Specialization is Key

I was reading Syl’s Monday post on GW2 when a particular section leaped off the page:

Some people still doubt that GW2 will manage without any holy trinity, but I actually do – and if there’s ever going to be more “dedicated” healing or tanking going on in a specific encounter, it will probably be a situation in which everyone must take turns or decides on a random player.

If you have attempted group content in WoW at any point in the last two years, you probably recoiled in horror as I did at the thought of looking forward to shared group responsibility. We have a term for that now – The Dance – and every indication that it was the principle cause of the nearly 2 million subscriber exodus.

After all, by making every player vital to the group’s success (e.g. everyone must Dance correctly), the strength of the group is reduced to that of its weakest member. And if we follow the “down with the holy trinity!” argument to its inevitable conclusion, we end up in Dance Dance Central.

When I asked whether Syl really wanted shared responsibility, the response was:

You mean, would I rather have groups share the responsibility of control or be flexible about it, rather than putting the entire responsibility and blame on just one person? of course I would. I think this is one big reason why WoW pugs were so horrible.

The sentiment is interesting to me, because I approach it from the 100% opposite direction.

There are some responsibilities that I do not trust other people to accomplish. I was the guy in school/college that would do all of the heavy lifting in the group project – picking the topic, doing the research, writing the paper – while you sailed to an easy A by reading two (of 10) paragraphs in front of the class.

Actually, “trust” is not even the operating word I am looking for, as that implies an uncertainty of contribution. It wasn’t a question of whether you would perform, or even how. It was a matter of your capacity for performance, and whether the final outcome would be better or worse with said contribution.

Is that arrogant? No.¹ Ability brooks no morality. Being better at the “game of school” did not/does not make me a better person, or someone else worse for their lack. The unilateral determination of the value of the contribution might be construed as arrogant, but the final grade was always a true arbiter. Just as the death of the boss is an arbiter of a raid strategy.

Which segues me back to raiding and the following claim: specialization is better for group-based activities.

People are NOT experts at everything, nor should they have to be. If the content requires precise movement at specified times, who do you want in that position? Probably a person meeting the following criteria: A) best internet connection, B) the most experience, and C) someone who wants the responsibility. Maybe you’re thinking long-term and want to get another guy trained and battle-tested. Maybe someone wants to branch out and test the tanking waters. That’s fine! Do what works for your team.

What no one wants is for the person chosen to randomly be the easily excitable, newbie friend raiding on WiFi. It’s not fun for him, it’s not fun for you, it’s not fun for anyone. It creates friction in group scenarios, even when you are raiding with good friends.

This brings me to Guild Wars 2, and two conditional claims/predictions.

1) Trinity specialization will be required to succeed at endgame content; or
2) Endgame content will be mostly trivial.

The “everyone can pitch in” group content philosophy is simply zerging. The “trinity should die” desire is the desire for Dance 2.0.

Syl goes on to mention:

combat that revolves around tanking and aggro, is different from combat that revolves about shared control and therefore needs less dedicated healing, too. tactically speaking it’s an interesting approach you can already find in many FPS online games where every player is carrying some type of rifle and team strategy, self-sufficiency, quick reactions and improvisation are where it’s at. okay, you can distrust the average MMO players currently out there to be any use at this type of cooperative game – a fair point, but not exactly a good argument against improving combat design. to ME the current combat is boring.

Putting aside the question of the actual value of teammates in CoD/BF/TF2 games (and the fact that a lot of FPSs are in fact class/role-based), I want to talk about improvisation. The ability to change strategies, to adapt to changing conditions, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat… that was actually my favorite part of raiding in WoW. The Mimiron kill video was one of the most epic experiences in the game for me. Same with our first Yogg-Saron kill.

The rub is that improvisation requires room to screw up and not fail. In other words, improvisation requires a lower difficulty. It requires mistakes to not matter as much. I am not at all a fan of pass/fail mechanics, so I actually DO hope there is room for improvisation in GW2. But if a group of 5 Necromancers can clear all the content, chain rezzing each other, swapping weapons to “be the tank” when they are randomly the target of the boss, requiring no specialization at all (or worse, requiring everyone to “specialize” in everything)… well, have fun with that.

A certain continuum exists between the two extremes, but it is not as wide as many believe. The only way to reliably hit that mark, IMO, is to require specialization in tasks – specifically being able to choose the 1-2 people around which an encounter pivots – and extend the margins of victory for everyone else. Think the ooze-kiter in the Rotface encounter, or the two portal healers in Dreamwalker.

Allowing those 1-2 people to be anyone (tanks/healer/DPS) would be an amazing innovation, but I’m not entirely convinced that is what will be going on in GW2.

¹ Although it’s probably arrogant saying it.

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Posted on March 2, 2012, in Commentary, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 53 Comments.

  1. BTW unless the HP system goes away the holy trinity is here to stay. What I mean is that the trinity is the direct consequence of having a single variable representing (N)PC health: you can only get 3 actions associated with it: reduction of incoming damage, inflicting maximum damage, restoring lost HP (and there is also a fourth, reduction of incoming healing, which right now appears rarely, so does not have a specialized class).
    If people want to get rid of the trinity, getting rid of HP is a necessity, but try to come up with an intuitive combat system which is not HP based….. good luck :)

    • This is true, to the extent that those are indeed the possible actions, but it seems we’re conflating two related yet distinct concepts. The existence of tanking “actions” does not presuppose the existence of a dedicated tanking “class,” though it is an obvious and common method of specialization within the current MMO paradigm. This is the crux of the GW2 noise; tanking will surely happen, as the means of negotiating mob and player health do not look to be changing in any substantial way, but without “tanks” (aka specialized damage-reducing aggro magnets).

    • I see where you went with that, but it’s not true. The health bar is neither here nor there in the argument for whether specialization is a good feature. See reference to pretty much any video game in the 1990s with a health bar, and then show me which ones the ability specialize, tank/heal made any difference at all. It’s not necessary to get rid of the health bar. The only function a health bar has is to allow the player a certain number of tries at defeating the enemy. Look at the health bar in the same way you saw the 1-up meter in Super Mario. Same function.

