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The Pub at MMORPG.COM  » Class based vs freeform skill based

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  mmoguy43

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/31/09
Posts: 2347

 
OP  8/31/10 7:23:41 PM#1

Class-Based

On one hand you have classes with their own assortment of abilites predetermined roles and limited choice of direction with stat distribution. I'm sure you have played a MMORPG like this(WoW EQ2,AOC,WAR, etc) to know what it is.

Balance

For the most part it is balanced. Classes are relatively equal next to each other in power and each have their own special thing that sets one apart from another.

 

Skill Based (Classless)

On the other hand you pretty much make what you want. You can choose skills and abilities that define what you can use and your role in combat or otherwise. Your uniqueness comes from your collective whole of skills. They could be focused like a more traditional class or composed of more untility skills and abilities.

Balance

Balance is very difficult to achieve. With hundreds to thousands of possible combinations of skills it takes a very long to time to balance everything. There will be several skill builds that will out match other ones but in a group enviroment players could take advantage of more specialized builds.

 

Trying to design a skill based mmo has been a F'n pain in the neck even though the vision of it sounds awesome.

Which do you prefer?

Class-Based (Mostly balanced)
Classless skill based (Potentially very unbalanced)
(login to vote)

Let's build the ultimate MMO 1 feature at a time
http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/398555/page/1

"blocked nariusseldon since forever"

  Fishbaitz

Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/27/10
Posts: 232

Skepticals, the glasses that automatically make you a skeptic!

8/31/10 7:30:12 PM#2

One option that is underused, in my opinion, is the equipment based system. Kind of like what FFXIV is going for and to a lesser extent GW2. You can make it so certain abilities won't show up on the same skillbar by limiting what and where, while still giving a fair ammount of customizeability.

It can kind of be seen as a fusion of the two systems in a way.

Or you can go the way of GW and combine the two systems, class based selection of large ammounts of skills.

  twrule

Novice Member

Joined: 7/15/09
Posts: 1260

8/31/10 7:35:10 PM#3

I was thinking about this the other day, and I've come to realize that I prefer a class-based system over a skill-based, fully customizable one in most cases.  However, for that to be the case, classes must feel unique in both motif and playstyle - not homogenized, while each feeling powerful on their own.

In my experience, most skill systems don't really provide as much customization as they would seem to, since certain abilities/stats inevitably support the gravitation toward a few basic builds (for example, take Elder Scrolls - you can theoretically do everything, but chances are that you're going to mainly build your character as a warrior-type, mage-type, or rogue-type).  There are more builds possible, but not necessarily more viable ones for challenging pve content or pvp.

My ideal compromise is a system that offers lots of versatility and customization within a uniquely separated class system (such as what GW2 appears to be doing).  In other words, every class has many different "builds" to choose from, but those will still be unique from other classes.

  Warsong

Novice Member

Joined: 12/03/05
Posts: 581

www.piratelords.com

"To err is to
invite
retribution"

8/31/10 7:43:05 PM#4

There will never be any true balances but at least with a classless/hybrid system people have choices beyond a reroll per se.

That is assuming the skills chosen can also be dropped and others learned. Best system I have played TBH And within this is the option to remake your characters to compete and give devs more time to "balance" things

  KirinRahl

Novice Member

Joined: 7/05/04
Posts: 154

8/31/10 7:49:08 PM#5

It seems to me that the ability to make a perfect balance of skills and abilities between different skill combinations (or classes, if you want to just refer to them that way) is vastly overrated.  Sometimes, folks will find a twinky, bizarro thing that makes a class viable and is way overpowered.  When those things are found, that's FotM, and they get a nerf as soon as they can.  These things will continue to rise to the top even in rigidly limited class-based games like WoW or WAR; when they do, they get nerfed, or their interaction with other abilities do.  

Similar to how Bright Wizard/Engie combos used to be crazy because Engies debuffed Corp resist and BW AoE was almost all Corp damage.  Now BW AoE has been moved to Elemental, which makes them not quite so crazy when used together.

These problems come up in games with rigid class and skill interactions all the time.  They also come up in games where you can make your own class and even in the sort that allows you to make your own -skills-.  As such, it seems like sticking with the 'safe, balanced' option is a cop-out.  There'll be problems that need fixing no matter what you do, so you may as well go whole-hog and see what awesome stuff your players pull out of their asses.

