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?