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More blog cross-posting from omedon666.livejournal.com, hope you enjoy... this is a long one!
It seems that most of the "writing time" I find for myself occurs at work, so this entry will be painstakingly drafted on my iPhone. I'll try not to cut too many corners.
Earlier this week, I had a bit of a tinfoil hat epiphany that I'd like to share, as it relates to the future of the MMO, specifically with the idea in mind of the trend setting superpower of Blizzard apparently working on a new MMO for eventual release. My realistic call is for a Starcraft franchise MMOFPS, but follow me on this speculative road of "what if", if you will...
The only iPhone game that has locked down my attention span long enough for me to complete it top to bottom was a tremendously successful Diablo-like hack and slasher called "Dungeon Hunter". I learned that this game, which has spawned an equally successful sequel, will be coming to the PS3 as a downloadable spinoff on the playstation network, this time as a multiplayer offering with four damage dealing classes participating in co-operative LAN or online play. My response was to get very excited about the prospect of playing this game with all my instancing buddies from WoW, who all have PS3's... but then I asked myself an eye-opening question: why would I derail an instancing opportunity with my posse to play a PS3 game?... Why not enjoy their company in the game we usually enjoy together and play co-operatively on a regular basis?... The answer started an avalanche of thought that lead to this post:
Because I won't have to tank.
Let me clarify up front that I don't *hate* tanking, especially for my friends, the only scenario where I will tank. I don't and won't spend my time and money doing something I hate, but I am quite guilty of answering the question "who is your main" with "ideally my warlock... But I like grouping, so technically it's my tank DK". Being pretty much the only one to find enjoyment in tanking, in a comfortably sized group of RL friends consisting of a lot of preferential DPS and one very enthusiastic healer, pretty much locks me into the role if we have the full five available. The very thought of that self perpetuating scenario (rule #1 is always "do what's fun, for you", so more tanks aren't forthcoming) can be exhausting sometimes, and it just brings me back to the "tank shortage" that plagues WoW.
It's obvious, as the disparity in queue times (the worst of which, I must add, are still a million times better than life before the dungeon finder!) is testament to, that the inherent "responsibility" that comes with tanking/healing is far less commonly attractive than "pew-pew'ing", and as much as my fellow tanks will play themselves up for rising to the role of leading and and setting the pace of the run, I have to admit, it's hard to argue with "I'd really just rather hang back and nuke stuff" being the vastly dominant statement of fun-having.
So it's obvious that the preference to just kill stuff is ingrained in the WoW community, as even though Blizzard designed their game with this in mind (with the need for tanks made proportionately representative in encounter design) there is still a staggering bottleneck in dungeon queues, which gets worse and worse as the DPS community gets more impatient, and, to be fair, some of us tanks let our "few and proud" selves get too big for our britches.
It's like the old tabletop days, where the first thing the group does is play "not !%!@#" to determine who will play the cleric. Everyone's having fun playing, but someone has to draw the short straw to enable functional fun-having for all. That's how it always has been and always will be...
Or will it?
(continued next post...)
Edited by Deverin on 2/15/2011 1:08 PM PST
Now, I understand that there are people that legitimately love tanking and healing, I'm not discounting you (us) folks, but the saying "the dungeon finder moves at the speed of the tank/healer community" is, and I say this as a member of said community, troublesome design with such an established minority being the gatekeepers to the majority's fun. I, as a tank, have way, way too much power over so many other peoples' fun. If there was a way to design an MMO with the personal character investment, class flavor diversity and self motivated options of WoW, as well as the global discovery, background occupations (professions, achievements, leveling, etc) rich world and eventual team play of WoW, with the action resembling the Diablo style as opposed to the trinity-powered (tank/heal/damage) MMO tradition dating back to Everquest... I think there's a serious market there.
Now, as my room-mate has pointed out when I shared this with him, "you can say goodbye to anything approaching strategy in a game like that", and he's largely right, and that would be where WoW and games like it would keep their niche, undoubtedly, but you can't tell me that Blizzard isn't learning their audience, and perhaps preparing to cater to the majority who "just wanna pewpew", but still want their MMORPG. There have been so many lessons, after all:
-Queue time disparity: Even at its most generous, the "less than a second" for tanks and "X number of minutes" for DPS just screams market research, as to which is more popular, and by how much.
-Diablo 3 on the horizon: You can bet your ass they will be watching the long term appeal of the most anticipated raw fantasy deathfest in video games.
-Tanks and healers doing damage: Meanwhile in WoW, smite discipline priests, death knights (DPS-like tanks) and general trends toward high tank damage and healers throwing nukes just says to me that blizzard may be saying "we get it, most of you like hurting the bad guy... just hold on a little longer"...
