How many classes do you like to see in a game?

After reading the announcements about the final two classes in Bioware’s Star Wars MMO (for more info, read Moon over Endor’s excellent summary of the Total PC Gaming article), I’m still stuck on the notion of only having four classes on each faction. Even allowing for subclasses, it’s hard to gauge how differently they all will play.

There are some great advantages to having lots of different class choices. It’s more likely that a player who strongly favours one style of MMO play will be able to find a class that suits them. Love bow users but hate pets? Like melee healing but want to be able to shape shift too?  Only play healers but want something a bit different, yet still familiar? Dual wield rapiers? Want a class that’s exactly like some other class in a completely different game or genre? And if your favourite class gets altered via patches and stops being fun (for whatever reason), is there another class you might want to try?

Players will also get to mix with a wide range of classes and class abilities when they group. So grouping might be deeper and more complex, with more emphasis on having to adapt because you can’t assume all classes will be present. And because some classes will be rarer than others, people who like to be different should be able to do it. It also means that designers can allow for some classes being more complex than others; so for example the stereotype hardcore gamer with the more casual partner can both find fun classes, even if one of them doesn’t want the same level of challenge.

Not only that but if the classes play very differently (different mechanics, different lore and class quests, etc) then the game adds some extra replay-ability. It is also easier to manage group invites when a class  represents a role, as any hybrid will tell you who is tired of being asked if they’re specced to heal.

A lot of those factors could work with  fewer but more customisable classes. More flexibility within a class means that people can adapt better if their tastes change. It means more flexibility in forming groups too, and a higher skill cap if people want to really master their class.

For me, more flexibility in a class is also more fun, and means more time spent learning to play the different roles without having to reroll. But it’s also nice to have a strong class identity, and to have the widely different replayability options.

With Star Wars, I keep coming back to the thought that I have a lot of friends who like to play support classes, and there’s one option for that on each side. I wonder how that will work out.

Do you like games with a lot of classes to choose from? Or do you prefer fewer classes with more flexibility?



18 thoughts on “How many classes do you like to see in a game?

  1. I much prefer no classes at all, a skill based system. If there are classes, I like there to be options. I love the totally classless system of Fallen Earth. My next favorite system was Neocron, where there were 4 classes, but it was still skill based and you could pull off all kinds of crazy customization. Bottom line, for me anyways, is options options options.

    That said, I got an acquaintance to try Fallen Earth the other day and they just could not handle the idea of not having a strict class system. He said he needs somebody, or something, to tell him exactly what to do in those regards. I think these kind of people would be better served by a system with a lot of classes.

    I think that in the end, more people fall into the latter group unfortunately.

  2. In the case of Fallen Earth there are ‘classes’ as such, as in, roles you can fill. If you look on the stats screen (atleast, last time I played it) there’s a drop down box with a list of roles. Selecting one gives you targets to hit. I was going for 2 of them (Melee + Crafter, which are quite similar) so while you’re free to mess around as much as you want, you can also follow a semi-rigid structure, which I think is a much better system (giving people choice) than the hard lines most MMO’s push you into. It’s why I love playing Hybrid classes more than anything due to their flexibility. (Go Go Moonkin Druid :D)

  3. I think there should be as many classes as you can have people in a single group (or party or fellowship or whatever you call it)… 😉

  4. Just remove classes and combat systems based on 3-4 archetypical roles, and we do not have to worry about how many classes the system can support.

    I am all for letting players pick traits/skills of their choice. Then they can roughly make the kind of char they envision, with all the strengths and drawbacks of their choice.

    Fixed class systems need to focus on few classes. Adding new classes to the system is difficult, and diluting class specialties and roles by making them interchangeable is also a problem.

    4 Classes sounds awfully like the holy trinity:
    Tank, DPS, Heal and the 4th class is the “Utility” class, mostly a hybrid that is rarely well done.

    Warrior, Ranger, Elementalist, Mesmer, Necromancer, Monk was Guild Wars take on the system, where the “tank” in the usual sense does not exist to that extent as in other games.

    I wonder if versatile hybrid classes without healing and tank classes would not bring back the player and player action oriented gameplay rather than class based planning. Ghostcrawler tried that with the latest WoW class and dungeon design, but in a by heart trinity based DIKU this causes what I called diluting class identity and specialties.

  5. Trouble with classless systems is that you end up with even less choice.

    That is you may have infintite choice and you probably will be able to do that while leveling/skilling up. However at some point you’ll get to the ‘end game’ be that PvP/PvE or something else. So unless you’re end game of choice is very meta (pet collecting and so on) then you’re going to get forced into some sort of Min/Max cookie cutter. Right now in WoW there’s generally 2-3 builds for each class. This gives a lot of variety. If you go classless it’ll be tank, spank and heals. Maybe CC if you’re lucky. And thats it. 4 viable builds per faction. = not a lot of choice. Of course you could buck the trends and go for your own maverick build but good luck getting groups….

  6. This is what plagues Guild Wars, unfortunately. The gimmick builds are just too good. But you make it sound as if such systems invariably end up with tank/heal/dps. Many games, especially online shooters or games like MechWarrior 3/4 completely work without designated tank and healer roles, without sacrificing diversity.

