The Daily Grind: How often should MMOs release new classes?

Some MMOs seem to have no problem with tossing in new classes like candy, while others might see an addition roughly every time Halley’s Comet comes calling. I was thinking about this the other day, wondering what it is about some of these smaller games that allows them to keep throwing in more classes while other MMOs seem to act as if creating a class is such a herculean effort that if one is ever crafted, it would require the sacrifice of an entire orphanage of innocent souls.

Games like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online aren’t exactly well-known for chucking in new classes. On the other hand, this summer we’ve seen the Warden come to Elder Scrolls Online and both the Red Mage and Samurai arrive in Final Fantasy XIV. Even Diablo III just introduced an entire $15 DLC pack that was essentially the privilege of playing the first class since the game’s sole expansion.

How often should MMOs release new classes? Would you like to see them more often or should they be reserved for the rare expansion?

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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54 Comments on "The Daily Grind: How often should MMOs release new classes?"

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Chris Brown-DeMoreno

I’d say once a year. If it’s a game that does the trinity, 3 classes a year (preferably all in the same expansion), one for each of the three primary roles.

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Siri

I think mmo’s should come out with a new class every expansion to keep it fresh. ffxi and ffxiv did a wonderful job in this respect. Swtor has not had a new class since launch and I don’t see any new classes on the horizon, sad.

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Bhima Jenkins

Depends on the game and the scope of each class (if they are very narrow focused, with limited skills ala a MOBA, new classes should be frequent). Larger MMOs should have a new class every few years to really shake up the meta. I think once a year might be a bit too ambitious, and leads to serious balancing complexity in larger MMOs so, once every 2 years sounds about right.

The other concern when adding new classes: How respectful of a player’s time is the game? Is everything you do in the game completely character based and not account based? If so, adding another class will likely just completely frustrate most alt-aholics simply because the game design just doesn’t respect the player’s time. I’m looking squarely at you, Neverwinter.

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jay

MMO’s should get rid of classes all together and go the old school route. That which you do in game, levels the abilities tied to those activities. IE if you run around in heavy armor with a great sword, your skill with those increases, which unlocks further abilities tied to that weapon and armor set.

Then they don’t have to worry about releasing new classes ever =) Just new weapons > skills > content.

Tamanous
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Tamanous

Class based gaming is pretty damn old school itself. They make different types of games. You lose just as much as you gain by choosing either way. I explained this below. Having both styles of games adds more to the landscape that only doing one.

We also see hybrids now anyway. ESO is one and my examples given for Camelot Unchained is a hybrid as well. They will have many classes and many new introduced often but the construction of your abilities is entirely skill based. You just have unique core elements based on class. I believe some components that shape how spells work are shared across classes. Class and realm identity is a big part of the game however. Roles are a big part of the role play (which is what role play means in rpg and not just digital cosplay which is cringe worthy to most).

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Little Bugbear

I think it is important to get new classes in when a game can. Keeps things fresh and new.

Tamanous
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Tamanous

I don’t think it really matters how fast they do it if done right. Black Desert does it quite often and the only real issue is their damn gender lock based on Korean interests. Seems like most over there prefer to play female characters so they outnumber male choices by quite a bit.

Fast release classes tend to be very one dimensional (like BDO) which is why new classes for games like Wow or other triple spec clone games (like Swtor) can’t release as easily due to complexity and multi-roles. I know Camelot Unchained was at first planning complex classes but then changed to single concept builds and also plan to release new classes, likely even faster than BDO. I’m actually getting on board with this concept.

Easier to create classes allow entirely new themes and art direction. You get to play a class entirely unique instead of being in game with fewer classes and a spec choice often ridiculed over other choices (the eternal tank spec vs dps spec argument). The concept is about playing more classes anyway which is why it is done.

As long as the game is wide open in play style (i.e. not a story driven, vertical progression game) it’s a great way to keep player interest in the game.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

I enjoy having a new class to experiment with, but only if the devs can find a way to make it feel different from the ones already in the game. Just changing the combat animations doesn’t cut it.

From a practical perspective, it seems to me adding a lot of classes potentially burdens the dev team with ever increasing balance difficulties. Unless you’re going to throw the towel in on balance (which is a viable choice, I suppose).

Tamanous
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Tamanous

Balance is the key. It’s why the games that introduce classes often typically aren’t built heavily around role based or 1v1 game play. Players in BDO 1v1 for fun all the time but the real game offers so much more outside of 1v1 and typical trinity dungeon crawling that balance becomes less of an issue (always is an issue but more easily balanced not having to focus on one area). Plus if you don’t fill a role well you just play an alt as the game literally pays you to do so.

