Stay Classy

Over at the Zen of Design, a post has been made and hopefully a violent and bloody discussion will ensue. The post is about Classes in MMOs.

Somewhere around my room I’ve got a document I started about class design. See, I really hate the way many games implement classes. You make one choice, at creation, and you are stuck. A warrior is a warrior, a cleric is a cleric. You are what you are and so is everyone else. Basically, EverQuest. World of Warcraft managed to do one better and essentially each class is actually three classes since you can choose to focus your talent points in one of three trees. I like this flexibility, so much so that I play a shadow priest in WoW… that’s a priest who is okay at healing, but better at dealing damage. I love it.

Back to my document. The idea I had for class design involved giving the players more on an illusion of control. What you would do is group skills together into sets, or schools as I called them. All melee weapons would be in a melee combat school, wearing armor and armor types falls into the defence school, healing arts both magic and non-magic fall into a healing school, and so on. In the end I had 6 or 7 schools that covered most things. Then each player would choose the ranks of his schools. They could put defence first, and melee combat second… making them a warrior… putting healing third might make them a minor paladin type, if they went defence then healing and melee combat third that would be a major paladin, healing first then defence then melee makes them a cleric, healing/melee/defence makes them a healing monk, melee/healing/defence makes them a fighting monk… and so on, involving all the schools. At first glance this looks like a ridiculous amount of freedom for the players, but in reality it is a very finite number of “classes” and all balance can be approached from that angle. No need to worry about someone maxing healing and melee and defence and damage spell casting because its not possible, if fact the ranking can inherantly reduce the effectiveness of the skills in that school, and since everyone will have to place one school at the lowest rank it means that everybody will suck at something.

Essentially, all I’m really saying is… totally unrestricted skill systems are bad, and totally rigid class systems are bad. A good system is just floating somewhere in the middle, a nice balance between player freedom and developer control.


  1. […] I was away, of course, but i am sure that plenty of people have expected me to jump in on the never-ending debate on class-based systems. So I thought I should, but with brevity. […]

  2. […] The topic of “Class vs Skill Systems” is a very very very very very very very very popular topic right now. […]

  3. […] How did I miss this? There’s been a flare up of the Class vs. Skill debate recently. You can track it across multiple blogs: Nerfbat, Zen of Design, Broken Toys, Moorgard, Nerfbat, Probably Not, Sierra Kilo, Raph Koster, World IV. […]

  4. Jason says:

    This post will probably lead to the most traffic my site has ever gotten.

  5. […] Stupid posts: Raph Koster, Probably Not, Zen of Design, Broken Toys. […]

  6. Amended the trackback to be not quite so offensive. You have been upgraded to uninformed heathen.

  7. I finally got around to elaborating on exactly why you are an uninformed heathen. Enjoy : p

  8. […] But what about classes, you might be asking… especially since I wrote a post a while back about staying with classes, and another on my version of a class system. I still think players should have to pick starting attributes, and I think they should still have to pick a class, for lack of a better term, and award them with a bonus to certain skills when it comes to training. And I would even still do that by grouping the skills into sets and having the players rank the sets. And yes, I would still allow players to change their set rankings later in game (through quest or something). Would this allow players to game the system? Sure. They could rank combat the highest and train combat, then change ranks to merchant skills and train crafting. But, to me, it would not matter… no matter what system you come up with, some players will learn how to game it, how to maximize the systems to minimize risk and time and effort, because it is what they like to do. It€™s on the shoulders of the designer to make game play and the world a compelling enough distraction that it keeps the player’s focus off the mechanics and off the desire to game it. […]

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