  2. I think not falling into extreme examples is the key in this discussion. I agree on the 5 necromancers example, but at the same time – would you consider the same encounter more challenging just because it forced a role setup on the group beforehand? just because 5 of the same class can do it, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily trivial; just like having the cookiecut group of 1 tank, 1 healer, 3 dps doesn’t mean it won’t be mind-numbingly boring.

    “There are some responsibilities that I do not trust other people to accomplish”

    …isn’t that the perfect argument against a trinity though? funnily enough, I think it works my way too. if I consider myself a person like that (and I am in fact not so different there), the worst situation is one where I am forced to sit back and watch somebody screw up again and again – without any way for me to take over. that is exactly how I felt in WoW raids in the past. specialized roles mean there is no way to make up for others, the same way you can without the trinity: as a healer in a WoW raid, I cannot go tell the screw-up mage “forget it, let me do the range kiting and CC” and I can’t go to the tank and take over because he’s having a shitty night.
    do you truly find a fight more exciting where a dead tank (which cannot be replaced due to spec/gear) means DEFINITE fail – to one where improvisation might still win the fight?

    You’re right in that not everyone can be a specialist at everything; but the argument you base this on pro trinity, is flawed imo. because just because people choose between tank, healer or DPS doesn’t mean they’re actually good at that role, or always good at it. I would agree with you more if such was the case, but it isn’t. players are humans are humans have strengths and weaknesses never-mind their role picks.

    they will have them in GW2 too – but at least then you have the option to re-assign every job in the group if you like to (IF it does indeed work that way which we don’t know). am also not sure that GW2 is pushing the concept of “being a specialist at everything” as much as it actually creates room for diversity.

    does that “have to” make encounters easier? I don’t know. only if you’re thinking trinity, it would. if you can free yourself of that concept, you can think of bossfights that are just as strict and just as unforgiving – for ex. fights that require exact timing, exact positions, have enrage timers etc. can work just as well without roles? why does having role flexibility make the encounter easier per se? that speaks against a lot of evidence from other genres.

    if anything, the worst that can happen is that things stay more or less the same. let’s be honest here and let’s look at WoW. now let me see…how super involved was my job as holypriest during the average, good instance run: I pressed a few buttons, in a really good group maybe 2-3 different spells through the whole thing, on different targets as timing required. yeah very exiting and novel once you’ve done it a couple of times…./cough I was allowed to screw-up sometime, on other times not.

    now, how would GW2 be easier or as some say more boring? you will press a few buttons, on a few targets, hopefully timed right. they won’t be called tank and healer maybe, and instead of flashheal or block, my spells will be called different and do other things. but essentially, we’re doing the same in every MMO and will follow certain patterns as long as there’s no NPC AI..
    GW2 will add to this though (hopefully) in terms of leeway, and how much other factors such as situational awareness, active movement or using the environment will come into play. so from that perspective it COULD be a lot more involved.
    and even if it’s not, then we have one big pro that cannot be denied: no gear/spec keeping you from teaming up, no waiting around for a healer to show. I’d take that with potential boredom, over WoW’s definite boredom, any day.

    • Our positions are a lot closer than I realized, but the difference comes down to this: I prefer specific people filling the critical roles because I can feel assured that the people filling said roles are capable of doing the job.* In other words, the ONLY time I have to “sit back and watch the raid fail” is when it’s a Defile-esque situation in which the weakest member randomly gets chosen. Any other time, either I take on the responsibility myself, or I can assign the 1-2 people I DO trust to do the job.

      As I mentioned in the post, if GW2’s innovation is that you can replace the tank or healer or kiting mage yourself, no matter what class you are… then fantastic! I think every class being a hybrid class capable of filling any role is great. But if it is a situation where there is no dedicated tank/healer/DPS because everyone is expected to be capable of handling those roles, then that will be an unmitigated disaster IMO.

      I’m not a huge fan of healing, the pro-healer friend of mine isn’t comfortable tanking, and if we somehow had to reverse roles, both of us would have less fun (and likely fail).

      *Of course, not everyone who picks tanking is actually good at tanking. That said, if tanking is your job, and you suck at tanking, you get some pretty clear feedback right away: the group wipes, everyone knows whose fault it is, and it’s usually obvious what needs worked on. When someone is bad at Defile though… what can you do? Hope they don’t get picked? It’s infinitely more frustrating.

  3. weberm70@hotmail.com

    You could have more fights like Shade of Aran, which was a tankless fight but not a trivial one. It still had healers.though. You could also have something like Netherspite, but that’s just using a gimmick to mimic the roles rather than designing without them.

    I can see getting rid of tanks easily…right now the only reason you can’t do it in WoW is because boss tank-hitting abilities and autoattack hit way too hard for anything other than a dedicated tank to survive. But bosses have plenty of other abilities that don’t one-shot non-tanks yet aren’t trivial to heal through. But then you still have healers. The only way to get rid of dedicated healers is to make it impossible to have them, either by making dps requirements so high as to force everyone to do it or by preventing anyone from forming a dedicated healing setup at all. In general, if it makes sense for people to specialize, they will. But even Blizzard seems to be disliking the tank role these days–they’ve already nearly nullified the threat aspect.

    Another way they could proceed would be to keep the specialization for organized groups but make randoms into zergfests. I totally support that in WoW…who doesn’t look fondly on the LFD zergs of Wrath after seeing the alternative? So, if someone wanted to be a healer in a random they could do so but wouldn’t be required to, whereas organized content would require some more coordination and playing to strengths.

    I just can’t see them getting rid of specialization wholesale though. A lot of people like to specialize, in and of itself, and they like one role more than another so specialization comes naturally.

    • Whoops, comment form fail. That was me.

    • I loved Wrath heroics, even back then. Some people complained about having to carry bad pugs, but I was more than happy to as a tank. It was satisfying to be the guy capable of taking four strangers, kicking and screaming, to a clean, 20-minute clear of a dungeon. I ran three heroics each day (main + 2 alts) as a tank before really settling down into whatever it was I was going to do that day in WoW.

      I don’t think Blizzard is moving away from specialization; if anything, they are basically getting tanks to specialize less on mob management and more on survival rotations.

  4. “The rub is that improvisation requires room to screw up and not fail. In other words, improvisation requires a lower difficulty. It requires mistakes to not matter as much.”