I like skill-based systems a lot.  Further, I think that skillmaking/modifying systems (see: Ryzom) are -very- interesting, and we need more games like these.  RPGs with freedom make me happy.  Being just another Engie is a little meh.

  mmoguy43

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/31/09
Posts: 2347

 
OP  8/31/10 7:53:30 PM#6

I've thought about the equipment set giving you the abilities too but I don't like the idea that you can hold onto a bunch of sets of gear to swap out to change skills(not sure if thats really how is is in GW2 anyway). I do like the idea of a few rare armor pieces of gear giving abilities though but I wouldn't use it as the primary way to use abilities.

 

Hmm.. yes everyone does end up filling one of those roles..

Would having a skill based system with an extensive character creation which includes a lot of starting skills/abilities and restrictions (like more effective using light armor, less effective at doing anything with heavy armor; other skills etc etc..) be much different than class based?...well its more of a starting classes based then free-form.

Let's build the ultimate MMO 1 feature at a time
http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/398555/page/1

"blocked nariusseldon since forever"

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

8/31/10 7:53:46 PM#7

The way I see it, classes are simply pre-chosen groups of skills: a simplier version of the same game.

Game balance is hard, not because of whether you have classes or not, but because few class/skill systems manage to stay true to the theoretical game plan at their core.  If you build your game up from an abstract form of rock-paper-scissors (but with more choices and layers but perfect symmetry), then game balance happens automatically.  Each skill becomes a different skin of user interface, names and graphics that hide the underlying math of the game and make "rock" feel different than "paper".  If people are having trouble with a skill/class, you treat it as a UI issue rather than a math issue.

(At least that's how I would do it)

  KirinRahl

Novice Member

Joined: 7/05/04
Posts: 154

8/31/10 7:57:47 PM#8

Deciding what to specialize in early and then living with those decisions is kiiiind of horrible for new players.  Asheron's Call did this, and if you didn't do some VERY specific things with your build from the get-go, you could have big problems as a result.

That said, I think having a few starting 'classes' that act as a template and sort of start you on the right path would be nice.  Apprentices could have very little in the way of physical skills, having taken magical training instead.  Farmhands could be very solid, hardy folk perfect for tanking low-level content, street thieves could have some lock-popping, danger-sensing mojo off the bat, and so forth.  These things would make interesting little buy-in skills, and having a system wherein you could make your own would be nice.

Something or other like Oblivion, I imagine, except instead of picking what skills level you up, you could choose a few to have extra points in at the start.  Having buy-points with permanent benefits and flaws like GURPS could be interesting, too, if the benefits and flaws didn't get so wildly game-able that they ended up totally off-the-wall unfair.  Scaling costs for points, higher cost, higher points, etcetera.  All interesting things, and rarely seen in the MMO world.  When they ARE seen, badly munchkinized.

  DocZ

Novice Member

Joined: 8/03/10
Posts: 107

Quagmire 3.16 - Gigiddy

8/31/10 8:07:52 PM#9

The biggest problem i see with a classless games is that in the end ( well probably only take a few months to a year of play) for people to start making classes on there own anyway especially when pvp is involved. someone online would find the best combination of skills in like 2 or 3 ways/combination sets and post tutorials online on how do make them and basically own all that down use those sets. So lots of players would end up copying them or somewere close to it just to match up.. or out of lazyness and you would end up with pretty much the same as a class game

I challenged my reflection to a staring contest....4 days later i won

  KirinRahl

Novice Member

Joined: 7/05/04
Posts: 154

8/31/10 8:20:01 PM#10

That's absolutely true, DocZ, but that's why God invented the nerf bat.

When The Most Efficient Killing Machine comes around (and he will, rigid classes or no classes at all), you find out why he's so efficient and cut him back in a few key ways that make other skill combos viable.  He'll be pissed, FotM will be ruined, and folks will work on another way to game the systems and make themselves The Perfect Warrior.  When they come around, nerf them too.

The goal of an open, non-class-based, experimental-crafting, non-rigid equipment system MMO is to have each and every class and each and every gear combo work to abouuuut the same advantage.  It will never be perfect, but total balance can't really be achieved.  Hell, in AoC, girls just didn't hit as fast as guys did for the first few months thanks to an error in the female attack animations.  So two people, same class, guy and girl?  Yeah, the guy always DPSed harder no matter what else.

These problems always crop up.  Usually (the aforementioned AoC case excepted) the way to fix them is to nerf the scary ones by removing or reducing the power of key skill interactions that make them so powerful.

That's the designers' problem.  Even Warhammer Online, after two years being out, is still balancing all the classes in -every patch-, and their skill system is about as rigid as you can make it.  Even with perfect skill mirrors you get problems like dickbag Squig Herders hiding inside their pets because they're short enough, thereby becoming untargetable.

So yeah, of course people will make super classes.  They do anyway.  That shit floats to the top; the designers see it, nerf it, and move on.

