Many professions or few

I remember one of the selling points for SWG was how many professions it was going to have. It promised to have dozens of professions. I think this appeals to people because we’re always trying to be special in MMOs. We’re tired of looking like everyone else and having the same abilities that they do, and we want more diversity in the kind of people we bump into. If there are very few people who play a certain profession, it’s natural to assume their rare abilities would make them valuable and fun to play

But it didn’t. Instead, if you chose to be an crafter, a doctor, or an entertainer, you were completely worthless most of the time. Most of the time, nobody had to interact with you and nobody wanted to. Eventually, someone might want a guild-hall, or a face-lift, or some death-penalty removed and they would be forced to interact with you until they could get back to doing fun stuff. Outside of that one shinning moment when someone needed you for something… you were a waste of pixels.

SWG separated out their professions for the sake of printing “30 professions!” on the box. Yes, it’s nice you can change your haircut in-game, but it was never nice enough to have it’s own profession.

What would a game look like if there was only one class? I don’t mean skill-trees or having someone specialize for battle before going out. I mean, what if everyone could do everything all the time and it was a matter of just dragging the skills onto the skill-bar? In this case, nobody would be turned down from a group because people were waiting for a particular class. What would make you special in that case would be real skill. Honest-to-goodness skill. Are you good at healing? Are you good at tanking? What do you like playing most?

But MMOs don’t do that. Even in a game like the next Final Fantasy which blurs the line by letting you switch jobs on the fly… you still have to level that particular job before playing it. You can still be sitting around waiting for a white-mage, blink-tank, or whatever else you need for the group. I have to wonder if feeling unique is worth all that time I have to wait for a particular class to log on and join the group.

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Suzina is a 27 year old who usally plays the same MMOs as her husband. Games played: UO, EQ2, FFXI, SWG, LOTRO.

9 thoughts on “Many professions or few”

  1. You are reconsidering one of the very foundations of MMOs with your musings. Once you toss out any ability to specialize, you’ve given up on the pretension that these virtual worlds are anything more than gaming lobbies.

    You would do so to the benefit of the player out to log in, have fun, and walk away happy. But you also lose a little bit more about what make MMOs special. Obviously a game like Free Realms with its be anything you want to be attitude has done so gleefully and quite successfully, so don’t take my words for doom-saying.

    It all comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish with the game. There is a reason even World of Warcraft took so long to give up the idea that talent specs were a meaningful choice for players.

  2. One of the problems with allowing everyone to do everything means that you will have a far greater majority of people doing the same thing. Things would become even more cookie cutter.

  3. Another issue of allowing everything for everyone in most of today’s MMOs is that people would very quickly realize just how little player skill is required. For the average gamer, how long is it going to take someone to pick up on doing 3k+ dps in WoW, if everyone had access to every class? What would really separate the better players from the average, one or two ‘hard mode’ bosses that dropped glowing ponies instead of shiny ponies?

    And of course, as soon as you allow player-skill to be a major factor, the average gamer will quickly realize that they are, well, average. And if the MMO space has taught us anything in the last five years, it’s that most people love the illusion of being special, and are greatly bothered when their actual skill level is exposed.

  4. One of the great things about Free Realms is the way it does away with the artificial limitation of fixed classes. Fallen Earth also dispenses with fixed professions; you specialize by how you distribute your skill points.

    I’m really happy that games are coming along that get away from the straightjacket of fixed professions that has persisted all these years from pencil and paper days.

    Having to make a critical choice about your character’s profession the moment you create it is dumb, and leads to unhappiness when people unknowingly choose gimped roles.

    1. It is rather nice that computer gaming is finally catching up, tentatively, and in baby steps, to where pencil and paper games were about, oh, 1978 or so, yes. My best estimate is that at current rates of progress the mainstream of computer games may catch up to the 1980 pencil and paper SOTA by 2025 or so.

  5. This wasn’t my experience at all.

    Back when Infinity EU opened I was the second Master Doctor on the server and I had an absolute blast levelling up. It was great fun healing in that game before buffs were available. Many happy memories of the Squill Cave.

    In the end I was so swamped with tells for buffs that I decided to drop Doctor to get some peace.

    I switched to Armorsmith and became immensely rich and very well known. I started my own guild and had an absolute blast. I absolutely loved the crafting aspect.

    The only profession I think really fits your description of ignored all the time unless briefly needed then used and ignored again was Image Designer. They were rare but the ones I knew seemed ok with it and generally hung out around cantinas being social.

    You can also change class very easily. Sure you lose your work put in but if your perception is that everyone else is having fun while you’re bored you should have just dropped the boring skills and learned fun ones.

  6. What would a game look like if there was only one class?

    It looks like 10 000 fighter mages in plate with self-heals. That’s what I played offline in Elder Scrolls and I hear it’s what Darkfall players choose.

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