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The Balancing Act: Multiclassing
by Terminus Zaire, Contributor — Category: Editorials
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The Balancing Act will be released prior to the Beta and once the NDA is lifted to discuss issues that will arise if The Elder Scrolls Online is designed with an imbalance in one particular aspect of the game, and how this will ultimately affect the entire game play as a whole. This series will discuss the warning signs of these imbalances, and what Zenimax can do to reverse or minimize the impact of the results of them.

Although I have TONS of information that I'd like to share with you all about my gameplay at PAX East (I'll talk about it later this week, don't worry!), I'd like to center this weeks article of The Balancing Act on an idea that was brought to my attention by @Ewan. On Saturday I talked about it with Nick Konkle, the Lead Gameplay Designer for ESO, who seemed interested in seeing how this concept could fit into the existing game.

The idea itself is relatively simple; once you reach level 50 and have the opportunity to travel to other areas of Tamriel, you're also given the chance to begin training a new class tree. As players continued to level the rest of their weapons in the second and third alliance zones, they would also have the opportunity to level their secondary class abilities by collecting more skill points. Only one class would be active at a time, preventing players from combining special abilities from different classes that could potentially be overpowered and abused in combat. Players wouldn't be able to change their class while in combat, and it would take a significant amount of time for the change to take place (about 15 seconds) to ensure that the system couldn't be abused in PvP. A cooldown would be added lasting anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to prevent "flip-flopping" between classes.

While the details provided above are one of the most effective ways at implementing a multi-class system, there are a variety of other options that need to be discussed before assuming that one system is truly the best. A few factors that require further analysis include the number of classes any one character can access, how to gain skill points past level 50, the ability to combine special abilities between classes, the system itself for switching back and forth between classes, and any other perks that may be tied to possessing multiple class trees.

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While the majority of the other aspects in creating a multiclassed system in ESO were chosen out of necessity, I've had a relatively hard time deciding on just how many classes can be unlocked per account. If players are allowed to choose one new class per faction alliance they play, a majority of the community would most likely possess 3 out of the 4 completed faction skill lined, removing some of the individuality that players gain when choosing their own class. One reason that I support possessing only 2 out of 4 classes is because it ultimately results in more possible outcomes for selection (a total of 6 class combinations) that diversify player choices even further. However, some may claim that allowing for players to train a total of 3 classes would still add 3 more potential class combinations and doesn't impact the chance of two players possessing the same character build any more than 2 classes would.

The next problem associated with implementing a multiclass system can be understood when we analyze the pre-existing perk system and how skill points are obtained while playing The Elder Scrolls Online. There are two possible ways to gain a skill point; by gaining a level through experience, or by collecting 3 out of 60 skyshards found throughout your alliance zone. If Zenimax chooses to allow for players to build more than one class skill tree, more skill points are going to be required in the game. This will either result in an increase in the maximum level (not likely at all), or an increase in the number of skyshards found in the 50+ and/or 50++ zones. In order to ensure that players can't easily locate all the skyshards they need to fill a second class tree, it would be a good idea to make some of them quest rewards or in hidden quest-related areas.

When it actually comes to using the second set of class abilities, extremely strict sanctions will need to be put into place to prevent imbalanced builds. The easiest way to prevent this is to only allow access to one class ability tree at a time, preventing mix-matching of special abilities. One example of a problem that may occur if this was allowed might be to use an extremely powerful ability that costs lots of magicka to weaken someone to half health from the Sorcerer class ability tree, and then finish them off with an ability using your stamina from the Dragon Knight class. Zenimax has emphasized that they don't want to add an "insta-kill button" to the game, and prefer to add powerful AoE and summoning spells instead. There is one restriction, however, that Zenimax should NEVER place on a multiclass system of this nature; the ability to max out secondary class trees.

If Zenimax chooses to limit how many abilities you can unlock when multiclassing, such as limiting how many skyshards are available, a system of this nature would lose any purpose of even existing. Multiclassing would prevent players from needing to continually roll alts to find the best class ability tree that suits them. If Zenimax were to implement a SUB-class system, or one in which players could only unlock a small portion of the class abilities, it would be more efficient for players to just rebuild another character to unlock the full class tree. Subclassing would only be able to work if skills from multiple classes could be combined, resulting in balancing issues as discussed earlier. While subclassing works very well in other areas of the game such as crafting, multiclassing is the only way to allow players to obtain more than one class while still maintaining a balanced combat system.


