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Reader Comments (30)

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 1:42PM LaughingTarget said

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The holy trinity concept mirrors reality, at least in a military sense. War is just a big, complex rock-paper-scissors-Spock match. No individual can realistically do it all at any given moment. An infantryman can't be equipped to handle medic duty, IED clearing, anti-air, anti-armor, and urban room to room fighting all at once. Roles are played in the real world and we team up to fill in gaps. Even in the olden times archers wore no armor and guys in leather had better movement and positioning capabilities than heavier armor units. Armies that fielded limited troop varieties lost.

A good system would be to have the trinity in place, but to allow players to change roles, but at a lesser effectiveness than their specialty. Like how just about every infantryman is equipped with a rifle, all characters need a minimum level of equal skills and allow for specialization to be built up on top of it.

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 7:14PM (Unverified) said

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Actually, the roles might be analogous to real life roles, but the gameplay is WAY different, and that's why the trinity is boring. Medics in RL patch up wounded AFTER the battle is over, they don't bandage soldiers at the same time as the soldier is getting shot to try to outheal the damage.

Planetside used to do this really well. Even though you could heal in combat, you couldn't outheal the damage, so trying was an exercise in futility that only got everyone dead eventually. It was far better for the medic to help fight and heal up everyone after they won the battle.

But the trinity is based on two things - a numbers game of who can deliver / heal more damage in combat, and on the artifice of "aggro management" which is a total invention to force the use of the trinity on players.

Take those elements out of the game and you'll find out why the original fantasy healers (clerics) wore plate armor and carried a mace. It was so they could stand shoulder to shoulder with the tank in the front line until the battle was won, then heal up the party after. The mages and archers were the only ones in the back.
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Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 2:04PM Hackjob said

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One of my favorite classes that falls somewhat out of these stereo types was the mesmer from guild wars. This class did do dps, but was very much a shutdown class. They could be built to deny energy/mana from magic users or cripple a melee dps by blinding and slowing them. It still could be considered a DPS class, but to me branches out of the mold enouugh to be a refrshing/new dynamic.

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 2:17PM (Unverified) said

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The holy trinity is one approach to encourage group play and establish class synergy. It is certainly well suited for a game like WoW or other similar MMOs.

However, it's not the only valid approach - you need a class system that fits to your gameplay and if your gameplay is different there might be better alternatives. A game with damage dealers only can work out as well, as long as the synergetic effects of grouping are noticeable enough.

In a less combat centric rpg there might be room for roles which have not much to do with combat at all.

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 3:45PM Lionhearted said

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Very few groups can survive any kind of challenging content without some kind of crowd control. There has to be at least that last, fourth element to almost any viable group in just about any MMO. Honestly, I'd even include a fifth: puller, because even with good crowd control, if someone is pulling without the skills or abilities to do so without bringing a giant train, that group is not going to last long unless it can find another puller...

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 4:30PM Bezza said

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I find it interesting that the Trinity is referred to in a manner that suggests it is sacrosanct. Judging by many of the emotionally charged responses posted here I believe the truth of the situation becomes obvious.

The Trinity has become entrenched in the psyche of many members of the gaming community both developer and player. Many of these community members find the trinity familiar and comfortable. Threatened with the possibility of change they react with strong emotions. After all, these people may not be able to remain the uber-players they perceive themselves to be if the trinity becomes a thing of the past. Likewise many a designer would face a great deal of work that may or may not reap the financial rewards they seek.

Such people do not have the MMO genre's best interest at heart. They are not interested in seeing change and evolution, they favour the familiar, the tried and tested. Dare I go so far as to suggest they favour the Stagnation of Tradition. The Trinity.

STO is a great example of this stagnation. When you watch the developers videos and how they describe certain starship classes as 'tank/healer/dps' you can see how Cryptic are trying to fit the trinity into starship combat. This is going to force players to stick with the tried and tested and in my opinion, boring and predictable, method of play.

I played pen and paper RPG in it's hey day and still do once a month. I have seen how various core rule sets have evolved and changed over three decades. To assume that the D&D model is the only way, and the best way is a mistake. As a GM with thirty years experience I can testify that the D&D system is one of the least flexible systems available and over time you can experience the frustration of players who want to break the mold.

I believe that any developer who wants to do more than make a quick dollar, (and i suspect they are few and far between,) needs to look beyond the unholy trinity. Likewise gamers need to step outside of their respective comfort zones and give developers who do try to evolve beyond the trinity a fair chance to do so. Sure you may not be the l33t uber player you are when playing your familiar game, but the MMO genre will be a richer more diverse genre as a result and that can only benefit the community in the long run.

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 4:50PM (Unverified) said

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An alternate answer to the trinity would involve something like this:

1) Collision detection.
We assumed it was in place all those years ago in D&D because your DM didn't let you walk through Monsters. The Big Bad didn't get to your mage or your healer (if you had one) simply because the other party members shielded them through positioning. You didn't have a tank. You simply had the player the monster could reach (via melee, magic or range). Spread your party too thin and it could reach all of you. Position wisely and you could mitigate the number of players taking damage. There was no 'threat list'. Your tactics and positioning had to change based on the number of opponents, the terrain, how intelligent they were, and the opponents culture.

