE."

Thats some shameless propaganda right there. You think this hasn't been tried before? Lineage 2 has this system currently called Subclasses where you can swap intown from a class to another and swap gear as well. How does this have any impact on classless systems whatsoever.

To the person mentioning their SE in Lineage 2, that was a needed nerf. Shilien Elder in L2 made the Elven Elder useless, after the nerf many players still wanted SE's for their Vampiric Rage and Empower buffs and the utility of heals, recharges and the like. The REAL problem was people were boxing Shilien Elders even before this nerf. No one thought of them as leachers, just everyone with a 2nd account usually had their own high level SE. Thats what made you useless and is not a problem of class vs classless systems.

Fri Aug 21 2009 12:50PM Report
nekollx writes:

CO is class less and works well enough. You pick and choose powers and while there is levels you can do just about anything...and heck with enough $$$ respec into a buffer if need be

Fri Aug 21 2009 12:58PM Report
knightfall98 writes:

it's really hard to avoid really, as far as I can tell champions has no class defenitions but builds, however it will be impossible to build aa character with superstrength or in this case might without someone referring to it as a tank class, it deals damage and can dish it out pretty well, but if you make your own build it can go down any path you like, but classes exist as a direct result of the builds that the prgrammers and designers make as hard as you try your going to make a tank, rogue, dps, long ranged dps, healer, or buff/debuff role I doubt to will ever see a mmorpg without classes, even when they go throught the trouble of changing there names or not giving them names in the first place like champions you still will have those roles you even get them mmofps now

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:01PM Report
falc0n writes:

Darkfall has no classes

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:09PM Report
SnarlingWolf writes:

AC and UO running for 10 years. Clearly classless can work. I think AC did it a bit better because even now as you read the forums and fan sites there are a lot of different skill/stat setups that people like to play. Which goes against this blog when it says everyone will end up the same. All of my best MMO memories (and I've played way too many different MMOs over the past 12 years) come from both UO and AC. Every other game, with the exception to some extent DAoC, got boring way too fast and I quit. I think DAoC held my attention more because the stealth classes were just so fun to play.

 

WoW, WAR, EQ, EQ II all just get boring so fast. Hey there's another 100 guys that both look exactly like me and have the same exact skills and stats as me, boy is this fun. I honestly think class based games are just more pleasing to casual players, since they don't have to put any thought into it. They pick a class and then follow a guide that says "get this gear fight like this" and they just play as a robot. Maybe that's fun for some but it will never be fun for me.

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:22PM Report
Dreamion writes:

A class-based game for me is when you have to choose at a certain point in the game that limits your skills/abilities. wether you wanna be for example a tank, healer, dps, ranged-dps, support etc. EVE, if you learn all skills there is, then you still havn't picked class. Darkfall is also a good example, master every skill there is, still no class (from when i played). The freedom to choose what to play whenever you want without having to choose a 'class' is no-class based imo.

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:26PM Report
kilun writes:

Pre-CU SWG was a classless and level-less game.  It worked.  SOE just messed it up because they choose too.  Nothing prevented me from going to dathomir with 15skill points spent and attacking a Rancor with a CDEF and winning.  Now maybe one person couldn't do it, but you put 20 people, you would smoke them.

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:27PM Report
junitalia writes:

I played Free REalms for a little while and there were no classes, only jobs. You could be a brawler, cleric, a cook, miner, wizard, all by simply choosing from them in your window. Yes, you had different gear for all the different jobs, but it wasn't basing your entire structure on one job. An excellent idea of classless MMO.

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:29PM Report
johnspartan writes:

How would you define "classless" as a game that allows you to freely switch classes on the same character?

It's just an open class system not classless. Jobs, classes, it's all the same.

Dependancies between skills via UO creates classes, like you needed Anatomy and Tactics and Parry to go with any of your Melee combat skills to be effective.

SWG pre-NGE had Professions which were pretty much the same as jobs/classes just more resembling something like FF XI or RoM where you could have a sub-job / secondary class.

SWG was close, if you didn't care about min/max you could mix/match any combination of skill boxes you could...

But I have yet to see a MMO that I would truly call "classless."