"I would never add content to the game that sacrificed balance."
-A quote that made me want to hug Nick Konkle, the Lead Gameplay Designer for ESO


Once a player has mastered their second class ability tree, what do they do if they want to switch back to their original one? This is where Zenimax can begin to show their creativity with the system, because there are a variety of valid techniques to limit (or promote) how often players utilize a multiclass system. The example I gave above included the inability to switch classes during combat and a cooldown time associated with the switch, but a cooldown could be replaced with another cost such as a large amount of gold. Better yet, both systems could be implemented that would remove excess gold from the economy but would also allow poorer players to switch as well. Changing your class doesn't necessarily need to be done outside of combat, as long as it was extremely obvious that a class change was taking place. In my personal opinion, a 24 hour cooldown time would prevent players from constantly switching back and forth between their classes, and make them think hard about the choice first. Other limitations could be applied such as needing to physically talk to an NPC to change your class, but this may result in complaints about the time it takes to travel to one particular location for a switch.

No matter how much we analyze an addition to the game such as this, there will always be unforeseen results in other areas of gameplay as well. These results aren't always necessarily negative; in fact, sometimes it can have a very positive effect. One of the most obvious results from adding a multiclass system might be that players will spend more time training their primary accounts than creating alternate ones of different classes. While this may result in many players being pleased with the existence of a multiclass system, it may also result in a net loss of expected game play due to the fact that players would no longer need to train their accounts to level from 1 to 50 to master a new second class. This would be further impacted by the quantity of classes that one character can unlock, but would never totally remove the fact that players will want to create new accounts for roleplaying. I could go on for pages coming up with other possible impacts from various designs, but I'll leave that to the community and content developers to explore further.

In conclusion, a multiclass system would encourage players to continue to expand their understanding of Elder Scrolls Online by trying out new build styles that they might have otherwise ignored. Subclasses with partial leveling might be appealing but will ultimately result in disaster, and a large level of balancing will need to go into making sure that changing from one class to another doesn't result in any unfair advantages over other players. We'll definitely hear more about multiclass systems in the future, and hopefully we'll have a similar system available at launch.
The following 7 users Like Terminus Zaire's post:
Balkoth, Darce, Ewan, Hwrath Gro-Khash, Najla, Radioactive Man, Shadowfox


Comments on The Balancing Act: Multiclassing
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Interesting Idea. So in your mind Term, would the new class abilities from our second chosen class, start out a level 1? If the 50+ and the 50++ content is going to be challenging for an existing 50 who has gone deeply into their first class skills, isn't there the potential to really hamstring a player even further if they are starting out as a new class in the 50+ and 50++ areas? Granted, they would maintain the Health, Stamina, Magicka and collected gear from leveling to 50, but could it be that the content in the 50+ and 50++ areas would be entirely too challenging, thus forcing a player to revert back to their first class in order to over come and get through the content in the 50+ and 50++ zones?

I'm don't think there will be a need for multi-classing. Given all the ability trees that Zeni plans on putting in the game, I'm pretty sure I could be one class for the duration of my time in ESO but at the same time emulate the roles of the other 3 classes through unlocking abilities from the many ability trees.

Frankly, if you are calling for a multi-class system you should really be calling for Zeni to remove the classes all together. They aren't needed. If folks want to play a particular role, they should be intelligent enough to read what the abilities do and build their character appropriately. TSW has a decent system. Everyone can learn all abilities and everyone can play the role they want. That IS Elder Scrolls ;)

Term, I like that your idea is pretty well thought out and you are exploring both the benefits and the drawbacks. Let me say that you have brought balance to The Balancing Act ;)

