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Preferred Class Type

In part of the data from the most recent phase, we saw that 20% of players said that class type was the most important aspect of their character creation process, but it turns out that 67% (N = 1731) of respondents also said that they had a class type they preferred to play across games. This disparity is likely due to a general leaning towards a certain class type but it may fall as a secondary factor (i.e., they pick race first, but class type still matters to them). To get at what these class preferences were, I asked players to describe their class preference in an open-ended format. Of course, if we only asked players about preferences in their current games, we'd be constrained by those available classes (and not to mention the complication of specs). To get around this, I asked players whether there was a class type they preferred across MMOs.

500 of these responses were then coded. The main difficulty that emerged in coding these responses was that players described their preferences at different levels of abstraction. For some players, they only cared that it was a class that could cast spells. For others, only that it was a mage class. And for others, they really only wanted high DPS glass cannons. To give the best sense of what players said, I'll show here the codes at the specific level of abstraction that players used in their responses and try to group them in as coherent a way as possible (although hybrids make this difficult).

Given the large number of codes and the limited number of coded responses, I did not look into age or gender differences as the cell sizes would have been too small to be reliable.

Note: Be careful of interpreting this table as saying that healers are most popular. It's more that people conceptualize healers with fewer levels of abstraction. The rows in this table are at different levels of abstraction. In other words, the people who chose "Melee", "Tank", "DPS Melee", "Paladin", and "Melee Hybrid" would probably have all chosen the Warrior class if forced to choose one of the four classic RPG archtypes.

Posted on October 9, 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)


I'm surprised bards and crafters aren't higher in the results. Of course, bards are usually a support or hybrid class, so maybe some of those results got coded elsewhere.

Posted by: Powers on October 10, 2008 5:09 AM

I'm not surprised that crafters and bards aren't higher. Modern games don't *have* either as actual classes (LotRO excepted on that Bard point though I guess), and the bulk growth in the market has been through newer games like WoW. Assuming the polling sample is roughly similar to the market share sizes, I'd bet quite a sizable amount of the respondents would never have *played* a bard or a crafter. It's hard to favor something you've never been exposed to.

Posted by: Eolirin on October 10, 2008 1:14 PM

Eolirin is exactly right. We have to keep in mind that it is hard for players to imagine (much less prefer) what a class might be like if they've never had the opportunity to play it.

Also, there's also the case where a particular class has always been poorly implemented and players come to asssociate a class with its past implementation rather than its potential.

Posted by: Nick Yee on October 10, 2008 1:17 PM

I find it interesting that healers are most popular. I remember being told when I first started playing that women were more likely to play healers (so of course I went and made a tank). If there were any truth in this then I would expect main healing classes to be less popular, if only because there are fewer female players. I wonder if there's a corelation between gender and class preference generally, and where these stereotypes come from anyway.

Posted by: virtualjess on October 10, 2008 1:50 PM

These results surprise me.

In my class at college (Yes, I'm in a class in which the homework is to play wow) it seems everyone is playing a warrior, and if not then a DPS caster or Warlock. No one rolled a priest.

However, according to this, healers are the most prevelant.

Posted by: kat on October 10, 2008 1:55 PM

Be careful of interpreting this table as saying that healers are most popular. It's more that people conceptualize healers with fewer levels of abstraction. The rows in this table are at different levels of abstraction.

In other words, the people who chose "Melee", "Tank", "DPS Melee", "Paladin", and "Melee Hybrid" would probably have all chosen the Warrior class if forced to choose one of the four classic RPG archtypes.

Posted by: Nick Yee on October 10, 2008 2:17 PM

A priest in WoW is very powerful and much to be feared. A well played one can eat most classes. Hybrids and combination healer, DD, and melee has always allowed the most flexibility for soloing, and great to fill roles in small pugs. Melees are very specialized and require a group, pure DD also for the most part require help due to their low AC, Hybrids fill the gaps.

Posted by: Krondag on October 10, 2008 3:50 PM

This goes along with what as a player I have experienced. People who play a healer in one game tend to choose to be a healer in another game.

So I guess if a player likes a particular style of class in one game they will tend to gravitate to a similar class in another.

Posted by: Revox on October 11, 2008 1:58 PM

Also worth noting that most people denote "healing" as more important than other forms of support including buffs or CC, which vary in actual effectiveness from game to game.

Posted by: Auspice on October 14, 2008 1:59 AM

Nick, just goes to show you the dangers of open-ended freeform questions! :) I'd be interested in seeing you revisit this, but with a more structured set of choices.

Posted by: Tom on October 15, 2008 11:57 AM

If you break it down into the respective components. I think it's interesting to note that (think WoW's 25-man raid content) the %s of DPS/tanks/healers is somewhat similar to "what people like to play"

Standard Raid Composition:
2-3 Tanks (8-12%)
5-8 healers (20-32%)
11-18 DPS types (44%-72%)

Posted by: Dennis on October 15, 2008 2:03 PM

Across table-top RPGs and MMOs, I tend to play rogues or rogue-like characters. However, I have taken time to experiment with other classes in WoW, and I find that playing a hybrid, like a druid can be fun too. Even as a druid, I still tend to stick with stealth mode. I guess I just like being sneaky.

Posted by: Joe Hughson on October 20, 2008 9:50 PM

Dennis... almost all 25-mans REQUIRE 4 tanks...

Posted by: Elmo on November 24, 2008 5:02 PM

My main toon on WoW is a Night Elf Druid. The sole reason for me choosing this is because my cousin and I wanted to a) quest together using complementing classes and b) have stealth capabilities. The only two classes on offer that support this are Rogues and Druids.

We both already had Horde toons and wanted to try Alliance. He chose Rogue, I chose Druid. The only Alliance race that can go Druids are Night Elves, so that's what I ended up being.

Being a different class from my cousin, trying the Alliance perspective and having stealth were all I cared about. Fortunately I've found it extremely fun and still play my Druid regularly.

Posted by: Evernoob on February 4, 2009 8:33 PM

Excellent study.

Just a comment though. Your class descriptions seems to be MMO specific and should be more generic? Thats why you have such low results from say Paladin and Druid and high results for Healer and Support. To get round this the study should have kept to generic classes and forced respondents to pick the closest class or given examples of each from all the major MMO's.

Another way would have been to ask what is it you prefer most to do with your class?

Crowd Control
Hybrid Heal/Tank
Hybrid Tank/DPS
and so on

This could have provided better quality data as people ultimatly go with the class that best fits the way they like to play.

As this is the approach that game developers then use to develop classes within MMO's. We need classes to do damage, to take the damage and so on.

Just a thought,


Posted by: Turtle on June 11, 2009 2:49 AM
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