Guild Wars 2 breaks the shackles of life, death, and the holy trinity

I feel increasingly that big upcoming MMOs are now marketing to the post-WoW player base. Instead of “If you like WoW, try this too; it’s like WoW with new content/ free,” we’re getting more targeted messages which can be interpreted as, “If you liked WoW but are tired of it, try this; it’s like WoW with a new twist.”

So we have Final Fantasy 14 with the ability to switch classes any time you like. We have SWTOR with the long class specific storylines and smart companions. And then there is Guild Wars 2.

Of all the new AAA MMO devs, Arenanet seem most inclined to pry apart and rebuild their MMO from the ground up. Maybe once we all get to play it, the reaction will be, “Huh, it really is just like WoW with a couple of minor twists. Psych!”  Or maybe they’ll be forced to make the game more WoW-like after taking player feedback.

But the current dev blog slips some intriguing details about their plans.

Always look on the bright side of death

In GW2, there will be a two stage death process. After your character has lost all their health, they are downed. They will still have some special last ditch abilities that can be used in a downed state, so they can still contribute to the fight while hoping someone else will come heal them. If you actually manage to kill an enemy when you are downed, then you recover!

Then if a downed player is attacked some more, they can be defeated – which sounds more like a classic MMO death. You can either be ressed by another player or return via a waypoint/ graveyard (and they will let you pick any waypoint which you have already discovered on the world map which opens up some possibly unintentional opportunities for death travel.)

This has similarities with the current D&D rules, in which a player isn’t actually dead until they are on –10 health. At 0 health, you’re down and bleeding but not yet out.

I find this concept very appealing. I like the idea of having a last ditch chance to throw a rock at an enemy, get in a lucky shot from prone position, or something similar. I do think it will make near death experiences a lot more exciting in the game.

Also, does any warrior not wish they had this ability (given as an example of how some character abilities will interact with the fallen/ defeated state). Res/ rally someone by killing a monster nearby? Yes please!

… when a warrior uses “I Will Avenge You,” and then kills an enemy nearby his fallen allies, his allies will rally.

It’s always people who hate healing who want to destroy the tank/heal/dps trinity

Every time I’ve read an article by a player or developer who wanted to destroy the holy gaming role trinity, it’s always been someone who hated healing. Is it really only healers and support classes who benefit from the trinity setup? I always rather liked having such different roles available.

Anyhow, the GW2 devs want to go a different route.

We keep hearing other MMO developers espousing the “holy trinity” of DPS/ heal/tank with such reverence, as if this is the most entertaining combat they have ever played. Frankly, we don’t like sitting around spamming “looking for healer” to global chat.

It might be truer to say that they aim to redefine the trinity and share the responsibility across all classes. So instead of dps/heal/tank, they discuss dps/support/control. I think it’s a great idea to identify tanking with control and share the responsibility around the group.

But their definition of support is focussed on short term buffs and situational abilities rather than healing. I think it sounds fun and fast paced, but not entirely sure how much dedicated support players are going to like it.

Healing is for when you are already losing. In Guild Wars 2 we prefer that you support your allies before they take a beating. Sure, there are some healing spells in Guild Wars 2, but they make up a small portion of the support lines that are spread throughout the professions.

Having said that, the idea of someone at the back of the group casting heal spells while you take damage has never been particularly immersive.

Maybe it’s because I could use a break from the WoW-type formula that I’m intrigued to try this myself. I wonder though whether this new scheme will tend to encourage an ‘each for himself’ mentality in groups as opposed to deep roles for players to learn. It will be interesting to find out.

Does the notion of a more PvP style of PvE appeal to you?

(Hm, I wonder if it’s really a good idea to tag this post with ‘holy trinity’ …)

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16 thoughts on “Guild Wars 2 breaks the shackles of life, death, and the holy trinity

  1. I’m pretty intrigued. They make a good case against death penalty, which seems to fit well with their more casual audience.

    Breaking up the trinity, I can only guess if it’ll work out or not.

  2. Pingback: On MMOs « Marianne’s Musings

  3. I promised myself FFXIV will be my last MMO, but I didn’t say I couldn’t play anything else along with it, did I? Oh, I didn’t? Good news for me, then. :)

    In all seriousness, I am very intrigued by the news coming through about GW2 lately – enough so that I’m looking forward to playing.

  4. Dragged out a longer reply into it’s own post, but in short:

    Dedicated healer type is unhappy. Disallowing me my preferred role, especially because it’s “boring” or a “sign of losing” is not going to be anything but a turn-off. I went from very interested to disappointed.

  5. > Res/ rally someone by killing a monster nearby? Yes please!

    Haha, yes. More power to the babysitter. :-)

    > the idea of someone at the back of the group casting heal
    > spells while you take damage has never been particularly
    > immersive.

    For me it was one of the most immersive things in WoW. Fighting
    a huge dragon (e.g. Onyxia) in a 40 man raid and you just need
    6 healers full time on the tank. That makes sence and shows you
    how powerfull the dragon is.

    Now with 10 man raids on the other side, it’s not very immersive
    to have the lich king and a single healer healing the tank and parts
    of the raid.

    • “For me it was one of the most immersive things in WoW. Fighting a huge dragon (e.g. Onyxia) in a 40 man raid and you just need 6 healers full time on the tank. That makes sence and shows you how powerfull the dragon is.”

      For me it just showed how stupid the AI/game design is. Why would a being so powerful spend all of it’s effort trying to kill the near invulnerable regenerating spiky turtle and not all the squishy vulnerable healers and casters?

      Tank & Spank is just so god-awfully boring.