  7. Skill-based systems appeal to veteran players who believe they can gain some advantage by cherry-picking their abilities. Class-based systems appeal to new players who aren’t sure of how to deal with complexity.

    I think that for new people wanting a simple game four classes is a good number. It’s very clear what each different class does and you don’t have complex decisions to take at the start.

    You see a lot of “I want to tank, which class should I pick” threads on the WoW forums because it’s an important decision that new people have to make on no game information.

    In addition there is a seperate voiced storyline for each class in SWTOR. That obviously restricts the amount of material. For a lot of us we’ll want to do all the storylines so 30 classes might be offputting.

  8. Hmm… it’s a toughie 🙂 I always liked EQ2’s huge variety of classes and scoffed at WoW for having so few yet, after playing WoW, I quite like the variety between classes. Like in EQ2, a Paladin was a tank and nothing else yet in WoW they can be viable healer.

    I guess the pro’s to having flexible talent trees is that one can respec and change the way they play their class without making a new one. The downside is that it does take away some of the pleasure of being defined as a “Berserker” or “Inquisitor” and you end up calling yourself a generic “Warrior, Fury spec” instead.

  9. Also of course there’s the re-roll issue.

    A lot of people start the game with a concept in mind, often one with little or no relation to game mechs or even whats possible (Duel wielding rapiers, my D&D character, I wanna play Dritz etc etc) and when that dream crisps and dies in the face of the possible it can be a real game killer.

    With different builds and possibilites out there you dont have to just re-roll when current game reality makes itself known. Or the Nerf bat strikes. I may have a couple of 80 alts and a Dk in the 70’s, my wife may have umpty ump 80’s but Joe Slow who just spent 12 months leveling to endgame is liable to just quit if he’s told to go do it again as a ninja-jedi instead. 4 classes per faction? Depends on how much wiggle room you have in-class. If its lots thats cool. All those Jedi/Sith that roll on that name alone who turn out to be not so great tanks/healers better have an option other than re-roll…but I’m sure they will.

    Will they go for breaking the ‘holy trinity’? Nah. Its possible as previously mentioned but I’m with Spinks on this…not something I see Bioware breaking that particular MMO mold on. World of Darkness from CCP….all bets are off.

  10. Flexibility is one of the most important things to me in character creation and development. I’d far rather have fewer classes to choose from but be able to customize my character significantly, than to have a large number of classes to choose from where every member of a given class is effectively the same. Ultimately, it comes down to a) my desire to tweak and test mechanics by playing with wildly different builds, b) my desire to create unique characters that are unlike everyone else’s (or at least not cookie-cutter), and c) my desire to shape my characters organically based on roleplay considerations.

  11. I prefer fewer classes more roles. I do think it’s more efficient because you don’t have to reroll but that’s not the major reason. The major reason is that I not only like to know what I’m getting with class but what I’m *not* getting. All the classes in EQ 2 were huge turn off to me. Too many options and I had no idea how they all played. The *worst* feeling for me in a game is to play it a long time and then come to the conclusion I would have been better off playing some other class but I didn’t understand that at the beginning because I didn’t understand what my choices were. I hate that. It doesn’t make me go “oooh replayability” it makes me feel like a dork and that I was conned.

  12. I prefer no classes, and/or the ability to completely control (and respec) my character. It’s most definitely all about choice. (I’m not min-maxing, either, just exploring the game systems.)

    Was it Tabula Rasa (and Aion?) that started you in an “archetype” that later diverged into a more specialized “class”? It almost reminds me of Seiken Densetsu 3, where you chose from of six characters (each embodying a “class”), and as you played, you could upgrade twice, each time choosing “light” or “dark”, effectively giving 24 potential classes, each having their speciality.

    This let players get up and running with characters defined in broad strokes, but also let them refine their approach to the game as they became more proficient with their particular choices. It seems to me to be a nice way of handling the learning curve…

    but I’d still want a complete respec, even the ability to totally change class.

    • Not sure about those, but EQ2 definitely did at the start. They scrapped it because people didn’t enjoy having to play for 20 levels (or however many) as a base class before they could actually play as the class they wanted.

      • How is that different from playing 60 levels before you have all the toys and tools for a given class? (Not snarky; it seems to me that there’s *always* a wait to get to “the class someone wants”…)

      • That depends entirely on what abilities you think define your class, what level you get them at, and how many of them come as standard with the base class.

        Presumably in EQ2, people felt that the base classes were not very full featured and didn’t have the versatility they expected from ‘full’ classes. (When I played it, after they let you pick your final class at level 1, I felt rather overwhelmed with abilities but I guess experienced EQ2 players are used to that and expect it.)

        But it’s true that you don’t get the same level of complaint about the different specs in WoW — although it’s just as valid there. You really can’t play very effectively as some of them until much later on. I think people just take their class identity very seriously.

  13. i got a question…
    did anyone know a good fps with multi-class system many classes and race social skills like woodcutting an mining lol but also many weapons and armour wih kle attacks ?
    if some one know a good game pls tell.

    pls do noot mail.

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