MMO Character Permanence: Respec or Retcon?

By Kieron Gillen on August 31st, 2009 at 11:10 pm.

When talking about Champions, a friend linked me to a well constructed, if obviously fanboy-outrage slanted, piece about the current respec (or – for those who go outside, respecification) policy for Champions. It’s worth reading, if only because it feeds into quite a few trends about game design. In short, it argues the inability to redesign your character from scratch will kill Champions stone dead. Which got me thinking on the subject…

For people who aren’t following it closely, Champions uses a relatively unusual character design model. Rather than actually having defined classes you’re able to construct your own character by picking powers as you will. Powers are divided into classes – like fire-powers, or force-powers or hugging-powers – and more specialised abilities require prequisites (which are normally multiple abilities in the same class – so, for example, my force-blaster character only opened up her area-effect blast by having a load of abilities in force). But generally speaking, you’re able to pull yourself in whatever direction you want.

There’s more to it than just the powers picking though. Rather than City of Heroes – which kept your power selection much more within a specific framework – you’re also playing with advantages (which allows you to improve and personalise individual abilities. For example, my active block channels energy into me whenever I block… but with the advantage pick, the effect hangs around even after I drop my block, meaning I protect myself for the first few seconds when unleashing attacks) and statistics (i.e. certain ability scores boost certain abilities). The latter brings in more equipment fiddling – which is something aside from what we’re talking about – but also the ability to pick these talents which boost your ability scores. For example, choosing one which gives you +8 dexterity – or one which gives you +5 Strength and Dexterity – or even one which gives +3 to three separate stats.

Which is all very well, but when you start playing, you haven’t got a the proverbial fucking clue what you’re doing.

I think that’s actually at the core of why people have been so divided on the tutorial. On the one hand, you have the developers trying to start the MMO in a full-on semi-scripted battle fashion: Call of Duty with Superheroes. On the other hand, you’re thrown by with massive screens of text explaining mechanics. If you try to follow both, you have no fun whatsoever. If you ignore the text – I totally did – you have a bit of a biff-fest, but you don’t actually come out knowing much.

Point being, you’re going to make mistakes. And point two being, at the moment, it costs a lot to actually fix mistakes. The in-game currency allows you to undo a previously chosen ability, at increasing expense since the first decisions you’ve made. To give you an idea of the expense, not having spent any serious cash, as a level 16 character, I couldn’t afford to swap an ability I gained around level 6 or so. As the essayist puts it, it makes actually picking abilities a time of fear.

Well, I dunno on that. In practice, playing casually, I’m fine with it. If you choose within a framework, you have a guidance for your choices. If you go off choosing random stuff… well, you do know you’re doing random stuff. People who aren’t planning on being competitive in PvP or similar don’t automatically chase the min-maxing.

Which, as an aside, leads to another point point about Champions. There’s been much talk about how little PvP is balanced. I literally have no idea what that means. The thing the Champions Pen and paper RPG system it was based… well, it’s not balanced either. They try, but when a game gives you total freedom to choose stuff from a shopping list, some combos are better than others. As such, the game becomes, at least in part, gaming that system. Some combos are better than others? Fine. So the game becomes about choosing those abilities, and balancing becomes about creating an interesting matrix of choices.

Which of course, feeds back into respecing. You have one good idea about how a character should be and, well, maybe it is for a while. Then someone works out the counter-build, and you’re stuck with last season’s black.

So, at the core I agree with the original essay: it’s a game about experimentation and freedom. To punish the experimentation does seem somewhat perverse.

You have to ask why.

The MMO which most determinedly took the build-competition-is-the-game approach would be Guild Wars, where slotting in and out abilities was a core function. Even they loosened up their ability to respec them from the original, extremely liberal for the time, abilities. While not doing that, City of Heroes also was generous with the respecs. At the time I played, knowing you got a respec at certain points in your characters development was another reward to push towards. The respecs which arrived as seasonal gifts were something which engendered fondness with the developers. Do Cryptic consider that approach a side-effect of the system of City of Heroes which wouldn’t work with Champions?

(i.e. In City Of Heroes you respec, and you’re still fundamentally the same sort of character. In Champions, you may not be. I don’t think that holds up generally either: I’ve stayed within a single framework with my main alt, so am basically the same as City of Heroes’ Warwych, just without the ability to rechoose my powers.)

The conspiracy theory going around is that respecs are going to be part of the Microtransaction system, where you can buy non-essential abilities to enhance your experience. Frankly, if it does go that way, Cryptic are operating at the very boundary of the phrase “non-essential”.

A couple of final notes:

1) It’s interesting how, in single player RPGs, people argue particularly in favour of no-way-back persistence – arguing Bioshock wasn’t even slightly an RPG due to the ability to switch choices around.

2) It’s questionable how much the limitations on respecs actually affects anyone other than those who obsess over the numbers to get the best results. The game, at least what I’ve played, leans on easy rather than hard. It’s as if Cryptic knew there’s more room to make your character work in sub-optimum ways, so designed with that in mind. I’d be interested in any experienced Beta players take on this, if they wish to chip-in in the comments. Yes, we can complain about the character being hurt… but how much does it actually hurt?

, .

