I thought I might share this series with one of the things that drives interest in a game for me – interesting classes and class mechanics. This is one reason WildStar is not of interest to me while Elder Scrolls Online is – same old classes with same old three part skill trees vs. archetype + weapon + morph builds that change the way the game looks and unfolds in front of your eyes. This may be a reason TERA appeals to me too – the warrior is DPS and one of the healers is a pet class?! Love it! I like for fun little perks, utilities, and options to come into play. I like for norms to be twisted up a bit. I like to have a character that has something interesting or unusual to do in the game, even if that means they are not the best tank or healer or DPS player out there. So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite character mechanics in the MMO field thus far:
1) “Avast matey, lower your flags, this ship be mine!” (‘Take Command of Ship’ Skill; Pirates of the Burning Sea)
My favorite character in PotBS has always been my Pirate – later, after the class break, known as the Cutthroat. And one of his fun abilities is to use this skill on a ship he has just successfully disabled:
Ships are hard to come by in PotBS, and they don’t necessarily need to be easy to come buy. Its like having a car in real life – you only need a new one every so often. But if you could get a new one, say, every year…for free…wouldn’t you want one? And that is the life of the Cutthroat. Eh, I’ve had this ship for a whole level – I want a new one! Of course the captured one only has 1 durability point (if you are defeated in combat, the ship is lost permanently), but if you were like me, you kept a stockpile of more than one on hand. Because some days you feel like a gun shooting frigate, and some days you feel like a boarding galleon.
2) “Whatya need? Supplies? Gear? Fireball tossing gems? Lemme summon one for you…” (Magician Class, Everquest/EQOA)
Take a gander at the base spell list, levels 1-65, for the Everquest magician. Notice anything? At level one, three spells, not to hurt things, but to get you food, water, and weapons. Level two: armor and bandages. Level six? A backpack. It gets better: arrows, spears, staves, armor for your mates, armor for you, jewelry, resistance items, mana to hp conversion rods, breathe underwater items, click-to-nuke charged items, weapons/armor/gear for pets. Hell, you can even summon your friends – poof! – to right in front of you. A walking, talking, one man fixer for the masses. The ultimate utility kit.
Of course, what killed the class, and the idea it brings to the table, was the move to bring characters home at the end of each night. When your group is logging off in the wilderness at their favorite mob spawn and grinding location, characters like the Magician are a godsend. They help you make camp and bring those basic supplies to keep you rolling longer. But none of those can compare to the rest xp that you get when you port back to town each night. After all, the real reason to camp in the wilderness is to be close to the action and cut down on down time. But double xp more than covers the transit time to your favorite spawn camp – particularly in MMO’s dominated with fast transit.
3) “If you build it, they will come.” (Necromancer Class, Vanguard)
Vanguard was the first MMO to move away from the idea of a simple summoned pet for a pet class. While you could certainly raise the dead in the traditional manner, Vanguard went beyond. You built your own Frankenstein. Dead bodies could be scavenged for parts, constructed and given to your persistent pet, turning it into a powerhouse that grew right along side of you. It dealt with a part of the lore of necromancers that other games had not touched on – that of true grave robber, visionary of giving life to the dead. It was an interesting take and a fun little side quest within the group. After all, what could be more character enriching than the experience of a group pulling down their new loot – sword, staff, or what have you, wild the mad necromancer just smiles and pillages the claws off the dead body, excited not for the gold and silver but the knicknack nobody else even noticed, that will make him that much more powerful.
4) “Dual wielding, healing, teleporting, pet class? Yeah, we got those.” (Disciplines, Shadowbane)
While some fun has been had with Wildstar’s system allowing you to chose a sort of subclass that unlocks new area quests, they don’t change the way your class is played, as Shadowbane’s original discipline system did. You had a base class, and advanced class, and then up to three disciplines you could stack on top of that. The end result was that you could build characters that might both be wizards, but with wildly varying skill rotations, abilities, and out of combat utilities. Both could hit you with a lightning bolt, but one might summon dark lords and dual wield swords, the other might run around healing and buffing his group. And the disciplines ranged from the ho-hum (Enchanter, Archmage) to the interesting (Bladeweaver, Traveler) to the WTF (Ratcatcher, Sundancer, Gorgoi). It was a lesson lost on PvP developers everywhere, who now seem to think that PvP can only be good and balanced if every character can be summed up in a class word and its abilities and strengths and weaknesses determined at a glance. In Shadowbane, those kinds of assumptions got you killed. Fast.
5) Attention! Party on deck! (Crews and Duty Officers, Star Trek Online)
Growing up, my favorite RPG series was Might and Magic. I loved rolling a party (sometimes naming characters after my buds) and having a grand adventure through fantasy, not to mention time and space (because Might and Magic wasn’t complete without laser guns appearing at some point). Later on RPG’s evolved, and you had only one character. And so when MMO’s hit, the same followed. But I miss the party system and the fun that could be had with some…well, what I will call “internal roleplaying” – fan fiction, having the universe personalized and come alive in your own head a little more.
And you know, there is only one MMO right now where you can play a fully fleshed out party of five, and where their skills and yours are usable, and where you can pick their race, class, and personality. And that is Star Trek Online. I mean, if you want to play a classic RPG, STO is sitting right there waiting for you, with fleshed out, well written, hour long quests (er, “episodes”) covering multiple story arcs. And if you want to play with a buddy, like I wanted badly to do with Might and Magic back in the day – team up, and you can each bring half your party (on the ground) or all of it (in space).
Truly, this is one of the under-appreciated aspects of STO. One that is not noticed, much less lauded, often enough.