CU will be gearing for even larger scale pvp and built entirely around group play from small scale through entire army size which is they flat out said they won’t even bother with 1v1 balance (unless so extreme it warrants it). Choosing a class is akin to choosing a role within an army so class balance is just a tiny component of overall balance.

Now a game like Wow that has arena combat? Ya, balance issues up the ying yang. It’s definitely all about the core game supporting it.

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Vunak

You can’t really use BDO as an example since balance in that game is extremely important to people. That game is so serious in its grind that having your class nerfed hard so it can’t compete can completely turn people off from the game.

Saying oh just play an Alt doesn’t do it for a lot of people. As they didn’t invest their time into a class they enjoy the most just to shelve it because its unviable or play gimped for the same reasons.

I know of many people that abandoned their Valks, Tamers and Berserkers (berserkers Pre Awakening) because of how badly they performed. Or the amount of people that complained about the Maewha and Musa because they were literally broken with AP and DP when they released and could barely even do Helms.

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FreecczLaw

As often as they can as long as they can keep them interesting. Having a class that speaks to me is one of the more important aspects of an MMORPG to me. If nothing is appealing to me I rarely even try the game and if I do and don’t like any of the classes it is unlikely I stay long. Since everyone likes different things I do think more is better, again though, as long as the classes are not just the same classes with different skins.

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Koshelkin

Imo regularly. A nice new class can be, for me, more exciting than an entire new zone or dozen new dungeons.

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Alex Malone

For me, it is all down to the uniqueness of the gameplay of a class.

If the developers can continue to think up new unique ways of playing a role, then by all means keep creating new classes. For example, if the game already has a melee DPS, you should only add another melee DPS class if you can make the gameplay substantially different, even though the role is the same.

Similarly, the devs should keep a balance between the roles. If one particular role is not being taken up by the community then perhaps the devs should design a new class to fulfil that role. So, healers are usually a rarity in many MMOs, so I think designing a new healer is a good idea to help encourage more people into that role.

Assuming the balance and gameplay is kept on top of, then devs should feel free to release classes as often as they are able.

If the devs are creating a whole new role (e.g. if the game is a trinity game, but devs want to add support as a new role) then that is best kept to expansions alone, as it will require a rebalancing of the entire game (if it doesn’t, then the new role is superfluous)

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Schmidt.Capela

I’m with Modrain in this; I wouldn’t mind classes being added reasonably often if players are able to experience them with their existing characters, but if trying the new class requires creating a new character, then I prefer for new classes to never be added.

miol
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miol

Really depends on the balance between PvE & PvP!

If it’s PvE heavy and PvP merely an afterthought or the other way around, then keep those new classes coming!

If it’s closer to 50/50, then leave them to rare expansions, as by experience, devs never ever cared to have 2 separate balancing teams and therefore balance patches are very slow paced and never satisfy either side! ;P

The same goes, if instead of classes they would add new skills!

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Veldan

I don’t think they’re needed if the base classes are good. However, it can be fun to have new classes, but I’d prefer to only see them with the release of a proper, big expansion. And they should be consistent with the original style of the game. No sudden introduction of guns and mechs in an otherwise medieval fantasy-styled game.

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NeoWolf

Well as an Alt-o-holic a new class is a perfect excuse for me to make another character sooo…is every week too soon? lol

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kidwithknife

I think it should depend entirely on the developers. Add a new class when you have a good, practical, reasonably easy to implement idea for a new class. Otherwise, don’t. Simple as that. If the dev team can come up with great, workable ideas for new classes every year, awesome. If they never come up with one, that’s acceptable. I don’t see the need for any reasoning beyond that.

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Ben Stone

Preferably along with new levelling paths. Generally I prefer if existing classes are fleshed out more or given new specialisations rather than new classes though.

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Arktouros

Most games rarely, if ever come out with new classes. It took ESO years to come out with the Warden and after many DLCs being launched. WOW it usually takes a few expansions.

Surprise, surprise unmentioned Black Desert which since it’s launch in KR has released 10 new classes than the 4 it started out with. Even since launching in NA/EU they’ve still wholly released two brand new classes that weren’t in the game at all little over a year ago and future new classes planned and teased already. For. Free. No expansion buy ins and no DLC costs. Here’s a new character, here’s a new character slot, have fun.

However ultimately what I’m a fan of more of GW2 and BDO’s style of modifying existing classes instead of adding new ones. GW2 adding in a new trait line mixes up how the base class can be played for example. BDO’s awakening system almost creates a wholly different class in many cases which is fun after spending time leveling it up.

Line
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Line

Looking at the issues caused by new classes being released alongside a new expansion (such as crazy DPS queues, flavour of the month overtaking PvP, etc)…

It should probably be released at another time. That’s a big draw, it might be a good way to do some kind of big free patch a few months after an expansion (could be a way to establish the lore and slowly train your character into it?).