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

8/31/10 8:28:21 PM#11
Originally posted by KirinRahl

When The Most Efficient Killing Machine comes around (and he will, rigid classes or no classes at all), you find out why he's so efficient and cut him back in a few key ways that make other skill combos viable..

But ... but ... *points up to my post*

  KirinRahl

Novice Member

Joined: 7/05/04
Posts: 154

8/31/10 8:39:39 PM#12

You can't really have a game that balances itself.  Even something as simple as  Rock -> Scissors, 15dmg, Rock->Paper 5dmg, and so on all the way around, you're still going to have -things- in that game that make the classes feel different.  Mages can do different stuff, ranged classes have to have long range but less survivability, and so forth.  The mathematics can balance out pretty nicely, but player behavior is notorious for fucking things like that up.  My Shadow Warrior in WAR was a fighter; I'd sit on top of a building plinking away with my puny little bow, and when someone -finally- managed to get up top to where I was, I knocked the piss out of them, DoTed them up, and punted them for a frigging mile.  I didn't do tons of damage at range; I drew people in so that I -could- do real damage, 'cuz they figured they'd just be able to stomp out my guts.

Laying that kind of trap for folks is one of the things that makes PvP so compelling.  Even as a 15 Shadow Warrior, widely considered the least potent class in Warhammer Online, I could kill 18-19 Choppas (widely considered an OP class) even without RvR buffs up.

So you're always going to have assholes like me that screw with the metrics, or dynamics to make those classes feel different that make them play so differently that straight-up mathematics no longer apply.  I shouldn't be able to do those things with a Shadow Warrior, not at my level, but lo and behold!  There I was.

Lacking those differing dynamics is going to lead to a boring-ass rock-paper-scissors festival.  I happen to think that the old classic R/P/S system ought to get scrapped for more interesting, less straight-up systems, but everyone loves the Holy Trinity and the rock-paper-scissors mechanic so much it seems permanently embedded in the fabric of the genre.

  MuffinStump

Novice Member

Joined: 8/06/03
Posts: 475

8/31/10 8:53:45 PM#13

Hmm, there are major differences within class based systems however.

Take DDO, for example, which does a poor job of representing the depth and complexity of tabletop D&D but still manages to give a wide variety of classes and class builds that eclipses most MMOs.

A fighter could be a ranged focused, light/no armor soloer or perhaps a heavy armor wearing, aggro gaining, dwarven waraxe specced shieldwall and then you might give a level or two (or even a major split) of up to 2 more classes. Go Bard/Rogue/Fighter if you wish. Paladin/Sorceror.

This is all before prestige classes and the numerous feat selections are figured in and racial choice has a large effect as well. If you can imagine a character then you can likely build it within this system.

I'm not advocating any system necessarily but I thought it should be noted that the class based systems do not have to be so restrictive.


  Shooter-90

Novice Member

Joined: 5/10/07
Posts: 100

8/31/10 9:02:29 PM#14

Depending on the style, class can be good or bad. One instance being sci-fi or sandbox game where it would be a minimum. 

Fantasy is the only one I can really see where classes really work out very well.

  Einherjar_LC

Tipster

Joined: 5/03/05
Posts: 1067

8/31/10 9:09:05 PM#15

Classless, skillbased games are the ones that are the most fun to me starting with my n00b days in UO and AC1.

 

The class based games with their holy trinity just become a bore for me after so long.  Tank does X, DPS does Y, Healer heals Z.....ad nauseum.  Yeah, they're are variations on that theme but ultimately it's the same to me.

Einherjar_LC says: WTB the true successor to UO or Asheron's Call pst!

  Fishbaitz

Apprentice Member

Joined: 5/27/10
Posts: 232

Skepticals, the glasses that automatically make you a skeptic!

8/31/10 9:17:04 PM#16
Originally posted by mmoguy43

I've thought about the equipment set giving you the abilities too but I don't like the idea that you can hold onto a bunch of sets of gear to swap out to change skills(not sure if thats really how is is in GW2 anyway). I do like the idea of a few rare armor pieces of gear giving abilities though but I wouldn't use it as the primary way to use abilities.

 

Hmm.. yes everyone does end up filling one of those roles..

Would having a skill based system with an extensive character creation which includes a lot of starting skills/abilities and restrictions (like more effective using light armor, less effective at doing anything with heavy armor; other skills etc etc..) be much different than class based?...well its more of a starting classes based then free-form.

