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On the Freedom of Roles – and Why People Don’t Use It

As we move further and further from launch day, we’re really starting to see how things are shaking out with the community. This is happening in a lot of ways, but probably the biggest is with the soul system. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot of clerics about. Not many people want to tank (but lots want to heal). And rogues are pretty much your defacto standard PvP class. It’s all quite interesting really, because this is only the first of many cycles sure to come. Rogues dominate in PvP because players know that they’re powerful. When people figure out that clerics or mages can dominate in the same way, they’ll be the flavor of the month. Or instead of calling, it will be a new soul, or new soul combo. Welcome theorycrafters, we’re happy to have you.

On this weekend’s episode of Rift Watchers (coming Wednesday), we talked a little bit about all this and the fear people still have about stepping outside of their comfort zone. RIFT gives you the buffet and players still stick to the one or two dishes they had at that other restaurant. I don’t begrudge them, or you, this. You can, and should, play what is the most fun to you. With that being said, I’d like to talk about that transference of fear.

Players have always shied away from tanking and healing. I’ve heard it said that tanking is a job, healing is a hobby, and DPS is a game. That’s probably pretty close to the mark for how people see it. Tanking and healing put the run squarely in your hands. You have responsibility, and if the group fails, it’s an honest concern that you may be called out. DPS don’t have that to worry about. It’s pew, pew, pew, see the big numbers fly. And that’s okay. It’s fun, and probably the easiest bit of fun to tap into. More importantly, the fun you can have as a DPS is pretty obvious. When you start a game, you want to be a powerful wizard. DPS lets your flex that power and burn through mobs with little else to worry about. What gets ignored in the shining light of all that pew-pew is just how much fun the other two roles can be, too.

As a tank, you don’t demonstrate your leetness with big numbers, you control the run. If you die, everybody dies. You are the proverbial protector of the weak and enemies are right to quake when you come near – because they’ll probably be dying soon. If you want to go fast, you go fast. Slow, take it down. You set the pace. Here’s the best part, threat is easy to get and easy to hold in RIFT. Unlike many other games, Trion didn’t want tanking to be a job, they wanted it to be an option. It is fun and has the lowest barrier to entry than in any game I’ve tried – and I tank in all of them. The challenge is unique and more rewarding than any DPS player could possibly imagine. You’re the single most powerful person in that group, big numbers or not, because you are the leader.

Healing, on the other hand, relies on numbers. As you throw out heals, you want a constant stream to flow by, the bigger the numbers, the better. Many people think this is hard, too, but in RIFT mana is rarely an issue if your class is played right. In this way, it’s probably more important to spec your character with care than any other role. Even still, like the tank, you are second in command. You’re tied to your paladin like white on rice. If they want to go fast, they’d better check with you first. If you group wants to aggro a whole room of mobs, they’d better pray you’re alright with that. You are powerful because without you everyone is rendered weak. Healing is fun and rewarding because your skill is reinforced with every single pull.

But see, here’s the clincher: Most people will never realize that because they’re afraid of things that will probably never happen. Let me explain how RIFT is different from other games you may have played:

  • You can practice, without pressure. In other games, the only way to learn how to tank/heal was to hop in an instance and hope it worked out. RIFT gives you, well, rifts. This is a no-pressure environment where not doing your best is OK. Honestly, most people will be happy to see someone doing something other than DPS, so you may even get gratitude. No one will berate your, yell at you, or tell you you suck. This is your testing ground and – here’s the best part – you’ll be put to the test more than you will in your first dungeon. The gauntlet style nature of rifts will be more trying on new tanks and healers than either of the newbie dungeons. This gives you the perfect place to prepare and have a ton of fun doing it.
  • People want to keep you. When you play a lesser taken role, you’re fulfilling a need on the server the game is not prepared to fix. There is no LFD tool to quickly replace you. That means, if you leave the group, the chances are that run is done. It is in everyone’s best interest to keep you and help you, rather than yell at you and drop you. As someone who’s tanked for PUGs for 3+ years, even in WoW, let me just say that a-hole groups are one of the biggest myths you’ll ever hear in MMO gaming. I’ve tanked for hundreds and hundreds of players by now and I can count the number of times someone has called me out on one hand. Honestly. What you’ll encounter are people who are just plain jerks, and they’ll out themselves as that soon enough. It’s universally apparent the issue isn’t with you. Don’t worry.
  • Easy to get into, hard to master. One of the things I love about RIFT is that playing in groups, even for DPS, is easy to get into but hard to perfect. Tanking and healing in themselves are not hard. They are, however, challenging and will keep you on your toes. The best part is, tanking and healing will give you a brand new challenge unlike anything you’ve done in the game to date. If you’re bored with what you’re doing, there’s no better way to spice up your life than to take on a new role.

I write this post because playing the game has made it very obvious that many players are carrying in the same old fears that have plagued them through the other games of their past. There is no reason not to try tanking or healing, and it disappoints me to know so many people may never experience the unique joys they provide.

Here’s a challenge: no matter what kind of player you are, take an evening and switch out your soles. Step outside of your comfort zone and try something new – even if you’re a PvPer. Nay, ESPECIALLY if you’re a PvPer because, as the warfront aficionados will tell you, battlegrounds are won or lost based on healing. If you do this, let me know how it goes. Post here or send a comment in to the show. I’d be willing to bet some of you might just love it.

