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

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

Community Spotlight: How Long Do MMOs Keep You Interested?

Posted by MikeB Thursday September 30 2010 at 3:03PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “How long do MMOs keep you interested?” by Nizur.  Simple and straightforward, Nizur wants to know how many MMOs have held your interest for certain periods of time, and the reason why the one’s you played longest kept you for as long as they did:

“Out of curiosity, how many MMOs have kept your interest longer than a month? 6 months? 1 year or longer? What was it about the MMO you played the longest that kept you there?

Don't list out all the MMOs you've played. Just list the number that fall into each category and list the one that's held your attention the longest. I'll start.

1+ month: 11

6+ months: 5

1+ year: 2

Longest: WoW (3 years)

WoW was my first MMO, so everything was new and exciting. I jumped in a couple of days after launch, so the game was new and fresh for most people. I played steadily until after BC launched. I enjoyed the world PvP, the dungeons, making alts and leveling them with friends. I was part of a really fun, semi-serious raiding guild before BC. It fell apart when BC launched, and my interest kind of fell apart with it.”

Adam1902 played Legend of Mir 2 the longest, and explains why:

“The longest MMO I've been interested in (and still am, but I no longer play) is Legend of Mir. Mir2 alone kept me interested for about 5 years, if you add Mir2 and 3 together, probably about 7 or 8 years.

Next on the list is WoW, which I played on and off from release, and quit half way through TBC Tier 5 raids, me and a friend were still sharing a single Mir account whilst playing WoW. So probably about 2 years for WoW, but 14 or so actual paid subscription months.

Next would be Rohan: Blood Feud. About a year.

And then Darkfall, about 6 months.

If Mir still had the massive playerbase it had 5-8 years ago, I'd still be playing without a doubt. The population was so massive, it was the MMORPG that got most UK gamers hooked on MMOs, because it was shown constantly by the old game hosts (GameNetwork) satallite TV channel on Sky.

Not only was their a ton of people, the different kinds of players were insane. Some people would literally just log on to chill and talk with their mates, and would hardley ever go hunting. Some lived to PK, steal etc. Mir now, is a ItemMall based game, everyone who plays it, plays for the same reason. Grind, PvP, conquer sabuk and MudWall. Not only is the community small, and mostly full of asshats and niche little groups of friends.

I'd love an MMO to capture me as Mir once did, but I'm not getting my hopes up. No point what so ever.”

Murashu played EQ the longest:

“1+ month: Way too many according to my wife.

6+ months: 3

1+ year: 3

Longest : EQ - the combination of a great game with great friends and excellent server community made me want to logon year after year. After almost 4 years, I still loved the PvE side of EQ, but I really wanted a game that offered me both great PvE and PvP so I moved onto SWG where I stayed about 15 months. Now 6 years later I'm still looking for a game that has both fun PvE and PvP but no one seems to get it right.”

Let’s see, for me it would be:

1+ month: like many others, way too many to count!

6+ months: 2

1+ year: 3

Longest: City of Heroes. I’ve played City of Heroes for over four years total (judging by my Veteran Rewards), Obviously, I’ve lapsed here and there but the game is basically my World of Warcraft – I always come back to it. It can be a pretty repetitive game, but the action, variety of powers and customization have kept me coming back. There’s always another character concept to think up, and I just have to make it a reality!

How about you? What MMOs have held your interest longest and why?