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:41PM Report
johnspartan writes:

I'd say a game would have to be entirely skill based with zero dependancies or restrictions to truly be a "classless" MMO.

 

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:44PM Report
Nahuel31 writes:

Anyone have played Mabinogi maybe? You start being a normal character and then, you decide what type of class (or mix of two or more of them) you want to be. :)

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:45PM Report
eric_w66 writes:

"I think AC did it a bit better because even now as you read the forums and fan sites there are a lot of different skill/stat setups that people like to play."

We call those "classes"...

Fri Aug 21 2009 1:50PM Report
voyagervsbor writes:

Mortal Online doesn't have classes or a lot of grindable skills.

Fri Aug 21 2009 2:10PM Report
anomaly76 writes:

This article is true.

Fri Aug 21 2009 2:22PM Report
maplestone writes:

The danger in a classless system is that if you turn around and dump these customized characters into a world where dps is your only measure of success, then they have no choice but to min/max dps.  If the characters are classless, the content has to be classless too.  Players need a rich enough world of content so that their characters can find a role that suits their preference.


Fri Aug 21 2009 3:16PM Report
achenar26 writes:

The problem as I see it is not the class system per se but the fact that it is now being implemented so unimaginatively. If you look back to EQ, which seems to be receiving much of the blame for popularising classes for MMORPGs, there were classes which filled the 'trinity' of tank, dps and healing but also others which filled very different roles.

The Enchanter class particularly springs to mind as one which was considered essential for every group in the Kunark/Velious era with the primary role being crowd control and buffing. You also had bards which are, in my opinion, still far and away the most innovative class I have seen in any game, before or since. Some people may also remember being in pet groups which were something of a blast and very much outside the traditional mould.

Partly I think developers have been lazy but also it seems there is an impass in efficiently organising a group and allowing players to experience content. EQ was based on a maximum group size of 6 people which allows a certain flexibility in who makes up the last three members if you like. However, shrinking to 5, as in WoW or whatever, a change to make it easier for us to find the numbers, limits the space for roles outside the core functions of the group.

Bottom line, I liked UO and AC a lot as well. Skills based systems have been shown to work. That shouldn't be the debate. This is about whether developers do actually have any ideas about innovating classes in a way that can appeal to the mass market. Otherwise, they predictably revert to what has worked before.

Fri Aug 21 2009 3:30PM Report
ANightwalker writes:

Another game that was very good, which is also a skill-based game and not class specific is Saga of Ryzom.  Wanna fight better with weapons, use weapons more.  Wanna be better with magic, use magic more.  No specific classes, just you're better with what you practice with more.  Yes, you find people that focus in one.  But that's in any game.  Eve i'm like as well, have played for a few years.   Mostly mine and build, but then again, I have a fully decked carrier sitting in the station if needed.  And quite good in either role. just trained the skills and now i'm industrial and combat.  UO was a great game as well, used to play it years ago.  Never did get around to AC.

Fri Aug 21 2009 3:37PM Report
SnarlingWolf writes:

eric_w66 writes:

"I think AC did it a bit better because even now as you read the forums and fan sites there are a lot of different skill/stat setups that people like to play."

We call those "classes"...
 

Only if you don't know what a class is would you call those classes. They're not posting classes they are posting their builds they like to use, they are not posting here's the tank here's the healer etc. The number of variations on skills and stats players use is large and diverse. So perhaps you should get a clue before making a ridiculous comment that makes no sense.

Fri Aug 21 2009 4:05PM Report
ProfanityJC writes:

I know its been said before:

 

EVE Online.

Fri Aug 21 2009 4:15PM Report
JRsOldMan writes:

Cartoon Network's FusionFall is the latest classless game, but it highlights how classes aid group formation.  In this game, level replaces class for groups, with most groups (limit 4 members) center around a high-level char leading low levels.  With combat mechanics intentionally simplified, inclusing limiting maps to single-level mobs, the group dynamic is reduced to level vs. level considerations.

Unfortunately, grouping seems more an add-on in FF than an integral part.  It is possible to solo every map and instance, and even the final boss can easily be taken by the level enabled to access the instance.

