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News & Features Discussion  » General: Editorial: Evolution of Classes

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  Dana

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

 
OP  7/12/06 1:14:22 PM#1

Thomas Mortensen debuts his editorial stylings with this new article entitled "Evolution of Classes". He looks at where this classic construct is headed.

The MMORPG genre has changed a lot since the early days of Meridian 59 and Ultima Online, but the games still relies on the basic classes introduced back then. Most MMORPG still use the Fighter, a heavily armoured close combat character that can take lots of damage. Having to rely on short-range weapons and relative low damage his fights may last long. Thus he will need the healer, whose job is to heal the party and make sure they stay alive. A second role of the healer is to buff the party by adding temporary enchantments, which make the party stronger, faster or more resilient. The mage is the most fragile character, but he can deliver large amounts of ranged damage through arcane magic. Though the games do not always use the same names for the character classes they are always build on one of these arch classes or a mix of two of them through hybrids like the Bard, Paladin or Battlemage.

You can read more here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  User Deleted
7/12/06 2:47:57 PM#2

The class system is dieing. It is not they way of the future. More and more MMO's need to be more open ended and allow more options for players to play they way THEY wish to play, cobbling together skills they wish to have.

The class system is also what has lead to this notion of "end game", Endgame, technically in a mmo doesn’t exist, its a lie created by players (This is what they preceive, but they have not seen all content, its just that they are gated from particapating in said missed content becouse of level or power restrictions) . For some reason, developers are feeding this term.

More open systems of play, wit more options on how you wish to play with be the future of mmo's. Levels have only ever caused issues with development, such as "end game" and "lack of content".

The use of a class system from DnD (PnP not online) was a mistake, in The original DnD systems the GM created the content, this was a never ending supply. In an MMO this is not the case, the content is static, and never changing regardless of the players ability or actions, hence the reason you see the "lack of content" statement. In PnP DnD this would never have been a phrase used, because that state was imposable to achieve, due to the fact that the game (The GM) would adapt to you.

The only saving grace from this is the skill based system, where instead of the game adapting to you, you adapt to the game, and the situation you are in, That cant be done with linear progression of skills and levels.

2c
/flame suit on

  gooner

Novice Member

Joined: 2/27/05
Posts: 13

7/12/06 3:10:23 PM#3
funny, in the whole article, no mention of SWG. Pre NGE it was the archetype of how to run characters, you could play a pure crafter fairly easily, and the image designer and entertainer became integral to the game in a unique way. coupling this to the combined auction/ vendor mechanism you had an almost perfect internal economy. The skill system worked a dream as well.

This is not an anti SOE rant, just a comment on how it was the best system and as far as I can gather has not been replictaed anywhere.
  saker

Hard Core Member

Joined: 2/11/04
Posts: 869

Make a WORLD,
Not a Game.

7/12/06 3:31:09 PM#4


Originally posted by Mrbloodworth


The
class system is dieing. It is not they way of the future. More and more MMO's
need to be more open ended and allow more options for players to play they way
THEY wish to play, cobbling together skills they wish to have.
The class system is also what has lead to this notion of "end game",
Endgame, technically in a mmo doesn’t exist, its a lie created by players (This is what they preceive, but they have not seen all content, its just that they are gated from particapating in said missed content becouse of level or power restrictions) . For
some reason, developers are feeding this term.
More open systems of play, wit more options on how you wish to play with be the
future of mmo's. Levels have only ever caused issues with development, such as
"end game" and "lack of content".

The use of a class system from DnD (PnP not online) was a
mistake, in The original DnD systems the GM created the content, this was a
never ending supply. In an MMO this is not the case, the content is static, and
never changing regardless of the players ability or actions, hence the reason
you see the "lack of content" statement. In PnP DnD this would never
have been a phrase used, because that state was imposable to achieve, due to
the fact that the game (The GM) would adapt to you.
The only saving grace from this is the skill based system, where instead of the
game adapting to you, you adapt to the game, and the situation you are in, That
cant be done with linear progression of skills and levels.
2c
/flame suit on



I very much hope that you're right, I deeply dislike the class system and am hopeful that this old lame system will die sooner rather then later. I beleive people will always prefer the freedom of a skill based system. I think the only real reason the class system has existed this long is its easier on developers, and the money-men (the ruin of all good gaming) are always pushing to get that product out the door 3 months ago (and at well before it's actually ready to be shipped). But then it's also high time that the box-on-the-shelf model of selling games was thrown out the door.

