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EDIT - This thread isn't directly about FFXI, it uses FFXI as an example. Basically, it describes best what I mean regarding a multi-class system.
After seeing MMOs come and go over time, I have noticed something. People see a new MMO that looks interesting, and end up purchasing it. While leveling, they enjoy themselves quite a bit, and then get to endgame and find themselves bored to tears. Eventually, they either stick it out, roll an alt, or quit.
There is only one game that I know of that attempted the multi-class system, and it was Final Fantasy XI. Yes, I know not everyone liked it because it was a grind, but that isn't what I'm talking about. For those who stuck through the grind, most of them got hooked and it became their major MMO of choice for a long, long time. You would pick a class (called "Jobs" in FFXI), level it up, eventually start grouping, and find yourself in need to level a "subjob".
You would have to go back to square one with this new job, and level once again. The good thing about this game is that there were many different paths to take. Of course, with any MMO, people eventually create a "set" path and everyone follows it, kind of like cookie-cutter talent specs. However, that doesn't mean the option wasn't there. Now take a look at WoW. A very successful game where you were limited to one class per character. There were multiple paths to take to endgame, which allowed people to reroll an alt and potentially not experience the same thing.
Now you take a look at games like RIFT (please don't turn this isn't a RIFT-bashing thread, that isn't what is intended). You generally have one path to take, but you can change your class within an "archetype". No, you don't have to go back to level one to level your new class, but there is some switching here and there. A lot of people LOVED the idea of the multiple classes. Inevitably, you get to endgame and it is basically WoW all over.
In Final Fantasy XI, you got to endgame, and on top of the MASS amount of content available to you at low levels, even more opens up. On top of that, there was an alternate advancement system, which allowed you to continuously "level" once you were at max, or you could simply go back to a level 1 job, and explore all new zones with a new challenge. Basically, FFXI had the perfect recipe for an addicting MMO.
What I am getting at, is that it would seem that people lately flock to new MMOs, get bored, and move on. I don't think there has been a truly mass-addicting MMO since FFXI or WoW (WoW because it was new at the time, built up a strong playerbase, hired more staff, pumped out a ton of content, hooked "casuals", and snowballed from there). People are sick of the WoW model, and want something new. I think it is going to take a brand new MMO releasing with an unimaginable amount of content and a multi-class system where you can change classes on your single character, and have to retrain it (although potentially through a different path). People will get hooked to their character, and not want to leave.
Everyone has different tastes, so of course this wont fly for everyone, but I do think that if MMO developers focused on a class system like this once again, we would finally be able to see new MMOs that can actually hook people for a long time.
What do you think it will take in an MMO to be able to successfully hook people in today's market?
Sorry for the long-winded post, I have provided a fancy poll and a TLDR at the bottom for those of you who with ADD or simply aren't in the mood to read it... no hard feelings.
TLDR: MMOs need a multi-class system similar to FFXI's to keep people hooked nowadays, because people are jumping from MMO to MMO unable to find what they really want, and the standard "class" model is boring and overused. Rift came close, but it seems people are getting bored at endgame already, which might say they didn't deviate from the WoW model enough.
EDIT - Regarding the poll, when I say non-grind MMO I mean something not like FFXI's park your butt in a spot for hours and kill the same mobs over and over and over and over and
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