85 Comments »

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  1. DK says:

    When they suddenly and without announcement upped the respec costs by an order of magnitude between the last days of beta and release, I was rather pissed.
    I still am.
    Effectively not being able to respec, AT ALL, is utter bullshit – even moreso for a game built on customization.

  2. Zyrusticae says:

    CB tester, signing in.

    I personally agree with the notion that, yeah, if you don’t have a hard-on for number-crunching or PvP, the expensive respecing is hardly going to phase you. I mean, I lived just fine before they even had respecing in the game.

    The powerhouse system is more than enough to prevent you from picking up powers that are simply redundant with what you already have, or are bugged/largely useless. It’s such a nifty feature, in fact, it’s a wonder I was able to survive without it.

    Anyway, I have little sympathy for folks who don’t put thought into their power choices. Especially now, with the powerhouse in play, you have every opportunity to make sure your decision makes sense. I can’t even imagine how it could possibly “kill Champions stone dead.”

  3. the affront says:

    It hurts a whole lot, in my opinion. But that’s from someone who sees PVP as the endgame. Now I have only played the “open” beta of Champions up to 26 or so, but there wasn’t a hint of anything but PVP in sight as something you could regularly DO at max level, apart from twiddling your thumbs (read: “socializing”.. if I only wanted that I’d certainly play something better suited to it). And if you want to be competitive there instead of dying 10 times in a row, you MUST respec or reroll. No way around it with a game that’s so young (oh how fun no real respecs will be when the inevitable balancing buffs/nerfs for the year or so after release hit….).

    And, yeah, I do expect them to put respecs into the cash shop. I’ll laugh heartily when the time comes and feel glad about not buying the game for now.

  4. Howl says:

    It will be via microtransactions. They just need to give it a few months so they can use the ‘by popular demand’ card to help people swallow the bitter pill of paying cash for it. If they had that in at release people would go nuts but if it’s a ‘favour’ they are doing us by adding it in at a later date they might get away with it.

    It’s a moot point anyway because the game is a load of gubbins and will go the way of WAR/AoC by the time anyone cares about respeccing their toons. *dodges*

  5. the affront says:

    It hurts a whole lot, in my opinion. But that’s from someone who sees PVP as the endgame. Now I have only played the “open” beta of Champions up to 26 or so, but there wasn’t a hint of anything but PVP in sight as something you could regularly DO at max level, apart from twiddling your thumbs (read: “socializing”.. if I only wanted that I’d certainly play something better suited to it). And if you want to be competitive there instead of dying 10 times in a row, you MUST respec or reroll. No way around it with a game that’s so young (oh how fun no real respecs will be when the inevitable balancing buffs/nerfs for the year or so after release hit….).

    And, yeah, I do expect them to put respecs into the cash shop. I’ll laugh heartily when the time comes and feel glad about not buying the game for now.

    Also, Zyrusticae: the powerhouse tells you jack shit about how the powers scale at the level cap. They might be fine and dandy at level 15 but suck major ass later. Then you’re SOL.

  6. the affront says:

    Damn comment system.. I reloaded the page after the first try seemingly didn’t work and there was nothing, and now that. Duh.

  7. Zyrusticae says:

    It’s the devs’ fault if a power scales poorly. Ideally, that should never be the case.

    I do not believe that those kinds of issues warrant cheap/easy/free respecing. That said, I’ll agree that the current prices ARE pretty ridiculous. At the very least you should be able to afford one full respec if you throw all your resources into it…

  8. Lafinass says:

    I think the biggest pain here is that you have to sell a pile of gear when you leave the tutorial zone if you want to respec your second power gained at character creation. That is the only time when I’ve really ever wanted to respec.

    Half the builds have a terrible second power. Supernatural for example has that chain throw crap. Spammable sure, low damage and high cost though. Bite is a far better alternative with the same requirements.

    What I think it needs is a more detailed character creation. You should be able to pick ANY of the tier 2 skills for your second skill, not just the one the game picks for you.

  9. Blast Hardcheese says:

    I’d have an opinion, but I don’t know if you can ever pick a second energy building power. If so, there’s no big deal. If not, I screwed up a couple of my characters pretty obscenely, what with some tanks having ranged energy building and some rather weak but high damage ones having a melee energy builder.

  10. DixieFlatline says:

    @ Lafinass:

    But you can pick any of the tier two skills. That’s what the ‘custom framework’ button at the bottom is for.

  11. Railick says:

    (i.e. In Champions you respec, and you’re still fundamentally the same sort of character. In Champions, you may not be. I don’t think that holds up generally either: I’ve stayed within a single framework with my main alt, so am basically the same as City of Heroes’ Warwych, just without the ability to rechoose my powers.)

    I think you meant in CoH you respec and you’re still the same type of hero, ;P

  12. Tei says:

    I think I have found a reason the horrible console-ish setup to activate avatars (aka “consoleish” controls):

    http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/08/31/2036239
    Seems theres a version for the Xbox :-(

  13. gryffinp says:

    All I know is, I played in the open beta, and I frequently wanted to respec but could not.

  14. the affront says:

    “It’s the devs’ fault if a power scales poorly. Ideally, that should never be the case.”

