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The Challenges of Class Balance In MMOGs

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the stupid-druids dept.

PC Games (Games) 209

Karen Hertzberg writes "Balancing classes in MMOGs may be one of the most daunting challenges of the industry. Few games are immune, and no game has ever claimed complete, perfect balance. So how does a developing company deal with the ever-impending demand to keep their games fair in both PvE and PvP environments? Ten Ton Hammer spoke with four industry professionals about the issue in an effort to glean some answers. Age of Conan's Craig Morrison said, 'It is part science and part intuition and experience, I think. We do, of course, have all the ... "spreadsheet" work in the back-end and development tools that calculate as many of the parameters as possible. On top of that, though, you then have the knowledge and skill of the designers involved. Working with a system, you have the general overview of how things interact and how players tend to behave in your game. Sometimes nothing beats spending time in the game itself and actually seeing how the players have been using the skills and abilities you have provided for them. Players are nothing if not inventive, and they never cease to surprise designers with their ingenuity, so it is vital that the designers are also watching and learning themselves.' "

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As long as we're talking about clASS... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29103269)

When I think of dirty old men, I think of Ike Thomas and when I think about Ike I get a hard on that won't quit.

Fifty years ago,I worked in what was once my Grandfather's Greenhouses. Gramps had died a year earlier and Grandma, now in her seventies had been forced to sell to the competition. I got a job with the new owners and mostly worked the range by myself. That summer, they hired a man to help me get the benches ready for the fall planting.

Ike always looked like he was three days from a shave and his whiskers were dirty white under the brim of his battered felt fedora.

He did nott chew tobacco but the corners of his mouth turned down in a way that, at any moment, I expected a trickle of thin, brown juice to creep down his chin. His bushy, brown eyebrows shaded pale, gray eyes.

Old Ike, he extended his hand, lifted his leg like a dog about to mark a bush and let go the loudest fart I ever heard. The old man winked at me. "Ike Thomas is the name and playing pecker's my game.

I thought he said, "Checkers." I was nineteen, green as grass. I said, "I was never much good at that game."

"Now me," said Ike, "I just love jumping men. . ."

"I'll bet you do."

". . . and grabbing on to their peckers," said Ike.

"I though we were talking about. . ."

"You like jumping old men's peckers?"

I shook my head.

"I reckon we'll have to remedy that." Ike lifted his right leg and let go another tremendous fart. "He said, "We best be getting to work."

That summer of 1959 was a more innocent time. I learned most of the sex I knew from those little eight pager cartoon booklets of comic-page characters going at it. Young men read them in the privacy of an outside john, played with themselves, by themselves and didn't brag about it. Sometimes, we got off with a trusted friend and helped each other out.

Under the greenhouse glass, the temperature some times climbed over the hundred degree mark. I had worked stripped to the waist since April and was as browwn as a berry. On only his second day on the job and in the middle of August, Ike wore old fashioned overalls. Those and socks in his hightop work shoes was every stitch he wore. When he bent forward, the bib front billowed out and I could see the white curly hairs on his chest and belly.

"Me? I just love to eat pussy!"I ke licked his lips from corner to corner then stuck it out far enough that the tip could touch the tip of his nose. He said, A man's not a man till he knows first hand, the flavor of a lady's pussy."

"People do that?"

He winked. "Of course the taste of a hard cock ain't to be sneezed at neither. Now you answer me, yes or no. Does a man's cock taste salty or not?"

"I never. . ."

"Well, old Ike's willing to let you find out."

"No way."

"Just teasing," said Ike. "But don't give me no sass or I'll show you my ass." He winked. Might show it to you anyway, if you was to ask."

"Why would I do that?"

"Curiousity, maybe. I'm guessing you never had a good piece of man ass."

"I'm no queer."

"Now don't be getting judgemental. Enjoying what's at hand ain't beiing queer. It's taking pleasure where you find it with anybody willing." Ike slipped a handside the side slit of his overalls and I could tell he was fondling and straightening out his cock. Now I admit I got me a hole that satisfied a few guys."

I swallowed, hard.

Ike winked. "Care to be asshole buddies?"

***

We worked steadily until noon. Ike drew a worn pocket watch from the bib pocket of his loose overalls and croaked, "Bean time. But first its time to reel out our limber hoses and make with the golden arches before lunch."

I followed I ke to the end of the greenhouse where he stopped at the outside wall of the potting shed. He opened his fly, fished inside, and finger-hooked a soft white penis with a pouting foreskin puckered half an inch past the hidden head.

"Yes sir," breathed Ike, "this old peter needs some draining." He exhaled a sigh as a strong, yellow stream splattered against the boards and ran down to soak into the earthen floor.

He caught me looking down at him. He winked. "Like what you're viewing, Boy?"

I looked away.

"You taking a serious interest in old Ike's pecker?"

I shook my head.

"Well you just haul out yourn and let old Ike return the compliment."

Feeling trapped and really having to go, I fumbled at my fly, turned away slightly, withdrew my penis and strained to start.

"Take your time boy. Let it all hang out. Old Ike's the first to admit that he likes looking at another man's pecker." He flicked away the last drop of urine and shook his limp penis vigorously.

I tried not to look interested.

"Yer sir, this old peepee feels so good out, I just might leave it out." He turned to give me a better view.

"What if somebody walks in?"

Ike shrugged. He looked at my strong yellow stream beating against the boards and moved a step closer. "You got a nice one,boy."

I glanccd over at him. His cock was definitely larger and beginning to stick straight out. I nodded toward his crotch. "Don't you think you should put that away?"

"I got me strictly a parlor prick," said Ike. "Barely measures six inches." He grinned. "Of course it's big enough around to make a mouthful." He ran a thumb and forefinger along its length and drawing his foreskin back enough to expose the tip of the pink head. "Yersiree." He grinned, revealing nicotine stained teeth. "I t sure feels good, letting the old boy breathe."

I knew I should button up and move away. I watched his fingers moving up and down the thickening column.

"You like checking out this old man's cock?"

I nodded. In spite of myself, my cock began to swell.

"Maybe we should have ourselves a little pecker pulling party." I ke slid his fingers back and forth on his expandingshaft and winked. "I may be old but I'm not against doing some little pud pulling with a friend."

I shook my head.

"Maybe I 'll give my balls some air. Would you like a viewing of old Ike's hairy balls?"

I swallowed hard and moistened my dry lips.

He opened another button on his fly and pulled out his scrotum. "Good God, It feels good to set 'em free. Now let's see yours."

"Why?"

"Just to show you're neighborly," said Ike.

"I don't think so." I buttoned up and moved into the potting shed.

Ike followed, his cock and balls protruding from the front of his overalls. "Overlook my informality." Ike grinned. "As you can see I ain't bashful."

I nodded and took my sandwich from the brown paper bag.

"Yessir," said Ike. "I just might have to have myself an old fashioned peter pulling all by my lonesome. He unhooked a shoulder strap and let his overalls drop around his ankles.

I took a bite of my sandwich but my eyes remained on Ike.

"Yessiree," said Ike, "I got a good one if I do say so myself. Gets nearly as hard as when I was eighteen. You know why?"

I shook my head.

"Cause I keep excerising him. When I was younger I was pulling on it three time a day. Still like to do him every day I can."

"Some sayyou'll go blind if you do that too much."

"Bull-loney!" Don't you believe that shit. I been puling my pud for close to fifty years and I didn't start till I was fifteen."

I laughed.

"You laughing at my little peter, boy?"

"Your hat." I pointed to the soiled, brown fedora cocked on his head. That and his overalls draped about his ankles were his only items of apparel. In between was a chest full of gray curly hair, two hairy legs. Smack between them stood an erect, pale white cock with a tip of foreskin still hiding the head.

"I am one hairy S.O.B.," said Ike.

"I laughed at you wearing nothing but a hat."

"Covers up my bald spot," said Ike. "I got more hair on my ass than I got on my head. Want to see?"

"Your head?"

"No, Boy, my hairy ass and around my tight, brown asshole." He turned, reached back with both hands and parted his ass cheeks to reveal the small, puckered opening. "There it is, Boy, the entrance lots of good feelings. Tell me, Boy, how would you like to put it up old Ike's ass?"

"I don't think so."

"That'd be the best damned piece you ever got."

"We shouldn't be talking like this."

"C'mon now, confess, don't this make your cock perk up a little bit?"

"I reckon," I confessed.

"You ever seen an old man's hard cock before," asked Ike.

"My grandpa's when I was twelve or thirteen."

"How'd that come about?"

He was out in the barn and didn't know I was around. He dropped his pants. It was real big he did things to it. He saw me and he turned around real fast but I saw it."

"What did your grandpa do?"

"He said I shouldn't be watching him doing that. He said something like grandma 'wouldn't give him some,' that morning and that I should get out of there and leave a poor man in peace to do what he had to do."

"Did you want to join him."

"I might have if he'd asked. He didn't."

"I like showing off my cock," said Ike. "A hard-on is somethng I always been proud of. A hard-on proves a man's a man. Makes me feel like a man that can do things." He looked up at me and winked. "You getting a hard-on fromall this talk, son?"

I nodded and looked away.

"Then maybe you should pull it out and show old Ike what you got."

"We shouldn't."

"Hey. A man's not a man till he jacked off with a buddy."

I wanted to but I was as nervous as hell.

Ike grinned and fingered his pecker. "C'mon, Boy, between friends, a little cock showing is perfectly fine. Lets see what you got in the cock and balls department."

In spite of my reluctance, I felt the stirring in my crotch. I had curiositythat needed satisfying. It had been a long, long time since I had walked in on my grandfather .

"C'mon let's see it all."

I shook my head.

"You can join the party anytime, said Ike. "Just drop your pants and pump away."

I had the urge. There was a tingling in my crotch. My cock was definitely willing and I had a terrible need to ajust myself down there. But my timidity and the strangeness of it all held me back.

Hope you don't mind if I play out this hand." I ke grinned. "It feels like I got a winner."

I stared at his gnarled hand sliding up and down that pale, white column and I could not look away. I wet my lips and shook my head.

Old Ike's about to spout a geyser." Ike breathed harder as he winked. "Now if I just had a long finger up my ass. You interested, boy?"

I shook my head.

The first, translucent, white glob crested the top of his cock and and arced to the dirt floor. Ike held his cock at the base with thumb and forefinger and tightened noticably with each throb of ejaculation until he was finished.

I could not believe any man could do what he had done in front of another human being.

Ike sighed with pleasure and licked his fingers. "A man ain't a man till he's tasted his own juices."

He squatted, turned on the faucet and picked up the connected hose. He directed the water between his legs and on to his still dripping prick and milked the few remaing drops of white, sticky stuff into the puddle foming at his feet. "Cool water sure feels good on a cock that just shot its wad," said Ike.

***

"Cock-tale telling time," said Old Ike. It was the next day and he rubbed the front of his dirty,worn overalls where his bulge made the fly expand as his fingers smoothed the denim around the outline of his expanding cock.

I wasn't sure what he had in mind but I knew it wasn't something my straight-laced Grandma would approve of.

"Don't you like taking your cock out and jacking it?" Ike licked his lips.

I shook my head in denial.

"Sure you do. A young man in his prime has got to be pulling his pud."

I stared at his caloused hand moving over the growing bulge at his crotch.

"Like I said," continued Ike, "I got me barely six inches when he's standing up." He winked at me. "How much you got, son?"

"Almost seven inches. . ." I stuttered. "Last time I measured."

"And I'm betting it feels real good with your fist wrapped around it."

"I don't do. . ."

"Everybody does it." He scratched his balls and said,"I'll show you mine if you show me yours." Then, looking me in the eye, he lifted his leg like a dog at a tree and let out a long, noisy fart.

Denying that I jacked off, I said, "I saw yours yesterday."

