Why character classes in RPGs are stupid

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dawnofcrow
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Why character classes in RPGs are stupid

whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster and when you look into the abyss, the abyss also look into you, -Friedrich

Interdictor
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Meh - they serve their

Admittedly, I'm not too fond of strict classes in my Pen and Paper games, in fact my favourite P&P RPG has no classes whatsoever (Mutants and Masterminds), but I can see their purposes in certain games, which are flavour, genre emulation, niche protection, and internal & external balance. In some games particular paths to power could preclude you from taking advantage of other paths; if you are a Combat Cyborg on Rifts Earth, you can learn to use all kinds of mundane skills and weapons, but magic and psionics are forever lost to you. Other games that have classes are a little more forgiving; a 5th edition D&D Wizard can certainly wear full plate, use a long sword and still cast spells....if he/she has proficiency in heavy armour and longswords.

In CRPGs, there is no GM/DM/storyteller to moderate the game experience according to the party composition, so the aspects of niche protection and external balance are much more important here. In multiplayer games, having classes with distinct abilities can also encourage teaming.

In regards to this game (CoT) we will effectively have "soft classes"; we select our specialization/niche (melee damage, ranged damage, support, controls, defense and - eventually - pets) but after that we will have some good options to diversify our playstyle through our secondary powers, tertiary powers, masteries and the way we slot all of the above. One could argue that "soft classes" can fit in the supers genre, and while having a completely free-form system is most desireable, all we have to do is look as far as Champions Online to see how teaming in that game goes.

TL/DR - I can see the argument against classes, and agree with many of the points, but I think they still have their uses, especially in multiplayer video games where there is no GM and where teaming should be encouraged.

Empyrean
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Interdictor wrote:
Interdictor wrote:

TL/DR - I can see the argument against classes, and agree with many of the points, but I think they still have their uses, especially in multiplayer video games where there is no GM and where teaming should be encouraged.

+1.

Coming from a PnP background with CoH as my very first MMORPG, years ago I would have agreed that classes are "stupid"--in theory.

Now, having played a few games, including an attempts at actual classlessness like Champions and The Secret World, I feel CoH hit pretty close to a best-of-both-worlds sweet spot with "soft classes"--and it looks to me like CoT is moving a step closer to that sweet spot by going a hair softer with an even broader range of options planned (not for launch, of course).

The "classless MMORPG" thing is like communism. It sounds very intuitive, exciting, and works great IN THEORY, but when you actually try to DO it? Not so much...

FIGHT EVIL! (or go cause trouble so the Heroes have something to do.)

Lothic
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Empyrean wrote:
Empyrean wrote:

The "classless MMORPG" thing is like communism. It sounds very intuitive, exciting, and works great IN THEORY, but when you actually try to DO it? Not so much...

This is a good analogy for this. The ultimate "holy grail" goal is always going to be to allow players to do whatever they want to do in any game without being restricted by arbitrary class limitations. This is why even back during CoH's beta phases they attempted to implement a classless "free choice" powers system which, as history proved, failed disastrously.

Classless games systems can work in PnP situations because you have a human GM which can dynamically adjust and account for what the players try to do on-the-fly. The GM can always balance out the inherent imbalance of a classless system. But in CRPG situations (at least so far) the game systems are not flexible enough to account for all the craziness the players can dream up.

Maybe in a few more decades computers will become AI-aware enough to be able to handle the role of a real-life human GM for games like this. By then we may all be living in the Matrix anyway. ;)

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Deathwatch101
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The thing with classless

The thing with classless systems, games tend to be designed even if they use that style around the holy trinity of combat classes, this makes things harder in some retrospects when you take into account players can do crazy things.

If you designed your raiding around having tank, healer and three dps but had no classes, then your content would be designed by something you've developed from the classless system as those roles, which means either you lack efficiency or make it too hard for example.

Lothic
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Deathwatch101 wrote:
Deathwatch101 wrote:

The thing with classless systems, games tend to be designed even if they use that style around the holy trinity of combat classes, this makes things harder in some retrospects when you take into account players can do crazy things.
If you designed your raiding around having tank, healer and three dps but had no classes, then your content would be designed by something you've developed from the classless system as those roles, which means either you lack efficiency or make it too hard for example.

This is a good point. For a computer-based RPG to be "flexible" enough to handle any kind of classless build a player could create it would have to be balanced for the full spectrum of capability a player could produce ranging from the completely helpless self-gimped red-shirt all the way to the min/maxed tank-mage god. The common denominator would make such a game far too simple for players who created well-balanced killing machines or at the very least create a huge gulf between players who know how to make decent builds and those players who haven't figured it out yet. Half the players would get bored and the other half would rage-quit in frustration.