    This must be your first MMO… there hasn’t been a single one so far which hasn’t undergone massive balancing changes. If your character turns out to be nearly useless for months until the next adjustment, you HAVE to reroll. Or quit. Or buy a respec in the shop.
    But if there were free respecs every time a major nerf/buff hits, that’d be fine (or at least acceptable). We’ll see what they do (they didn’t give any in the beta, though, and melee was nerfed pretty hard).

  15. DK says:

    “@ Lafinass:

    But you can pick any of the tier two skills. That’s what the ‘custom framework’ button at the bottom is for.”
    If that was the case, there would be less of a problem, but it’s not. They only give you a small selection of the actual tier two skills at the start. You have to respec, which you can’t because they made it too expensive, after the tutorial to get to the actual power selection.

  16. Ian Moriarty says:

    Meh. I’m happy with the current respec system as is. Cryptic has already stated the current costs of respeccing during Headstart or broken and they’re fixing it for live. As for me, the Power House is more than sufficient to figure out if a power is worthwhile.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the C-Store ends up with Full Respecs for cash. More power to them, if you want to work around the rules of the game, pony up.

    @Lafinass – Choose Custom Build and you can pick any Tier 1 power you like. Go Wild.

    ~I

    (Note: I’m a Lifer, and thus biased.)

  17. Zyrusticae says:

    @DixieFlatline
    Er, you guys all seem to be confused.
    To pick a tier two power, you need 3 powers from that power’s set or 5 non-energy-building powers from any set. This is impossible at level 5 (which would be the very first time you have access to the respec).
    You’re thinking of the tier 1 powers, which require 1 power in that power set or two non-energy-building powers from any set to be taken.

    @the affront
    Actually, this is my sixth… seventh… eighth? MMO (EQ -> EQ2 -> SWG -> CoH/V -> Vanguard -> Eve -> PSU -> CO).

    At this point I’ve learned to accept that there are going to be inequities among different classes – or in this case, different powers. And considering each and every power is available for you to choose at any junction, so long as you meet the prerequisites, I find I have little reason to care if there’s balance issues down the road.

    I just start playing a different character if one is gimp. Especially in this game, which is extremely altoholic-friendly. Not an ideal solution, surely, but I don’t see why I should be given free reign to completely redesign my characters in the event of balance issues unless I’m specifically testing the game for those in the first place.

    I guess I’m just not cynical enough to believe that the devs would be so short-sighted as to make something “unplayable”.

  18. Lafinass says:

    @DixieFlatline & Ian Moriarty

    You are incorrect. The ‘custom build’ allows you to pick one of the pre-picked powers from another tree. Not one of the others from the same tree. Each tree has multiple Tier 1 powers, or Tier 2 if you consider the energy builders Tier 1. I don’t want to be able to pick an energy builder from one and a second power from a different tree, I want to pick a “Requires 1 power from this tree” that isn’t the ONE they give you at creation.

    In my example, I don’t want the chain lash or whatever it’s called- I want bite, both Supernatural. Same requirement of 1 other power from the tree, so same tier- but only one of them is available from the character creator. So what is required is to finish the tutorial and respec out of the chain skill and then pick up bite instead. This was easy in beta because that first ability was free to respec in your first powerhouse session, but now it costs just over 4s.

    It’s just vaguely frustrating that in a game that is all about customization, they would make this move that makes it harder to have the hero you want from the start.

  19. Sartoris says:

    “Hugging power” sounds awesome. John Walker would be my constant victim :D

  20. Persus-9 says:

    Seems to me it mainly hurts people who are caught up in the idea of min-maxing and I sometimes wonder if those people don’t hurt MMOs for more mainstream players. Personally I don’t really care about min-maxing; if I play an MMO I do so to have fun.

    When I played WoW I played an affliction spec ‘lock and other more serious ‘locks told me I should respec to demonology because it was “better” but I couldn’t help but feel they were missing the point. The point being affliction spec was better for me because I found it a lot more fun to cast a half-dozen dots and fear and slow on someone and watch them stagger around in terror until they die then just to get an uberdemon to run up and hit them with it’s massive axe. I should imagine that if I’d ever wanted to get involved in a raiding guild and see the end game raids then they wouldn’t have tolerated this type of frivolous behaviour and I’d have had to respec in order to be allowed to take part. This means that at the higher levels people are pushed away from playing the way they enjoy towards playing purely efficiently and I’m guessing for a lot of people isn’t nearly as much fun.

    Seems to me that preventing people from respecing will stop min-maxing from becoming the norm; lead to a much great tolerance of imperfect character builds among the games general population and should hopefully stop the hardcore from browbeating the mainstream into feeling that they have repec in order to keep playing. Sounds a bit more fun to me.

  21. the affront says:

    Zyrusticae: Heh, expected something like that. That sentence just sounded entirely too unbelievable/naive to me coming from someone with MMO and inevitably balancing nightmare experience. But then “unplayable” for me begins when I feel that I’m dragging my group down and just fill the throw-away slot.

    Also, considering the advantages of a basically class-less system I see no reason to still force players to re-roll if they/the devs screw up. Seems like just throwing the opportunity for improvement away.
    (And I’m not saying respecs should be cheap, easy to get, or whatever. Just that they’re there and you don’t get ripped off by cash shop for them – they should be achievable by in-game means, be they expensive or otherwise hard to get. There have been enough successful examples of this.)

