Keeping the previous installment "The Curve - Hunger vs Picky Eating" in mind I wanted to explore a few of the sub-classes of each faction. I will only go into a few here as there is a lot to be said on the subject but I wanted to give anyone reading this just a bit more of an idea what we are all, community and developers, up against in our pursuit to have a good game day.
Here is an old favorite. We return to our friends "Newton" and "Hardcore" to illustrate.
Newton and Hardcore's group have just completed a quest. Words of congratulations ring through group chat.
Newton - Grats all! So what do you want to do next?
Hardcore - Let's go down and explore "Witness Point" and see if there is anything cool down there we can get.
Newton - How about we go over to "Dark Cove" instead. I heard that there is some really nice armor that drops over there.
Hardcore - Ok, you guys go ahead, I'm gonna go check out "Witness Point" and maybe hook up with you later.
Newton - Ok man, catch you later.
Teammate 2 - Later dude.
Teammate 3 - Peace
Teammate 4 - I think I'm going to roll with Hardcore if that's ok?
Hardcore - Sure, drop group, I will invite.
Teammate 4 - Cya guys
In OOC minutes later "Dark Cove Group LF Tank/Healer PST"
Meanwhile at "Witness Point"...
Teammate 4 - Man, these mobs are huge. We need to get more people.
Hardcore - Nah, we'll be ok, they're dying, just slowly.
Teammate 4 - Hey man, I have to go, my guild needs me to help out on a raid.
Hardcore - Ok dude, thanks for the group, cya.
Teammate 4 - Peace
Yet more minutes later....
Teammate 4 - (in tells) Psst! Newton. Do you still have room in that group?
Newton - Sorry bro, all full, will shoot you a tell if we get an opening.
Teammate 4 - Ok bro, thanks.
Aftermath - Teammate 4 not being able to find another group tries soloing for a bit, gets bored, logs off. Newton and his group go after the fabled gear he has heard about in "Dark Cove" only to wipe repeatedly as Newtons melee class falls to the insumountale mobs in that area with only teammate 3's bard to heal him. After two or three of these wipes players begin to drop like flies logging off or drumming up some false story about being needed elsewhere. Hardcore struggles alone against the rules of the environment that state that a tank, healer, and at least one dps are needed to battle group mobs, while waiting for someone, anyone, to come into the area he has chosen to explore. He gets in there pretty deep too, but after several deaths, a lot of exp debt and repair costs, his desire to explore is replaced by a sudden urge to watch TV. He logs.
Later on the message boards all three people vent on their opinion of the "game".
Newton - This game sucks! There's no customization between characters, the melee dps class is gimped, and the quests are impossible to complete!
Hardcore - The game is cool, it's the people that play it who suck.
Teammate 4 - I like the game, there just aren't enough people. I'm gonna quit for a while and come back when more are playing.
Submitted for your approval. There are a few simple and basic rules to most MMO's in order for players to be successful in them.
1. Someone has to lead.
2. Everyone else has to follow.
3. The burden of which, between 1 and 2 you are going to be rests on your shoulders and will be directly related to the levels your character will achieve and the gear that they pick up along the way.
The Soloist will never and should never be as well equipped as the good team member, be it leader or follower. Many soloist will claim differently but I will challenge any of them to go up against a team of anything, a team of rats, roaches, ants, and win without at least soliciting the help of one other agent, be it bug spray, exterminator, or cat.
The team member on the other hand has more paths to choose from. The trick of course, lying in which is the best path to choose.
Many who play these games now days have taken on the role of the "Hearsay Leader". These are the folks who go out, pimp for a group, get people together, and then go after what they "heard" was nice. They usually play necro's or melee dps classes because these classes give them just enough fire-power to substitute for the more needed tank and healer classes while keeping them from actually having to rely on anyone else to get a lot of the things they need from getting done. The problem with the hearsay leader though is that they are directly responsible for perpetuating one path through games which have been designed to have many.
Following the hearsay leader will get you some good gear yes, but it won't be any more different or special than the gear everyone else has and at the end of the day one might feel a certain "Linear" feeling about the game that may prove to lessen it's replayablity. The lowest common denominator of this being the player who knows that path but refuses to go through it again and so goes out and downloads a bot program to do a lot of it for them.
