This week’s Community Spotlight focuses on a thread by forum user Ihmotepp called, “Do you enjoy the Holy Trinity game mechanic? If so, how much?” In the thread, Ihmotepp explains the holy trinity mechanic and quizzes the MMORPG.community on their preferences for or against the tried-and-true game design of the holy trinity of healer, nuker, and tank. The thread is complete with a poll whose results so far are pretty evenly split. Roughly the same ratio of people who have voted so far like, dislike, or have no preference either way. But what are the members of the community actually saying?
User Kyleran chimes in on the issue saying, “At one time I thought I didn't like the mechanic, but after all MMO's started to try and do away with it I think my iniital assessment was in error.
We use the trinity in EVE btw, in our wormhole gangs we have battleships that tank/heal each other, grouped with DPS and aggro control ships (which they also heal) and it makes for much better combat opportunities. (esp the PVE side)
Even in PVP, nothing can throw a fight to a gang more than an couple of logistics ships that are repping everyone's armor/shields.
So yes, I do enjoy the mechanic and feel it needs to be maintained to develop good group based combat mechanics.”
And I would have to agree, for the most part. I feel the design concept is sound at a basic level, but that doesn’t mean it is perfect, and it can be refined into being a bit more flexible. We have seen this in recent years with the advent of hybrid classes and such, and I feel that is probably going in the right direction. It’s no fun being a tankmage when everyone on your team is one as well. I came to this realization when playing Champions Online and wishing to be more useful to my group of friends. While the game provides some neat ways of handling roles, there really isn’t much reason to do so. Everyone can take care of themselves, and so it really tosses that whole aspect of support gameplay to the side.
The basic problem with the trinity ties into another recently highlighted topic in the Community Spotlight series: grouping vs. soloing. Early examples of the holy trinity fit well into group scenarios, but what are these pieces of the puzzle like on their own? The healer would have a hard time doing enough damage to play on their own, the nuker would be hard pressed to survive, and the tank could generally solo but at a slower rate.
LiquidWolf has a different take on the issue, stating that he feels the idea of the holy trinity is so ingrained into our minds that even when the developers lessen its impact, we still try to figure out ways to shoehorn it into our game of choice:
“Game devs are not the source of the holy trinity... the players are.
It doesn't matter what the game devs do, players always find a way to revert the layout back to: Tank - Healer - DPS.
Even if they had one class with no specializations... players would find out what gear is required to be placed in those three roles.
The "Holy Trinity" is a solution developed by players to tackle most problems inside a multi-player game... hell, even in single player games, you will see this approach used. The developers are gamers too, so their line of thinking falls along the same path as the players...
and it continues to work and make them money.
You could try to make every class capable of doing tanking, healing, and DPS... and if the company is somehow successful as making each class viable for any role... you'd still see players arguing who is the best at one of the three. If there is one patch that doesn't hit every class equally... you will bring the whole thing down and players will set the "Top Three".
Problems in MMOs will ALWAYS be boiled down into the "Holy Trinity"... there is no escaping the mentality of people who play multi-player games together.”
My above comments on Champions Online definitely support LiquidWolf’s claims, at least for myself. While everyone could essentially be a tankmage in Champs, I was still trying to figure out how to build a support toon so I could fill that role, however unnecessary it was. There is certainly some truth to these claims then, though I don’t feel the issue falls squarely on the players, of course, though the latter point that LiquidWolf makes about what are essentially hybrid classes, is definitely one area where I would agree players are either equally or more at fault than the developers.
Hybrid classes were introduced to alleviate some of the issues with the rigid holy trinity design, but it is quite true that most players will still try and figure out which of the classes available are the purest tank, healer, or DPS class, and those will be given preference in any sort of group activities. Age of Conan was a good example of this issue. The developers at Funcom sought to do things a bit differently and introduced many hybrid classes, and yet players still preferred the purest of any of the three archetypes for their group activities. Why choose a Dark Templar or Conqueror over a Guardian as the main tank? The latter two were certainly more versatile characters, but the Guardian could soak it up better than either, and so he was largely preferred for groups.
Whether developers should stop trying to deviate from the holy trinity design is probably a discussion for another day, but how do you feel about the design concept in general? Do you enjoy filling a specific role? Or do you prefer things to be a bit more flexible or free form? Let us know in the comments below.