A Game of Thrones

Posted by garrett Tuesday September 28 2010 at 6:55PM
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So I have just recently been watching all of the Game of Thrones bits on HBO. I for one am very excited about this miniseries. Although I wish George would finish the book series, I still think this is an awesome take on the books by HBO. At least, I am making that assumption based on the short material I have seen.
Many of you probably think this is a blog about a Game of Thrones MMO. Well that is an easy one: Starks, and Lancasters, and Greyjoys, oh my. Well it is and it isn’t. Basically it is about the approach that HBO takes on a project. From the history of TV shows, HBO seems to give quite a bit of creative freedom to the teams that are making a project. In terms of allowing the writers and directors do their job without corporate hurdles being placed in their way, or always having someone there in an executive role that thinks they know more than the team. From what I have seen HBO is pretty cool about letting the shows form themselves and simply airing them they way they are.
I wonder how this take would work in MMOs? It seems like lately the corporate game machine was so busy racing against World of Warcraft that they forgot the best games are the creative ones, the ones where the team is allowed to pursue an idea within a budget and no one gets in their way.
This approach to MMOs is the shot that it needs. As long as teams can be creative within their budget and not have people come in and make executive decisions based on what they think the players will go for…well that would be something.
Look at Wizard 101, it was created by a team without any major corporation throwing its weight around behind it. The game was designed and built by gamers with a passion for their product. No one got in the way, now Wizard 101 is one of the most successful MMOs out there.
Now since I lured you in with A Game of Thrones, I will say this. As normal fantasy goes, if the HBO series is a massive success, you will likely see a rush of games come out as well. Will you see an MMO? It is always possible. Yet, in my book the only way to do a Game of Thrones MMO right is to choose a Household and fight for that side. Have the tides of war change hands and various factions in the game. There wouldn’t be any real monsters, expect maybe dragons. It would also have to take place during the storyline of the books similar to Lord of the Rings Online. In a nutshell it would be fun, but Game of Thrones will always be books to me, the same as Conan and Lord of the Rings, long before they are anything else.
In the end, hopefully the MMO world will learn to keep creative teams working on games and not push the corporate race for millions. Just make a good game and the players will come. In terms of the Game of Thrones HBO Series…I cannot wait. I am re-reading the books now. As for George R.R. Martin, well George, the Giants season is going lousy, there isn’t much to do, so please finish a Dance with Dragons!

Red Dead Online?

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday September 28 2010 at 5:03PM
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So after having the game since the first week of launch, I finally hopped onto an online session of Red Dead Redemption with my best friend/best man.  Now I find myself with a new gaming addiction.  It’s amazing how close RDR’s online component comes to being an MMO version of their hit game.  If it was more persistent than just giving the player some levels to achieve, and threw in a true form of consistent player gangs, maybe some wild west housing, and a barter-system economy, and more than a mere 8 (16?) people per server, and you’d basically have a fully-featured wild west MMO. 
You can hop into a free roam game solo, band up with or against the other players, and go on a mass crime spree.  Or if you’re the more responsible type you can rove the map taking out gangs, and hunting down players who begin doing too much “wrong”.  There’s even still loot to acquire, levels to gain and gear to unlock.  GTAIV was pretty incredible as an online experience, but Read Dead Redemption ups the ante even more putting the RAGE engine through the paces and making the online experience nearly as compelling (if not more so) than the single-player experience. 
And it really makes me wonder, are they doing as much to test the waters for a fully online experience?  Will Rockstar do what Realtime Worlds couldn’t?  Will there be a GTA or a Red Dead MMO in the near future?  Will Batman and Robin ever escape the clutches of the evil Penguin?  Sorry, I started to feel like an announcer at the end of the old West/Ward Batman show.  But you see my point don’t you?  It seems as though with their last two open world games, Rockstar is trying their hand at a persistent online experience.   2K and the Scotland-based developer are probably well aware of the potential, but do they have the guts?

Community Spotlight: Are you Happy with the Evolution of MMOs?

Posted by MikeB Thursday September 23 2010 at 12:58PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Are you satisfied with how MMORPG’s have evolved?” by Creslin321. In the thread, Creslin321 comments on the evolution of the MMORPG genre and is curious to find out on the community’s opinion on the direction the genre is moving:

“When the graphical MMORPG genre was born, most games focused on a "virtual world" sandbox experience.  They featured large, expansive worlds, and attempted to make players feel like they were "part" of the world.  Many players enjoyed the freedom and flexibility these games offered.  However these games were not user friendly at all, and sometimes it could feel like they lacked direction.

As the genrea has progressed, games have become more streamlined and user friendly.  While the worlds are generally smaller, they are typically jammed packed with quests and such for players to do.  Many players enjoy the accessibility of these games.  However, others feel that the linear nature of these games make them shallow and the focus on leveling and large power-gaps makes players feel forced to "grind."

So what do you think?  How satisfied are you with the way that the MMORPG genre has evolved?  Do you think it has gone in the wrong direction, the right direction, or something in-between?”

Kyleran feels MMOs have become simplified and narrow in focus:

“When I played early MMO's I was impressed with the "virtual world" feel they had, and figured in the future they'd only get better. Instead they were simplified and narrowed in focus to make them more appealing to a broader audience and today's games are a shadow of what I thought this genre would evolve to.”