  22. Wulf says:

    Throw in respecs for the min/maxers, sure, but unless you’re minmaxing you’d have to be pretty foolish to screw up a character. Why? Because of how they’ve constructed their upgrade system: The Power House.

    The thing is, when you first create a character, you can save their appearance off the bat.

    Now let me stop there a moment and explain my process: Before I even go into the character creation, I work out the following…

    – What my character will basically look like.
    – A time-line of his life and all that’s happened to him.
    – A writ of his personality and what would define his choices.

    Then, I go to the character creator and I work off my basic “character schematic”, and as I pick costume parts I go back to that schematic and scribble in more bitst of info. How a character came by their power armour, or even with a more plain character I’d note say… what their favourite brand of leather jacket is and why. Not everyone wants to or needs to go into this kind of detail, but I love it!

    So when I’m done, I could tell you why my character has those arm rings, why they’re wearing a camo shirt, and every piece of clothing has a story. Once I’m done with that, I save the appearance and then give the schematic another once-over, thinking about everything I’ve written, and making any changes that might be necessary.

    This prepares me for the origin story, where I have to cram a hell of a lot of info into a very short origin tale, which is supposed to tell people about my character, a lot needs to be left out (of course) but I keep that information around should I ever be asked about it.

    Okay, so I’ve got the origin story down, I have the character’s personality, and a hell of a lot of information. Then I can hit “I’m done!”. By this point I’ve made a backup of the origin story of course and saved the character one final time. So then I’m in game.

    From here, I can do one very important thing: Run around the corner to the pods and test my powers. I do that before anything else, I go and make sure that my character looks right; that all the colours are right, that the animation set I chose was right, and that I didn’t forget anything.

    Sometimes I’ll forget to set the pawpads of a werewolf black and this will lead to a “SHIT!” and a quick redo, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

    So I’m testing my appearance, and I’m testing my powers. Is this how the character would fight? Does it suit their personality? And so on.

    Thanks to the fact that the character creation process is so quick once you’ve setup the visual side of things, it means that you can delete a character, go back to the character creation system, load the character, then make any visual tweaks and power changes that you need to. Once you’re sure that they’re right visually, you’ll never need to change that again so it’s very important to get that right right off the bat.

    So, I’m satisfied with my character and I have a ball, I biff and boff my way through the Qularr invasion, and as I’m going I get items: These items I judge by my character’s schematic and nothing else.

    Am I strong? O ya. Rather dexterous too. Egotistical? Well, not really. A tiny bit, but this character’s mostly humble. And so on. Everything I do I base off the nature of the character I’m working with, and I actually think the Champions system is designed to play up to that from what I can tell, it’s sort of a “roleplay first” system because every stat has its general perks.

    So picking items is easy, it’s just telling the game what I see in my head. If you have big muscles, you pile on the strength, so it’s a really simple thing.

    Okay, so it’s the end of the Qularr invasion, and soon you’ll find yourself at the Power House…

    The next thing I’m going to say is very, very important.

    If you just grab some stuff in the Power House and rush out the door, you’re screwed, you’re damning yourself and you have no one else to blame.

    The Power House even warns you not to do this, so you really can’t blame anyone for not thinking things through. Now let me tell you what I do when I’m at the Power House…

    When it came to a travel power, I wasn’t sure what to do with my munitions-based werewolf character, so I had to sit and think for a bit. If this had been another game, where I had to pick something and that was that, and my only option was to pay through the nose for a respect, I’d have played it safe. I would have picked something like tunnelling or super-jumping, sticking with the character’s bestial nature.

    But you don’t have to play it safe, neither do I.

    You can pick stuff, and as long as you don’t leave the Power House you can reset every single choice you make when inside the Power House, and this is crucially important, because it means that you can see what suits your character and you can pick according to that.

    Now I use my schematic, of course. I look at the choices that my character would make, and I consider. I actually tried every travel power.

    Were I playing it safe, I wouldn’t have even considered swinging because I would’ve assumed it was something like Spider-man, webs and whatnot. Silly, maybe, but it wouldn’t be a chance I’d take. But I could trial everything! I actually found out that it was a device, a grappling hook with a rope. And it immediately struck me: Yes! This is how my munitions wolf would travel! He’d totally dig this!

    And you do this with everything, you pick, you test, you reset, then you try ‘em again, you pick finally, and then you go out of the door when you’re sure that this is what your character would have, when you’re sure that that’s a natural evolution for your character.

    Sometimes you might even pick something a little off the wall and add something to your schematic to support that. And what’s great is that you can go and visit the costume tailor to change your appearance slightly to suit. It isn’t all that expensive at all to make minor changes.

    Your character suddenly has an arsenal of bombs? He has nowhere to keep those, hmm… hey, let’s rush over to the costume tailor and slap a backpack on him, that’d work!

    And this is precisely the kind of thinking that Champions Online seems to play up to. You can min/max, but I don’t think the game is really designed for it, and that’s why It hink the idea of a full respec just diidn’t occur to the developers because of the kind of game they were making.

