On MMO class difficulty and long absences

The very existence of classes in an MMO forces us to let three factors guide our choice at chargen: what we enjoy doing, what we can be good at doing, and what’s practical.

There’s overlap between the three, to be sure, but still, the funny part is how we reconcile them.

What we enjoy doing is, perhaps, the only one of the three where romance comes into the picture. Lovers of knight and paladin tropes would certainly be more inclined to let that love influence their choice of, say, sword and shield or greatsword and holy magic. Folks who fell for Orlando Bloom in the Lord of the Rings films probably leaned more towards bows and pet classes for a while (okay, maybe not, but we all love our little prejudices).

I fall into this category (knights, not Legolas) and have a tanky, slow-killing, sword & board type in every MMO I’ve played. Am I good at it? Tanks only shine in group play, where I would say: probably not. Is it practical? Not if I’m just clearing content – but then, I did take a Protection Warrior from 1 to 70 in WotLK-era WoW, when the practice was to level in Fury.

Those devoid of similar romantic notions may opt for more pragmatic classes and roles. Play a healer if you have excellent peripheral vision and quick fingers. Roll as a DPS if you excel at rotations and have the time to invest in working towards epic gear. Et cetera.

At first glance, what we’re good at and what’s practical may appear to be the same (at least as far as ‘winning the game’ is concerned). But there is an added element to said practicality, which inspired this post in the first place. See the title.

Elvedui Eärendur

Class difficulty is something I first saw delineated in The Lord of the Rings Online. I was to swiftly learn that the devs’ appraisal of the Warden was no jest – absent cheatsheets and/or Guinness-worthy memory, I failed to see how a scatter-brained shmuck like me could play the ‘advanced’ class to even half its intended potential. It was even more brutal on the returning Warden players I saw, who invariably complained of having to relearn a hundred skill permutations just to perform at all. The friction this created was, I’m sure, enough to drive away some of them.

Which raises an interesting question – why roll as a difficult and ‘impractical’ class, if you anticipate long leaves of absence from the game?

I guess some of us don’t mind the friction. Or love the challenge of mastering and then re-mastering a class. Maybe others feel it’s the only class or role they enjoy, or are good at. And maybe still others just acted on instinct and picked a class at random. There can be any number of reasons beyond what comes to my mind just now.

But for those on the flip side of that equation, every incidence of friction may be one more step towards abandoning a character – or even a game. This is, of course, strictly a player-side problem, and nothing devs can (or will) do makes a difference. It stems from the choice we made at chargen – which, with our modern, jam-packed lives, may not be as simple as it once seemed.

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One Response to “On MMO class difficulty and long absences”

  1. […] Iron Dagger tells outlines their experience with difficulty classes and player reactions […]

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