Playing The Underdog

Everquest 2 Gnome

Gnomes - the underdog of the races

I can’t decide if I like being “unique” or if I’m just a bit of a masochist but I’ve always had a thing for the underdog classes in MMOs. Even though it was absolutely craptastic I adored and vehemently defended the Berserker in the original Everquest and found myself wandering between the underdog tanks of EQ2. As soon as a class got nerfed I’d be on like it a fat boy onto cake and I flip-flopped between the Guardian and Berserker so often I should’ve got a medal for it. WoW is pretty well balanced but I still find myself shunning away from the popular classes like Paladins or Death Knights in favor of the plain ol’, often underestimated and underappreciated, Warrior. Even in EVE, which doesn’t even have the concept of classes, I find myself drawn to the peculiar skill combinations rather than the traditional ones.

Part of the reason I feel happy playing the less popular classes is because I’ve never cared much for the min/maxing of stats in order to squeeze out the last ounce of predictable DPS chart goodness or whatever the current measurement trend is amongst the kids these days. That doesn’t mean I’m not competitive, I’m just not overly so the point of it diminishing any personality my character and his class have to offer. Plus (I know it sounds kinda wanky) but I probably compete more with myself than anyone else. It’s ones personal aspirations and achievements that matter y’know (/wretch).

I suppose I also like to prove a point about “underpowered” classes to other players and show them that gaming skill and general personality and having fun (sorry, I’m full of altruistic rubbish tonight) is the most important part of, almost, any MMO. I’m definitely a roleplayer instead of a ruleplayer and picking a class because it’s the best at an activity is, in my mind, not a valid reason and I as often go the other way just to prove a point to those that I might encounter online. There’s something hugely rewarding about being commended for your tanking ability when playing a class that is often regarded as being inferior. It’s my personal two fingers up to all those naysayers out there.

Perhaps more of a draw than all of that though is the fact that I plain like being different. I don’t know why, I just do. Ironically, I don’t really feel this call in real life and, apart from my obviously extraordinary good looks, I’m a pretty normal bloke. When it comes to my MMOs though, I like to be different. I hate being the guy who’s playing the most popular class in a raid or seeing 50 other people in the guild with the same class. Nah, I like being unique and special and there’s nothing more obvious to announce that to the world than an unpopular, underdog class.

So there you have my ode to the underdog. And I’d like to end this article with a plea to any developers who might be reading: please, oh please, forget class balance, forget appealing to the mass market, give me lame and underappreciated classes any day.


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  1. Bhagpuss says:

    I completely agree!

    Please give me the chance to gimp myself when I create a character. Honestly, I’m a grown-up. I can cope. If I really do manage to make a character that’s completely unplayable I’ll just re-roll, but actually almost any character is playable if you have the will.

    It makes me shiver to think of the countless developer-hours that must have been wasted over the years in the futile and utterly unecessary cause of “class balance”. Just accept that some classes are pretty feeble while others are godlike and let us sort out where on the scale we want to be. I promise you, not everyone will play the godlike ones.

  2. Tesh says:

    I’d prefer that classes (if we’re using classes) not be broken to the point of being unplayable, but I’m definitely for a spectrum of power. I usually play a stable of characters if given the chance, but I’ll definitely have fun with the oddball ones. I’ve even prowled the WoW census site to see what the least represented race/class combos are, just to pick one of the least likely ones. Dwarf Rogue for me, thanks!

    • Gordon says:

      Broken to the point of unplayable is too extreme, I agree, but in a world of min/maxers it’s nice to play the class that’s “good” but just not the “best” or the most overpowered. Being an oddball is fun :)

  3. I think the main reason I like the less popular classes is because there is more to explore. If you play a very popular class, there are a ton of guides out there to tell you how to play. Pick a less popular one, and there’s a chance you might discover some unique aspect that others overlooked. It’s also very rewarding to show up and kick ass doing what people thought only another class could do.

  4. Yetian says:

    I am pretty much the same, sure I play a Warden as main (a popular class), but that’s mainly down the fact I like playing healers and enjoyed it more than the other types.

    I tend to pick classes that people don’t play much or that the guild needs.

    My highest alts in EQ2 are a warlock (wizards are more popular for pure finger waggling goodness), a Troub (people saying they are boring to play), an inquisitor (not a common healer class) and a monk (exactly). ;)

    Oh and my monk is a halfling monk who carries a beer filled backpack, has a pot belly and wears little clothing.

    • Gordon says:

      “Oh and my monk is a halfling monk who carries a beer filled backpack, has a pot belly and wears little clothing.”

      Hehe, now that sounds like my type of monk ;)

      The funny thing I noticed with EQ2 was that a lot of classes swung in and out of being overpowered. For a long time the Guardian was considered gimped and then got buffed and suddenly became the best tanks, hands down. It’s very strange when that happens to a class I think is gimped and unpopular :)

  5. Wolfshead says:

    I also like the challenge of playing a difficult class. Most classes in most MMOs are far too easy these days anyways. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel or shooting bison from a train. Far too many abilities, far too many bells & whistles and far too easy to play.

    Slacker MMOs for slackers.

  6. Shadow War says:

    There’s a lot to be said for playing the underdog. Like you said, there’s new territory to explore as it hasn’t been trampled into a solid patch by the 1000’s that have come before you, and people continually underestimate you. Showing competence (and sometimes excellence) makes you stand out just that much more. I think a lot of players veer toward the underdog, just for an injection of variety into their gaming scenery. I know I played a Paladin in EQ2 at launch, and swapped him to a SK after DoF (all this before they were the powerhouse tank they allegedly are today), in WoW I played a paladin Tank while people still considered them useless for anything other than healing. In WAR, I play a Shadow Warrior, oft considered on the bottom of the power scale.

    Sometimes it’s just nice to see something different.

  7. Isey says:

    It’s an effort in futility for the most part to get reliable data but I’m in the same boat when rolling new toons. What is under represented? Why? Is there a need for that class? Of course it always seems to be adjusted down the road but always fun to be an early adopter, “back in the day when..”.

    Still has to be fun to play of course. Fun is so diversely defined among players.

    • Gordon says:

      I guess for me being unique or rare or however is define it is part of the fun for me. For others it might mean being the best at an activity but personally I’m happier to come in lower down the damage chart (or whatever) but be unique and special.

  8. Jomu says:

    i like to play underdog classes and races too, as long as the race isn’t short or incredibly ugly ;)

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