      • To me, although playing support is fun, I do find it non-immersive to have support guys standing at the back and healing during a battle.

        I’d find it more immersive if the healers set up camp at the back and if anyone got badly injured, someone could take them over to the healers to get sorted out. Like in a battlefield.

        I can’t quite square things in my head that you can heal during combat is all. And that as a tank I can laugh in a dragons’ face because I’m having so much health poured into me. I just always find it odd.

      • > Tank & Spank is just so god-awfully boring.

        Sure, but boring and immersion are two different things.

  6. City of Heroes follows this pattern. It’s a much easier game than WoW, but then you can ratchet up the number and level of enemies if you are feeling uber. I have been on teams that had no healing, but two or three out of eight were controllers/defenders. We did fine.

  7. As far as guild wars 2 goes, I have been pretty excited about everything they have said about it so far… the fact that the original game is gorgeous, and that I thought Mesmers were tons of fun (hope to see them come back) helps too.

    As far as healing goes, I have 2 thoughts.

    1) I can totally understand healers being upset about not having healing the way it is in most MMOs available. Tanking and DPSing are basically the same, you just want the monster hitting you in one role, and want it hitting someone else in the other, while healing is RADICALLY different from both of those roles. If they go through with this, it would be really nice if they can still provide that feel, really for all 3 roles, that there is a difference between damage, support, and control, if everything feels kind of the same, that is no good.

    2) The way tanking and healing works in MMOs is ridiculous and is a huge blow to immersiveness. As a tank, I get hit by a dragon, burned, poisoned, etc. enough over the course of 1 fight to turn me into a fine paste, then burn that paste to ash and turn the ash into toxic waste, but that doesn’t happen because someone is basically holding my bones together with magic. It’s… absurd (and one of the reasons I like disc priests… they make more sense), and when I think about it to hard, it makes me feel less like a skilled warrior fighting a dragon, than some sort of magical golem in the dragon’s way.

    I would much prefer a system where my goal is to avoid damage with the support of a class who can put up magical shields to deflect the blows that I fail to avoid. It’s much more cinematic to me.

  8. Original Guild Wars on release:

    PvP game with some pve content. pvp had dps/support/heal classes, with in 8v8 pvp only 1 player being a pure healer, though typically also only 3 pure dps players, with 4 players playing support/pressure/mitigation. In pvp tanks are worhtless (unless it’s unorganised random pvp with idiots that actually try to down a tank on their own). As the focus of the game was pvp the number of tanking skills was minimal (taunt non-existant), though the AI had a first-see-try-to-kill thing which made it possible to jump in first and get all the aggro.

    Most pve-only players used the last approach on harder content and even though the game wasn’t really designed for dedicated tanking people tried it anyways. Later the AI was changed so that lowest health/armor got the highest priority and there was an outcry… tanking is impossible… GW is gonna die…

    It didn’t. The pve community adapted, but instead of playing the game wihtout a dedicated tank, the pve community turned to using the terrain to optimum advantage and had the tank do complex luring far away from the party and put the mobs into a grouped position at a corner so that the tank could corner-block the mobs and prevent them from attacking the rest of the party.

    Long story short, 2 expansions later people cried that GW (pve) was too easy and the developers added an elite area named Domain of Anguish with a boss called Mallyx. The pve community was so set in their tank-nuke-heal ways that it took them forever to clear those areas, did it with the most slowest group builds (focussing on maximum protection) you can imagine, just to be able to tank-nuke-heal. Even then the end-boss Mallyx was only defeated using glitches (so that he didnt attack the party and just stood there).

    At some point this got patched and then the pve community erupted, it’s impossible to kill the boss!!! In the end it took some more pvp oriented players to prove that Mallyx was perfectly killable. And they didn’t use a tank.

    Unfortunately around this time Anet decided to make it easier for everybody by giving free hacks to everybody (uber-consumables) and the pve-community went back to their happy tank-nuke-healing.

    My point. The majority of PvE players WANT nuke-tank-heal. They will not figure out how to get past a certain point of the game if there is no trinity (original guild wars had thunderhead keep (a mission) as legendary noob-filter, most players did not pass this mission without being boosted through it), or such missions get nerfed and people cry that the game is too easy.

    • “The majority of EXISTING PvE players WANT nuke-tank-heal.”

      Fixed?

      I agree that many will try to shoehorn the trinity where it doesn’t belong. That doesn’t mean that it’s an inviolate cornerstone of MMO game design, or that it’s the only way to make a good game.

      GW2 isn’t a WoW clone; it’s ambition lies elsewhere. I believe that’s healthy.

  9. And also.. if there is the slightest possibility to use the trinity, the people will figure it out and it will become the standard in pugs, even if it is 4 x slower then the intended way, because it is more comfortable to the players.

    You might now a much better way of doing it, but try explaining that to the x number of pugs that you also need.

  10. “Every time I’ve read an article by a player or developer who wanted to destroy the holy gaming role trinity, it’s always been someone who hated healing.”

    Huh. I’m pretty sure I’ve railed against the trinity a few times without coming at it from that angle. I just don’t like the static nature of it and the stupid AI. ;)

    Good article, Spinks. I’m really looking forward to GW2.

    Oh, and the “last stand” downed mechanic reminds me of L4D.

  11. Yeah the 2 death scenario is the type of mechanic that Borderlands uses and is a lot of fun.

    I played GW’s the original and first 3 expansions before switching to WoW. Ultimately though I played GW’s as a solo game and rarely grouped with people unless I was running them through content (my favorite activity). GW2 looks promising and I’m definitely going to have to try it out.

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