Results of Poll 13: Failure in Videogames
The Immanent Soul

New Poll: Classes in Role-playing Games

When you play a computer RPG with classes, which style of play appeals to you? Do you like to get in close and personal and hack at the enemy with melee weapons, or lurk at a distance and pick them off with bows? Do you prefer the power and versatility of a mage,  or perhaps the sneaky thief or rogue classes appeal to you? Or maybe you like characters strong in healing and support? Perhaps none of these classes appeal to you, and you like hybrid classes like a traditional Advanced Dungeons & Dragons-style Bard, or maybe classes aren't your thing at all and you like to create custom characters?

This poll is about how you prefer to play cRPGs - choose your answer, and you can let me know your thoughts in the comments here.

For some time, I've been wondering whether to move the poll reports to ihobo, but I've decided to keep them here for the time being. The poll itself is on all my blogs, except Shadowtail where it would be decidedly out of place!

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In 'party' RPGs I usually pick the role that the AI can't really fulfill. Fighters and archers fare well when left alone but AI mages, healers and rogues/thieves tend to waste their potential by casting some utterly useless spells on some ridiculous targets while the enemy is butchering the party.

What really pisses me off is when a game punishes a class to make it completely unplayable. The Baldur's Gate final boss fight is a good example. I enjoyed my party of magic users right to the end when it turned out the big baddie was resistant to magic. I felt screwed and betrayed. Better to have 3 classes of warrior-hunter-wizard variety than 33 classes with hybrids like Bookworm Ranged Farmer or Healing Thief when the really playable ones are still warrior, hunter and wizard.

When I'm not concerned by the AI performance (see: world of warcraft) I prefer all kinds of ranged damage dealers. Hunters/archers, Mages/wizards and Necromancers/Warlocks. I also like classes that utilize summons or companion creatures.

I always think I will like to play a spell caster, but especially in games based on D&D, this never works out because the D&D magic systems are stupid.

The last time this happened to me was when I worked my way through Planescape:Torment.

The magic systems in newer games (e.g. KOTOR) and the Japanese games work better IMHO.

Anyway, I always end up wanting to play a character who can do *everything*. I don't like artificial class restrictions. I don't have time to play a game twice to see if it's different with another class.

Hybrids, please. But preferably a game that doesn't have classes.

I dislike intensely the notion of classes - an archaic notion dating from D&D which should have been killed off long ago. Why can't my character be a *character*? If I choose to learn to cast a fireball using ambient magic in the world, why should I suddenly be unable to wear a chain mail shirt - *ever*? Why can't I have a pet dog who can bite something and do some damage? How about being able to ask my preferred deity for a boon? Yet this is the insanity that is perpetuated by class-based RPGs, computer or not.

[Much longer and more pointed rant elided in the interests of my blood pressure]

I'm happy to see combinatorial restrictions of the form "heavy armour restricts your movement too much for the fine motions you need to channel ambient magic, so you can't cast in anything heavier than a T-shirt". Fine, and necessary to get any kind of game balance and create interest in group play. It's the pre-ordained path with lockouts at character creation that gets me.

I run a druid (OK, several druids) and a shaman in Warcraft, precisely because of the wide range of roles they can fulfil and because I am *less* artificially limited by the game in what I can do with the character. I've tried each of the monoclasses (warrior, priest, mage, hunter, rogue, warlock) in turn, and abandoned each of them. I simply can't be bothered putting the effort into developing what is, in effect, a 1-trick pony.

I won't play a D&D campaign any more, much to the annoyance of my gaming group :-).

BTW, I've yet to see a non-D&D game where the druid is "support" - is this D&D stereotyping creeping in? Or have I missed the relevant games?

When I play an RPG with classes, I go one of two distinct ways:

1. A full-on melee character, hack-n-slash style

2. A support(/magic/healing) character, or cross-breed support-melee, but this only applies to MMORPGs where co-operation is assumed key for success

Determining my class is based on what I assume about the game-world. Is it going to be diablo-style hack and slash, or will I be able to rely on either other players or NPCs to bail me out if I am low on HP.

