Friday 24 April 2009

Bored of Shaman

Melmoth mentioned the other day he’d been playing his Shaman, and I was in the middle of castigating him for being some sort of MMOGadabout for returning to play his Draenei in World of Warcraft just as he’d resubscribed to Warhammer when he pointed out he was talking about his WAR Goblin. Mind you, he could have been talking about a character in Vanguard, Everquest, Everquest II, Dark Age of Camelot or Age of Conan (though they at least mixed things up slightly with the “Bear” prefix). Even Auto Assault, the car-based game of driving around in cars, had a Shaman class (driving a Sham-mobile in a particularly Shamanic way). In Tabula Rasa’s system of increasing specialisation, leaked documents reveal that a Tier 3 Specialist was to be given the option of becoming either a Sapper or a Space Shaman, until the latter was replaced with “Biotechnician” just before beta. The only playable class in the still-under-wraps Mighty Boosh MMO is Shaman, although you do get to specialise in either the Naboo, Saboo, Dennis, Kirk or Harrison trees. I’m given to understand that the next Lord of the Rings Online expansion is going to be titled “What Do You Mean Tolkien Never Wrote About Shaman He Totally Did You Probably Just Missed That Bit Of The Silmarillion”, the main surprise being the addition of a new playable class: Ranger. Oh, and Shaman.

Other classes are similarly common across RPGs, Warriors, Warlocks, Paladins and Rogues littering the fantasy landscape, and it’s clearly far too confusing, so we at KiaSA are campaigning for Uniqueness in MMOG Class Names to eliminate such befuddlement. Of course this won’t be easy, especially in the face of extravagantly-classed games like DAoC and EQ II already having plundered the thesaurus for the likes of Troubadour, Coercer, Theurgist and Mentalist (“steer clear of that one, he’s a bloody mentalist!”), but never ones to simply complain about something without suggesting a practical solution, we offer the following for consideration (and eagerly await comments that they’re all in use in various MMOGs we hadn’t previously encountered):

  • Instead of Shaman: Witch Doctor (it’s surprising nobody’s tried this already, unless it’s the fear of a starting area entirely jammed with people running around shouting “ooh ah wallah wallah bing bang”)
  • Instead of Priest or Cleric: Vicar, Reverend, Lay Preacher, Church Warden, Mostly Agnostic Person Who Goes Along To Midnight Mass At Christmas. If the primary function is healing, then: Doctor, Nurse, Dentist, Chiropractor, Chiropodist, Orthodontist, Otolaryngologist.
  • Instead of Mage or Wizard: Tricky one, this, with pretty much every variant already in use somewhere. Suggest different schools of magic, with practitioners such as “Zappy Zappy Lightning Shooter”, “Flamy Fiery Hot Ouch!” and “Ooh, It’s A Bit Parky, Turn Up The Central Heating Would You?”
  • Instead of Warrior or Knight: Again, mostly into the functional descriptions with “Hits People With Big Sword”, “Hits People With Big Axe”, “Hits People With Big Mace” (this goes on for a while, up to “Hits People With Big Glaive-Glaive-Glaive-Guisarme-Glaive“). For more defensive classes, “Can’t Do Damage For Toffee But Can Take A Beating And Gets Attacked By Stupid AI Ignoring The Juicy Church Warden Standing A Couple Of Feet Away”. (If you arrived here searching for “juicy church warden”, you’ll probably be disappointed, sorry.)

Even functional descriptions have their limits, and several new games using the above conventions might use all those up, but fear not! The system can be extended into what we call the “Process of Elimination” classes:

  • Not The Sword People Hitter Or Vaguely Religious Healer Type Or Sneaky Damage Person
  • Not The Sword People Hitter Or Vaguely Religious Healer Type Or Zappy Magic Damage Person
  • Not The Sword People Hitter Or Sneaky Damage Person Or Zappy Magic Damage Person
  • Not The Vaguely Religious Healer Type Or Sneaky Damage Person Or Zappy Magic Damage Person

We feel the extra clarity this will offer across games makes up for the fact that, even with abbreviation, they’re a little cumbersome in chat:
“Group forming for Crypts of Doom, need a NTSPHOSDPOZMDP!”

“I was going to roll up an alt, what class would be useful?”

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