    So maybe people shouldn’t try to make the most powerful character ever, but simply make a cohesive character, an absolutely brilliant character who’d stand out due to their cohesive nature, and by not being a bunch of random crap thrown together without a backstory that seems to make up most of the playerbase.

    …and speaking of which, I’m actually tempted to turn this ‘ere text into a guide and post it up on the Champions forums. Presumptuous… maybe, but I think that the realisation might help some. The moral of the story really is: Imagine a brilliant character that could only come from your mind, flesh it out, and then make that character… min/maxing be damned!

  23. malkav11 says:

    @Persus-9
    No. People who want you to be optimized for your role simply won’t take you if you’re not optimized and there’s no ability to change that.

    Besides, given how wide open Champions character-building is and how poorly it’s explained, it’s pretty easy to build yourself a character that flat out doesn’t work, only you maybe don’t figure that out until down the line. My closed beta character got to about level 16 before I started having major problems staying alive and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

  24. Shalrath says:

    Power gamers who figure out the ‘best builds’ early will shrug off thoughts of expensive respeccing now. They’ll say who cares, just plan it out, etc.

    Then key parts of their build will be lessened in power/usefulness, and they’ll scream about how unfair that is, and how expensive it is to respec now that their old builds are ‘worthless.’

  25. Persus-9 says:

    @ Malkav: I’m not sure exactly what are you saying “no” to… My point is that sure as you say “people who want you to be optimised for your role simply won’t take you if you’re not optimised and there’s no ability to change that.” but since there’s no ability to change that and most people won’t get the optimum build the mainstream will never be made up of people who demand optimisation because the mainstream won’t have optimised builds themselves because it’ll be damn near impossible. The people who demand optimisation will be a little cliq of power levelers who are willing to start from scratch multiple times to get everything perfect rather than the mainstream that they are in WoW.

    If you can build characters who don’t work at all then that does seem like a major problem but that isn’t necessarily the same problem as not being able to respec.

  26. Wulf says:

    @malkav11

    You could…

    – Stack up on defence powers.

    – If you’re a close quarters only character, use the environment to your advantage: throw things to aggro, then rush off behind some handy range-blocking obstacles and mount an ambush to your advantage. If you’re fighting fliers then stand near a big pile of objects and throw, throw, and throw some more!

    – If you’re a ranged only character, stack up on energy regeneration and having a large energy bar (not hard, the stat descriptions in character creation make it very obvious what stuff does) and use your travel powers to stay out of harms reach and easily beat a hasty retreat if needed. Ranged fighters work well with both hit-n-run and smoke-n-mirrors techniques.

    – If you’re a support character, group more! From my experiences, people love to group, even when it’s completely unnecessary.

    There’s pretty much a way to play any character, but it’s my suspicion that you chose random stuff and didn’t really plan your character out from the start. I’m not talking about min/maxing here, but if you don’t know what shape your character will be, you don’t know how to play that character. And you don’t know which tactics you should use to play them.

    That’s why having an understanding of your character in mind from the start will help you survive through most things, even with the most un-min/maxed character.

  27. Shalrath says:

    “When I played WoW I played an affliction spec ‘lock and other more serious ‘locks told me I should respec to demonology because it was “better” but I couldn’t help but feel they were missing the point … I should imagine that if I’d ever wanted to get involved in a raiding guild and see the end game raids then they wouldn’t have tolerated this type of frivolous behaviour and I’d have had to respec in order to be allowed to take part.”

    It’s funny, I remember this time in WoW (I say ‘this time’ because there were times where Demonology was the WORST spec…) but I was Destruction rather than Affliction. I would get harassed about how awful the spec was, how ‘unsurvivable’ it was, and then they’d play in AB with me.

    And I’d top the charts.

    This isn’t some ‘lookit me! I’m awesome!’ point here, but I did actually get the top spot a lot. And I didn’t just charge in a group all ring-around-the-flag. I stayed at one (almost universally the Mine) and defended it, often with, at most, 1 other person. And we’d hold it. They’d come in two’s, three’s, finally entire waves. But somehow I always held it.

    And the REASON I held it, with this spec, was that it was burst. While demon could, in fact, take far more damage than me, and could also do far more damage over time than me, they could NOT kill someone faster than a heal could keep them up. I couldn’t survive shit, but I could rip a healer down in seconds.

    So, in the end, you’ll find that cookie-cutter ‘min maxers’ often are quite wrong.

  28. DK says:

    The fact of the matter is, there’s no good reason NOT to have respeccs.
    So called Powergamers or Min/Maxers will have the optimal builds anyway, while RPers or casual players get screwed by no respeccing.

  29. Wulf says:

    @DK:

    I see no problems with including respecs and it’s fine for those that want them but you’ve committed a cardinal sin in my book, you’ve spoke for a huge group of people, purporting that your opinion is as theirs.

    I’m a roleplayer, and by planning my character out properly (as any real roleplayer would), I’ve never actually had the need to respec, I know where I’ve been, I know where I’m going, and I’ve known this with every character. It isn’t the optimal build, but it’s my build (damn it!) and I strongly believe that’s part of what roleplaying is about.

