The Magic of 24

Posted: December 10, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts

The Magic of 24

10:31:32…10:31:33…10:31:34…

The number 24 is particularly significant in Everquest II.  The original cap for the patron system stopped with 24.  There are 24 “subclasses”.  Raid forces can consist of no more than 24 members.

There’s enough instances of “24” within Everquest II that a lesser person might start to wonder about conspiracies.  What is it about the number 24 that is so special for this game’s design.  Are any of those reasons no longer valid?

I think the concept might have a bit more meat than most people realize…

First off, even without the context of games, the number 24 itself is special.  Mathematically, it’s divisible by 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 24 – in fact, the smallest number divisible by exactly 8 different divisors.  Did you know that the product of any four consectutive numbers will always be divisible by 24?  Musically, 24 is the number of 24 major and minor keys.  Astronomically, there are 24 hours in a day, and 24 cycles in a Chinese solar year.

10:41:32…10:41:33…10:41:34…

Yet, none of this answers the question:  Why is 24 used so much within Everquest II? Since I’m not a developer myself, I can really only speculate as to what the reasons were, but I think we can draw some fairly good conclusions on the subject, at least.

24 Classes

The original class system which was present at Everquest II’s release was the branching system which started with four Archetypes (fighter, scout, priest, and mage).  Characters would hold these Archetypes till level 10, where players would choose one of three more specific classes to follow.  At level 20, players would again choose one of two subclasses which would then be considered the “final” class.

This amounted to a total selection of 4 x 3 x 2 classes, for a total of 24.  It’s a nice relatively round number, too.  Of those 24 classes, you get a nice split of 8 good, 8 evil, and 8 neutral classes (classes able to be chosen by either good or evil characters).  You could break down the equation even farther by counting 6 subclasses per archetype, of which 2 were good, 2 were evil, and 2 were neutral.

If SOE had chosen to continue with the original pre-release concept of a much more divided Shattered Lands, this model would likely have been a great way to help balance out the difference between good and evil guilds.  After all, in such a system, each guild would then have access to 2/3 of all available classes, with half of those classes being exclusive to one side or the other.

The problems with such a system are fairly evident now in hindsight.  It’s tough to balance 24 different classes, especially when each of the classes has a direct “counterpart” (as created by the original branching class system at level 20).  If there’s a perceived imbalance against Paladins, you can be sure to hear about it from Shadowknights. If there’s a perceived issue with Furies, you can be sure to hear about it from Wardens.  Even beyond the direct counterparts, other members of the same Archetype are likely to gripe if it’s felt there’s an imbalance.  If Rangers are seen to be too powerful by other scout classes, then you can count on the fact you’ll hear about it – and not just from Assassins.

10:57:32…10:57:33…10:57:34…

It’s hard enough handling these arguments with just 12 or 15 different classes.  Boost the number to 24, and you have a monumental task on your hands to make sure that each class has enough strengths to give them a role to play in groups or on raids, but not so much power that they outshine other classes.  How do you keep 24 different classes different enough from each other to feel like individual classes and still maintain enough overlap between different classes to fulfill similar plug-and-play roles within groups or raids?

Some would argue that you can’t and shouldn’t.  Suggestions on how to fix the perceived issues with the system range from class consolidations to even more diversity between existing classes through more specific and wide reaching achievement trees.

24 raiders

Where the problems really seem to be most visible is within the realm of the raid.  Raid forces are held to just 24 members at most.  This is likely due to the fact that groups within Everquest II are six members strong.  This itself is likely a holdover from the old Everquest model, which also established the idea of groups of six.

Unlike Everquest, which originally established raids requiring up to 12 groups and then later set the limit at 7 groups, Everquest II only allows for raid forces to be composed of 2 to 4 groups.  This means that raid forces within Everquest II are also locked to that magical number 24.

11:17:43…11:17:44…11:17:45…

In an original pre-release version of Everquest II, this may have actually worked.  With guilds limited to members from one city or the other, raid leaders would have to build raid forces from just 16 different choices.  This would allow a raid leader to take every possible class available and still have the leeway to fill in 1/3 of a raid force with extras.  The balance for such a system could have been built around a core force which allowed for class overlap.  However, if such a system ever really existed at all, it was never anything more than a conceptual image.

