Saturday, July 12, 2008

classes vs roles (response to Warhammer news)

If you're interested in Warhammer Online at all, you've probably read about Mythic's decision to drop four classes before their imminent launch. I respect that they're willing to abandon or postpone so much content for the sake of quality, but I'm not sure yet if this specific move was a smart idea.

Questions arise only because they removed the tank of two factions and the barbarian (melee DPS) of two factions... while leaving other factions with both tanks and barbarians. Jacobs has said they don't expect a balance issue, despite the uneven role distribution. I think whether or not they're right depends on the fundamental nature of classes in Warhammer Online.

It's possible for the removal of classes (on one side but not the other) to not upset balance... but only if the classes are designed more in the style of Diablo 2 than in the style of typical MMOs.
  • In a typical MMO, each class is designed primarily to fulfill a specific role in group combat. The class's efficiency outside a group or outside that specific role in the group is secondary and generally suffers in some way(s).
  • In Diablo 2, on the other hand, each class is designed to be a damage-dealing powerhouse in itself, and any class can be tailored to a variety of roles in group combat. The specific skills, open skill selection and upgrade system, open stat selection, and mostly-open item system make this possible. Even the barbarian can be made into a ranged support role through skill and stat selection.
I prefer Diablo 2's system. There was no need to nerf one class and empower another after release, because every character is so unique and optimization is subjective in that game. Also, it's possible to have a very effective group comprised of any class combination... including all characters of one or two classes. Any choice can be both fun and efficient in that game.

I know that WAR is abandoning many ridiculous MMO traditions. And I know they want every class to be capable of soloing. So it's possible that Jacobs is right, and there's really not a severe balance issue caused by this recent move by Mythic. We'll just have to wait and see, right?

In any case, I recommend Diablo 2 as a model for anyone working on a skill or class system.

1 comment:

  1. I'm worried about how the class balance will end up myself. I'm concerned that the lack of melee DPS will throw the casters into being overpowered. The tanks being gone doesn't much matter in the long run because an equal number of melee dps were removed.

    It should be interesting to watch and see.


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