The Daily Grind: How do you feel about ideas like the cottage rule and class fantasy in MMO design?

    
36
Vorp?

Who among our readers played City of Heroes and remembers the cottage rule? The idea was that developers were reluctant to change the fundamentals of specific powers once players were accustomed to them. According to the Paragon Wiki, the term was unwittingly coined by Paragon Studios developer Floyd “Castle” Grubb in the middle of a discussion about why the devs didn’t want to make dramatic changes to powers.

“Seriously, it is a good policy — it provides structure within which to do things. Without structure, there’s chaos. How would you like it if tomorrow you logged in and, say, Build Up now built a small cottage at your chosen location, instead of adding to your damage? It’s a silly example, admittedly, but it’s to prevent such wholesale changes from happening. I could overturn it, in specific cases, if it were truly needed, but in the case being discussed here, it is not truly needed. There are MANY options that have been discussed that do not involve changing the core use of the power.”

I have never been a big fan of the so-called cottage rule. It seemed to me that Paragon, a studio I dearly loved, nevertheless employed it arbitrarily; the team changed powers significantly all the time, but then used the rule when it didn’t want to change something at all.

And City of Heroes was far from the only game to play this little trick. Remember how for a few years in the Draenor/Legion era whenever Blizzard didn’t want to do something in World of Warcraft, it fell back on “class fantasy” to blow it off? As a design catechism it’s so irritating, and I sometimes wonder whether it annoys the developers as much as it grates on my nerves.

How do you feel about ideas like the cottage rule and class fantasy in MMO design?

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!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Anstalt

It really depends on how far the cottage rule is being applied.

If it’s being used to prevent balancing, thats a bad thing. If its being used to prevent completely overhauling a class, that’s a good thing.

In my opinion, the best time in any MMOs lifespan (in terms of content, mechanics, community etc) is between 6 and 12 months after release. At that point, the game is usually still pretty close to launch but will have had more content added that wasn’t ready at release and various bugs fixed.

After that point, its all downhill. Devs, ignoring the cottage rule, start tweaking and changing and before long you can’t even recognise the game you’re playing. The reason is that the original game was built as one massive project, following a cohesive vision. When devs start working on their own side-projects, inevitably it doesn’t fit with the rest of the game. Reworking classes is the most obvious example of this – messing with their role or how they achieve that role will always have a massive effect on the existing content, because that content was designed with how the class used to work.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

I am seeing this happen with BDO in the past and right now.

I think developers should be willing to step out and change classes up if they don’t fit in with the current games mechanics or be unafraid to roll back design ideas if they don’t work.

BDOs developers thought that awakening weapons were a mistake, but they had already rolled out a few of them. The awakening weapons have completely shaped the way the game is played now. They were afraid to go back on their design choices and now there is a lot of problems in the combat system.

Again, certain awakening weapons really don’t fit with todays designs in BDO. Witch/Wiz comes to mind. BDO by design is a super fast paced game now with lots of movement and quick animations. Witch/Wiz are very slow, no movement and very long animations. They have pets that don’t scale with AP so their ability to do endgame content is very limited. But I feel the BDO developers are to afraid of revamping the class to be more in line with others.

