Souls > Trinity

If everyone can be a tank/healer/dps, do you still have a holy trinity?

Games with skill systems, rather than class systems, don’t have the holy trinity problem. You don’t stop a fleet action in EVE because your tank is afk, and you don’t call off a siege in Darkfall because your main healer is offline. In UO you never went looking for more DPS to fill out a dungeon group.

That is an advantage to a skill based system, yet players do enjoy playing a set role. There is something familiar and enjoyable about playing a tank if that’s what you like, and you simply can’t do that in most skill-based systems. I can play a bit more ‘tanky’ in Darkfall, but it’s not nearly the same thing.

Rift’s soul system presents the best of both worlds. I still get a character that plays and feels genuinely tanky, yet if a group already has a tank I’m not excluded. If all three of our top healers are online, rather than running a sub-optimal group, one or more of them can quickly switch over and we are good to go with one tank, one healer, three dps (if that’s what’s needed).

The advantages go much deeper than that however.

If you design a raid encounter to require 15 DPS and 5 healers (or even 20 straight DPS. Say a boss that deals no damage until a certain time, at which point he insta-gibs everyone), in a traditional class-based game that encounter will be flagged as a guild-breaker. Your tanks (usually the key players) sit on the sideline, your guild composition gets all out of whack, and the fight itself is tagged more as a gimmick than an interesting challenge. In Rift that encounter can easily exist (and hopefully will if it does not already), because every tank can also be a DPS, and DPS can switch to a healer role.

On a smaller but equally important scale, the soul system makes putting together a 5-man PUG much easier, as almost anyone can play any role (warriors can’t heal, mages can’t tank, otherwise everyone can do everything). If you are a priest (normally healer) and see a group needing one more DPS, it’s up to you if you want to switch over to a DPS soul spec and join in. In a traditional themepark, no matter how badly that priest wanted to run that instance, he simply could not fill in the DPS role. There is also something to be said about players adapting to the needs of the group, and what kind of community something like that tends to foster. Rift is free of the ‘huntard’ stuff that plagues other games, simply because if that kind of spec is an issue, it can quickly and easily be switched out.

Another major issue in older class-based systems is what to do with hybrids. If you make a hybrid just as good at all roles as those classes who can only do one, you gimp the focused-role class. If you make the hybrid slightly weaker, the optimal setup is to leave all the hybrids at home. If the hybrid is stronger in one of their roles, they are forced into just that one role, ruining the whole point of the hybrid in the first place. Not only that, but each balance change might ‘force’ a role change for the hybrid, so someone who enjoyed healing and was doing just fine might now find themselves forced to either dps/tank or sit on the sideline. MMO history is packed with guild drama stemming from such issues.

In Rift, since everyone is a hybrid, you don’t need to worry about the specialized class. If a warrior’s DPS is just as good as a rogues/mages, that’s fine. If a rogue can tank at a warriors level, again, no issue. A priest won’t get bumped from a raid in Rift because a mage can healer. Of course individual souls still require balance, but the tough act of ensuring hybrids do something without doing everything is off the table, and this not only makes for an inherently more balanced game, but one that can allow different souls to perform certain specific tasks better, so long as other classes either have something similar or complimentary.

It’s because of these meta-reasons that I believe Rift’s soul system is the game-changing feature, even more so than the rift system. Rifts add a great deal in terms of content and zone activity, but the soul system not only solves some very core MMO issues, it makes playing the game itself far more enjoyable. Instead of constantly rerolling alts and re-grinding to experience all facets of the game, Rift allows me to switch things up on the fly, and while a warrior does play differently than a priest, I’m not excluded from experiencing group play as a tank, melee dps, ranged dps, or support just because I picked a character who wears plate armor.

Hell, if I want to stop tanking halfway through an instance and just DPS, I can do that, and our group won’t need to reform or put out the call for another tank. The content-design possibilities are mind-blowing when you consider that, and Trion can (should) get very, very creative going forward.

One can hope that, with the trinity solved, perhaps we can progress beyond “don’t stand in the fire” and Dance Dance Revolution raid design. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully Trion is as well.

About SynCaine

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

21 Responses to Souls > Trinity

  1. Max says:

    I wouldnt paint picture that rosy as in Rift’s case it is not all gravy. – old issues raise its head at expert level ,especially t2.

    Then you find out that you need 3 sets of gear (tank ,dps, pvp), that some classes are just that much better in their role (in dps and tanking department warriors obsolete the rogues) , some tanks (clerics) have issues with aggro, that bards healing is not worth really anything (as it has no on demand large heals), etc…

    Of course all that could be fixed and tweaked with balancing patches .

    All in all it is imho definitely step in right direction

  2. Kyir says:

    Some of us like the trinity.