"A man has got to take out his pecker every once in a while." He winked and his fingers played with a button on his fly. Care to join me today?"

"I don't think so."

"What's the matter, boy? You ashamed of what's hanging 'tween your skinny legs?"

"It's not for showing off."

"That would be so with a crowd of strangers but with a friend, in a friendly showdown, where's the harm?

"It shouldn't be shown to other people. My Grandma said that a long time ago when I went to the bathroom against a tree whan I was seven.

"There's nothing like a joint pulling among friends to seal a friendship," said Ike.

I don't think so." I felt very much, ill at ease.

"Then what the fuck is it for," demanded the old man. "A good man shares his cock with his friends. How old are you boy?"

"Nineteen almost twenty."

You ever fucked a woman?"

"No."

"Ever fucked a man?"

"Of course not.

"Son, you ain't never lived till you've fired your load up a man's tight ass. "I didn't know men did that to each other."

"Men shove it up men's asses men all the time. They just don't talk about it like they do pussy."

"You've done that?"

"I admit this old pecker's been up a few manholes. More than a fewhard cocks have shagged this old ass over the years." He shook his head, wistfully, "I still have a hankering for a hard one up the old dirt chute."

"I think that would hurt."

"First time, it usually does," agreed I ke. He took a bite from his sandwich.

I looked at my watch. Ten minutes of our lunch hour had already passed.

"We got time for a quickie," said Ike. "There's no one around to say, stop, if were enjoying ourselves."

He unhooked the slide off the button of one shoulder-strap, pushed the bib of his overalls down to let them fall to his feet.

"Showtime," said Ike. Between his legs, white and hairy, his semi-hard cock emerged from a tangled mass of brown and graypubic hair. The foreskin, still puckered beyond the head of the cock, extended downward forty-five degrees from the horizontal but was definitely on the rise.

I could only stare at the man. Until the day before, I had never seen an older man with an erection besides my grandpa.

Ike moved his fingers along the stalk of his manhood until the head partially emerged, purplish and broad. He removed his hand for a moment and it bobbled obscenely in the subdued light of the potting shed. Ike leaned back against a bin of clay pots like a model on display. "Like I said, boy, it gets the job done."

I found it difficult not to watch. "You shouldn't. . ."

"C'mon, boy. Show Ike your peckeer. I'm betting it's nice and hard."

I grasped my belt and tugged on the open end. I slipped the waistband button and two more before pushing down my blue jeans and shorts down in one move. My cock bounced and slapped my belly as I straightened."

"That's a beaut." Ike stroked his pale, white cock with the purplish-pink head shining. "I'm betting it'll grow some more if you stroke it."

"We really shouldn't. . ."

"Now don't tell me you never stroked your hard peter with a buddy."

"I've done that," I finally admitted,. "But he was the same age as me and it was a long time ago." I though back to the last time Chuck and me jerked each other off in the loft of our old barn. Chuck wanted more as a going away present and we had sucked each other's dicks a little bit.

"Jackin's always better when you do it with somebody," said Ike. "Then you can lend each other a helping hand."

"I don't know about that," I said.

Ike's hand continued moving on his old cock as he leaned over to inspect mine. "God Damn! Boy. That cock looks good enough to eat." Ike licked his lips. "You ever had that baby sucked?"

I shook my head as I watched the old man stroke his hard, pale cock.

"Well boy, I'd sayyou're packing a real mouthful for some lucky gal or guy." He grinned. "Well c'mon. Let's see you get down to some serious jacking. Old Ike's way ahead of you."

I wrapped my fist around my stiff cock and moved the foreskin up and over the head on the up stroke. On the down stroke the expanded corona of the angry, purple head stared obscenely at the naked old man.

Ike toyed with his modest six inches. "What do you think of this old man's cock?" His fist rode down to his balls and a cockhead smaller than the barrel stared back at mine.

"I guess I'm thinking this is like doing it with my grandpa."

"You ever wish you could a done this with your grandpa?"

"I thought about it a lot."

"Ever see him with a hard-on."

"I told you about that!"

"Ever think about him doing your grandma?"

"I can't imagine her ever doing anything with a man.

"Take my word for it, sonny, we know she did it or you wouldn't be here." Begrudgingly I nodded in agreement.

"Everybody fucks," said old Ike. "They fuck or they jack off."

"If you say so."

"Say sonny, your cocks getting real juicy with slickum. Want old I ke to lick some of it away?"

"You wouldn't."

Ike licked his lips as he kept his hand pistoning up and down his hard cock. "You might be surprised what old Ike might do if he was in the mood for a taste of what comes out of a hard cock."

And that is what he proceded to do. He sucked me dry.

Then he erupted in half-a-dozen spurts shooting out and onto the dirt floor of the potting shed. He gave his cock a flip and shucked t back into his overalls. He unwrapped a sandwich from its wax paper and procede to eat without washing his hands. He took a bite and chewed. "Nothing like it boy, a good jacking clears the cobwebs from your crotch and gives a man an appetite."

***

The following day, We skipped the peliminaries. We dropped our pants. Ike got down on his knees and sucked me until I was hard and good and wet before he stood and turned.

"C'mon boy, Shove that pretty cock up old I ke's tight, brown hole and massage old Ike's prostate.

Ike bent forward and gripped the edge of the potting bench. The lean, white cheeked buttocks parted slightly and exposed the dark brown, crinkly, puckered star of his asshole "Now you go slow and ease it along until you've got it all the way in," he cautioned. "This old ass craves your young cock but it don't want too much too soon. You've got to let this old hole stretch to accomodate you."

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Easy boy, easy," he cautioned. "You feel a lot bigger than you look. Put a little more spit in your cock."

"It's awfully tight. I don't know if it's going to go or not."

""It'll go," said Ike. "There's been bigger boys than you up the old shit chute."

I slipped in the the last few inches.. "It's all in."

"I can tell," said Ike. "Your cock hairs are tickling my ass."

"Are you ready," I asked.

"How are you liking old Ike's hairy asshole so far?"

"It's real tight."

"Tighter than your fist?"

"Might be."

"Ready to throw a fuck into a man that reminds you of your grandpa."

"I reckon."

"I want you should do old Ike one more favor."

"What?"

While you're pumpin my ass, would you reach around and play with my dick like you would your own? Would you do that for an old man?"

I reached around and took hold of his hard cock sticking out straight in front of him. I pilled the skin back amd then pulled it up and over the expaded glans. I felt my own cock expand inside him as I manipulated his staff in my fingers. I imagined that my cock extended through him and I was playing with what came out the other side of him.

"C'mon, boy, ram that big cock up the old shitter and make me know it. God Damn! tickle that old prostate and make old Ike come!"

I came. And I came. Ike's tightened up on my cock and I throbbed Roman Candle bursts into that brown hole as I pressed into him. His hairy, scrawny ass flattened against my crotch and we were joined as tightly as two humans can be.

"A man's not a man till he's cum in another man." said old Ike. "You made it, boy. But still, a man's not a man till he's had a hard cock poked up his ass at least once."

Every time I think of that scene, I get another hard-on. Then I remember the next day when old Ike returned the favor.

I never have managed to come that hard again. If only I ke were here.

Re:As long as we're talking about clASS... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29103805)

TLDR. Please troll shorter.

Re:As long as we're talking about clASS... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29103827)

tl;dr -your grandpappy takes it up the shitter.

This may explain... (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103273)

...why Blizzard completely abandoned the notion of difference between Horde and Alliance in WoW, in favour of focussing on class balance. Naturally, if you ask a lot of WoW players, it hasn't even helped them do that. In fact, I see there being more and more class overlap instead of class balance in WoW, especially amongst hybrid classes. You can balance the game by making hybrid classes able to do everything well, but it kind of sucks balls for non-hybrid classes.

I hope that the backing away from balanced-but-distinct factions and classes doesn't represent a wider change of philosophy at Blizzard. It wouldn't bode well for Starcraft II.

Re:This may explain... (2, Interesting)

reverseclipse (656074) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103391)

There are two sides to this and both are valid. On the one side everyone wants a unique experience with varied classes. On the other hand no one wants to play a class for months or years only to be underpowered in the endgame. Skills that are fun have nothing to do with survivability and damage output. Providing all players with the same chance to be great means that classes and races get more similar. This is not as important for parties where you can have varied pros and cons spread out between players, but for single player pve or pvp all the classes really need to be the same to allow for anyone to win based on skill and not racials/skills. ï It does seem strange for a game to lose so much "fun" and variety in order to provide everyone with a "fun" experience.

Re:This may explain... (5, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103731)

Actually, Blizzard has it bad. They have to balance for: 1v1, arenas, battlegounds, and to top it all off, raids. That's four very different requirements. Considering most classes have multiple roles and styles to begin with, the whole thing smells like spaghetti code: change one thing, and you have to change five others as well, which trigger more changes.

Now, add in the players, who will always feel their class is underpowered, and every single change you make to their character will get you flamed, even from those whose particular build is way stronger than it should be according to 90% of the other players.

Anyone still feel like tackling the problem? The players will also need gear...

Re:This may explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29104175)

Blizzard have explicitly said that they don't balance for 1v1. They balance for arenas (2v2, 3v3, and 5v5), battlegrounds (10-100 players a side), dungeons (5 players vs computer-controlled monsters) and raids (10 or 25 players vs computer-controlled monsters).

Re:This may explain... (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104379)

Except Blizzard has repeatedly said they don't balance PvP for anything less than 5v5. Certain classes dominate 1v1 or 2v2 or 3v3 and certain classes suck in those instances. But once you add a few more people into the mix there are many winning combinations.

But they've never balanced the game well and it seemingly gets worse with each content patch. The best balance I remember was when the original game matured before burning crusades.

Re:This may explain... (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104633)

Except Blizzard has repeatedly said they don't balance PvP for anything less than 5v5. Certain classes dominate 1v1 or 2v2 or 3v3 and certain classes suck in those instances.

I know, I had a Priest. However, they do have duels, world PvP and arenas smaller than 5v5, so they should balance that too, it's just that it's impossible.

But they've never balanced the game well and it seemingly gets worse with each content patch.

I quit playing right after WOTLK came out. Level 62, questing for some decent gear in Outland, then along comes a shitload of hostile Death Knights, with all their ridiculously overpowered Plates. It might not have been that frustrating if a) I had gear even remotely comparable to theirs, b) the people assisting me through dungeons before hadn't been busy with rushing to get as much Titanium into the AH as possible, or c) there was any other hope of finishing a fucking quest without dying 4-5 times with each.

Re:This may explain... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29105145)

lol pvp happened on a pvp server.

play casual on carebear, you will have a much funner time.

Re:This may explain... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29104599)

Now, add in the players, who will always feel their class is underpowered, and every single change you make to their character will get you flamed, even from those whose particular build is way stronger than it should be according to 90% of the other players.

Sometimes a class is woefully underpowered. Like warlocks originally were. Oh how things changed after warlocks got their first re-balancing. The whining from rogues was so delightful.

"It's fine. Learn 2 play" had been the rogue's trademarked answer to every single complaint about the rogue class being overpowered against any given class and also their retort for other classes complaints of under-poweredness. "It's fine. Learn 2 play" was trotted out over and over until it died and then its carcass was beaten mercilessly.

Sadly for the rogues, many of the warlocks had been doing just that. Learning 2 play. Learning to kill. Learning to escape. All while being underpowered.

Then it suddenly changed. Warlocks were no longer underpowered. No longer a free honor kill. No longer something to laugh at. Now they were something which deserved caution, respect, and even fear.

No more strolling up behind a warlock without a care in the world expecting to kill it without much effort. No. Now a rogue had to consider very carefully indeed how to attack and what to do if something went terribly, terribly wrong, because now attacking a warlock very often led to just that, something going terribly, terribly wrong.

Re:This may explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29104835)

Muahahahahaha!

Also, nice writing technique!