    I don’t agree that this is an inevitability. Improvisation does not HAVE to mean that things are less difficult. It could simply mean that you must adapt to changing circumstances. Whether these new circumstances or the transition to them are less or more “difficult” than the previous state is a matter of balance.

    Specialization does not have a tidal-lock relationship to the amount of room you have to fail or to improvise. To me it sounds like you’re confusing the issue. The issue with the holy trinity is not really the burden of responsibility being disproportionately placed on healers or tanks. The issue is that it forces players playing those classes to adapt to a role (please note the critical difference between “class” and “role”) they may not be interested in fulfilling but must or they won’t get access to the content and shiny rewards. This is a big reason why there’s always a shortage of those classes. The holy trinity design is, in this respect, fundamentally flawed.

    What GW2 is attempting to do is NOT, as you seem to be saying, remove the burden of responsibility for group success from specialized roles. Rather, GW2 is attempting to give players the option of not being forced into any role BY THE OTHER PLAYERS. It’s not even really about end-game content. THAT can be forcefully balanced by the designers to accommodate this new way of doing things.

    The hoped for result, I think, is that the players who WANT a more specialized role can take one, but they won’t be forced into it. This shouldn’t upset PvE balance or difficulty because all you’re doing is shifting roles around dynamically instead of them being allotted beforehand. And since there won’t be the standard role requirements, encounters will consist of keeping yourself alive (which is basically an indirect way of “doing damage”), healing your allies (if you can and/or if necessary), and doing direct damage. There’s absolutely no reason this can’t be every bit as challenging and interesting as the holy trinity way.

    • The idea of the Holy Trinity hasn’t been built around class since the days of everquest. It’s built around the role a person chooses to play. In modern MMOs, every class has the option of DPSing, every single one of them.

      It’s the idea of being in a role of increased responsibility that most people abhor. It doesn’t matter what class it is. Making more classes capable of filling said role of responsibility won’t increase the number of people willing to fill that position. So if they GW2 has positions of increased responsibility, people will still gravitate to the positions of lesser responsibility, and will still be at the mercy of those who are willing to take on the more important jobs.

      If you implement it such that some people have to rise up and accept additional responsibility, while other people get by with simply pushing a few buttons, then all you’ve done is replaced the “holy trinity” of tank/heal/DPS with the “Great Trumvirate” of whatever they call those important jobs.

      • In a recent video of one of the GW2 dungeons posted by the Curse team from the point of view of a Guardian player, you can see how this kind of behavior starts to unravel since no one profession has the tools to shoulder the responsibility for any real length of time. During one battle, he refuses to switch to a ranged weapon (or even use the environmental ranged weapons provided!) and thus spends the entire encounter running around, not helping or reviving other players, either. As a result, the encounter both takes longer and has increased casualties, and would probably be a full wipe without dev intervention, which it appears they had.

        In a group of 5, if only two players are willing to take the responsibility of adding healing support or placing themselves in the range of danger for the handful of hits they can endure, while the other three run around “trying to only dps,” the group will likely be unsuccessful unless those two players are at the very top of their game, in which case it’s unlikely that they’re PUGging. They wouldn’t have enough healing capability or enough toughness to make up for a player who refuses to dodge when necessary, or switch weapons, or choose and use utility skills to the benefit of the entire team (or the particular encounter).

      • @The Renaissance Man

        “The idea of the Holy Trinity hasn’t been built around class since the days of everquest. It’s built around the role a person chooses to play. In modern MMOs, every class has the option of DPSing, every single one of them.”

        You seem to have ignored what I said re: what other players EXPECT you to do. You can’t tell me that as a priest in WoW you’re not expected to heal in a typical group, and if you say “I’m shadow spec” you won’t get an invite. Maybe things have changed in the last 3 or 4 years, but that’s how it was when I played.

        “It’s the idea of being in a role of increased responsibility that most people abhor.”

        Okay, I’ll play along: Let them abhor it. If people can’t handle a larger portion of the blame when their group fails then I don’t want them anywhere near my group. I’d prefer to play with people who want to participate meaningfully, not just tap a button and click “Need” every 15 minutes.

        “It doesn’t matter what class it is. Making more classes capable of filling said role of responsibility won’t increase the number of people willing to fill that position.”

        Isn’t that beside the point, though? ArenaNet has spread out responsibility while streamlining the responsibilities of roles. Instead of one player being dedicated to tanking, every player shoulders a bit of that burden. That doesn’t mean the game itself has to be easier, it’s just different. To say otherwise is like saying that playing an FPS must be easier than an MMORPG simply because “all you do in an FPS is shoot.”

        People may gravitate to more important jobs, yes. But that may not be necessary–and very likely won’t be in every situation. My point is that to conflate “specialization” or narrowness of responsibility with difficulty is a logical non sequitur. GW2 content can be challenging without forcing players into a decidedly arbitrary paradigm. I think yours and Azuriel’s problem with this arrangement is that you’re having a hard time seeing past typical MMORPG tropes. Which isn’t surprising. I’m still skeptical (but hopeful) ArenaNet can pull it off. I’m just stating that it’s possible.

      • And Randomessa ironically illustrates the point I just made. People aren’t familiar yet with the way GW2 expects you to do things. The Guardian player didn’t adapt. Guess what? He’ll either learn to adapt or he’ll wash out. You can’t really think everyone will keep banging their heads against GW2’s content forever because they’re used to something else.

        If you’re not willing to shoulder the responsibility, you don’t get to play. As long as the game is fun, I believe people will step up. The extra responsibility will be worth it. No one will quit a great game because they hate, say, doing ranged DPS once in a while, or healing themselves. And if they do, good f’n riddance.

      • I’ve raided with plenty of shadow priests. Even in BC, spreists were a requirement for high end groups, even if it was only as a mana battery to fuel the warlocks. Now, if a group needs a healer, and you ask to come in as a shadow priest, well, you’re going to get rejected unless you’re willing to switch to a different role. That won’t be any different in GW2 if the content is actually tuned tighter than the current joke diffculty on beta. They need someone who can kite, but you just want to DPS? You’re not getting in.

        “Okay, I’ll play along: Let them abhor it. If people can’t handle a larger portion of the blame when their group fails then I don’t want them anywhere near my group. I’d prefer to play with people who want to participate meaningfully, not just tap a button and click “Need” every 15 minutes.”

