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Thread: Class Balance (some concerns)

  1. #1
    Soulwalker Nyben's Avatar
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    Default Class Balance (some concerns)

    Greetings all from a long time lurker, first time poster.

    First, a bit of a disclaimer. This post is primarily concerned with end game raiding content, as that is where I find the most enjoyment in MMOs. Also, it is based, loosely around the idea that min/maxing is a given in progression content. While some may argue that you shouldn't have to min/max to be successful, I view that argument as somewhat naive. If you are joining 9/19 other people to explore challenging content, to me, it is only polite that you bring the tools to the table that allow the greatest potency and chance of success within your chosen style of play.

    The class system in Rift has me a bit worried, to be honest. With 32 souls to choose from it is an incredibly daunting task to evenly balance them all. Now, it may be true, that class balance is not a priority with the devs but if it isn't then there are some unavoidable consequences that I would like to explore.

    1. If all 32 souls are not viable play options , i.e. competitive damage, tanking, and healing, then some will surely fall by the wayside and the one of the key selling points of the game (at least for me) will have been diluted; character diversity. Rather, we will end up being pigeon-holed into the classes that are the best at their role in order to successfully take on the high level content (drastically overgearing content not withstanding).

    2. Hybrid builds being overpowered/underpowered. From all the information that Trion has released thus far for Rift, one thing is overwhelmingly evident in the design strategy. This game is supposed to be one that allows the player to essentially create your own unique class through utilizing the soul system to pick and choose how you want to play while still being able to be successful in the game world. This can, and will likely in my opinion, be a balancing nightmare for many reasons, only a couple of which will I go in to for the sake of brevity.
    First, there are likely going to be some souls that work so well together that they become so powerful that the are the most desired builds in a given role. With this being the case, once again, there is a dilution of the goal of diversity in class choices to be successful in the challenging content.
    Second, it is not unthinkable for the opposite to be true where hybrids are concerned. If intelligently built hybrid builds are not on par with the pure soul builds then they will only be utilized for gimmicks and not as a primary way for a player to enjoy the game.

    3. And last but not least; Over balancing and class homogenization. Simply put, the easiest way to make sure that all the classes are balanced is to give all the tools to all the classes so that none can complain that class A has something that class B does not. While this is a overly drastic statement and I am sure will not be the case, my concern is that in attempts to balance the classes with each other, over time, their uniqueness will slowly be stripped away in the name of "fairness", be it for PvE or PvP reasons (please oh gods of Trion, steer far clear of PvE nerfs due to PvP logistics).

    In closing I just want to say, despite my concerns, I have faith that the devs know full well the task before them and truly are designing a class system that has nearly limitless potential. This game has me truly excited to jump in and explore all the possibilities. I also truly hope that the Rift Community remains as polite and constructive as I have witnessed it to be thus far because, in the long run, that alone can be largest factor to the success of this game.

    thanks for reading

  2. #2
    Ascendant Kula's Avatar
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    I'm more concerned that raiding will rapidly devolve into a grocery list mentality.
    For example: Raid A:
    3 A class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 4 B class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 2 C class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 5 D class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 1 E class w/ points allocated XXXX
    +5 F class w/ points allocated XXXX
    ___________
    = win

    etc.

  3. #3
    Plane Touched
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    Caster classes appear to be (at least in part) distinguished by what element they use (water, fire, life, etc). So on paper it would seem as if certain classes have been designed from the start to be "the best choice" in certain situations (or more specifically, against certain opponents). Pretty obviously, if this is the case then whether the classes turn out to be reasonably balanced or not is in the end going to highly dependent on what kind of content Trion produces. As long as they keep it varied, then it seems unlikely that any class is going to end up outright useless, even if some may end up having more uses than others.

  4. #4
    Rift Disciple Knives's Avatar
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    To the opening poster:

    First of all, Rift's gameplay is definitely going to be very unique compared to MMOs thus far. It will be crucial for the game to receive dedicated, passionate beta testers and I encourage you to put your submission into the "Beta Selection Thread" - you seem like you would be willing to submit feedback and that is what every successful beta test needs.