  GungaDin

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/06/05
Posts: 494

7/12/06 3:41:24 PM#5

I agree with you.  The Class / Level System is old and uneventful.  The best 2 mmorpgs i've played were Ultima Online and SWG (early on).  Neither had neither class restrictions or a level system.

You could literally make any type of character you wanted.  Crafter/Swordsman, Entertainer/Rifleman etc.  So many possibilities.   The skill based systems were much more fun to tweak your character with. 

Since they didnt have leveling, anyone could join the game and not feel far behind.   In UO once your characters were set you could then enjoy playing and interacting in the world.  New players could catch up within months and there was no need to have to player 24/7 just to keep up with guys at lvl 60.  Your werent buying expansions to gain from lvl 60-70 and then 70-80.  You bought the new expansions for new content that was geared at making the world more interesting, not increase the grind. 

See the Class system goes with a leveling system.  Its tough to have one without the other.  However a skill based character without restrictions on what professions you can choose allows for a more open world without a leveling grind. 

IMO Skill based characters without a leveling system is much more enjoyable and allows for a less stressful player base.  New players can catch up quicker and don't have play ever second of the day to enjoy the game. 

You dont want to work on making a 50 lvl fighter.  You want to have your character set and then concentrate on the content the game provides.  Whether it be quests, wars, raids, pvp, pve etc.  Thats the type of game I enjoyed the most and feel most would prefer.  I just don't see the thrill in leveling a guy from lvl 1 to 90.  Who cares what level you are.   I just want everyone to have their characters set and capable of interacting with everyone else. 

  aschmidt2001

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/20/03
Posts: 3

7/12/06 5:11:59 PM#6
If anyone here has played Asheron's Call then they should understand how a skill-based leveling system is.  In my opinion, I wouldn't want it any other way.  It way truly fun to be able to create ANY kind of character I wanted.  Seeing mages running around with plate mail and warriors using high level offensive magic always spiced up the experience.  Hell, if all you cared about was running speed and jumping you could raise those skills and be faster than heck and jump on top of buildings.  It was always fun to look up and see PvP characters trying to kill eachother while jumping from rooftop to rooftop.  Good times indeed...
  Eosa

Apprentice Member

Joined: 6/04/06
Posts: 10

7/12/06 5:46:08 PM#7

I think the author is mistaken in listing only 3 core classes.  There have always been 4 core classes.  Along with the fighter, cleric, and mage, there have always been rogues.  Rogues have been part of these games from pen and paper, through MUDS, and into today's MMORPGs.  I dont understand why the author thinks the rogue class is somehow new.

As for the level system vs. the skills system discussion above, I would have to say I would opt for the level system if I had to choose one over the other.  However, I would prefer a combination of the two, whereby each level grants you a certain number of skill points to spend. 

-eosa-

  wjrasmussen

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/16/05
Posts: 1504

7/12/06 5:50:52 PM#8

Originally posted by aschmidt2001 
  Seeing mages running around with plate mail and warriors using high level offensive magic always spiced up the experience. 

This is one of the great things about skill based systems, the ability to be vastly different.  Your example is typical of the system. First you have the Spell Casting mage in Plate Armor. Second, the Fighter in Plate Armor who is casting spells.  The possibilties are endless.  Rather than limiting to 4 classes (fighter, mage, cleric, rogue) we will live with the FOTM.  Tank Mages for everyone, except those who haven't learned about the system, then they can be the gimps.
  Rrramiriarn

Novice Member

Joined: 7/03/05
Posts: 33

7/12/06 6:49:13 PM#9

i am going with the anti-class club here.

another detial is that classes are the main reason we have levels in games (because that determines how good you are AS that class), a factor which usually breaks any PvP expirience:

once you know the end of the fight before it starts (just be seeing who has the higher level), then PvP, a potential exciting expirience, becomes a hirarchy of griefing: people killing people in lesser levels.

this is less of a factor in large scale wars, but still is.

the combination of those two classic D&D factors, classes and pvp, just don't transilate into mmo. they are the major reasons for terms such as "end game content" (when the game isn't soppose to have an end), people thinking about pvp as a griefing tool instead of a gameplay expirience, and ofcourse, the worst notion of all: the tredmill.

