In our MMO society today we basically have three groups of players. There is no denying it, really, almost every MMO uses these “archtypes” for their games (some exceptions apply). Of course, the archtypes I am speaking about are the tank, DPS, and healers. Using this model of gameplay most MMORPGs have basically become the same game, especially when you look at fantasy mmos. Lord of the Rings Online plays like World of Warcraft which plays a lot like Everquest 2, and, as such, plays very much like Everquest 1. Each has their own minor rules that play their part to make the games somewhat different but the major players are there: tanks need to take agro from the enemy and be a damage buff, DPS’s need to deal damage as fast as possible but without gaining the agro from the tank, and healers need to heal. A simple, yet very powerful, time-tested method, but now it’s time to throw it out. . .
For over ten years we have had MMORPGs come and go under this method. It is largely the most popular method and, as such, it has begun to stagnate. It’s a bit sad, for me anyways, to buy a new MMORPG and instantly know which class does what and what to expect from each. There is no more mystery involved with the gameplay and because of that I find myself avoiding games that would likely use this method. They just aren’t fun anymore, and I don’t want to be stonewalled into a very specific branch of the game. So how does this change?
I know some of you are sitting here reading this article thinking: there is no possible way to change this method. It has been here almost since the beginning and to change it would mean to change the very essence of the MMORPG. I know you guys are out there because I used to think the same thing. I mean, seriously, this method is basically synonymous with the MMO, but that doesn’t mean a new method can’t be implemented. Change is good, even in our fragile MMO worlds. Throughout gaming history we have gone from a simple game like pong to having a whole host of genres and sub genres to satiate our desires, so why can’t somebody think up some other method? If we can really go from having a game like Space Invaders to having a fully interactive, open ended world like World of Warcraft is it really out of the question to simply tweak the gameplay a bit? I should hope not. . .
Of course, I really don’t have any answers here for you. I’m not a game designer, and if I was I would certainly be designing right now and not writing. But not all hope is lost, there are a bunch of bold developers out there right now who seem to be trying to mix things up with this exact issue; I just wish they’d let us in on their secrets already. 38 Studios is cooking up something big, as well as BioWare. The Agency has some definitely neat concepts, and the combat in Age of Conan is supposed to be revolutionary. So change is coming, but will it be enough to get pulled away from the tank/DPS/healer model? I honestly can’t answer that question for you, but as soon as I hear something on this matter you guys will hear something.
Thanks for reading. Comments, thoughts and flames can be posted in the comments. Thanks!