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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

GW2: An Argument Against Balanced Classes

Posted by Meleagar Sunday October 14 2012 at 8:53AM
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What does the term “balanced” mean, when it comes to classes? In most MMOGs, IMO, a “balanced” class means different things when it comes to PvE and PvP.

In PVE, balance generally means that a perfectly played, maximally efficient class will be the functional equivalent of any other class when it comes to the acquiring content that is part of the linear character progression. IOW, when reduced to a mathematical formula, every class (when perfectly played) produces the same value when it comes to gaining levels, farming resources or gold, or contributing to group or raid content.

In PvP, balance means that a perfectly played class will result in a draw with any other perfectly played class (when measured statistically over time).

The concept of “balance”, in any non-arbitrary, objective sense, must refer to a statistical analysis in regards to acquiring specific, mathematically-reducible products. IOW, if any class is not equivalent to any other class in terms being reduced to a numerical variable towards some kind of linear product, then the class is “not balanced”.

My question is: should classes in GW2 be “balanced” at all? Or is this simply a notion rooted in the very kind of MMO structure that GW2 is designed to escape? Doesn’t striving for universal equivalence of professions limit the possible variety, and doesn’t it impose the mentality that all your character is, essentially, is a numerical value in regards to how much it can contribute in a give PvE or PvP situation?

When characters are essentially reducible to how much tanking, dps or healing they provide, then it seems they can be balanced; I’m not sure how one would go about “balancing” the classes in GW2. When you consider all of the variables – all of the variant dodge roll effects, the ability to generate combo fields, character foot speed in aiding in the evasion of MOB attacks and effects, quick revive skills, etc. – unless you just line up one class mano a mano against each other with players dedicated to perfecting those particular classes in PvP, how can anyone claim to have “balanced” anything?

It seems to me that ANET should just abandon the whole notion of “balancing” classes, free up the future for all kinds of new class variations, and just let the general population figure out what they prefer playing. Then, if very few people are playing a certain class, they might take a look at changing something – but, then again, why not have classes that few people enjoy? I think trying to accomplish an even spread of class choices is also a mistake – an attempt to homogenize class appeal. Even if a class is difficult to play, so what? Lots of people enjoy playing difficult-to-play classes.

It seems to me that the idea of a set of “balanced” classes is really only viable when the productivity of a character in a given PvE or PvP setting is essentially reducible to numbers in a formula. Given the structure of combat in GW2, I think that “class balance” should be an idea throw into the same garbage bin as the holy trinity.