Siege gameplay in BDO is also completely reliant on an ability called Protected Area, that gets cast by Witch/Wiz/Valk that massively boosts DP and Resistances for a short duration that gets rotated. One ability has completely shaped the way Siege/Node is played but are to afraid to address the issue.

~~~

In short. IF design needs to be rolled back or revamped because of other changes, or things not working the way the developers envisioned or will cause design issues later on then I think developers shouldn’t be afraid to act on that.

miol
Reader
miol

How many times did I read about complains of Blizzard completely changing up the classes yet again with every expansion, severing all the interest in their once created characters, they invested so much in them, but now suddenly making them unrecognizeable?!

Guys, make up your minds, already! :/

Reader
PanagiotisLial1

Having an ability to “spawn” a cottage doesnt sound all too bad

Imagine a PVP ability spawning a locked cottage on your enemy for 20 seconds while you escape

Pepperzine
Reader
Pepperzine

The opposite was the case in SWG. Uh-oh bounty hunters, time to spawn the generic small house and logout

Reader
Witches

Love it when i don’t agree with the change, hate it when i’m one of those asking for the change, don’t really think this can be solved.

Best case scenario you would end up with a lot of classes that are almost the same with just a couple of abilities that are different, i understand hating it when you are on the wrong side of a change, but this really looks like something that will never please everyone.

If it is a very visual ability, they should keep it around in some form, i’d pay for a blade dance emote.

laelgon
Reader
laelgon

First, I’m noticing a lot of strange comments lately that appear to be bots. Just totally off-topic rants about social issues and politics (see the comment below this one). What’s up with that?

On-topic, change can be good, but in general I dislike the idea of completely reworking how a class works after players have spent months or years playing it. On the other hand, sometimes a class is broken and needs fixing. I don’t know how to balance those things, which is why I’m not a game designer.

Reader
Barnoc N'Draak

It’s a critique of the”we can’t violate the lore” argument.

This is more valid for some IPs than others, since not every creative project is given free reign to diverge from the source material.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

“Sorry, females are treated so shabbily and there are few, if any, major characters of color in GAME OF THRONES because it’s based on EUROPEAN fantasy.”

Nope, it’s fantasy. You have dragons, witches and zombies. You can have parity of agency for female characters and significant representation (out of cast 40 or more, how about a handful?) of the population *beyond* white, off-white, eggshell, cream, lightly tanned, etc.

Reader
Utakata

…it’s all fine and dandy, until something puts the cottage up on Airbnb. o.O

Reader
TheDonDude

(psst. not that kind of cottage)

Reader
Utakata

Not sure my morning attempt at the metaphor was working too well. :(

Reader
Barnoc N'Draak

It sounds like you object to it as a pretext, but not necessarily as a concept, which I can heartily endorse. I had similar complaints about the use of The Vision(tm).

Generally though, I wish games would be more stable over time. When you have less play time and plodding towards a particular goal (leveling a class, rounding out a build) it can be frustrating to have your destination nullified by a balance patch.

Also, ask any GW2 Mesmer main how they feel about this…

PlasmaJohn
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

Hah, specifically the constant Chrono tweaks which flat out require one to have Legendary gear just to keep up with a functional stat balance.

Of course this edges more towards one of my pet peeves: You don’t get your complete skill kit until level cap. How am I supposed to learn my skill synergies if they heavily depend on skills I won’t have access to? Worse, how do I avoid bad habits? Don’t even get me started on class sets that change those synergies.

I’m finding FF:XIV to be one of the worst offenders here. There are huge synergy changes between sub 50, 50-60, and 60-70. If that wasn’t bad enough their level scaling means you’re losing a good chunk of your kit. That’s not the fault of the scaling, that’s a fault of the skill set design.

Reader
Barnoc N'Draak

Oh yes, FFXIV is most definitely an offender here. It used to be in games that you would get new spells and abilities that would iterate over lower level versions with a new thing added rarely.

Even worse than FFXIV though are games that will change the suitability of a given class for a given role.

PlasmaJohn
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
PlasmaJohn

When the top class theorycrafter hangs up their lightsabers with the quip “I don’t hate my raid team that much” something went fundamentally wrong.

My SW:TOR main was Combat Sentinel and they utterly gutted the class. Had I not already moved on due to the pre-3.0 content drought I would have dropped sub right then and there.

The reason why I only lasted 3 months in WoW was because the pre-WoD patch took away what little mobility my poor warlock had and I simply wasn’t interested in the game enough to grind out another 100 levels.

Reader
Bruno Brito

Eh, true but at least you’re better than Necros.

Reader
TheDonDude

No way. The cottage rule as employed by CoH was terrible. They’d just refuse to balance things, citing the “well we don’t want to change what people have gotten used to” theory. Some power sets were just plain ol’ better.

I had an Ice/Ice tank. I struggled to make that work, considering how God-awful they were. It seriously irked me when they wouldn’t let them be decent tanks due to their unwillingness to change stuff.

One of my few peeves about CoH.

Reader
Bryan Correll

Most power sets tended to have at least one real stinker of a power. Take Radiation Emission, imo the single best all around set in the game, as an example. As awesome as the buffs and debuffs were, I don’t think I ever saw anyone actually try to use Fallout.