Then there is the Exploring Leader. Usually a "real leader" in their minds, these are the players who are constantly seeking to set themselves apart from others by going to obscure places and traveling the less beaten path. These folks, often paladins, SK's, enchanters, and any class that can win against great odds are often masters of their chosen class (they have to be because they spend a lot of their time completely alone), and although completely capable of leading a group easily through most of the more traveled content, choose to alienate themselves from anyone who does not share their same sense of wanderlust.
The exploring leader will get you some fantastic gear, if you have the time to wait for him to find enough people to complete the task he has found. However, you will not be that guy at endgame with a million friends, a great guild, and all kinds of phat loots garnered from constant raiding hanging out with this guy. Following this guy you might not even make it to end game as the content will eventually become too hard and require too much time for his "Pick-up styled" groups to handle. Of course, later on, after this guy flashes a few really nice and unique pieces to the general population it will be more than easy to find a group to get these things for yourself. Think of following this guy then, like following Edgar Allen Poe, or Van Gogh through their lives. You won't ever be considered great for your efforts but those same efforts WILL change the way the game is played for months to come.
Teammate 4 is what I call "The Professional Follower". Now this guy can get annoying. The professional follower is the guy who goes where the action is. They know enough about the game to know a good group (i.e. Tank and healer) from a bad one (all dps) and will usually choose the best following class in the game as their main (the healer). Always in demand the professional follower can make or break a game simply by their presence. At the same time this will be the person most likely to log out in the middle of a dungeon, go afk in hot areas to let the dog out or make dinner, and pop from group to group on a whim based on what they think they need most today. The professional follower will get a good mix of the unique and the regular out of their game-play but will be able to offer very little to the rest of the community in the terms of what to do or where to go because more often than not these players have no idea where they are, how they got there, or how they are going to get out. They are simply there for the ride and if they can manage to get their hands on a nice piece from a certain place while surfing the net, watching TV, or playing poker in another window, they are more than happy to do that. Other than the hearsay that will be used by the hearsay leader to make the game more linear they rarely remember anything more than the item they were going after and the name of the place where they got it.
Working on their own brand of information, compiled from that which they have learned from following and that which they have heard, the professional follower is also a kind of a leader as well. Often times you will see them attempting to guide the group in a specific direction for no explainable reason in order to accomplish their goals. They rarely share with other group members the reasoning behind their suggestions and relish areas with overlapping quests that can sate the palette of the dumb while progressing their much more complicated hidden agendas. One may come into contact with a person like this level by level for their entire game experience and not realize unless they take the time to inspect them that although this person has been in the same places as the player looking has been all along, their rewards are substantially better every step of the way.
The Professional Follower takes advantage of both the "Exploring Leader" and the "Hearsay Leaders" mentality to build their character to the best that in can be without offering little more service to the game than that of a town crier and yet, these are the players who populate most of the endgame of most MMO's. You may spend your entire MMO career thinking that you are the man or woman in charge of what has been going on while all along it has been the PF that has been guiding you and manipulating you toward their own ends (which more often than not lately is to build up a character capable of being sold on the black market for real money).
All three of these folks have their positives and their negatives to the MMO community yet often, in their posts on community message boards, you may find their views quite negative and slanted based on their style of play. The Hearsay Leader wants to believe that the content can be tanked by a melee dps class supported by ranged dps and healed by a bard while the Exploring Leader wants to believe that everyone who plays the game should want to play it the way that they do. The Professional Follower doesn't care about anyone or anything other than their own goal and will cause a large sucking sound to emanate from any game that doesn't offer them enough people to use in those pursuits as they, as previously stated, often play the linchpin characters of the game.
So I challenge the community to go to your favorite MMO message boards, take a look at the complaints, and try to figure out the perspective from which the OP is posting their message. Not everything you read is going to apply to your own style of play but once you identify who YOU are among these types a lot of what you read is going to make a lot more sense. It will also keep you from (as I the writer have done myself) posting things from your own slanted perspective that end up detracting from the overall fun of these games instead of enhancing it.
Take this information into the game with you every day and use it to understand who you are and who everyone else is so that you can better ally yourself with players of like-minded persuits. There is room enough for everyone of all types but as long as we all have to depend on each other to get things done you may as well find the best kind of people that you can enhance with your own class and style of play.
And remember. These kinds of players exist in both the "Hardcore" - Old School flavors and the "Newton" - New player flavors so after you figure out what you are dealing with you are still going to have to figure out if the player even has a concept of what they are really doing at all. At least, that is how I understand it.