The game relies on the scripted content and familiar cartoon NPCs for entertainment and one really does not miss classes.  A surprising number of WoW alums have found FF an amusing romp in part because they don't have to think about class limitations but are free to experience anything offered in the game.

Fri Aug 21 2009 4:39PM Report
Kalafax writes:

Well first off, grouping is done plenty in classless games because everyone still has diffrent specialtys so thats a load of rubbish.

As for balancing, there isnt supposed to be balancing, this idea that everything has to be balanced is ludicris, some builds are just better at diffrent things thats how it is, and how its supposed to be, a sandbox game encourages this because they arnt based on balancing everything for PVP reasons.

And I can easily argue that website and forums that allow posting of specs, builds, gear and all that ruining the MMO genre.

Fri Aug 21 2009 4:57PM Report
purewitz writes:

I know its not a great game and all, but Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online is classless. You start out as just a pirate with a cutlass (sword), then you unlock other weapons like a flintlock pistol and a voodoo doll. Yet all the weapons are leveled individually, so if you can pick and choose what weapons you want be good and ones you don't want to bother with. I always found the idea of the game to be cool, but it was just poorly executed. Both in the gameplay and game world, but this is Disney we are talking about.

Fri Aug 21 2009 5:03PM Report
spades07 writes:

interesting blog. I do think though that the same rehashed classes is self-defeating to the mmo genre. NEW CLASSES ARE NEEDED, if this genre is going to solely persist with the class-based system

Fri Aug 21 2009 5:09PM Report
Merxion writes:

@ eric_w66 writes: "We call those "classes"...

 

The combined talent of all the players playing any particular game is greater then that of the minimal amount of people creating the game.  Thats the difference.  We call those player created classes.  Choice not demands.

Fri Aug 21 2009 6:01PM Report
wlvnspectre writes:

I find that games, like EVE, that has no UNholy Trinity, limited classes, and/or locked down skill sets are the most deep and compelling and the most fun for the most number of people.

And for EVE having predetermined best builds to kit out characters there is no such thing because the more you specialize the more vunerable you get , the more you generalize the weaker your abilites get.  There is no such thing as perfect builds because there is always a counter for them. 

Fri Aug 21 2009 6:19PM Report
keyfoot writes:

Well runescape is a classless mmorpg, it is pretty fun for a old game, and it had great quests, but it got old eventually

Fri Aug 21 2009 6:22PM Report
Smokeysong writes:

Classes are not an important part of MMORPG design, they are an important part of boxed-in thinking. Asheron's Call is at least one example of a classless game that works just fine. Modern devs, however, seem to like things cut-and-dry when it comes to creating characters - the old 'tank-healer-dps' formula. Sure, all those elements are basic, but that doesn't mean you have to cookie-cut your players in to toons that are of those 3 categories.

;)

 

Fri Aug 21 2009 7:41PM Report
skyexile writes:

Planetside has no classes, its levels only make you more versitle, not nessisary more powerfull, i wish more MMO's would follow their footsteps on that one.

Fri Aug 21 2009 9:40PM Report
OR-Nurse writes:

CO as currently configured is classless. I hope it stays thhat way.

Sat Aug 22 2009 12:22AM Report
Corlethos writes:

Classless games offer a unique advantage with flexibility.  However, the benefits of individual skills do not have the amount of concentration that class games generically offer.  Also, classless games include a design principle of never needing to group.  The only time that barrier may break down involves greater common foes that no single player can master.

Of course, this extends to class-based games as well.  However, a player immediately has a specialization to dispatch threats.  For this reason, I classify games with character classes as the action variety while the classless more of a strategic thinker's type.

Some virtual worlds combine the best and worst of both aspects while leaving out important parts.  Whatever happened to simple chatting?

Sat Aug 22 2009 2:07AM Report
lanorra writes:

It's a good thing not all developers think this way, or games would never evolve.  Games with class "tracts" might be appealing to people who are new to MMOs, or to folks who've only played so long, or to people who are afraid of change, but for your average long-time MMO'er, they're getting HELLA-boring.  Oh look, another MMO that's just like the last one. So the scenery's different. Big deal. I pick a race. I pick a class. I level. I am now pretty much the same as every other person who's my level/class.I don't make decisions about how my character evolves. I'm told by the game what abilities I can have based on my race, and my class. In the end, it does not matter what I want for my character. I am what the game designers say I am.  /yawn.

