Friday, April 10, 2009

Imagine there's no healers ... I wonder if you could

WARNING: The following is a general MMO post, not WAR specific.

So a while back, I was discussing a hypothetical MMO with my friend and fellow WAR-player, Tanith (aka Bellagoth). In this hypothetical MMO there weren't any healer classes. We wondered, could you do it? What effect would it have on the game?

Here's what we came up with, as I recall:

• all classes would have some healing abilities
• boss fights would shorter, as you couldn't build them assuming PC's would go through several times their normal hit point allotment.
• some people would be turned off by the loss of that role.

Is it doable? Absolutely. What would the combat in game look like ... not entirely sure, but it would likely be much more intimidating.

Recently, as I was thinking about this conversation, I was wondering about the other iconic MMO role: the tank. Could you do away with the tank?

I'm reminded in all of this of D&D. The pen and paper sort. Before 4th edition you certainly had fighters with armor and shields, but they didn't have the stickiness that you find in an MMO tank .. they couldn't taunt, there was no threat.

Also, in D&D, while there has always been healers, at least since good ol'AD&D, virtually all of their heals were touch range only. Moreover, they had a very limited amount of heals.

So imagine, if you will, that there is no tanks and no healers ... there would still be ranged vs. melee types, and probably light armor vs. heavy armor types, but imagine that all of those classes could do some of the things a tank does: debuff, taunt, temporarily increase damage absorption or avoidance. If the only sort of tanking was one that was shareable by all, then how might roles be assigned and how would combat play out?

Furthermore, for the sake of argument, lets imagine that each character has some sort of very limited healing ... whether its a long-cooldown group HoT or a self-heal or what have you ... or imagine instead that everyone has a WoW-shammy style self-rez.

I guess to avoid nitpicking I should also assume that these abilities are balanced such that one doesn't clearly outweigh another.

In the resulting game you'd have parties where each player could contribute in all aspects of the fight. Monster damage would have to be juggled between individuals, or they'd have to be crowd-controlled or kited. Everyone in that world is a hero, no one is there to support someone else.

But is that better? While you could still have class diversity, some might miss the specialization that comes with being a great tank or a great healer. Some might prefer to support others (which you could still do, but less potently). It might also encourage the bad play we often see in PvP: everyone attacking willy-nilly without organization or structure.

On the other hand, it would mean that you wouldn't have to have someone playing a healer, playing a tank ... everyone could be a hero capable of dealing the final blow, of finishing off the badly wounded boss, of soloing the difficult champion.

I like tanking and healing both, but I wonder if without them MMOs might not be more dynamic. When you try doing a hard PQ or a keep lord without a tank or a healer you find yourself improvising, working harder, pushing yourself, I wonder if you could build that in to a workable system.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting...

    I've been working on a SciFi MMO concept for awhile, and haven't really fallen in love with any of the current heal classes. I find myself creating these self-healing melee or ranged classes more often than a classic healer. I'm wondering now if I should scrap the main healer completely.

    While it might frustrate some, it would make for very interesting engagements. I could see combat being more cautious. You wouldn't have someone run into a huge group of enemies, they'd have to think and find a way to split them up. Most people don't like dying in games, and it'd be interesting to see the way they cope without someone to heal them back up.