Let me preface this by saying my first, and favorite, MMO was Pre-CU SWG. In that game you had 32 professions. A little more than half of which were directly related to combat. Balance was never achieved in that game before it mercifully got taken behind the tool shed and shot after many so called revamps and upgrades.
In the original game, I was a bounty hunter. The bounty hunter went from being one of the strongest classes at launch, to one of the most laughably weak classes towards the end of the original vision of the game. But, even though I continued playing as the weakest class, I was able to specialize in killing the strongest class, which was Jedi. That’s what bounty hunters were intended to do anyways, so it made sense, and it was pretty awesome to kill them. But I knew, despite the fact that I was capable of giving the “best” players of the alpha class a run for their money, there were players that played other classes that I never had any chance of defeating. They had unique skill sets that made them too much of a headache for me to deal with my “one trick pony” build. That’s the way it went. There were a lot of balance/nerf cries in that game as well, which lead to the first “upgrade”. Such is the way of MMO’s.
Now ESO. ESO has a great mix and match skills system. The problem is, there just aren’t near enough of them. But how can that be so? They can’t even balance the ones that they do have, they can’t even achieve anything close to balance with four classes only.
That isn’t entirely the devs fault, though I personally feel they dropped the ball on some decisions. You could cut the classes in this game in half and you’d still have balance issues. That’s the reality MMO players have been dealing with since the start. The problem with balance is that, like perfection, it can not be achieved. But it still, like perfection, is a goal that’s worth going after.
Get into a room with your guys, brainstorm, and churn out 8-10 new classes for an expansion. What will naturally develop as a result is a system of checks and balances. The more variables you introduce, the less likely one of them is going to be “end all be all”. The reason why we have the ridiculous skirt and stick calamity is you haven’t given players near enough options, and it makes it far easier to key on one combination of skills that is superior to others, as a general rule. It doesn’t matter what the classes are that you introduce, as much as long as they are useful and varied.
Players will still figure out certain builds that work better than others of course, but you increase the odds that there will be a builds that specializes in killing them dead.
You can’t give players true balance, so give them the satisfaction of doing something unique, giving them a niche in the world. Whether as “the alpha class killer” or pure support for PVE. You can’t do that under the current system, the tools just aren’t there.
What is being done clearly isn’t working. And this says nothing about the issues between armor types, stamina/magica, veteran rank contents, I’ll touch on some of those briefly.
Veteran ranks: Do away with them completely, it’s a mess. Give players the options to go to VR zones to get the skill points, taking that away now would not be wise. Maybe make it so you can only pick up VR zone sky shards if you have completed a certain number of quests in the zone. Meaning players that already did it still feel like they got rewarded for what they’ve done, and those who just farmed Craglorn still have to go back and do it if they want the SP. Making it completely optional is the key, making it mandatory was ridiculous. Acknowledge the mistake and move on from it, and don’t do it again. Stop wasting time on bandaids and get to the point of why VR sucks.
Stamina/Magicka: Not so easy, maybe make roll dodging work from the stamina pool, breaking stuns from magicka, this will help a little. Or better yet, just come up with another option all together. You can break stun whenever you want, roll dodge when you want, but put a limit on the amount of times you can do it within a certain time frame. What you got now doesn’t work well.
Cyrodiil: Good effort, too bad it just alienates PVPers. Objective based PVP is a joke. Zergs are a joke, I think the only ones who like them are PVEers who don’t know what PVP is supposed to be like, and I can say the same for arenas and duels. Give people a reason to be in Cyrodiil besides the keeps, and you’ll kill the zerg, and increase the fun in PVP. Until then there’s not a lot of point to it.