        Congrats, you’ve just alienated the majority of the market for the game. Because that’s the majority of the player base in every MMO. The majority of players play casual PvE content, which is to say small group instances, and the majority of those players want to play the role with the least responsibility. That begins to erode as you reach higher level PvE content, where responsibility begins to be distributed more evenly, but in five man content in WoW and rift, and 4 man content in Tor, the amount of encounters that can be two manned by a tank and a healer are incredible.

        “If you’re not willing to shoulder the responsibility, you don’t get to play. As long as the game is fun, I believe people will step up. The extra responsibility will be worth it. No one will quit a great game because they hate, say, doing ranged DPS once in a while, or healing themselves. And if they do, good f’n riddance.”

        And this comes in direct conflict with your previous comments about wanting to play a shadow priest when the group needed someone more important. If you were really dedicated, you would have stepped up to the needs of the group then.

        Ultimately, the ideals that the devs are pushing for here will result in one of two roads. Either the content will be tuned to the lowest common denominator, as it is currently, or the lowest common denominator will be expected to pull the same weight as the high stakes roles do already, and looking at other MMOs, such as the outcry over the difficulty of the cata release heroics, and the current bemoaning of Swtor HM flashpoints, will alienate the bulk of the player base. The middle ground between the two is that some people have responsibility, and others don’t, and that’s the very definition of the Holy Trinity.

      • The reason ArenaNet can make these dungeons difficult for those who don’t accept responsibility for skilled play without alienating them from the game entirely has many angles:

        1) You don’t need to complete dungeons in order to aquire the best gear in the game; dungeon sets carry prestige but not increased power (this has already worked in GW1 in which the most expensive and sought-after sets did not have higher stats than base max-level armor; further, all sets are customizable with varying upgrades that can be acquired a variety of ways)

        2) Overworld dynamic events can provide a simpler raiding experience for those who merely want to be part of a gathering of people attacking a huge f-off dragon, with multiple phases and objectives and more importantly, less individual responsibility

        3) Failure to succeed in such an event does not gate content for participants due to the branching nature of dynamic events: if the dragon is not killed in time that event “ends,” and a new event begins in which he sends raiding parties to several neighboring towns and villages, thus breaking up the zerg into multiple objectives to be tackled simultaneously, and each of which may have their own pass/fail conditions and branches

      • @The Renaissance Man

        Shadow priests are just an example.

        “Congrats, you’ve just alienated the majority of the market for the game. Because that’s the majority of the player base in every MMO.”

        I disagree completely. I think you’re speculating, and I think you’re confusing the issue again. WoW is and has been the best AAA MMORPG for nearly 8 years. WoW’s market, particularly at the beginning, was very diverse. People played it for a lot of reasons, but the most important reason was because it was a really, really great game. It was fun and interesting and exciting. And at the beginning it expected a lot out of its players in terms of PvE content, and by and large the players who could participate stepped up. They stepped up because the game was great. As the game wore on and didn’t fundamentally change, the shine wore off. Blizzard responded in part by making the end game more accessible (not JUST easier) to the have nots. This is a decision I applauded at the time, since raiding back in vanilla was a really exclusive club (which was kept exclusive for logistical reasons totally unrelated to player ability). Their mistake came in swinging TOO far in the “more accessible and easier” direction plus then trying to reverse course in Cataclysm. This is a HUGE reason players freaked out when Cataclysm came out. They’d been conditioned to.

        Contrary to your assertion, this does NOT mean that MMO players are incapable of braving a little adversity in their gameplay without feeling alienated. They’ve simply been CONDITIONED into this mindset because the best (and often only) MMORPG experience they’ve had has been facilitating this sort of thinking and behavior for 8 years. Nobody wants to be blamed for failing, which is why people shy away from that blame by choosing roles that won’t get them blamed for things. But this is a psychological thing. If every player has the potential of being just as responsible for failure as the next, this makes taking blame easier, and players will either adapt to this new type of conditioning or they’ll quit, and you keep them from quitting by making the game great. Trust me, people will NOT quit in the face of being forced to adapt if the game is awesome. They just won’t.

        “And this comes in direct conflict with your previous comments about wanting to play a shadow priest when the group needed someone more important.”

        I was making two separate points. 1) People don’t want to be forced into a role BY OTHER PLAYERS and 2) players should definitely be willing to shoulder responsibility FOR THEIR CHOSEN ROLE. Which brings us back to Azuriel’s original point: that IF players are allowed to define their own roles (as ArenaNet appears to be attempting to do), THEN the game must be easier/simpler/lowest denominator. I simply disagree, because the conclusion does not follow from the premise. I believe the both of you are having a hard time seeing past 10+ years of tired MMORPG conditioning.

        At any rate, I can agree that the game will eventually fall into a middle ground. But the holy trinity need not exist. Instead, you’ll have a group of players of a various specializations happily take a more responsible role, which may or may not make given content easier and I’ll wager by and large the average group will be appropriately challenged. As long as ArenaNet do their jobs.

      • @adam

        I see where you went with the vanilla WoW example in stating that players stepped up to the roles of responsibility because they enjoyed the game overall. I think though that you haven’t considered players didn’t understand that their role was permanent. That it wasn’t some unique, rare occassion — a sentiment fresh, new worlds and dungeons that possesses the player to believe this is unique. As players learned these situations *weren’t* unique, that they would be called time and again to fill the *same* role …they balked. The permanence of roles in WoW is the breaking point for the formula falling apart. Moreover, the ratio of tanks:healers:dps wasn’t likely much different then than it is now; the number of players filling these “responsible” roles was still fewer and that’s still true today.

        I guess I don’t really agree with your overall point. It doesn’t hold well when all the other factors are taken into account. Plus, the whole “responsibility” arguments always fail to account for the context from which they’re derived. It’s a much more complex issue than a player deciding or not deciding to be “responsible”.

    • @adam
      Improvisation does not HAVE to mean that things are less difficult.

      Right… but difficult improvisation = The Dance, Defile, etc. I did acknowledge a continuum (as opposed to a binary either/or), but as I said, actually getting a game’s difficulty to land in that area is exceedingly, er, difficult.

      The hoped for result, I think, is that the players who WANT a more specialized role can take one, but they won’t be forced into it.

