Group/Raid Roles and Perception in Rift

The post I put up late last night on the Rift: Planes of Telara forums has exploded in debate.  The post was in regard to the Ten Ton Hammer podcast and Scott’s answers about the Soul System and possibility that Rogues and Mages may be able to heal and tank.  There was furious debate over whether this was true and, if so, whether it should be true.  There were many arguments from both sides and I would like to address some of those here.

Most of the arguments against the possibilities of a rogue tank/healer or a mage tank/healer boiled down to “Mages can’t tank!” or something similar and I ask why not?  Who says Mages can’t tank?  What has created that perception?  Let’s take a look!

I think the main thing that has created that perception is 10-12 years of MMO law.  The vision of a heavily armored warrior standing toe to toe with a dragon is firmly implanted in our heads, thanks to years of Everquest, Everquest II and WoW.  That is the way it has always has been so, for many, that is the way it should remain.  Forum-goers in that thread repeatedly stated that a mage tank was silly, laughable even.  I ask why?  Why is it silly that a mage could tank a dragon?

Yeah, I tanked the Balrog. Who needs plate?

Let’s take a look at the inspiration for 90% of the MMOs out there; fantasy fiction.  Lord of the Rings is the main inspiration from whence almost all MMOs derive.  It, in many ways, started the high fantasy genre and is probably the single best example of the genre.  Yet, as “Tarkadal” pointed out in the forum thread, it was Gandalf that “tanked” the Balrog on the Bridge of Khaza Dum.  Had Lord of the Rings been a MMO, it would have been Gimli and Gandalf would have been in the back shooting fireballs.  Kind of changes the book, huh?

Let’s look at it logically (or at least as logically as you can look at a genre that features dragons, trolls and wizards!).  A dragon is huge and, more than likely, able to crush any human with a casual sweep of his paw.  It doesn’t matter what armor the human is using, plate or cloth, if the dragon wants to crush the human…consider the human crushed.  What is likely to be more successful “tanking” the dragon?  A mage that uses magical shields and spells, a rogue that dodges the dragons paws or a warrior encased in 200 pounds of armor who trades blow for blow with the dragon?

I don’t know about you, but my bet is on the mage or the rogue, just from a logical point of view.

There are very, very few examples of a warrior standing toe to toe and “tanking” a dragon or big “boss” in fantasy literature.  Gandalf “tanked” the Balrog.  Wulfgar did not stand toe to toe with Icingdeath and would have died, if not for Drizzt.  Yet, because of years of MMOs, the image is so firmly cemented in our minds that we can not even imagine another possibility.

The second argument in the rogue/mage as healer/tank debate is that player’s should not be able to completely change their perceived purpose in the game.  The argument goes that this amount of diversity actually decreases diversity and that we might as well have one archetype if this is true.  This is a much more persuasive argument in my mind but I still do not agree.

Let’s get one thing straight about the Soul System: If you are looking for a game that has permanent choices for your character, then Rift is not for you.  The Soul System will allow for major changes to your character at the push of a button.  One second you could be a Necromancer and the next a Pyromancer.  There are no permanent choices for your character, save one….your archetype.  Everything else can be changed at will.

In this video, with William Cook, it is stated that the archetype will determine two things.  The way you fight (spells, melee, ranged physical) and what you wear (plate, leather, cloth).  That is it.  Everything else will be determined by your Soul spec, which can be switched at will.  William specifically mentioned a healing warrior, a tanking rogue and a Raid healing mage.  So, the options are there.  How viable they are, we do not yet know.

Will this make for less diversity?  I don’t think so.  Let’s face it, most players who roll a mage will want to DPS because our perception of the mage dictates that that is what it does.  Most who roll a cleric will want to heal, again that perception thing.  What this does is potentially give players a choice in what they want to do or switch if needed.  I do not see how this lessens diversity.  Did having a druid that could tank, DPS or heal lessen diversity?  No, I don’t think so.

In the end I think, if nothing else, Rift will stretch our perception of what makes a proper group makeup.  The standard warrior/cleric and three DPS may not apply anymore.  You may see group compromised of a much broader range of archetypes and Soul Specs.  Is that a bad thing?  I don’t think so but we will soon find out.

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14 Responses

  1. It is very clear to me that people who have this cemented perception of what roles classes can do have never played Perfect World International and perhaps they should to get a new perspective.

    Playing that game after playing EQ2, I was shocked when my guild leader told me to tank one of the first bosses in a lower level dungeon. I was a playng a healer and he was a barabarian (essentially a warrior “tank” type). What I learrned in that game is that developers can change class roles up and make them interesting.