Re:This may explain... (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103523)

Partly - and partly because, in trying to balance Shamans vs. Paladins, they found that they were essentially giving both classes the same tools. By giving both factions both classes, they were able to keep them distinct without giving one faction an advantage.

Remember, your fears of them giving everyone everything in aid of balance isn't new. People complained with the inclusion of Lurkers and Dark Templar in Brood War. "Waaah, now Zerg have AoE like Protoss! Terrans can heal like Zerg!" I still agree that it's blurring the lines a little more than is really healthy. My shaman's Riptide ability functions almost identically to my paladin's talented Holy Shock. My Paladins' increased-crit-damage talent (when he's Ret spec) now rolls a deep-wounds style melee DoT rather than simply boosting damage. The gear consolidation with gear for all spec/class combos down to "spell dps / spell healing / melee dps / tanking" for each armor type. It added a dimension, for me, that say a warlock wanted spellpower and stamina whereas a mage wanted spell crit and stamina. There was a reason for every item to go to a particular class first.

Re:This may explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29104329)

The gear consolidation with gear for all spec/class combos down to "spell dps / spell healing / melee dps / tanking" for each armor type.

There isn't even any tanking leather armour - Druid tanks are expected to use the same armour as Rogue and Druid melee dps...

(And yes I play a druid tank).

Re:This may explain... (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103561)

That was primarily a PvE balance problem. Paladins had abilies that Shaman didn't that made a real difference (Blessing of Salvation being #1). In BC Paladins also became more viable tanks, which Shaman simply couldn't do without a drastic overhaul. It was the best decision for game balance they could make.

Re:This may explain... (3, Insightful)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103795)

And why should Shamans tank? Granted, I don't know a whole lot about Shamans but they aren't plate users so why would they be deserving of an overhaul that lets them tank as well as the proper tanking classes?

The way I wish the classes were built is the way pokemon balance is built.
Water > Fire > Grass > Electric > Water
..and so on. I don't know how well balanced those games are nor do I know the full details of the "classes" but the type of balance the devs tried to achieve is much more fun than that of WoW.

In WoW, Rogues should be able to open a can of whoop-ass on clothies (Mages, Warlocks, Priests). After all, cloth is generally poor protection against a dagger to the kidneys. At the same time, they should fear plate users as their daggers would realistically go "PLINK" off of the armor of a Warrior or a Death Knight. Because of the clothie's non-existant armor they should have vastly superior damage output, unlike WoW where a tank-spec Warrior can take the beating of a lifetime AND do damage comparable to typical dps classes.

While I applaud Blizzards apparent goal of giving every damn class a fair chance against any other class, I think it kind of ruins a bit of the pvp fun. If this was real world (yes, stupid comparison I know), a Warrior wearing all plate and carrying a huge freaggin' sword would make minced meat of a Rogue wearing leather no matter how sneaky he was. Just like a Rogue sneaking up behind a Warlock/Mage/Priest would mean the end of the targeted clothie. Subsequently, since the Warrior doesn't have the sneaking ability of the Rogue, the clothie would see him coming and have a chance of blasting him with crazy damage. A very simplified example that doesn't take into account healers, hybrids or different builds but it shows the general idea: Mage

Demonology Warlock == Beast Mastery Hunter, send in the pet, do ranged damage.
Destruction Warlock == Mage == Elemental Shaman, fire away with spells, run away.
Protection Warrior == Frost Death Knight == Protection Paladin == Feral Druid, are all viable tanks and at least Warrior, DK and Pala put out an astounding damage while tanking.
There is no class distinction. All the classes have different builds but generally you are either a Healer, a ranged DPS or a tank (who does as much damage as the damage guys) and nearly all classes can fill at least 2 roles.

Stupid =/

Re:This may explain... (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103815)

Stupid "less than" signs *mumble grumble*

A very simplified example that doesn't take into account healers, hybrids or different builds but it shows the general idea: Mage > Warrior > Rogue > Mage

Re:This may explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29104077)

But is it FUN to see class X and have to say "I lose" before the battle has even begun?

That's just poor design, no matter how you slice it. Every ability should have at least one counter. Every class doesn't need a hard counter because of variances in player skill and gear level.

Re:This may explain... (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105571)

It depends on what style of game you're playing. In WoW, I'd say not so much. In some games though, that's acceptable - something like EVE, you have a choice of ships and fits. Part of the battle is picking something out that suits what you're trying to achieve, and then finding the 'right fight' for it - it's a strategic 'pre fight' element, and I consider that entirely reasonable - there are some ship classes that are just useless against certain opposition, but when you can choose something else instead, then it's an intel/information/logistics battle, prior to the actual fight.

Re:This may explain... (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104695)

In WoW, Rogues should be able to open a can of whoop-ass on clothies (Mages, Warlocks, Priests)

I'd agree, with one qualification - Cloak of Shadows is just silly. A rogue that gets the jump on a clothie will often stunlock him and kill him before the lock has an opportunity to get any damage at all off. On the other hand, it's quite common for a caster to surprise a rogue at range, load him up with enough spells to kill him outright, and then watch as the rogue pops CoS, then runs over and facerolls him anyway.

Re:This may explain... (1)

BurzumNazgul (1163509) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104891)

Demonology Warlock == Beast Mastery Hunter, send in the pet, do ranged damage.
Destruction Warlock == Mage == Elemental Shaman, fire away with spells, run away.
Protection Warrior == Frost Death Knight == Protection Paladin == Feral Druid, are all viable tanks and at least Warrior, DK and Pala put out an astounding damage while tanking.

You forgot one...
Affliction Warlock == cast DoTs, /afk brb getting coffee

Re:This may explain... (1)

ukyoCE (106879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105323)

Blizzard completely abandoned the notion of difference between Horde and Alliance in WoW, in favour of focussing on class balance.

The reason Blizzard abandoned the difference was essentially because of player QQ, not because it was hard (or impossible) to balance.

In the original WOW, alliance vastly outnumbered Horde on most servers. Thus you had 2 alliance saying Shaman were overpowered (cause they died to one once, of course) for every 1 horde saying they weren't. Add in the fact that the Shaman was a more offensive class than the Alliance Paladins, and was a class that was severely effected by RNG (windfury crits), and you had a huge storm of Alliance QQ.

Fast forward to BC when Alliance got shaman, though. And now the LK expansion too. Shaman have been MASSIVELY buffed since the original WOW, and are still generally considered underpowered in PVP. If Alliance didn't get Shaman in BC, the devs could never have gotten away with buffing the (long underpowered) Shaman class.

The problem is casuals & the placebo of divers (2, Interesting)

TheRealRainFall (1464687) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103393)

It's easy to balance a few diff classes. I would way rather have 4 characters classes that were near perfectly balanced than 10 classes that were a mess. This is the problem of WoW and other MMOs. They keep trying to add more and more classes when they haven't balanced what they have. But what does your average fan want?? They scream for more! Give us new! I'd way rather WoW, Aion, etc fix what they have in an expansion and with their manpower than create the placebo of new classes. It can be done but since there is no money in it and bad/newer/casual players are using capitalism to vote for NEW things instead of a balanced games these companies are just going where the economic vote is and giving what they want. In short if you were going to play in an Adult rec sports league would you rather have a league of 4-6 teams where you were all equal or would you rather have 10-12 teams where 4-6 teams were equal and 2-3 teams you absolute crushed and 2-3 absolute crushed you? I don't know about you but i'd take the smaller league with a ton of parity any day and twice on any given sunday.

Re:The problem is casuals & the placebo of div (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105433)

And how do you want to sell that expansion? With new content alone? C'mon... After a while, your players will notice that your new content is just the old content in a new dress, the game itself does not change at all.

Classes? Who needs em! (5, Insightful)

chonglibloodsport (1270740) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103405)

I don't see why we have to have classes in an MMO. I much prefer the Ultima Online system of choosing your own skills and in effect, creating your own "class". This type of system is far easier to balance since you can modify each skill "in a vacuum" without upsetting anything else.

That, and the very old idea of the holy trinity (healer, tank, damage-per-second) needs to die, it is sucking all of the creativity out of game design. Real people are not specialists, they are capable of learning many different things.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (4, Insightful)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103527)

The idea that you can modify each skill "in a vacuum" is patently false - unless there is absolutely no potential overlap between skills (which would be a rather dull system), you will need to take into account what happens with a player with skills X and Y now picks up skill Z because of a change which is made.

In reality, such a system seems like it would be massively harder to balance, since balancing a single skill against others is a meaningless task (wood-chopping is balanced perfectly against magery! Wait, what?). Instead balancing skill sets becomes the key challenge. And since the number of skillsets is vastly larger than the number of skills, it is also likely much larger than the number of classes in most MMOs, making this a very complex job indeed.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

chonglibloodsport (1270740) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103639)

You seem to be conflating differentiation/uniqueness with balance. Balance in a skill-based game like UO is purely about tweaking each skill and observing the mountain of data you are logging. Because each skill is singular and entirely optional, you don't need to worry about overpowering/nerfing an entire class.

Differentiation/uniqueness is another issue entirely, an exercise for the game designer.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

muridae (966931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103647)

That's where tabletop games and older MUDs offer a little extra help. There was a MUD based on the Rolemaster system, that started all skills with costs that were roughly comparable, and as you gained skills in, say a melee weapon, costs in other skills increased, say learning magic. If you wanted to play a hybrid, focusing on both spells and weapons each level, you would find that, while those two skill would increase slower than if you picked just one, other skills increased costs at an even faster rate. End game, if there was such a thing, you had a very specialized class of your own making that would have to spend an entire level to gain one point in any outside skill.

This would never fly in a modern MMO, as it requires that player to plan ahead from the very beginning or to re-roll once they learned how the system worked. A 'spec' system, where those points could be re-spent late in the game to allow players to shift their skills to match their play style would be interesting, but could result in players being able to shift from a tank style class to a healer or magic dps depending on the day and the needs of their group/guild. Starting from a basic school system, melee/damage caster/healing caster with different starting skill costs would allow for varied classes for each player, and not much more lock in than any other MMO out right now.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (2, Informative)

anarchyboy (720565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103837)

wow already has a spec system that allows players to choose talents for a specific play style as they progress in the game, they are divded into 3 groups for each class, selecting talents from all 3 generally gives a weak end result while focusing on one or two gives a much stronger charchter. The only difference is that the available talents are different for each class so your choice of class still restricts you to some rolls and your choice of talents (which can be changed later) allow you to specialise and gain ability in one area.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103933)

This would never fly in a modern MMO, as it requires that player to plan ahead from the very beginning or to re-roll once they learned how the system worked. A 'spec' system, where those points could be re-spent late in the game to allow players to shift their skills to match their play style would be interesting, but could result in players being able to shift from a tank style class to a healer or magic dps depending on the day and the needs of their group/guild. Starting from a basic school system, melee/damage caster/healing caster with different starting skill costs would allow for varied classes for each player, and not much more lock in than any other MMO out right now.

Not only does WoW have that, but it has it for two specs at a time. I respec once or twice a week to min-max specific encounters. It's pretty obvious you haven't played a modern MMO in some time.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

chonglibloodsport (1270740) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104597)

WoW's system is one of the ugliest hacks I've ever seen. It is not a game for roleplayers, it is a game for min-maxing, loot-craving metagamers.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

muridae (966931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105143)

Obvious from the fact that I even mentioned the spec system? UO, AO, AC for a little bit, EQ1 and 2, WoW. . . what else. . . Skipped Eve, waiting for Jumpgate.

WoW is not a classless game. The talent system is not even comparable, as a rogue in WoW could never choose from a warrior's talent tree. You may say 'Why would they want to' but that is completely missing the point. As you said yourself, you respec to 'min-max specific encounters' and that is what results in all of the difficulty in balancing classes. You know, in WoW, that if you are fighting a priest PVP or a fire mob PVE there are probably a few certain specs that will be the most useful. PVP balance could be fixed with a skill-based system because you would never know what skill the opponent may have. Priest who happens to have blade skills matching a warrior, wizard who knows a few potent heal spells?

