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In My Understanding

An old school gamer discusses the challenges facing the MMORPG community and it's leaders.

Author: jesad

Envy = The Flavor of the Month

Posted by jesad Tuesday September 18 2007 at 4:06PM
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Today I want to address a serious affliction that has reared it's ugly head in the fantasy MMO genre since it's inception.  This plague, this ugly scourge of death and destruction, if left unchecked, could be the end to life as we know it and a return to the stone age where our only quests were day to day survival and a safe place to sleep.

You know what I'm talking about, that's right, ENVY

This disease, formerly known as "DPS Envy", had to be renamed when the huge number of tanks who had rerolled their characters into Rangers, Monks, and Rogues left a gaping hole in the damage taking department of many servers.

The older generation knew this germ and overcame it relegating those who could not to the dark corners of obscurity and solo play.  Those mighty warriors are gone now though, and in their wake a new generation of soldiers who, like their weaker predecessors, spend more time looking at what the soldier next to them is doing instead of at what they themselves are doing.

A lot of what takes place during an MMO battle is invisible.  No one ever see's the speed buffs or dps debuffs placed on the group by the enchanters or bards in the EQ games.  No one realizes that the black cloud of smoke or the fact that the majority of the team seems somewhat intangible in Cryptic's "City of Heroes" game is actually someone back there away from the front lines doing work.  What they see is only the primary and primitive layer of what's going on.  They see the DPS, they see the direct heals, and they see how much of this the tank either can put out or can take in return.  Sometimes they don't even see the latter.

This is the beginning of envy.  The beginning of the end.  But it gets worse.

It only takes one skilled player of any class to shift the masses in one direction or another.  A rogue gets a glimpse of a druid kiting three or four mobs at a time.  The next day there is one more druid in the world and one less rogue.  A tank see's a cleric capable of leading their group at the same time as keeping them healed.  Tomorrow, one less tank, one more cleric.

Multiply this effect by the amount of times this one skilled player will interact with others during the course of their day and you end up with "The Flavor of the Month", the class that everyone wants to try out because it is the "Best".

And while so many envious re-rollers are wallowing in the early game switching from character to character trying to find the path of least resistance, the smart and the old pull away and a rift is created.  By the time endgame comes many guilds are often scurrying to find that one or two classes that could never impress anyone enough along the way to develop a strong enough base and what they are left with are botted out substandard versions of some of the most important classes in the game.

It's no wonder the term "Zerg" (fighting, dying, running back, and fighting again until it's dead) was invented.  How can anyone win if no one is willing to do their job?

So here is my contribution to the Fantasy MMO genre.  A simple profile of every game we have played to this point.  You may keep this information in mind until the industry decides to change it but do not be fooled by pretenders to change, this is the way it is when it comes to classes.

The Golden Rule of MMO's - Your game experience is subject to change. (loosely quoted from the Everquest start-up screen).

This means that as the game progresses different classes will rise and fall as the dominant class of the game, thus, there is no flavor of the month, there are only good times and bad times to be who you are.

To help you decide which class you really want to play I will go one step farther and tell you now what many of us didn't know then.

Tanks - Come up hard, are very efficient in one on one combat in the early game but will ultimately serve as a whipping boy outlet for other classes damages and skills in the endgame.  In other words, no matter how hard you hit, how many hp you have, what armor you wear, the only thing that will validate you in the endgame is your ability to keep the enemy focused on you while others in your group dish out what they themselves can not take in return.

Healers - Heal.  Although as the game progresses and maybe in a pinch they may serve as good substitutes for a tank, their ultimate responsibility, the reason that people are going to invite them to groups is to heal. 

DPS classes (this includes Monks, Rangers, Rogues, and the like) Kill what the tank decides needs to be dead.  This is a big one because most DPS players can't let it go but the truth is as simple as math.