    • SynCaine says:

      So… you prefer being locked into just one role vs having the option to play all three?

      • Pitrelli says:

        Ultimately the trinity is still there though so not much changes.

        In most mmos you also have several classes who can tank/dps, heal/dps and indeed two who can do all 3 (they dont have triple spec available granted) *shrug*

        • SynCaine says:

          Yes, having some is called having hybrids, I covered that in the post… Is this really not clear to others here?

          Having SOME is an issue. Having ALL solves that issue.

          Souls don’t remove clear-cut roles like a skills system does, you still go 1/1/3 in a 5-man. It’s just that you don’t get locked into a role if you happen to roll a rogue or mage like you do in WoW or other such games. That’s a pretty drastic change if you ask me.

        • Pitrelli says:

          but you dont have all if poor ol warriors cant heal and mages cant tank

        • SynCaine says:


          5 mages or 5 warriors can’t run an instance.

          Back to the drawing board I guess.

        • brannagar says:

          A mage tank soul is coming and probably a warrior healing soul. They will cover all their bases. They had to save something back for content patches and expansions!

      • Kyir says:

        I do. Mostly because I hate DPS and tanking, but people expect me to be able to when the possibility exists.

  3. Brindle says:

    The Rift system has a terrible ‘darkside’. That being the presure to force people to change specs. I like to play a DPS rogue, I do NOT want to play a bard. But time and time again, it’s play bard or no play at all for finding dungeon groups. It is much worse in a Rift system because the groups know you can change spec and are not stuck with what you want/desire to play. It really encourages Min/Maxing IMO more than not.

  4. Syl says:

    Hi Syncaine
    Getting rid (hopefully) of all the issues connected to the holy trinity, is why I am looking forward to GW2 so much. I’ve spent a lot of time on the topic last week and posted a round-up on trinity blogposts yesterday; the more I read, the more connections I’ve found related to this issue. I think we have fascinating times ahead in terms of game concepts and I hope we’ll see more and more developers having the courage to take us up a level or two.

  5. Carson says:

    Answer to the question in paragraph one: yes, because game mechanics allowing everyone the option of tanking and healing doesn’t mean everyone is willing or able to tank or heal.

    Witness the common sight in WoW: a paladin or druid repeatedly posting “LF2M for (something), ned tank and haels”

    • bonedead says:

      Well I pretty much never play a tank or healer role in every other mmo I play, yet in Rift, I find myself playing a main healer. What does that mean? I DONT KNOW

  6. Stabs says:

    As a Rift guild leader the soul system changes raiding in some interesting ways.

    First, it really gives flexibilty during the raid. I can say go 1 tank, 1 healer, 8 dps for trash then ask for 3 tanks, 3 healers, 4 dps for the boss. If I just want to teach people the positions then maybe we can even go 2 tanks, 8 healers just for a practice run on a fight we keep dying on. To be fair WOW always had this at the hardcore end – we sent our priests to respec for the mind control boss in Naxx 40 and the guild paid the (then exorbitant) respec costs. Even more so with dual spec.

    Because of this it means I can require 2 roles to gain raider status in my guild. Players who don’t want to do this, like Brindle above, would have to find another guild.

    Because of this it should cut down on main spec/off spec drama. No one has a main spec. Every raider is a hybrid. (We will have some people raiding with us who are not “raider” status but they don’t get to bid against raiders on loot anyway).

    This is quite different from conventional WoW raiding which is really conventional EQ raiding, its conventions unchallenged since 1999.

    • SynCaine says:

      How is Rift raiding, compared to say early WoW raiding? If the answer is too long, make a post on your blog. I’d be interested to see your take on it.

      • brannagar says:

        I would say it is pretty close to early WoW, though Greenscale is not as hard as, say, Blackwing Lair. Greenscale is an introductory raid, the hard stuff will be in Hammerknell.

      • Stabs says:

        Too early for me to say. I’ve only done one end game raid, the quest boss in Stillmoor.

        The boss didn’t move, spawned a lot of adds, put circles of fire around for people to move out of (or not).

        He hit like a truck and we lost our tank 2 or 3 times but managed to get her up again. This was despite about 7 main healers plus 4 Bards. I think people were too used to aoe healing and not used enough to tank healing.

        We managed to win anyway.

        I’ll post in depth after I’ve had a look at a proper raid instance.

  7. pkudude99 says:

    Funny thing is that I ran across several threads of players complaining that when in melee dps spec they’re getting whacked by boss abilities that don’t have a warning so they can’t joust them.

    Replies that since they have 3-4 roles that they could swap to a ranged dps role for that fight are met with stunned “But that’s not my preferred playstyle!” retorts.

    To which I can only think “the whole POINT of the soul system and roles is so that you can swap on the fly in order to make your group successful. If you’re not willing to do that, then why are you playing Rift instead of something else?”

