Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Random Shots: The Trinity, Revisited

  • Were I any more of a narcissist, I would suspect that Damion Shubert's recent post at his excellent Zen of Design blog was aimed directly at me. It wasn't, of course. He's actually taking on Brian "Psychochild" Green's Trinity article which you really should read if you haven't. But no one minds if I stick my nose in, do they?

  • The reason I want to dive back into this is because of Damion's contention that breaking up the trinity means homogenizing character classes. I call that a failure of imagination. But let's explain my personal feelings about the trinity before we try to fix it.

  • I don't have trouble with healers, personally. My most recent WoW alt is a recently-respecked Holy Priest just so I can heal more effectively for random dungeons. And I really enjoyed playing a Monk during my Guild Wars days, back when the Prot Boon Healer was a decent build. My problem is that, of all gaming tropes, healing has the least fidelity to the fantasy genre. Or to any genre, really. How many movies have you seen where someone spends the entire time bandaging people up in the middle of a fight? How many books have you read where one person's entire job is to make holy light rain on people? Not very many, I'm sure.

  • Healing is required in video games because developers have been doing it wrong for a long, long time.
    This is where I go down the rabbit hole. If you can't follow me, I don't blame you. It's filthy down here.

  • Damage should be a pressure mechanic in the game. It should be there to tell you that you're doing something wrong. If you're doing everything right and luck goes your way, your character should not be in jeopardy of dying. You should only take damage if you are going too slow or you make a mistake. That's why games like Mirror's Edge feel so weird. Your character is a bullet sponge. What should be happening is that your opponents attacks only hit if you're not doing what you should be.

  • For all the crap that it was given, the morale system from Lord of the Rings Online actually fits better than health and healing. Having the characters' spirits bolstered during the battle makes sense. Having characters beat up and magically healed? Not so much. Of course, if you go back to the grandfather of RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, hit points were about more than just how much punishment your character takes before they die. But healing was also not something the cleric spent every turn focused on. They were there to save your ass when something went very wrong, not because you were expected to expend five times your total hit points every battle.

  • All that said, it's safe to say now that World of Warcraft has made the entire argument moot with its Dungeon Finder. As Darren from Common Sense Gamer (Welcome back! Now start podcasting again!) says, Blizzard has changed the MMO genre again. The trinity works when it's not getting in the way of grouping. By taking all of the friction of the system, grouping is fun and you can toss out all of my complaints and suggestions. I'm not disappointed about that. The beauty of game development (and MMO development in particular) is that there are so many ways to tackle a problem. This is why I love the genre so much. There is so much innovation still going on. It's just very easier to get jaded and forget how much fun there is to be had.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

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