Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Balance, Bards, and the Nerf Bat; or, What the Heck is a Support Role, Anyway?

So apparently the Rift forums have blown up with the news that the Nerf Bat has come to Trion, and Healers--the Bard in particular--are on the Tee (you know, as in Tee-ball). I only heard about it because the fallout spread to Twitter. I am missing many of the details, so I am admittedly ignorant on what will happen, or how the changes will affect my rogue, who as I have mentioned has one Bard-dominated group role. That's right, Dear Reader, I only care about what's in it for me.

I do have a few questions, probably followed by tirades. I heard that the reasons for the nerfs have to do with PvP balancing. If this is the case: Awww, come on, guys! Of any game, Rift--with the interchangeable souls and roles--should be immune to PvP "balancing." No more WoW-ish QQs of Rogues or Paladins being overpowered, because every player with a character higher than 15 should have every soul in his or her calling available to equip. Maybe the Bard should be an "OP" healer, as it is the only non-DPS heavy soul available to a Rogue. Sure, there is the Riftstalker. Oh ja, the only Tank-oriented role for the Rogue. That's great. Hey, the Cleric, has more than three serious healer souls, plus Melee and Caster DPS and Tank souls. Holy cow, why are they not in the crosshairs? (Not that I want that either.) As far as I can tell, while vocal, the hardcore PvP player segment is by far a minority in Rift, compared to PvE-oriented players. PvP balancing is simply unimportant to the vast majority of the player base. Why should PvPers be catered to at the expense of PvE?

Which brings me to the next possibility, that Bards in particular (I also heard Chloromancers and Purifiers) are seen by Trion as OP in group-PvE events like rifts and instances. I commented on Twitter that I have noticed, not a lot of active direct healing needs to be done during rift events. I am not sure if that is because of "passive" healing like heal-over-time spells such as Withering Vines (Chloro), and incidental healing like Radiant Spores (also Chloro) and Cadence (Bard, with dedicated soul points). Or is it because of other damage mitigation abilities coming from the various players in the group, as suggested by MMOGC. Either way, the healing abilities of both Chloromancers and Bards, at least, are somewhat limited already at the lower levels. Chloromancers finally can get Bloom as a direct heal (with a long cooldown) at level 6. And Bards don't get one as far as I can tell until level 21, with Coda of Restoration, which is a group heal (on the  Nerf Tee from what I hear). Both examples are so-called branch abilities (player choice) not root abilities (given to every player with enough points in the soul). What's my point here? Um oh! Are Healers OP in PvE events? Trion could just as easily buff the DPS of the mobs, and it would not as noticeable to the players, hence not as QQ inspiring.

So my guess is the PvP angle. Having not been on the forums, I have no idea if people are currently saying Bards are OP; but apparently Trion thinks so.

Another thing I've heard is that, rather than include the changes in the newest patch, Trion may hold off until after they have collected the first wave of subscription money in April--some of which will be six-month commitments--before dropping the nerf bomb. If this is the plan, frankly it's kinda shady. No, it's very shady. If this is a good thing for the game, then Trion should have no fear of the consequences of changes made to a soul or two.  OTOH, the evidence (disappearing patch notes on the EU forums) could be an indication that Trion is rethinking the changes they have planned. I hope this is the case.

What is a support role anyway? I understand the golden triad, Tank-DPS-Healer, even if I think it is artificial. Where does "Support" fit in? In at least one interview with Scott Hartsman, executive producer of Rift, discusses tanking, healing, and "support." Maybe I need more education on the value of being support versus, say DPS. Dislike damage meters, I find myself afraid that their eventual appearance in Rift will cause the demise of non DPS/HPS/TANK roles. The Bard and possibly the Choromancer are supposed to really shine in a group situation when their abilities (both healing and buffs) can benefit large numbers of allies, but the reported nerfs gimp precisely that dynamic. So is the Bard left with just a bunch of musical buffs? Yay! How does that fit in with current reward system, which as Arkenor has reported is based more on the global cooldown than actual contribution to the sealing of a rift? I had a guildie remark the other day that Bards will never be main healers. Looks like they may never be more than secondary souls to more exciting DPS specs.

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