  Toothman

Novice Member

Joined: 11/09/05
Posts: 74

All That is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

7/12/06 9:30:30 PM#10
Given the 2 choices here I tend to lean more towards the skill based system.   Although while you do have endless possibilities in reality the only people who are different are the PvE players since all the PvP players will have the FOTM  "uber" template.    It tends to split the game into  PvPers and non PvPers since you can't compete unless you have a defense stacker template.   On the other hand there was at least SOME differences in builds and for people like myself who only dabble in PvP  it was a great way to combine wierd abilities that fit me.  Master Weaponsmith / Master Jedi Defender was one of my favorites :-)
GrimToothman Xfire Miniprofile
  Anofalye

Advanced Member

Joined: 11/19/03
Posts: 7442

The enemy is so dumb! They believe that WE are the enemy! - A famous orc commander.

7/12/06 10:25:01 PM#11

Errr...I am sorry but...this writter...he doesn't seem like mastering his topics to me, no offense meant.

Rogue, a new class?  Rogues have always been a vital part of old EQ, not to mention that Thiefs have been a part of old D&D and thereby they have been in all type of MMOs, with rogues names variation and so on (a rogue is an offensive melee character while a thief is usually not very melee at all).

He also fails to mention any form of non-healing, non-damaging, non-tanking supports class.  Again, in old EQ, the enchanter class was the second most popular class just after cleric, yet there was far more clerics than chanters available, which result in groups fighting over the chanters ressources.

Pets class, he favors automatically beastmaster-type...*shrug*.  I think the writer play a LOT of WoW and very little of others MMOs, or that he forgot them.  EverQuest is hardly new and was the most popular MMO in the west for a LONG time.

The fact many newer MMOs seems like they don't have place for buffers class doesn't mean it isn't there and available for any devs team looking to have variety in class.  Variety leads to different grouping experience, which in turn increase the replayability of the game a LOT.  Not only on the aspect of what a player can play, but also on what a player can experience.  WoW take an approach figuring that 6 or 7 class was plenty, as the player will not create more than 6 or 7 characters, this is completely ignoring and discounting the fact that peoples will group only with that little amount of variety, which in turn means far less variations in groups type (a smaller group size help this approach a lot, imagine groups of 6 or 8 with only that amount of classes).  I want to underline again, in red, just how nice the buffing system in DAoC was (maybe incomplete, but I saw the basics and honestly, that is the single feature from DAoC that I remember the most clearly as been nice).

For example, in old EQ, having 2 characters of the same class was something uncommon.  Having 4 characters in two class or 3 in 1 class in the same group was extremely rare.  In WoW, having 2 characters of the same class is frequent.  3 characters of the same class is merely uncommon in WoW.  This leads to far less diversity, far less replayability.  Combine with a smaller grind (nothing wrong there) it make sure that the replayability of the game is much smaller than a game like EQ.

Personnally I believe in the class system, be it in a way like WoW/EQ/DAoC or in a way like CoH.  Skills are good and I will not turn away from a MMO with skills, but...class have many grouping edges.  First, everyone know what are your basic abilities, which help a LOT to build a group.  Second, everyone specialised into a role they personnally enjoy, which helps create bond and friendship...and interdependancy (even if solo is great).

Finally, as to the comment a fighter is dealing low damage, that is true in the MMORPGs, but that is not true in the RPGs at large, where the fighter deal a LOT of damage in the conventional RPGs.

And I didn't even bring the "hybrid" portion, which is nearly completely out of a game like WoW.