    The boss I was tanking did a type of damage that I was better able to mitigate than the “tank” of our group because of my race and class. The boss was a magic caster and as such wasn’t trying to harm me physically, all I had to do was deal out the type of elemental damage I was best at casting which just happened to be the damage that boss was most susceptible to. I could heal myself and I had a magician behind me who could heal me as well, the barbarian was behind me also using his bow to add in some additional damage. I did fine, we killed the boss, and the experience was very rewarding.

    PWI has many many bosses and even whole dungeons that change up the way classes play together. Unfortunately it has a lot of things that make it not so fun to play especially in the higher levels. And it is an RMT game that I simply wasn’t wanting to spend all my money on. Nevertheless, their innovative thinking outside of the box with what classes can and should be able to do was very refreshing and I am hoping that we will see stuff like this in Rift.

  2. ” Yet, as “Tarkadal” pointed out in the forum thread, it was Gandalf that “tanked” the Balrog on the Bridge of Khaza Dum. ”

    Gandalf also died as a result.

    • I wonder if the two fighters with him would have lived. You think they would have? Probably not. They would have all been saying….We can’t do this fight , we need a healer. Balrog group, LFM Healer!

    • Well yeah, Gandalf’s healer sucked, duh.

  3. Well said. I also don’t see a reason why classes can’t do this or that. And the examples you made does make more sense then some guy in plate bashing head with a big ass dragon paw.

  4. As long as mage “tanking” is situational, I don’t see any problem with that. Actually, honestly, as long as a mage has to give up the same things to tank that a warrior type has to give up (typically damage) then I don’t see a problem. Take Dragon Age, for instance. Probably the best “tank” in that game is based on the mage class, but to get there they all but give up their ability to usefully cast offensive spells.

  5. I rally like the way the Guild Wars@ developers worded it. Tanking is merely the most rudimentary form of control.

    It is controling a situation that counts, and whether that is done by the warrior with shield, armor, and traunts, or by a mage with arcane shield and teleport abilities, or by a druid self-healing with root and nuke tactics doesn’t really matter. The point is the job should get done by whatever control mechanism that best suits the given situation.

  6. The problem with this is we will get a lot of flavor of the month builds and other problems like that where we won’t be able to raid unless we use a certain build and not everyone likes to play their role the same.

    • This is exactly the sort of situation Trion wants to avoid, and I would expect them to work aggressively to prevent it.

      There will undoubtedly be guild leaders/officers who will continue to insist certain builds are “best” and that you can’t raid unless you spec like they want, but that’s a sign you need a new guild, not a problem with the game itself.

      Unless encounters are designed such that certain builds are required, or are so punishing only perfectly optimized raids can succeed, there shouldn’t be too much of the “spec this way or go home” mentality in anything other than the most high-strung, “elite” guilds.

    • Keep in mind that when the streotype is required that is EXACTLY the same thing only worse. That’s your guild/raid leader telling your warrior that he must tank or else, even if he really just wants to do damage. It’s your guild also telling the rogue they MUST spec their bard soul because they want you to play support.

      The good news is, you actually could accomodate their wishes in this game, and when the raid is over go back to playing the way you want, instead of having to roll a a brand new character and powerlevel it to be of any use to your guild and then finding out that they changed their mind and want you to play a healer now anyway.

  7. Actually 90% of all MMO fantasy is based on Advanced Dungeons and Dragons but other then that I agree with every thing you said.

    MMO Fantasy have always used a D&D style to classes and what not and even though alot of Gary Gygaxx and Arnesons inspriation from D&D came from LOTR, nto all of it did, a great bit came from Conan, Lovecraft, and ancient cultures like druidism, roman/greek gods and folklores from Nordic and Scandanavian clutures as well as Anglo/Saxon.

  8. Ohh lets not also forget to add how many Current and past MMO’s allowed Warriors to Weild 2h swords or DW 1h’ers and allowed them to put out DPS comparable to the more DPS oriented DPS classes such as Rogues and Mages, yet no one complains that a warrior with a 2h isnt fittign the steretypical tank class.

    Give it time people will get used to this new makeup or they will quit or not play Rift, and im fine by this, Rift will break new ground in the MMO genre and you can mark my words, in 3-5 years every single MMO will implement some sort of multi class, classless system lol.

    • I agree. Rift is not the first to try this either, but I do think they will be quite successful at it.

      Runes of Magic already has a working dual class system that has been fairly successful. Guild Wars2 is also putting out a form of dual class system in that every class can be and quite literally is a healer in addition to their main class.

      We are seeing a trend in this dierection and I think it is a good thing.

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