Yes, you can min-max a classless system. In tabletop games, it happened all the time. One creative encounter tuned to target specific min-max combos was enough to discourage that. Same would work in an MMO; watch the popular combinations of skills and tune new events to decimate them.

Again: Eve (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104119)

This would never fly in a modern MMO, as it requires that player to plan ahead from the very beginning or to re-roll once they learned how the system worked.

A number of third party software tools exist for Eve which allow a player to plan his character skills out across years, if he so desires. And the player can have a "neural re-mapping" once a year to change his attribute numbers -- the stuff like Charisma, Intelligence, Willpower, etc. -- which affect how fast he learns new skills, so if he made a choice early on to be a combat pilot and wants to change to an industrialist, the transition is not so dire.

Re:Again: Eve (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104703)

On the other hand, in Eve, your decisions never permanently screw a character - even before neural re-mapping, all it meant was that you trained up slower than your friends did. You're never limited to a certain number of skill points - given enough years spent playing Eve, you'll eventually get all skills maxed out.

(I mean, you would if they didn't keep adding more, obviously.)

Re:Again: Eve (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105629)

Where by 'enough years' you're talking somewhere in the region of 25 :).

Re:Again: Eve (1)

muridae (966931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105319)

I admit I haven't played Eve, sounds like they hit pretty close to what I remember from p&p games. My only complaint, the one that kept me from trying the game, was that all skills were time based to develop. Someone with a year's head start and a 24hour bot (or did I hear they even allowed skill gains while offline now?) would always have better skills that a new player could never catch.

That, and if I am in a cockpit I expect more flight-sim type controls. Like X3 or hopefully Jumpgate. Personal preference for twitch-based combat for that style of gaming. Still sounds like they nail the details I was mentioning.

Re:Again: Eve (1)

Sobrique (543255) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105765)

Skill gains have always been offline as well as online. It's one of the things I've liked best about EVE since day one - the fact that I am 'levelling up' regardless of actual hours in game, and thus don't fall behind massively the people who don't have a day job.
But the 'won't ever catch up' isn't as much a problem as you might imagine - I mean, you'll never have the same skillpoint total as a really old character. But at the same time, it takes a relatively short amount of time to be competitive with them - each ship only has a subset of skills that apply to it, and the last 80% of training time, provides 20% of the benefit. So what happens in practice, is that 'veteran' players are the ones that can fly a lot of different shipclasses with high effective skillpoints (not necessarily well - I've seen many 'veterans' getting slaughtered by newbies who have a better idea of game mechanics) but not actually any better than anyone else.
Similarly, EVE is heavy on 'strategic thought' - maxed skills give an advantage in a straight fight, but in EVE you don't really get straight fights - in practice, higher skills are offset by the fact that you brought a knife to a nuke fight. There's still a correlation where older playerse know what they're doing more, and thus do better at it, but ... that's not actually related to skillpoints, as much as having more 'combat time' - something available to anyone.
And then you add in how EVE is much more often a game about gang combat, and the differences go out the window - it matters much less your hard sps, and much more how good a team player you are - be that supporting member, fleet commander, scout, light tackler, heavy tackler, firepower role... well, of these it's only a firepower role that really increases significantly with character age, and even then it's by only by about a factor of 2. (Which is a lot, but it's not so much that it cannot be overcome)
I'm an 'old player' (5 years or so) with a lot of SPs. I can fly ships from 3 races at a skill level I consider to be 'good' but in any given ship, I'm no better at flying it (sp wise at least) than a 6 month old character. I'm basically 10 separate '6 month old' characters stuck together (ok, one of them might be a year old).

Re:Again: Eve (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105769)

In theory, you're right. In practice, it's not as dire as it look at the first glance. You have to detach yourself from the idea of standard MMOs that level means anything.

A player with 5 years under his belt will have more Skill Points accumulated than you. But there are two things that work in your, the new player's, favor: Diminishing returns in training and diverse, different skills for different areas of the game.

Skills in EvE are divided into 5 "levels". Every level of a skill gives you the same bonus. Level 1 $skillname gives you $amount percent of $bonus. Level 2 gives you 2*$amount. Level 5 gives you 5*$amount. You get the idea. Training from 0 to 1 goes fast. Training from 4-5 takes a lot longer (about 300 times what it takes from 0 to 1). Yet you only get another $amount of bonus for that much, much longer time. Careful planning here can put you close to an old player while investing a fraction of the time he invested.

Also, you needn't have all skills to be productive or competitive. An old player's advantage over you is mostly that his choices of weapons are more versatile, not that he can use the gun he is currently using much better. He may be able to fly T2 Cruisers of all fractions and use projectiles as well as hybrids, lasers and missiles at maximum efficiency, while you can only use T2 Gallente Cruisers and the hybrid guns it uses. When you're face to face in T2 Gallente Cruisers, you're equal. His only advantage is that he may notice that it would give him a statistically better chance to succeed, based on what your group is made of, to use his Amarr T2 cruiser instead, an option you won't have. Which means essentially jack when the battle already started, he only knows he should come in something else next time. His advantage is a strategic one, not a tactical one. He can plan the battles better, he can prepare better, but when it comes down to the fight, his advantage is minimal. Not to mention that BIG battles are a matter of luck (not its outcome, but whether or not your ship will survive) more than anything.

Also, he can adapt to changes in the system more quickly. If peace suddenly breaks out, he can quickly switch his fighting ship with a miner and go hack some rocks for money, something you can't do unless you chose to become a miner first and fighter later (the choice is yours, it's feasible and until the recent price drop in Tritanium probably also the more profitable course of action). He can hop from production to research, having all the skills necessary for them. He will have more things to choose from, he probably won't be much better than you in your choice of trade.

Since I'm mostly a miner, I have most of the roughly 40 million SP of mine in industrial skills. I am about as maxed out in mining as a miner can come. Yet you can come within 5% of my output in half a year of playing. Sure, you won't refine at my level, you will not have the free choice of rocks to mine as I do, but you need neither if you concentrate on a certain type of rock (which is quite doable, there's plenty of that kind of rock in this kind of system, you just can't move somewhere else to mine that instead, a choice that's open to me). The market is also stable and big enough that you mining exclusively this kind of rock will not make the price plummet. Hell, my hoovering rocks and tossing them into the market didn't make the price move!

Unfortunately you won't get to see the richness of EvE in the 3 weeks of trial you get, else I'd really recommend you give it a twirl. But either try it for half a year or don't, you won't see jack in 3 weeks.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

anarchyboy (720565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103859)

If you do that and the each skill is ballanced with every other then choosing the skills becomes meaningless, so is my damage/healing/tanking ability going to be the same no matter what skills i choose? or will choosing some skills give me better damage? in which case all your doing is forcing people to select a particular skill set to cause the most damage which may as well just be a class.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

infalliable (1239578) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103975)

Actually, that sort of system is MUCH harder to balance. The combinations of skills/abilities are almost endless, so you have to account for so many more options. The more rigid the structure, the easier it is to balance because you have more control over it as a designer. The problem is most players dont' want a very rigid structure, they want some skill choices and ability to shape their character development.

The other huge issue is that there is such a huge difference between PvP and PvE. In PvP, you're fighting someone who is roughly your equal. You can also get large group on group action. In PvE, you always seem to be fighting something that has 10x your hp or more, and can hit so much harder (at least at endgame) and has pathetically predictable tactics. The two are so distinctly different that you can't balance out them both, they're essentially two separate combat designs within a game.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (2, Insightful)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103985)

Didn't virtually every serious player in UO end up being a magician wearing platemail?

The problem with a "skill system" is that, inevitably, there's going to be a small handful of "skill choices" that are just flat-out better than the alternatives. More damage, more survivability. It's only easier to balance if there's absolutely no skill synergy - and good luck making a fun game that has no synergy whatsoever between skills.

On top of that it's hard to give flavor to a fully skill-based system. A large amount of WoW's appeal is that you have a pile of interesting abilities. Your class behaves fundamentally differently to every other class in the game, and the talents you pick make it behave even more differently. With a skill-based system it's hard to figure out where "abilities" come from - do you buy them with skill points? Do you get them automatically with certain levels of skill? Those approaches both have serious issues, both of which make the whole "skill balancing" thing even more difficult.

Skill based systems can be a lot of fun, I'm not saying they're eternally bad. However, I'd love to see a skill-based system that - assuming everyone is trying to play for maximum effectiveness - creates anything even remotely like the flavor and differences between WoW's ten classes and over 30 major specs.

I do agree that the Holy Trinity is stale, though I believe that's not because each player should be a polyglot, able to take on any role - it's just because I think that particular standard role combination is getting a bit dull. Move on, people, find something new.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105447)

A large amount of WoW's appeal is that you have a pile of interesting abilities. Your class behaves fundamentally differently to every other class in the game, and the talents you pick make it behave even more differently.

Woah... One must ask, have you ever played WoW? Ever? You used to have a pile of interesting abilities. Different weapons had different effects (mace-stun, etc.), and every class was at a distinct disadvantage against certain other classes (or at least they tried).

Now, you are either a pet-class (demo-lock, bm hunter), a healer (holy pala/priest, resto druid, resto shaman), ranged dps (mage, destro-lock, hunter, elemental shaman) or tank (dk, warrior, prot/ret-pala, feral druid). Most of the tanks can also dps on a level with all but the very best geared dps classes.

Rogues have sap+stuns, mages have polymorph and blast wave/ice-stuff, warlocks have fear and seduction, dk's have chains of ice and deathgrip, warriors have hamstring, hunters have freezing trap, priests have shackle undead and mind control, druids have root, palas have repentance, the list goes on but they are all essentially the same damn skill.

Arguing that all WoW classes present an unique playing experience is like arguing that 10 different computers running the same OS present unique experiences because one has an AMD cpu, another has Intel, one has Crucial ram, another has Kingston, etc. The names and details vary but the experience is pretty much exactly the same.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

ZorbaTHut (126196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105743)

I disagree pretty strongly. Yes, the end effect of each class is pretty similar, but the actual play mechanics are vastly different. Even within a "ranged magic dps class", all three specs play differently and feel different.

In a skill-based system you'd have, at most, two or three viable damage specs. In the entire game. At least with WoW there's some variation if you get tired of dotting or nuking or burning cooldowns or using reaction abilities.

A better analogy is ten different computers, all running Linux with different window managers and themes. The underlying code is the same - but the interface is different.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

rocket rancher (447670) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105537)

Skill based systems can be a lot of fun, I'm not saying they're eternally bad. However, I'd love to see a skill-based system that - assuming everyone is trying to play for maximum effectiveness - creates anything even remotely like the flavor and differences between WoW's ten classes and over 30 major specs.

I agree with your post in general, but I don't think that is a safe assumption at all. It is probably true for hard-core raiders and arena teams in WoW, but I don't believe they make up a representative sample of the WoW player base. More generally, a skills-based system would probably not attract many adherents because people don't want to have to think too hard or deeply about something that is supposed to be entertaining. I've been in two WoW guilds where people hung out in Dalaran/Undercity/IF/SW/Silvermoon, did dailies, and flirted with each other. Period. Becoming a more effective player was not why they were paying Blizz $15/month. I guess people are attracted to what makes them feel attractive, or secure, or popular. I'm certainly that way -- during a raid, I love being at the top of the recount meters with my 'lock, so I work at maximizing my dps. I'm fortunate enough to have found a guild where the majority of members share a similar need to compete. The competition is fierce, and we thrive on it. If Blizz introduced a skills-based system to WoW , we would adapt and master it. But I doubt people who are in the game to socialize would care, if they even noticed it at all.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104219)

I don't see why we have to have classes in an MMO. I much prefer the Ultima Online system of choosing your own skills and in effect, creating your own "class". This type of system is far easier to balance since you can modify each skill "in a vacuum" without upsetting anything else.

