While LOTRO has been off my playlist for a while, I still like to keep an eye on their game. I mean, the $50 hobby horse fiasco was super entertaining, while at the same time mind boggling in its stupidity.
The next major patch/expansion (is there a difference in F2P?) is planning to re-write a lot of the skills and provide a new “alternate path” of advancement, with what looks like a semi-talent tree. The latter I get, in that it slots you to a role within a class. There’s about 500 games that do this. The re-write of skills though, that’s ballsy.
There’s a Dev diary that covers the reasons. They are very good reasons and one that pretty much every MMO has to deal with at some point in the lifecycle. There’s a saying of “addition through attrition” which means you actually gain from removing something. An MMO that just adds more and more skills but never cleans up the existing stuff has a bloat problem. SWTOR, for some odd reason, launched with skill bloat. Hunters in Wow and Warlocks before MoP are good examples too.
I like Neverwinter’s approach to this. GW2’s a bit less But it serves a similar purpose. Basically, you have a limited amount of active abilities at any given time. If you want to heal, then you drop another skill. As a developer you can still increase skill quantity but your players apply attrition for you. It becomes extremely clear, extremely quickly where you have balance issues.
If MMOs launching tomorrow put in skill caps, I think that would be a step in the right direction. Maybe have role slots with pre-configured skills to make the UI a bit easier. NW is action-based, so a low limit works. Something more typical of themepark-wow should have 8 for active. Stuff that wasn’t active (mounts, professions, pets, etc…) could be handled elsewhere.
Less options means a simpler interface for new players yet at the same time, more creative management for the elite players.