      …except they will be forced into it. That boss is going to start randomly attacking you at some point, and nobody can heal you through the damage. Or Johnny Random is going to forget to use his self-heal effectively (or at all) and then what? Someone is going to have to rez him, or spend time babysitting him with limited heals.

      That is the worst part about this system as described. If I am an amazing pro boss-dodger, it’s irrelevant. I cannot compensate for Johnny’s lack of skill at Dodging. Or maybe I can… but only by being good at healing too. But then we also have Bob in here, who is just as bad as Johnny.

  5. I think a common issue some people have when they assume that a lack of holy-trinity can’t work is that they’re simply imagining their current game (WoW, Rift) as is, except no one can be a tank or healer. Of course it won’t work in that case because the game and its encounters were all designed to account for one or two guys with crazy high armor taking all the hits, another couple in the back just healing any and everything they can, and the rest doing damage non-stop.

    GW2 is being designed from the ground up with a completely different style in mind. Everyone is a lot more self-sufficient. I could be a theif and decide I’m going to get the boss mob’s attention and then just move and dodge-roll and do everything in my power to not be hit at all. While I’m distracting him everyone else can be attacking, and if I get hit then I can heal myself, and if I go down someone else steps up and distracts the boss while another player runs over and rezzes me.

    It will be a lot more “fly by the seat of your pants” type gameplay where you’re just reacting, and dodging, and swapping to your other weapon set to gain this ability or that… My hope is that the dungeons and the boss fights will be so dynamic that you can’t write a script that explains 100% how to win each fight. Standing still, going through a rotation of spells, moving all 10/25/40 people over there for 8 seconds when the boss hits 40%, etc… isn’t going to suffice.

    In one of the GW2 beta vids I saw a warrior fighting an elite mob a few levels above them and the warrior took 0 damage the entire fight. This was possible because the warrior never stood still for more than 2 seconds. He was dodging, and moving around the mob, and if you get out of the way of an attack in time it doesn’t hit you. Half way through the fight a guardian the same level as the mob shows up, plants themselves in front of it (WoW-tank style), and starts attacking. The guardian never dodges or tries to avoid any of the damage and goes into downed mode just before the elite mob dies.

    In WoW/Rift moving out of the way isn’t how you dodge. Instead you stack dodge gear and hope the random miss chance goes off. You have no incentive to ever move unless some big AOE effect is heading your way. GW2 will be a lot more “actiony”, and as a result, the boss fight mechanics you’re imagining in WoW are going to play out a lot differently.

    In WoW/Rift I believe your gear does a lot of the work for you. If the tank has the right set of armor then they can survive Boss mob X, and if they don’t then your entire raid will wipe. It serves to gate players into the proper raid dungeons one by one, but by relying on gear so much there is less incentive to increase your own skills. With WoW I’ve heard some people can sit there with the TV on, go through their skill rotations while paying half attention to the screen, and still succeed. In GW2 if you don’t pay attention, and don’t have enough skill dodging then you will spend a lot of time dead.

    • There’s tons of instances of movement based avodance in WoW. Alysrazor tornadoes, Shannox traps, Beth’tilac meteors, Baleroc Countdowns, ryholith lines, Domo leaps, rag flames, Yor’sahj oozes, Ultraxion, blackhorn void zones and shockwaves, Morchok black phase, Zon’ozz cone, Hagara Ice walls, Spine nukes, Madness bolts. It’s literally in every fight.

      • But in Guild Wars 2, anyone can dodge any damage in any encounter, and the expectation is that you are not able to be healed through most damage. My understanding is that in WoW most attacks (I understand there are special mob attacks and other AoE effects) hone on their targets and are therefore physically unavoidable more often than not, is this correct?

      • At which point you’ve created completely trivial content for players who have any experience with similar scenarios. Decent raiders in WoW avoid all avoidable damage upwards of 95% of the time. Without enrage timers and unavoidable damage, even the most fire filled encounters in WoW would be trivial for a group of competent raiders. The purpose of unavoidable damage is to create another potential point of failure in the group. If you remove that, then the encounter become exponentially more simple. If Hagara were simply Ice Phase followed by Feedback phase ad naseum, only the most incompetent groups would ever wipe on her.

      • I said they can avoid ANY damage, not ALL damage.

    • Everyone is a lot more self-sufficient. I could be a theif and decide I’m going to get the boss mob’s attention and then just move and dodge-roll and do everything in my power to not be hit at all. While I’m distracting him everyone else can be attacking, and if I get hit then I can heal myself, and if I go down someone else steps up and distracts the boss while another player runs over and rezzes me.

      Do you really imagine that that is how things will play out in a group setting? Setting aside for the moment whether you will actually be capable of getting the boss mob’s attention on demand (e.g. tanking), the question is “who steps up to distract the boss?” Just… “someone else?”

      I can maybe accept the premise that players getting to level 80 in GW2 will have learned the basics of self-sufficiency that is dodging and self-heals. But I don’t believe everyone will be equally good at it, nor do I believe everyone will have the gumption to step up to the plate, so to speak, when the roles change mid-battle. Guilds, friends on Vent? Sure. Pugged dungeons? Disaster, IMO.

      • Just to note here that there are two formats to the dungeons: story mode (which is what we have seen in the press beta videos thus far), in which you are provided with NPC characters to assist and are supposed to be notably easier for a PUG to complete (not guaranteed, however, if you’re going to play the way the press played over the beta weekend, for the most part).

        Completing the story mode dungeons unlocks the explorable mode dungeons, which have a different overarching story, three branching paths, and are NOT meant to be PUGgable. So if your observations are that randoms will be able to throw themselves against the dungeon we have seen so far in videos and eventually complete it, the answer is, yeah, many of them will be able to do so eventually and that’s kind of the plan. But that’s just the surface version of the dungeons, so people can say they “went there.”

        Explorable mode dungeons, we have not seen so far (though TotalBiscuit was part of the only group to successfully complete one and will post footage of it later), and from what we have heard from both him and the fans who were able to try it out last year at the ANet HQ they are quite difficult and require a lot of coordination to get through. So yes, you will need to have a group of 5 players who are able to, at any given moment, bring their best “control” game, their best “support” game, and their best “damage” game. PUGs need not apply.

