from those rare RPGs that place players in the shoes of a
specific hero complete with predetermined motivations and goals, one of
the most defining moments in the genre comes before gameplay even
begins. Regardless of how robust the visual aspects of character
creation may be, selecting a specific class to play can at times be a
daunting decision depending on how broad a role those classes
slection is one of the most defining moments in any RPG
MMOs are no exception to this rule, as class selection can be even more
challenging considering the weight of that decision alone will more
often than not shape how a given player will experience hundreds of
hours’ worth of gameplay. The moment a new MMO is announced,
speculation of what playable classes will be offered immediately begins
in earnest, and when you throw a massive IP like Star Wars into the
mix, speculation can become an obsession as fans spend countless hours
locked in heated discussions over which classes will make the final
While BioWare has made it pretty clear from the start that href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/1422"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Star Wars: The Old
will focus on the conflict between the forces of the Republic and
Empire with Jedi and Sith the most obvious candidates for possible
classes in the game, the field is otherwise wide open. Will the
developer take the href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/38"
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">EverQuest
approach, offering an exhaustive list of specific roles for players to
choose from, or will BioWare take a page out of the Blizzard playbook,
narrowing the list of playable classes down to a tight-knit core that
offers plenty of variety while allowing for a more balanced, soloable
The href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/65637" target="_blank">first
major class announcement for The
Old Republic made late last month is also the most telling, with an
excellent href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/66276" target="_blank">dev
blog discussing the Bounty Hunter
touching on a key component of BioWare’s overall approach to
classes in the game. While The Old Republic itself is considered a part
of the expanded Star Wars universe, the developers at BioWare made the
decision early on that for the game to appeal to a broad audience of
Star Wars fans, it was necessary to focus on creating classes that
would be instantly recognizable to
anyone familiar with the films alone, rather than the hundreds of
novels, comics and even video games that have helped expand the
setting’s overall universe over the years.
What’s also interesting to note is that classes in TOR will,
at least initially, be specific to one of the two main overarching
factions. While I tend to consider myself an MMO “gray
hat”, there is a point to be made by encouraging players to
take a stance on one side of such a massive conflict. For example,
while Han Solo may not have intended to become a hero for the rebel
alliance, even simple smugglers weren’t immune to the effects
of the war.
Speaking of smugglers in Star Wars, many believe that the writing is
already on the wall for that to be the next major class revealed for
The Old Republic. While not an exact opposite or counterpart to the
Bounty Hunter, Smugglers could still offer a class on the Republic side
of the fence that offers some of the same core gameplay concepts, yet
is different enough to stand wholly on its own. I’m actually
pretty excited about this approach in particular, as it’s
entirely possible that faction-specific classes won’t simply
be mirror images of one another. At the same time,
I’m sure many fans are wondering how class balance can ever
be achieved, or more importantly how content will be created if things
aren’t entirely equal while remaining exact opposites. Since
I just won my last 10 hands of Pazaak I’m feeling a bit
lucky, so I’m willing to bet the answer will be a combination
of personalized storylines for each class in the game, as well as the
usage of NPC companions – a wildcard gameplay element that
could remove the necessity of spending more time LFG than looting.
Droid pocket-healers anyone?
smugglers be the next official class announcement?
Heroes need allies, plain and simple. Just as Frodo would have never
made it to Mordor without the direct help of Samwise throughout the
journey and the indirect help of the Fellowship, Luke would have never
destroyed the first Death Star without a little (OK, a galactic ton of)
help from his friends. If done well, companion NPCs will serve a
similar function - and really, who doesn't want a pocket-Yoda training
them in the ways of the Force? Personal droids could similarly help in
situations involving things like hacking, or engineering tasks beyond
the scope of a given 'class' within the game. While I don’t
see NPC companions as ever being a complete replacement for human
players to the degree they were implemented in Guild Wars, I expect
that companions in TOR will offer a means creating iconic classes that
don’t necessarily have to be a “jack of all
trades” to survive in solo or small group situations.
Log: Stardate 4060.9
When I first started contemplating which classes we’re likely
to see in The Old Republic, I sat down with nothing more than a pencil
and a blank sheet of paper, a single vertical line drawn down the
center. On the one side I listed each class I’ve seen players
discuss both in href="http://forums.tentonhammer.com/forumdisplay.php?f=545"
target="_blank">Ten Ton Hammer’s forums for
TOR, as well as on
BioWare’s official boards for the game. In the other column,
I listed the mainstay roles that classes in most MMOs fulfill
– namely tanks, healers, DPS and support. While connecting
the dots between class candidates and the roles they could potentially
fulfill may have been a moderately entertaining way to kill part of an
afternoon, the process ultimately left me hoping that class selection
in what may be the most anticipated MMO in development
wouldn’t be so… well, boring.
I have a feeling that no matter what the final class list ends up being
for The Old Republic, many old school MMO players out there will cry
foul if things are so cut and dried, while still others will be upset
if they’re style="font-style: italic;">not.
Raiders want to know style="font-style: italic;">exactly
what role their level 1 character will play at the level cap. Casual
players want to know if Class X is still a viable option for soloing
later on or if, like in many other MMOs, they’ll eventually
hit a brick wall where the only “cool” content in
the game is locked within instances, or the only interesting equipment
upgrades are hidden within the treasure chests of Group Boss Mob Y.
Yet BioWare has selectively revealed specific information about the
game that, depending on perspective, weaves a very different MMO
tapestry than the industry has previously seen. Somewhere between the
strong emphasis on personal stories and the usage of companion NPCs,
I’d find it hard to believe that class roles will boil down
to neat little spreadsheet equations. You know, the whole thing where
Boss X has Y hitpoints and does Z damage, so defeating it necessarily
requires you have one Trained Baboon wielding a +2 Attack Kazoo of
Doom, 2 healers and a Slave Leia cosplayer in your party. Mind you, no
Star Wars party is ever complete without at least style="font-style: italic;">one
Slave Leia on hand, but that’s beside the point!
What are your thoughts on potential classes in The Old Republic? Do you
feel the factional approach is too limiting, or that it opens up more
compelling gameplay options? Be sure to drop by our forums and join in
on the discussion, or if you’d prefer you can always send a
virtual pigeon to href="mailto:[email protected]">my inbox!
Until next time dear readers, this is Captain Sardu signing off!
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