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Reader Comments (14)

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 9:08AM arnavdesai said

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Well it is hard to ignore these roles but Guild Wars with its combination of roles allowed for some unique characters.
Also, the mesmer class was pure support but was a brilliant class although it was hard to play.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 9:12AM (Unverified) said

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Well, I dont know if they should get rid of those roles, but I'd like alternatives. LOTRO pre-50 does a good job of having substitutes for the Guaridan/Minstrel set up. In the end game though, you're still seeing that groups go nowhere without a minstrel and a guardian.

I want to see a true all hybrid set up. No pure tanker, no pure DPS'er, no pure healer. Without having dedicated tanks and healers, then you're not stuck with ONLY them for their roles. You could balance the game around much more classes and setups then.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 9:22AM (Unverified) said

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Actually, we should call it The Holy QUADnity, as the traditional classes in most Fantasy MMORPGS includes the buffer/debuffer (or simply: support) role - working either through crowd control or direct damage/healing modifiers.

I dearly hope these basic roles are just a temporary stepping stone in MMORPGs and Game Designers work beyond the current mechanics.
Today levelling boils down to who is most effective in grinding through monsters. Often that means some classes/roles (mainly the DPS guy) are better at levelling at the expense of others (mainly tanks and healers).

Either, the way how levelling works must be changed to differentiate between classes, or classes/roles must be equal in effectiveness.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 9:24AM (Unverified) said

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I'm of two minds in this.

In WoW the "holy trinity" is broken, and your two key roles (tanks and healers) are always in short supply. So much so that even Blizzard tried to address the problem by creating their first hero class to be a new type of tank to help fill that need.

On the other hand, the trinity tries to teach corporation for a mutual goal, and it allows you to really learn the ins and out of what your class can and can't do (PVP does that do but in a different situation).

I think there needs to be more variety in dungeon encounters (I'm talking 5 mans not raids here) that break the trinity rules for more creative game play.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 11:09AM (Unverified) said

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Yes, some thinking out of the box is always great.

Interesting in WoW how even speccing deep into talent trees to tank, or to heal etc. are changing with the new Death Knight class - Blizzard have stated that they'd like players going deep into all 3 trees to be capable of tanking.

That's a real change from the min/max your warrior in the protection tree to be a 'proper' raid tank that WoW started off with.

As well as variety being good, because MMOs are mass market games now, players expect to be able to solo and to be able to DPS so that further adds to different approaches in class designs.

And finally, with so many MMOs coming onto the market, there's real pressure to add new and exciting approach to gameplay - you're not going to get that far by rolling out the standard warrior/rogue/priest archetypes - WoW already does that pretty well...

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 11:12AM (Unverified) said

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The Holy Trinity in MMOs is a legacy of the DIKU text MUD model. Since it essentially started there (as you point out, D&D has a four-role base model), why not go to text MUDs to look at what other models are being used?

In fact, of the most popular text MUDs, most do not use the "holy trinity" model because most aren't DIKU. Often what's quite popular are what you'd call "hybrid" classes (but of course they're only hybrids if you assume there's something primal about the "holy trinity" classes in a DIKU).

Asking if all MMOs have to look like a DIKU is like asking whether all cars need to be white in order to travel forward. Clearly not!


Posted: Aug 15th 2008 11:17AM wjowski said

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I'd argue that it's absolutely critical to the genre that they innovate beyond Everquest's Holy Trinity system.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 11:31AM (Unverified) said

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I think the only way you're going to escape the trinity is if you escape the mechanics of the game.

As long as games have an agro/hate mechanic, you'll need someone to draw that hate.

As long as characters have health bars, you'll need healers.

As long as games focus on balance between offense and defense, you'll have your damage dealers.

I'll also say that Planetside was an MMO that didn't have this Trinity, because it didn't have these mechanics. It also didn't have classes, it just had loadouts. People may ignore that game as an MMO, but it really did break the mold. I wish they'd take the Planetside engine and make a PvE game of it, I think it'd be better than Tabula Rasa, as far as "action" gameplay goes.

Here's to hoping Huxley does something unique.

Posted: Aug 16th 2008 2:49AM Heraclea said

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One of the things that keeps me coming back to City of Heroes/Villains is the fact that no team needs a tank or healer. Not only can just about all content be soloed, but any combination of characters can team up and take on the team content as well. There have been all-tanker and all-blaster and all-defender endgame task forces run.

The trinity diminishes the social aspects of the games that require it - especially since tank and healer characters are typically diminished much more in their solo abilities than they are in CoH. They know that teams aren't going anywhere without them. Teams spend hours standing around trying to recruit one. Instance runs have to be called off if the tanker or healer is called away. CoH spoiled me on this, I'm afraid. Not being able to just get together with people and play the characters you want to play with them is frustrating.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 2:26PM J Brad Hicks said

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First of all, no MMO needs to be designed to require healers. We've got a game mechanic that allows every player to be their own healer without unbalancing the game, and it goes all the way back to Castle Wolfenstein: healing consumables. The only reason to include healers in an MMO is if it both makes sense within your game's lore to have them and if you think you have potential customers who don't want to be damage dealers, who want to do nothing but follow their friends around and heal them.

And in a game that has healing consumables that are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and easy to carry enough of, you don't need a tanking class, either. If all your classes are damage dealing classes, then aggro should get spread around based on the players' combat tactics. Running out of hit points? Duck behind a corner and use a healing consumable, then run back into the fight so that somebody else on the team can do the same. The only reason to have a tanking class in an MMO is if it both makes sense within your lore why there are characters who are completely invulnerable but impossible to ignore, and if you think that you have potential customers for whom just standing there and taunting enemies onto themselves is fun.