        In GW1 we have echoes of this in our normal mode vs. hard mode content, and elite dungeons, which are also not PUGgable except by people who have learned the encounters previously.

  6. There is an assumption here I don’t find entirely true: There is shared burden certainly, but the individual contribution from a skilled player and his/her potential to pull the group from the jaws of defeat is much greater than it is in WoW.

    In WoW a failure by a group member on some critical mechanic can doom most groups…the tank going down on Zonzz or Shanox means a wipe in normal raiding…I could write an exhaustive list of other places in the last two tiers where such things could happen but I think it speaks for itself. This is not necessarily true in GW2 from my understanding and from what I have seen. As you have no tank, some player going down may certainly make a fight more difficult, but does not doom it to failure; especially since that player will just go “down” instead of instant death…it’s possible that a clever group could revive him or her.

    A major difference is the way damage is handled; in GW2 there are many ways to outright escape it while in WoW the damage is generally unavoidable and this is what necessitates Tanks and Healers.

    Even in WoW however there are times where an odd combination of classes (say 10 death knights) can defeat even difficult content ( http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/01/25/raegwyn-and-friends-claim-first-all-death-knight-firelands/ )…pretty sure we can still consider Heroic Firelands difficult to some degree, especially sans true healers or DPS.

    To sum up the goal in GW2 is to shift the reliance from having a 1/3/1 mix of roles to having five people in which you shift into roles based on what you are skilled at. Maybe someone is a great kiter…he can try to draw mobs away while letting the rest of the party attack. The game is challenging players to work with the tools they have and think beyond the trinity.

    That and I am not sure that GW2’s endgame is going to have much focus on raids or the “hardcore/elite” sort of content that WoW does. From what I understand it is aiming to cater more towards explorers, PvPers (through Arenas and WvWvW), and a more casual mix of players. However some of my information may be inaccurate, I am not following it as diligently as I could.

    Sorry for the rambling, will see about doing my own post on Specializations; but I for one would be HAPPY to see the trinity gone.

    • You’re right; my specialization argument is mostly separate from the bit about improvisation, aside from the tangential overlap.

      Thing is, I’m not seeing how a skilled player actually compensates for weaker players under the GW2 paradigm. It doesn’t matter that I am amazing at dodging attacks, if there is no way for me to reliably get the boss’s attention (e.g. tank them). If someone is a great kiter, to use your example, so what? Those mobs can’t be kited unless there is a specific aggro system in place to exploit. And if there is, then the kiter is effectively tanking the mobs, is he not?

      • I agree with many of Clockworks points. What I’m not clear on is what it is you don’t understand about a game without the trinity allowing for dynamic combat situations. I’m not understanding this. You will have to help me.

        Consider any multiplayer shooter which doesn’t use 1/3/1 formula. These are teams of players who use communications to formulate the best approach to victory. The roles are always interchangeable and at any given moment one teammate can say to the other “you do x and I’ll do y”. What is it that’s difficult to understand about this group dynamic?

        I think part of the reason there’s such a strong lack of understanding or failure to grasp concepts of multiplayer dungeoning is players not understanding what makes them work. It’s very easy to mistake the interdependency MMOs try to encourage in their playerbase as iron rules of engagement for designing group play. The specializations should be seen from that angle alone: an effort of the game design to encourage, even necessitate, group play. Some games choose the trinity to serve this function. But do not mistake it as the best or only way to design group content.

      • @Doone

        It is not that the trinity is the only way to create dynamic content. You can absolutely have dynamic, role-less, “everyone is a DPS” gameplay. My point is that that necessarily results in a scenario in which either A) the strength of the group is based on its weakest member (i.e. The Dance), or B) the encounter is trivial (i.e. the group was unnecessary).

        The funny thing about your FPS example is that it can’t exist in GW2, because the devs claim there won’t be tanking or healing. So you can’t tell your team “I’ll give you cover by sniping” because, randomly, everyone is going to be expected to cover by sniping at some point… even though you’re the only one with the sniper rifle. Your specialization does not matter in GW2 – you cannot cover a specific role for any length of time.

        I have never believed the trinity is the only way to design group-based encounters around. I do believe, however, that the trinity is the best environment in which specialization can occur.

  7. Trinity Mechanics vs. Guild Wars 2: This is a really good, methodical (uses numbers!) breakdown of the trinity as it exists in traditional MMOs and how it works (and more importantly) doesn’t work in Guild Wars 2. I believe it covers some of the concerns that are being discussed here.

    • There’s a lot of things wrong with that post, but I’ll just point out the most glaring.

      “By using this system of Prevention and Delays instead of Reduction and Undoing GW2 doesn’t even need Enrage Timers. Player error will prevent the possibility of infinite TKBD. People are not perfect and once a system reaches a certain level of complexity and difficulty mistakes will happen. Prevention will be used at the wrong time (e.g. dodging too early/late), Abilities will be on CD when needed most, etc… This focus on Prevention and Delays also means that Reduction and Undoing doesn’t need to be as powerful. Anet can make hits hurt because you shouldn’t have gotten hit (in theory).”

      No enrage timer combined with relying on player error to force defeat means that content will be soloable, which pretty much undermines the entire purpose of group PvE content. Any content that is soloable becomes trivial in a group. This is something that’s playing out in the Beta, the group dungeons are just zergfests at the moment. Eventually, if they want to have a viable PvE game, they’re going to have to start implementing the constraints of modern PvE content, these are the things that force players to bring an actual group to the content, enrage timers and unavoidable damage being chief among them.

      • “No enrage timer combined with relying on player error to force defeat means that content will be soloable”

        I’d like to know more about why you think this is possible given the defeat penalties we are currently aware of and the fact that the two dungeon runs from the press beta that we’ve seen so far involved dev hax to get the zerg to completion, and especially given the statement about needed skills being on cooldown. Who would fill in the gap when the solo player’s own skills are on cooldown? In addition, they have neither an infinite set of weapons nor are they able to swap alternate weapon sets or utility skills while in combat.

