Playing Without Rules

This is another one of those mornings where I am sitting here struggling to find purpose… or at least something to write about.  After a few nights of lousy sleep I managed to get a pretty solid one last night.  The Ceiling Fan has essentially died in the bedroom, but yesterday I hooked up an oscillating fan and it was actually quite comfortable using it.  Oddly enough though, even with a good nights sleep I am just out of it this morning.

Guest Posts

I have to say I was shocked that both of my guest posters had topics ready for me yesterday.  I apparently fail miserably at the concept of a guest post, since most bloggers use them for days when they don’t actually want to post.  I kind of feel like that would be cheating this little experiment I have been on, to see if I can manage to post every single day for a year.  I fear for November, since I plan on doing NANOWRIO this year… and I am not sure how I will be able to write every night… and then still be able to come up with something worth saying in the morning.  You guys might just get a lot of status updates to my word count.

Ariad and I don’t always see eye to eye, but honestly he said a lot of things I would have said.  Ultimately my problem is not removing the Trinity persay… but that when you remove it… it has to be replaced with something.  In his post he did a great job and outlining how various games both digital and real all have roles that are played.  So if you want to remove what World of Warcraft essentially distilled those roles down to… you need to replace them with something else.  The absence of role based play essentially turns everything into a mindless deathmatch, which while fun for some time does not lend itself to engaging gameplay.

Playing Without Rules

stalwart_scarlet

Sevok has been a pet class in essentially every game I have ever played with him.  He pretty much personifies what I think of when I think about that type of player.  There was a pretty good debate that spilled out onto Google+ as a result of yesterdays posting.  Essentially when dealing with a pet class, I get frustrated because I would rather just do it myself instead of sending my minion in.  That along pretty much identifies me as NOT being a pet class person.  While I raided on a hunter in WoW during Vanilla… I tended to lose interest once they fixed the pets and we actually had to use them in combat.

The above shot is from a run through Scarlet Monastery House Stalwart did a few weeks after the launch of World of Warcraft.  Essentially we had two hunters, a shadow priest, a dps warrior and a mage.  We had no real “healer” and we used a combination of the two pets to tank…. additionally if you look above you can see that I was a survival tree “melee” hunter.  I am in fact the dwarf banging on the Abbot with the polearm.   Everything we were doing was “wrong” but we didn’t really care.

Why did we play this way?  Quite honestly because we didn’t know any better… we had yet to be told by the internet that everything we were doing was not effective.  Honestly I think that has been more to blame with the stagnation within the MMO market than anything else.  The “Elitist Jerks” of the world quantify and distill everything about the game world, and reduce it to a series of equations.  Math is solid and unyielding, and extremely hard to argue with…  but also pretty boring at times.  It seems like in EQ, DAoC, and the early days of WoW we were extremely willing to make bad decisions… just to see what the consequences would be.

So what if I was a melee hunter… the brunt of internet jokes.  I had fun doing it… I made it work… and through a mixture of stubbornness and creativity we were able to make things work.  Sure there was always a point at which it became difficult… but even once the golden path was deeply ingrained in me… we managed to do a Blackrock Depths run with 2 rogues and 3 hunters and finished it off without much issue.  Additionally our raid used to do all hunter Upper Blackrock Spire runs for fun.  When 10 hunters cast aimed shot at exactly the same time…  mobs pretty much just evaporate.

Flexibility of Roles

stalwart_scarlet2

Ultimately what I am saying is that while we were using sub optimal builds and class compositions we were able to get through the content by the use of our wits.  While we did not have the things that people prescribed as a “tank” or a “healer” we adapted through the use of what we had.  We still very much had someone playing the role of the main tank, and someone playing the role of the healer, but we were doing so in non-standard ways.  Ultimately this is the sort of thing I feel we need going forward.  The ability to blur the lines of what is the tank and healer, and allow multiple people to fulfill these roles in multiple ways.

Ultimately to me it is not the failing of the trinity or role based combat, but the failing that the designers have allowed games to get distilled down to the equation of “only one right answer”.  Having a Golden Path is fine, but quickly there becomes way too much social pressure to conform your character to the most optimal path.  I think that is why I have enjoyed playing Rift so much over the years, is that there are literally thousands of possible right paths out there, that can be tweaked and tailored to fit the exact preferences of a specific player.

Sure there are golden paths, but they seem to change on a weekly or monthly basis.  With the ability to have an extreme amount of prebuilt “roles” you can switch to it allows players to have both their experimental builds and their tried and tested builds and be able to swap back and forth between them freely.  On my warrior I totally have a 61 paragon and 61 champion tried and true dps build…  but I also have a number of Tanky builds that have different personal flavors to them that I am using to test various things out.

No Right Answer

EverQuest-Next-Golem

Ultimately I think this is the hope I have for Everquest Next and its implementation of Storybricks.  I feel as though there will NEVER be only one right answer.  That we the players will be able to tailor a solution that fits the skillsets we have available.  But I still feel as though role based gameplay is one of the tools in that toolkit to allow us to build those solutions.  I think as Ariad, Sevok, and myself were trying to point out.. that each of us as players brings with us a certain favored role based mentality.  My hope is that we can apply those ways of thinking towards new and complex challenges regardless of the character abilities we happen to currently have and come out with interesting gameplay as a result.

Flexibility of purpose and the ability to shift back and forth between what role a given player happens to be playing at the time completely seems like a viable way to deal with smarter mob AI.  As evidenced by all the comments the other day regarding my wanting not to lose tanking as a thing that is done in MMOs…  some of us have very technical definitions of what that role is.  Much of that is rooted in the construct of the “Taunt monkey”.  But as I tried to explain in the “Tank is” post… I am very flexible in what that definition means as it is applied to a given games mechanics.

My initial fear with Everquest Next was that they would be going with the “Everyone is DPS” solution that Guild Wars 2 used.  This was most definitely not the path to interesting gameplay, and more or less over the course of several discussions since the weekend I have arrived at a point where I believe that EQ Next will have much more meat on its bones than that.  It sounds as though they are building in roles to replace the trinity… but we just simply do not know what those roles will be or what exactly they will entail.  I really look forward at getting my hands on Landmark as it goes through the beta process.  I am hoping it will help to answer a number of questions.

Wrapping Up

It is that time again, and I need to be getting on the road.  I have managed to turn a day where I had no clue what to write about into another long ramble.  I cannot guarantee that anything I wrote is really worth reading… and is likely just me working out concepts in my own head… but my readers should be long used to that by now.  I hope you all have a great day, last night we had a fun guild night running around and closing rifts.  Was fairly relaxing and had a great time hanging out on mumble with Rowan, Psynister and Fynralyl.  Hopefully we can get some dungeons going before too much longer, even if I have to start playing my cleric so we have a healer.  I will be happy when 3.0 releases and rogues and warriors finally have a main healer.

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