6 comments

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  1. Reala

    This…. sounds terrible. I don’t want my face melted by the difficulty of tanking and healing roles but I want a challenge. I’m a WoW player, I facerolled Wrath content but could I explain, REALLY explain, the mechanics of Blood-Queen Lana’thel? Vaguely but no, not really. I can tell you every mechanic of every encounter in the Cataclysm raids so far. I’m a better player and a better healer because of it.

    ~Reala
    Reala recently posted..A Tale of Two Razer Nagas

    1. Chris

      Starseeker has the right of it. Tanking and healing aren’t easy per se, but it’s easier to learn than it is in any other game. That’s because you can learn in a rift environment where there is no pressure. So the hope is by the time you’re in a dungeon group, you have the mechanics of your class down.

      My goal here was to try to get rid of some of the fear people have of tanking and healing. With very few guides out there now, there is definitely a tank shortage. I’ll give some examples of what makes for a challenge on par with WoW, if not a little moreso, though they’ll be from a tank perspective since that’s what I play.

      Here are things to consider I didn’t emphasize in the post.

      - Tanking challenge varies by class. Some tanks are good at AoE, others single target threat. It is a challenge to be good at both. Note, not harder than, say, WoW, where I was also a MT.

      - All tanks must be on their game. Just like post-Wrath WoW, it’s not “set it and forget it.” If you’re not marking mobs, building threat on the whole group, and cycling between targets, threat will be pulled off of you. As a Cleric Justicar, I have to constantly pay attention to the whole group and be moving between targets, as well as positioning myself so I can build and keep threat on all of them.

      - Tanking gets consistently more challenging the further you go. I had a conversation on vent yesterday with our level 50 tank and told him about this post. He was actually skeptical about saying tanking was easy to get into because it gets so much more challenging as you level up. His description of the expert dungeon mechanics is on par with WoW raids (note: dungeon complexity in RIFT is almost universally on par with WoW raids and Cataclysm heroics). He agrees that it’s easier to learn initially but that tanking can be pretty darn hard at level cap. I personally like this.

      I tend to agree with you. I’m not into having faceroll easy stuff, and the reason I tank is because it presents a better and more unique challenge than DPS. It bothers me that some people will never try it because the responsibility worries them. In RIFT, you can learn without people yelling at you or calling you out. That’s such a huge leap forward, it’s worth encouraging people to take advantage of.

  2. Starseeker

    I don’t think Chris is saying that tanking is faceroll easy. I think he’s stating that it has less barriers and is more intuitive than previous games. It’s not stupid hard like you go in, and get face punched and die. As he said it’s not hard it’s challenging, in that its a constant battle of survival and you have to be smart about pulling things with the massive social agro in this game, instead of just going in somewhere and getting walked on by hard mechanics.

    I don’t play a warrior, I play a rogue with a tanking soul called the riftstalker. I get one pure taunt, and my damage abilities have taunts. I have one very minor aoe taunt, and several dodge and damage absorption spells.

    A single target mob, yes I can tank that just fine. Multi group mobs, hell of a challenge to keep them. Since most of the zones come with more than one mob, I find tanking on a riftstalker extremely challenging and fun (maybe not for that poor mage though). All of the tanks I’ve talked to really enjoy tanking. Healers on the other hand, all of the ones in my game feel that this game is more challenging with the healing just due to options and cast times etc of heals. The combat is very fast paced, and it has been a learning curve about timing of heals. Also healer agro seems to be alot higher in this game than previous ones I’ve played.
    Starseeker recently posted..Farewell EQ2&8230We Had Some Good Times

  3. Reala

    Interesting points guys, the clarification is appreciated and it’s good to hear that difficulty scales. I agree that learning to tank, especially in pugs, can be unforgiving at lower levels. Especially as so many consider a tank unnecessary for the lower instances because DPS can have something dead by the time it’s run across the room to them. Are you finding the same in Rift or is the tank/DPS/healer dynamic different?

    Starseeker, touching on your point regarding riftstalker; there’s a good feeling I get from Rift, at least for now, and it’s that there doesn’t seem to have been established a cookie-cutter spec for any particular role. I’m sure, as with every game that essentially boils down to what number is bigger than the other number, that those will come in time but I understand that people are enjoying this dynamic-talent type of setup without feeling the pressure to pick the ‘right’ spec.

    ~Reala
    Reala recently posted..A Tale of Two Razer Nagas

  4. Tesh

    I usually play DPS because I love to play solo. I don’t like depending on other people.

    That said, I’ve offtanked before as a WoW Druid in Bear form, and it’s fun when it works. I like the protector role, but I have a hard time trusting a healer to watch my back. If I could just wade in and be almost invincible *without* a healer… but have that balanced by doing very little damage, I might have a blast just keeping critters busy and off other players. Not that I’d like that while playing solo, but if my “tanking” role in group play were almost entirely control-based (just steering mobs around, manipulating tactical spaces), I’d probably group and tank a lot more.
    Tesh recently posted..I Can Fly

    1. Chris

      Sounds like you might enjoy tanking in GW2, since there’s no dedicated healer class. It does kind of suck when the healer drops the ball and AFKs mid-fight or something.-

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