In the Future, We Will All Be Hybrid DPS Classes

One positive incremental change in the MMO world is the introduction of different character modes. That is, you can hit a button and switch the focus of your character. You can fulfill multiple roles, but not all at once, with a way to switch between them. Examples include Champions Online and DC Universe (no classes, just modes), dual talent specs and Druids in World of Warcraft, and the Minstrel and Rune-keeper in The Lord of the Rings Online™. If you have the skill points and cash, you can also switch ships in EVE Online easily enough, which would be like hopping classes in another game.

These vary in their ease or extent of switching between modes. The two main LotRO healing classes need about 10 seconds to switch modes fully mid-combat. My WoW Paladin lost all her mana when switching. Other games might require you to go back to town to switch, which is still nice although certainly not the one-click, mid-adventure thing I am talking about. The effectiveness of doing so depends on how flexible other aspects of your character are. In LotRO, you must visit town to change your traits, and I know how I hate it when our healer is traited for damage. In WoW (late game), you would want to be carrying a second set of gear if you switch from Retribution to Holy.

Another way to implement modes is to switch focus within a role. A Lord of the Rings Online™ Hunter has solo and group DPS modes, the former with higher threat and mana costs, the latter decreasing them but losing bonus damage. (Solo mode: good for pulling targets off the healer, not worth much else post-Siege of Mirkwood™.) Switching your Warcraft Mage from ice to fire is probably a less dramatic change.

While I love my alts, I am in favor of anything that will let you stick with one character. Let me stack all my options on one guy and switch which option I use, rather than switching between Zubon, Zuba, Zoobown, and Zupwn. While that will make hotkey management interesting, it saves me from having separate friends lists, guild rankings, vaults, key bindings… (You could also implement saved (and importable) or account-wide friends list, guild affiliation, shared vaults, key bindings…)

: Zubon

[Update: I see that Tobold just hit this theme from the POV of a DPS class in the post-LFG WoW world. Yeah, dual-spec does not seem like a huge boon for them. Having played ranged DPS in quite a few games, while I cannot address how WoW is this week, we are generally doing fine and soloing brilliantly, even if we are over-competing for group slots. I feel more for my healers, like my poor CoH Controller who fought bosses by putting his damaging hold (“stun” for WoW folk) on auto-repeat while I went AFK and waited for the pitiful DPS.]

18 thoughts on “In the Future, We Will All Be Hybrid DPS Classes”

  1. Removing a member of the trinity would do a lot to reduce the need for role switching. My secret wish is that one day we’ll do away with healing and just have a DPS soak spectrum with utility powers, and our priority of which abilities to use will be based on more than the last ten seconds. A man can dream.

    PS: I love your alt names.

    1. Yes! I pray that if nothing else D3 shakes MMOs stupid trinity by showing that we don’t need healing or potions… we just need a kind of “pat on the head” saying hey, you are doing well, and we will let you proceed.

      “You killed that thing awfully quick, mister. Here’s some shiny health orbs so you can kill more things.”

      1. That works pretty well in Kingdom Hearts. Of course, there is also “oh, crap!” healing for spikes, but if you’re at an appropriate level and not completely incompetent, the health the baddies drop keeps you going nicely.

  2. It will be tanks who will get removed first from the trinity. You can see this in WoW actually, they’re already talking about making it easier for dps specced warriors etc to tank. It’s not a big step from that to finding ways for all dps to be more survivable and give them more tanking options.

    But somehow, while it seems fine to give dps more utility, everyone pales at the notion of giving tanks and healers more damage (while tanking or healing, not just an alternative spec).

    But I think it’s fun to have options for different roles in combat, and I’m looking forwards to seeing how FF14 manages because they’ve spoken about being able to switch roles fairly easily. Perhaps that’s the way to go.

  3. I say kill the Tank concept along with the Healer concept. Both are limiting, the fantasy literature archetypes behind them get pressed into a rather narrow pidgeonhole. This does not mean the “DPS” part survives, it would be gone as well.

    This could be the basis of another combat system where making use of terrain features, remnants of “crowd control” and special abilities could take over. CC has largely been eliminated from WoW, interesting, as DPS was not part of the EverQuest trinity, it was more the Enchanter class which added much needed CC to the party, DPS was more a bonus than a role.

    The current state of the game the moment you enter trinity group mode is an organized square dance one must memorize and learn, as everything beyond the bare and boring bones of the trinity mechanic seems to boil down to this, besides the ubiquitous “don’t stand in glowy crap”.

    AoE-tanking, AoE-taunting and AoE damage spells – my WOTLK dungeon and Naxxramas experience. Made me quit the game.

  4. The only constant is that game designers keep tinkering.

    My prediction for the future is we will never arrive at some kind of Perfect Trinity where all classes are equally desirable to play. Some class will always be in short supply and people will play it precisely because the benefits of rarity in terms of access to group content outweigh the drag of playing it.

  5. “AoE-tanking, AoE-taunting and AoE damage spells – my WOTLK dungeon and Naxxramas experience. ”

    That’s what you’ll get if you cut out the support roles. It’ll be like Diablo. All AE damage all the time.

    1. It is also what you get with the support-heavy City of Heroes. AoE heals, buffs, taunts, debuffs, crowd control, fireballs, everything.

  6. With Moria, I thought LOTRO was trying to get rid of tanks with all the DPS races and champion tanking. However, with Mirkwood they’ve re-balanced and now the trinity is back in full swing. I’m not sold on the “trinities are bad” concept, but then again the nature of games is change so we’ll see.

    The other LOTRO mechanic (in addition to RK/Minnie) is the warden’s gambits – they can flip from DPS (Ok, it isn’t great), to healing (self heals mainly, so turtle mode), to self-buffs, to bleeds, and over to tanking all very quickly.

    I would like to see games keep the trinity as it forces diversity but allow more options for characters to adapt to different roles. Still have ones that are better, but allow others to fill in if needed without having to re-trait like wardens, RKs, and minnies can.

  7. That’s one of the things I liked about FFXI – the job system lets you change roles at a Moogle NPC without the need for multiple characters (assuming you spend the extra effort to level those jobs).

    I await the Holy Parallelogram that will descend from the heavens and usher in a new age in MMO group dynamics.

  8. glad Fuzzy mentioned FFXI… i don’t think it’s possible to have a better job/class system than FFXI… it’s a shame that other MMOs haven’t jumped on that bandwagon… Runes of Magic is the only one i can think of… and it’s much better because of it.

  9. I like having different roles, means I get a group within about 5 seconds (almost) no matter when I log on, because I’m not DPS obsessed like most others. Only problem with the dual spec: I still don’t have enough space in my bags to feel like carrying around both sets of gear all the time. Yay paladins…

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