The Daily Grind: Should MMOs ever retire classes?

Last week, I asked the Massively OP readers whether World of Warcraft needed another class (I want the Bard, obviously). But one Facebook fan proposed something different entirely: Why not “retire a few classes” to “keep it fresh?”

I suspect that nearly everyone reading is recoiling in horror at the thought of deleting classes from MMOs, which is exactly why I wanted to stare the concept full in the face to sort out why. MMO developers seem to have few qualms about retooling classes — your characters — to be almost unrecognizable from their original versions, applying band-aid after band-aid to make them functional and keep them around. Would it really be so bad to nuke them entirely and start from scratch with something built from the ground up?

Yes, say thousands of Star Wars Galaxies Bio-Engineers and Creature Handlers. I hear you. But what if they’d done it more gracefully and replaced them more immediately with something, as the commenter put it, “fresh,” as opposed to nuking them overnight and replacing them with nothing?

Should MMOs ever retire classes? Can you think of acceptable circumstances for such a thing?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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48 Comments on "The Daily Grind: Should MMOs ever retire classes?"

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shazanti
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shazanti

Retire? No. No no no no NO. Even if it’s a class I hate. A class I would never play myself, absolutely hate playing with/against, hate every single encounter with… the response is still an unequivocal no. I’ve been ‘retired’ (my poor Creature Handler who I never logged into post-NGE since I could not bear it, for one), and despite hating a class, and even disliking individual players, I would never wish that ‘character killing’ upon anyone, friend or enemy. If ‘keeping a game fresh’ involves destroying an aspect of it that is tied so closely with a player’s investment in the game, then that’s a game I wish no part of.

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Schmidt.Capela

Retire a class in a game that has already released and I’d most likely leave the game immediately, as well as add the dev and publisher to the list of companies I don’t trust at all.

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Mr Poolaty

FFXIV god game needs to retire classes!!

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Rolan Storm

I like the idea. Even more so when it comes to complete overhaul. Really, instead of giving me something I hardly know just honestly admit that class is broken and should be deleted. Mistake. That happens.

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Robert Mann

First, a different suggestion: new specs. Instead of adding more classes, put in specs on the traditional ones. This is specifically focused on the WoW example, but applies in most themepark MMOs. For example, Rogues could become bards now too. Warriors could gain a swashbuckler style. Mages could wield the powers of Earth to crush their foes. Etc.

Messing with classes was where Blizzard lost a lot of people (not to mention the insulting tone often used by them in the forums about the topic.) Specifically they removed entire play styles, stopped support for some popular mechanics as it “wasn’t their vision” and some other B.S. reasons (which were demonstrated B.S. by the community even to the point of word definitions)… and that’s never a good thing.

Simply put, people play what they play the way they play for a reason. Sometimes it is because it is new or interesting to them, such as rolling an alt who is a different class than they have ever played in that game. At other times it is because they like what they have and they don’t want to change.

Anytime you decide to change, without very good reason, the way the classes play you invite disaster. There’s always going to be those who liked the playstyle. It might not be extremely popular (probably because min/max shows it not working out well) but there will be people who will be upset and ready to quit over the point.

Thus changing classes (while it sometimes should be done) must be considered with caution. Especially if the class features a niche playstyle that is not seen in most other classes.

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adri

It would be horrible if they just delete specific classes without any substitution. I imagine myself in the situation and it’s not a pleasure to lose my maincharacter. I think I would no longer play the game if they delete a class I’m really into.

quark1020
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quark1020

It wouldn’t be so bad so long as the skill trees or whatever system they replace it with lets me recreate the class I used to love. If they just delete the entire thing without anything to replace, though, that IS horrible. Ask any pre-nge Galaxies player.

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Dread Quixadhal

What would be fun is if they didn’t remove classes, but prevented you from rolling new characters with them.

However, for this to be useful and not just annoying, you’d have to introduce new classes on a regular basis. The idea being, you have more classes in the game than character slots available, and every so often, some classes become legacy and others take their place as new things.