Drakynn dislikes the trend towards the F2P business model:

“I'm satisified in some regards and dissatisfied in others....I have notihng against intancing dungeons as others do because I remember the reason isntancing was implemented whixch was the vast majority of peopel were tire dof being having their boss stolen or mobs trained on them by other groups etc,it wa sone of the biggest complaints back in the day and isntancing was the response,however I tihnk instancing is being taken way too far by a few companies.

I don't like the push toward cash shops especially sub + cash shops and see it as one step closer to another market crash in the video games market. I really don't give a dman about the them park V Sandbox BS arguements here I enjoy both as long as they are actually good games.

I do agree thoguh the MMO genre as a whole is evolving very slowly compared to it's single and small scale multiplayer coutnerparts.”

Explorium is quite happy with the way things have gone, as they allow him to actually play while still maintaining a real life:

“I am happy with how they evolved. Unlike some people on here, I have a life...and I'm glad MMOs are becoming more casual based. No longer do I have to play 12 hours or more a day to compete with no-lifers. I can actually be a part of RAIDS, where as, before only hardcore no-lifers could be a part of them. I can actually take part in MMOs now, where as, before I couldn't.

I'm very happy with the way they are going. I no longer have to play MMOs as a second JOB, but now I can play it as what they are...a “

Like Drakynn, I too am a bit mixed with the way things have progressed. I do appreciate that the games have become a bit streamlined and easier to approach, however, this often seems to come with the cost of depth, and so we are left with games that are generally easier to approach, but are also fairly shallow. The earlier games of the genre were often overwhelming in their complexity, and so a middle-ground would have been preferable. It is also unfortunate that the concept of a “virtual world” or “sandbox” type MMO has really been all but abandoned by AAA developers. The commercial failure of many of these games in the past (read: Star Wars Galaxies) and the wild success of the themepark-styled World of Warcraft has all but doomed the sandbox/virtual world genre to niche games by smaller developers.

On the upside, there are enough new games on the horizon that are genuinely interesting that I am sure to be hard pressed for time to try and divide my time amongst them.

Never Really Logging Out

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday September 21 2010 at 8:13PM
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After today's announcement about Guild Wars 2's Extended Experience on the iPhone, iPad, and Droid devices I'm starting to wonder just when I'm ever going to truly log out of my MMOs.  WoW has its own app for Auction Houseneeds and the like too. I suppose it's only a matter of time before we're not only playing MMOs on our PCs and consoles but on our phones while we're taking the train or bored at work too. 

The only question is, do we need to be that connected?  I'm the first one to admit that I can barely go a day without checking my e-mail or well, viewing this site.  But do I really want the temptation to check up on my guild and auctions and the world I play in to escape real life all day long?  I feel like after eleven years of MMO gaming, six years of college that I've finally gotten a reasonable grasp on my ability to not spend all day on a Saturday logged in.  With stuff like this, I'll suddenly find myself on family vacations checking out what's happening in Tyria while I soak up sun on the beach.

Okay, wait a minute.  This could be good. Let's work the other angle.

I don't know about all of you, but half the time I spend online with any MMO is spent doing the kinds of things that could be handled with an app like the one ArenaNet is crafting.  What if I could take care of all of my MMO "busy work" while I'm on breaks at work or while I'm otherwise too occupied to actually log in.  Then when I do have the time to play the game I could actually spend all my time... you know, playing.

Community Spotlight: The Most Enjoyable Grind?

Posted by MikeB Thursday September 16 2010 at 11:59PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Which MMORPG makes the “grind” most worthy or enjoyable for u?” by Kopogero.  In the thread, Kopogero wonders what readers feel are the MMOs that provide the most enjoyable “grind” experience or are worth grinding in to begin with:

“I either feel way too behind with old games like Ultima Online, Everquest 2, EVE Online or I can't find variety of fun, innovative  things in recently released games. Some of those fun things for me used to be player housing, character development (which seems so limited now), fun crafting, freedom and meaningful PvP, and overall feeling like I am literally part of the world.

Discuss released games only and guess FFXIV can count too. My biggest problem with MMORPG's is I don't find the drive, the will as before to go "hardcore" on a current MMORPG.”

Terroni offers a litany of games that he enjoys the grind in:

“I really enjoy grinding in Guild Wars(yeah not an mmo) because it's like honing an art (unless you just copy builds) It's fun seeing how much you can do and the ways you can do it.

I also enjoyed grinding in Fallen Earth(beta). Basically found an ideal situation in which mobs were like free XP.