    A roleplayer becomes their character, after all, and that character is only mutable to a certain degree, no? It’d be interesting if a Ranger/Mage Elf in D&D could rush off and become a Dwarven Warrior/Berserker.

    But if that happens, where’s the attachment to the character, where’s the loyalty? :<

    I'm very loyal to my characters, and to dump them just because they aren't perfectly min/max is, in my opinion, not of The Roleplayer Way.

    Casual players? Sure. I'm a casual player too, but casual players who aren't also roleplayers I can't speak for. Maybe a casual player would want to be respeccing every other day. No clue, I can't speak for them, and neither can you.

    But to say that "RPers and casual players are screwed" is trite. It'd be more fair to say that "I, as a casual player, am screwed".

  30. invisiblejesus says:

    @Wulf:

    I don’t play CO, at least not yet, but I have played City of Heroes for quite a long time. I was the leader of a respectably-sized roleplay SG there, and in a very good-sized roleplay coalition for quite a while. I knew a lot of roleplayers, some of whom mini-maxed and some of whom didn’t. I assure you, DK is right, and if he isn’t in a position to speak for a huge group of players then I feel pretty confident that I am. Lots of roleplayers would like reasonably attainable respecs. We like them in CoH, and I assure you many RPers in CO will feel the same way. I dunno about DK, but I know enough roleplayers that I think I am in a position to speak for them. If you don’t share that opinion, that’s fine, but it doesn’t change the facts.

  31. Zyrusticae says:

    As an avid RPer… yeah, that argument holds no water for me.

    But, y’know, none of this discussion matters since they’ve said it’s bugged and that it will be fixed in short time anyways. :p

  32. jalf says:

    Ugh, that post is *really* badly written, whether or not the argument makes sense…

    It reminds me of those IRIS Network bulletins in Beyond Good & Evil… Those cheesy single-sentence news snippets they released whenever you completed a missions, with CAPITALISED words for emphasis.

    The argument under “Excessive Frequent Full “Class” Respecing” is downright silly.
    His first point, that “the argument is flawed from the beginning” could just as well be applied to his own argument. Because characters already have this flexibility, the need for a full respec might just not be that great.

    And then he justifies full respecs basically by saying that “most people won’t use it often anyway”. Great. Add a feature just so people can refrain from using it? And of course, it undermines his argument about powergamers. Without respect, they might well make the “best” characters, but they’ll be stuck with their powers, they’ll be best *on average*, not in specific situations. So someone who picks the right counters might still beat them.
    With respec, the dreaded powergamers can completely rebuild their character to adapt to whatever they have to fight.

    And by his own argument that “game developers tend to balance the game for the powergamers”, that’d mean that everything would be scaled not just for a well-designed character, but for a character *specifically tuned for this precise mission/mob/whatever*. The game’s difficulty would assume that your hero is custom-built for whatever he’s fighting, because that’s what powergamers would do.

    So poor casual gamers who try to stick to a certain persona will, by his own logic be screwed over completely by the addition of respecs. They won’t be able to adapt as well as powergamers to different enemies, and so they’ll fall behind the game’s difficulty curve. At least if we follow this guy’s argument.

    And he keeps falling back on “roleplaying reasons” for wanting a full respec, which just sounds silly. The point in roleplaying is that you tend to stick to a role. Respec allows you to *change* your role. I fail to see how one supports the other, except in very rare case.

    Oh, and finally, of course, I’m having a hard time finding much sympathy for anything written on a website which hosts Evony guides…. :p

    Of course, all this isn’t to say that respecs should *not* be allowed. I don’t know. But this guy’s argument is shaky as hell. Half his arguments undermine the other half, and the remaining ones rely more on bolded and/or capitalized text than on anything to do with the game.

    I’m going to assume that KG was drunk when he called the argument “well-constructed”. :p

    But when that is said, and if we disregard the specific article you linked to, there’s obviously a good argument to be made for respecs. I learned pretty much nothing from the tutorial either, but I emerged having to buy quite a few powers and upgrades. I had no clue what to pick, or what would be best, and if the beta hadn’t ended, that would almost certainly have come back to bite me later on.

    So yeah, given how clueless players are when picking powers for the first 10 levels or so, a respec or two might be in order.

  33. perilisk says:

    I’m spoiled by Guild Wars’ current system. I like playing around with builds in every system, but I don’t necessary enjoy the slog of leveling the damn characters up over and over to try things out.

    Ideally, I’d like something like Guild Wars’ PvP character system — you play and accrue points used to unlock additional options for building a character, rather than vertically increasing in power. For the PvE campaign, you would start out with a very low limit on total power, but the cap would raise as you advance in the story. In PvP, everyone would play at the same level of power.

  34. Brant says:

    On a different note, I got a kick out of the fact that (in the early betas, anyway) the respec command was /retcon. Clever.

  35. Dante says:

    The ability to test different powers is a valuable one. During the beta they added a /retcon command to unlearn abilities which was fantastic as it let you tinker around before settling on something, much like the travel power room now.

    Perhaps simply extending the ‘try before you buy’ policy to include all abilities is the key?

  36. Zyrusticae says:

    @Dante

    You CAN “try before you buy” with ALL abilities.

    You seem to have missed the other three rooms in the Powerhouse. It’s not just the travel power room.