My objective is not to die in RPGs, and it is also to reach the highest stats of any class, that usually means not spreading one's abilities or calss points across many things but focusing on a single few, but stronger attributes.

I feel that it is assumed that there is a single preferred class in any given single player RPG: as there is always a single weapon with the highest damage, or a single spell that requires a certain skillset

Depends on if I'm soloing or not. Solo I like pure melee or melee-hybrids (like a druid or paladin). If I play in groups, I'm happy to take on a support character, mostly because I can find groups most easily that way and spend more time playing than organizing.

In WOW I started with hunter, but only because it's so powerful. Each class has it's own way of playing, and I'm trying them all out for completeness.

With paper/pencil games I much prefer an all rounder - someone who is vital to the party because they can stuff which the other members can't. They tend to have secrets, the bigger the better. One of my characters has a split personality: one side is a mild mannered archaeologist, the other side being a psychotic murder (can anyone say Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde?)

Another one is a descendent of the French Cathar pretending to be a Buddhist nun to avoid the inquisition.

In basis D&D I'd tend to go for a fighter/mage/thief combination. I basically want it all.

@Peter Crowther

1-trick ponies they might be but the traditional division of 'jack of all trades, master of none' makes sense. For me the fragility of mages and the relative simple-mindedness of melee fighters adds personality to characters.

It is usually assumed that each skill requires a significant investment of time and access to secretive teachers and/or organizations. Thus it is improbable that a character could learn to tame wild animals and still be able to master melee combat and magic. I'm perfectly happy with that.

Scifi RPGs (and movies, books etc.) can bypass this somewhat by providing high-tech (often AI-assisted) that enables characters with thorough general education to perform specialized tasks with adequate competence. Most episodes of Star Trek Voyager can serve as examples.

Quick name change notice -- I was previously known as dj i/o on these comments, but I'm officially changing my name to organic io, to reflect the fact that I changed my music moniker almost a year ago.

In response to the question, it depends on the game... If the game has a good melée engine, ala Oblivion, then I'll definitely choose a melée character. If not, then I probably won't play the game. If I was forced to play a CRPG that didn't have a very good melee engine though, I'd probably go with a Thief character because I do quite enjoy the Thief games.

^^^^ He's doing it to hide from me :P

As some people have already said, it depends on whether there is an opportunity to play multiplayer or not. I'll tend to be support/healing if there is.

Singleplayer games vary so widely that it basically depends on the game. Sometimes I'll prefer a class with pets and automatic/passive abilities, to enable me to concentrate on only a few things. Some games gimp ranged combat so I will end up being melee (Fable). Some games will draw me in to the power of a magic-user. It all depends on the game. I'll re-roll if a class I try to play isn't doing it for me.

Thinking about it, it looks like I always take the path of least resistance! I'm a lazy achiever :P

P.S... The fact that I prefer melée characters is further evidence that I am a primarily tactical player -- I desire that feeling of control over the player -- I want the feeling that, if I am skillful enough with my timing, I could actually overcome situations that I shouldn't be able to with my character stats. If I don't have that control, and it is all just left up to the numbers (i.e. click here to hit or cast a spell), I feel helpless and the game has much less meaning to me.

I do admit to enjoying some of those click to attack games in my youth, most notably Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6.. And I do desire to replay them on occasion, but I think it is more for nostalgia than anything else, as I have almost no interest in newer Final Fantasy games.

-Scott

Dear all,

Thanks for the comments! There's a lot of "it depends on the game" being said, which is to be expected - these straw polls always force a not-so-simple decision.

Peter: "I dislike intensely the notion of classes - an archaic notion dating from D&D which should have been killed off long ago."

Having studied this for a while now I can report that most people who express Rational heavily feel this way. They don't understand why classes persist.

