All tank and healer classes should be hybrids. I have seen the light. I came to this realisation late, as in later than a lot of the game designers who have been putting together newer and more interesting classes that aren’t so fixed role lately.
The reason is very simple: it is NOT FUN to be a pure healer if half of your guild is also playing pure healers. It is NOT FUN to be a pure tank if your raids only need 2 of them and you aren’t in line to do that. At least with some hybridness you can take it on the chin, respec, and keep playing the same character.
It is also not very fun to be sitting in a raid like a lemon when a fight only needs one tank and it isn’t you, so you’re trying and failing to properly fill a different role.
Or in other words, it sucks to be a group dependent class if the groups don’t need you. And MMOs have always relied on a vague sense of ‘no one plays healers’ to keep the numbers in check. There is no mechanic in the game to keep the numbers balanced, so if it happens that a tanking spec gets very popular, there are going to be a lot of disappointed tanks out there who can’t find groups.
Group size means a lot. When designers sit down to figure it out, they presumably have some idea of how many tanks, dps, CC, heals they expect in an average group. And then if players want to do the content, they need to somehow magically play those classes in the right numbers.
More hybridness solves this problem. It injects more flexibility into the player base. I mean, there are more underlying problems to do with the whole tank/heal/dps mechanic anyway but it works well enough for now.
The only other answer is to ensure that tanks and healers stay unpopular (hopefully in the right proportions) by keeping the classes weak and limited.
But how do you make more hybrid players?
Well, how do you? Some people just want to heal. So if there are too many healers around, they’re going to have to take their turn on the sidelines or suddenly have to compete aggressively with the other healers.
This is one of the reasons I drifted away from Warhammer Online. I like the game just fine, but I liked my archmage and didn’t want to have to compete with the (many) other healers in our guild for groups. And my archmage just wasn’t hybrid enough for me to dps with her instead, she was simply way behind the rest of the dps. So it really wasn’t a game related issue, except maybe that they’d made healers too popular (!)
And then again, how do you make more hybrid raids? In our 10 man antics, we really appreciated the hybrid classes and had them switching roles on several fights. In 25 mans, people tend to get recruited for fixed roles and expected to stick to them. So my experience is that it’s a bonus of smaller raids that you can relax roles a bit.
Now my ideal would be a hybrid class where the hybridness was so baked in that I wouldn’t need the hassle of respeccing or several sets of gear to switch role. (More on LOTROs runekeeper later this week, when I’ve had more of a feel for it.)
But the dual specs that we’re promised in WoW are a good second best. With the press of a button, you could morph from an awesome tank to an awesome dps. And I would lie if I didn’t say that was appealing. Will it spell the end for pure tanks and healers? I’ve gotten too used to playing with great hybrids to deal with people who whine that they can’t do anything except heal or tank. I bet they could if they tried!
I hope it will.