- "If I understand you well, you are telling me until next time. " - René Levesque about the denial NO on the poll to his dream, project and goal. (Free translation)

  mikevrk

Novice Member

Joined: 2/20/06
Posts: 36

7/13/06 1:38:02 AM#12

3 archetypes are nice. really. but only as a presets for new players unfamiliar with all skills.
the skill system of "The Elder Scrolls" serie and it's leveling system is the best I've seen


btw I personally think 3 archetypes are not fighter/healer/mage, but fighter/rogue/magic-user instead

imagine 3 coordinates in 3D space - fighting skills/magic attunement/stealth skills and a player subset of skills he uses - like a point in that space. so one can be jack-of-all-trades but with limited skills in each area or pure class with unparalleled capabilites.

  _Shadowmage

Novice Member

Joined: 7/13/05
Posts: 1461

7/13/06 2:20:07 AM#13

The four classic fantasy arch-types are fighter, mage, thief, healer.

One big advantage for devleopers in using classes is they can be modelled and balanced using spreadsheets, which is something you cant do for a class less system. So that makes it a lot easier to balance a game for PvP using classes.

In addition as someone else mentioned classes fit people into roles, so if you need specific roles for specific missions you know who to look for. It also means people know generally what their role is and to some degree what other people will expect them to do.

Having levels provides goals for people to work towards, and a yard stick for them to compare themselves to others.

There are ways to provide more freedom using classes - you can have a dual class system (aka Guild Wars, Heroes Journey) or a hybrid class/skill system where you can develop certain skills within your class and you choose which skills to develop.

Mages not being able to wear platemail is not a fault of the class system, its a fault of how games implement their equipment. Take a look at Heroes Journey - you will be able to have mages in platemail, warriors in rags if you want.


I should point out now - that playing pen & paper role-playing games - my favourites were Runequest and Call of Cthulu both classless - skill systems. Both great games.

One big problem I see in class games is this kill monsters to get loot and experience. I think class systems in general would be way better if there was no experience from killing monsters, and the only experience was from quests.

I also think MMORPG's in general would be better if monsters dropped realistic treasure - hides, bones etc instead of gold, bows swords (unless of course those monsters are using bows and swords).

Online I havent played a game with a skill only system. I have played Guild Wars - and find its dual class system very flexibile and providing many different ways to play the same class due to the skill selection.

  Rattrap

Novice Member

Joined: 9/09/04
Posts: 1594

Freedom of choice
is what you got,
freedom from choice
is what you want!

7/13/06 2:25:29 AM#14

Originally posted by Eosa

I think the author is mistaken in listing only 3 core classes.  There have always been 4 core classes.  Along with the fighter, cleric, and mage, there have always been rogues.  Rogues have been part of these games from pen and paper, through MUDS, and into today's MMORPGs.  I dont understand why the author thinks the rogue class is somehow new.

As for the level system vs. the skills system discussion above, I would have to say I would opt for the level system if I had to choose one over the other.  However, I would prefer a combination of the two, whereby each level grants you a certain number of skill points to spend. 

-eosa-


Heheh totaly right. Rogues ( or dont forget they started as thieves in original D&D) where always there.
Basically in newer MMO's they are just > close combat - hight damage dealer - low armor , opposed to fighter ( tank ) close combat - low damage - high armor

In today MMOs you actually have this specific evolved generic classes

Tank , ranged damage dealer , healer , buffer/de buffer , pet class and close combat damage dealer ...

 rogues ability to stealth (again taken from original thief class) is proving dificult to cope with for many MMOs
also traps disabling and scouting seems to be largely ignored aswell (to much to code i guess)

Like everybody i largely agree on classless system with no levels - but the main reason why mmos go Class/level is the balancing game. The game designers are just not good enough to manage to balance game without it.

Lastly i would like to add Guild Wars to the list of evolved class systems.

In GW levels almost make no diference. And ability to multiclass is so developed there is almost no end to posibilities...

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  idol2000

Novice Member

Joined: 4/14/06
Posts: 9

7/13/06 3:35:00 AM#15
Classes are neither dieing nor a cop-out on the developer's side. Classes are a way to give players a role int he group, a way of playing that they like and can easily recognize.

Having a skill-based system makes group-building tedious. It makes character building a choice between a gazillion skills most of which you might have no clue what they do. And you have to pick skills that work well off each other, that have a meaningful combination.

