Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thanks, But No Tanks.

Belghast is worried about the lack of trinity mechanics in EQNext. I personally have long been ambivalent about the Unholy Trinity (UT), as I call it. And I am not the only one. The artificiality of "Aggro" in MMOs both encourages and necessitates Tanks. Healers seem more natural, but tend to draw aggro from every mob in the fight—increasing the need for a Tank. While synergistic, UT is a construct of the game. As developers try to implement other systems, they encounter resistance from certain sectors of the playerbase.
Belghast likes Tanking; it feeds his protective tendencies, which also make him a great guild leader. I get what he's saying. As as a habitual healer, I care for my flock, including the Tank. But the truth is that the vast majority of people are not comfortable with or just plain don't like those two roles. Otherwise, there would be no problem filling those roles across many different games. But long queues for DPS are a direct result of the Tank and Healer Shortage. Not fun for you is not the same as not fun for everyone else. ;)
The other side of the equation is that threat building is a really poor substitute for the true, physical defensive techniques Belghast himself brings up. Grimjakk makes a really strong point in his comment on Belghast's post about evolving AI obviating the need for aggro tables and therefore aggro manipulation. A real tank on the battlefield is a prime target precisely because of its destructive power, not because the tank crew is busy shouting taunts at the enemy. If they come up with something like that, then I'll be very interested. Meanwhile, we'll just have to see how the game plan develops. It's still early enough in the cycle that I think they have the flexibility to adapt, given enough feedback.

17 comments:

  1. Surely MMO Tanks are called "Tanks" because they're heavily armored and can take a lot of damage, not because they attract attention? I know it's their job to attract attention but I don't think that's the part of their role that lead to their nickname.

    I'd turn this whole thing on its head. The problem isn't too few tanks and healers, it's far, far too many DPS. DPS used to be an incidental, incremental side effect from people doing all the other things they do. I'd give all classes a couple of longish timer, spectacular, show-offy DPS abilities just to keep people amused but put the vast majority of concentration on survival, healing, buffing, crowd-control, movement and all-round utility. Give everyone lots of responsibilities and make sure that if you've built a 5-person instance any five characters you can imagine being created could complete it in an entertaining fashion.

    Of course, if I was making the game there'd be no instances in the first place...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are entirely right, about why "tanks" are called that. MY point is that real tanks are just about the most destructive thing on the battlefield, something that cannot be said for the tanks in MMOs.

      I've heard of the mechanic you refer to of DPS being incidental to everything else players do. It would be cool to see implemented; what games did that?

      Delete
    2. Figures a post by you would involve arguing semantics!

      What I find interesting is that several people I know who were really excited about GW2's "blurring of the lines between the holy trinity" have reverted to wanting it back again, especially those more casual and do a lot of PUGs. At first, I was amused at the irony...but it made more sense the more I thought about it. In a small, impromptu group of strangers who are not used to communication with each other, knowing your innate role can make the difference between success and a messy zerg fest. Personally, I do dungeons with my guild anyway, so it makes no difference to me. I do wish players in general would learn their class intimately and do more than simply throw their bodies at an enemy though.

      Delete
    3. You should see the post I'm in the middle of now.

      Knowing your role is key in a group of strangers. Like you, I swore off PUGs long ago. Guild groups are much more effective, in any case—except against Cthulhu. :P

      Delete
    4. > I've heard of the mechanic you refer to of DPS being incidental to everything else players do. It would be cool to see implemented; what games did that? <

      One good example would be Anarchy Online. While it actually had some abilities, which increased or decreased the agro score of the user, they proved to be insignificant. The reason why a Soldier or Enforcer was able to hold agro was their damage output, and the other players around usually knew to wait a little for the designated tank to build up agro at boss fights.

      Indeed, about any class in the game was able to dish significant damage, even the Doctor, which was (by a small margin) most powerful, but definitely not only healer in the game, was able to significally contribute in an offensive role by debuffing the enemy and tearing it down with several damage over time effects. They sure did not have the big numbers, but their damage added up well.

      This probably now leads to people wondering why the "softer" classes without healing were also played, if the sturdy frontline was able to dish out so high damage. The answer lies in additional functionality, most prominently: Crowd Control.

