9 September, 2006
I’m still on the road, so posting is still slow. I’m not into the liveblogging like other people are. My laptop isn’t meant for portability. :P
Now that the dust has settled, I figure we can talk about it a bit more. :)
The challenge is this: Point out an advantage of either a class-based or skill-based system that hasn’t been discussed to death yet. Or, if you’re feeling bold, describe a system that goes beyond either of these systems.
As I have mentioned in comments on other blogs, these two systems are really on different ends of a continuum. Few games are strictly skill-based, allowing for no organization of the skills into categories (or proto-classes). I think the ultimate example of a strictly skill-based system with almost no organization into groups, at least on the paper gaming side, would be GURPS. Of course, this system is very complicated, even if it is very flexible and allows for an amazing range of character types to be created.
Now, I prefer skill-based systems, so this is easier for me to defend. A huge advantage that most people don’t talk about with skill-based systems is player control and identification. If I have more control over the character’s developments, I can create something more unique and meaningful to me. This is similar to the motivation that allows the player to customize their avatar to a high degree: It gives them a unique appearance and lets them customize the character in a way meaningful to the player. As in GURPS, you can create a lot of different characters and your character will likely be unique. Not to say that you can’t develop some kinds of templates for personal favorite character types, but it isn’t required. Of course, without structure it can be hard to develop an effective character type. Many people want power, especially in an online game where your worth is determined by your combat prowess. Therefore, people focus on optimizing for combat prowess and pick characters with the most measurable power.
But, class-based systems aren’t entirely worthless. One advantage that people haven’t talked about is the ease with which you can extend the classes. Giving a class a new featured skill can really breathe new life into it. For example, the moonkin form for druids in WoW changed the nature of the druid a bit, particularly in PvP. On the other hand, adding more classes can be a real pain. A designer I was talking to related the problems of trying to add more classes to a game. Adding the first few classes weren’t hard, she said, but adding ones after that meant adding classes that felt gimped. Compare this to a skill-based system where you can add a skill or two to mix up the current templates.
What are your thoughts?