I think the crafting aspect of FFXIV makes the grind more enjoyable. The loot you get can be used to create stuff, making the grind profitable. I see PvE as resource gathering in that game.

The only game I played that has housing was Vanguard. Gathering the materials for a house, guild hall, or a ship was a monumental grind. It was fun and the gathering we did in groups so it made it social also.”

Blackthorn gets a bit nostalgic, reminiscing of his grinding days in the original EverQuest:

“original EQ.  spending hours sitting in RM, SK Spires, Guk, Sol A and B, getting to know the people you were grouping with.  Not go-go-go-kill-loot-go-go-go.  I miss that in todays speedfreak mmos.  I miss taking a corner of a dungeon, pulling mobs to a group waiting to kill, having to actually use CC, offtanking, and more knowledge of your class than 1, 2, 3 rotations.  I miss EQ, too bad I have a life of sorts now and can't afford to spend 5 hrs a night 5 nights a week raiding anymore, was the best 6 years of gaming I've had, since then it's been a shadowplay really.”

SnarlingWolf takes great pleasure in Asheron’s Call’s highly rewarding loot system:

“Asheron's Call all the way.

The loot system means that while you are out "grinding" your levels that next kill could have the best weapon/piece of gear on it.

The rare system that has been recently updated means any creature in the game could drop that truly amazing rare.

Monthly content updates means constantly having new things to do. 11 years worth of these updates means there is a ton of content in game to explore.

Designing my character to fit my playstyle instead of having to be stuck with class X and perform role B.

Truly the best game out there.”

For me, the most enjoyable grind is in City of Heroes/Villains. It really helps that in that game there is such a variety of character possibilities and the peak of your power is so high that it’s fun to be able to measure the progression of challenges you’re is able to solo as you work towards some crazy build you’ve come up with. Soloing missions meant for eight players or taking on Archvillains and Heroes by yourself is a great blast (literally!).

Share your thoughts on your most enjoyable grind in the comments below!

Could the DCUO Quiet Be Good?

Posted by BillMurphy Tuesday September 14 2010 at 4:34PM
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Like many of you, I’m itching for more details on SOE’s DC Universe Online.  Having played it a bit at E3, and being a giant comic book dork, I’m anxious to know more about the character creation, the final power set listings, the complexity of the Secret Identity system, and so on and so forth.  And while I can pester and bug the developers as much as I want, they’re not going to reveal anything until they feel they’re ready.  And maybe that’s the “good” in all the silence.

Gamespot recently published a pretty lengthy review after an extended hands-on that goes a bit more into how questing and power-selection works.  Even though real concrete details about those powers weren’t given, they can’t be that much further around the bend… can they?  I mean while even I’m growing concerned about the November 2nd release date since the beta has apparently not yet begun, I suspect that even if a delay is imminent we’ll be getting our details sooner rather than later.

The game’s been in the cooker for years now.  It was largely playable at many shows all summer long.  The collector’s edition and pre-order details are locked in.  If it slips, it’s only going to slip by a few months at most, according my expert (READ: not really) brain.  And in this age of instant gratification and internet news streaming to our digital everything, I think we’ve gotten a little too accustomed to knowing all there is to know about a game for years before release. 

In this case with DCUO, we know to expect a Superhero MMO with action-based controls and huge cities to explore.  We know there will be a wide range of customization options from our looks to our weapons and powers.  We know that we can play good or evil.  We  know there will be guilds, secret identities, “dungeons”, and so forth even if we don’t know specifics.  Why can’t we be surprised by the rest as we discover it all in nearer to and at launch?

Of course, maybe the real reason I’m so antsy is because I’m worried that the reason for the silence is more about “it’s far away from finalized” than “it’s going to be awesome and we want to surprise you.”  I guess we’ll know when we know, right?