Cheers!
-H
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Radioactive Man
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I see a lot people say that if we are given chance to "change" class it would remove "uniqueness" of your toon, but i completely disagree. As it stands we know for a fact that at Launch we will haw at least 20 Skill lines (3 class 1 racial 3 AvA/PvP 6 Weapon 3 Armor 2 guilds 1 Vampire 1 Werewolf) and only 3/20 is class base, it may even bee that most of people wont use or only use 1 spell out of there class. We also know they will add more skill line's in the future, like Thief Guild and Brotherhood guild, but there might be more, so hawing "limited" amount of Skill Points wont work, and if am not mistake Devs said 2 main ways to get Skill points is by lvl up and Sky Shards, but there will be more events in the world that provide skill points, like PvP. I also want people to consider if they will add new Skill Trees, and at start of the game, we dont know what Skill Tree ability's we will get, who is to say that the choice you made will be the same at end game as in Start of the game. Let me elaborate, you create your character Dragon Knight thinking oh i like to play as Tank, this one looks like tank appropriate, just to find out at lvl 50 that to actually tank you dont use any skills provided by DK class, and hawing Templar as class would provide more benefit to your group, will you create new character and waste all Achievements and hundreds of Hours you invested into your character? I know this is pure speculation at this moment, but it is logical, there is hundreds of other cases that can be solved with Class change system.

(March 26th 2013 09:58 PM)Hwrath Gro-Khash Wrote:  Interesting Idea. So in your mind Term, would the new class abilities from our second chosen class, start out a level 1? If the 50+ and the 50++ content is going to be challenging for an existing 50 who has gone deeply into their first class skills, isn't there the potential to really hamstring a player even further if they are starting out as a new class in the 50+ and 50++ areas?

Yes you would start from lvl 1 of your class, but Weapon Armor Guilds PvP World skill trees would maintained there lvl. I said this before, but you dont even need any class spells to play the game, it was tested and proven by Devs. I dont know if you experience this in other MMO but dint you ever consider to try different class after hawing your toon max out? But if you create alt just to do that you will lose ALL your achievements, you wont be able to chat with your guild, and juggling multiple characters/alts is just time consuming and not fun at all, unless you enjoy to grind. A good example, you go play pvp and at some point you want to change you gameplay style from caster to Stealth, oh wait your Sorcerer and to be REALLY good Stealth character you need to be Nightbalde, wouldn't it be more simple to go to specific NPC pay GOLD fine and change class? And now instead of starting with 0 all you need is to lvl your Nightbalde Class Tree.
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Again, instead of having the ability to "switch-your-class", why not simply remove classes all together? Or, give those players who want to be the quintessential 'blank slate' the opportunity to not have to choose a class? I don't want to go to some vendor and pay gold to "switch" to the class I want.

Look. I'm happy with the system that Zeni seems to have in place now. That is, you choose your class and through leveling the many and various abilities found in the ability trees, I can adjust the abilities in my load-out and the gear I wear to emulate a fighter, mage, rogue, fighter/mage, fighter/rogue, fighter/mage/rogue, mage/rogue, etc. (to many combos to list)

I do see a potential concern. If we choose one class, we may never have the opportunity to learn and use the abilities found in the other classes. (This may be by design to encourage Alts.) If Zeni provides us with an opportunity to learn the abilities from the other classes, then I wouldn't see a reason to allow multi-classing or class swapping. Perhaps, as a warrior (Dragon Knight), if I join the Mage Guild and run quests for them, I will unlock abilities that are found in the Sorcerer Class. Or, if I'm a mage (Sorcerer), I may join the Fighters Guild, run quests for them and unlock abilities that are found in the Warrior Class. However, if they went with this kind of system, they would need to get the Thieves Guild in right away ;)
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(March 26th 2013 09:58 PM)Hwrath Gro-Khash Wrote:  Interesting Idea. So in your mind Term, would the new class abilities from our second chosen class, start out a level 1? If the 50+ and the 50++ content is going to be challenging for an existing 50 who has gone deeply into their first class skills, isn't there the potential to really hamstring a player even further if they are starting out as a new class in the 50+ and 50++ areas?

This is actually one of the reasons that I released this article so late; I realized that I had made a terrible mistake in my analysis.

There is a VERY BIG DIFFERENCE between our combat level, and how many skill perks we've unlocked. Returning to level 1 while keeping our attribute pools maxed and without losing skill points would mean that we'd be getting levels (and skill points) WAY too fast at early levels. Gaining experience ties directly with increasing your health, stamina or magicka, and partially to unlocking new class abilities. As mentioned in the article, this leaves only 2 possible ways to gain more skillpoints:
1. Increase the maximum total level to add more skillpoints
2. Add more skyshards which don't impact attribute pools

Skyshards would be the only way to add any system of this nature to the pre-existing game, and there's a very good chance that this will be added after the game release to increase the level cap.