That is so, so, SO wrong. Skills are much *harder* to balance than classes, because while you can modify them "in a vacuum", you don't use them that way. Each skill in use interacts with all the others, creating a nightmare of cross-connections. That's why you don't see many skill-based MMORPGs.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

Jeian (409916) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104255)

And nobody would play it. I wouldn't, anyway.

One of the reasons I liked WoW when I started playing was because I *didn't* have to figure out what spells/attributes I wanted when I was levelling up (a la KOTOR/NWN.)

Simple = good.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (4, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104493)

That would be conventional wisdom, but I had a very illustrative talk with Jack Emmert (creator of City of Heroes) before that game was released.
Apparently well into beta they had followed that idea, that classes were bad and restrictive, and 'unrealistic'. Ironically, what they discovered (with a good, aggressive set of beta testers) is that within hours of releasing a newly-balanced client, the most intense theorycrafters would have parsed out the formulaic details (increasing skill x meant y more hp or z more dps) and posted this as a 'best spec' and (aside from some dissention between theorycrafters) the bulk of other players uninterested in crunching numbers would simply copycat those builds.

So you ended up with a 'skill based, classless' game system, where ironically everyone was nearly identical in powers, skills, and capabilities. After butting heads against this trend for much (most?) of beta, it was a relatively late-design decision to go back to ground zero and implement a class-based structure, ironically to promote in-game diversity among players.

I've thought about this for a LONG time, personally being a devotee of skill-based RPGs (Runequest, etc.) compared to level-based RPGs (D&D, etc.). It's really counterintuitive.

What I've realized is that where the "that's unrealistic" criticism breaks down is the fundamentals: what's REALITY is that you DON'T get to choose ANYTHING fundamental about yourself, not really. You're born with a skin color, a set of genetics that predisposes you to a host of characteristics (appearance, height, build, even sexual orientation*), and you get to "play" real life with the good, mediocre, or shitty hand you're dealt. (I have gamer friends with severe birth defects that have said they would love to get a t-shirt saying "yeah, I'd reroll if I could, but for now I'm stuck with this character".) Sure, you can work out (+1 STR), get plastic surgery (+1 CHA), or sit at a computer all day (+1 INT, -1 CON, -1 STR, -1 CHA), but your life skills are really just tweaking the basics you started with.

* I don't know whether the current politically correct thought is that it is or isn't genetically based, I don't really care, it's just another example of a possible predisposition.

So my point is, the minute you allow the players free will in the creation of their toons, you've already sorely broken any connection with realism. Think about it in real life, if we had that capability we'd all probably be a monochromatic bland sea of beautiful, smart, strong, healthy people. too.

Writing this, it's occurred to me the irony of the original D&D system - where you rolled 3d6 per stat in order, and 'lived with' the result of your rolls, meaning some characters were simply better than others - probably needed 'classes' the least, and would have worked with a skill-based system even better. But CRPGs and MMOs, which start out with a fundamental predisposition toward equivalence, it's almost inevitable that you have to channel the players early into very DISTINCT courses, lest they all choose the same 'best option' path identically.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105329)

>>So you ended up with a 'skill based, classless' game system, where ironically everyone was nearly identical in powers, skills, and capabilities.

Then, no offense, they weren't doing it right. Even though there's always going to be global minima and maxima that you have to take a look at, there should be enough variety in the encounters the players are exposed to to make players select from as wide a variety of local maxima instead. You used DPS as an example, so consider the following:
Build A: 100DPS melee, 0DPS ranged
Build B: 0DPS melee, 200DPS ranged
Builc C: 50DPS melee, 50DPS ranged

Build B dominates, because (unless you have a minimum range on your DPS), they will be able to completely outclass the other possible builds, in all situations. It does more damage, and can do so without having to move to get close to the target.

This is a completely dominant scenario, and so is against Shaka's Principle of Game Balance: All choices should be interesting, but none should be must-have or so weak people will be mocked for taking it. In other words, no choice should completely dominate another, in either direction. (In magic the gathering terms, there's no excuse for a grey ogre when there's uthden trolls available).

So a smart designer would do the following:
Keep Build A as our baseline: 100DPS melee, 0 DPS ranged
Lower Build B's DPS below that of melee to compensate for the fact it can kill at range: 0DPS melee, 85DPS ranged
Boost Build C's DPS so that it doesn't completely suck: 75DPS melee, 70DPS ranged ...and then add in enough uncertainty that players don't know if they'll always be in melee or in ranged during certain encounters.

That's the brilliance of D&D as opposed to existing MMORPGS: when you do an MMORPG raid (Onyxia, let's say), the players sit down and analyze the encounter like a choreographed ballet: ok, phase 1 is melee, followed by an AOE encounter with some whelps. Phase 2 is all ranged DPS, phase 3 is melee again, with a few more needs for AOE damage. They then can sit down and plot out exactly how many of each class they need, and can even assign certain builds to certain characters so that they are optimal.

In D&D, you have to build your character (and semi-permanently, too) against an *unknown* set of threats. You don't know when you go to some competitive D&D event (like the Gencon Delve) exactly what sorts of threats you'll be facing. Maybe there'll be traps. Maybe there'll be a dragon. Hmm, from the blurb, it sounds like maybe undead or were-creatures, so let's perhaps take several sources of radiant damage, and have a couple silvered weapons in reserve. Etc. My group got together over the course of several bull sessions and worked out a strong team that could deal with most threats - but it was impossible to have an "Optimal" team simply because we didn't know what we'd be dealing with. Sure, we had high DPS characters, but we had to balance that with all our other needs as well.

It would probably cause the WoW designers heads to explode to have monsters that behaved differently (at most, they sort of roll a die to see what combat you'll fight during a raid), but for games like City of Heroes or Champions Online, I think they'd be a lot more fun if you didn't know what you were getting yourself into before a fight.

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (1)

MobileMrX (855797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104865)

This is a shameless plug, but if you played UO during T2A (98,99) and loved it you should try this FREE server:

http://www.uosecondage.com/ [uosecondage.com]

Re:Classes? Who needs em! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29105471)

> That, and the very old idea of the holy trinity (healer, tank, damage-per-second) needs to die,
> it is sucking all of the creativity out of game design. Real people are not specialists, they
> are capable of learning many different things.

1) The "holy trinity" is "healer, tank, crowd control". "Modern" MMOs don't even hold this philosophy, crowd control is gone. (One could argue that it took more 'skill' than was required for the average player to do full time crowd control, and going for larger markets meant the playerbase had to become more average.)

2) Yeah. Real people aren't specialists. You frequently see Manny Ramirez on the mound. Terrel Owens racking up sacks. Mark Knopfler bangin' on the bongos like a chimpanzee while Sting plays the bass line. Eddie Murphy playing the dramatic lead? If you're thinking sports and rock bands have nothing to do with MMOs, you're spacing... people want the most competent people in each spot in any pseudo-competitive or collaborative event. "Good" players may rotate between roles during different encounters, but during the majority of encounters, they stick with one role for the duration, because its most efficient.

Individual differences vs class balance (0)

freddled (544384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103429)

Unless you have your class one hundred percent nailed, the differences are cancelled out by differences in individual skill, approach and work-ethic in most games. Personally, I prefer to pick a class which is inferior in some respects and work against that. It's more of a challenge. I would say that the imbalances only really show up at the uber-hardcore level and of course those folks are often the most vocal.

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (4, Insightful)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103511)

Unless you have your class one hundred percent nailed, the differences are cancelled out by differences in individual skill, approach and work-ethic in most games.

It sounds like you're saying that class balance doesn't matter. The situation you're describing only happens if the classes are balanced.

If classes aren't balanced, then one class will almost always beat another in a fight, no matter how good or bad the classes are. Differences in skill determining outcomes is a sign that the game is balanced.

The complex metagames that spring up around MMOs are very difficult to keep on track, but at least game designers can change things. If you want to see a metagame that can be completely broken, look at a collectible card game like Magic. Once the cards are out, you can't change them, and so some horribly broken decks can dominate the metagame.

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (2, Interesting)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103733)

Not necessarily.
I play blood bowl, the board game, not the new pc game. Some day ago, with a plain vanilla halfling team, I beat the shit out of a team necromancer. Yet halfling is one of the worse rated club. The creator of the blood bowl game even said they made it so they could be squashed.

Yet, I lost not even a squishy halfling, he lost 5-6 of his team of eleven. half of them dead, the other half injuried.

Even if you have odds against you, with skill, luck, and knowledge, you still can win.

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (1)

ukyoCE (106879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105251)

Just because it's feasible to occasionally win while playing a severely underpowered class does not in any way imply the game should not be balanced.

It implies that you played against someone who was terribad, or perhaps the game is overly influenced by Random Number Generation (RNG).

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (3, Interesting)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104085)

If classes aren't balanced, then one class will almost always beat another in a fight, no matter how good or bad the classes are. Differences in skill determining outcomes is a sign that the game is balanced.

And that's just boring. I don't want my micro-management skill to determine the outcome of a fight, I want my strategic skill to do so.
That means I want the skill I put into building and setting up the character determine the outcome.

If you want to see a metagame that can be completely broken, look at a collectible card game like Magic. Once the cards are out, you can't change them, and so some horribly broken decks can dominate the metagame.

MTG is arguably the only game with an interesting metagame.
Yes, there is a lot of creativity and players come up with smart combinations that are very effective against certain other decks, but that's kind of the point. If you're a serious player, you're supposed to keep yourself updated about that and construct your deck to face known strong decks accordingly. That's what makes the whole thing so interesting.
The thing is, there are so many cards, effects, and ways of playing that there is never a single deck at the top. At worse, all major decks contain the overpowered card, but that's not a problem.

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (1)

Fex303 (557896) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104677)

Yes, there is a lot of creativity and players come up with smart combinations that are very effective against certain other decks, but that's kind of the point. If you're a serious player, you're supposed to keep yourself updated about that and construct your deck to face known strong decks accordingly. That's what makes the whole thing so interesting. The thing is, there are so many cards, effects, and ways of playing that there is never a single deck at the top. At worse, all major decks contain the overpowered card, but that's not a problem.

Once again, you seem to be missing that this is what game balance does. MTG's remarkable balance is why the there is never a single deck at the top. If you want to see what happens when the game isn't balanced, look at this article [wizards.com] , when your only options are Necropotence deck, or deck that is tuned specifically to beat Necropotence decks, then it's a less healthy metagame.

The fact that, as you say, 'there are so many cards, effects, and ways of playing' and not one of those is flat out best is a testament to how good Wizards are. Although, I bet they wish they hadn't printed a couple of Faeries (Mistbind Clique, I'm looking at you.)

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (1)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105033)

The fact that, as you say, 'there are so many cards, effects, and ways of playing' and not one of those is flat out best is a testament to how good Wizards are.

Well, that and a reasonably aggressive card retirement policy that applies to most organised play. That certainly helps keep things fresh too.

Re:Individual differences vs class balance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29105475)

work-ethic in most games

Any game that requires a 'work-ethic' fails to qualify as fun.

Balance is boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29103443)

Balance is probably not even achievable, I think the joy of playing within a class system is the constantly shifting class balance. Good players deal with the shifts well, other players go between classes depending on what's stronger this month/patch.
True balance would probably be really boring, unless the game itself is completely actionpacked (think Quake). I don;t think it can even be the intention to balance a plate wearing behemeoth with a 2handed sword with a wand wielding dude in a robe.

