Rants tag

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

Monday, August 5, 2013

Where's the Value? What's the Payoff?

Sometimes the best defense really is a good offense.
High Value Target (HVT): A target the enemy commander requires for the successful completion of the mission.

High Payoff Target (HPT): A target whose loss to the enemy will significantly contribute to the success of the friendly course of action.
~~ADRP 1-02, Operational Terms and Military Symbols
The U.S. Army (and other Armed Forces) use these terms to help plan battles. Team PvPers understand the concepts even if they don't use the terms. A good Artificial Intelligence will understand it too. Traditional MMO aggro tables try to mimic what goes on in the enemy's head. But as is easily seen by the fact the Tanks tend to be useless in PvP, aggro tables are a poor substitute for an intelligent opponent.
The only pic of an actual boss fight I have easy access to.
HVTs and HPTs often coincide, but are not synonymous. Looking from a dungeon Boss' perspective (because the goal is that they be intelligent), the DPS will be HVTs because killing them will degrade the group's ability to accomplish their mission (which is to kill the Boss). Conversely, the group healer will be the HPT because the killing the healer will significantly contribute to the success of the Boss' course of action (which is to wipe the group). Notice that at no time is the heavily armored guy shouting insults at the Boss any significant concern to the intelligent Boss. Now, if the group Tank could actively interfere with the Boss' objectives through physical block or through significant DPS of their own (therefore drawing fire), then that would be an effective fight mechanic against the intelligent enemy. Instead, we've been saddled with the aggro table.
Is this all a bit silly? Maybe, but it's fun to talk about.
The folks from SOE have stirred a hornet's nest by saying they want to abolish the Unholy Trinity. A lot of people are very attached to their Tank and Healer roles. I've mentioned that I love healing, and Belghast loves tanking, for similar reasons. However, with the changes in AI that SOE is bringing to EQ Next, the standard Tank mechanic of aggro manipulation may be going out the window.
The best plan? Kill it with fire.
Players are pointing to Guild Wars 2 as an example of the lost UT causing unfun chaos in group instances like Ascalonian Catacombs and Twilight Arbor. But see, here's the thing: UT still exists in GW2. I built a quite robust PyroChem Engineer, complete with increased endurance and aggro manipulation. I could pull aggro on any creature driven mostly by that mechanic. Most of GW2's professions are very flexible, too. I was also able heal on the fly simply by changing out my kit. But ArenaNet's goal was to not have those roles be absolutely necessary for a dungeon; therefore making it easier to form groups and tackle the content.
The ultimate role specialization. (Matt Bryant of the Atlanta Falcons)
GW2 dungeons are more like a rowdy game of playground basketball than a game in the NFL, where you have to bring in special teams to do each task. Were the resulting fights chaotic? Yes. But it meant there were more opportunities for thrilling heroics, like when I managed to stay alive and rez three out of four fellow dungeoneers during a fight with a giant spider.

It's easier for me to come up with reasons to get rid of traditional Tanks than reasons to get rid of designated healers. But again, a la GW2, giving each character the ability to heal themselves takes the burden of healing off a single healer or small group. GW2 does allow for designated group healers, but their healing is weaker, compensated by the fact that everyone could and should be healing themselves.
I just think this pic is really badass.
The Secret World maintains strong roles, but the classless, weapon-based ability system means that any player can conceivably fill any role in the group as needed, assuming time/points have been devoted to learning those abilities. That's a tremendous amount of flexibility, to be honest. Samantha "LoneStarBelle" Hawthorn, pictured above kicking ass, has as a primary build what I would call DPS support, lots of debuffing the enemy and buffing the group. She may not be at the top of the DPS meter, but I guarantee the bosses go down faster when she's around.

How will SOE solve the question of roles in EQNext? I don't know—I don't think we have all the information. Honestly, SOE may not have the answers fleshed out either. Maybe they'll take feedback and incorporate a version of UT into the game. However, I'd like to see a different approach than aggro manipulation to drive group content. The use of voxels may be the key to that alternate approach. If a tank can physically block the enemy from the DPSers and Healer, that would be something.

What do you think? Is SOE going down the wrong path in trying to eliminate the Unholy Trinity? Do they have something else up their sleeve that might be even better?


  1. I'm really excited for EQNext, and I want to see how they pull off the "no role" thing. To me it just seems like group play will be a mess without roles, but I'm hoping they have an awesome method we haven't seen yet. I'm not a huge fan of the low-AI threat method games use at the moment, but I also don't see better AI making a better game: it seems problematic to me that if you get rid of tanks, the targeted character will be the one dealing the most damage, therefore that character will need more defense to defend the attacks. If there's a class that can deal enough damage to be a high priority target while having enough defense to take the heat that comes with such... Who wouldn't play that class? Similarly, if you can heal enough to become a high priority target while having enough defense to survive the attention, you're over-powered. Its hard for me to imagine at the moment any way to get rid of the trinity without causing an imbalance somewhere or creating an unholy mess of group play, a la GW2.

