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Don't Be Afraid of Too Many Classes

Tim Eisen Posted:
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Several rounds of voting later we have seen all but the last Camelot Unchained class unveil. After looking over the list (excluding the final one which judging by the silhouette looks very…crouchy) I’ve come to the conclusion that CSE is offering us a solid mix of concepts that range from something old, something new, and combinations of both. I’m sure we will see numerous changes between now and launch but I consider these unveils to be the foundations of what they plan to build and, while some fear the difficulty of balancing 30 unique classes, I like what they are showing us.

With that many classes it’s unlikely everyone loved all of them, and that’s ok, because with if you look through the mix it’s hard not to find a few that appeal to you (given this comes from someone with severe altitis). While some of them sounded a bit more traditional than others all of them have interesting new angles and mechanics. None of them outside of maybe the scouts bordered on being “BSC” which again, is ok with me. No matter how great the game world and its mechanics are, if the classes don’t connect with the players it will end up a greatly empty world quicker than you can say paper-rock-scissors!

I should clarify that “BSC” to me is an idea that is almost or entirely unheard of within the MMO or even gaming genres and it has a high probability to make a large portion of the fans (some more some less) uncomfortable due to it being an unknown unknown. FUD marketing works great to sell books and political agendas but I’m not so sure it works well with crowd funded MMORPGs. (Note to self, make an article with the title “MMORPGs Under Siege, CSE Unprepared, Camelot Unfolding” Sub headline-“Read this if you want to know the thing you don’t know that you should be knowing is an unknown unknown before it’s too late!!!”, then sit back and wait for the clicks to come!)

I dare say classes are possibly the single most dangerous aspect of a MMORPG to tinker with. I’ve met a fair number of players that loved certain games with a passion but I’ve met many more that LOVE “their” classes. The unique thing about MMO classes is, while we eventually have to leave a game behind, we can often jump into a new game with a similar version of that class. I might not even like said game, but if that class can come close enough to the one I loved from my prior game it can keep me playing longer than I would otherwise. It would never be exactly like it was before but it’s a piece of continuity and nostalgia MMOers tend to cling to from game to game. “You can instance my world, you can remove travel time and you can even ruin the crafted economy with loot treadmill gear, but by golly don’t remove my favorite class!” Quote; MMORPG players.

That is why it’s so important to get your classes right. By right I don’t mean balanced, we all know the best class balance is chaos anyway, but by offering up the right mix of variety, old ideas, new ideas and intrigue mixed in to give us something we are familiar with but in a new way that makes is exciting again. Fortunately CSE seems to have had a knack for that exact design process since the beginning. Yes they have the “big BSC” ideas that make all of us excitedly nervous but the majority the concepts that have impressed me the most have been the ones where developers made clever changes to give new life and uncertainty to an old idea (bounties are a great example of this but I happen to be a huge mark for MMO bounty hunting so I’m biased).

In my porch and shotgun MMO vet experience it’s those ideas that often hold up the best over time. That isn’t necessarily because they are “better” than brand new concepts, but rather a mix of what I said above-us already being warm to them because they root back to what we already liked, and them working because they grew from what worked, or almost worked, before. It’s a smart class design approach with a bit less risk up front and the potential for greater success overt time.

So what does that leave us? It appears it left us with the closing paragraph! This is where I tend to kick in the FUD stuff. In the case of these classes, none of which are mirrored, the single most iterated comment I’ve seen is “how can you balance that many classes?”. My response is, as I said prior, with chaos. Balance is impossible and makes for a stale game, chaos, now that is fun to play! Since I’m guessing that response was just deemed inadequate by many of my faithful readers I’ll offer this olive branch. WARNING; the following information was given to me 3rd hand by the most honest and reliable of sources-extreme fanboys-so I can’t put my stamp on it but I’m sure they would be happy to…in the history of MMORPGs it is said that one of the, if not the single most enjoyably balanced PVP centric MMO was DAOC. DAOC had/has a veritable Millennium Falcon full of non-mirrored classes. Therefore the reason I’m confident balance through chaos will work in CU is because MJ might be one of the few people in the industry to ever really make it work before. Then again if the only form of balance is chaos, is there really any balance? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below and remember, “never not be afraid”! ;)


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry