Class discrimination.

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.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
This entry was posted in Combat Systems, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO design, Warhammer Online, World of Warcraft. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Class discrimination.

  1. Lars says:

    Healers typically are a defensive role. Instead of killing other players they focus on protecting the own team. Sometimes I wonder wether it is human nature to enjoy defeating others more than protecting. It might be an ego thing because if player A kills player B he is the “better” and more “stronger” one. And the honour and glory belongs to player A, and not to player C who kept player A alife by healing him.

    And WoW favors DPS classes in every possible way. Take the “kill board” at the end of every battleground. Do people care about most healing done? No. Every player talks about kills and most damage done. And btw., what are these kill boards good for?
    And as you said, DPS classes can quest faster, they can grind faster and they don’t need no help. As a healer you are basically limited to instances and perhaps arena.
    So I’d say it’s quite logical to not play a healing class in WoW, isn’t it?

  2. Bodie says:

    As the ultimate buffbot (WoW Paladin, Holy-specced) and a Guild Master who constantly struggles with tank and healer numbers this is a problem that simply becomes more frustrating as time goes on.

    From a personal point of view I generally only log on to raid, unless I absolutely desperately need money for repairs and pots etc, since grinding cash for such things is exceptionally dull and long-winded. Atm the only viable way around this in WoW is to level another toon that is better suited to farming for me than my main (ni hao to all you hunterbots), and quite frankly I don’t have the time. Soloing with a holy paladin is slightly less fun than updating all my mods and making sure my UI still works on a patch day.

    From the GM point of view, it is even more frustrating. I have a tank who is so downbeat about his lack of utility outside raiding he has now gone Fury spec rather than leave the game altogether, rendering him just one of the large group of melee DPS guildies who I have to choose from for raiding, and leaving me a tank down. A similiar thing just happened with one of our best healers, a holy priest who changed class altogether to the notoriously overpowered warlock class favoured by narrow-minded Blizzard devs everywhere. Not like I’ll have any tanks left for him to pull aggro off soon anyway…

  3. syncaine says:

    Bodie reading your post is like a flashback to my guilds forum back a year or so. I was a tank myself, so for us it was always a lack of healing. But yea, we had our best priests go shadow, and he still outhealed all our other priests. Of course, soon as we let him go shadow, everyone else wanted to go shadow, and pop goes our healing. I certainly don’t miss raiding, and even more so I don’t miss being an officer in a raiding guild. Too much work for little reward.

  4. Pingback: The draw of DPS classes | World of Warcraft | World of Warcraft Blog by Azakia

  5. *vlad* says:

    I get irritated when people put the damage meters up at the end of a session and start bragging about who was top etc. The game is about beating the instance, not doing the most damage.
    How about this for a novel approach? Why don’t developers just ditch the healing class, then we won’t have to worry about not having one available?
    A Tank’s armour could absorb so much damage before he starts to take any damage himself. Or alternatively you could find healing packages like you do in so many offline games; little first aid kits on the wall, or health potions scattered around. HOT trinkets and gear with Renews built into them that proc every so often.
    Just a thought.

  6. Zubon says:

    I advertise City of Heroes healers. Defenders, Corruptors, and Controllers can all be good offensive classes that also heal, or they use damage mitigation like buffs and debuffs. City of Heroes players mostly see healing as a bad thing, because we would rather have force fields or clouds of darkness that keep us from being hurt in the first place.

    Making buffs and debuffs the center of support makes support classes powerful on their own. Kinetics and Radiation Emmission are extremely so desired in City of Heroes/Villains that people have made entire supergroups with nothing but.

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