(March 26th 2013 10:21 PM)Ewan Wrote:  Yes you would start from lvl 1 of your class, but Weapon Armor Guilds PvP World skill trees would maintained there lvl. I said this before, but you dont even need any class spells to play the game, it was tested and proven by Devs. I dont know if you experience this in other MMO but dint you ever consider to try different class after hawing your toon max out? But if you create alt just to do that you will lose ALL your achievements, you wont be able to chat with your guild, and juggling multiple characters/alts is just time consuming and not fun at all, unless you enjoy to grind. A good example, you go play pvp and at some point you want to change you gameplay style from caster to Stealth, oh wait your Sorcerer and to be REALLY good Stealth character you need to be Nightbalde, wouldn't it be more simple to go to specific NPC pay GOLD fine and change class? And now instead of starting with 0 all you need is to lvl your Nightbalde Class Tree.

This is a great analysis of the problem that Multiclassing would solve; it's less a problem of grinding your stats back up, because some people might find it fun to try another build in another alliance.

The problem comes from wanting to choose another class, but not leave behind your friends you've made on another character. This depends primarily on if we'll be able to contact players from other alliances outside of PvP, and I can't immediately remember if that's possible.

(March 27th 2013 08:09 AM)Hwrath Gro-Khash Wrote:  I do see a potential concern. If we choose one class, we may never have the opportunity to learn and use the abilities found in the other classes. (This may be by design to encourage Alts.) If Zeni provides us with an opportunity to learn the abilities from the other classes, then I wouldn't see a reason to allow multi-classing or class swapping. Perhaps, as a warrior (Dragon Knight), if I join the Mage Guild and run quests for them, I will unlock abilities that are found in the Sorcerer Class. Or, if I'm a mage (Sorcerer), I may join the Fighters Guild, run quests for them and unlock abilities that are found in the Warrior Class. However, if they went with this kind of system, they would need to get the Thieves Guild in right away ;)

This is the exact problem that Multiclassing fixes, but what you're describing above is something else I mentioned in my article: SUB-classing. Subclassing is just the way it sounds; to be able to create an account with a "primary" or maxed class tree, and then have the power to use special abilities partially from another class.

After what I've seen, the classes have been designed to never, ever, EVER be mixed in that way. This could cause serious balancing issues, which is always the #1 concern when you update a game (see the yellow quote in my article, still love that comment to death).
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Terminus, at any time at PAX East, did you hear any mention of the potential for a class-less system? I'm still looking for the reason why we have classes. Likely to smooth the transition for MMO players and those not familiar with ES.

Thoughts?
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(March 27th 2013 08:41 AM)Hwrath Gro-Khash Wrote:  Terminus, at any time at PAX East, did you hear any mention of the potential for a class-less system? I'm still looking for the reason why we have classes. Likely to smooth the transition for MMO players and those not familiar with ES.

Thoughts?

While the developers wanted to do away with the restrictions associated with a class system, they also understood that classes are what players use to define their character. Their goal was to create the best of both worlds; a system that allowed players to be unique and have different abilities from others, but also to allow everyone the choice to be what they want.

Ultimately, this is what resulted in the variety of skill trees; although players have the opportunity to make the same choices as others, there are so MANY choices that having the same exact build as someone else is very slim.

One of the reasons I'm so supportive of a multiclass system is by the variety of choices that players would have. At launch there are 4 classes, or a total of 4 choices. Once players have the opportunity to unlock a second class, the number of overall character builds increases to 6 (You can have a DK/Templar, DK/Sorcerer, Tamplar/Nightblade, etc).
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Having read all of these posts I am not quite sure how some obvious points are being missed.
I may then again be very opinionated and wrong but I'll go ahead and layout a couple of points of consideration:

1. The chance of people having the same build as someone else is high, simply because this is an MMO and successful builds are successful because they work. To the developers credit I have heard them mention focusing on balance to prevent flavor of the week builds. However simply by having classes (even with multi-classing or subclassing) they create a flavor of the week vacuum. Certain combinations will outshine others in a multi-class system and certain starting classes will outshine others in a subclass system.