Yet classes carry enormous advantages when you are targeting a wider market, because choosing one archetype among a set is easier for most players than learning character generation before starting play.

(Not to mention that in MMO games classes make balancing easier and make party formation more straightforward).

When you remember that Guardian is strongly expressed in about 50% of people and Rational in just 10%, the popularity of class systems makes much more sense - as does the continuing popularity of D&D.

Like you, I have no interest in D&D anymore (not since about 1984). Of my three published tabletop RPGs, only one is class based (Shifter), and that's because it's intended to that every game be played in just one evening. And even that doesn't restrict your character generation. The others use a skill system.

But in my computer RPGs, I'm moving towards trying to balance these two competing elements against each other - to allow players to choose an archetype, but also to allow them to custom make a character too.

I'd love to talk about the character generation solution I've chosen for the new game, but it will have to wait. :)

Organic i/o: Wow, that's going to take some getting used to! Are you certified organic? Are you free from pesticides and chemical fertilisers? :)

Anyway... I'm supposed to be working. :)

Upon reflection, I've realised that I've never spent much time with a 'Western RPG' - though I've completed a couple of JRPGs.

I think that for me, besides the level-grinding and generally huge time commitment, having to make such a significant choice at the start of a game is actually a turn-off for me.

I hate the idea of not having all the information in the open when I make such a major decision. And such a major decision at the start of a long game seems insidious - if I realise later on that another class would have been more enjoyable or better matched against the monsters, there's no drifting from this pre-ordained path or changing my mind without replaying tens of hours.

At a conceptual level, I'm less annoyed with irreversible moral decisions, since at that point I'm actually playing the game - and the background information is already given.

Like Katherine, I'd probably take the path of least resistance - wanting to take whatever class made it easiest to finish the game - if I knew more about the game ahead of time.

I think I'd slightly prefer an offensive magic-user rather than a melee or archer since needing to manage the MP comes with slightly more involvement, though. I voted for this, not wanting to be left out.

I used to choose mages (high Int scores) but I've moved to more rogue-like characters (high Cha, Int). Whatever ability or skill gives me the most dialogue options dictates my choice. So the archetype I look for is the Diplomat, perhaps?

Bezman: You aren't the only person to have this issue with wanting more information than is available at the start of the game. It is the nature of the western RPG to face this decision and have to make it, while the Japanese RPG generally assigns classes to your party, removing this issue.

Foster: other than Fallout, I'm not sure many games have reflected this idea of having a stat-based distinction as to which conversation topics are available. It's a lot of extra work, so it tends to get factored out in my experience.

Yet classes carry enormous advantages when you are targeting a wider market, because choosing one archetype among a set is easier for most players than learning character generation before starting play.

Indeed. But archetype at start of play != class with constraints enforced throughout play.

I'd have no problem choosing an archetype that was tailored to a particular style at the start of play, and even to have a signposted route towards continuing to develop the character in that vein. But it'd be nice to be able to go down "the road less travelled" and to do something else with the character instead.

Chris, Fallout is definitely a special case, but a few other games offer or dialogue options that have a better chance of succeeding with a high stat. I think 'flexibility in dialogues' is a better description of what I aim for.

let's see. in WoW i tend to play either a pally, which is, in essence, secondary Everything [if he's an engineer or has an engineering buddy, even the lack of ranged weapons is made up for... with Explosives! :D] or a rogue. though theoretically antithetical to one another, they have this in common: they are both Very good at Surviving. i can't play most other classes in that game. too squishy [except the warriors, who just annoy the heck out of me for some reason].

playing City of Heroes/villains, though, i go a different direction. controllers, masterminds and, more recently, Arachnos Soldiers [crab spider variant]. noticeably all ranged, and all prevent the enemy even Getting to you in the first place, let alone killing you. controllers literally stop them in their tracks most of the time, masterminds methods vary a lot by power set but still keep the enemy off the PC, while crab spiders just blast the enemy into itty bitty specks of dust before they can really do much of anything, and have a fair number of defense buffs too. i outright Cannot play melee classes effectively in that game, however.