    • Ok, interesting reading, but I’m not really sure I need to wait for GW2 to see it in action. I’ve been playing Star Trek Online and the behaviour is somewhat similar: while you get “specialized” DPS/Tank/Support “classes”, all roles are or CAN BE self-sufficient. Your “specialization” is not only defined by your class (type of officier) but also the type of ship you fly and the skills of the bridge officers you choose.
      Now this looks great on paper, since you can have the full spectrum from tank to glass cannon to total support, with all shades in between.
      In practice, it suffers the same problem which I noted in the first post: as long as the “death” of an enemy is a bar which slowly fills (or “unfills”), the ONLY role which is relevant is DPS. Maybe I was not clear enough in my initial post, but tank/healers are only support which is there to allow the DPS focus on bringing the boss health down, because for the kill NOTHING ELSE MATTERS. Net result is that when you play instances in STO, DPS > the rest. Of course you still need some of the rest, but if you can kill stuff fast enough, the survival/support built in all configurations is enough to stay alive.
      So I’ll get the game when it is released, but unless they can come up with something better than “HP bars”, it’ll end up being rehashed mechanics (it’s not like kiting is anything new…. and BTW good luck to people with high latency).

      • BTW good luck to people with high latency

        Dodge is more likely to be forgiving to people with latency since it is actually a 2 second invulnerability.

  8. @Renaissance Man

    There’s some basic flaws in your logic. for one thing, you define all DPS out there as people who “chose the role with the least responsibility”. this is completely untrue. many, probably most DPS choose their classes because they love being a sneaky thief, master archer or fire-wielding mage. not too hard to see why that is. the lazy and bad DPS you refer to are not the majority of all MMO DPSers.

    secondly, ‘shared responsibility’ is already alive in a game of trinity to some extent – anyone can screw up a run. in GW2 the shared responsibility will simply be different, in the way that it is NOT role based and allows for more dynamic playstyles. this does not automatically mean MORE pressure to everyone – in fact it might as well mean less. if groups can adjust the individual strengths and weaknesses of their members better, a truly insecure or newbie player can hope of getting the less demanding tasks each time. you seem to not grasp the difference between ‘having options’ and ‘being forced to use all options’. there’s still preferences in GW2, only as linked in the URL Randomessa gave, they’re not as all exclusive as in WoW – and they don’t make a group fail as quickly simply because of role setup. such failure is not a sign of difficulty, it’s a sign of restrictive/bad design.

    which is the greater issue at large here, I believe: some people are mistaking role restrictions for difficulty. fights are not automatically harder because they demand role setup. they’re not harder because the roles forbid improvisation. all it means is that you fail due to setup restrictions – which is poor imo. I know how I felt at YoggSaron+1 when we wiped for 1hour because of tanking issues. that made phase 1 extremely LONG for sure, but it certainly didn’t make it challenging nor difficult for anyone that wasn’t a tank.
    and for the record: flexibility is not a sign of difficulty (or lack thereof), either. improvisation is actually HARD. it is not a given to achieve it, just because it’s there as an option. improvisation requires very fast thinking, reflexes, teamwork. I’ve only ever known a few players who were truly good at it. same goes for dodging etc. – that can actually require some skill.

    don’t mistake role restrictions for combat difficulty. the latter is all about how the encounters in GW2 will be designed, scaled, balanced. the trinity is not vital to this.

    • this does not automatically mean MORE pressure to everyone – in fact it might as well mean less. if groups can adjust the individual strengths and weaknesses of their members better, a truly insecure or newbie player can hope of getting the less demanding tasks each time.

      Yes, the newbie can HOPE they aren’t targeted by the boss, just like everyone hopes the weakest member of your Lich King raid isn’t targeted by Defile. But said newbie will be targeted, and there is nothing the pro-dodger or pro-healer can do to mitigate the pain.

      Because if they could, that would imply the trinity is alive and well, would it not?

  9. @adam

    Nobody wants to be blamed for failing, which is why people shy away from that blame by choosing roles that won’t get them blamed for things. But this is a psychological thing. If every player has the potential of being just as responsible for failure as the next, this makes taking blame easier, and players will either adapt to this new type of conditioning or they’ll quit, and you keep them from quitting by making the game great.

    Sharing the responsibility for failure does not reduce the frequency of failure; if anything, when everyone can be blamed, the failure rate goes up, in my experience, as there is not much any individual can do to fix the problem (assuming anyone knows what the problem even was).

  10. If the dungeon is trivial, anyone can do any job and the group will succeed (booooring). If the dungeon is difficult, players will, over time, produce a strategy that most efficiently solves the problems presented by the dungeon – and that strategy will have specialized roles. They may not be holy trinity roles, but specific tasks will exist, and they will be best handled by certain classes.

    What we are talking about here is competition in an evolutionary sense, anf specialization is the natural result of competition. Look at sports, for example; classes with different powers don’t exist (no holy trinity) but notice how specialized players are in their skillsets and roles – wide receivers make terrible linebackers, centers and point guards are practically playing different games, and, in the AL, pitchers never touch a bat. Specialization and coordination make the team much stronger than a simple sum of its

    Players in gw2 WILL specialize, and class/role requirements WILL exist, if the content is difficult enough to require it of them; if it isn’t, the pve side of the game will be trivial.

    • I could not have said it better myself.

      My fear, based on what I have been reading about GW2, is that the “dynamic” nature the encounters will mean that specialization in any given task is impossible. A boss may require someone to be dodging all the attacks (e.g. a tank), and yet since no single person can tank by design, everyone will necessarily need to be good at dodging to X% capacity. Bob can suck at tanking, get chosen to tank, and thus wipe the group (either immediately or by diverting resources towards reviving him).

      I really, really don’t want to be Dancing in this or any other MMO. Not after seeing firsthand what it does to people – and myself – in WoW.

      • @Azuriel, I have a question – maybe it will seem like a tangential one but I really feel it’s important for the discussion. Why you (and some of the commenters but you seem to be one of the people who insist on it a lot) assume all PvE encounters are going to be of the same difficulty? Is there something I missed, like the developers saying they didn’t believe in increasing the difficulty and they thought the only difficulty should be a fake one caused by lacking gear? Did they say all dungeons are going to have the same difficulty? I’m honestly curious, I don’t really follow all news on GW2.

        Because it’s different in other games. Take WoW as an example – I’m sure even people who say heroic raids require close to no skill would agree they’re more difficult than low-level dungeons. Yet most of the people assume this is not going to be the case in GW2, why?

