Over at Keen and Graev yesterday a great post was made on why the majority of MMO players seem to gravitate towards DPS classes. Here are some clips, along with my thoughts.
“Big Number Syndrome, or BNS, is the addiction some players have that leads them to think that unless they are dealing huge numbers their character is worthless.”
I agree with this, but I think it applies to most roles, not just DPS. Healers are known to brag about that major crit heal almost as much as the dps classes boast about crit hits. The base of BNS though is that the bigger ‘result’ you get, regardless of what it is, the higher your character has grown, and everyone likes seeing character growth.
“The lack of responsibility also draws many players to play dps roles. Your job is simple: dps the mob. You aren’t worrying about keeping aggro, healing, or crowd control.”
I somewhat disagree with the above. In many games DPS classes also have support functions, be it crowd control, trap disarming, support healing, etc. Rogues in WoW sap and stun, burglars in LoTRO start combo attacks, rogues in DDO must disarm traps and find secrets. If a MMO allows a dps class to simply sit back and do nothing but dump out max dps it not only makes for a somewhat boring class to play, it makes for a shallow character. One major function of high level dps classes is also watching your agro. If you are someone who constantly pulls mobs off the tank, you won’t be getting many group invites in the future.
“Dps classes level faster in almost every single game!”
The above is true, and is a major problem. As Keen and Graev point out, the general way of leveling up is by killing things, and since high dps = dead stuff quick, it’s not hard to see why a top dps class would out-level others. This has more to do with HOW you level in most MMOs than the dps classes being ‘broken’. A great example would be EVE Online, where everyone can train skills at basically the same rate, regardless of what you decide to focus on. A miner/trader will gain skill points just as quickly as someone who plays a pure combat pilot. EVE aside, most games however are still in “kill x mobs” to advance mode, and the above dps problem will still be an issue.
One age old problem that often arises in a MMO world is the abundance of dps classes, with a major lack of tanks and healers. When you go to form a group to handle a tougher encounter, what classes are you always waiting for? Yes indeed, either a healer or a tank. Almost never is a group lacking in dps classes, and if a dps member ever leaves midway through, they are easily replaced. This creates the problem that everyone wants tanks/healers around, but no one wants to play them, as they are perceived to be less fun solo. I think it falls to the developers to fix this problem, not the player base. The players will do whatever they deem to be fun, since that’s the reason we pick up and play these games in the first place. The developers have only themselves to blame when their community finds healers/tanks uninteresting to play.
WoW did a decent job with this by giving priests and druids some offensive abilities in the form of shadow and feral builds. The tanks of WoW have the option of going arms or fury spec to increase dps, at the cost of tanking ability. While a good start, this only delays the inevitable. As soon as a priest joins a raiding guild, they spec for healing, and if a warrior is brought in to tank they won’t be doing it with arms or fury.
Instead of delaying the less desired but necessary aspects of these roles, developers must find a way to make playing a healer just as appealing as a dps class. Gameplay must go beyond watching x number of life bars and topping them off as they hit 50%, completely oblivious to anything else going on. No class should ever be regarded as a buff bot, useless beyond a pre-fight spell or two.
LoTRO made a decent attempt to break the old mold by giving more classes the ability to heal, which in theory should have decreased the demand to always include a pure healer. This fell short however, as the class based healing was too weak, and for all tough encounters a group did indeed have to drag along a healer. Had they increased the power of each classes healing, and given the pure healer more function beyond just healing, a good balance could be reached and the old paradigm of tank/healer/dps might have been broken.
It sounds like Warhammer online is also attempting this approach, and it will be interesting to see if they succeed. Healing is invaluable in PvP, yet the life of a healer on a battlefield is often even more frustrating than when he is roaming around solo completing quests. It’s one thing to have to run away from an npc monster, it’s another to stand around helplessly as another player beats you down. If done right, the battlefields of WAR will feature a nice mix of classes all playing their part. If not, we might see the same 3-4 pure dps classes dominating repeatedly.