Monday, July 26, 2010

Too many options leaves too many bad options

Anyone who has played an online game knows the endless debate about how many class options should their be, and what kind of class archetypes should exist.  It can generally be narrowed down to 4 archetypes:  dps; tank; magic; support.

Thanks to this article on joystiq, we can see that square-enix (along with everyone else) cannot grasp this concept, going so far as to turn what should be trade skills any player class SHOULD be able to do, into wholly defined classes in and of themselves.

So, to many options leaves too many bad options, right?  How do I mean?  Its simple:  when you have too many classes, it will undoubtedly lead to this player or that complaining that this class can do this activity better than that class, or something along those lines.

At best, each of these archetypes should have 2, possibly 3, classes in them.  For example, in the DPS archetype, there is room for 2 classes, 3 depending on what kind of game you are making.  Generally, you need 2 types though:  the heavy hitter, and the quick hitter.  The heavy hitter is the class that someone who likes a lot of hitpoints and high damage attacks plays, which the quick hitter is the class that someone who likes agile fighters plays.  The heavy hitter will generally have a 2 handed weapon, will swing it at a moderate speed, wear at best medium armor, and will have a ton of hitpoint to offset its lack of defense.  The quick hitter is for people who like dual-wielding, evasive fighters, the kind who can dodge and parry attacks often, do some serious damage quickly, but dont have very many hitpoints, so they need to get in and out.  The 3rd option here will be your "stealth" class.  A lot of people hate these, but even more like them, so they are almost always included.  This class is usually split into 2 different classes, but most times that leads to bad things, because the 2 classes it is split into are generally archers and assassins, and the rift that exists between these 2 classes is ginormous, and its not going away anytime soon. They should never be split, but instead, the player should have the option to turn the class into whichever they want, maximizing one skill set over the other, or diversifying.

I could go on and on about this, but anyone who is reading this likely already knows everything else to be said so we'll leave it at that.

Final Fantasy 11 came along and did a lot of this, the game was just not very good in the long run for a number of just overall bad design decisions.  Now it seems they are trying again with Final Fantasy 14 (between you and I, the last good game was FFX).  18 classes.  But I'm confused, because one group of classes is literally every type of trade skill standard in most other games.  How you can make a blacksmith a class and make it compelling to play?  The answer?  Who the fuck knows.  Its Square-Enix.  Someone out there would eat a turd if they branded it Final Fantasy merchandise.

Funnily enough, people like to think that options are always a good thing, but they never want to admit that when they have too many options, they often get stuck choosing one thing they really love about one option, but being stuck with way too many negatives to make it hard to justify the choice.  But its not the only problem.  A lot of times, one class will end up with too much stuff that is good, and it will become a de facto choice.

Its a tricky thing, balancing classes, because developers have to be keen enough to give players the options they want and are accustomed to, without giving too much to a player and overwhelming them.

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