    That being said, I think the developers at Trion are working primarily on an vision that will (perhaps drastically) change during Beta. Age of Conan went into beta with many classes and launched after several class "mergers". I think Rift will go through a similar process. 32 classes is ambitious but we're already seeing overlaps between similar classes and we haven't even been given all 32 yet. I think Rift could DEFINITELY be successful with the "3 Souls per character" approach even if it had 25 classes (as an example). Now, I realize this takes away from the possibility of having "unique" class combinations but if two classes are designed to be almost identical to start with (you stated it best as "class homogenization"), the unique-ness factor is already destroyed.

    Now, looking primarily at your third point, I do not think this will happen. You referenced it in your post so I'm sure you read it (saves me from finding the source!), the developers stated that class balance is not high up on their priorities since players can work around weaknesses in their Soul setup. If anything, I think the similar-to-identical classes will be merged (the point I made above).

    Again, I urge you to sign up in the Beta Selection thread. We need more players who are willing to provide passionate feedback.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kula View Post
    I'm more concerned that raiding will rapidly devolve into a grocery list mentality.
    For example: Raid A:
    3 A class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 4 B class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 2 C class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 5 D class w/ points allocated XXXX
    + 1 E class w/ points allocated XXXX
    +5 F class w/ points allocated XXXX
    ___________
    = win

    etc.
    I just wanted to briefly comment on this. I'm not sure if I'm misunderstanding your concern (if you think Rift's 32-class system will cause this), but I don't think I've ever played a game where this wasn't an issue from early on in the game's life. EverQuest, EverQuest II, Age of Conan - the list goes on - all have a "cookie-cutter" raid setup in which a specific amount of each class type is wanted for a "successful" raid.

    I think Rift may actually be able to work around this problem if the "hybrid" Soul combinations work. Mixing a DPS class with another archetype that offers utility now makes that DPS class (usually a "filler" in raids anyways) higher on the priority list.

    As an example: In EverQuest II (before I quit the game with the last expansion anyways), Necromancers and Conjurers were very low on the priority list (as in, if you were not in a raid guild that knew who you were you probably would not get in the raid). If a Necromancer could have become a hybrid with an Illusionist (a very welcomed utility mage class), that player would now be able to join a raid without a problem.

    edit: Wall of text! Sorry. I guess I could have summarized my last point with one sentence: "Rift's 3-Soul-Per-Character mix and match system offers more flexibility for a "successful" raid."
    Last edited by Knives; 09-02-2010 at 09:59 AM.

  5. #5
    Plane Touched Ware's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilligan View Post
    Caster classes appear to be (at least in part) distinguished by what element they use (water, fire, life, etc). So on paper it would seem as if certain classes have been designed from the start to be "the best choice" in certain situations (or more specifically, against certain opponents). Pretty obviously, if this is the case then whether the classes turn out to be reasonably balanced or not is in the end going to highly dependent on what kind of content Trion produces. As long as they keep it varied, then it seems unlikely that any class is going to end up outright useless, even if some may end up having more uses than others.
    I think that this is the key as well. If all content requires the same sets of stats or attributes then I agree that there are going to be limited "viable" builds. I'm hoping that the content will require players to think about not only which souls are appropriate for each encounter but be varied enough that players won't be able to min/max souls within a set of encounters in an instance. Having six bosses where each is susceptible to talents from a different soul or set of souls in a particular calling would make for some great content.

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    Rift Chaser Ylvelill's Avatar
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    I think it is foolish to think that there wont be special requirements of anyone who wants to raid. Who cares if your rogue can also use a bow if he is raiding we will want him to do the most dmg he can. Who cares if your healer can also melee the mob if their healing is not as good as someone who does not heal. And so on. This is not to say there wont be several builds of rogues that will work or several builds of clerics, but it does mean that you gotta focus your build on being the best at whatever role it is you are going to fill in the raid and that means cutting out a lot of the fun or utility which can be great for pvp or soloing. This is why there will be 4 specs for each char so you can pick one for the situation you are in, much like you used to set up your 8 spell slots back in EQ for what was needed

    I am hoping they do not try to balance all the classes too much because that will take the flavor out of the classes imo. Even if we all wear the same uniform for when we gotta go to work, it is nice to be able to put on that polka dotted dress in your spare time when just hanging out with friends.

