F: Games with Class
The Balancing Act: Games with Class By Ralsu "); //-- I'm a die hard Diablo fan. It was Blizzard's action role-playing game that led me to make the bold upgrade from...
The Balancing Act: Games with ClassBy Ralsu
I'm a die hard Diablo fan. It was Blizzard's action role-playing game that led me to make the bold upgrade from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 back in 1995. I completed Diablo with each of the 3 base classes: warrior, rogue, and wizard. In the end, my experience with each was almost identical. Each of the 3 classes could learn any spell if my INT score was high enough. Each could wear the same heavy armor if I dumped enough points into STR. In the endgame levels, my strategy was the same for all 3 classes: turn some succubi into tone and whack them with a stick or sword.
When playing a game feels the same no matter which class the player chooses, the developers have created nothing more than a treadmill. Why do treadmill games exist if the game would have more replay value with distinct classes that deliver varied game play experiences? Let's explore.
The Balancing ActTry being the only healer who doesn't have a buff to movement speed. Or try being the only caster who can't teleport party members all over the world. It's easy to be jealous of the special abilities other players get to enjoy. For every signature skill that makes players envious of Class A, developers must create a skill with equal impact for Class B. It's a delicate balancing act for sure. This balancing act becomes even more complicated for games that include player-vs-player (PvP) combat. That wizard ability to teleport the party might be supremely useful when in groups, but it's not going to mean much for PvP.
The demands of designing enough balanced skills proves too much for some companies. Instead of allocating resources to building class, many developers must opt to go with a more generic system. The benefits of taking such a "shortcut" include more money to spend on content and less complaining from gamers that the classes are improperly balanced.
Games with ClassThe key to fun game design is to give each class a handful of unique and useful skills that promote exclusive strategies for each class without overpowering any of the classes. For a game like EverQuest, that meant making warriors able to wear the best armor but weak in damage. Necromancers got undead pets and spells involving the manipulation of life force. Enchanters could control crowds of enemies like nobody else. Druids could change shape and call upon natural forces to heal or do damage.
The class the player chooses does matter a great deal in EverQuest. The gaming experience for a monk is vastly different from that of a paladin. Within archetypes, experiences vary, too. The magician is a very different kind of caster from the wizard.
DDO Has ClassWithout a doubt, Dungeons & Dragons Online can be counted as a game where the choice of class (most of them anyway) makes a huge difference to the game play experience. Rogues are adept at picking locks and disarming traps. Wizards do quite a bit of crowd control. Rangers dish out damage. Paladins provide support and slay casters. I could go on. Let's just say Turbine did a fine job maintaining the balance inherent to the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) system. DDO's not perfect, though.
DDO @ Ten Ton Hammer's Zed astutely posited that DDO would break from the pattern of the holy trinity (tank, healer, crowd control). It does, but it just eschews a tank for a pair (or more) of damage dealers. The cleric is still there healing. The wizard or bard is still their mesmerizing foes. One game on the horizon that might be brave enough to completely blur the lines of the holy trinity is Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. Or would that just lead us back to feeling like the choice of class doesn't matter? I told you it's a delicate balancing act! In the meantime, I'll just be glad DDO is a very different game playing as a fighter or bard.