 What really needs to be done is decided what style of game, fantasy, sci-fi, wester, ect, and from there you can build up the mechanics to fit the world. Once you have the IP concepted you can then start focusing on the mechanics and abilities of said world based on what you want to do with it. Do you want to do Trinity with a twist, class based or open skill, RPS ballancing or a more even field. Different methods and mechanics make sense in different settings.

Class based is excellent for giving a distinctly different feal for everybody, even if others can fulfill multiple roles. This is achieved through syles of the skills through naming, animation, and excecution as well as limits and abilitys that only that class has.

Skill based allows the player to tailor into exactly what they want to be. It is true that it is harder to balance but the possible flexability of such a system allows for some unique and interesting builds and strategies. Eventually the community will probably make a few specific builds for certain tasks that remain popular and you get the Flavor of the Month as well.

I personally like the equipment based system. It can allow for both the 'feel' of a class based system and the free form of a skill based system depending on how you set it up. How I would do it is have a skill tree for every weapon and? armor type in the game. Throw in an extra equipment slot for extra variety. Each type of weapon and armor and equipment has subsets that have unique skills attatched to them as well (so you don't run across Uber stuff at the end that people only choose) So at any time you have the skills from 3 different skill trees at any one time, and what you choose also plays a slightly larger role, e.g. this Icy Sword has a skill attatched to it that does cold DoT, while this Keen Sword has a skill that grants extra armor penetration, but they both also share the same tree. You level up in each tree as you use them, and its fairly easy to switch, but not in combat or instances, between them in order to facilitate easy grouping. Because who wants to spam LF* for hours on end? The tricky part comes in trying to make builds viable and to encourage switching up the weapons armor and equipment.

  Ceridith

Novice Member

Joined: 11/24/09
Posts: 3001

The more you hype an upcoming game in your mind, the more it will fail to meet your expectations.

8/31/10 9:24:58 PM#17

Classless, so long as it's done right.

Which means that there's some way to redistribute skills, to allow players to experiment with builds, pick skills up in the short term and drop them in the long term. I'm not talking about instant respecs, but having to work up each skill, or working to replace certain choices with others. Ultima Online is a great example to go by, where once you reached the total skill cap, you could force skills you didn't need anymore down by gaining in other skills.

And yes, this system can be terribly unbalanced with regards to PvP, but then again, I don't think PvP mixes well with MMOs in any regard, so iI wouldn't care either way since I'd be playing PvE.

All in all though, freeform skill systems can end up being incredibly fun and satisfying, especially if you develop a more original skill template that plays well to your playstyle.

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

8/31/10 10:06:38 PM#18
Originally posted by KirinRahl
Lacking those differing dynamics is going to lead to a boring-ass rock-paper-scissors festival.  I happen to think that the old classic R/P/S system ought to get scrapped for more interesting, less straight-up systems, but everyone loves the Holy Trinity and the rock-paper-scissors mechanic so much it seems permanently embedded in the fabric of the genre.

I understand where you are coming from and how games look that way on the surface, but ultimately any game, as complex as it is, is only a mathematical construct and eventually reduces to some interplay of actions and strategies that will compress through rounds of competition to some Nash equilibrium whether people realize its happening or not.  If you create a random universe of interactions, rock-paper-scissors is statistically the most likely outcome - you actually have to continuously tweak the game to keep it from settling into that rut.

Admittedly, the weak point of my strategy is uniqueness in face of the interaction with the physics engine - range, stealth, etc need to be options that all characters have equal opportunity to persue, whether through skills, spells or equipment.   I don't blame you for being suspicious over whether its possible to really create unique-feeling characters in such a universe.  Done poorly, it will be too easy to see through the smoke and mirrors.

So I'll except that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and I don't have a working model to prove my idea.  *ponders if there is any engine in which I could attempt to do a mock-up*

  Thorqemada

Hard Core Member

Joined: 8/30/04
Posts: 1221

8/31/10 11:46:23 PM#19

I am curious how TSW will work out with its skill based system where you can choose any skill you know (7 active  + 7 passive out of hundreds) and be fully responsible for the outcome.

For sure there will be some better "builds" then other but for the folk that wants to have the best "build" they only need to choose the "right" skills to be as good as the best.

Perfect selfbalancing by the playerbase ?

Strom of qqing bcs some builds are not equal ?

"Torquemada... do not implore him for compassion. Torquemada... do not beg him for forgiveness. Torquemada... do not ask him for mercy. Let's face it, you can't Torquemada anything!"

MWO Music Video - What does the Mech say: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF6HYNqCDLI
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  MMOExposed

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 6/17/10
Posts: 6179

9/01/10 12:13:06 AM#20

This forum speaks for the Minority of the MMORPG population. Most people her for example choose Sandbox over theme park.

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