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    Rift Chaser Tengu's Avatar
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    Greetings Nyben! I have expressed the same concerns in a different thread, as class balance is one of the most important things to me in an MMO. There is, however, something I was not aware of initially that I heard mentioned in another thread. It seems there will be a variety of (for lack of a better word) "specs" that allow you to go into different trees with certain abilities. For instance you could have a spec dedicated to PVP with good pvp abilities, or a spec set up specifically for raiding, or groups. This would alleviate any potential underpowering within certain class subsets, but this does not necessarily mean one healing class will not heal better than the other. It will just allow a particular class the ability to store whatever is considered the optimal "spec" for their class when they go to raid.
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    Champion of Telara Shagroth's Avatar
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    While class balancing will most likely not be an issue to everyone I believe that the idea of cookie-cutter class spec'ing will be a bigger issue in this game than anywhere else in the MMO genre.

    The idea that there are so many different types of classes and what each of them doing, while in the 4 realms, is something a bit different from each other might become a min/max **** for many. The game was surely designed for people to create the class they want to play but at the same time they will have to change those classes eventually when some annoying elite raiding guild comes along and starts blasting the classes that "must" be played in order to clear dungeons.

    To this degree I greatly dislike certain community aspects of MMOs but understand that people like to play like calculators - even as strange as that seems. To this end, we will see classes that are expected to have certain souls. You will see groups of people that will all "prefer" to play the exact same as in some way, shape, or form they are "better" at their class because of it. On the other hand we will see those individuals who will enjoy their class and play with the ideas behind the soul system. We may even see a strong medium where there are tons of ways to play a warrior/tank but none of them are the exact same.

    The problem isn't the game or the system it is the player base that regardless of how they play becomes set in ways established by other players. We all like to imagine ourselves as free thinking men and women who do what we want but in truth that is only the small minority. The rest of us want to see how to play our class in order to get the most of out the game. I expect that when this game exits beta and goes live, there will be hundreds of websites dedicated to the design of the "perfect" class as decided by people who feel that their wisdom and skill at end game makes them experts. These people have always been around but as we advance the genre they get more and more say over the sheep that are willing to listen because they, "Just want to play the game without having to make decisions."

    In any event this will always happen and will continue because people need leaders - its just how it is. Many of us will design our own class and be told by others in-game that "we shouldn't have taken that route!" And we should "Respec as soon as possible!" If we do not comply they will say we are idiots because we don't know how to properly play the game. In some way they will steal some of our enjoyment but not all of it for we will find others with our ambitions.

    If you are looking for peace in the idea that this system will be balanced to the degree that everyone will be able to play any type of warrior, rogue, mage, or cleric without ever having to deal with the social stigma of "You're doing it wrong!" then, you are mistaken. If you are hoping that there will be enough balance to limit this type of interaction then just maybe you will get your wish.

    The principle behind this entire subject is that it all boils down to who you are as an individual. If you are willing to outlast the doubters and play the class that you've dreamed up, you will find balance in yourself. If you allowed yourself to be called "Inferior" and change your class to better suit others than it’s a matter of whom you hang out with. The most elite guilds will expect cookie-cutter builds because they are too ignorant to learn to raid and PVP by challenging themselves to develop new strategies based on the multitude of classes but at the same time there will be guilds and those that are successful without these cookie-cutter setups.

    The balance in PVP will come from the complaints that someone's class is "better" or someone's powers are "nerfed" and those issues will be left completely up to TRION to take care of. I've seen hundreds of people quit MMOs because of balancing issues but those who simply ENJOY their class and what they bring to the table never neither falter nor complain they just play their game.
    Last edited by Shagroth; 09-02-2010 at 11:24 AM.
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  9. #9
    Ascendant rabb1t's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nyben View Post
    Also, it is based, loosely around the idea that min/maxing is a given in progression content. While some may argue that you shouldn't have to min/max to be successful, I view that argument as somewhat naive. If you are joining 9/19 other people to explore challenging content, to me, it is only polite that you bring the tools to the table that allow the greatest potency and chance of success within your chosen style of play.
    Your chosen style of play though will be your style. I don't think the devs are going to force 'x + y' combinations in order for a character to be viable.

    The class system in Rift has me a bit worried, to be honest. With 32 souls to choose from it is an incredibly daunting task to evenly balance them all.
    Scott already flat out said that they aren't going to try and balance and to do so would be silly since there are so many possible combinations. However, if particular 'templates' start to emerge and seem overpowered, then yes, they would adjust accordingly.