Time of the kill = 1 Mob / the strength of the entire group

Thus, in situations where there are more than one more than one mob, the length of time it takes to kill all of the enemies separately will be the exact same amount of time as it would have taken for the entire team to kill all the bad guys as a unit.  Sure, there will be times that you may be called on to branch off from the team to take care of a pesky add but for the most part this is a dangerous and risky practice as most DPS classes simply can not take what they are dishing out.

Casters have always been misunderstood but have always been built to do the same thing as the melee classes only from a distance.  I will not go into that yet as it is probably just going to cause problems that I seek to alleviate with this post but keep that in mind for the days when you feel bored and just want to try something new. 

Casters - Heal free dps is your responsibility.  Either through providing it or facilitating, what you will do at the end of the game is allow the team to put out more than it's taking in. 

With these things in mind then, we now know what their polar opposites or the "suck" version of these classes are.

Suck Tank = Tank that is more concerned with hitting things than protecting their teammates.

Suck Healer = Healer that is more concerned with hitting things (or chatting in tells which they are notorious for) than keeping their group alive.

Suck DPS = DPS that is more interested in pulling, tanking, or doing as much damage as possible than they are at keeping themselves alive.

Suck Caster = Any caster that needs to be healed. (I know that is harsh but it is the truth).

Envy is the enemy.  Everyone plays a role in the endgame and knowing now what you will ultimately become later should make the choice of your class easier to stick with no matter what stage of the game you are in, at least, that is my understanding of it.


neschria writes:

I think I agree with you, re: Envy.

I like playing tank (aka damage sponge). Knowing that you're a damage sponge and building yourself around that can make all the difference for a whole group or even raid. DPS isn't your job. It's pure bonus.

I know some people have a problem with the whole role-based group structure concept, but if that's how a game is designed, that's how it is designed. Players are supposed to pick a role and try not to suck.

Tue Sep 18 2007 5:43PM Report
JinxedGaming writes:

Its funny that you talk briefly about city of heroes and still make this post.  In city of heroes, could could have no tanks, no healers, no dpser's, and still do well.  The 'ultimate' power leveling archtype in fact is generally considered to a fire/kin controller, who's primary role is crowd control, and whose secondary role is buffing.  Neither of those roles are DPS, Tanking, or Healing.  Your view of roles in MMOG's is somewhat simplistic and limited.  It certainly doesn't encompass everything present to date in the genre.

Wed Sep 19 2007 3:29AM Report
brownspank writes:

Game balance = envy control

Wed Sep 19 2007 3:49AM Report
jeeshadow writes:

Good rant!  It's why, when I'm healing a group, I demand everyone turn off their dps meters.

Dps meters pwn groups.  :)

Wed Sep 19 2007 12:38PM Report
jesad writes:

Jeeshadow: LOL yes! I agree.  Parsing damage is like asking for a wipe.  The minute those numbers fly up everyone forgets about the idea of surviving and instantly begin competing for the top of the list.  I have to admit though, sometimes it can be fun.  But like everything else that is fun, it has to be done responsibly :)

JinxedGaming: Powerlevelling Archtype?  We're talking content here bro.  Sure, I guess if your goal is to level to the end and stand around chatting that team will do you fine.  On the other hand, if you want to take on mobs like "The Envoy of Shadows" or the alternate universe versions of Statesman and the rest of his Freedom Phalanx, or any Task Force harder than Dr. Vahz you are going to want a team who knows how to do more than level.  You are going to want a team who knows how to work like a team.

Nuff Said...

Just threw that in cause you made me put my comic boots on :)


Thu Sep 20 2007 10:59PM Report
vajuras writes:

Awesome post. I am going to self plug my blog here because I feel that more freeform systems would solve Envy - _Castle_ from City of heroes has directly told us he hates min/max types. They created the Archetypes in CoX based on Concept- not math. Thus, powersets are way uneven. Like it or Hate it- Freeform skill based systems negates this issue. Sure, players might still min/max but at least they dont have to reroll and waste all those hours, that's nutz and it sucks

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