2. I don't know if nobody has taken a look at The Secret World (Funcom being what they are I wouldn't be surprised) but it features a classless (not role-less) system. Since there are no "classes" or class specific abilities, while there are flavor of the week builds their is also an endless variety of possible builds for the adventurous. I mention this point for a variety of reasons, I assume that most TESO fans enjoyed Skyrim. The reason Skyrim was great was because you were a blank slate, you didn't need a pidgeon-hole class to make your character make sense. I had hoped that the developers would have taken a more Skyrim approach where classes simply effect starting skill bonuses and don't reflect on anything exclusive or unobtainable by other "classes".

3. Classes in general create a limit on character builds, they do not expand them. With just 4 classes your limited to an arrangement of 4 sets of class skills + all non-class skills. With multi-class your limited to a few more arrangements. With no classes your limited to as many possible combinations of every ability in the game as exist in the game. Point-in-case in The Secret World tanks use a variety of weapons, originally favored was Chaos/Blades, with a simply passive change Chaos/Blades, Chaos/Hammers, Hammers/Blades, Chaos/Shotguns, Hammer/Shotguns, Blade/Shotguns all became incredibly viable... the best part being that there are still more combinations floating around of even less likely weapons. There are viable Tank Weapon + Healing Weapon combinations and they will continue to expand as the game grows and evolves in gear, abilities, auxillaries and so on.

I am of the mind that classes (as they exist) are the single biggest factor making this not an Elder Scrolls game. Thankfully the devs have responded to first person view complaints. I can only hope that their wisdom is great enough to change this somewhat fatal flaw from "Elder Scrolls" Online. This game looks splendid but classes are a mistake.
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Terminus Zaire
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(March 27th 2013 08:09 AM)Hwrath Gro-Khash Wrote:  Again, instead of having the ability to "switch-your-class", why not simply remove classes all together? Or, give those players who want to be the quintessential 'blank slate' the opportunity to not have to choose a class? I don't want to go to some vendor and pay gold to "switch" to the class I want.

Classes will provide you multiple Utilities spells that includes survival combat disengage etc., this ability's are some what "unique" you wont be able to find them in any other Skill Tree, if they remove class system players will only use cookie cuter build's that pick only best stuff from those Trees, hawing class system insures certain balance which prevents you to abuse those utilities spells, like for example mage will haw Blink spell and DK will haw hook spells, if you combine those too it would be way too op for any character, that is why there is classes, to limit the amount of Utilities spells you can use.

@Darce , that is why i suggested the ability to change class at end game. A class skill tree will become somthin like your weapon skill tree, and ultimately it is same system as in Secret World, you will haw chance to combine Different Class + Weapon + Armor. As it stands in Secret World you combine 2 different type of weapons to create your unique build, but in case of ESO it will be combination of Class Weapon Armor and some other factors like World Skills PvP skills and Guild Skills, but if they wont provide the chance to switch classes i do agree that system will be extremely limited and may force you into Grind your other Alts.
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(March 27th 2013 12:10 PM)Ewan Wrote:  
(March 27th 2013 08:09 AM)Hwrath Gro-Khash Wrote:  Again, instead of having the ability to "switch-your-class", why not simply remove classes all together? Or, give those players who want to be the quintessential 'blank slate' the opportunity to not have to choose a class? I don't want to go to some vendor and pay gold to "switch" to the class I want.

Classes will provide you multiple Utilities spells that includes survival combat disengage etc., this ability's are some what "unique" you wont be able to find them in any other Skill Tree, if they remove class system players will only use cookie cuter build's that pick only best stuff from those Trees, hawing class system insures certain balance which prevents you to abuse those utilities spells, like for example mage will haw Blink spell and DK will haw hook spells, if you combine those too it would be way too op for any character, that is why there is classes, to limit the amount of Utilities spells you can use.


That's a good point Ewan! And frankly the most valid reason I have heard of so far for why classes are needed.

You could simply limit the number of utility spells that can be equipped in your hot bar. We will already be limited to the number of weapon, class/general and ultimate abilities we can have in a load-out at one time. Or, have utility spells draw from the same resource pool. If you want to pull me too you with fiery chain and then blink away, great! Now you have to wait till your resource pool replenishes so you can use firey chain and/or blink again. Meanwhile I'll hit you with my spells, archery, or sprint to get to you, or use firey chain myself to pull you back to me ;) Even if I have access to the same abilities as you, it doesn't mean that I will be forced to use those same abilities to counter you.
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