Re:Balance is boring (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103931)

More than that, balance is meaningless without talking about the skill level of the players involved. For instance, towards the end of vanilla WoW, warriors had access to very strong gear that made them hit incredibly hard. Mages gained less from gear, and so warriors started getting an edge, but they still had huge trouble actually getting close enough to hit mages, so unless the warrior was skilled, the mage would win, making mages overpowered vs. warriors at low skill levels. At higher skill levels, warriors were seen as overpowered vs. mages because if they got in range, they could kill them in two hits. But a very skilled mage could kill a warrior without taking a single hit, no matter what gear they were wearing or how well the warrior played, due to game mechanics. So at the top skill level, a warrior could not beat a mage 1v1.

Roshambo (3, Interesting)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103465)

Rock/paper/scissors, anyone?

The requirement to have a range of significantly distinct classes in raids, with their own strengths and weaknesses, opens up the possibility of having a rock/paper/scissors arrangement of class superiority in PvP. I'm amazed it wasn't implemented in the first place - it makes much more sense than trying to balance all classes to have the same chance in any given duel.

That way, a player of greater skill will not necessarily beat a player of lower skill if they are "out-classed", as it were. It means that players have to pick their fights wisely, be more opportunistic, be more alert, and maybe go around in pairs or impromptu groups to increase their chance of survival. That would greatly enhance the experience, in my opinion - it would prevent the loss of that feeling of threat and danger when you hit the level/gear cap, and would enhance the in-group/out-group, us & them relationship between the two factions as a result.

You Have Described Eve (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103551)

It means that players have to pick their fights wisely, be more opportunistic, be more alert, and maybe go around in pairs or impromptu groups to increase their chance of survival.

That's the PvP in Eve. And there are no classes, just skills that take a fixed and finite time to acquire (i.e., no such thing as "power leveling"). A group of small ships, with skilled pilots, can bring down a battleship. DPS, range, speed, tank, evasion, cloaking, resistance to specific types of damage, capacity to make money, and a hundred et ceteras all exist on a highly granular scale, and all affect play immensely. I can't imagine that there are two players in the game with the same sets of skills.

But you'd be amazed at the whiners, who don't fight wisely, aren't opportunistic, aren't alert, fly around by themselves, lose their ships, then cry that the game is too hard or that the players are "mean." Others join the game and ask, "What's the best ship?" and are baffled when told "There is none." WoW and EQ have bred a "sprint for the Uber" that takes a while to get out of the system...

Re:Roshambo (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103555)

The Rock/Paper/Scissors is working fine in Eve Online.

At its simplest example is that of the balance in the strategy game Homeworld, which had space craft of different sizes:

Fighters, Corvettes, Frigates, and Capital Ships.

Corvettes beat Fighters
Frigates beat Corvettes
Capital Ships beat Frigates
Fighters beat Capital Ships

other matchups were more or less even (Fighters vs Frigates and Corvettes vs Capital Ships)

But keep in mind that games like Eve Online do not have "arranged pvp" .. Few people will jump into an arranged PvP if they know that their paper will be facing a pair of scissors.

That leads to requiring PvP as part of normal game play.

In Diablo II in hardcore PvP games, I wouldn't take the short end of the stick because I had the choice not to.

Re:Roshambo (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103651)

Since when is it requirement to have bunch of distinct classes with unique functions?

After all, when content is created in mind with fact that class X will be required for encounter Y, you have problems because you force group composition. That is not ideal because unless you design to take advantage of each class, someone ends outside portal desperate for group and with groups which grudgingly take class that is useless for whole run except one specific part.

There is no need to do that. You can have as little variety and each class being damage oriented and just using different mechanics to achieve it. It can work enormously well, and untank'n'spankable fights are more fun and challenging anyway because they can not be tunel-visioned by players.

So there is just no point for pve making class too distinct in functionality.

Besides, tank'n'spank does not exactly translate well to pvp r/p/s scenario.

Anyhow, PvP where result is decided long before fight begins is going to be sucky and just gankfest because if match is decided before it starts thanks to r/p/s, there is no point in playing it. you can as well just give rock which is targeted by paper 'you lost, noob [ok to respawn]' message and be done with it.

Re:Roshambo (1)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103865)

What?? What did you just say? Apologies if English isn't your first language, but you really need to work on using pronouns & conjunctions. Or consider switching to an ISP that doesn't charge per-word.

Re:Roshambo (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105689)

See my previous comment about Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock [samkass.com]

Imagine having a game with 5 classes, each very strong against 2 other classes and similarly weak against the 2 other. Yes, in 1v1 PvP that would be complete trash but 3v3, 4v4 or 5v5 would without a doubt be fairly interesting.

Add to that the ability to have 2 skill threes for each class so you could build a character that was a little Rock and a little Scissor, making it less weak against Paper and Spock than Rock alone, but at the same time making it somewhat weaker against Scissors and Lizard. Get a three man team going consisting of a Spock, a Lizard and a Scissor and have a strategic teamskill-fest in battlegrounds!

Re:Roshambo (1)

plastbox (1577037) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105557)

Or what about Rock/Paper/Scissors/Lizard/Spock [samkass.com] ? If that isn't pretty much the perfect basic balance of any PvP type game, I don't know what is.

"BALANCE" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29103469)

balance is all illusion, created by corporate shills to distract gamers from what they actually want. The fact is that no game is unbalanced. each player has the equal opportunity to research which characters are powerful. if i said x is unbalanaced, it could mean i thought it was too weak or too powerful. to determine which of those i meant depends on context. we should no longer use a word that relies on context to have any meaning. BAN THIS WORD

Re:"BALANCE" (3, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103507)

You're talking about meta-gaming though - power playing, min/maxing, essentially finding and exploiting all the weak-points of the system.

That's what you enjoy; fine. However, there are many players out there who just want to build a character that they like, for whatever reason, and to enjoy the game as it was intended - a massively interactive RPG. They're in it for the experience, not for out & out victory.

The term "balance" is about balancing classes, not players. If everybody had your perspective, then everybody would play Death Knights or Paladins or whichever class is currently considered slightly overpowered, and it would be a very boring world indeed. It's important that the game mechanics allow for variety of play, or it gets very stale, very quickly. Class balancing is a crucial part of that.

Balance is easy (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104821)

>>The term "balance" is about balancing classes, not players. If everybody had your perspective, then everybody would play Death Knights or Paladins or whichever class is currently considered slightly overpowered, and it would be a very boring world indeed.

Funny. I'm leveling mining on my Death Knight (created at launch, of course, when it was quite overpowered - but since then they've fucked it sidewise about a thousand times) and all the new characters I see running around in the old zones are paladins, currently the overpowered class of choice. The last battleground I played in had two paladins at the top of the charts, with 4 times the kills of the third place character (a warlock), with the second place paladin having 0 deaths. They weren't in a premade either, just doing random battleground running-around-asshattery.

I also don't play WoW very much, since the game designers (as revealed through an enlightening series of "community interviews") have revealed they don't have the slightest idea of what they're doing. However, as long as the other MMORPGs fuck up more (and I'm looking at you, Warhammer, and you, Age of Conan) and can keep their momentum going without pissing off too many people, they'll do fine, doing what they do best: bumblefucking around.

There's a reason I don't play WoW much any more - about 40 hours since April. Well shy of the thousands of hours I have on /played on my mage, from back in the day. I enjoy the occasional BG, but most of the time playing the game feels like the developers are stabbing me in the eyeballs with a sharp stick.

>>That's what you enjoy; fine. However, there are many players out there who just want to build a character that they like, for whatever reason, and to enjoy the game as it was intended - a massively interactive RPG.

Not really. If WoW was an actual "roleplaying" game, where people, you know, roleplayed, then this statement would be true. Certainly in D&D there are groups of people who will give their character a high charisma even though it has no game mechanic benefit, but in WoW people want to make their character the best at whatever their goal is. No Death Knight will wear cloth +spirit and +mana gear for "roleplaying" reasons. People might go about optimizing their characters in different ways, and some might be quite stupid at it, and some might just copy builds they find online, but the game essentially forces you into it by picking talents in a certain order: oh, okay, you're now a "Frost Mage", the game says. You can't just pick willy-nilly from the menu of options available.

When I heard about Warhammer Online, I really had this insane hope that it would be like the Warhammer pen and paper roleplaying game. Essentially, the RPG has a web of classes to pick from. Some are starting classes, and then others that connect to that class unlock as you level them up. So if you are (just making up terms here), say, a "warrior", when you hit level 5 in it, you then unlock the ability to start levelling a new class, which takes you into different directions, such as "Holy warrior" or "Guerilla", with some levels in holy warrior taking you deeper into Priest territory, and guerilla taking you deeper into roguish territory. So the best classes, like Witch Hunter, or Paladin, or whatever, could be reached via multiple paths (Witch Hunters, for example, could be started as rogues and work their way over through the web of classes that way). It's been ages since I played the game, and so the names are probably all wrong, but I think that would be an awesome design for an MMORPG. Instead of being completely freeform, like in UO or EVE, or completely class-based, like in WAR or WoW, you could sort of build your own class, with the individual smaller classes being given related abilities and balanced against each other that way. You can have good options (even very good options), as long as these principles are followed.

In short, though, I think TFA makes class balance sound harder than it is. I have a lot of experience with it (both in writing online multiplayer video games and in designing pen and paper roleplaying games), and my principle is simple: make all options attractive, with none so powerful you'd be stupid not to take it, and none so weak that people would be mocked for having it. And guess what? It works out pretty well in practice - all you need to do is keep your finger on the pulse of the community to see what the "must haves" and what the "lolz you took that?" comments say. With the amount of data available to the WoW developers, it was mind-shattering that it took them 4 years to fix the talent trees on most classes in this respect.

Additionally, WoW made a fundamental mistake by trying to make PVP and PVE work using identical mechanics. But whereas it might be necessary in a raid encounter to allow mages to polymorph foes into sheep, they found that (lo and behold) players hated losing control of their characters, and so implemented a series of band-aids onto the system (trinkets, diminishing returns, drastically reduced duration on all crowd control on players), but they still suffer from the same problem in PVP - any time they make a major class change due to, say, PVE, it drastically affects the PVP balance, and vice-versa. They decided it was too easy to tank as a Death Knight, and so they halved all of the the protective cooldowns on the DK (and then halved again in the case of some of them, like Bone Shield). This perhaps fixed the problem of DKs being too easy to tank, but made them suddenly vulnerable to the lame crowd control + nova burst combinations that define PVP.

But WoW's balance is still fundamentally fucked. Essentially, the defining statement of PVP in WoW is: remove the ability for the enemy player to control his character, and then take him from 100% to 0% during this window of opportunity. As long as they keep that as the key design decision, the game won't be fun. WAR did a much, much better job in this regard with crowd control effects almost never taking control away from your character, but getting into WAR's problems is a whole 'nother bag of fish.

But I think that the root problem is that most game designers don't have a core conception of what game balance means, and so they make decisions about game balance that is either crazy or stupid.

Re:"BALANCE" (1)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105209)

Ur so rong. Sure, if you think World of Roguecraft or World of Deathknightcraft would actually be as fun as the sorta-balanced game we have now, then go for it. Pong is -------------> thataway. Balance is about making many different options equally strong, or as close to as possible, so that people have a choice how to play instead of being pidgeonholed into a single configuration.

Re:"BALANCE" (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105519)

Holy shit. I can hear your voice in your comment. YOU are the comic book geek from The Simpsons.

How about instead of banning words, you learn to do that thing that differentiates humans from computer and learn to understand english with all it's vageries and complexities. Or is that too advanced for a simpleton like you?

The short version: it's nearly impossible (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103573)

PvP and PvE are so fundamentally different that balancing all the classes for both at the same time, with the same skills, is nearly impossible. The best way to deal with it is to have two different sets of rules, with some skills working differently depending on what you're doing.

A one system fits all solution just results in either serious PvP imbalance, or seriously nerfed PvE.

