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.