2) Limited Healing:
You didn't have to have any specific roles filled. Everyone could dps, everyone had abilities that could make specific encounters easier (but none were required), there were roles that could heal but that was usually done AFTER the fight to get everyone back up and speed the party along to the next encounter.
It was a matter of convenience and cost but not a requirement for getting the job done.

A system such as this awards 'skill' since it's group tactics that win the field in pvp and pve. This isn't so much 'thinking outside the box' as 'thinking back to your old boxed set in the closet'.

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 7:37PM (Unverified) said

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This system works excellently for one reason - a character rarely gets insta-killed in the middle of party combat. Meaning that when they're down, the enemy turns to another opponent. So long as there's heals available after the fight is over, all turns out well (so long as the party wins, that is).

I think the prevalence of death in MMOs is what is throwing things off track. Change that to "lying on the floor bleeding, but able to accept healing or a healing potion" and suddenly a party doesn't need the trinity to win. They just need to be able to avoid a TPK before the fight is finished, and they're good to go.

I can offer some proof of this. As an illusionist (crowd control character), I was the "preventive healer" of many a group in EQ2 after the populations had died out to where healers were scarce. Since the death penalties had been nerfed to being just a short wait for the member to travel and rejoin, a party with no healers could pretty much do anything short of raid-level, as long as they were willing to accept the delays due to deaths.

And honestly, this is the way it should be. Let's go back to the "down but not dead" model and free us players to play with what we have, instead of forcing us to recruit the FRPG equivalent of a corporate project team.

Why can't a party of all mages take on a dungeon, so long as they have healing magic they can use after the fight? Why can't a party of all fighters, or for that matter, any party of sufficient number/level regardless of class? At this time, the answer is simply "the devs won't let us 'cause they're mind-numbed robots about the trinity" :\
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Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 6:43PM (Unverified) said

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It seems like he's not attacking the holy trinity, but is only saying that classes are poorly designed in MMO's. Which is true. But there are a lot of design flaws I would think.

The other problem with his proposal is the assumption that people will still play together if roles are not required. That is to say, if you're playing DnD, you're playing DnD with friends for the express purpose of playing DnD together. If there is not specified role to fill, then people will become even more cliquish, only playing with people they know. There will be no reason to branch out and search for other players. In an MMO, the game has to keep players together, and without roles the community falls apart.

Also, this proposal would mean that players would require more skill, and more brains in order to play the game. I am in full support of this...but it's just not what's happening. No matter how physically easy the bosses, and mobs were in a game, it would be difficult for players who refused to think about the situation. They would complain, or more likely just cancel their subscription. Again, I'm in favor of that, but i'm not sure companies want to fund a game that alienates paying players - not matter how dumb/lazy they are.

He also talks about how "roles are confusing" even while proposing an idea that, if it were to be done WELL, would require more cooperation, more thinking, and more careful planning than what is caused by the holy trinity. You would have to plan out each pulls, or develop a pattern of stuns and kites or certain spells in a certain order that everyone would follow. On that note, ability changes could throw a particular group out of balance, causing more confusion.

This is all assuming, of course, that it is done WELL. If he is proposing something like, say, Mass Effect, where there are no 'roles' but you have to use your abilities right, then that's not good enough frankly. In the end, the only difficulty in a game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age is the fact that you usually have to control ALL of your team, not just your own abilities. If you only have to control your own abilities, then, were it to be done wrong, the gameplay would end up being ridiculously bland in an MMO setting.

Also, what exactly would happen in a setting with 10+ people involved? And before anyone says "well there wouldn't have to be that many" they should remember, that the "massively multiplayer" in MMO implies that number working together at least at endgame(there's really no arguing that...and I don't understand why people do..Massively single player is 'we're all here, but doing our own thing', massively multiplayer is 'we're all here, and working together). Back to the point: At those numbers, I can't see a way that an encounter would actually be able to make use all ALL those separate and intelligently designed abilities.They would be hard-pressed to make intelligent encounters for massive numbers of people, assuming they were expected to work together. Sure, it's possible, but again, would require a certain level of intelligence from all involved were it to be done well.

Finally, Dnd was driven by story, plain and simple. The player could most likely do anything he could argue his character could do. Rogues could TALK their way out of trouble, because the were physically weaker in single combat. Mages could use utility spells, and divination spells to avoid or prepare for encounters or manipulate the environment directly to give himself an advantage. There is just no way to account for that amount of story in a MMO. Maybe in an MSO, but that's a different genre IMO. In DnD, the story kept the players - you're friends - together. In an MMO it's different. It's not table-top. He even mentions White Wolf, which I find hilarious. I haven't seen a pen and paper based MORE in story rather than mechanics.

On a slightly related note:
We seriously need to get people using the term MSORPG, and start getting them to separate the two categories. Not doing it leads to some strange things indeed. (sure, the lines can be blurry at times, but categories are never meant to be absolute.)

Posted: Dec 22nd 2009 8:41PM cray said

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I'm little confused how it was determined that Tanking, Healer and DPS (damage per second?) is part of the holy trinity of MMOs?

I've always thought the holy trinity of any game design requires an Attacker, Defender and Controller. It also requires melee and ranged combat for the trinity to work.


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