        The reason I’m asking is, I can understand how can a 5-man boss be designed with a simple difficulty with one person doing 50% performance while the other 4 only do 10% and the same boss on harder difficulty requiring all people to do 95%+ with most of the change being just tuning the numbers. But it seems the model is not possible, otherwise someone’d mention it. What is it I’m missing?

      • @Imakulata

        Oh, I’m sure there will be different levels of difficulty in GW2. My fear is that they will be different levels of The Dance style of difficulty. Defile was more difficult to handle than, say, Blood Queen’s mechanic, for example. The latter became much easier to handle with the 30% damage buff (you could eventually survive a bad bite, or a MC) whereas the former was always hard.

      • So for you “The Dance” means a mechanic that challenges the weakest player (either by choosing a random member or by requiring all members to perform to a certain standard); I usually use the dance word to mean non-transferable mechanic (such one that is only used in a single encounter and the knowledge is never needed again). I’m going to use your definition of dance in the comment.

        Since you mentioned tanking, imagine a tank&spank boss. Let’s imagine no player has access to damage reduction abilities or heals other than self-heals and can self-heal for 100 HPS and the group’s size is 5:
        1) If the boss does 0 DPS, no tanks are needed and the encounter is trivial.

        2) If the boss does 100 DPS, a single tank is sufficient. They can just heal all incoming damage infinitely and there is a room for their mistake too. Not a dance mechanic because it challenges the best player, i. e. a single player needs to step up, decide to be a tank and be good enough to tank. The encounter is not trivial either because at least a single player needs to be good enough to tank.

        3) If the boss does 200 DPS, two tanks are needed but they can heal all incoming damage provided they taunt before the other tank dies. It’s not a dance mechanic either, the 3 remaining players can be as bad as they want but aren’t able to fail the encounter.

        4) If the boss does 500 DPS, all group members have to take their turns tanking and have to be good enough to actually tank so it is a dance mechanic.

        5) If the boss does 600 DPS, all group members need to be good enough to tank (dance) but they need to do minimum DPS required to kill the boss before it kills them (not a dance though – a single player can do 0 DPS as long as the others do 25% more than required).

        The whole point of the exercise is simple – a dance mechanic such as tanking in GW2 model can become a non-dance one and even reduced to be trivial or non-existent just by tuning the numbers.

        Now the example I provided assume a simple threat mechanics (sticky taunts or something) but I think it might work with the complex aggro mechanics in GW2. A mob attacking someone? Throw them a protective buff, let them run away if the mob’s aggro depends on proximity and/or damage dealt (assuming they will run away without dealing damage which is probable) etc.

      • It’s a good thought process, but I’m going to stop you here:

        Not a dance mechanic because it challenges the best player, i. e. a single player needs to step up, decide to be a tank and be good enough to tank.

        If GW2 allows that to happen, great. My impression is that it won’t, either because the boss will attack someone else anyway or because you won’t have enough tanking abilities (via cooldowns) to keep the boss distracted regardless of how much damage they do. So right off the bat, that boss could end up attacking your weakest guy.

        And really, it also presupposes that every tank (or player) is good at self-healing. That shouldn’t be that much of a concern (we could call it a tanking cooldown and fold it into tanking generally), but I am concerned to an extent how easy it will be to tunnel vision given the action-y nature of gameplay. We’ll see, I suppose.

        Definitely looking forward to any grouping videos that pop up during the beta.

  11. Phone Internet fail : / I may seem illiterate, but I think my point is mostly intact :)

  12. I was just reading a post when I read Gorbag’s summary. 100% agree.

    Incidentally, this is already seems to be the case with Diablo3, another trinity-less game.
    Fundamentally all 5 classes click to kill things. But as the difficulty increases, barbarians will be expected to tank, monks expected to heal, demon hunters snare/CC…

  13. *readying a post

  14. Since GW2 is an MMO where you play with other real people, the behavour of how to beat the dungeon/encounter will mainly depend on what players you go with, in contrast to what classes/roles you go with.
    If you have a warrior in your group that constantly yells HEALMEHEALME because he cannot take care of himself or a mage dying all the time because he doesn’t even know/care that he can avoid incoming attacks by dodging, ccing or running away, you might not be able to beat the challenge.
    The devs said that every encounter is beatable by a group regardless of class-mix that enters, but you have to adept to the skills you and your groupmembers have on their own and in combination with each other. Of course I don’t expect every group that attemts them to beat them, since there will be people standing still and pressing 1-1-1 repeateadly and expecting things to die while they have not to worry about incoming damage or healing.

    As far as I have seen the combat is far more action and movement based up to an extent where you hardly stand still. I would guess this will be much more a game breaker for players than the whole trinity/nontrinity system. No auto-aiming, no homing-arrows/spells, able to dodge attacks, reacting to skills and spells used by people around you and getting benefit out of them and being aware of your surroundings might not fit everyones playstyle if you are used to care for a 5 card radius and the perfect execution of a rotation.

  15. I could argue, but it makes no sense to do so considering what you’ve written here, which is really just your opinion. That’s perfectly acceptable, but you haven’t given any actual reason why the removal of the trinity is a bad idea.

    What you’ve based this idea on is your affection for WoW. This is a lot like me saying my experience with League Of Legends proves something about GW2 isn’t going to work well. My love of LoL isn’t something that gives me the ability to speak on a game that’s completely different. WoW is clearly a very different game than GW2, and the mechanics within both games work because the games are built around their respective mechanics. They are built from the ground-up with them and mind, thus why they work for the game. TL;DR – Don’t compare apples to oranges.

    I’m not a big MMO fan. I used to be, but not anymore, not for many years. I’m not really sure if GW2 is going to change that, however as someone who has actually had the chance to play the game, I can tell you the lack of trinity works just fine in GW2. I had no problems functioning in a group capacity with others, because I could take care of myself. You seem to think there’s a necessity to take care of other people, but I never had to. It was nice getting an occasional heal or buff from another class, and helpful, but I was no worse for the wear when they were no longer part of the team. Of course my gameplay was limited to 45 minutes at a convention, but what I played was great. As I said, I’m still not sure it was great enough to get me back into the MMO scene (I’m sort of over it, honestly) but what I saw was a great game and I’m positive it’s going to do anything but fail.

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