A class system helps reign in the extremes on both ends so that it's less likely to be able to build a completely gimped character while at the same time less likely to make an overpowered god at the same time.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

Radiac
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I agree with Lothic.

I agree with Lothic.

Also, there's a difference between a story that one wants to write and a game that one plays. Games need to have rules for people to interact with each other. If classes are part of the rules of the game you're playing and you don't like them, then you're playing the wrong game. If you're apt to keep playing and lament the fact that your wizard takes massive negative modifiers for wearing armor, you have to understand that for every player who just wants their character to have all the cool stuff that you envisioned in your mind when you conceived of the character, there are other players who ONLY bother to figure out how to be as powerful as possible and almost completely ignore the flavor text. The player who wants to write and tell a story, when he get's a Ring of Three Wishes will probably ask himself what his character would want, even if it's not a better sword or anything that makes him more powerful. He might ask for the true love of the fair maiden or for the courage to tell his parents that he's not going to go into the family car dealership business and wants to pursue a career in archaeology instead, etc. The min/maxer ALWAYS immediately asks for infinite additional wishes.

In the context of designing a toon, the story teller wants the freedom to write their character their own way. They might have a very good reason why their wizard wears full plate and don't want to have to take penalties over it. The min/maxer will simply take every advantage you're willing to allow and not bother to explain any of it. If the game is going to appeal to both of those types of players, there have to be rules to balance what is possible so that the greedy min/maxers always lose something for gaining something, and while this may stifle one's creativity in the RPG, it is the gameyness of the game that requires it. It's akin to limiting people to rolling 2d6 in Monopoly. You can't just be like "I'm this like uber real estate mogul and I work way hard so I roll d10s instead -- no really, I have a whole backstory all written.....guys? Where's everyone going, I thought we were playing Monopoly?" because it's a game, not just story telling. Games have rules, and as such will always in some ways limit player's creativity to whatever moves or choices are allowed and legal within those rules.

R.S.O. of Phoenix Rising

Little Red Ragnarok
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Empyrean wrote:
Empyrean wrote:

Coming from a PnP background with CoH as my very first MMORPG, years ago I would have agreed that classes are "stupid"--in theory.
Now, having played a few games, including an attempts at actual classlessness like Champions and The Secret World, I feel CoH hit pretty close to a best-of-both-worlds sweet spot with "soft classes"--and it looks to me like CoT is moving a step closer to that sweet spot by going a hair softer with an even broader range of options planned (not for launch, of course).

I agree with this statement. Ironically, I feel like the archetype system in City of Heroes gives you more freedom to design characters/builds than the classless Champions Online. I feel like CoT is going to be better step in that direction. I think the key with a good class system is having options, which CoH provided. In other words, if I have to pick being a Fighter, it's great to have enough different and viable options to make my character unique.

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Radiac wrote:
Radiac wrote:

Also, there's a difference ... and legal within those rules.

Radiac, that whole post was well written. Bravo.

To continue with this thread, in Guild Wars 2 every character is a hybrid. This had led a good number of people to lament the lack of necessary teamwork in group content. And because of the lack of teamwork, there is a corresponding lack of communication. I believe the designers have responded to this feedback in more recent content with other mechanics that require players to communicate. The Octovine is a good examle of players having to coordinate for reasons other than fulfilling the roles of the trinity.


I like to take your ideas and supersize them. This isn't criticism, it is flattery. I come with nothing but good will and a spirit of team-building. If you take what I write any other way, that is probably just because I wasn't very clear.
Radiac
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As far as I can tell, the

As far as I can tell, the main differences between toons in GW2 is the type of armor you wear and the damage output. Classes that wear light armor do the most DPS, classes that wear heavy armor do the least, and classes that wear medium armor are somewhere inbetween.

They have different MECHANICS for different classes, so they feel different, and some heal and buff better than others, but everyone has a self heal, everyone can do some damage, and everyone can solo pretty effectively.

R.S.O. of Phoenix Rising

Fireheart
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GW2's heavy armor wearers

GW2's heavy armor wearers also don't get a runspeed enhancing power, like all of the others do. What's more, that heavy armor... doesn't really protect that much better. Definitely not like the difference between a Scrapper and a Tanker.

Be Well!
Fireheart

dawnofcrow
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i agree u guys and i play The

i agree u guys and i play The Elder Scrolls® Online give you choose skill act (i.e how your fire act do lot damage or aoe damage or low mana spell)

whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster and when you look into the abyss, the abyss also look into you, -Friedrich