    Whether or not SOE is going down the wrong path, I can't know until I see the final product or have more information on how they plan to do it. I'll definitely try the game out myself, and I hope they come out with a smart system that can replace the trinity, I just doubt its easily done.

    1. I need to see the video. Did they say no roles, or just no trinity? There's a small, but important difference. I personally think that, yes, a wizard powerful enough to dish it out, so to speak, should be powerful enough to take a bit of a beating. Same for healers. Whether such a character would be OP is a different set of design concerns. We'll see how well that works when the next Rift expansion drops and we see the Mage-Tank soul drop, not to mention the Warrior-Healer.

  2. Judging by the Class Panel I think Jeff Butler is on a personal crusade to save us from ourselves. He seems to believe that Tanks and Healers are locked in a spiral of self-delusion that requires outside intervention to break. They *think* they want to tank and heal but really they don't. They *think* they're having fun but really they are trapped in a web of duty and obligation that they mistake for satisfaction.

    I think the whole thing is a load of overstated twaddle. Just let people do what they enjoy and take there word for it that they know what that is. If you're designing content for a specific number of players, say 5-man instances, by all means design it so that ANY combination of classes/builds can succeed and have fun doing it. That's a great idea. Why it means that none of those classes/builds can be pure tanks or pure healers mystifies me.

    Current developer thinking seems to run along the lines of "if you're not doing damage you must not be enjoying yourself" when it's paramountly obvious that for plenty of players that's just not true. I find DPS tedious. One of the first thing I do in any MMO is switch off all those annoying floating numbers. I put all my combat stat feeds in a separate window, close it and rarely look at it again. Doing damage is just not interesting to me.

    In the Class presentation several of the devs reiterate how much they want to stop players from staring at hot keys and health bars. It's clear that they think they are liberating those players form a terrible chore. It's equally clear from the responses of some of the players that far from feeling something is being given to them they feel something is being taken away.

    Healers like filling up health bars. Tanks like holding agro. Some people like playing healers and tanks. Why devs want to stop those people from enjoying the gameplay they've known and loved for years is puzzling.

    It makes a mockery of the whole "Play the game your way" motto. Might as well go back to "You're in our world now".

    1. I would love to see the actual statistics on People playing pure DPS vs, the other two trinity roles. It may eye-opening just how minuscule our numbers are. As I said earlier on Twitter, the fact is that every gamer seems to think the majority of gamers agree with them. But, the vast majority of pocketbooks aren't even involved in this debate. But trust me they are voting. And the devs are listening.

  3. I'm a huge fan of the holy trinity. Can't get enough of it. However, I think that the best trinity is the original one: Tank, Heal, Support (typically CC). Support classes are way undervalued in most games. I love playing classes that make everyone else better. I don't mind some people calling them buffbots. Oh, and I can't help but smile an evil smirk when I CC stuff to my hearts content. Denial and control are stuff I love to do in games. ALl games should have bards and enchanters!

    Too bad CC is a dying breed these days. It's all "zerg everything down", and what I've seen so far of games that tried to replace the trinity, it tended to end up that way.

    1. Yes, DPS is incidental in that trinity. It could work well. As long as there is flexibility.

  4. @Bhagpuss

    Sincerelly, what is wrong if EQN is not made for Belghast, that likes be a tank? Or for people that like to be healers? Or for Syncaine, that wants all games be full loot pvp snadbox?

    Everyone knows why there are long queues for make groups, there are a lot of dps and few tanks and healers.

    EQN will be just a new MMO and there are a lot of diferent MMO. There are a lot of WoW clones in the market that have the holly trinity and that will make the healers and tankers happy. Syncaine have Darkfall.

    Let us have EQN with no holly trinity, thanks.

  5. You have GW2 with no holy trinity, as well.
    I'm not Bhagpuss nor Belghast but my personal fear is less that "there's one game I won't enjoy," and more that "everybody is clamoring for the end of the trinity, and the future of MMORPGs might try to get rid of it entirely." I realize this is a slippery slope fallacy, but its a possibility.
    A comment by another on the subject has recently thinking about the "there are a lot of dps and few tanks and healers" statements, and I believe it entirely possible that more tanks and healers exist than the DPS are aware of, but the rude attitude in public groups and the general consensus that a wipe is the fault of the tank or healer (and with very little acceptance of those running an instance for the first time) deters them from queuing for public instances.