I don't know about you all, but I'm ready for something different. I'm tired of games that give you "inverted tree" character progression: In the beginning you have lots of choices, but every choice you make limits the number of choices you can make later. You get funneled into a more and more specialized role, until, at the very end, you're pretty much not making choices at all and aren't much different than anyone else in your class. Character progression should be the OTHER way around: a right side up tree, where every choice you make opens up more and more choices above it, so at the end, every player is absolutely unique.

It would work, too. The idea of people all copying each others' "uber" build or assuming that a classless game would be "unbalanced" is terribly shortsighted. I suppose these things would be a problem if the game you built was utter crap and was so limited in its skill & ability system design that people were actually able to analyze every single skill and ability combination the game offered and then come up with one specific build that was "superior" to all others. If you can't figure out a way to make a few dozen skills combine into a few million unique combinations, you shouldn't be designing games. And a few dozen skills is just an absurdly small number. Games today can support hundreds of skills and abilities. Think of the number of combinations that are possible, and then look me in the eye and tell me people will find ONE build that is better than all the rest, and that everyone would end up the same. Pfft.

Then of course, people will cry that in such a system, "balance" would be all out of whack. This argument assumes people would want to create characters that were "more powerful" against other players and the environment than the next guy's character. But, how do you define "powerful"? Powerful in what way? Damage? Healing? Melee? Magic? And let's try to think outside that box, too. What about intelligence? Creativity? Reflexes? See, the argument that people are looking for an "uber build" that is "more powerful" assumes (wrongly) that future games should be built the same way as they are now: Where your ability to do damage and mitigate damage is better than the next guys. It's all based on hack and slash combat.

On the contrary: I'm waiting for games that offer you alternatives to straight up hack n' slash fighting. Where the type of encounter is dictated by the type of abilities and skills your group possesses. Where encounters scale to the number of people in your party. Wouldn't it be cool to walk into a dragon's lair with a friend, and be able to talk your way into having the dragon give you a quest for his loot because, you had awesome charisma and your friend was incredibly intelligent? And hey, if your meathead friend with uber sword skills wants to go in there with 40 of his best melee type pals and slay the big lizard to get the loot instead, fine. He can do it his way in his instance, and you can go about it your way in your instance. How cool would that be? How about dungeons with TRAPS and puzzles? Where you have to be intelligent enough to figure out stuff, both as a player and as a character? How would you decide what one build could be "best" for all these different types of scenarios? You wouldn't be able to .. so "balance" becomes a moot point and now the game is all about your character and it's specific skills, and how well you use them in any given scenario. Oh my god, you'll have to think! What a concept. :)

And since I've meandered down the "new ideas" path a bit, let's go further: How about environments that change as the players interact with it, in a permanent way? How about rock walls you can crumble onto an enemy, or water you can boil, or dungeons that appear only once and then disappear for good once they are conquered? How about encounters coming to YOU - imagine walking down a path and being kidnapped, and waking up somewhere completely foreign, and having to escape. Whatever happened to dieties in MMOs, too? Why has their role never been fully explored? Why can't a rogue that worships a goddess of healing get some basic healing abilities, or a priest that worships a god of theivery get some sort of sneak ability? Or a swordmaster type who worships a god of war get improved weapon abilities? How much I would welcome that all!

There are just a mind boggling number of new game mechanics left unexplored in game design, and it would be just TRAGIC if everyone building games decided that what we have now is THE only way to build an MMO. It's not. It's just the first way it was done and the way that's made money ... so far.  I have no doubt that there are some very intelligent, creative (and bored) game designers out there who will prove to everyone that classless and level-less games CAN work, and can be far, far more entertaining that what's out there now. I only hope their ideas get funded and their games built before I'm too old to read my screen anymore. =P

Sat Aug 22 2009 2:34AM Report
lanorra writes:

One additional comment: I'm pretty sure developers are beginning to understand that forced grouping is one of the biggest turnoffs for people who play MMOs. People will group all day long to be with their friends, but forcing them to get a group of a certain size and makeup together to accomplish something they want or need is getting really old, really fast for a lot of folks. After 10 years of LFG and dealing with raids interfering with real lives, a lot of players I've met and interviewed are quitting MMOs. They'd come back in a hearbeat for a game whose encounter content scaled to their group makeup/size and gave them the freedom to choose to be in a group, rather than dictated that they needed to be in one.

