Howdy there, Lusi-sprites.
Lately I have been really good about not babbling about MMOs or the Sims (which is an excellent game thanksverymuch). Well our happy days are over, it’s time to blather on about … World of Warcraft. I was going to say Sims, and show you guys video of my new house, but I had a rare and likely fleeting moment of generosity. You’re welcome.
Most MMORPGs operate under the same basic principles when it comes to party and class balance. I remember Lane writing an excellent piece regarding this and how that needs to change. Well, apparently the right people do not read our site because nothing has changed. For large-scale group content (the stuff that puts the massively-multiplayer in the RPG) you still need volunteers to be a meat shield and keep the enemies away from the weaker party members, someone to heal the team’s boo-boos, and someone to seriously attack the enemies or else you’ll be there all damn day. Due to real or perceived difficulties in leveling a character as certain classes, most MMORPG populations do not have appropriate role balance. Basically, most games tend to have a huge shortage of tanks, and many have a shortage of healers. As I stated, there is a perception that these roles are difficult to level up, because they cannot kill enemies quickly. I have a friend who rolled a tank in Aion and he said that there is one area where he simply cannot go. By the time he starts to cut a path through the enemies there, they freakin’ respawn. Tanks and healers also tend to shoulder the blame when things go wrong, and some players just want to avoid the drama so roll a damage class.
So, the shiort version is, tanks are usually rare, and healers kinda-rare, and damage dealers tend to be a dime a dozen. This has lead to some interesting social hierarchy in MMOs that I have observed. Essentially, one of the cardinal laws of most MMOs is thou shalt not piss off thy tank. This also sometimes applies to healers. As long as the tank or healer is not a complete failure, they will be forgiven if they are slow, undergeared, cause a few wipes, or do what my tank did last evening – go afk really quick to eat a sandwich, then come back 30 minutes later. Now that I think about it, I remember a healer friend doing the same thing, except he had an epic hour-long sandwich. If the damage dealers pulled any of the aforementioned crap, there is a good chance they would be booted from the group and/or mocked mercilessly. Why? They are easily replacable, of course, and the tank and healer are not. These same imbalanced demographics also lead people to just be nicer to the tanks and healers, because by God, noone wants to try to find a replacement. Since rolling a healer in WoW and Aion let me tell you, my ego has inflated substantially. I rage quit out of a heroic yesterday because the tank presumed to say “Hey Priest, shield me.” I am a mother-fucking discipline Priest casting Power Word: Shield is all I freaking do most of the time. I did not need to take that kind of ‘attitude’ from my tank, so by golly I left him. Yes, I am part of the problem and not the solution with his social hierarchy. Thanks.
All of this, really, is very unfair. We all play an important role in the completion of whatever content the group is there for, and having dabbled in all three of the basic RPG roles, none are really harder than the others. There is a perception that tanking is hard, but a good amount of the time, the tank just has to go through their button rotation like the damage does, and they get the added perk that the encounter revolves around them. If the tank moves, everyone else moves. If the tank does not want to move out of the fire, the healers will heal them, etc. People think that healing is also difficult, however it is not, it is just different. It is a glorified whack-a-mole game and like with tanks, often they are given an easier ride. On encounters where you need to keep your distance from other players, for example, the healers are usually assigned their spots and it is up to everyone else to stay away from them. No role is significantly harder to perform, so really, no role should be held above another.
Now I will be the first to admit that not all roles are meant for all players. I, for example, make a poor tank, because I have the wrong mindset for tanking. I am careful and cautious in MMOs, which means I am a slow tank, carefully judging each pull, constantly checking up on my team to make sure they have enough MP or whatever resource they use. This sounds great in theory, but in practice it makes me slow, and irritates people who are too afraid of pisisng me off to tell me to hurry up. On the other hand, I love healing, because it is so reactive and unpredictable, but that is exactly why other people hate it. I am not better than the next guy just because I have a different idea of fun, yet I have found that since rolling a healer in Aion and WoW recently, people are so much nicer.
What is the point of all of this? Well, unfortunately I am not Lane, so I do not have a viable suggestion for how to fix the issue MMORPGs have with roles. If you take anything from this, I guess it would be that you should not be afraid to try a new role, it is not as hard as you might think, or as hard as elitist snobs might tell you.