      For example having a Bureaucrat (yes, that's actually a class in Anarchy Online!) or Trader (also a class) along not only supported the group with a nice set of additional buffs and debuffs, but they also were able to take adds out of the fight and even force some to fight for you. Of course, in big open-world raids, where several dozens of players plowed through the hostile forces crowd control was of no interest. When speaking of group content, though, they made all the difference and were considered not only useful but absoultely essential, at least the first years, before the power creep of expansions trivialized many encounters.

      My personal sarcasm says: mechanics like these can not be used today any more. After all, they require communication and coordination and at the same time are only of use if the group size is not too big. In a 40 man raid, they have little place and in present days communities, where actually speaking with the other seems to be very painful for some players and they thus avoid it at all costs, they could not be employed successfully.

      Delete
  2. Sorry for the not-very-constructive-comment, but love the title!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I apparently have become the king of spiffy headlines. :P

      Delete
  3. I'd love for you Guild-only players to set aside a PUG Month then write of your experiences, maybe see if that changes your outlook on how it is for the rest of us peons who aren't lucky enough anymore to have other people we know who play the game and have only strangers to contend with... XD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No thanks! Well, maybe as a Trading Places kind of thing, for journalistic reasons. The truth is, I don't do much group content at all. It's more like, "I don't do group content. But when I do, I take friends along."

      Delete
    2. I've pugged occasionally and have met with mostly successes -- not surprisingly because in the games where I've done it there was the trinity and everyone had a plan and a good understanding of their roles.

      Delete
  4. I have to say, not trinity is disconcerting. My experience in MMOs(which is quite lengthy) no trinity generally means content is going to gimpy. That and you can kiss any kind of in depth group mechanics or synergy goodbye without it. If you need a single reason why you should never make an mmo without the trinity just look at guild wars 2. They tried it and all any fight is, is a cluster fuck of dpses mindlessly way laying anything and everything that moves. No strategy, not tactics just a matter of needless dps races while simultaneously getting their asses handed to them in the process. That's if whoever doing the most damage at the time isn't trying to kite the damn mobs around failing at attempting to not get hit.

    No trinity = bad move from a game play standpoint.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think any well-defined set of roles will work, it doesn't have to be the now classic trinity. And the devs are worried about people being able to form effective groups without all those fixed roles. A series of hybrid classes, a la WoW Druids and Paladins, might work as long as they don't require massive gear swaps in the process.

      Delete
  5. I really like what they intend do with EQN. And I am loving the way bloggers and commenters are complaining about it.

    No holly trinity (for some reason, I was sure about it before they showed it).
    A total world sandbox, minecraft style, destruct and build everything.
    Dynamic events/public quests, but more fluid and organic than what we see in WAR/Rift/GW2.
    Advanced NPC and mob UI using storybricks.
    No levels, horizontal advancement.
    No instance dungeons (that underground areas are dungeons).

    The comparation to GW2 will be inescapable...

    Specifically with relation to the holly trinity, if they make a really advanced UI the taunts will never work... any inteligent mob will kill the healer first, then the dps, for reduce the tank to pieces for last.

    I know that problably they will never get everything they want done as intended and again it is other compartaion to GW2: the manifesto...

    But if they work to do 80% form what they intend do, we will see a great MMO.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope so, too. I'm most excited about Landmark, and building stuff.

      Delete
  6. Odd tangential thought... if intelligent AI would "go for the healer first", why? Because they are squishy and help other stay in the fight? What if they weren't squishy? As in, the toughest unit on the field is the healer.

    ...basically, I'm wondering if it's possible to balance out the "threat" so that everyone is about equally important, but situational targeting and environmental positioning become important, and tactics change on the fly.

    Then again, the whole point of the UT is that it's simple. I find it unsatisfying and illogical because of that, but I suspect that there are a great many players who just sort of want to go on mental autopilot and heal/tank/DPS their way through their day and not have to really think much about it. That's not a bad thing, it's just a different approach.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, my position has long been that there is no inherent reason for the Healer—or DPS, for that matter—to be squishy. The only excuse is for some sort of of Rock-Paper-Scissors. But, as Ferrel is fond of pointing out, clerics wear plate. I love priests, but my cleric in Rift certainly wears chain at least.

      Delete