Sat Aug 22 2009 2:52AM Report
zymurgeist writes:

Allowing a single toon to fulfilll the role of every class doesn't mean there are no classes. It just means there are no specialized alts. It's the restrictions that make things challenging. There is no paticular merit in being able to build a toon that can fullfill the role of any class at any given time.  

Sat Aug 22 2009 4:14AM Report
elbowelbow writes:

Champions Online is classless, but respecs are very restricted, and you have 8 char slots (total).  The restriction is probably to avoid the "everyone uses the same uber build" problem (and also to allow for microtransactions).  To become better at different roles (like tanking/healing/dps), you switch "builds".

Of course, the respec restrictions can easily screw new players or cause problems after the balancing/nerfing that is inevitable in an MMO.  How well it actually works is still to be seen, once CO has been released for a while.

Sat Aug 22 2009 4:40AM Report
midmagic writes:

Classes make development easier, that is a rather debatable. The problem with a class system is that it is rigid. If a class does not function within its "role" within a few percent (as simple and generic measurment  metric) then everything gets all fussy. This sort of balance is rather difficult while keeping differing classes unique. Class balance is hard, we've seen countless examples from even well to do games that CANNOT get balance right.

The reason classes are used is simply for familiarity for players and for the development team. This is also why the standard tank/dps/heal model is also used. It is not hard to develop a system that does not use these models. It isn't even hard to make a system that does not have strict tank/dps/heal with classes.

We don't see main stream games that break the mold because they are expensive and the risk/reward for something is not there to pony up the big dough.

It is the same as every other entertainment industry. Everything is typically the same as everything else until one of the few great new works come along to show everyone how it is done. Either some visionary will come along and convince people to shell out the cash or some independant group will eventually get some huge number of subscribers that everyone else starts to copy them.

Sat Aug 22 2009 5:04AM Report
AutemOx writes:

I dont buy that a classless mmo would end up with everyone using the same build, and that build being posted on all the fansites and everyone uses it because its the 'best'.  If the devs cannot monitor the use of different builds on a regular basis, they could just create a automatic nerf system, where damage for spellsand attributes are decreased if that spell is used too much among the player base.  Each day small modifications could automatically be made to each skill to counter balance players tendencies.  That would encourage players to keep good builds to themselves and also to experiment with new builds, and keep things balanced enough for players who want to choose their builds based on something besides what does the most damage.

My favourite class system was SWG pre-cu, even though it was unbalanced.  The balancing issues in that game were blatent...  It wasnt the classless systems fault, it was the poor dev team that made that game out of balance.  It was still worth it though even unbalanced just because I had so much freedom, it made it more immersive for me.

Sat Aug 22 2009 5:20AM Report
AutemOx writes:

Also I am surprised everyone is acting like just because there are no classes that there is no tank/dps/healer.  I see them as totally separate issues... It is incredibly easy to create a classless system where players still label themselves into well known roles such as tank/dps/healer just for the convinence of making groups.

Sat Aug 22 2009 5:24AM Report
midmagic writes:

"The irony of this scenario is that in the end, after the best possible build in a classless game had been found and posted on every MMO website online, the game would actually be left with less diversity than classes have to offer as everyone rushes to build the ideal character."

Seriously? What are we thinking of UO and believe that it was the end all be all of skill based systems? Yes, UO allowed for a single spec initially to do EVERYTHING. This was very poor game design. It is no different than having grossly imbalanced classed.

It is very easy to develop a skill based system that would babysit players the way a class based system does.

A skill based system basically forces everyone into roles? Sorry, that is an issue with game design. There are several MMOs that do not have tank/dps/heal roles. Min/max builds a must? This is an issue with game design as well.