The current system gives us 24 classes and 24 raid slots.  There’s no room for overlap.  If you double up on any class, you’re forced to cut a member of another class.  Double up again, and you’re down to just 22 classes at most.  For every extra you bring of a specific class, you’re forced to remove another possible class choice.

This leads to a particularly brutal competition that only exacerbates the normal balance arguments you’d expect to see on forums.  Whereas in most MMO’s, you’ll hear about a desire for more usefulness in and of itself, here you have the added realization that each class is effectively competing against each other to be allowed to participate at all.

It’s one thing to say that Wardens aren’t as strong as Furies.  It’s quite another to find your Warden completely cut out of raiding altogether because your raid leader decided to double up on Furies instead.  It’s one thing to feel that your Ranger brings little added utility to a raid force, and quite another to realize that you just lost your raid spot to another class that has comparable damage output, but much more utility.

In a world of 24 classes and 24 raid slots, class competition is fiercer for those precious raid spots.  Even many casual raid forces find themselves in a position of having to ask members to change classes or to bring an alternate character.

11:24:58…11:24:59…11:25:00…

There’s no easy solution here.  You either stick with the status quo and continue trying to tweak and prod and balance with each and every update or you make a chance to the 1:1 equation.  There’s only two ways to affect that equation, too:  either lower the number of classes through consolidation or announcements that some classes simply aren’t designed for raiding (good luck with the fallout on that one) or increase the number of raid spots available (good luck with the fallout on that one, too).

For SOE, my guess is that we won’t see any changes to the 1:1 ratio any time in the forseeable future.  It would appear that for all its flaws, it’s easier to deal with the current situation than to enact what would inevitably seen as another NGE by many of the current playerbase.  If anything, I’d expect that it’s much easier to play around with increasing the total possible raiders required for future, higher level raid content than it would ever be to discuss the possibility of class consolidation.

That said, I don’t think it’s outside of the realm of possibility that SOE has discussed the idea of Epic x6 content (raid content designed for 6 groups).  I wouldn’t even be terribly surprised to see a future expansion which included this type of content.

However, unless and until such an idea comes to fruition, we’re going to continue to see many of the issues related to a 24/24 world, where every additional class brought on a raid reduces by one the number of total possible classes that can attend your raid.

That’s some of the magic of 24.

11:29:59…11:30:01…11:33:01…

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Comments
  1. tipa says:

    “Did you know that the product of any four consectutive numbers will always be divisible by 24?”

    I had to prove this to myself. And here’s my proof:

    For any collection of four consecutive integers:

    – one will be divisible evenly by four
    – one will be divisible evenly by three
    – one will be divisible evenly by two but not by four

    So since every set of four consecutive integers either contains 2, 3, or 4 or a product of those and some other integer, then if you multiply them together, 2*3*4 = 24 is guaranteed to be one of its factors.

    Similarly, any set of five consecutive integers will be evenly divisible by 120…

    QED!

  2. cyanbane says:

    why did we skip 3 mins on the last iteration?

    someone call Jack at CTU.

  3. Kendricke says:

    YOU JUST TRIPPED THE BOMB!!!

  4. Illuminator says:

    Epic x6 content might be fun for quest objectives, but a scathing nightmare for farming ones. And my $300 graphics card can’t even handle full particle effects in x4 raids.

    WoW shrunk the size of raids. What did they learn in the process that we didn’t?

  5. Kendricke says:

    I’m not even all that interested in Epicx6 content myself. As a raid leader myself, I don’t look forward to having to recruit enough members to build a 36 member raid force.

    That said, I find it more likely that SOE would increase raid size as opposed to decreasing or consolidating total classes.

  6. Xeavn says:

    I think the biggest thing that WoW learned with 40 man raids was that with a large number of player’s individual effort didn’t mean a whole lot. Guilds could still complete a large portion of the content with half the raid not even paying attention. So long as certain members were good and playing well the raid as a whole would do well.

    On the other side of the ball though, WoW has only 9 classes, meaning they can usually take 2 of most classes, and 3 of the more important ones on a 25 man raid. They also made a somewhat noticable change in the raiding style with Burning Crusade, and now a lot of fights can be lost by a couple of poeple not paying attention. Llike the Treyloth fight where one person can get the rest of the raid killed.

  7. […] will, of course, screw up that whole “Magic of 24” thing, the mystical guiding number for EverQuest II, but I think that is inevitable at some […]

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