06 July 2010

The Holy Trinity of RPG

After a recent post on the Star Wars: The Old Republic site showing off the multiplayer combat system (source), and the ensuing trollfest that seems to be squarely aimed at the use of a trinity (damage, heal, tank - DHT) system in the game, I thought I'd post some of my own thoughts.

Firstly, I've been gaming for well over 20 years, I can remember playing my first game on a Mac Plus back in 1987. While this may not qualify me to be an expert on gaming, I do feel that my experience gives me some insight into gaming.

I've seen franchises come and go, even seen them come and not go when they should. Gameplay can be seen in mainly two parts, solo or team based. While not all games adhere to this, a majority of games do.

I'll focus mainly on team based games in this post, as this is what we're looking at.

When you look at how team based games are designed you can see that a majority of them are aimed at a trinity style gameplay. From Team Fortress 2 to the Battlefield series to World of Warcraft, there seems to be an aim to bring a team together by giving people options to fill the trinity of roles - Damage, Heal, Tank.

Why? Well, it's natural to have this kind of system. From Dungeons and Dragons to modern shooters, it's always smart to have the person with the highest health or mitigations taking the damage, for someone to be giving health to the group, and for others to be damaging, crowd controlling, or lowering enemies' mitigation. It's human nature to do the best for your tribe, so why should it be so different in games? I know there are games out there that are team based and don't offer all of the roles described, but people still try to fit into them anyway.

I think to condemn a game that has not even reached closed beta for using the trinity is just delusional. With all the calls of "it's just like WoW", well, I say "WoW is just like Everquest" and "Everquest is just like Ultima Online" and "Ultima Online is just like D&D", the list can go on. Why? Well, the trinity has been around for a LONG time, longer than computer games. It's even a valid tactic in war. Pikemen up the front, Archers to the rear, and medical staff keeping people in the battle.

I'm not sure my rant has done anything other than show I feel strongly toward not invalidating gaming mechanics that have been around for years (centuries?). If you do not wish to play with the trinity of gaming, then don't play a team based game. I'd suggest something like Bejewelled, no healers, or tanks... or even damage.


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