"It makes no sense" What is a character?

| Sunday, January 12, 2014
In response to Syl's Instant Class Switches - The Last Bastion of Character Restriction

What difference does it make to have one character that can do all things rather than many that can do one thing?

Kelpsacovic is the greatest character ever, at least for me. I have all manner of teleportation abilities, but not the silly city-based spells of a mage. Instead I have wormhole generators, dimensional rippers, a magical ring that takes me to Dalaran, and a remote control that takes me straight to the bar in Blackrock Depths. I don't know if they're useful, but they are interesting. I have a bank filled with odd gear, many items no longer available. Some look cool. Some are symbols of a time gone past: gear from Naxxramas, a sceptre to open the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj, a trinket that allows me to see the ghosts around Scholomance, the Brazier of Invocation, used to summon extra bosses in a few instances, part of the now long-gone Dungeon 2 upgrade quests. She is a paladin engineer, my first max-level paladin, made after Burning Crusade, tanking, healing, and wishing she were tanking through Karazhan.

Kelpsacovic sits alone on Ner'zhul. Her guild is a shell. My rogue, my new main, is on Zul'jin. Another paladin sits on Wildhammer, the result of a brief experiment with playing with real life friends. As usual, a bad idea; compatibility in MMOs is why we're friends.

Surely this is an argument for unified characters. Why should my paladin sit on some distant server, nearly discarded, held away by the ridiculously high cost of server and faction transfers? Yet anyone with a bit of sense can see that the problem here is not one of character, but of server. Greater server mobility, perhaps even unified servers, if such a thing is technically feasible, is the solution.

I have a rogue. I do not wish for her to be a paladin. Or like a paladin. Or even paladinish. Nor would I want my warrior to be the same as my druid. I am slightly sickened by the thought of switching classes as if they were mere specializations. What is the identity of that character? It is me. Of course it always is, but a class places boundaries on it, making it less me. Surely that is part of the enjoyment of many MMOs, to not be entirely oneself, but to take on a different identity. In real life I am no paladin, nor a rogue, lacking the personality traits needed for either. If I were offered a character that could be an amalgam of any classes in order to perfectly suit my personality, well that would be a terribly boring character. I do not think I would want to play it. It's a fine enough personality for real life, but these are games. To switch characters is to switch one's mask, but to merely respec into something else, well that is obviously just insanity.

Perhaps in some games that makes sense. If the class were merely a matter of armor or weapon choice then sure, switch them at will; you might even get away with not having separate progression for each. Yet when character is an innate characteristic, switching at will do not make sense. Are our avatars now some sort of gods who can take on particular forms, but never more than one, or any mixture of two? In that case, then there is no class, merely a fancy set of spells for a particular role, with no identity. To me, that sounds dull.

Of course it is always a bother when there are these little bits and pieces that don't quite work with separate characters. The old attunements could be bothersome, as are reputations. A little bit of the player creeps out and insists, "I already did that! What does it matter that I logged onto a different character?" And then the bags get all strange, wondering where you left your crafting materials: on the gathering character, the bank alt, the crafter, the bank of one of many? I once had an addon that would store my bank and bag contents so I could look at what I had on other characters, but eventually it was too out of date to function anymore. These would all be fixed by unified characters. Or would we just find new ways to create the problems? Perhaps I want to start over again, to try the leveling game. So I make a new character. Oh. There will never be a perfect way to do these things, but we can move toward a closer-to-perfect way; I'm just not convinced that removing class restrictions is the way to do that.

Maybe I will find myself proven wrong when a game catches my interest and executes this well, but until such time, I say, it still makes no sense. I wonder when they’ll notice.


Syl said...

Yours is a good explanation that I think sheds a lot of light on why many players still react reluctantly about multi-classing in WoW. of course the notion changes completely in the MMO communities Final Fantasy Online has. player characters there have an identity too; it's just not relying so heavily on class. there are many ways to create identity for characters. to me, class was never nearly as important as race or faction. it seems a lot more plausible for a character to learn new jobs, rather than undergo such drastic changes. but we accept what a game teaches us and WoW teaches us a character can be a tank, healer and melee dps all at once but not be several classes at once. mkay.

In any case, I can appreciate players looking for class identity per char. to draw another comparison, this is possible in Final Fantasy too. It's up to you what you do with your characters and many players still roll alts in those games, simply because they like having the variety. what's different is that there's at least the OPTION for players to multi-class, who would like to. for me it's a matter of avoiding the same levelling experiences (quests) over and over and sticking to a main which I've always liked best and always identify with the most.

Anonymous said...

