The End for ‘Pure’ Tanks and Healers

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.

Dual Specs

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.

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12 thoughts on “The End for ‘Pure’ Tanks and Healers

  1. More seriously, I think hybridization will happen more and more as people all grow to hate the ‘core group’ mechanism. Both classes added to LotRO are hybrids of sorts, and with fixes to the captain class, I really can tank or heal – which is quite a bizarre place to be. I’m specced fully healing, but even I can pretty much grab aggro if I wanted to, and it is very fast to respec a little, or I could have gone for a more hybrid spec, except we’re short on healers still!

  2. I don’t know if any developers have thought of, or implemented, my idea to make classes more enjoyable in ‘duel’ career sets. Sure WAR has done a great job with tactics, allowing us more versatility for different play styles, but they only went half way imo.

    What I would love to have is 2 career sets, switchable but on say a 20 hour cool down. Now I know that developers like to charge us every time we wish to respect, I’m not saying remove that aspect, in fact I’m suggesting increasing the cost but for each of the 2 sets.

    Imagine having your primary PvE Healing spec (career tree, tactics, morales, renown points, gear) and a RvR spec. Now say you’re doing BWE or similar on Monday, activate your Healing spec job done. Now on Tuesday (or after you’ve cleared said instance) you fancy doing some scens/ORvR so you switch to your RvR set. This would cut out all the nonsense of having to respec every time and allow you to jump in without any down time. This would also make levelling for players far more enjoyable.
    Try lvling a Shaman to 40 with a pure healing spec…………….trust me it’s hell!

  3. As a Knight in the Knight-rush I find myself very often as one of many tanks in a warband, which is very frustrating when there only is a few mobs to tank. Our DPS is nothing spectacular with sword and board, and that leads to tanks taunting mobs of each other to feel “useful”.

    Dual specs would solve this problem since both on my WP and Knight I’m carrying around an extra set of gear for damage in the bags.

  4. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how the changes to tanking classes in Wrath – better solo DPS and more tolerance for tanking off-spec – have helped tank pools on my server. It seems like now most PUG’s get hung up on finding healers, rather than tanks, where before it was BOTH in short supply.

    Whether dual spec is the solution is a separate question – healing takes a bit more in the way of dedicated skill and gear than tanking does, and neither is something that just any DPS can push a button and do effectively. Meanwhile, it will cause loot drama by blurring the line between “off-set” and main spec. Ah well, times change.

  5. @Green Armadillo: I think dual specs is a good answer to my problem (what do I do if I rolled with a grouping class/spec but it’s not needed in groups?).

    It’s not necessarily the answer to yours … but I don’t see that it will make things worse. The more flexible classes will be able to swap to whichever role a group needs more which presumably means more groups can form. For sure, not every player wants the hassle of gearing and practicing at several roles, but a lot do and every one that does will make grouping easier.

    Loot drama I find can be avoided by telling everyone involved to stop whining and let the RNG sort it out ;)

  6. The problem with Hybrids is that they’re rapidly becoming ‘too good’ at what they do. For example, why roll anything other than a Druid? A group full of druids could almost handle any encounter in WotLK right now. Could a group of, for example rogues, achieve the same? It’s more than unlikely. Therefore why would I bother with a mage/rogue/lock etc.

  7. But I don’t *want* to be a hybrid! I want to be the best dang healer possible. If I want to DPS or tank, I have alts for that.

    I have to agree with Cassini above — there should be a bonus to ‘pure’ classes. The benefit of playing a hybrid should be that you can change completely with a respec and some gear tweaks, but at the cost of not being quiiiiiite as good as a pure class.

    The point being, I want to heal. I want to heal real good. It’s not that I can’t do anything else, I don’t want to.

  8. @Arbitrary Captains are great, and the LOTRO guys seem to have generally taken a different approach to class balancing. I’m only dabbling there at the moment so I don’t know how well it works out at higher levels.

    @Unwise I thought the burglar was such a fun class, I still do really. I loved how you could sub one in for a loremaster or captain with smart use of conjunctions … they never really seemed well understood by the rest of the players though. And that’s the hybrid problem in a nutshell. Why bring second best, even if it’s perfectly good enough, when you can get a specialist who is better?

    @Jamesy: That sounds a bit like the dual spec planned for WoW. We still don’t really know how it’ll affect things but I know I’m looking forwards to it.

    @Regis: I can really relate to that. It’s really fun to be a tank or healer when you’re in demand. But when you’re not … you can end up feeling very very useless.

    @Cassini: I understand where that’s coming from but I don’t really agree. I think it’s fine that people who want to heal (for example) can choose between priest healing, paladin healing, druid healing and shaman healing and they’re all interesting and different. If I ask on guild channel for 3 dps to an instance run, I’m not going to care if they’re pure dps or hybrid dps and I like that I don’t have to. If that means that 10 druids could raid together, well why not? It doesn’t mean that the class is overpowered.

    @Liore: I felt like that in Warhammer. But the majority of my friends also picked healing classes, and suddenly we just couldn’t easily play together. It would have made things a lot easier if people could have taken turns to hybrid it up when we wanted to run dungeons. I think being a pure grouping class is just a lot less fun when you can’t get groups is all.

  9. The Burglar is a fun class, but their group worth is more questionable now than it’s ever been. Lore-masters and Captains got great updates in Moria, whereas Burglars got nerfs, a huge hit to their survivability (-20% to avoidance due to the combat changes), and some crappy skills on 10 minute cooldowns that nobody uses. A DPS specced Burglar now languishes behind DPS Captains and Lore-masters.

    Both Guardians and Hunters can triggers conjunctions almost as reliably as Burglars, and damage conjunctions are now pretty worthless since they haven’t scaled them up with the level increase.

    Burglars have one or two useful abilities that no other class has, but in almost every situation you could swap another class in instead and have an easier time of it. LotRO is primarily a PvE game, but it’s hard not to believe that the reason the Burglar has suffered so greatly since launch is because they were originally such a powerful PvP class. Post-Moria, they are apparently a joke in PvP also.

  10. Pingback: A holiday, a holiday, the first one of the year! Best of 2009. « Welcome to Spinksville!

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