Seems I poked the ant nest a little, sparking a bit of a conversation with my last minipost. Not that I’m claiming credit for anything but sparking some thoughts, though; these fine folk are doing the heavy lifting:
I’ve commented at their places, so I’ll keep this short and hit something I haven’t touched on there, speaking of specialization and generalization. (Since one of the tangential topics is about players and their approach to their characters, as well as how characters fit into MMO design.)
From Robert Heinlein:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Disclosure: I work at a small gaming studio, where I’ve carved out a niche of being a multifaceted employee. I’m primarily an artist, but I dabble in design, animation, even scripting. I love that I can be a bit of a generalist, as it makes me valuable in more situations, and keeps things interesting. I’m not as fine of a painter as my concept artist buddies, who paint all day every day, but I’m happy where I am. This is also why I’m not a minor cog in a big studio like Disney or EA, where I would be a specialist. I’ve been there, and I didn’t care for it. That said, those specialist positions don’t threaten me… they just don’t interest me.
I also play a Druid character in World of Warcraft. It’s the most flexible class, and I latched onto it precisely because it does allow the greatest variety in play. And flight form. I love that.
(Oh, and as I noted at Rowan’s place, I’d push it further and let passive and maybe even active abilities persist on the character, no matter the class. I loved Final Fantasy Tactics for how I could build a strong character by pulling from a variety of jobs/classes. I could keep a Ninja ability on my Knight, and it was great fun. I’d love to see that in an MMO.)