This damn thing just ate my comment.

rowanblaze said...

I'm with you, changing classes doesn't make sense for us. I couldn't imagine Rowanblaze as anything other than a Human Priest. I bet changing the race or faction of Kelpsacovic doesn't make any sense to you either. But the option is available for those players who *are* interested in changing faction or race. This would be the same thing. An option. A reformed warlock who took some time out to study the arcane. A warrior who felt the call of the light—or the shadow—set down the sword and board for vestments and staff. And aren't deathknights, at least from a lore perspective, converted from many other classes? There are plenty of RP justifications for changing class. If other players have the option to change the class of their character, how does that really, honestly, affect you?

Electrolux said...

I'm in FFXIV and I have all of one job. Everyone else (expect for this one other guy) is levelling all the jobs without really thinking twice about it like it's what you are supposed to do. To me it feels really really odd..

I don't RP in MMOs but I still carry the sensibility of 30 years of tabletop RPG with me I guess. All these new fellows don't have this, characters are purely the functional places in which loot is stored. This is probably also the thing that makes them freak out when people roll off-gender characters.


Klepsacovic said...

"And aren't deathknights, at least from a lore perspective, converted from many other classes?"
The new DKs aren't really converted from classes; the players were wiped out and remade as DKs. The original DKs were corrupted paladins, and I must admit that I was originally in favor of some sort of paladin/warrior conversion quest. In fact, I suspect I'd have little objection to a process for changing class, just not a button press.

"If other players have the option to change the class of their character, how does that really, honestly, affect you?"
Perhaps it does not. Indirectly perhaps, but I'm not going to be too eager to jump onto the "stop indirect effects on me" wagon; I don't like the RL parallels.

Anonymous said...

@Rowan tbh the first DK's created by Gul'dan where Warlock souls shoved into dead human knights (not necessarily Paladins).

And I agree with Klepsacovic, but then again I also approach the creation of a character with the question "What class do I want to be?" in mind, rather then solely what do I want to do with said character. I also personally like restrictions and rules that restrict you in systems like character creation as it stimulates my creativity. If I get everything I would personally be bored very quickly (this holds also true even if I theoretically have the chance of getting everything on one character; after all why bother to excel at something if there is no cost making it worthwhile like you can't be X if you are Y). Also rigid classes bring back some community interactions that I liked like class pride/ rivalry etc. So giving the option for multiclassing affects everybody (one can mitigate the damage by for instance saying you can train to be all the classes but can only be one class at a time I guess, though I am not sure about that either).

From a lore perspective if we were to look at WoW multiclassing does not make sense. Not because there are no characters existing that are multiple classes, but because how classes are treated in the lore. In WoW lore classes are not jobs, nor are they skills or anything that you simply acquire and hoard. A Class is a characters path in life (much more permanent and rigigd). This can be seen through for instance the fact that every class is tied to an organization in the lore (or if said organization has ceased to exist feels like they are the spiritual successor of it), and you could not simply jump out of those organizations either and in cases when it happened the characters felt so traumatised that they felt the need to get back in it whatever the cost (Tirion Fordring), further signalling that the choice of class is much more defining in WoW's lore than simply that of a job. Examples of organizations include for instance Cenarion Circle, Ravenholdt, Sentinels, Knights of the Silver Hand, Ebon Blade, any of the regular fighting forces for Warriors (Human Warriors end up fraternizing with the City Guard for instance in the old Class quests), SI: 7 etc.
Further characters that have changed class lorewise like Teron Gorefiend, many of the Forsaken and Death Knights, Arthas, Illidan etc. have only done so under circumstances where they either were resurected from the dead, became possessed (Arthas) or changed their character so much that it could be classified as the character before the change was very different fromt he one after (Illidan consuming the skill of Gul'dan would come to mind as his change of character was very visible after him becoming a full demon).

As such WoW lore only allows class changes for it's characters when the original character is dead, changed or indisposed so that we actually have to talk about a new character. Thus we for instance talk about Arthas before he took hold of Frostmourne and Arthas. They are still the same physical entity but characterwise very different.

Long Story short the way WoW's lore is set up would not make multi-classing feasable because of the specific way it treats classes. Sorry for the wall of text I just wanted to be detailed with this somewhat controversial argument.

Anonymous said...

"What is a character" indeed. I want class change options precisely because I want my character to be able to branch out. Others want their class choice locked. Seems to me both are valid playstyles.

rowanblaze said...

I had a ton to say, decided to save it for a post of my own. You've made good points about the Lore; though overall, I agree with Tesh. Thanks for the conversation.

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