Thursday, July 9, 2009

What If You Could Pick Two Classes?

When I'm checking out a new RPG, online or offline, video game or pen and paper, the first thing I take a look at is the class system. Historically, I've been pretty bad at predicting which class I'd actually prefer in MMORPG's - invariably something about the pace and timing of combat, or the relative strength of players and enemies doesn't work out quite the way I'd intended in my head. Still, I check out the class section first, because I'm curious about the tools that are available to players in the game.

Anyway, while researching yesterday's post on Runes of Magic, I could hardly resist at least taking a look at their class structure. The game's dual class feature makes reading the spell list a little tricky. If you take a look at the Curse database list for scouts, you'll see a ton of tabs. There are:
  • "Primary only" spells, that can only be used by characters who are currently using Scout as their primary class
  • "General" lists for skills that can be used when the Scout is either your primary or your secondary class
  • Five additional tabs, one for each of the possible secondary classes for so-called "elite" skills; these skills are only available to scouts with that paricular secondary class
  • In addition to the three tabs (Primary, general, class), a level 10+ Scout ALSO gets access to the general skills of their second class, which you'll need to go to that class' page to find.

It's an interesting way of providing a fair degree of variety and customization without having to create an indefinite number of individual spells. Looking over the lists also got me thinking about the logistics of playing a game that offers dual classes.

Dual Considerations
ROM's system has some similarities to FFXI's system, but also some important differences. Though FFXI does expect you to level a secondary job (and the community may expect you to level a tertiary job, if your primary job is not an appropriate subjob for leveling your subjob), players can freely switch between all the jobs they have unlocked at any time. This largely relieves the developers of the need to make any given job combination viable - if a combination does not work, the player can (and will be encouraged to) switch to something better.

By contrast, ROM class and subclass choices cannot be reversed, even through RMT. It will be interesting whether they eventually offer this option because sales would be good, or whether they would rather have players re-roll in the hopes of selling the new characters more stuff. Either way, there's some degree of pressure on the developer side to have both sides of each class combination work in some way, simply because the system is a major feature of the game.

The intriguing part is the decision making process for the actual player in choosing their permanent combination. Do you go with a secondary class you're not so fond of, knowing that you will have to level it separately from time to time, because it is the best fit for your primary class? Do you go with something completely different, even if that technically hampers your effectiveness, because it offers you the chance for a real change of pace when you swap out the jobs? Do you want to be able to swap into tanking and healing roles, or are you so opposed to healing that you'd rather NOT have the option and wait longer for group invites than be asked to switch to a role you don't like?

Looking at my current games
What would I pick if the other games I've played recently offered ROM-style dual classing?
Greenwiz (Level 80 Mage, WoW):

I think I'd go Rogue here. I've tried just about every class in WoW at some point (my last Shaman stalled out in the teens, every other class has reached at least level 22), and I've never been able to get into any of the other ranged classes. I always get frustrated that they aren't mages. So, I'd be looking for a change of pace, and rogue fits the bill nicely.

Allarond (Level 50 Champion, LOTRO):

My guess would be Warden. The Champion is a heavily armored melee DPS character with some self heals. I haven't played the Warden yet, but it's also a melee character with even more of a focus on self-healing and buffs. Seems like the two would complement each other nicely.

Lyriana (Level 67 Dirge, EQ2):

Shadowknight if there weren't alignment restrictions, or Berserker. Lyriana is a little squishy, and has very limited ability to damage more than one mob at a time. Either of the two AOE plate tanks would fix those problems up nicely, and both would benefit from the Dirge melee buffs.

Of course, when you're building a game for dual-classing, you're not going to build in as much hybrid capacity in the first place. You don't make off-the-rack combinations like the Champion or Shadowknight that do tanking, self-heals, DPS, and AOE, you achieve that collection of abilities through combining less complex classes.

ROM Class Speculation
Finally, my guess at Runes of Magic class combinations, so I can look foolish if/when I get around to playing the game and hate them:

Scout/Warrior: Combines Archery with melee DPS and a bit more durability, while giving the warrior some more range and precision damage skills. On paper it sounds like a way to lessen the traditional dependence on kiting for ranged non-pet classes. No danger of being asked to switch to heals.

Rogue/Priest: The Rogue gets more survival via heals, the Priest gets a DPS/manastealing side that might make soloing more fun.

I'm less interested - on paper anyway - in the Mage and Knight classes. When I try mages in other games, I'm almost always disappointed that they aren't as powerful as WoW mages. Also, I'm told that Mage/Priest is the most overpowered and overplayed combination in the game. As to the Knight, it's apparently your typical heavy tank with poor DPS, and I don't think I would enjoy having to level that side of my character.

Of course, it'll probably be mid-fall by the time I have the time to consider playing ROM. By that point, the new classes will be out, and perhaps this preliminary list will look completely different. Either way, it's fun to speculate.


Yeebo said...

The mage is the main class I played around with in RoM (I generally go for nukers in most MMOs).

Take this with a grain of salt because I never got past level 7 or something. However, at low levels they are nearly idiotically overpowered. You can literally one and two shot most even cons if you boost the right spells. Should something actually manage to get in melee range (which won't happen very often), you can always pop a shield spell that soaks up all their feeble damage while you go for the deathnuke.

I doubt they get all the cool spells that WoW mages do (blink, food, the teleports, and all that). But they seem to be at least as powerful at straight up nuking. My first 60 in WoW was actually a mage.

Mage/ Warrior is rumored to be quite good and not as overplayed as Mage/ Priest.

Green Armadillo said...

Yeah, that's the problem with nuking classes. Too much damage, or too many ways to lock foes down while you kill them, and there's no challenge. Too little in the way of damage and crowd control and you end up very very squishy.

I don't like the pure 100% lockdown root and nuke (or die if your root breaks), but I don't think there's much fun in 2-shotting mobs on a consistent basis either.