Want to know a secret? There’s a simple way to make WoW more fun.
Last night I had more fun in a random dungeon than I have for a long time. I was in Stockades, of all places. A Stockades run is usually a pedestrian half hour filled with enemies which aren’t challenging but have vaguely annoying abilities and no loot to make up for it.
The dungeon didn’t magically morph into a Lernean Hydra spitting epics at us. What changed was the group. The tank suddenly left. We were left with a lowish level party of three mages and a priest healer. We also had prison cells full of bad guys cracking their knuckles and asking whether our relatives could stitch this.
We carried on. The three mages had fun using every trick to play mage tennis and help the healer ensure we didn’t become wallpaper paste. The priestie sat there cheerfully swearing as he healed and cackling maniacally every time he physic screamed because he could it saved our clothie hides. Lots of conjured water later we finished the dungeon, all in great spirits.
What does that mean? We don’t need tanks. Nope. Not in 5 man instances.
Right now WoW is based on the ‘holy trinity’ of three roles; tank, healer, DPS. It’s a tradition going back through the MMO and RPG genres. The nay-sayer in me mutters that removing one of the roles would shake the very foundations of the games industry. It wouldn’t; it’s already happening.
The complexity of the roles has been simplified over time. Back in the day groups had to be pristinely organised. Each person performed challenging tasks. Support classes were necessary. Contingency plans were useful if the battle went awry.
It was the case for WoW as much as any other game. It wasn’t long ago tanks alone were juggling single-target tanking on four monsters whilst anxiously watching the one nursing a headache and herding the battle round the confused sheep. Before TBC, I gather, it was more tricky. That type of game play taught players to be creative strategists. It’s in that kind of situation that I met and bonded with my guildmates over hours of wipes and brainstorming.
Things are more straightforward now. More generalised; each of the roles is cut-and-dry in WoW. Tanks are there to hold the monsters’ attention. DPS are there to take them down, usually with little mind of what dies first. Healers are there to keep everyone topped off with heals so huge I’d not be surprised if characters feel like they’ve been dunked in the fountain of youth. Of course, there are fights where there are exceptions – sometimes healers get to top the boss’ health off instead, The roles are plain and appear interdependent.
But the roles don’t need each other to function. Last night my group’s DPS did its job – to deal damage – perfectly fine without a tank regulating us. We just had to be a bit more creative, versatile, and able to think on our feet. These are qualities which haven’t really been challenged in Wrath’s standard system but I’d go as far to say that the creative strategist in me opened one drowsy eye while my mana’ed out mage watched the cooldown on frost nova with her robed back to the wall.
Dare I say it, we also had to work as a team, rather than just have the tank glue everything to himself and everyone else sedately press the usual buttons to floor the next pack. We functioned much better as a social group. Usually the members of a group each have a set task and if something untoward – or just unexpected – happens it’s easy for a group of strangers to feel justified in laying blame on a person who failed or made a mistake with their individual task.
Last night, without a tank and with the group’s tasks shared equally, the potential for blame was removed. Everyone could contribute to everything. Even the healing! Us mages didn’t just sit in the fire expecting the healer to keep us all, four clothies, up AoEing 10 mobs at once. I don’t know if any of us would do that under the standard roles but with that jot of creativity and freedom allowed to us, we did what we could to help tank and heal. And when we did wipe? We all laughed and congratulated each other on a good fight.
So there we go. The roles already look a whole lot different to how they did when they were originally conceived in EverQuest or even Breath of Fire. We just need to take the plunge and get rid of one of the canonical roles. Not much to ask, right?
We’re only talking as regards 5 man groups, here, but just think of the ramifications for raids. What would they be? More creative players graduating from instances and more chaos and raids unlike anything we’ve ever known – I wonder if the outcomes would offset one another. I wonder if WoW could even support such a change, or if it would require a whole level playing field.
What do you think – is this a terrible idea which would do irrevocable damage to WoW, or a great one, with modifications?
This is an article by Mimetir, an owl (and resto shaman) of a raid leader on The Venture Co. (EU) You can find my twitter feed here.
Article image originally on flickr, by id-iom.