From a lore point of view, imagine the trainers all left for some unknown reason, or went on strike or whatever. This would have made more sense back when you had to actually visit your trainers to learn new skills.

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Connor

You could probably get away with an Ultima-style story. where the corrupting influence of the Guardian drove the mages in the world insane.

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Dreema

If there’s one thing guaranteed to make me quit a game, it’s my favourite class being retired because someone who doesn’t play it thinks that keeps the game “fresh”.

Facebook poster: you need a good slap.

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imayb1

The only way I could see it work for “retiring” a class would be to remove it from the new charaction choices and give [reasons]. Maybe as a class balance technique or a reverse-psychology thing to inflate desire to play the class? Maybe temporary class-availablility, musical-chairs style. Idk.

I do know that you cannot permanently take away a class and expect any kinds of accolades for doing so. Rage, though, that you could expect. ;p

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Doubleplusgood

I would probably quit an MMO if it was announced one of my characters would be retired. Although I guess it depends what they offered in replacement.

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Witches

No?

This is genuinely a candidate for worst idea ever…today… i think we could “improve” it by putting classes in lockboxes.

There’s a reason why you have multiple factions, classes, specs and builds, so you can try something different while playing the same game.

This idea is so bad i suspect the person suggesting it is a game developer.

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Serrenity

Classes in lockboxes

Oh dear God please no. We should delete it before a SWTOR dev sees it!

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Rolan Storm

Nah. I say make something horrible perfect.

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Daniel Reasor

I wouldn’t miss Rogues.

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Dividion

The only time classes should be retired is when the “class” is just a “name for a group of skills”.
As long as you can continue to use the same skills and perform the same role, then “retiring the class” doesn’t really mean anything.

Us MMO players often invest hundreds and even thousands of hours into building our characters. To eliminate that effort would suck about as much as having the game itself retired, and I for one would not support a game that treated its players that way.

I’d have to say that’s one of the reasons I really like classless game designs, like TSW, SotA, the Division and Asheron’s Call, since all players have access to the same skills, and the skills simply have minimum requirements, which means problems like this don’t exist. Everyone’s on the same playing field and differentiates themselves by actions, rather than labels.

In a game like Path of Exile, you pick a class, but really you’re free to develop your skills however you want. At the end of a league, all characters are “semi-retired” to make room for the next league, but you could still play those characters if you wanted, and you don’t lose the gear they have on them. Since you *should* know this going in, it’s not a punishment like losing your class in a game like WoW, LotRO, GW2, etc. Retiring classes in games like those is just a terrible idea.

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agemyth 😩

It would have to be something established as part of how the game works from long before any players get their hands on the game. Even then… I dunno. The most I could see is something like a skill line in a game with UO-like character progression becoming obsolete and getting phased out.

Class is a pretty major point of player attachment…

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Peregrine Falcon

You’ve seen how the forums react when a class gets nerfed even a little. Remove a class? They might as well just lock the forums to everyone for at least a week.

Also, the replacement class had better be a Mary Sue with a multi-tool or you can kiss your playerbase away. Not only will you lose those folks who liked the removed class but you’ll also lose those folks who are smart enough to realize that their favorite class might be next.

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Bryan Correll

No, classes shouldn’t be retired. Me, I play alts to the extent I often don’t even have a ‘main.’ But some people really identify with a specific class and the elimination of that class would be a game killer for them.
Less seriously: The proper way to get rid of a classes is to nerf it over time till you reach a point where no one wants to play it.

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Esoteric Coyote

I don’t think any content should ever be retired in MMOs. I’m okay with seasonal, but I hate temporary content. It just seems so wasteful.

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zoward

The upside: “keeping it fresh” – whatever that means. People who don’t care for or about that class probably aren’t playing it anyway.

The downside: enraging people who like the class, possibly, in some cases, to the point of ragequitting. I usually spend quite some time trying out available classes before I decide to make one my main. If they retired it to “keep things fresh”, I’d “keep things fresh” on my end by moving onto a different game.

capt_north
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capt_north

Kill them all and go classless.

