Bioware, you continue to impress.

9 12 2011

Darth Hater does too, as – yet again – they pose a very succinct summary of the dev tracker for us this week. Two things in particular stuck out to me.

No dual-spec at launch.

First, that they don’t plan to include spec-swapping/switching, or as they call it “Advanced Class switching”, either at launch or even soon after. We’re left to guess as to why (more on this in a bit), but they hedge their assertions by explaining things can (and will) change after launch.

No 1-vs-1 PvP class balancing.

Second (and my favorite) is their take on one-vs-one open world pvp. It’s too large for me to block quote (without feeling foolish) but you probably already made the jump and read it yourself, right? I’ll go on as if you have (or even wait for you as you do it now). It’s a rather lengthy bulleted list of reasons why they will not balance the classes for one-vs-one open field combat. These are much the same reasons that other games either weirdly mutate the PVE experience due to PVP rebalancing (World of Warcraft) or go for a rock-paper-scissors model in PVP-centric games (Warhammer Online) only I personally haven’t seen such an up-front explanation (pre-launch, no less) regarding these issues until now.

Let me say, first, that I really appreciate this level of candidness from developers. It was my favorite part of the Warhammer Online pre-release. Second, I am exceedingly grateful that they have a very clear and strong stance on not spoiling their PVE experience via PVP rebalancing. At least, that was my take on it. I hope I’m 1. not too far off base, and 2. that they stick to their guns there.

It’s been a bit. So, why no dual-spec in SW:TOR?

Why no dual-speccing? Well, there are the technical reasons and the fun-to-think-about reasons. Since this is a blog where I get to babble incoherently, I may as well subject you to my arm-chair theories via my favorite delivery mechanism: a poorly formatted bulleted list. Imagine each bullet in finger-quotes and append the following: I don’t know anything about their underlying infrastructure, either business-wise or the software.

  • Compared cost-to-benefit ratios – This is the Occam’s Razor theory; the one that makes the fewest assumptions. Put simply, MMOs as a rule have to prioritize stability over content and content over player abilities/powers.
  • It defies suspension-of-disbelief or otherwise breaks design in their eyes – Your character in this game is much more a character than in any other MMO I’ve yet seen. Your character has a voice, speaks dialogue with other characters, has a companion; the entire game is designed around your character having a story. A large part of that story will no doubt be selecting your sub-path, i.e. “what kind of smuggler thou art”, making your abilities more than just a set of things you can do…making them elements of the character you play. A spec-swapping button would defy any work they put into this, so I can easily see them wanting to omit it if they can help it.
  • They tried and it broke – I vaguely remember this question coming up at PAX at one of the Q&As and that the response was a “probably”, which makes me lean towards the first here and question the second. Also possible that they did try it, it doesn’t work, and it got back-burner-ed. If anybody was in the beta at a point in time where this was tested, I’d definitely like to hear about it.
  • Balance – Put plainly, some classes with the ability to multi-spec would make others seem extremely useless or pigeon-holed. Consider in WoW that a Paladin can (or at least could) DPS, Heal, and Tank…and for a time it could do all three better than any other class that was more pigeon-holed. Even if it wasn’t actually true, people really believed it was and that heavily impacts play in a social game. Possibly Bioware wants to avoid the same kind of thing here. One way to help mitigate that is to prevent classes from swapping their roles at need.
  • Other reasons I couldn’t really flush out because they don’t entirely add up, or that I just plain did not imagine.
 I’m on the fence as to whether I want spec-switching or not. On the one hand, it’s nice to have as it means 1. your character is multi-functional and 2. it helps to account for “Holy Trinity Issues” like tank-shortages. On the other hand, it’s nice being one of the two healers people know. So, while for a somewhat selfish reason, I don’t mind not having it around. 😉 (If I do have it, I’ll simply be both heal and tank capable; otherwise just healing to start.)
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