  37. malkav11 says:

    @Wulf – You are perfectly correct. I did not sit down and plan out my character’s entire growth from start to finish. Not only do I not want to ever have to do that, but I’m not sure how you would given that it’s not exactly clear right off the bat what’s available or how things interact. But I did make reasonable choices based on the information I had available at the time and my basic character concept. I was a swordsman with some demonic power backing me up – breathing out clouds of flies and stealing life from my foes, specifically. I had regeneration. I still died like crazy. I suppose eventually I could have very, very slowly levelled until I hit another power-granting level at which point I could have taken a wild stab in the dark at selecting a power that might make me more viable. Or they could just let me respec when I feel the need.

    I should also add that while at that stage of the beta they didn’t have the Powerhouse yet, I don’t think it would have helped. The powers I took were quite effective at lower levels and against the sorts of things I was facing then. I was far more survivable than the dark magician I’d tried previously, that’s for sure. But then I got higher level and the foes changed and I was losing a lot.

  38. Aphotique says:

    Two questions to ask:
    1)What is one important goal of an MMO developer?
    2)Who does full re-specification hurt?

    MMO developers want you to play their game. They want you to play it for a long time. To play over long periods of time to maximize the amount of money they can get from each customer month after month.

    In a traditional WoW-like MMO, re-specification doesn’t hurt anyone. You’re bound by your class and all that re-specification does is allow you to vary how you play your character and tweak it just the way you want. For a truly different feel and play-style however, you’re going to roll an alt, extending the amount of time you play quite a bit.

    In a game like Champions however, full re-specifications, while benefiting the player in the same way as the traditional MMO, actually have the potential to hurt the developer. Being able to completely change every aspect of your characters abilities down to its very play-style can significantly lower the amount of time you play.

    Example: I hit level cap as a ranged fighter, I wonder what melee would be like, a full re-specification would essentially give you a level capped melee character without any of the play time associated with rolling a separate character in that vein. The argument can be made that the flexibility of being able to do so could have the opposite effect, as flexibility would keep the game fresh and you interested, but so too could you just as quickly be bored of the game as you’ve experienced all it has to offer from all perspectives in a fraction of the time.

    How much or how little a risk that is to the developer is certainly debatable, but I think it would be naive to assume it wasn’t a possible reason for its original exclusion. In fact, the very inclusion of a limited re-specification system in a supposedly classless game binds you to your choices creating the very barrier built in to class based systems. One could even argue that its very existence turns Champions into a class based system as you inevitably pick and choose your way into a particular play-style (tank, healer, melee dps, ranged dps, etc), and that including full re-specification would actually cement Champions as a true classless system because you never have or will ever be imprisoned by your choices.

  39. dadioflex says:

    Solution – have a rare drop token that allows you a full re-spec. Or alternatively just give the option to re-spec completely once every ten levels, or whatever.

    Picking powers shouldn’t be a hassle.

    Very different (though MP) game Sacred 2 doesn’t allow re-specs, and that is irksome.

  40. DK says:

    “In a game like Champions however, full re-specifications, while benefiting the player in the same way as the traditional MMO, actually have the potential to hurt the developer. Being able to completely change every aspect of your characters abilities down to its very play-style can significantly lower the amount of time you play.”

    Fallacy proven untrue by many other games, including the ludicrously successful WoW or even City of Heroes.
    History has proven, time and time again, Fun Grind is good, Unfun Grind is bad – and remaking the character, playing through the same shit again not because you want to, but because you HAVE to, is Unfun Grind.

    “I’m a roleplayer, and by planning my character out properly (as any real roleplayer would), I’ve never actually had the need to respec, I know where I’ve been, I know where I’m going, and I’ve known this with every character. It isn’t the optimal build, but it’s my build (damn it!) and I strongly believe that’s part of what roleplaying is about.”
    Then what if, for Roleplaying reasons, your character needs to loose a power and gain a new one? Or even just plain loose a power? You can’t.
    RP – screwed.

  41. Bobsy says:

    I don’t see this as a problem in the long run. Full respecs are obviously needed and before too long they’ll be patched in. I forget offhand the name of the lead designer on Champions, but he always struck me as the sort who’d be rather contemptuous of the need to max out stats and abilities, but would insist you should always pick powers based on how fun they seem, in which case respeccing surely shouldn’t come into it.

    Well, anyway. I’m not bothered in the long run. It’s so blatently obvious that it’s necessary that I don’t think we’ll have to wait too long before full respecs are added.

  42. mrmud says:

    @Persus-9

    I think it is very naive to believe that no respecing will cause min/maxing to cease. In all probablity it is more likely to cause rerolling to be the standard form of gameplay with the side effect of your main character becoming less important.

  43. Moorkh says:

    In a persistent online world I expect characters to be persistent as well.
    Respeccing is a metagame, munchkin feature that detracts from the consistency of the game world and thus from my immersion.

  44. mrmud says:

    Everyone who believes that no respecs will prevent min/maxers from getting the new flavor of the month is badly mistaken. It will take the form of rerolling instead of respeccing. See the shifts in arena team composition in WoW.

  45. vasagi says:

    Mr Majestic cares not for min-maxing, just power biffing perps in front of hot chicks!