Probably not possible in every game though, classes do not always have the same depth. Sub classes like GW2 might be more doable than in WoW, with three new specs, lore, gear and all. Having many of them at once limit the balance disparity too.

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Jeremy Barnes

DPS queues are always bad. Regardless of a new class, expansion, etc. More people play DPS regardless of class and new classes whether they are tank, healer, or dps don’t make an impact on the numbers.

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MesaSage

Since I love to make alts I’m on the side of wanting more classes rather than fewer, but only if they make sense for the game or fill a void. Please not just for the sake of selling something.

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Jack Pipsam

Whenever they polish something good I guess.

But I like the idea of it being a big thing too.

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Cypher

Swtor immediately springs to mind… not one new class or advanced class since it’s launch 6/7 years ago… just endless nerfs and “balancing” to please a vocal minority who long since left the game. I can’t think of any AAA title that has been so reticent to add to it’s roster.

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agemyth 😩

For games that have more traditional class systems like EverQuest or World of Warcraft it should be rare and feel like an eventful addition. WoW has done it every other expansion so far, but what I appreciate is their willingness to overhaul/redesign specializations and classes over time. I know not everyone is always excited with their specific class changes, but I feel the overall evolution of classes has made each of them feel very different from one another.

The “Class Fantasy” marketing term is easy to poke fun at (and we should poke fun at it), but the basic idea of it is to bring out the concepts of every class/spec that make them feel special. Blizzard’s implementation of that idea may not have worked for every class and spec, but my experience with the classes I played went pretty much according to Blizzard’s plans.

EverQuest 1 has not had a new class in ~13 years. The last class they added was the Berserker and it seemed like they struggled to make them unique or desirable for years.

EQ2 on the other hand has more classes than I can remember and within their 4 types (Fighters, Healers, Scouts, and Mages) many of the classes feel the same as others just with different spell names.

I haven’t played enough Black Desert to say much about its classes and how interesting the many new classes have been, but I am skeptical of any game that adds too many classes too frequently. Improving existing classes is usually the way to go.

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TheDonDude

Man I loved the class fantasy from Legion. Maybe the best part of the expansion. I honestly dunno why folks mock it. Agree with you that their plan on this worked fairly well, more or less.

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Tanek

What is “class fantasy”? Did they bring back things like class quests that had been unceremoniously stripped out of the game?

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TheDonDude

Yeah, each class has their own set of quests that are tailored to their theme and/or abilities.

For example, Warlocks have a bunch of quests to summon big bad demons (that often cause more problems than they solve), and use their demons’ special abilities to solve problems.

DK’s get to be the rebel edgelords they were raised to be.

Shaman get to replace the 2 slain Elemental Lords and bring all 4 together to fight the Legion.

In addition, every class has their own base that has their theme. Warlocks are on a big chunk o’ rock in the Twisting Nether, DK’s get one of those floating necropolises that the Scourged loved so much, etc.

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agemyth 😩

I also include getting these legendary artifact weapons some of which had pre-existing lore that already put them on a tier above others like the Ashbringer or the frost DK weapons that that were made from the shards of Frostmourne.

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Melissa McDonald

I think if you made the game “right” there is no need for it.

Tamanous
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Tamanous

But there is no “right” way. A game can be designed in many ways. A trinity game with arena, multi-role classes and raid focused game play can’t add new classes easily. A game like Camelot Unchained with broad, army-sized, singular role focus can add new classes easily.

It is about what’s “right” for the game.

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Brad Power

Honestly? I cannot see a way to run out of ideas for new classes. I think they should be added for every expansion pack. It keeps things fresh and keeps people leveling up and exploring the world (unless they choose the dungeon grind route).

I think new races play a role in new classes as well. It can make a new class all that much more fresh, new and add race lore to the class lore mix.

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Modrain

My opinion mostly depends on whether or not existing players have access to the new class(es) without having to create an alt:
– no need for an alt as the game allows players to change their class? Once or twice a year sounds good to me,
– no need for an alt, because the new classes are a new level of vertical specializations? A change once or twice during the game’s lifetime,
– players have to create an alt? Never introduce new classes, few things can throw a game’s balance and identity out of the window like introducing new classes in a non-flexible game. Anything that discards the value of choices made by existing players is something that should be avoided.

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Tobasco da Gama

There are two kinds of MMOs. Those that have a billion classes because the whole design is about throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks, and those that don’t.

The former obviously should be releasing new classes constantly, because it’s part of the whole appeal.

But if that’s not what your game is about, then adding classes needs to be a much more deliberate and careful decision, therefore something you do less often.

