Meaningful decisions must be permanent, for a short time

| Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Why would any ever level up that class? It's terrible! All the other classes beat it at its main role. I feel sorry for anyone who plays that class. But it won't last, because I bet next month they'll be overpowered again.

It's pretty hard to pick a class when balance is a factor.

But good news! I found this great game where you can reroll in only a few minutes. A few clicks can change your "race" and from there you can customize extensively. If you screw up, you'll get a new opportunity in a short while.

But don't confuse this for some trivial game of throwaway decisions! What you do matters. How you specialize will affect how you play and how your enemy must react. Of course there are some cookie-cutter specializations, but variety is critical, because standard specs can only take you so far. Eventually you're going to need to mix it up, or at least play especially well. Yep, there's also a skill element to it, and no matter how well you follow the formula, you still need to be able to think and adapt, quickly.

What is this wonderful game of specialization and skill? World of Warcraft? Don't make me laugh. EVE? Please. LotRO? More like LOL! Also, not league of legends.

This game is Starcraft 2.

Yes, I did just say that. It has meaningful decisions, that last a very short time.

Will you go for a mechanical army? Then you'd better have the resources to support it. And the upgrades. And structures. If you change your mind halfway in and decide you want infantry instead, go for it, but you're not getting a refund.

Maybe your enemy is going heavy air. Well then anti-air units would be handy. So I hope you've not specialized in something ground-oriented like siege tanks and marauders. I guess you should have kept some marines around. But don't spam them, lest a colossus or ten show up in a few minutes.

After so long feeling stuck on one character and one class, it's liberating to choose, choose, and choose, different every time if I want, trying new things without forking over gold or whatever other currency (time) the developers demand. One day I might go with a lot of marine-marauder drops, the next I'm working on reaper harassment, and then I'm using ground-heavy mixes for the fight after that. Maybe I even mix them all together, taking advantage of each unit as it becomes available and discarding it when it wears out, dipping into upgrades here and there without committing 100% to any one thing, as a jack of trades who can outmaneuver the master of one.

But again, these aren't meaningless, trivial decisions. There are consequences. Victory or defeat. So I want to learn and I want to do better. But for all the permanence of the decisions, they only last a short time, so I can move on from failures rather than be burdened by them. That's not something you can easily do if you find yourself playing the wrong class this month.

However I don't think simple class-switching is the solution, since then everything becomes meaningless. The genre is slower, with days or weeks as the scale, rather than minutes. To shorten the effect of a decision could weaken it too much, destroy the meaning, the need to plan it out or think it through.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go regret attempting to make a sneaky-type character in Dragon Age: Origins. And if anyone is interested in a three year old game, I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in a few days.


Syl said...

I rolled a mage in DAO; apparently the best choice if some guides are to be believed (cuz its op!). not a conscious choice on my part of course, I just dislike non-magical classes. ^^

You had me thinking for a sec there that you enrolled in FFXI online (or 14) - I still hold spot in my heart for that game's class system if not much else (okay, maybe 2-3 things).
maybe you should give 14 a try sometime - just so I don't have to and can come and read here! =D

oh yeah and about Starcraft: the biggest grief I have with it still is isometry. otherwise I might have been able to see past the scifi and enjoy its sunny sides.....oh well, here's to D3 hoping. or not, that's isometric again, is it not. dang.

Issy said...

I played all 3 options in DAO.. but I preferred Rogue.. I hate it when I can't open stuff by myself. Which is why my DDO wizard learned detect secret doors and knock, and instead of spellcasting bashes stuff with her stick :P

I've not actually tried Starcraft.. it's never been something that's piqued my interest.. which is actually weird now I come to think about it.

Syl said...

by the way, your topic title really is paradoxical!

Tesh said...

This is also why Street Fighter PvP works; short rounds with intense decision making based on player skill, not grinding.

...back to respeccing, I'm still a proponent of full and complete MMO respecs, including class. It's still a "meaningful" decision as much as a character choice in SF is meaningful; it changes how I play the game for a while. That I can change later or that I changed before (cheaply or no) doesn't alter the fact that I'm playing differently *now* when I change class.

...but do you see the focus there? It's on the play, not on the achieving or the *being*. It's all about changing the day to day, moment to moment play. Since I think the journey (the play) is vastly more important than the destination, it shouldn't be a surprise that I want control over that journey.

...and yeah, you did make it worse. I think I have a SC2 demo disc around here somewhere...

Klepsacovic said...

@Tesh: I wonder how often players would actually switch. While I try different strategies, I stick with terran. Maybe we'd see MMO players sticking with one general grouping, and tweaking within that, rather than the WoW-style dramatic change, where one spec is entirely different from another, at least for any hybrid.

But this is where the title comes into play, I was aiming for something like "unchanged for the relevant time period", so your 'spec' choices in Starcraft are permanent, for that game, so they last 100% of the self-contained battle. In contrast, to wrap up everything in your typical WoW-clone, you have to cover the entire life of the character, suggesting a permanent spec system but some way to change characters. I suspect I'm going to fall into a pit of semantics pretty soon, so I'll leave it there.

Post a Comment

Comments in posts older than 21 days will be moderated to prevent spam. Comments in posts younger than 21 days will be checked for ID.

Powered by Blogger.