In a class-system the designers have made a choice of skills that work well and they had the option of polishing the gameplay and the skill interaction.

That may not be desireable by people who want to delve into a deep, broad system. People who want to learn it all and make their own choices.

But in classless systems, how often do you have people picking a template from a forum, because they can't handle the choices, effectively going back to classes? Only player-created ones, with no additional polish, no special consideration from the dev side.

There is a place for classless systems in today's MMO market, but make no mistake, there is also, and will always be, a place for class-based systems.

  alienpriest

Apprentice Member

Joined: 9/05/05
Posts: 36

7/13/06 8:33:09 AM#16
ROGUE-
Actualy this class is no new addition. The rogue has been a part of the party since D&D tabletop in the 1970s. Our fighter takes the agro, and the rogue stands behind the foe, adding large amounts of DPS. Everquest had the rogue in this more basic form, WoW perfected it for the MMO genre.

ENCHANTER-
Now this is a newer class to join the ranks of support, born out of necessity to the MMO combat situation. The Enchanter (or Controller, in CoH) has the duty of crowd controll. Keeping the adds at bay so the party can focus on a specific enemy without having to take on more than they are ready.

The Class based and the Skill based systems of character development have been in existance since before you all owned computers. These are basicaly the only two forms that a tabletop rpg falls into. There came a time in the late 80s/ early 90s that if you tried to invent your own RPG for publishing, editors stopped looking at it, because it was just more of this same two archetypes with different pictures in the books.

All of this can be traced back directly to its origins in the ancient art of miniature wargame rules, and the stats to be found representing the different ranks andn classes of little men made of led doing battle across hand-painted scenery. It is essentialy the foundation of the game, and as such, it won't be dissapearing any time too soon.

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  DeserttFoxx

Elite Member

Joined: 5/11/04
Posts: 2324

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7/13/06 8:38:31 AM#17
I personally like Morrowind - Oblivions style of advancing characters and how classes are made. I would like to see that used in more games. Create your own class, even name it, and advance it anyway you like. More games need to do this. Personally i felt Oblivion shouldnt just been converted to an MMO.

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  buckeyefog

Novice Member

Joined: 3/08/06
Posts: 9

7/13/06 11:48:06 AM#18
The darker side of the evolution is the trend towards smaller and smaller differences in what the classes or skill combinations can do.  In the name of making toons solo viable or game balance, game companies are making the classes more and more alike.  The tricky part is they don't necessarily look alike, and they might have different graphics for their attacks or actions, buts thats all just packaging.  Its really hard to forge a role in a community or guild when everyone can do almost the same thing.  We need more seperation between classes and skill sets, not less, but thats more effort than the game developers are willing to shoulder atm.  And if they package everyone to look unique maybe we'll all be fooled anyway right?  6 million toons in WoW are sure falling for it atm.

Buck
  BushMaster

Staff Writer

Joined: 8/08/03
Posts: 40

7/13/06 12:05:18 PM#19
No, rogues/thieves are not new to rpgs, but mmorpgs hasnt had too many of them, sure they had a thief character or a rogue character, but they were mainly used as fighers. It was not untill real stealth came into the picture that I consider them a true rogue :D

Notice: The views expressed in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of MMORPG.com or its management.

  Netherbeast

Novice Member

Joined: 2/03/06
Posts: 55

7/13/06 12:29:46 PM#20
I've see 3 systems. Class, Dual Class and Skill based systems. But what about a hybrid of all three? The D20 system used in DnD PnP, SW:RPG and Knights of the Old Republic work well. You have your main class, you can multiclass and you can raise skills related to and unrealted to your class. Based on combinations of all of thsoe, you can take a prestige class, something to work twoards.

SW Galaxies had a good skill based system when it began. Unfortunatley all the crafting, cooking, slicing, dancing and hairdresser skills would not let you enjoy the quests or stories in the game. You had to a be fighter of some skill.

As far as level advancement and PvP, City of Heroes does it well with zones specifically for PvP that make everyone the same level. This means a lvl 20's attacks are just as potent as a lvl 50's attacks. Blancing the class powers are another story, but at least level doesnt mean anything.

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