Tank, Healer and an assortment of DPS. That’s how it goes in MMOGs, right? It’s a long-standing cliche that has endured for nearly fifteen years (Wow, have these games really been around almost two decades?). From EverQuest to World of Warcraft to Rift, the composition of a group has been based on these three archetypes with little difference. Even the sci-fi third-person shooter Global Agenda subscribes.
Gamers have poked fun and complained about the setup, crying for innovation in the stagnate design. Many developers have tried breaking the bounds to offer a unique experience, but not one has truly succeeded. Another round of contenders is coming in 2011/2012.
BioWare is addressing the issue in Star Wars: The Old Republic by enabling every class to heal in some capacity. Current information on the oft-delayed title reveals that if not yourself and comrades, then a player will, at minimum, be able to heal itself. ArenaNet is passing the healers’ duty of resurrection to everyone in Guild Wars 2. Any player on the battlefield will be able to revive a downed ally with a bit of moral support. Or, barring a local teammate, you can self-res with a little determination (killing a mob). Iterations really, not rethinking the classic composition.
Developer Bluehold Studio and Publisher En Masse Entertainment are taking it a bit further in the action-oriented MMORPG TERA, as explained in a recent post. En Masse’s Scott James Magner bluntly states “we’re redefining [the holy trinity] as we move into the next generation of online games.”
The most dramatic change to the cliche mechanic is that TERA is expecting to split the DPS in to two roles, thus creating a fourth pillar. Magner drops the term “trinity” in favor of “foundation” of four because ranged and melee DPS are pigeonholed to specific tasks as much as healers and tanks. The melee classes, like berserkers and slayers, will focus on dealing massive damage through normal hits and criticals, which, like everything in TERA, must be targeted. Ranged classes, sorcerers and archers, will focus on consistent output from “an incredible attack rate.”
Honestly, sounds a lot like the diversification between current DPS class design, right? I was skeptical too. Magner gives a specific example using the sorceress to illustrate how the action of TERA clicks with the fourth foundation to offer a new way to play. The sorceress, rather than just sitting at a relative safe distance and spamming abilities, will have to “rely on strategic placement of spell effects and quick movement to maximize damage.” An optimized rotation will not guarantee max damage.
Tanking in TERA sounds far more complicated than executing high-threat abilities. Tanking characters must work in spheres of aggression, not a two dimensional line of front and back. “Attacks and abilities hit or miss depending on what direction a character is facing, and “up” is a direction you’ll need to defend against.”
Magner didn’t explain healing roles as much as the others, simply saying that players shouldn’t expect whack-a-mole UI healing. In fact, healers “are just as often in the thick of combat as the outskirts” due to the variety of beneficial spells and their associated casting cones, circles and ranges.
I’ve played TERA at past conventions, so I can attest to the frenetic pace of battles. No one is safe and no one is left hitting a key or two when a tough battle begins, with adrenaline soon to follow. How much these decisions will actually changed the Holy Trinity remains to be seen. Sounds good so far.