Classes are boring


No, I do not mean those classes you take in school. I mean, of course, classes in MMO’s. Again, I did a bit of research into games with classes (your typical paladin, wizard, etc.) and those that did not. Few MMO’s do away with classes and those that do often replace classes with something that is REALLY a class but has a different name.

Why are classes popular? First of all, they make character creation easier. You choose the class and then you choose from within that class various options. It is fast, quick and you know if you choose a wizard you will get a character high on wisdom, and able to throw fireballs at the enemy. Easy…which is really the goal of many modern games these days.

The other reason is balance. If one has 8 classes in their game, they can balance the damage and defense for each class, making them almost equal, much easier for design. That way, you don’t have a game full of just Paladins.  Of course, if you dig deep into most games, you realize the balance really is an illusion. There will always be the most powerful class for fighting and most people will play that class who want to fight. Yes, the wizard might stand a chance, but the bard and the rogue need to use other means to compete.

Balance is good, right? But is it good? Having played many DnD games and similar pen and paper games, I rather wonder what balance takes away from the game. In a DnD game, balance is based on party more than on individuals. If you enter a dungeon with a bunch of Paladins, you may find yourself stuck when confronted with a locked door.  You need that rogue. Of course, in DnD, as the campaign goes on, the party members can learn skills in lockpicking that have nothing to do with being a Paladin. most MMO’s you can only choose the skills/abilities that are within your class. The Paladin cannot learn lockpicking most likely. So a party full of Paladins in an MMO dungeon would simply be out of luck unless they can find a rogue, but of course since rogues are boring and can’t fight as well, they are rare and unusual creatures…maybe.

Now, I have some odd ideas of how games should be. I like the idea that balance comes from outside the set of rules that define a game. In the real world, everything balances out naturally. If there are too many bakers in town, some of the bakers will move to another town or they will switch professions, maybe specialize in wedding cakes. During major changes, such as wartime, the demand may switch to recruiting soldiers or people to work in factories that produce products demanded during wartime. During the holiday season shops hire extra people to handle the demand.

The point is that outside influences create the balance in the real world. It is not about having a factory worker balanced with the waitress, but about the demand for factory workers vs. demand for waitresses.

So..what if this were extended to a game? Give players the ability to create their own “classes” and choose their own abilities/skills for those classes. Give them the ability to change their mind if outside influences suggest that they would be better off if they did. Bob the Baker might decide to join the military if a war is threatening his village. In doing so, he may have to put aside some of his baking abilities in order to learn more fighting skills.  But Bob is still Bob, with the same friends and maybe able to bake some great bread for his buddies in his platoon.

One thing I have discovered when sharing ideas with others is that gamers are pretty rigid in how they see games. I get the…”this will never work” from those who see games as working this way or that, the typical MMO, this is the way it has always been done. I see very little flux in the way people/gamers/developers think about games. Unfortunately, this is why we see only minor evolution in the way games are made and how the player fits into the entire structure of a game. Games market their great event systems which really are just a short burst that involves a handful of players and then everything goes back to the same old stuff. Players really only have the illusion of impacting the world because they are stuck in the same roles.  How many games actually allow you to have a class called baker?  You must mold your character to the game rather than allow you, based on how you play, who you play, and what you do actually create change in the world.

If Bob the baker comes back from the war and reopens his bakery, he will be a very different Bob from the one who left. He will have war stories and buddies from the war. He might be more compassionate after seeing the horrors of war. Or maybe he will be angry and bitter due to his experiences. The player gets to decide. For role players, this would be an ideal situation and a real way to drive stories. For those casual gamers who are not interested in role playing or anything deeper than XP, this might be a chance to surround yourselves with a living world full of dynamic evolving characters, even if you just want to drop by to kill a few rats. The joy of players creating the stories is that they are totally unpredictable compared to a bunch of NPCs repeating the same dialogue and repetitive quests.

I am most certainly talking to a blank wall here, but regardless, I think I will continue to muse about how to engage players in a different sort of game.  Please feel free to comment and share your ideas or your concerns with me.


This entry was posted in Emergent Gamplay, Musings, Skills and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Classes are boring

  1. ozmono says:

    I think you covered it, classes are about restriction for balancing purposes. It’s not completely without merit though since it forces some difference in characters. I’ve played Mortal Online and at the time I was playing it, everyone was and wanted to be a horse archer as it was the most effective combat role. The combat could have been so much more if it was balanced better. That said the balance didn’t necessarily have to come from classes, infact one of the good things about the game was the classless system. I think a classless system makes it feel like you can do more as a player within a game. The class restrictions are exactly that, restrictions, and without them it feels more open.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. teilasblog says:

    Thank you for your comment. I agree. I like the classless system because it gives players more options. If they can build their own “class” by choosing their own skills, then I cannot imagine the amount of variety we may have. No two characters will be exactly alike and balance will be what the player wants it to be. So if fighters take a bunch of fighting skills, they will overpower those that do not in some ways. However, depending on the focus of the game, they have disadvantages compared to others. For example, in a player economy where loot drops are not spectacular, a fighter will need to have a way to earn in-game money. So filling their skill list with only weapon skills could hurt them in the end when they cannot afford to buy a new sword.


  3. Whippets says:

    I think you’ve nailed the constraints of classes and how they help those interested in the instant gratification of current mmos, but curtail the player’s possibilities for real role playing.
    Taking away these easy cookie cutter builds will lose you the vast majority of players – but then you were only looking for the 1% that really wanted to be part of such a community, so that’s a win!


    • teilasblog says:

      Yeah, that is very true. However, if those 1% have fun and pass along that fun to others, who knows. I have seen this happen on role playing servers. Some folks join for various reasons not at all connected to role playing. They discover that having these people around them creates content that is not in your typical game. They find themselves embroiled in stories, drama, and a experiences they did not know existed. I cannot tell you how many people I saw come over to “the other side” once they had the experience. Not so say they all became role players, but they saw our value and that is enough.


      • Whippets says:

        Yes indeed. Many non RPers will only play on RP servers, as they say that being surrounded by RPers make for a fuller more immersive experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Tess says:

    Have you ever heard of GURPs, Teila? It might be something to take a brief glimpse at if you’re still looking for inspiration for classless systems. It’s a good example of how versatile point buy systems can be, since the game’s rule set is versatile enough to allow for any genre, tech level, or setting with relative ease. It’s really fascinating to look into how they set up the overall structure of the thing. I know a lot of players (Particularly RPers) who swear by the system.


    • teilasblog says:

      Thanks, Tess. I am familiar with Gurps but have never played a Gurps game. My son has the book now so I do not have access to it but will look and see what I can find. I am not sure I am fond of point buying either, but it might be a solution to some of the issues we are having at the moment. Really appreciate the comment! You are inspiring me to start posting more. lol


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.