Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love those OP Classes

You don't know how much you'll miss something until it's gone.

Yes, it's cliche --and also the subject of an 80's power ballad by Cinderella-- but it's also quite true.

In this case, the something I missed was internet access.  On this past Saturday, we lost our internet connection, which didn't get restored until a few hours ago.  No, this wasn't due to any natural disaster, but to MAC address problems between our DSL modem and our ISP.

Not counting the occasional vacation, that was probably the longest time I've been without internet access in about 20 years.*

In the Internet era, we've become used to permanent online access, and we reduce ourselves to complaining about First World problems when we don't have it.  But really, is it all that bad?

No, not at all.**

This kind of dovetails right into a favorite complaint of MMO players, right after "I'm bored!" and "[Pick a faction] sucks!":  "[Pick a class] is over/underpowered!"

You can't enter into a battleground or read Gen Chat without someone making an observation that "Monks are SOOOO OP right now" or "Damn, Warriors are BEASTS!"***  I've been as guilty as the rest, since I saw how Locks got revamped compared to their Cataclysm incarnation, but I don't spend my BG time complaining about which class is the "favored class" right now.  Others, however, live for that sort of thing.

There's an entire cottage industry built around maximizing classes and specs for raiding and PvP, so it's not surprising that people complain when they feel that a spec has gotten some unfair love or hate from the Devs.  But really, is it that big of a deal?  Unless your toon is being picked on by the OP ones, is this really that much of a problem that it requires a Dev to get out the nerfbat?  Is absolute class equality the goal?

While a nice idea, I don't think class equality should be an overarching design goal.  You can lose sight of the overall game while trying to make everything equal for everybody.  I realize that a basic tenet of Blizzard's raid design philosophy is "bring the player, not the class", but the reality is that people will bring a specific class for a specific raid boss mechanic.  That can't be avoided.  Likewise, a BG/arena team will look for specific specs/classes, because they bring the best chance at survival.  Tweaking things to promote class balance is tricky, and doesn't necessarily work to encourage more classes to take over specific roles.

I'm reminded of pencil-and-paper RPGs, with the common complaint in D&D 3.x (and it's successor Pathfinder) is that the spell casters are overpowered in high level campaigns.  Well, Wizards of the Coast decided to "fix" that in D&D 4e, to the point of having constant tweaks to different classes via the D&D Insider subscriptions.  I was unaware as to just how much tweaking Wizards had done until I signed up for DDI.  Much to my surprise, Wizards had tweaked classes to the point where they'd even gone and changed the names of some of the basic classes just to make them sound more in tune with newer class names.  Gone was the Cleric, in its place was the Templar.  That, to me, seems to be taking things a wee bit too far.

While MMOs haven't gone down that route just yet, it seems that temptation is there.  After all, look at the wholesale changes to talents that each new WoW expac brings to the table.  To say that the Mists version of WoW's toons bears only superficial resemblance to the Vanilla WoW version is probably an understatement.  The classes act in a similar manner, but almost everything under the hood is different.

But why worry about it too much?  Is that particular Feral Druid that's dancing around you, firing off heals, the source of your annoyance?  Or is it the class?  Odds are good that we'll hear people say it's the class, when it really is the player.

So maybe it's time to be more specific, that it is a player you're complaining about, not the class.

*That includes several days without power due to Hurricane Ike back in 2008.

**I was perfectly fine, thank-you-very-much, but the lack of internet meant that we had to periodically go to a free WiFi location to check to make sure there weren't any school/work e-mails that required addressing.

***That warriors crack covers both WoW and TOR:  the WoW Warrior and the TOR Sith Warrior.


  1. Shivers at the thought, I would not be fine without access. I found that out when we lost power for a day and a half. No food, no water, fine. No internet? NO!

    The classes really do change expansion to expansion because I've noticed alts falling in and out of favor. I really should try some classes I tried a few year ago and didn't like, might be just the thing now.

  2. MMOs haven't gone down that route just yet, it seems that temptation is there. I can't agree more.