If you’re stuck with a class system, pile them on. Hybridize your hybrids and give your specialists sub-specialties. Make the min-maxers have breakdowns when they realize there’s an infinite variety of viable, competitive builds. You can have cascades to ease newbies into the deep end, but there’s got to be a deep end.

Retire a class? Maybe if you’ve got five new and more interesting classes to replace it.

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Schmidt.Capela

“””Make the min-maxers have breakdowns when they realize there’s an infinite variety of viable, competitive builds.”””

This is excruciatingly hard to do, though. Particularly if the content is designed to be hard; when the gap between victory and a wipe is a mere 5% difference in player performance, you need to guarantee that the power difference between your classes is going to be well bellow what threshold.

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KumiKaze

I don’t thin retiring classes in an mmo is a very good idea. Retooling them to keep a class viable is acceptable. With an mmo that has been around as long as WoW or Everquest, there would be no quicker way to lose subs than retire a class that subscribers have been playing since day 1.

I think the only reasons we really have classes in games is because it is far easier to implement and that is what the devs knew growing up with D&D.

Not an mmo, but the way the Elder Scrolls series handles “classes” and leveling abilities would be how I would want an mmo to work. You level up your stats by doing. To prevent everyone from becoming a master in everything, there could be a degradation mechanic, where if you don’t level up or use a skill after a certain amount of in game time, you will lose some stats for that skill.

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Modrain

That could be acceptable in certain contexts, I think, such as in games in which you can rotate between many classes, or when classes are defined by combinations of subclasses/skillsets. I’d be tempted to say that for the game interest it could even be better to shake the meta from time to time by such means. I wouldn’t go as far as to completely remove classes, though, but just to temporarily disable/enable classes. Metas in MMOs are ridiculouly static between patches or expansions, so it sounds like it could be a good thing (granted players are aware Day One that classes can be disabled).

In games strongly tying a class with a character, however, no, definitely not something I would be happy with. I can’t see a way to do it that wouldn’t bring more frustration than positivity.

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NeoWolf

Tweak – yes
Improve – yes
Expand up – yes

Retire – NEVER!

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Changing a class into something very different from what it was in prior iterations, maybe. People may not like what their character has become, but at least they still have a character, and maybe at some point they’ll come to enjoy it again in its new form.

Deleting a class means nuking characters people have put hundreds or thousands of hours into. Really? How is this even a question?

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Melissa McDonald

Of course not. Anyone who has that class as their main suddenly has their character deleted!

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Aquarion

Maybe, depending on what happened to the characters. If you deleted all the characters of the old class, you’d legitimately have a riot on your hands, but if a game introduced some kind of respec or multiclassing system, or launched with the concept that some sources of power/skills/magic might fade over time or grow, you could probably swing it. Like an enhanced version of Rift’s souls system. But fundamentally you’d need to bake the ebb and flow of classes into the game mechanics from the start.

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Bryan Turner

GW2 should delete Reapers/Necros since they can’t seem to make them viable.

miol
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miol

Was it you, who was waiting for his expert friend to review the latest major buff for this class 2-3 weeks ago? Would you mind to post a link to that?

Because, since recently there are major tweaks going on metabattle.com for this class and they seem to resonate very positively!

https://metabattle.com/wiki/Build:Reaper_-_Viper_Horror

Subli said this build was great • Yesterday

This build is almost the meta build, except it lacks few modifications for minmaxing the DPS.

– Everything viper, only backpack sinister, malice sigils instead of agony (you keep 100% bleed duration and gain a lot of burning, poison, torment duration which turns out to be better DPS than sinister trinkets)

– Single target top dps utility skills are Bone Fiend and Flesh Wurm (combo projectiles 100% chance)

– CPC needs to be added as suggested utility skill too, since it’s used sometimes when projectile defense is needed

– At Suffer you need to add the chill fact

– In the rotation, you don’t autoattack in shroud until #5 is off cd – you need to count 3 auto chains above 50%, 2 auto chains below 50%, then #5. This assumes perma quickness of course

– Gravediggers without ice combo field are still worth it for direct damage + what else are you going to do while waiting for weapon swap

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Bryan Turner

No one follows Meta Battke anymore, it’s QTFY that people value now.

miol
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miol

You should heed their disclaimer then:

9. Don’t be a class nazi. Every class can do the job if played correctly. You don’t need the highest possible damage to kill a boss.

