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.

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