Guild Wars 2 and DAOC

Posted by garrett Monday September 13 2010 at 2:36PM
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If you read our interview with the content design team from Guild Wars 2 last week you know what I am talking about already. However, I still cannot stress how much one sentence has been banging in my head like that god damn monkey with the cymbals.
“The other thing that I think is important and this is not a direct answer, but we have World vs. World PvP in Guild Wars 2. I think that will impact PvE as well. Which is your server shard matched up against two other servers in open world PvP. If you like Dark Age of Camelot, this is, in our minds the next evolution of that. It is something that really drove community and you care about what you are doing on a PVE and PvP side. You care about the people on the server.” – Colin Johansen, Lead Content Designer
I know I have said it many times, that DAOC had the single best game idea in MMOs: three realms battling each other for power and control. If a realm was in power, the other two would bring them down, eventually. The benefits of this power were, holding Darkness Falls, the best place to level in the game, access to bonuses in PvP, and overall bragging rights.
One of the main things that kept me playing DAOC all the way up until WoW was the feeling of realm pride. Now it looks like Guild Wars 2 is attempting to bring that back on a server wide level. Putting 3 servers against each other is awesome. Having them fight in open world PvP is awesome. Also, linking PvE server raids and achievements so that the entire server benefits and eventually can link those benefits to PvP is really awesome. I don’t know where to begin on this….
If Arena Net can make this system work and it somehow mirrors the feeling players got from the early days of DAOC…it will be a joining of the old and new in MMOs which could create a truly intesne environment for players.
If you don’t like PvP, no prob, you are still helping your server in PvE encounters. If you want to go and fight it out with the others…go and battle other shards. It really is great.
 I cannot get this idea out of my head. I cannot wait to see Colin at NY Comicon next month to ask him more about it ( is hosting a Guild Wars 2 panel…hint hint).
Again I do apologize for how many blogs I have done on this topic, I just feel like Arena Net are the first to finally bring something back to MMOs I truly enjoyed.

Community Spotlight: Your Most Frightening MMO Experience

Posted by MikeB Thursday September 9 2010 at 5:40PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Most frightening thing you’ve seen in a MMO?” by Oracle_Fefe.  What was Oracle_Fefe and the community’s most frightening experiences? Read below to find out:


“Although its probably very outdated and dumb-looking for some. Seeing around 6 of the most badass heroes in Runescape get one-shotted by the Mahjarrat Lucien Did give me a little sore. I've spent months and tons of gold finishing Lunar Diplomacy and Dream Mentor, and the guy I saved who became a big hero just gets blasted to bones, then dust by the bastard.”

Loktofeit found his experience in the Olthoi Lair to be the most frightening:

“Being in the Olthoi Lair for the first time and trepidaciously moving furhter and further into the maze-like depths. I looked up at the radar and it started to fill more and more with dots. It was a like a scen from an Alien movie. The chattering of the Olthoi got louder and louder as they moved closer and closer. I was able to both see and hear the swarm of massive bugs navigating the maze, heading in my direction. My Monarch and I stood back to back in the narrow corridor and fought them off with several near-death incidents. The sights and sounds that led up to the battle really built up the tension. There was a moment of panic I had as I saw an olthoi for the first time, turning a corner and charging straight at me, followed by what looked like a dozen more of them.”

Brif injects some humor to the discussion:


Divion, a hardened U.S. Marine, admits even he found himself scared in an MMO:

“You know for the most part i just laugh at the notion of "Something scarey in an MMO"

Sure there were moment in EQ when i saw a massive train heading my way, and my heart sank, but that inspired anger, not fear.

I mean, hell i'm a U.S. Marine, a video game can't scare me right?


The scariest shit i've seen in a game was in Requiem, you know, when the in-game time hits midnight..... it's dark... a thick foggy mist rolls in... and then... the glowing eyes pierce through the mist, red, angry, unforgiving eyes... of a Nightmare spawn... their aggro range is HUGE, it screams, and takes off chasing, you - But.. your flanked by a cliff.. no choice but to fight this ugly psycho monster chasing you, then the battle ensues, you stand victorious, bleeding, near death. You smile because you survived the encounter... just as you sit to rest, you see 5 more sets of angry glowing eyes followed by shrilled screams.

But that game was a Horror-MMO, so it was expected, lol.”

I can’t say I’ve ever found myself frightened in an MMO, but I’ve certainly been creeped out before, The end of beta event for The Matrix Online was quite creepy, for example. The game featured unique tech that allowed for the developers to adjust the properties of the sky whenever they wanted to, the day the beta servers were to go down a large singular eye appeared in the sky, and as the day went on the sky began to darken a blood red and filled with images of eyes as far as one could see across the sky. Of course, there were other creepy aspects to the event, such as all the billboards in the city being replaced with messages along the lines of “GET OUT NOW,” and the spread of a flame virus which set the Megacity’s populace ablaze.

A short clip of the final moments of beta can be found here. It was pretty creepy for sure!

