While doing some research today on the group dynamic and design in Cryptic’s upcoming Neverwinter MMO, I discovered this gem of a rant. The Managing Editor over at MMORPG.com, Bill Murphy (my respect grows for anyone that shares my last name and loves MMOs, by the way), has put together a wonderful piece on just how great the Holy Trinity approach is in MMO design. And I couldn’t agree with him more.
I’ve written some of my own views on the Holy Trinity already. I really felt its absence as being a rather significant reason why my enjoyment and love of Guild Wars 2 faded so quickly. I think it’s the perfect basis for a great MMO, but, like with anything else, it could use some fine tuning and refinement. The Holy Trinity as we know it from Everquest and World of Warcraft is not exactly the thing I’d want to replicate completely.
And this rant points out a very specific reason why that’s the case. MMORPGs are moving more and more toward being pick-up-and-play friendly, cooperative games. The days of standing around begging for that one under-played role to join your group so the fun can begin is behind us and should remain behind us. I think Bill Murphy’s solution, that we allow more classes more roles, is a splendid approach. Here’s how I would go about it:
First of all, we need to agree on three specific roles. More often than not, it’s a mix of Tank, Healer, and Damage, that makes up your average MMO. However, Damage is typically the most popular role for a number of reasons: it requires the least responsibility, encounters are designed around having a lot of Damage characters so you need more of them anyway, and people love obscenely large numbers. When deciding the three core roles, I think Damage should be eliminated completely from contention, and the role of ‘doing damage’ be spread equally among the three roles as a byproduct of doing their job properly.
Additionally, while I love playing a healer myself, I think it’s a little too narrow a role to be made so prominent. Don’t get me wrong, I think that good MMO combat requires healing play a major part. However, standing around spamming the same two or three spells on your tank is never fun. I much prefer healing as a sub-role in the overall Support category, which focuses more on shielding and fun buffs rather than just spamming heals.
Finally, I feel that individual resource management is the cornerstone of good gameplay. Letting every player spam with no hesitation their abilities only promotes unskilled play further. I feel we need a role that specifically assists in making resource management easier by providing extra regeneration, temporary cooldown relief, or a hastened global cooldown. You know, the types of assistance a Bard-type class might provide. Therefore, I think the second role should be a Utility role that focuses on sustaining the output of party members and debuffing (in a dynamic, fun fashion) enemies.
That leaves us, of course, with the Tank, which I feel should stand strong where its at, assuming that means heavy damage soaking and extensive crowd control gameplay.
In keeping with this rant’s suggestions, each class would have a means to perform the roles of Tank, Support, or Utility. It’s understood that they not be able to perform this at anytime or that the class be able to quickly switch from one role to another mid-combat. I also agree that having to re-level or respec for these additional roles is too much, and is far too detrimental to making groups easier to put together.
I wouldn’t allow the classes to perform each role equally, however. I think their should be a minor level of power variance so that a Warrior-type class might be able to Tank or provide Support easily enough, he may be a little weaker at providing Utility. This is mainly so designers don’t get bogged down into making every class perfect at every role, which would most likely mean we would have very few classes to work with since balance and designing them along such rigid lines would be incredibly difficult.
My favorite part of this approach? Spreading out damaging and giving classes access to multiple roles means we can have a PvE game that finally brings back ‘off’ roles in a major way. I hated World of Warcraft’s group dynamic when it meant that every party I got into was a mix of Tank, Healer, and three interchangeable DPS characters. The raiding scene was a little more dynamic at times, but you would never be well-known or renowned for your off-tanking skills. This should also help alleviate some of the rigidity of having to have three core classes when presumably combat can be designed around a slightly more open approach of off-specs and hybrids filling in specific gaps. MMO combat is at its best when excellence in playing your class means you can come through in a pinch as a different role and still see the party through to a victory.
Don’t forget to check out MMORPG.com for more exciting MMO news and opinion, but first, leave me some comments down below. What are your thoughts on the Holy Trinity in MMOs?