i don't really like classes as such. tend to be over restricting. CoH/V's 'archtypes' are better. they define the nature of your powersets, but where you go from there is up to you. an ice/ice blaster almost may as well be a controller, a shield scrapper is ... more tanky than it has any right to be, some blaster builds are basically more smashy/fragile scrappers... villain side this is both more and less noticeable. the classes and power sets are arranged differently. almost all of them could be defined as 'hybrids' of various hero archetypes, 'equivalent' to various hero archetypes, and unique archetypes all there own. all at once.

all that aside, i can see the downside of skill based systems too. you gotta know what you're doing, half the time large numbers of the skills are useless, and very rare is the CRPG that will take into account properly the Combination of skills. so i have fire magic and I'm an archer... what's to stop me using that to create flaming arrows, for example? not much except that most games won't handle it. thermal shock is another one. ice + fire = massive damage. or would, if anything tracked it.

aaaand, I've veared way off topic.

anyway, i have trouble defineing what 'classes' i prefer to play, beyond 'ones that don't die or present me with horrible control issues'

almost inevitably, given the choice, i end up taking anything that buffs my defensive stats so i don't have to worry about them, the biggest 'bang' i can get for my buck [ranged or melee, depending on the system], any passive oddball useful things,offensive power wise, and anything that produces interesting effects when you chain it together. [WoW's paladin's retribution talent tree/ abilities are Great for this one.]

guess that makes me a vote for 'hybrid'...

wow this post is long.

Peter: I see the core of your complaint now: it's not the narrowing of the starting points, but the curtailing of the options from that point onwards. I've never designed RPG mechanics with this kind of limitation, since like you I don't really see the point. But for MMORPGs I imagine there might be more of an argument, since balance in these games is far harder than usual.

Foster: Sure, I certainly see the appeal. I tend to shy away from modifying dialogue based on stats in my own designs, though. I feel there is something strange in locking out conversation options. This probably swings in from my tabletop sensibility which said: "What's said is the player, what's done is the character." This isn't the only possible paradigm, though.

Cargone: thanks for this detailed report! I have very little experience of City of Heroes/Villains (other than seeing it at launch at E3 and thinking it was a bit too much like a traditional MMORPG for my tastes) so it's intriguing to read your approach to facing these decisions. Behind all your choices seems to be min-maxing, or at least optimising for maximum survival. That suggests no express class preference to me, so 'hybrid' would be a sensible answer to the poll, all in all.

Thanks again!

I tend to be the Ranger, the long distance support. Except that I want to do everything else too. Thief skills: yes please! Ability to take down the big baddies at close range if I need to: yep. Healing and buffs: sure.

When you get DnD about it, I tend to start with a base of Ranger, and then build out a bit.

My best example of this was my Neverwinter Nights character, which I had to rebuild a couple of times to get the level balance right.

I started as a Ranger/Bard (a little bit of non-denominational magic). Then I took some Rogue to get my skills in thievery going. Finally, after some appropriate leveling I took Arcane Archer so I could kill everything, near or far, with lots of deadly flying arrows. I was like an evil Legolas.

Hybrids are fun when they take what you like to do and then give you the skills to do everything else too.

it's not the narrowing of the starting points, but the curtailing of the options from that point onwards.

Quite.

Easier to balance, more irritating to play - for me, anyway. I may be in the minority here!

Duncan: Ranger because of the ranged aspect, or because you like a nature-based action character? I ask because I wonder if there was Hunter but no Ranger, would you take Hunter?

Peter: as a rough-and-ready estimate, I'd say about 20-25% of cRPG players would be in your camp. The rest - those for whom the logistical play is more important than the mechanics - would largely accept whatever mechanics were delivered to them and not think about how else it might have been done.

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