    On my mage I have a dps role, a healer role, and a buff/cc role. I’ve started dungeons as dps and finished them as a healer on more than 1 occasion. On my cleric I’ve got a tank role, a healer role, and a dps (with passive heals) role. I’ve used the healer and dps roles 1x each, and have tanked a lot of dungeons. . . . . Rogues swapping from pure dps to bard builds if we need a little more healing, clerics swapping from melee to ranged dps vs the mobs with nasty damage shields — I’ve seen all of this.

    The time I was healer was in a group with 2 warriors, 1 wanted to tank, but was such a noob he only had a dps spec, so the other one swapped to a tank spec and took over, or I could have changed to tank and the mage could have gone chloro to heal me while both warriors stayed dps, but we ended up not needing to and the group was still successful.

    I’ve been in several groups composed of 3 clerics and 2 rogues, with me tanking, another cleric healing, and the other 3 being dps. But I’ve also a couple of times been tank while the mage healed and the 3 warriors did dps. And I love it! I love the flexibility.

  8. Eudaimonic says:

    There is one playstyle that is actually negatively affected by Rift’s role flexibility – players who only want to participate in one playstyle. In other MMOs you could just roll rogue and no one would really begrudge you for going DPS. Even though, given the comparative demand and importance of each role, DPSers are freeriding on the backs of Tanks/Healers (as well articulated in Tobolds recent controversial series of posts), the fact is your class simply couldn’t spec into something else no matter how hard you tried, and there’s certainly no expectation that you would level an alt just to help the guild fill out a shortfall in one area.

    In Rift all of this is thrown out the window, to the point that a Rogue that categorically refuses to ever switch to bard, or a Mage that refuses to ever switch to chloro, is perceived as selfish. Gear is an issue for endgame content, especially for callings that want to tank, but Rogue:Bard and Mage:Chloro specs do not require different gear from their respective DPS specs. Similarly, Cleric DPS gear overlaps quite a bit with Cleric healing gear – you’d trade focus for more spell power/crit when healing, but you’ve probably already got both just in the normal process of gearing out. The tank gear is the only one that truly requires a completely different gear set. Thus it’s a common convention in groups still gearing in/perfecting T2 dungeons for there to be a “floating” DPS, either cleric, mage, or rogue, that specs to a support/offheal/2nd main heal spec on tougher bosses to make the run go smoothly. Other common respeccs are for DPS to specc for debuff and/or extra AOEs on some fights.

    So where does this leave players who simply only want to DPS? They’re left looking selfish for their refusal to make minor concessions that make the group stronger. And honestly, I have no problem with that. Theme park endgames _are_ a team activity, and players _should_ be willing to make small sacrifices for the team. Rerolling, leveling, and gearing a new toon is not a small sacrifice. Having an off-heal specc, or a RDPS specc in your back pocket is a small sacrifice.

    But again, players who like one playstyle and one playstyle only, and previously relied on the rigidity of theme park class systems to shield this obstinacy from criticism, are probably not going to enjoy the new flexibility.

    This is especially true for DPS players, because Rift’s flexibility is exposing what smart people already knew about theme park endgame design: in most fights DPS does not matter. You can either go DPS and make the fight go 10% faster with a significant chance for failure, or get a second healer and give the run a near 100% success rate: an extra rez for if the healer goes down, consistent heals when the healer is feared, etc. Obviously there are DPS-race style fights where you want the DPS, but groups are realizing that in most content it’s better to play it safe and use a 2nd healer than risk a wipe just to make the boss fight go marginally faster.

    • Coeur-de-fer says:

      Though I thought of this very issue almost instantly, you’ll have to excuse me if I fail to shed a tear for those poor, poor single-role players whose inflexibility has hitherto been obfuscated, at least partially, by the rigidity of a traditional class system. Anyone wishing to limit their range of services is obviously free to do so, but to additionally expect the same breadth of opportunity as those willing to adapt to the situation at hand is idiotic, and reeks of entitlement. That someone might suspect they don’t, in reality, have the group’s best interest in mind seems, to some, a real tragedy, I’m sure. If the soul system encourages these types to make a few compromises along with the rest of the group, quit the game, or grow a spine and own up to their motives, I’d consider that an improvement. Whether or not it’s a financial improvement for Trion is a different matter.

  9. thehampster says:

    If you go back through this post and replace the word “soul” with “dual spec,” then this would have been a great article . . . two years ago.

    Rift sure is innovative! But seriously, the huge number of potential spec’s is nice b/c it’ll hopefully stop theorycrafters like EJ from easily finding the optimal spec for every situation. Thereby actually lettying players choose talents instead of going with whatever is proven via simulators to be most efficient.

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