    Now, it may be true, that class balance is not a priority with the devs but if it isn't then there are some unavoidable consequences that I would like to explore.
    It's a priority, but not in the sense of considering every possible combination that every possible person will think of that might cause crazy outcomes.

    1. If all 32 souls are not viable play options
    No. You effectively have 8 choices. You are limited to the choices within your Class Calling, not all 32 total classes.

    2. Hybrid builds being overpowered/underpowered.
    Again, they expect this to happen. Part of preventing this is by locking out some souls from being chosen upon character creation. You have a limited number at start and that will force you into easing into the game and learning how the game works before being allowed to have a 'more complicated' soul.

    Their focus is on player flexibility and fun factor. While some builds will undoubtedly be more or less powerful and more or less effective, their primary goal is to let the player have that flexibility and have fun. Will a Hunter + Blade Dancer = Pirate? Very likely. Does that mean it will be overpowered or underpowered because then you are mixing ranged and melee? Who's to say. That likely will depend on the situation and the encounter at that time and how effective the player is.

    Don't forget, you could have the "best most overpowered template choice" in the world, yet if it doesn't match to the player's pesonal playstyle and preferences for skill use it won't matter. Effectiveness is a combination of all parts; the character, the tallents (in this case classes and talent choice), the player's ability, the player's system, and the internet connection. No single factor, such as character template, will equal instant win.

    This can, and will likely in my opinion, be a balancing nightmare for many reasons
    And again they realize this, and why they've stated it. They know it will be next to impossible to balance for every possible combination. But I'm sure if one becomes 'the template' because it exploits something or has the perfect combination that breaks the base power structure, then that will be looked at.

    Second, it is not unthinkable for the opposite to be true where hybrids are concerned. If intelligently built hybrid builds are not on par with the pure soul builds then they will only be utilized for gimmicks and not as a primary way for a player to enjoy the game.
    I can't speak for others, but unless I'm seriously under the others I'm going to play how I like. As example, if there is a soul I can split into Sentinel that allows me to dual wield and run into the fray when I don't need to be defensive, I'd much rather go in and do some decent melee damage and take a risk of being a little more squishy if I'm allowed to do so. If I'm only 90% as effective as other healers who are sticking with shield, meh, I'm having fun. But then I also know that my personal ability can easily compensate for gear or template differences. (I've actually been complimented as both tank and healer in recent times in WoW, and I'm currently restricted to a netbook, which runs at an apaulingly low 15ish FPS in most cases with about a 10-20% lag in ability recycle due to system limitations. So no, templating and gear isn't everything.)

    Again, as I mention above, effectiveness is trully difficult to guage if you consider all the factors. Just because your soul template doesn't balance out in terms of points to 'template x' does not inheriantly mean you will be a worse player or less effective. That guy who's got the perfect template may be playing with one hand because he's eating pizza with the other, or talking to his buddies on the phone, or just wasn't paying attention because he was bored. Templates are not the end-all-be-all of a player's effectiveness.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nyben View Post
    I have faith that the devs know full well the task before them and truly are designing a class system that has nearly limitless potential.
    270 combinations.

  11. #11
    Ascendant rabb1t's Avatar
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    I'd think there are far more than that. If you just look at one Class Calling you've got...

    8 classes
    Taken pure class, dual class split, tri class split
    Variable of up to 51 talent points spread between each class

    I'm sure there's a statistics formula to calculate it. (N choose X comes to mind, but I don't think that's right.) But I'd think there are way more than 270 possible builds even just per single Calling.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rabb1t View Post
    I'd think there are far more than that. If you just look at one Class Calling you've got...

    8 classes
    Taken pure class, dual class split, tri class split
    Variable of up to 51 talent points spread between each class

    I'm sure there's a statistics formula to calculate it. (N choose X comes to mind, but I don't think that's right.) But I'd think there are way more than 270 possible builds even just per single Calling.
    It's probably 270 combinations per class in all the 3 soul trees.

    I'm just quoting it from Scott Hartsman.

