Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tanks, Nukers, and Healers in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Ereiid:
I would offer that class systems exist predominantly for balance purposes, the tradeoff is in player diversification and freedom. I can only surmise from the precedent of other games that class-based systems are substantially less difficult to adaptively balance, in contrast to skill or profession-based systems. Their prevalence in MMOs is a conceit of the developers' and designers' desire to make their own jobs as easy as possible.
That is precisely my feeling as well.

I'm sensitive to the practical necessities of meeting budget limits and schedule milestones. Making a triple-A MMORPG is such a vast undertaking that I absolutely can understand the desire to simplify a core system like character abilities.

But it's the fact that character abilities are a core system -- possibly the core system in any RPG -- that makes me think it's critical for this part of the game to be designed with the player in mind, not the developer. I think players of a Star Trek RPG are going to want more freedom to define their characters than allowed by the restrictive class-based ability model of conventional fantasy MMORPGs. If that means a character ability system that's somewhat harder to balance than a simple class system that stuffs every player into the round holes of the usual combat roles, then so be it -- if this part of the code is somewhat harder to write and maintain, that is a price worth paying to get a character ability system that makes every other gameplay design decision more consistent with the license.

Finally, I'd point out that nowhere is it written than developers can't offer both individual skills for the players who like creative freedom and preconstructed templates of skill clusters for those players who prefer the simplicity of filling a specific role. If a lot of players choose the templates, that makes it easier for developers to balance character abilities while still allowing other players to create the unique characters that are important for their gameplay satisfaction.

Finally, I'd ask developers to think about something: What does "balance" mean for non-combat grouped content, anyway?