A couple of people have already commented about the shortages, in more than one game, of tankers and healers. No d'uh. If you make a healer as good at doing damage as anybody else, why wouldn't everybody play a healer? That was the combat mechanic that did more than anything else to ruin Neocron; everybody played hybrid psi-monks because their damage output was as good as anybody else's AND they could heal. If you make a tanker as good at doing damage as anybody else, why wouldn't everybody play a "tank mage"? Games that let their tankers deal good damage have always had this problem, too, which is why "tank mage" is a dirty word to game designers.

But if your healers and tankers aren't also heavy damage dealers, only the tiniest percentages of your customers will be willing to play them, because AT BEST they'll solo at half speed. I've often compared soloing a tanker class to standing around looking cool while waiting for your enemies to die of old age. And THAT is why it takes half an hour to an hour for a full-up team of damage dealers and crowd controllers and stealthers and debuffers to recruit a tank and a healer; almost nobody wants to play one, and you just can't fix that. Which means that if you design any of the content in your game so that it REQUIRES "the holy trinity," design it so that it can't be completed without a meat-shield and a healer, you just built in a substantial time-sink of just standing around waiting before the actual game-playing can begin.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 4:53PM arnavdesai said

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Unfortuntaely when you give priests firepower the majority of the classes balk at it. If you see AoC they tried doing something different with the Priest classes by giving them solid damage dealing capability, unfortunately people werent too happy about it.

Posted: Aug 15th 2008 5:18PM (Unverified) said

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There is no way to truly break these roles without creating overpowered characters, a ranged damage dealer with a high ability to take damage would be overpowered unless you crippled their damage, in which case they will end up meleeing ANYWAYS, otherwise their survivability doesnt matter.

The issue is if you give someone an advantage in some fashion, they NEED a disadvantage to compensate, this is what creates diversity, otherwise you get Final Fantasy "everyone is the same" system, and you have no way to distinguish your character from anyone elses. Final Fantasy XI broke this mold slightly with subjobs, which helped compensate for your weaknesses or enhancing your strengths, but it didnt change your fundamental role, a thief couldnt tank properly, even with a tank subjob.

So the issue is, you need to have advantages and disadvantages, and many advantages and disadvantages just fit together too well. If you removed these archtypes youd homogonize the game, which is fine for single player, but people want to be individual, and for that you need to have weaknesses and strengths, and theres only so many ways this can be distributed.

Posted: Aug 16th 2008 6:21AM (Unverified) said

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The easy answer is.... it depends.

The hard answer is:

Yes, developers should strive to break out of this comfort zone; and yes, it's entirely possible to do so without the game becoming completely skewed.

Balance PvE around PvP rather than trying to do the reverse.

Make tanks dangerous unless you're attacking them, so they have a role in PvP.

Make healers able to do enough damage that leveling isn't insane, but create encounters that aren't so healing intensive that their healing has to be through the roof to compensate.

Make it so a healer can do a passable job healing without being "gimped healing spec", and give the healers something to do other than just healing so they feel like they are contributing more than playing "the whack a mole game".

Give multiple classes the ability to tank or heal at enough of a base level that they can get the job done so you don't have to worry about a shortage.

Make it so all classes have some minor healing or tanking ability, so an entire group stacking minor heals without it being their primary focus is enough to keep a soaker alive.

Let players adjust some abilities on the fly so they can fill a different role quickly and easily if it becomes necessary.

There are many combinations that would allow you to break the basic roles down, as long as they're taken from a 'ground up' view during the design process. It'd be nice to have some serious changes made to help alleviate those old steriotypes.

Posted: Aug 16th 2008 6:21AM Jeromai said

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It's always great to see games that try and think outside the "holy trinity" box. The bulk of players may not outgrow the diku/EQ/WoW stereotype until they play enough games with more hybridized classes, but it's a worthwhile goal for designers to aim towards - if only to get something that feels different enough to attract another niche or expand the horizons of the holy trinity players.

Copycatting the holy trinity model just leads you down the road of trying to beat WoW at its own game. And unless you've got plenty of $$$, and time, and a great IP (like WAR or LOTRO), do you really want to take that chance?

(I'm sure even WAR and LOTRO has their own class variations, even if they're using the same tank, heal, dps model. WAR has dual targeting and mechanisms for encouraging both dps and healing, apparently, and LOTRO has enough hybrid classes that captains and loremasters can cover for a lack of minstrels, etc.)

InfamousBrad raises an interesting point. The first game I ever played (MUD - Realms of Despair) had healing consumables as its mainstay source of hitpoints. That led to only one class being used for "raids" because that class had the heaviest hitting skill. You would tote around 200 heal potions (previously brewed by clerics bots) and spam quaff them as needed. Things went down a heavy handed road of making mobs immune to that heaviest hitting skill, necessitating another class with next heaviest hitting skill, unsoweiter. Wrong solution chosen by the devs (imms).

Diablo and its clones follow the same principle. Health potions are all you need for continuous action. Who ever heard of playing a healer in Diablo? Slice and dice and blow stuff up, thank ye. Diablo differentiated its classes enough that it was fun to play them all.

Others have already mentioned Guild Wars and CoX as having interesting relooks at hybridized classes.

As long as you've got a health bar, you're stuck with a few options to top it up though:

- Targeted, Group/Team, AoE, Cone/Other Funky Shapes, Self.

- Direct Heal/Heal Over Time/Steady Regeneration.

Ditto with damage, just reverse the numbers.

It'll be nice to see some MMOs try stuff that older MUDs have tried. Be it locational damage, or health states.

The crucial thing would be finding the mechanic that reflects the goals of your MMO. WAR is crystal clear that it's about RvR, and all decisions made filter back into that. WoW is about galloping past a "grind" to the max level and playing a raid game - hence the need for holy trinity roles and shortcut ways of getting them (aka new prestige class = tank, yay?)

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