Re:The short version: it's nearly impossible (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104323)

You could allow "two different sets of rules" by simply allowing players to switch class in town. This is the way that FFXI works. There's not much PvP in FFXI (just a 1-v-1 and a group-v-group instance which aren't used much these days, depending on your server), but this means you're not stuck in a "wimp" class for a particular event, and can change as needed.

FFXI is actually more complicated than that, because you have a secondary class at half level to switch, too. Some classes are more useful as a secondary than as a primary, and some combinations work very well together. Some combinations are even very good for solo play at high levels.

Re:The short version: it's nearly impossible (1)

tjonnyc999 (1423763) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104985)

Why not take it even further, and allow a complete reset of the skill points / abilities / etc? Not only will this get rid of situations where a highly specialized class who's been kicking butt suddenly runs into enemies with perfectly opposite defenses (*cough* Diablo II *cough* sorceress *cough* fire/cold/lightning immunes), leaving the player with little choice but to either quit the quest or be forced to find other party members, but it will also bring an unparalleled degree of flexibility and replay value to the game. Take Gemcraft Zero's approach to skills as an example: sure, you can invest points into particular skills that grant you lower spell cost or higher damage or more defense - but you can reconfigure your skills at any time, or even reset the whole skill tree & start from scratch. This setup allows players to avoid getting frustrated due to being unable to beat a particular stage/battletype because of a mismatch between their skillset and the current situation. Sure, GCZero is a simplistic example (being a Flash tower-defense game), but the point is, giving players true freedom of choice - and the ability to reconsider those choices - in regard to character development results in near-infinite replay value. Too many MMORPG's channel players into a few specific paths by making certain classes/builds more attractive than others - then turn around and punish them for their choices with a sudden change in game mechanics. I can't speak for WoW (having decided to avoid being drawn into the life-consuming madness), but I used to play Diablo II, and I bet if Blizzard allowed D II players to reconfig the skillsets, there wouldn't be quite so much butthurt after each patch, when highly-specialized characters became totally useless due to a formula change. How many players were upset when their CE necros or GA zons were suddenly rendered pointless, making all the hours invested in the character a waste of time? Of course, character-class balancing is necessary, but I think it's only fair to allow players to change their skills in response to a change in calculation formulas - or a changing game environment.

Age of Empires (1)

br00tus (528477) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103611)

I've played lots of games such as WoW, but Age of Empires is probably the one I dedicated most time to.

in AoE, there were 12 choices, but the Assyrians and the Yamato had an initial speed advantage, to the point where they became the only teams played, particularly the Assyrians. A 3v3 match usually had both sides with 2 Assyrians and 1 Yamato. The Assyrians were so favored, sometimes all 3 would be Assyrians. For Deathmatch, the Choson and Hittites were the favored choices. Usual 3v3 teams would be 2 Choson and 1 Hittite.

In MMOG's you have larger parties, so more of a mix is OK. I am usually a mage, but mages want to be with a tank (like a warrior) at lower levels...and even higher levels. But having a priest to heal people is helpful to.

I think its natural in these games to have two main classes, a third class which is somewhat popular, and then a bunch of more minor classes for people who like to try different things. I think there's probably some mental thing where people can't handle more than three types of warriors. Look at the armed forces - army, navy, and due to technology, air force. Before the airplane, there were two divisions of service. Then within these were sub-divisions - infantry, cavalry, artillery. This just seems to be the way these things go.

Class balance masks a larger problem in MMOs (5, Interesting)

DrMrLordX (559371) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103625)

The problem with balancing classes is that all classes are essentially expected to fulfill the same basic role - namely, that they are adventurers (well, in sword&sorcery/fantasy MMOs) out to kill monsters for xp/lewt. Can you please explain to me how a wizard's training would be furthered by killing hordes of monsters? Or a thief's? Or a cleric's? For some kind of a warrior or gladiator or what have you, I can see it making sense, at least to a point.

Sure, some MMOs feature class-specific advancement quests, but nobody's really tried taking an EQ clone with advancement radically different for different classes. Imagine being a wizard with four times the dps potential and more survivability than any melee class while being completely unable to advance by killing monsters or doing conventional errand-boy quests. You would think that everyone would want to be wizard on that basis alone, but the shake-out would be pretty fast when the wizard would have no "noob zone" or "bat yard" in which to squish little monsters and do pointless little n00b quests because, to get to level 2, they'd have to find some rare reagents and solve a complex puzzle. Combat with creatures might be an occasional nuisance and little more. If some sword n' board type wanted the wizard in his party, he'd have to give the wizard a damn good reason, such as serving as a meat shield for the wizard while in pursuit of said rare reagents, making for a party that might resemble one from real fantasy literature rather than from a standard MMO. The fighter might complain as the wizard out-dpsed him like mad for awhile until after the adventure was over, whereupon the fighter might realize that he just gained two levels whacking all the monsters the poor wizard had to wade through to get to the ancient ruins where his rare reagents were supposed to be, only for the poor wizard to miss one reagent or screw up the puzzle and not advance at all. Wah wahhh.

Re:Class balance masks a larger problem in MMOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29103941)

You poor thing, let us hope you never design a MMO.

Stick to designing 4 player, or better yet single player RPG's.

You have some good ideas

Re:Class balance masks a larger problem in MMOs (3, Interesting)

Shihar (153932) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104265)

There are alternatives to class balance, MMORPGs just are not capable of them. Look at a game like Armageddon MUD. It has zero balance. A n00b Templar will mop the floor against pretty much everything else in its home city. Being a Templar in that game is like being a level 50 in WoW mage when no one else can ever get past level 20. How do you balance such absurd power? Social pressure and enforced role play. You might be the high and mighty Templar, but you have certain responsibilities, everyone wants to kill you, you are never allowed to actually use your full power, and if you ever abuse it you simply die. The entire game is built like that. Magic users are epically powerful, but show that your a magic user in public, and you die. Oh, and death is permanent. It isn't for everyone, but it certainly takes rock, paper, scissors and flips it on its ass.

Personally, I think that the next "MMORPG" revolution will be a devolution. Server space, bandwidth, and general computational power is now cheap as hell. There isn't a reason in the world why a few individuals can't host a Not So Massivily Multiplayer Online RPG. (NSMMORPG?). Open it up for heavy modding, build it such that someone who wants to spend the money for a server can host a couple hundred people, and let the MMORPG ecology get some new blood. WoW is a lowest common denominator game. That is great for most people, but imagine the other possabilities. Imagine a WoW that was 100% PK all the time and super guild based. Imagine a WoW with permanent death, no levels, heavy into RP, and an iron fisted adminstrative staff that enforced it. Imagine a purely RvR game, or a game that is nothing but epic dungeon crawls.

WoW is most mediocre of games. They have to be to appeal to a wide audience. The result is that few people are truly happy with it. Most want it to be a little more of this or a little more of that. Never Winter Nights 2 came closer to this concept of a pint sized MMO, it just wasn't robust enough to really let people tear into it. You wait. MUDs are going to make a come back. The MMORPGs will always be there, but for people who want an extreme experience graphical MUDs will be the name of the game.

Re:Class balance masks a larger problem in MMOs (1)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104601)

The problem with balancing classes is that all classes are essentially expected to fulfill the same basic role - namely, that they are adventurers (well, in sword&sorcery/fantasy MMOs) out to kill monsters for xp/lewt. Can you please explain to me how a wizard's training would be furthered by killing hordes of monsters? Or a thief's? Or a cleric's? For some kind of a warrior or gladiator or what have you, I can see it making sense, at least to a point.

It would depend on the circumstances. True, the classic 'scholar of abstruse lore in a tower' mage wouldn't be going out zapgunning monsters for kicks, but if you tweak the world background a bit so that combat mages are the 'artillery' of armies, then you would have mages who need to learn how to handle throwing spells around while someone's trying to beat on them; you could take the other kind and make them the ones who provide a good chunk of the training for the PC mages, making them go out after the relics and materials they needed for their spells in exchange for teaching them. For a thief, it's a lot harder to justify; aside from looting the field after the battle is over, I don't see a reason why a thief would want to get within _miles_ of a battle, or go adventuring. Clerics can swing in a number of different ways; you have militant orders that would be trained for combat, but then you need to work into the game a reason why they would be running around doing the random quests, rather than training for the battles to defend the faith.

Re:Class balance masks a larger problem in MMOs (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105249)

You have proposed this solution to class balance:

( ) hidden/earned powerful class
(x) difficult to play powerful class
( ) no class
( ) no balance
( ) randomization

It wont work because

( ) tough to implement
(x) people dont like playing difficult classes
(x) people want to essentially play arcade games
( ) changes game dymanics too much
( ) will chase off old timers
( ) will cause a riot on the message boards

Ive seen something similiar in the MUDs I used to play, byt MUD players were a bit more serious and sophisticed than your typical MMO players. Face it, these MMOs are the mcdonalds of role playing games. Its just kids whining about ganks, balance, and equipment. They dont really want to play a wizard like this, although I would love to. They just want an RPG that plays as much as an arcade game as possible. Perhaps someone will release a more challenging MMO that can do oddball things like this.

Real World vs. MMO (2, Interesting)

bencollier (1156337) | more than 5 years ago | (#29103757)

Seeing as we haven't managed this in the real world, I'm not holding my breath. It should be easier in a game, but the more complex the world, the harder it's going to be, and I'm guessing they're getting more complex.

class balance is stupid (4, Interesting)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104059)

The idea of "Why should I bother being a monk, when a soldier can blow up mountains by sneezing?" being a bad thing is utterly stupid. If you want to blow up mountains by sneezing, you won't be a monk. If you don't want to, you'll be a monk. If you don't want to, and still want a sword, you'll play a different game.

It all comes down to the stupid enshrinement of a statistic: People want it so that "when these two numbers are near eachother, they should be able to do similar things", ie: a "level 80 shit-stormer" should be able to contribute as much to defeating a Monstrous Foo as a "level 80 shit-shoveler". This is ridiculous, and helps no one. Some things are more effective than other things, no matter how experienced you are with either of them. Some people want to run around pretending to be gods all day long, other people don't, and both of those styles of play are cast aside in game developers' endless quest to make everyone feel "just a little better than mediocre" at all times.

Re:class balance is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29105179)

More powerful means more content available. If more of the game is open to class A than to class B, you have a recipe for discontent.

Even if you consider playing the underclass a valuable personal challenge, in games that require grouping you may be denied access to content because other people don't want to pick up the slack for someone in an underclass.

Re:class balance is stupid (1)

ukyoCE (106879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105197)

Making classes identical and balancing classes are NOT the same thing.

The WOW designers, for instance, constantly bring up the fact that they want to avoid homogenization as much as possible. People always want ability X that some other class has that's awesome. But if their class needs improvement, it should be in a unique way that works with that specific class.

Although your post is really more about wanting to play a game that's not there. If you want to roll a class in Warhammer Online that let's you mortgage a house and pay it off by running errands for cute fuzzy animals, you should play Animal Crossing not Warhammer.

The game of Warhammer Online is about doing damage to enemies, and thus all classes need to be able to damage to enemies equally but in different ways.

Even if you DO want to play a monk who stares at blades of grass all day, having the monk class balanced so it can also do damage equal to the other classes does not hinder your ability to sit around staring at grass.

Rock, Paper, Scissors (2, Insightful)

whisper_jeff (680366) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104145)

To me, the ideal approach to class balance is rock, paper, scissors. Using WoW as a frame for my post (since most people will be familiar with it), I liked the days when rogues were cloth killers but hunters were rogue killers but most mages were able to dismantle hunters. It was a perfect rock - paper - scissors balance. Sure, all the mages felt that rogues were over powered and rogues constantly complained that they couldn't get away from hunters and hunters bitched and moaned that mages 'sploited but, in the larger sense of the game, things were balanced. One-on-one, there were fights that you relished and fights that you had to run from and hope one of your teammates could pick up. It created an over-all balance.

