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?
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.