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    Plane Touched Ware's Avatar
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    If I've done the math for calculating combinations correctly, here's what I come up with:

    Per Calling:
    1 soul: 8 souls combined in groups of 1 = 8 choices
    2 souls: 8 souls combined in groups of 2 = 28 choices
    3 souls: 8 souls combined in groups of 3 = 56 choices
    Total is 92 choices per calling.

    So, for four callings, that's 368 potential combinations.

  14. #14
    Soulwalker Nyben's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rabb1t View Post
    I don't think the devs are going to force 'x + y' combinations in order for a character to be viable.
    While the Devs may not force this, unfortunately, the more that imbalances exist, the more that players will enforce utilizing specific builds over others.



    Quote Originally Posted by rabb1t View Post
    Scott already flat out said that they aren't going to try and balance and to do so would be silly since there are so many possible combinations. However, if particular 'templates' start to emerge and seem overpowered, then yes, they would adjust accordingly.
    I am sure that this will be the case, however, placing a keener eye on balance from the get go will result in a better overall experience because there will be less major class revisions post launch.

    Quote Originally Posted by rabb1t View Post
    No. You effectively have 8 choices. You are limited to the choices within your Class Calling, not all 32 total classes.
    It is not enough to just balance the classes within each calling with one another. In the case of the Warrior and Cleric callings, this is not even feasible do to the fact that within one calling you have souls that are made for different roles. Warrior=DPS/Tank, Cleric=DPS/Healing. All the DPS souls should be relatively balanced compared to each other in terms of potency of the role and the same goes for tanks and healers. Please note the word "relatively". I am not advocating balancing so rigid that if DPS soul A can do 100 DPS and DPS soul B can only do 97 DPS that there is a problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by rabb1t View Post
    Don't forget, you could have the "best most overpowered template choice" in the world, yet if it doesn't match to the player's pesonal playstyle and preferences for skill use it won't matter. Effectiveness is a combination of all parts; the character, the tallents (in this case classes and talent choice), the player's ability, the player's system, and the internet connection. No single factor, such as character template, will equal instant win.
    I am no way suggesting that any particular build is going to make a better player than someone else. I did not bring player skill into my points at all for a reason. Good players will often find unique ways to make less powerful classes shine and bad players will end up being bad regardless what they are playing. The difference being, that a good player is smart and savvy enough to realize the limitations of what they are playing with and sometimes no amount of skill can overcome bad design. I am an avid supporter of Blizzard's stated design philosophy for classes in WoW "Bring the player, not the class". This is why I think that class balance needs to be focused on early.

    While I agree that it is difficult to predict every combination within each calling, I also think for the sake of a solid game launch as many of the combinations as possible need to be evaluated as early on as possible. We all know how frustrating it can be to play a class that is constantly being changed and tweaked. You can end up having to relearn your chosen class multiple times due to a lack of foresight in the design/testing stage forcing many people to abandon the class entirely until it gains stability.

    I believe that the whole issue hinges on a strong beta test with ample time and resources bring Trion's class vision to light to allow us the freedom to truly choose how we want to play this game and be successful in it at all levels.

  15. #15
    Plane Walker Perros's Avatar
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    The soul system is the developers answer to the problem that classes are never balanced across all aspects of a game. They won't even attempt to keep souls totally balanced. Weaker souls will go the way of the dinosaurs, will be rarely played or even be discontinued. The developers hope that players that in other games would leave because their classes were weak will manufacture their own class from souls until they are satisfied with their performance. Nobody is locked into a single class.

    Will this work?

    It will work for those who are only interested in performance. They will thrive in this system, assembling the optimal soul combination for every encounter and situation.

    It will perhaps work for those who are only interested in role-playing their character and don't care too much about performance.

    It will hard to enjoy this system for those who want to play one "class" but care about performance, those for whom the class is an important part of the character's history and place in the world.

    The game will demand optimized souls for hard content, otherwise that content would be trivial for min-maxers. This will severely handicap those who do not want to have multiple "souls" or do not want to invest the time to optimize their character's soul combinations.

    A new game needs new mechanics and Trion had to take a new approach in some areas to separate themselves from what is already out there. They chose the class system and dynamic content. I do hope that soul characteristics are based on some theoretical framework or systematic principle, and don't totally rely on optimization by pure trial and error.Otherwise even rough balancing will be a nightmare.

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