The benefit to this approach is designers can overlook one class beating the crap out of another the majority of the time so long as the first class gets its ass handed to them by a third, and so on. It allows the game designers to not struggle with ensuring that every class is balanced against every other class which is an impossible, moving target. It simply cannot be done and any attempt to do so will only end in gamers complaining. If WoW (for instance) had come out and said "we balance PvP around rock - paper - scissors and hunters are the rock to your scissors, dear rogues - deal with it" I think the game would be in a better place.

Unfortunately, it is a very rare approach to class balance in an MMO because all those rogues are going to spend all their time on the forums complaining about hunters and demanding nerfs while the mages will complain about the rogues and the hunters will complain about the mages and nobody will realize the instances where they shine and instead focus only on the situations where they get their asses handed to them. Thus, game designers attempt to appease people and balance everyone against everyone else... Unfortunately...

Re:Rock, Paper, Scissors (1)

illumin8 (148082) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105423)

I liked the days when rogues were cloth killers but hunters were rogue killers but most mages were able to dismantle hunters. It was a perfect rock - paper - scissors balance.

Unfortunately, WoW has always had terribly unbalanced PvP. The developers just use this as a crutch, saying that not every class can be viable 1v1.

I much prefer the PvP balance of Guild Wars. Guild Wars has very unique and diverse classes, but is very balanced. I think one thing that makes it more balanced is that you have a secondary class. You can be just a pure Monk (healer, or priest equivelant in WoW), and if you decide you're getting wrecked by melee too much, become a Monk/Warrior and put some defense skills on your bar and carry a shield. Next time that assassin (rogue in WoW) shadow steps to you and starts wailing away, press a skill button and get 50% evade chance for a few seconds.

Also, another balancing factor in Guild Wars is that you can learn hundreds of skills, but you can only have 8 on your bar at once, and only 1 of those can be an "elite" skill (the best in the game). This makes things incredibly balanced because you don't end up with classes like Paladins/Hunters/Warlocks that have a million buttons/cooldowns and they can just faceroll their way to victory. Here's an example: Pally bubble. Well, besides the fact that there is no true invulnerability in Guild Wars (it would be terribly unbalanced, and is in WoW), if a Pally wanted to bring bubble on his bar, it would have to be 1 of 8 skills. So, the Pally has to make a choice: Does he bring some more offensive skill, or does he bring a defensive skill like bubble and sacrifice some offensive ability?

This constant trade-off of having only 8 skills on your bar and secondary classes means that you can come up with some really interesting and unique class builds, without being unbalanced. You can load up your bar with pure offensive abilities, and be totally destroyed because you have no defense or heals. Or you can go with a hybrid approach and bring a couple self heals and defense (works better in solo situations).

I truly think Guild Wars should be looked at as a model for class balance.

I Want *Un-balanced* Classes (2, Interesting)

MogNuts (97512) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104169)

Am I the only one who *doesn't* want balanced classes. Part of the fun of an RPG is to make a character who is totally badass, and the best part is to find the things & select the right class which make you badass--then working and grinding for it. Prime examples:

Final Fantasy 1. The black belt was the best character, by far. Level to 50 (I think the max was 50 in that game) and do a whopping 2000 damage, even on Chaos! This was important, as the highest any other class could do was maybe like 700 IIRC (the Knight with the sword Ragnarok I think).

Final Fantasy 3. Terra, Celes, and the other two (can't remember) who could use the Atma weapon. The others couldn't even come close. Atma weapon, with 9999 health, would hit for an insane 80,0000 damage! 9999 damage each and would hit 8 times with the item that gave you double hits. A party of four and you could destroy even all the ending bosses in one shot!

Balanced? No. Fun as hell? Hell yes.

Re:I Want *Un-balanced* Classes (1)

spyrochaete (707033) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104257)

Your examples are really fun for single player RPGs, but in an MMO the balance is very important in PVE and in PVP. My wife and I played Age of Conan for several months with her playing a ranger and me playing a melee guy. This was a great combo for about 2 months until our guys were pretty high level, at which point the ranger became unbelievably powerful and my melee guy couldn't even get a hit in. I'd spent months on my character and it gradually became less and less fun. If I were controlling all characters in my party it wouldn't matter if one was overpowered, but when you're stuck with a dud it's pretty tedious.

Re:I Want *Un-balanced* Classes (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#29104799)

single player RPGs are unrelated to MMO games.

Re:I Want *Un-balanced* Classes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29105553)

yup. Single player RPGs can actually be fun.

Re:I Want *Un-balanced* Classes (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105245)

Am I the only one who *doesn't* want balanced classes. Part of the fun of an RPG is to make a character who is totally badass, and the best part is to find the things & select the right class which make you badass--then working and grinding for it.

That can be a lot of fun. Until everyone else in the game does the same thing for the same reason.

Dark Age of Camelot (yes, some people still play it) has this sort of issue.

They do not "balance classes", they "balance realms". Problem is that when they tweak some minor class into an overpowered class (because noone much plays it, so it won't affect the realm much if we just tweak it a little bit, we need to give it a solid boost), everyone and his brother switches to that class, and the realm balance goes to shit until they nerf it back into line.

Of course, they also don't "balance for 1v1" (except when they do - there have been classes changed specifically to make them better 1v1, or worse 1v1).

All in all, the only valid balance path is to make all classes about equally capable of functioning in 1v1, and let the groups and zergs sort themselves out.

Balance THIS! (1)

jaggeh (1485669) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105091)

Through all the games i have played balancing or 'nerfing' has come along in one form or another. Rather than get along with the game and try to figure out how to use the new balance to your advantage most people decry it without thinking of the larger picture. In UO pre-casting and tank maging was effectively destroying the game outside of towns (pre carebear sharding) so changes were brought in to even out the odds. UO allowed you to unlearn skills overtime so you could change proffessions, that was handy. Starwars galaxies allowed you to unlearn proffessions and had a lot of freedom for character development (pre-nge) Neocron had a LOM pill (loss of memory) that allowed you to re-assign skillpoints and re-spec. the likes of everquest, age of conan, war, wow, city of heroes which have pre-determined classes with subskills, rather than a blank characters that you can develop, requiring you to use respec points or pay for the privilege with real money to alter your end character to suit the current flavor of the month spec. these games are where you see the most whining about balancing despite them being the easiest to reconfigure. some games even un-assign all your points for free when they do a major change. In eve-online they threw the whole book out the window and left most of the balancing up to the player via ship and module selection (gear) this has led to very few elemental changes to the available ships (excluding the speed patch) Long rambling diatribe summarised in 10 words Learn to roll with the punches and come out swinging

I just want to be special like everyone else (1)

BurzumNazgul (1163509) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105113)

When you play a class for the first time you start thinking about how totally awesome it's going to be and how special you are. You run around for the first 20 levels eager to show everyone else how super cool your new class is.

If you're a warrior you jump in and save that priest from the mob of 3 striders...and she runs away instead of healing you.

If you're a druid you start to heal that protection pally who's pulled 5 to many bristlebacks...then you lose agro, he heals himself and finishes off the 2 that killed you.

Eventually you ding 31 and start to realize that your class isn't all that special...but that shaman that just owned your face is!
...and you re-roll.

By the time you hit end game all you really want is a class that can heal, kill or survive...just like everyone else.

Tyler Durden... Balance is for wimps. (1)

neo (4625) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105283)

âoeI say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let... lets evolve, let the chips fall where they may.â

Why are people so obsessed with balancing these classes. It's stupid and impossible in the long run to create this kind of balance. Rather, classes should be considered "easier" or "harder" to play. If the Rouge class is under-powered then it just makes a high level Rouge player that much more impressive. If a Fighter is easy to level, then you might go that route when you start playing. Instead of wasting time trying to balance the classes, the designers need to focus on making each class fun to play, which is infinitely more important than supposed game balance.

Besides, all this nerfing and buffing of classes just annoys people. Get back to making the game fun.

MMO's other than Shadowbane are stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29105407)

That is all

Class Balance in WOW (2, Informative)

ukyoCE (106879) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105623)

If you enjoy reading about class balance, you can see a lot of insight from the WOW game designers (especially Ghostcrawler, lately) at the following sites:

http://www.mmo-champion.com/ [mmo-champion.com]

http://blue.mmo-champion.com/ [mmo-champion.com]

The latter is a compilation of every Blizzard post in the WOW forums, while the former is just the highlights of meaningful class changes and discussion.

The Blizzard devs used to be much quieter, but coming into the latest expansion Ghostcrawler started exposing a lot of detailed reasons behind their design and balance decision. Of course everyone still QQs massively when their class gets nerfed.

But anyone willing to take a step back and think about game balance has all the design reasons there in the forums to explain why they make the changes they do. Blizzard even had a "Class Q&A" recently that covered a lot of questions about the design goals and directions for each class.

Unfortunately the blizzard devs get a ton of trolls and QQ in response to anything they do (no matter how kind or innocent). So be sure to watch this peephole into the design process while you can, before the whiners get Blizzard to revert to silence about their design reasons and goals.

classes (1)

Tom (822) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105651)

Sometimes, when you have a problem that bugs and bugs you, and won't go away, you take a step back and realize that it was your initial assumptions that are the problem.

Classes are a dumb shortcut to simplify game mechanics. They were invented for pen-and-paper RPGs, where you need to juggle things in your head so gameplay can continue smoothly, and where you need graspable concepts or you're busy looking things up all the time.

With computers, you don't have to look things up, or crunch numbers, the machine does that for you. Classes are unnecessary.

Fortunately, there's a number of classless (usually skill-based) MMORPGs coming out. They'll probably prove the point, namely that you don't need classes in an MMO. It would certainly help if you have things like professions, just so you can communicate to others what your role in a team is. But humans can do that pretty well. If I think I'm a warrior, then I can say so, whether or not the numbers justify it.

Me, I've always enjoyed breaking class boundaries. I've played tanking magicians and healing warriors. If the class system doesn't limit you too much, it's fun. When it does, the fun is in seing how much you can bend it before it breaks. :-)

Simple and yet never done (that I've seen). (1)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105675)

It's pretty simple really. You DON'T. What you do is you create a mechanic that is closely tied to the story which will lead to certain classes or even entire factions being stronger in certain situations. Then you balance to the number of situations. And then you develop a method that rotates those different situations through the various content of the game. This way everyone gets their piece of the pie and the rotation ensures the pieces are equal. At this point the player can enjoy their class because they are playing the style of character they want to play, not just playing the character that the Developers seem to love the most at the time.

An example might be if you had a "Vampire" class in a game. Obviously the Vampires are stronger at night, so during a battle situation when nightfall comes the Vampires would reign.. Or the Werewolves.

Then when daylight comes, they would fall behind the classes based on the power of the sun, say like some kind of Mayan Shaman.

In the above example, the trick would be the length of the day/night cycle so that when a casual players jumps in the game they don't have to wait too long for their cycle and their time "in the sun" (or out of it!).

It is inherent game mechanics like these that can keep a game interesting.

But look at WAR for example for a BAD way to balance. Every single class in that game feels like it has the same skills just with different artwork. It's incredibly annoying if you like PvP, because it's just the same old thing over and over again.

Street Fighter IV (1)

emanem (1356033) | more than 5 years ago | (#29105793)

In this game you have 25 different char to chose.
Sure, is no MMOG, but is very well balanced.
In SSFIV you never lose at the seleciton screen, but still all the 25 chars are very different. As example, take 2 similar, like Ryu and Ken. You'll be amazed discovering how the playstyle has to be different between them. If you don't believe me, here [youlink.org] there's a link to one of the most comprehensive guides. Take a look to see that even the basic attack moves are different between 25 of them.
This is balance.
This is why I left WoW.
Cheers,
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