It would be rather silly to take a game like EQ/WoW and shoe horn a skill based system into it. A skill based game would be something a bit different to make it really stand out.

Sat Aug 22 2009 5:25AM Report
toddze writes:

Without levels you are playing a "sims" game.

Levels are a core feature of the RPG genre. sorry it will always be like that.

Sat Aug 22 2009 3:32PM Report
Codenak writes:

With levels you are being led by the nose down a linear progression, and then you are totally dependent on developers for new content.

Classes and levels introduce two things, low level characters cant do anything to max leveled characters and  with classes you have to restrict them in order to balance them. Both of these things will take developers away from creating new content.

Its my belief that any game involving classes and levels has automatically given itself a limitation to its lifespan and introduces the rush to max level because that's where the endgame is, thus putting all the burden on the developers to keep the game interesting.

There are many many more players than there ever will be devs, and we can create our own content if we are given the tools.

Sat Aug 22 2009 6:46PM Report
Mahuloq writes:

I would say Champtions online is a classless game now, and quite frankly, the balancing is HORRIBLE, i love the game so far, PVE is fun, love super heroes, but good lord, if I see another 30 minute fight with two people having regeneration, invunerabilty and what ever else I will kill someone. Definently going to be a challange to balance. Also on the grouping front, im definently not grouping that often, its more of whenever a quest is just to hard we group up. And then we dont even care what the other people DO perssay, but that you have another body with you.

Sat Aug 22 2009 7:59PM Report
Mahuloq writes:

also, on the idea of min/maxing, its going to happen in champions, thiers going to be a dominate build, and it will be a rush to see who can counter it, can we? I dont know

Sat Aug 22 2009 8:01PM Report
Mors-Subita writes:

CO - no fixed classes. They are still working on balancing, but they've been doing a good job so far.

There are a couple of abilities that the vast majority have been avoiding cause they think they are underpowered... I am going to take them at release, and hope that people don't realise what they are missing, cause if they get nerfed I will have to ditch the char.

:(

mwahahahahaha

Sun Aug 23 2009 3:57AM Report
Wizardry writes:

Developers are seeking NEW ideas and ways to draw in the subs,but IMO a class less game is a much CHEAPER approach and i don't approve of it.Developers are leaning closer and closer to practically giving gamers a dead world with PVP,that has been what they strive for.A very simplistic design that takes no effort and little cost,so of course they hope to push this design on us the gamers,they won't get a dime from me for this junk.

Not only do i want to see classes i want to see lots of them and lots of races and lots of diversity,i want to seea lot of effort before they get my money.I have lots of money to spend as well,so i would be willing to pay anything reasonable even 50 bucks a month if the game was worth it.As soon as i see a no class game it has lost my interest immediately.

Sun Aug 23 2009 6:47AM Report
Regnevanz writes:

All Mmo Rpg's have classes either static i.e WoW, AoC, Warhammer etc or Dynamic - UO, AC, Darkfall, Mortal Online and EvE

To say EvE does not is just being an imbecile.. honestly you specialize into whatever skill set you want therefore creating your class as you go, great you can retrain into a different role (class) if you want to or if your playing static class game you roll another toon.

Classless MMO's can only take the form of MMORTS , if you put roll playing progression in of any sort you instantly have classes no matter how badly the naive players can't see it.

 

Sun Aug 23 2009 7:38AM Report
Gdemami writes:

I wonder how much thought was actually put into the article...

Stating that class being highly restrictive means classless systems need no restrictions?

Since when is the class system responsible for  "20th level Paladin is just like every other 20th level Paladin from attacks and abilities to armor and weapons." ?
 

In fact, it absolutely does not matter wheter the game is class, classless, skill based or whatever the system is. Every system has the audience and every system can comfort the most demanding player if done right.

 

Too much generalization for something that does play role significant enough.

Sun Aug 23 2009 11:54AM Report
Gdemami writes:

Being a class means something hard coded, which is what EVE is not.


EVE is about roles/professions if you like while. But it still does not suit well because there is an input of ships and fitting that makes it very dificult to compare to other games.