-Wrath of the LOLAOE: As much as strategy lovers (like myself in a tanking mood) will rant that WOTLK's late PVE game got infectiously mindless... it was also very, very popular, and the springboard for WoW entering the 8-digit subscription level. LOLAOE might have been maddening, but it's apparent, as the gnashing of teeth motivating GC to blog about dungeon difficulty has shown us, that it was popular to at least a segment of the WoW community... Just how marketable that ethic is is yet to be seen.
I've always viewed WoW as the midpoint between the "think fast" RTS and the "kill fast" Diabloesque slasher... both are genres that Blizzard arguably "owns". Now, what if blizzard introduced a franchise to sit next to WoW in the middle, on the side toward Diablo? Now that WoW is being positioned as "left of centre", toward strategy, there's a place for this, in my opinion.
Could that be where we're headed?
(Concluded next post...)
The only huge glaring negative I see with this approach would be the sense of community health that Blizzard is smartly and responsibly building itself around, going forward. It's possible, and easily defendable, that Blizzard's response to the queue disparity is "working as intended, L2Social, the dungeon finder is intended as a last resort, run with friends" and if that's the case, fair enough, let the culling of the antisocial continue, carry on.
But let's continue with the "what if" for a moment... Let's assume they want to keep the business of those whose time and/or interest don't stay on board as WoW moves down the "left of centre" road.
You'd need to redefine teamwork to a genre and a demographic that's become a slave to the admittedly functional trinity model. With an "all DPS" approach, many strategies become obsolete. With armies of one-man-armies, however, I'm sure new strategies could be developed, but I'd expect them to play into the "arms race" sort of mindset: kill it before it kills us. This would be the ultimate platform for the Blizzard's "make everything overpowered" design ethic. It could be a lot of fun!
Everyone (who forgets or didn't play the pre-dungeon finder WoW :P) is clamoring for Blizzard to "fix" the DPS queue times, and it just sounds so ridiculous to think that Blizzard can be expected to address what is essentially a self-perpetuating, community-centric problem built around the reality of the "pressure roles" (tank/healer) and the perception/treatment of these roles and the players that play them. What if Blizzard developed a place to funnel the excess DPS? They've said before that they don't mind cannibalizing the WoW juggernaut to breathe life into a new franchise of their own.
Perhaps the key to shorter queue times for DPS in WoW isn't more tanks and healers playing WoW... but less DPS playing WoW... and more of them (the ones without the desire for so much strategy, or for "pressure roles" gatekeeping their fun) playing something that's "all pewpew, no QQ".
Could that something be D3?.... or "Codename: Titan"? Both? There's certainly enough of a queuetime/community interest disparity to justify it, in my opinion.
I'd certainly give it a shot! Incidentally, if anyone knows of a true MMO that would scratch this "itch", do speak up!
Thank you for reading :)
Basically what you are looking for in DPS, I said here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/2065568000
Hey, don't get me wrong, I love me some tactical DPS. My favourite place in a fight is at the back, as a CC-heavy class (like my warlock) to control the battlefield. I will preferably take that distant tactical position, most days, over tanking. I have noooo problem putting some MORE pressure on the DPS to be more than just chart monkeys, but it still doesn't touch the "me vs the world" position tanks and healers find themselves in (in a 5-man anyway). You can sally fourth if a single DPS dies and usually are ok... tank or healer, forget it.
It's no wonder these roles are less popular, and that fact has given them (and I say this as one of them) too much power over the majority's fun-having.
Edited by Deverin on 2/15/2011 1:31 PM PST
But what I was saying is that in order to continue with the Cataclysmic mindset, DPS has to start thinking tactically instead of just blowing up the damage meter. It's obvious that the group cannot sally forth without a tank or healer, but there are times where the DPS has to pull out the stops to fill in the blanks when needed.
DPS that is thinking that the game has not changed in a drastic way from lolRecount to zomgTactics is thinking incorrectly. Either that, or they're horribly over-geared. But even the over-geared DPS have to think of their lesser geared tank and healer counterparts. The game has become more group cohesion and tactical progression than "Let's zerg this joint."
EDIT: Having given your post a more respectable and thorough third read-through, I believe that the issue you face is the belief that tanks do not like tanking and that healers do not like healing. I believe, overall, this may not be the case. If polled: Several tanks love their jobs, as do several healers like their role in the party.
