Date: Sep 9, 2011  |  Written by Flael  |  Posted Under: Article, Featured Article, sidebararticlelist  |  DISQUS With Us: 3 comments

Gone are the days when a player is stuck with all the choices they make after character creation. In the quest for peace between player satisfaction and game balance, MMO developers have had to adapt class versatility over the years, and this will continue to be the case within SWTOR. Developers have stated that both talent point re-specs and Advanced Class re-specs will be featured in the game, and this article looks at reasons for doing so in relation to MMOs in general and The Old Republic specifically.

Part of the reason for this evolution within MMOs is because of what a character class means in-game. Back when World of Warcraft launched in 2004 (not that this is the first example of this by any means), each class had only three talent trees with which to choose from, and in order to fulfill a different role, it became increasingly expensive to retrain your talent points.

With class specs falling into three categories (tank, healer, damage), this was more than sufficient to placate the majority of players in terms of class flexibility. Over time, however, it was apparent that the inability to change roles at will was frustrating to some players. To create a greater level of versatility, it became possible to purchase a second role, and players could switch between the two outside of combat.

Since each class has only three talent trees, this was a great solution, if not completely believable from a lore standpoint. Since that time, character classes have become more complex within many games. A perfect example of this is RIFT, since each of the four callings has access to nine different talent tree options (in the form of different souls).

Trion recognized the limitations even two specs would have on players, and initially provided players the option to purchase up to four roles. This was raised to 5 roles in patch 1.2, and in the RIFT lore, makes complete sense to allow players to do so (characters gain their powers from the different souls of the Ascended).

While there have been many, many games between World of Warcraft and RIFT that have ways to re-spec a character, this article isn’t about them; it’s about SWTOR. Since I am currently a RIFT player, I initially had misgivings on how just four classes would allow a wide variety of player diversity. In my mind, the addition of Advanced Classes was almost necessary to allow for greater character customization options.

It was confirmed at Comic-Con that not only would players be able to re-spec their talent points for a monetary fee, but would also be able to, at least initially, re-spec their chosen Advanced Class as well.

Currently we are going to be allowing you to respec your advanced class, and the reason we went that way was because it is a big choice and some people might make the wrong choice. The very first time you decide to respec your advanced class it’s not going to be super expensive, we’re going to make it relatively affordable and then after that it will become a lot more difficult. -James Owen

There are multiple threads throughout the SWTOR Forums discussing the reasons why the devs are great/stupid for allowing players to re-spec. Many are ambiguous about whether they are talking about re-specing in general or specifically AC re-specing, but it would appear that (some of) the community is in favor of the above announcement.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t valid arguments against the decision, however. Unless done properly, a players’ decision about Advanced Class could become trivial, and in a game that touts the amount of story available to players, this would be a huge turn-off for many people.

As with any aspect of a game, it’s a fine line to tread between being completely true to the world of the game and providing a fun environment for players. In this respect, I am glad it will be possible to change your AC. However, depending on the details of re-specing, it may be more or less believable.

Right now, it sits with the vague explanation of “it will become a lot more difficult.” Does this mean high monetary cost? A cool-down on how often it can happen? A long-lasting debuff that represents your unfamiliarity with new powers? Since the standard monetary cost seems to be how re-specing talent points will be implemented, I would hope an alternate system would be used for ACs.

One of the most compelling arguments I have found against AC re-specing is the continuity problem (second post in linked thread). If a character has spent their entire career focusing on one type of combat, it makes very little sense that they could suddenly switch and have the exact same level of skill. The Advanced Classes are purposefully set up to be completely different within each base class, and this is something that will need to be addressed in order to make AC re-specing believable.

I would be in favor of the inclusion of a mandatory series of quests to accompany any other requirements (money, debuff, etc). These quests would scale with player level (so a max-level character wouldn’t be able to breeze through it), and would focus on teaching the character the skills of their new Advanced Class. Not only would this actually be helpful, but would lend credibility from a lore standpoint. It would also have the added bonus of preventing immediate switches of AC.

At this point, without having a chance to see how it will affect game-play long-term, all discussions of how it will be implemented are conjecture. BioWare has done a great job so far in responding to feedback, and there is nothing to suggest that this issue will be any different. If the ability to re-spec Advanced Class compromises game-play in a negative way, they will more than likely remove or alter it.

  • Tortus

     I’m not quite sure if I agree with the idea of putting an enforced delay, through quests or debuffs, on being able to switch your advanced class. Having played a Priest and Rogue in WoW, I plan to spend a lot of time on a Sith Inquisitor, but both the healing aspects of the Sith Sorceror, but also the melee burst style found in the Sith Assassin. I in no way plan to level two Inquisitors, no more than I plan to level two bounty hunters or Smugglers, if there is a penalty, or long wait before I can switch from one to the other I don’t see myself being able to enjoy the class as much.

    Ease of switching role, be it from tank to healer, healer to DPS, or DPS to Tank, allows guilds to be less strict in their recruitment and raid structure. If you’re Main Tank can’t make it for the night, you can just have a Marauder switch to a Juggernaut quickly and easily, potentially saving the raid from having to disband. Similarly, people who enjoy both the PvP and PvE side of things, but don’t wish to level another character of the same class just for the two different sides of the game has the freedom to try out different styles and specs without worrying too much about having to spend hours inbetween going through ardous quests or waiting out a debuff.

    Your main argument seems to be that being able to switch roles instantly with no penalty, like you can in WoW, breaks immersion and the roleplaying aspect of the game. True, as a roleplayer myself I like immersion and being able to feel see the world through my character. But game mechanics are as game mechanics do. I was forced to admit long ago that game mechanics will always interfere with immersion and roleplaying, I have never been able to roleplay a character in an MMO I could realistically fight as using in game mechanics, and I don’t expect to be able to in TOR. If you treat the actual combat as a roleplaying aspect and not a game mechanic, soon you’ll be out of limbs with all the lightsaber hits you’ll take. The small amount of immersion took away by quick and easy class switching, even that brought at a cost, is easily outweighed by the benefits it brings to raiders and PvP’ers alike.

    The genre is RPG, people often stress the first two letters, role playing, complaining that games aren’t immersive enough, forgetting the most important letter G. It’s nice when a game is immersive, but if that immersion comes at a cost to the enjoyment and playability of the Game itself, I’ll take G over the RP.

  • ScytheNoire

    Game still needs multi-speccing, as people don’t want to constantly have to change their build depending if they are Soloing, Grouping, Raiding, or PVPing. Respecing every time you need to do something is something that should be long gone history in MMO’s today. It’s not a AAA MMO without it.

    • Eurynamous

      All relevant to World of Warcraft, which this game is not. There is nothing pointing to there being a specific PvP, solo or Raid specialization even existing within the current specialization lists. There should be no reason to re-specialize if the classes are built properly. Each class should be a vital role in each aspect of game-play, not forcing the player to rebuild every time they want to do something else.

      Let WoW be WoW and it can stay its own AAA title, we don’t need everything from that game. We just need the community to remember that there are other games out there except for WoW.