    1. OK 1) GW2 has healers and tanks, they are just not as clearly defined and can move fluidly from one role to another. That so many people are incapable of doing so is not the fault of the designers.

      2) Yes, playing the blame game is why so few people are willing to Tank or Heal for PUGs. Is it any wonder Devs are trying to do something from a design perspective to prevent their game from being a cesspool?

    2. By now, I think the only way to prevent bad player behavior is consequent enforcement of strict rules. Maybe also abolishing all transitive grouping, but I"m not sure about that one. Don't think abolishing tanks and healers will help, though.

    3. @Rowan Blaze

      "GW2 has healers and tanks, they are just not as clearly defined and can move fluidly from one role to another. That so many people are incapable of doing so is not the fault of the designers."

      If most of your players can't fluidly switch to another role then surely it *is* a design fault? It just means that your design is not intuitive enough?

      I won't morn the loss of trinity per se but I still want to see roles.

    4. @Lost Frankly, it concerns me that so many players think those roles don't exist in GW2 when a cursory look at even a couple professions show clear evidence of both additional threat gen and endurance for tanks and group abilities for healers. Player inflexibility is not the fault of the devs, anymore than ass-hattery is.

      "Intuitive" is an illusion. Everything is learned. Many players did not choose to learn how to play GW2, and instead simply gave up when it was not what they expected. Yes, I just pulled the L2P card.

    5. @Rowan

      “"Intuitive" is an illusion.”

      I personally don’t agree with this because if I did agree, then I have to agree with everyone who use the L2P card *all* the time! I believe there is such thing as good design and bad design so if there are roles such as tank, healer in GW2 then Anet haven’t made a good job of making it clear to players.

      In the early days of GW2, the impression I got from Anet was that they are not just trying get rid of the trinity but also trying to get rid of “roles”. You can argue my impression was wrong but I saw lot of people in the GW2 community try to enforce this view on behalf of Anet. The community actually went out of their way to discourage player from trying to be a “tank” or a “healer”.

      Now you are telling me that Anet actually meant for us to have “roles” after all even “tank” and “healers” if we want to! I am currently playing GW2 and I do follow the GW2 community closely but I think you are first person I know who thinks we are meant to have “roles” in GW2.

      Anyway going back to my original point, I think there is design failure somewhere or a certainly a communication failure and I am pointing fingers at Anet. :)

    6. I can only point to my own experience building two different Healers—on Engineer and Elementalist—and two different Tanks—again Engineer, and Guardian. Are they as strong as my Priest in WoW, or even my Blood/Fist in TSW? No. But they were strong enough. to hold agg or heal in numerous group situations.

      Of course, ANet said they wanted to abolish roles. It's a huge bitch coming from a lot of people (read: DPS) that they're stuck in queues for group content. ANet said we didn't need those roles for the group content in GW2. Anyone can form a group and succeed in the dungeons. However, as I said before, anyone looking at the traits and skills can easily see specializations into high endurance tanking type roles and healing roles.

      I hear a lot of folks who have declared GW2 some immense failure. Then again, there are plenty who say WoW has faltered. And yet . . .

      And WoW has LOST more players than many others games combined ever had. And they still have more players than possibly any other game ever will. GW2 still has plenty of folks who love playing it. And think that whatever ANet is doing, they're doing it right.

      I don't happen to be one of them. But the reasons I stopped playing have nothing to do with the progression system or that I couldn't build and fulfill the group roles I wanted to. Because I had no problem doing so.

  6. @James Thomason
    "You have GW2 with no holy trinity, as well."

    Yes, but I guess that SOE is looking for a big market share. So, who will give the best market share, the low population of healers and tanks, or the dps.

    Everyone knows the answer... no one want wait for find a healer/tank for complete a group. And the long queues prove there are less tanks/healer than you like to admit. If they are so common how you think they are, why the long queues?

    And maybe you will find that there are more players wanting to play EQN because it do'nt have the holly trinity than you like to admit...

    Niche will be niche, not the main. Adn the niche is tank and healers.

    And if AI thecnology advanced so much they can make mobs really "inteligent", maybe be better change. Stagnation is not a good strategy for a world that ever changes.

  7. I really like to see how much the current DPSes will accept their new role of self preservation. I strongly believe that most people that like DPSing now is only because someone else is trying to take damage and some other guy to keep them all up, so the dps can focus ONLY on what he likes best.

    1. That's an interesting thought. No one bothered to ask the DPSers what they think about UT.