The fact of the matter is that people will play the game how they wish to, and with more options available for DPS over tanking and healing options, the ratios speak for themselves. The DPS roles themselves are said to be somewhat easier. Are they? I wouldn't know, personally - I've not played a healer or a tank since Vanilla WoW. The game itself has become more complex for all classes I believe, which means that all roles need to step up their game; not only the tank and the healer anymore.
And to your point that the group can survive a pull with a DPS gone, it is possible for groups to survive pulls when the healer and tank have fallen in battle as well. It is all how well equipped the player is to handle a crisis situation, and how well suited the class is for said crisis situation. Situational instances of note are not really Of Note; they are simply extraordinary circumstances, or anymore - simply ordinary. They are ... expected.
Edited by Caeryn on 2/15/2011 10:29 PM PST
Having given your post a more respectable and thorough third read-through, I believe that the issue you face is the belief that tanks do not like tanking and that healers do not like healing. I believe, overall, this may not be the case. If polled: Several tanks love their jobs, as do several healers like their role in the party.
I'm not sure that's his issue at all. Or at least not what I interpreted. :)
Speaking as a tank, I like tanking. I like being in control of the monsters trying to eat the rest of the party, and putting my tons-of-armour-clad-self between the two. In a sense, I enjoy using my cooldowns to increase my survivability and working with the healer to keep my poor masochistic (I swear, character can tank and not enjoy pain a little bit. :P) butt alive. Therein confirming Caeryn's point of "Tanks/Healers love their jobs."
My interpretation is thus: As an overal community, people would rather DPS and kill things instead of adopting "pressure roles" like tanking or healing. I'll admit that trying to play with people through the dungeon finder can be a harrowing experience for a tank or healer because your efforts are heavily scrutinized by people who may not entirely understand how difficulty your position in the party is. I've swore off the dungeon finder for weeks due to a particularly stressful number of attempts at a heroic boss in which not one but two people had my tanking skills under a magnify glass. I've been steadily weening myself back, but I usually venture out into the land of random with at least a guildie or two (for heroics anyway).
Part of this is social disparity, and part of it is a change of mindset. I certainly agree that the game needs to be stepped up by all (I did read your post on that matter Caeryn and I completely agree). There also needs to be understanding that the game has changed for even the tanks and the healers. AoE tanking is a nearly non-existent concept. Healers now have to manage their mana by what heals they cast. People also need to exercise a level of patience while this transition occurs.
Though it is easier to simply rage at people you don't know and may never see again for being failures.
(I may have tangented somewhere in there. It's late and I'm tired.)
Lystaa pretty much nailed it.
I made sure to mention that there are people, many people, that like to tank and heal. They are a minority, and a perpetuating minority due to the realities of the social pressure Lystaa mentions.
If you see Deverin in a random dungeon, unless he has two friends with him, he is DPSing. If he has the "be nice or you're gone" majority, he's likely tanking. Most tanks I know in my close circle will only do so under similar circumstances. Now, obviously willing tanks are out there, and willing, capable, tactically intelligent DPS. I personally do NOT want a return to the late WOTLK gaming style, (in WoW) but it was obviously popular. I actually like that everyone of every role (in WoW) is being forced through the forgefire of cataclysm's content direction, but less selfishly, I know that the popularity of WOTLK, and indeed the queue disparity says that "less stressful and more violent is more popular", and so there is a market there.
Caeryn, I can answer your question about "is tanking/healing harder": It depends on what you like, but as Lystaa mentions, you are absolutely expected to singularly be immediately competent in a randomized scenario. DPS are one of three, you can spend a few pulls, or even the length of a dungeon fine tuning yourself. A tank or a healer, vastly less so. I've trained tanks that say "I don't really want to lead, tell me what to do" and I tell them "fix that Impulse before you hit the dungeon finder". There is no comfortable "follower" option as a tank.
My biggest point is, willing or not, tanks and healers, as an obvious minority, (and again, I say this as one of them, having 3 tanks and 3 healers among my characters on this server) are depended on far, far too much for the majority's game progress and enjoyment. This leads both to frustrating the majority and swelling the heads of that empowered minority on multiple occasions. Imagine a game where that unfortunate dynamic didn't exist, is all I'm saying.
I also feel I should re-highlight:
This discussion was more of a musing outside my usual "welcome to cataclysm: L2Social" angle, which I support greatly.
If you were to look at a game such as Rift: where you can inhabit as many souls as you quest for, and you are able to heal as a Mage, put out massive amounts of damage as the Rogue Tank, etc, - that breaks the mold. Of course, we are getting away from Blizzard controlled territory here; however, that is one game where your "ideal" may apply.
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