Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Could Overpowered, Solo-Only Classes Work In A Group Game?

Imagine that a game had two types of classes:

Solo classes capable of completing all of the leveling content on their own, but unable to join any groups and therefore excluded from the endgame.

Group classes that are tuned to require balanced groups (the exact size is unimportant) to complete leveling content, but in return receive double exp/player/hour and are allowed to continue into the group-based endgame.

The balance issues that come with having to balance every class with a core solo PVE skillset and group utility would be gone. So would the challenges of providing solo and group leveling content, since both types of classes would be completing the same content. Meanwhile, the complaint that the solo leveling game does not prepare players to fill their roles in endgame groups would be gone.

Would It Work?
Someone who knows their history might be about to comment that the old school group games like EQ1 and FFXI actually did have some classes that could solo by charming or permakiting mobs. These classes were incidentally not so useful to groups, since their tactics were superfluous with a real tank and healer. If anything, I'd cite that as a proof of concept.

If developers implemented this intentionally, they could balance the leveling experience to be fun for everyone, rather than fun for one group (either soloers or groupers depending on the game) and annoying (grindy or trivial) for the other. There would be perfectly clear expectations so that players don't reach endgame and discover that their classes aren't wanted. Because the characters would be on the same server, group players could have solo class alts for their farming needs. Alternately, the game could use BOE endgame group dungeon loot as a way to encourage solo players to send their cash to group players for their upkeep costs.

The devs would technically miss out on the chance to try and convert a 95% solo, once/month potential group player like myself to the endgame raid gear grind. Then again, it's not like I'm currently able to do group content often enough for that to be an option that I would miss if it were gone. In any case, I don't think that's a huge portion of the market compared to the people who are impacted by the solo -> group playstyle shift at the end of solo-friendly games like WoW, EQ2, and LOTRO.

Solo players would be free to solo, group players would have team-mates who know what they're doing, and devs would save some time on balance and content addition. I'm sure there wouldd be new and different problems with this model, but it seems like it'd be worth considering.


  1. Can't see why it wouldn't.

    You wouldn't solve the issue of people whining on forums but it would certainly be original.

    Naturally people would try to break it so it would need some pretty robust design and testing.

  2. Seems like it'd be better to just have each class in the game come with a solo spec and a group spec tree. Go solo spec and you'll be self-sufficient, go group spec and you'll improve the effectiveness of everyone through whatever mechanic is appropriate to the class. I don't see why you have to recreate the content into basically two different worlds.

  3. I agree with evizaer. Do you really want to tell players that they need to decide right at the beginning if they ever want to group or not?

  4. If you had a game that forced me to choose at the beginning whether to be always solo or be always grouped, I wouldn't play your game.

    I would dislike your game for forcing me to restrict my options before I even understood the consequences of the decision.

  5. While this is an interesting concept, it would strike me as a developer trying to please too many people, therefore spreading themselves too thin. As some of these others have noted, forcing people to make such a fundamental decision up front would make people freak out before they've left the character creator.

  6. MmMM...

    I think it also depends on the scale of the game, and the payment model.

    Back when I was MUDding, my 'main' MUD had a very flexible, mostly skill (as in learned from NPCs skills) based system, that allowed you to make an amazingly large number of character builds that played *very* differently from each other. Sort of like the alphabet lets us make lots of words, that let us make lots of sentences. =)

    Yes, imo, the system was *that* good. One of the best I've ever played.

    But back to the topic!

    I had a friend who had a basically sub-optimal build for the high-level 'endgame' part of the game. Though I don't think MUDs really have an 'endgame' mindset, so that's something to bear in mind.

    Yet through a combination of finesse, (player) skill, and way too much time and practice, said friend managed to accumulate what were, on that MUD, absolutely ungodly amounts of experience. Just from the perversity of deciding to get lots of it. (No, there weren't any real returns for it by the point he reached lol.)

    Yet this same build was basically more or less useless in a group. It didn't hit very hard, couldn't tank all that well (at least, definitely not as well as the built-to-tank types), and was generally ... not exactly optimal for any grouping.

    ...but MUDs are multiplayer games.

    ...and it did work. This effectively solo-only build.

    Of course, this then calls into question whether MUDs are really group games, or tend to be more of Play Solo With Others games. Hoom.

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  8. i heard a rumor that warlocks can do it all : /

    (curse a lack of *edit*!)

  9. To clarify a bit, EQ2 actually does have roughly the system that Evizaer describes - every class has a solo and a group spec (usually it's just one of each, though some have variations), and every class can solo to some extent. There is a wide range of killing speeds and ability to deal with tough mobs solo, but everyone can get to the level cap.

    However, solo-friendly classes are described on the forums, rightly or wrongly, as not needed for raiding because the aspects that make them good at soloing are not needed with a proper tank and healer. There's an ongoing and perpetual conflict between pure DPS and other roles (in both WoW and EQ2) because the other roles all can and HAVE to be able to DPS in order to solo. Players argue, correctly, that the solo leveling game does nothing to prepare players for the endgame.

    The choice of class cannot (currently) be reversed, and the character creator certainly doesn't warn you of any of these potential consequences of your class choice might make you unwelcome in groups. I do agree that it's a problem in the system I've described as well, but it isn't a completely novel one. Part of the reason I suggested the double exp for group players was to make it easier for players to switch from solo to group if they decided they'd chosen incorrectly.

  10. This sounds like a great way to eliminate a whole lot of paying customers right from the start.

  11. I played one of the solo-only classes in FFXI, the beastmaster. They aren't proof of your concept because SE did a lot to make them unable to solo much content even apart from endgame.

    FFXI really restricted what you can do solo by charming and kiting some mobs. You need very specific settings to do so, and even then, soloing was much harder and in many cases much longer: to solo Hakutaku by a BST was 6 hours of charming resistant pets, and all it takes is one mischarm or wipe to die and lose claim.

    BST however was ten times easier and more fun as a duo class, and I think rather than pure solo, classes restricted to party sizes of two or three only may make better sense.

  12. Hmm.

    Interesting in theory, but I don't know how great it'd really be in practice.

    I think one of the bigger issues that first sprang to mind is would it become necessary for everyone to roll one of these solo characters, so that they could then easily farm gold/materials/whatever for their slew of group alts?

    Would there then have to be trade restrictions between solo/group classes?

    In the case of EQ2, could it be that solo chars would have to be denied access to the shared aspect of the bank?


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