Monday, September 15, 2008

When one becomes two

No, I'm not writing a new Spice Girls song.

I was reading this blog the other day... I wrote such a long reply to it I thought I'd copy-paste it and blog about it myself, since it's a great idea!

Basically, it was suggested that each class should have multiple primary roles open to it (eg, being a tank or a healer). You choose one before a battle begins, and that locks out the abilities of the other to preserve balance. This seems like an awesome idea. Why hasn't anybody done it before?

Well just today I discovered that they have! The new Rune-Keeper class in LotRO does just this. It seems that the more you use damage skills with this class, the better your damage skills become, and new damage skills become available - however, healing skills become progressively further blocked to you.

Conversely, the more you heal, the better your heals become, but the more blocked off your damage skills are.

So, the class is able to choose between being a healer, or a nuker (a "glass cannon" style thing)... But not both at the same time. It's also just as powerful at healing as the other primary healing class (Minstrel), and does crazy damage as a nuker (apparently). Pretty neat.

My vote: include such a mechanic in every future MMO, for every class - let everyone have 2 wildly different roles to choose from. That way when forming a group, the odds are much much better that all necessary roles are fulfilled.

Consider now a Guild Wars Random Arena match. This is a 4v4 game where you are randomly paired with a team of 3 other people. Basically what happens in most games is, one team was lucky enough to get a healer and a couple of people who can do damage (and invariably one noob who couldn't find his ass in the dark with a map and a flashlight), and the other team was not. Guess which team wins?

But in a system where you can alternate between 2 widely different roles within the same class type, people would be able to sort out who should be what before the match starts. To make this somewhat idiot-proof, before entering Random Arenas each person would vote 1-2 as to which spec they'd prefer to be. The game could then assess each person's potential roles and chosen preferences and compare it to a pre-programmed set of rules... something like

1) Get a healer if one is possible, no matter what preference any potential healers nominated it
2) If 2 healers are possible, choose the one that put the healer class as the highest preference
3) If there's a tie, choose one at random
4) Next fill the role of the melee, etc

Of course, people would be free to disable one of the preferences if they really didn't like/ didn't feel like being a particular spec.

This pairing/preferences concept could be used not just in Random Arenas, but in pretty much every PvE and PvP area of every game, every time a group is formed up. Group leaders could disable "auto roll select" of course.



mbp said...

Despite playing Lotro for almost a year I let it slip off my Radar so I never realised the Rune Keeper worked like that. Thanks for pointing it out to me it looks like a great class to play - fast soloing due to high dps combined with being desirable in groups due to healing ability. I can hear the calls for nerfing already :(

Mind you I am not sure this dual classing will work if there are already specialist tanks and healers in the game. Inevitably people will compare the hybrid with the specialist. The hybrid is usually found wanting because if they are as at a role as a specialist there will be outraged cries for nerfing.

Elementalistly said...

The hybrid exists for one reason.


That is all it can be good for.
It does the job of many yet masters none.
When anyone plays WoW solo, a majority go for Paladin due to it's multiple capabilities.
If I grab a character in GW, I will try a class and may take Healing as my secondary so I can keep myself healed when I wish to solo.

Rune keeper is the same thing, and may be a class that is not used very much in the long run.
It is a cool concept, but I feel it may not be useful overall.
Something will really have to make it distinct.
Will only know when it launches.
I forsee the same issues that happens in WoW happening here.
"LFG Healer"
"I am a Rune Keeper"
"Have you focused on heals?"
"LFG Healer"

Ah well

mbp said...

Exactly my point @openedge1 as long as specialists exist the hybrid will be a second choice. If however the only healers or tanks available were hybids then folks would be happy to take a hybrid.

Thallian said...

After some research I found some things Steefel said on rune-keepers to be quite illuminating. He said that they would be able to be primary healers (unlike captains, another hybrid) but they would not be able to respond to threats as fast as a minstrel could. Instead they would, if you were a diligent rune keeper, be capable of keeping everyone's hp up with HOT's since almost all their heals are HOT's instead of insta-heals the minstrel does.

Since Lotro needs this diversity I think its a good addition. And if you made an entire game of dual classes it would enrich it with flexibility I believe to answer your other question.

Elementalistly said...

And if you made an entire game of dual classes it would enrich it with flexibility

Like Guild Wars

Any class can be a hybrid, and makes for some interesting mechanics.

Runes of Magic, an up and coming WoW clone, is making a change to WoW by introducing Hybrids for ALL.

I think it could be fun.

Crimson Starfire said...

I think there is a difference between being hybrid and being multi-classed. Hybrid's have two specialties and choose which one to use at what time. Multi-classing usually has a primary and a secondary specialty. The primary specialty will always be the stronger.

Although the concept of a hybrid is nothing new, the ability to specialise in a particular area (heal / tank) when the situation calls for it is a relatively new idea. I definitely think it has potential for future MMO application.

Melf_Himself said...

I agree with crimson and others. The Rune Keeper idea isn't quite a hybrid, it's actually 2 classes in one, but you have to pick which class you want to be effectively before combat begins.

It will be hard to implement in a game with many 'pure' classes as it will feel unfair... but I'd still love to see a whole new game do it from the start.