XD

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Sorrior Draconus

Anet frankly is almost as bad as blizz as far as balance goes both follow a sledgehammer instead of a chisel approach to buffs/nerfs

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Montjoy Onew

I’d have to say absolutely not.
You would almost certainly loose players and no game wants to loose customers.

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theblackmage75

No, classes shouldn’t be retired; not if the devs expect players to stick around afterwards. Consider how immensely deflating it can be for certain fans when their favorite class receives a sizable nerf or when elements of their former style of playing get overhauled. Now multiply that times a thousand: that’s the devastation that will be felt by the playerbase should a game start offing classes from its roster.

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Hirku

I guess that would “keep it fresh” by giving me the opportunity to find a fresh new game to play.

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starbuck1771

No as with SWG the Devs found that retiring classes is not a viable option. When SOE retired over 50 classes just to stick with a handful they took a really huge hit in subscriptions and the game never really recovered from the effects of the NGE. Revamping classes is one thing but to completely remove a class from a game serves no real purpose but to cause chaos in the community and damage the reputation of those doing such an unwise and unwanted action. People grow accustomed to their character’s and classes so removing them will just cause them to rage.

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Ryuen

I’m still annoyed about the removal of my Teras Kasi in that game.

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Bruno Brito

No. Never.

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BalsBigBrother

“Should MMOs ever retire classes? Can you think of acceptable circumstances for such a thing?”

If your mmo has launched then nope, listen to feed back and iterate on the concept of the class but never just give up on them and pull them from your game.

As a dev if your goal is for your players to never trust you ever again or you want them to walk away from your game then yeah go ahead remove classes. Otherwise I can’t think of a single good reason to just throw your hand up and say nope this is done lets rip it out.

Again this is all assuming you have launched if you are still in the alpha / beta whatever the hell they call it then all bets are off but I would still be careful about removing a class that players have actually played.

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MesaSage

Sure, as long as it’s a class I’m not playing.

But seriously, unless the community has abandoned it, and the class has fallen into severe disfavor, I think it’s a bad idea.

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Zen Dadaist

No. Reworking them is often a painful experience for the players that loved them how they were, but at least something usually remains of the original. To do away with them entirely? That would be horrible and frustrating.

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TheDonDude

Retiring a class sounds like a pretty bad idea. Far worse than retooling them.

Crow
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Crow

Well, one could somewhat say there is an analogy for a game like Star Citizen which is selling limited ships.

But we all know if they made classes “limited” in any way it would quickly become about the cash shop. Then you have the actual issue of balance, whereas if an unavailable class is topping their role it creates a really nasty spot since balance would need to be done constantly to ensure that old and new classes didn’t provide a different experience.

Mostly I can hear the whining and complaining that would come and for once would probably agree.

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squidgod2000

It really depends on the game and how the developers want it to evolve over time. Most MMOs just add content steadily without removing any. Over the years, this leads to huge game worlds, but generally isolates the playerbase in just a handful of areas (the “best” zones). Other games (such as EVE) are more keen to revamp existing game systems and content instead of just piling on new ones. This helps keep things fresh without the bloat, but is much more complicated than just plopping down some new zones/classes/gear.

As far as removing classes from the game post-launch, once again it depends on the game. Games designed around hard resets with ‘seasons’ or something, where starting over from scratch is part of the game, sure. It makes sense that those games could add or remove classes at will—disrupting the existing meta and forcing players out of their comfort zones. For a more standard, persistent MMO, however, it would be far too disruptive. Either you remove a class entirely (forcing players to swap to a different class that they may not like or be geared for) or you stop allowing new characters of that class to be rolled (creating a system of haves vs. have-nots and giving a grand ol’ “Fuck you” salute to new players).

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Rick Mills

Well, they “kind of retired” the survival hunter class a least a few times in WoW. Not too many people complained. I love the new iteration!

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