Sun Aug 23 2009 12:08PM Report
jcpillars writes:

I think a more interesting topic would be will there ever be a game that will break the Healer-Tank core game design. I've been wondering about this question forever.

Will there ever be a game that doesn't rely on a tank and a healer to group? 

We've seen variations of it. Like the Healer-Tank-CC in old Everquest. Or the Tank-Healer-DPS of so many games now.

But I think it would be interesting to design a game that breaks that dynamic but still requires teamwork and cooperation, and I think it would be refreshing enough to be successful.

I have some ideas on it, but im not a programmer, and I'll just save it for a more apporpriate topic.

Sun Aug 23 2009 1:09PM Report
toddze writes:

EvE has classes. Its not in any sense the traditional way of doing it but there are classes. As long as ships fill a "role" thats a class.

Sun Aug 23 2009 1:58PM Report
Gdemami writes:

todze:
Role =/= class.

Class is defined by set of skils/attributes/abilties.
Role is how you build your class skills/attributes/abilties, combine and use them.

Typicaly a healer archetype class specced for damage.

Sun Aug 23 2009 2:38PM Report
Trucidation writes:

@Regnevanz and toddze: don't be dense. When talking about classes in MMORPGs we're talking about games that SPECIFICALLY partition characters into specific skill paths.

If you're not nailed to a specific set of skills and are allowed to pick and choose based on OTHER requirements rather than class, then for our purposes that's enough to say that's classless.

We're not talking about the nebulous CONCEPT of classes (or archetypes). Of course any sort of MMO that has you RP a character will have some sort of class/job/skillset concept. You're just arguing semantics.

After all according to YOUR definition RPGs like Oblivion would have classes, because there are skill you can choose from. Wtf.

 

Sun Aug 23 2009 7:57PM Report
Gdemami writes:

They are not arguing semantics, they are wrong.

Class is determined by buit-in mechanics, not by a player.

Sun Aug 23 2009 8:18PM Report
bazak writes:

*sigh* gdemami classes and roles being the same thing if you fill a role in a group you are therefore a class, meaning that if you are filling a role you can be classified as whatever the multiple names are for the role you are filling

 

basicaly if you can take tons of dmg and not die easily  you are a tank no matter what game you are in you are classed as a tank you cannot get out of it unless you get the definitions changed or something if you can deal a ton of dmg BAM you are a dps class its not something that can realy be argued it just is, its like saying the sun isnt a star

Sun Aug 23 2009 9:38PM Report
Gdemami writes:

bazak:

What an utter nonsense.
It's sad you can't read nor think  :(

 

Mon Aug 24 2009 4:18AM Report
toddze writes:

This is all just EvE fanboys thinking they are better than everyone else because their game doesnt have "classes" I didnt realize this was such a dirty word to them.

I understand where you guys are coming from that a class is predetermend.  How ever I disagree. If game A has a support class ok its stuck as that. Fine and dandy. If you make a support role from a list of skills your still supporting. Thus your consider a supporter.

So how well will a fleet of support type ships fair against a well rounded fleet? A true classless game it would be equal.

Support class or support role, your still supporting, and last I knew a class fills a role, You can change a role and some games you can change a class.

EvE boys get over yourself RPG's will always need to have a role filled. doesnt matter if your forced to follow a set path in the form of a class or pick skills.

 

Mon Aug 24 2009 5:46PM Report
DeadlyHit writes:

Darkfall doesn't have classes.

Mon Aug 24 2009 6:37PM Report
Ekira writes:

Mabinogi has a great classes system.Since alot is grouping people to tend to get into roles but switch on the fly.Many people become hybrids.Its system works with classes the game would'nt be what it is people would just make  warrior but be killed by a ranger or mage.But using your mage and warrior combo use many tactics not avaible to a pure class build~

Wed Aug 26 2009 12:07PM Report
Ekira writes:

Mabinogi has a great classes system.Since alot is grouping people to tend to get into roles but switch on the fly.Many people become hybrids.Its system works with classes the game would'nt be what it is people would just make  warrior but be killed by a ranger or mage.But using your mage and warrior combo use many tactics not avaible to a pure class build~

Wed Aug 26 2009 12:07PM Report

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