As known the origins of this project stem from (amongst others) Ragnarok Online for one, although we liked their stat model, it wasn't a very good one, it had balancing issues.
So it was either going to be an exact rip of the RO stat system or have our own attempt at it.
However, own attempt doesn't mean absense of manual distribuition of stats. For example, Sagramore has 7 primary stats instead of 6. That's already some difference. One can make some stats connected. For example, if you continue to raise INT, VIT gets really hard penalty, even going down beyond initial value. There is always a room for experiment.
As we didn't have a system that increased the cost of stats per X levels, we couldn't control someone from going all-in towards 1 stat, causing balancing issues which would lead towards too easy or too hard monsters.
Isn't this for the good? If there be too easy and too hard monsters, one can start building a character that is able to kill monsters they would like to kill easier, and so avoid killing monsters they don't like. By the way, even though Ragnarok was increasing cost of going all-in, many players choose to do so nevertheless.
Manually setting stats is a "gimmick" that stems from (mostly older) single player RPGs, where the environment can be controlled around a single player and the impact of having an easy boss fight can be easily controlled or evenly left alone (it only impacts the one player), the same does not apply for an MMO and we would have no reliable form of feedback. Games like WoW realized this and thus have adapted.
But that's one of the points in manual stats, to find "loopholes" in game system, to create the very best build possible for some situation, to become more efficient. If you remove stats distribution, why would you show stats to users at all? They won't need the exact numbers, it's possible for equip to say simply it's "better for your build" or "worse for your build" etc. Damage to monsters starts to mean only relative dps and not absolute value. Also, why not remove skill choice? It'll be still easier for controlling environment, for balancing and better average player experience if they just choose predefined skill path, with stats automagically optimized for it. Of course, WoW is succesful. But it's a totally different game. I mean, if Sagramore was going in its steps, I wouldn't say a word. However, Sagramore (at current time) looks like it had different premises. I think there are some basic postulates that define RO-style and manual distribution of stats/skills in order to make character fit your playing manner and game objectives is one of them... Otherwise it's just becoming another game, for another niche.
No one benefits from brickable characters, if we would implement it again it would be in a form of class/based custom stats. ( From a game design perspective, it´s just silly to offer a stat, say INT to a Knight if his class in no way benefits from it)
So why not give an INT ability to the Knight so that it's possible to build him around this stat? Also, I think bonuses from certain class skills or equips ("common" items, not predefined sets) to non-primary stats like dps or heal are better than custom class-based stats because non-primary stats are universal, and this makes gameplay more deep than just saying "class X gets heal stat and class Y doesn't". For example, class Y character may still want to heal themself by small amounts.
I'd really like to be able to have some mechanisms in place for us (as developers) to balance areas without going for the trial & error approach.
Well, it's possible to have a list of general builds of characters and create areas as well as predefined paths according to it. This way people with predefined paths will have fun, and people with personalized builds will be able to farm/party/level with more efficiency because their builds will still be based around some common (or not so common) builds. They may even have problems with some monsters, like pests or aggros, because the monster population will be balanced for a typical player.
Personally I do want to assure you that we want to make multiple builds on characters possible and viable, the method to which to achieve this can range from anything like custom stats to bonuses on equips.
I think predefined paths and predefined equip sets should be based on an underlying gameplay freedom, to help new players get acquainted with the game, and not to hardcode what and where people should do...
I could understand the balancing problem since players could easily build their character in a way things such as PvP and monster killing would become easy
But that's the whole point in building a PvP-oriented or PvE-oriented character: to switch balance in your favor. If you remove this, you get anti-RO (in my opinion). How about making it easier to max character's level so that players can have characters of both types, instead of simplifying and fusing both in one? It also creates incentive for teamplay.