  46. Aphotique says:

    @DK

    I’m not sure you read my entire remark. I am presenting two separate viewpoints, a players, and a developers on the aspect of full re-specifications. In no way does the ‘grind’ being fun or not come into my argument or point. A fun grind will be replayed regardless of re-specs or not, and a poor grind will always be a poor grind, likely to cause the player to quit earlier than intended outright.

    Now, if you do want to take grind into account, then re-specifications in a class system (WoW/CoH using your examples) matter little as you will be forced to replay that same grind for a different play-style (rolling an alt) whether you enjoyed it or not. In a classless system though (Champions in this case), you can avoid the re-grind altogether and change up your play-style on the fly with full re-specifications. Both cases benefit the player, as I stated in my previous comment.

    My overall point, in case I was unclear, is that there are legitimate reasons not to include re-specifications of any kind in an MMO (ie, why they might not have included them to begin with), but as they don’t harm the players in any way, and more often than not are beneficial to that particular games community, it would be within Champions best interest to allow them in some form, be it in-game currency, or item shop equivalent (though that would invoke the ire of many I’m sure).

  47. Pod says:

    As long as no skills are shit, why does respecing matter?

    Also:

    “(i.e. In Champions you respec, and you’re still fundamentally the same sort of character. In Champions, you may not be.)”

    eh?

  48. Scylla says:

    With the way MMORPG work with patches, with stuff getting nerfed, changed is really crazy to have a game where you can’t respec. When the nerf/change some powers will they gonna say to everyone that used the powers to reroll another character?

    The most likely is for they to put full Respec in the Cryptic Store fro some Euros.

  49. Choca says:

    As it stands, Champions Online needs a full respec system.

    The UI information about powers, stats and everything is so lackluster that people WILL make gimp characters during their first few weeks. The website is hardly helpful on the game mechanisms and you have to actively search the forums right now to learn about “the way things work” in the game.

    The fact that it’s a MMO and that powers will obviously get nerfed/buffed to oblivion at some point also makes me think that they should at least give a free full respec when a patch is released.

    If they don’t, the day Personal Force Field get nerfed, half the players will have to reroll. Or to quit.

  50. devlocke says:

    I’m not a multiplayer-game player in general, and the only MMO I’ve ever played was LOTRO, which I spent three or four months with. It was fun, but I got laid off from work, so I cancelled it and I haven’t had any reason to go back. Other things are also fun. I tell you this because it’s possible I’m just missing something and/or just naive.

    I don’t like the idea of just randomly being allowed to re-do entire characters, and I don’t think anyone who was playing the game in order to, y’know, play the game, would have any interest in doing so. I don’t care about PvP, because it’s not the game. Not for me, anyways. If you’re obsessed with killing other people, and see the game as a chance to pit your character-building skills against everyone else’s, that’s fine, but it’s also an argument against a full re-spec because it renders the stakes you’re playing for meaningless. If at any time, you can research what you should have done according to other people, and just arbitrarily do that, then what you’re doing isn’t a proof of skill, and any victories you attain from doing so are worthless. If you’re doing what you think you should do, and it sucks… well, you fucked up. Do it again and do it better (i.e. make another character).

    But what’s the point of a super-hero game with limitless customization if all you’re trying to do is beat other super-heroes? The whole point is to make a character that’s awesome. To make this thing you envision as hilarious or bad-ass or whatever progress through the game. To just randomly use an RPS example that I might be totally wrong about, you don’t create a super-hero called the Entomologist because you want to destroy everyone else who’s playing the game. You create the Entomologist because it’s fucking hilariously awesome that there’s a super-hero called the Entomologist and you want to see whatever THAT guy would be, doing whatever you envision that guy doing, and being super-heroey about it.

    If I play CO, which sounds interesting and if I get around to upping my desktop to 21st century spec, will probably happen, I won’t build my character based on whatever current opinion holds to be the most powerful build. I’ll build him based on what would be amusing to me to see as a superhero. Because I want to play the game, and see my creation come to life. If that creation ends up organically growing into something that’s suboptimal… then I guess I’ll have to group with other people to progress through the game. Horrors! Being social in an MMO. I don’t really like grouping, and I’d rather have soloing be an option, but the beauty of an MMO is that even when soloing ISN’T an option, you can rock it out with a couple of friends and continue to progress. I played a bard in LOTRO because I like music. I was slightly annoyed that the class was sorta underpowered and unsoloable (possibly not true now?) but not enough to abandon the character. I wanted to play a bard.

    I guess I basically assume that it’s not possible to create a character it is impossible to view all the content with. And as long as you can progress through the whole game, there’s no reason to allow a full re-spec. IMHO, any respec at all is sorta silly, unless some powers/skills/whatever are so broken they make it impossible for you to progress through the content. If you don’t care about the content, and only care about PvP (the only situation where full respec seems like it would be relevant), then why are you bothering to play a game with content? Just play poker online or something.

    Mea culpa: I’m hammered. And I just typed a lot. I probably left stuff out that leaves my argument totally weak, and/or completely failed to express my opinion. I don’t think I did, but past experience posting drunk tells me it’s likely. If so… my bad. I could just be stupid. Hope not.