What was your most frightening MMO experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Aion Anew

Posted by BillMurphy Wednesday September 8 2010 at 6:00PM
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I’m going to admit something here… until yesterday, I’d never played Aion. Gasp!

I know that as a writer for this site I’m supposed to on top of every major MMO release, but Aion was one that just slipped by. My work never required me to look into it, and I was too busy with other games to really give it a look. I was okay with this when, after the game’s first month or so had flown by the general consensus seemed to be that the beginning was great, but the middle and later parts got bogged down by a long leveling grind via killing mobs. And as an admittedly slow leveler who prefers leveling via quests to the old school ways of monster farming, I felt like I’d dodged a bullet.

But then the swag came. At PAX this year players, fans, and press who attended the Aion: Assault on Balaurea panel were greeted with a nice surprise on their chair… a newly minted retail copy of the game in its Assault on Balaurea packaging. It seems that Aion is really trying to rebrand itself as the free expansion launches by putting new boxes on store shelves and letting the press and players know that they’ve been listening to their complaints since the game launched.

Now whether or not those complaints really have been addressed is yet to be discovered. I know from talking to friends and fans that in the late teens is when players first run into content gaps, and then again in the late twenties. I’m going to be putting my all into playing Aion for the next couple months, and hopefully even though I’m a newbie I’ll be able to stack my experiences up with those of the game’s initial reviews and see if NCSoft has indeed improved the experience for the Elyos and Asmodians of the world.

Plus, really, what excuse do I have anymore for not having tried Aion? Best swag of PAX 2010? The free game of course! Now if only I could have convinced the guys at the Duke Nukem Forever booth to give me the same. Maybe next time.

What about you? Have you spent time in Aion? Did you leave, only to come back with the launch of 2.0? Share your thoughts on the game! I’d love to hear them.

Community Spotlight: Class-based vs. Skill-based Systems

Posted by MikeB Friday September 3 2010 at 5:24PM
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This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on the thread “Class based vs freeform skill based” by mmoguy43. In the thread, mmoguy43 examines the differences between class and skill based MMOs, and polls the community on their preferences:


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.


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 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.”

Twrule prefers class-based systems:

“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.”

KirinRahl prefers skill-based systems:

“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.”

Cor4x breaks down a number of other alternatives not covered in the main topic:

“Something I haven't seen mentioned here, although Loke666 touched on it above, is a segment based skillset similar to that used in Matrix Online and similar to that originally in SWG.

Basically you have a skill tree and a certain number of points to allocate. How you get the skills per tree is not relevant but could be class / level based if you prefer.

The main problem with skill based point allocated games (such as AO) is that you can gimp your character if you are not careful and allocation (such as in AO) was insanely hard. If you like spreadsheets (like me) then you'll do OK in AO.

The problem with skill-use games (such as Darkfall and UO) is that they're rarely balanced (as so mentioned) as to use-time / skill point gain and give rise to macroing and stupid leveling tricks.

The problem with class rigid games (the Everquests & WoW to some extent) is that everyone looks like everyone else.

The problem with class bolt-on AA games (EQ end-game and WoW) is that there is the One Build To Rule Them All for raiding, PVP, and PVE. Generally the best bang for the buck is number-crunched and used. Often these titles do NOT have accurate reporting on exactly what  you spend your points on. Generally resetting points or respecing is difficult and gimping your character is a major source of angst.

The problem with loose class-choice systems (such as CoX) is that you make a few choices from a limited pool set. This allows some customization and you can gimp your character. Same reset issue as above.

The problem with dual-class choice systems (such as Runes of Magic) is that your biggest choice that effects your game is made at character creation. Some class hybrids do not seat well with each other or at all.

All of them are hard to balance.”

I found myself personally conflicted when reading through this thread as far as my own preferences go until I read Cor4x’s post above. Star Wars Galaxies and The Matrix Online’s systems were my favorite implementations. The Matrix Online simply required you level up, which gave you more points to spend on abilities in any of the trees, how far you go was really only gated by how much money you had, and things could certainly get quite expensive. Star Wars Galaxies offered a ton of flexibility, but no level requirements, only requiring you earn the experience for the skills you wanted, and the skill points (out of 250) to spend on them. Balance is going to be an issue with any of these systems, though. Just about every game out there has balance issues, it’s a continuing struggle that often persists through the entire life of a game.

What do you prefer? Class based? Skill based? Something else? Let us know in the comments below!