Although I’ve not been following the upcoming MMORPG Crowfall that closely, the news posted on Massively OP that the devs are removing the planned race/class locks seems a positive development. The game is shifting from the original idea of race and class being bundled in one choice to having the more standard subset of classes available based on the choice of character race.
Race locks, and to a lesser extent gender locks annoy me – I came to this hobby from pen and paper RPGs where such choices are part of the fundamental creative process when making a new character. That’s not to say that restrictions of race/class combination are totally foreign to the RPG hobby, D&D in its early incarnations had a bunch of them. In general the hobby, and its online equivalent, seem to have moved away from limiting freedom of choice at character creation – though I wonder if the trend is now reversing due to the apparent smaller budgets for new MMORPGs and less ambitious vision this implies.
Such restrictions can stem from different origins: there’s the RPG/lore oriented variety, a tradition of class = set race/gender combo and a practical restriction relating to the cost of making new classes available to a wide set of races or both genders. I’ve come across all three types of character restrictions in other MMORPGs over the years.
The lore-oriented version of limited character creation options was a big thing in World of Warcraft in its earlier years: Paladins and Shamans were very limited at first (even limited to one or other faction), Druids were quite restricted also. Over the years there have been at least two waves of the opening of race/class combinations, and the game hasn’t had any gender locks to date. The newest class, the Demonhunter, is actually strictly race locked to the game’s two elf varieties as appropriate to the lore. WoW is not the only MMO to have such restrictions: Lord of the Rings Online has kept lore-appropriate combinations, and SWTOR had some limits at launch although they are less strict now.
Black Desert Online espouses a different MMORPG design philosophy of classes being more of a specific character concept, rather than a blank slate with all the options. Not only are the classes gender specific (some have male/female approximate mirrors but they’re hardly identical), but there are even race and age elements pre-determined in class choice. All wizards are destined to be an older male human of some description unless you work really hard at character creation to break the mold. Vindictus is another MMORPG I used to play that has this kind of “choose the character instead of creating one” approach.
Since launch Tera seems to have followed the third (budget-driven) approach; the original roster of classes were pretty open in terms of class/race combos, but all of the post launch additions are strictly limited by race and/or gender. It’s deterred me from bothering to create any of the new classes as the available combinations just aren’t that appealing to me personally.
What about you dear reader, do race or gender locks matter in MMORPGs?