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Tanek

Does Marvel Heroes count? If so, every few months. :)

Other than that, if your game has PvP, add new classes only when you can a) make them different enough to be interesting and b) spend the time to actually balance the game with the new class in mind.

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Jeremy Barnes

Marvel Heroes was adding one every month until they lost most of their Senior staff.

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TheDonDude

I think it’s definitely a good idea. Very often a new class can give me that “hey maybe I should roll through the leveling experience of this game again” feeling.

I dunno how often it should be, per se. Every game is too different for a blanket rule on this.

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RJB

Yearly or bi yearly but also not gender locked

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bigangry

With X-packs sounds like a decent plan. I like new classes, they spice up gameplay. I remember everyone was clamoring for rolling new alts in City of Heroes whenever they’d launch a new powerset, and that was amazingly fun to suddenly see all the new concepts for Water Blasters or Titan Weapons. It’s slightly less imaginative for XIV’s RDM and SAM, because same character for everything, but it’s exciting in a different way in that we’re getting those iconic Final Fantasy jobs from the previous entries.

Basically, if it adds innovative fun, I’m all for it.

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CthulhuDawg

Every other expansion. Otherwise what the hell are you doing with all the money I’m giving you? I play a metric !@$% tonne of alts though. If you’re a one toon kinda player I could see not giving a damn about new classes.

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Tridus

Rarely. New classes that aren’t remixed versions of other things and actually add to the game aren’t that easy to come by. Doing them well takes time. Doing them without screwing up balance on the existing classes also takes time.

Lots of games get this wrong and it then takes quite a while to sort it all back out. Just having more classes for the sake of more classes isn’t interesting.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

in my experience in the mmorpg proper genre classes added post launch tend to feel watered down and incoherent in the overall class paradigm.

ia lso hate the whole paradigm of new classes being introduced in clearly intended to be OP state, only to be generally nerfed into non viability later. which is maybe generally true of typical class balance design tropes in general in the genre.

anyways i’m not gonna say never but generally in this genre the whole thing typically is rarely if ever done well.

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Vunak

I think the only game I have ever seen introduce new classes extremely well was FFXI. Every new class they introduced was extremely interesting and added a lot to the games lineup.

FFXIV I am not sure about just yet, but they seem to do a better job than most other MMOs I have played.

TERA is probably the worst example for introducing new classes.

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Armsbend

Rare expansion. Otherwise it is just a cash shop move.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

only ones i can think of that sell new classes (or w/e they happened to be called) is trove, dcuo and now d3 (just the one tho, but who knows how that will go in the future).

are there any others that come to mind?

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Tanek

LOTRO sells Warden and Rune-keeper, EQ2 sells Channeler and Beastlord, Marvel Heroes sells new heroes (slightly different situation, but still).

Not to say this is a bad thing. When it comes to what I want to buy from a game, if the new classes are done well, those certainly qualify for me.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

good call.

i guess if we include MH we could also include MOBAs which various of those is a pay for heroes type of deal.

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Tia Nadiezja

As often as the niche for one becomes obvious?

Star Trek Online never needs new classes, but new specializations should be released fairly frequently. Secret World Legends is already feeling like there’s something missing from its list.

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Cypher

You could say the ships themselves fill that need, since they’re not just cosmetic and come with various boni and specialisations, all depending on your preferred playstyle

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Utakata

*Pigtails try to work out which MMO releases a new class once every 75 years first thing in the morning*

…err, whenever there is a real need or desire for one? o.O

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holyavengerone

Never! I think classes are bad designs, shortcuts made to make a game designers life easier. Choices a player make as to what they do in-game should guide what skills and capacity they acquire, what role they play.

There’s literally nothing that I can see in the concept of class that can’t be advantageously fulfilled by other game mechanics (skills or otherwise).

Tamanous
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Tamanous

That is a different debate. Open skill system games vs class based games isn’t really a debate anyway. They both exist for different reasons and you’d lose flavor text by going either way.

The essence of the class based game is rooted in lore identity. D&D had classes because it was based on ancient cultural roles and secrets untainted by modern conformity. A barbarian is a barbarian because that is all they knew. A Druid or Monk trained in no other areas of knowledge than what they focused on. Yes it is more simplistic but it captures flavor text far more easily than open skill systems.

Even if a Druid was constructed only by skill choice it would still be a class because no one else could choose them outside of the culture that believed in it as often class abilities stem from total dedication to a deity, spirit or something alien to other cultures in concept and practice.

You merely prefer a certain type of game but you should also recognize the reasons behind other design concepts even if you don’t like them.

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TheDonDude

I figure the question then just becomes “How often should a game release new skill lines/power sets/whatever”.

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