Why Crowd Control Will Never Return

A few dozen reasons why crowd control was a necessity in Everquest

A few dozen reasons why crowd control was a necessity in Everquest

A lot of gamers new to the MMO genre will probably have no idea what crowd control is, other than it being something that police do at football matches. So, I shall take it upon myself to pop on my slippers, sip my tea, stroke my handsomely chiseled chin and explain what it is and why, oh why, we’ll never ever see it again in another MMO…

Back in the ‘day’ (early 21st century) the ‘Holy Trinity’ in MMORPGs actually referred to three different classes than it does today: tank, healer and crowd control (notice the total lack of DPS, they were just a given). Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) before you could even leave a city and sally forth on an adventure your group had to consist of those three classes, without exception. You see, in games like Everquest, even killing a single mob was a dramatic undertaking and the only way to comfortably deal with two or more at a time was with the aid of someone like an Enchanter or Bard. It was their job, acting as crowd control, to mesmerize, stun, charm or otherwise occupy the attention of all those other nasty bad guys so your team mates could slowly hack their way through them, one by one. It was no easy task and required a lot of skill and teamwork and thus the lack of it today results in the nostalgic cries of “bring back CC!” every so often.

Personally, I enjoyed the crowd control element in games like EQ and loved playing an Enchanter as it was a very complex, demanding and powerful group role. But I don’t miss CC as a game mechanic. Not to say that it didn’t have it’s place in the MMOs of days bygone but it certainly doesn’t have a place in modern MMORPGs. It makes me a little sad to say it but I doubt we’ll be seeing it as a major mechanic in any mainstream MMO ever again, for a few reasons.

First up, the necessity for crowd control has all but died out and it’s now only used sparely, if at all, in games when it’s available. One could probably argue that this because MMOs have become easier with a higher tolerance for mistakes and therefore don’t require the religious discipline of a solider to succeed at (groups can quite easily pull multiple mobs and survive, if not even thrive). In fact, in a lot of situations in a game like World of Warcraft, crowd control would be a disadvantage as most players want huge pulls that they can burn down with area damage. The frequent calls of “bigger pulls” in PUGs is totally contrary to the Enchanter in me.

Crowd control is also a very complex role, not just for the person doing it but for the entire group, and I shudder to think of what would happen if it was suddenly introduced to a game with a player based like WoW’s. CC worked in games like EQ because players back then had the patience and tolerance to learn and accept it. It’s hard enough getting some people to assist the tank now and trying to train them to not break mezzes and leave mobs alone would be futile. Not that people couldn’t learn it’s just that they don’t expect that type of game play from their MMOs of today.

Indeed it’s probably safe to say that the MMOs we play now are far removed from the traditional game play models we had 10 years ago. Accessibility and mass market appeal are at the top of the list for designers and developers and the last thing they want to introduce to games is yet another barrier for play. Could you imagine how difficult it would to be put together groups in any recent MMO if you had to include a crowd control class as a fourth necessary role? It’s hard enough trying to find a tank and healer. At the end of the day, we, the players, want flexibility in game play now, not more restrictions and limitations.

It’s really with these point in mind that I don’t think we’ll ever see crowd control make a comeback in MMOs. It’s far too specialist and demanding a role for the more fast-paced and accessible MMOs of today and although it’s sad to bid farewell to the layer of strategy and challenge that it brought, I honestly don’t think it could survive as a mechanic. Let’s just call it design evolution.


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  1. Perhaps you’re not playing the right games. LotRO seems to still cherish some CC. Some instances are much easier if you have a Loremaster or Burglar along for the ride. But, yeah, it’s not quite as “must have” as it was in the bad old days.

    I think it’s mostly the current incarnation of WoW where CC is neglected. I remember when my Druid was accepted into a group only because Druids could mez dragonkin in upper BRD. Now people say it’s all AoE: AoE tanking while the DPS do AoE nuking, and some healers just hit the AoE heals.

    I also wonder if the pace of combat is to blame for this. As you point out, in EQ1 you spent quite a bit of time fighting one enemy. This meant that a monster running lose didn’t have to be CCed immediately. There was also a lot less AoE damage, since you mostly focused on killing one enemy at a time. Making combat faster (so that CCing an enemy is less meaningful), and more AoE (meaning that CC gets broken more often) have really hurt CC as a viable option, particularly in WoW. I think there’s more you could do to put CC back in the game without making it a pain in the ass as you remember it being in EQ1. So, I wouldn’t say “never”. :)

    • Gordon says:

      Admittedly yes, I haven’t played LotRO much :) Another reason why I need to give it a shot!

      WoW is terrible for CC and a lot of other MMOs I’ve played recently (EQ2, AoC, WAR etc) haven’t been very big on it either and most implementations have been pretty half-hearted. It seems like the combat in MMOs recently has been focused more on large group fights rather than individual encounters.

      For me, I’d like to see CC make a comeback but I recognised it’s a hard thing for developers to incorporate. How to make it a meaninful mechanic without it become too necessary or pointless? You don’t want CC classes to become mandatory group memebers like tanks and healers yet as long as it’s possible to pull absolutely-every-freaking-monster-or-beast-in-the-room and survive then it’s not going to have much place in combat.

  2. Beleg Firebreath says:

    Slightly OT — do you know the story behind that picture? or just some random google for “everquest raid wipe”?

  3. Wiqd says:

    Actually Blizz said Cataclysm will put a focus (not sure how big) on CC again with the instances and raids. They’re tired of steamrolling trash and whatnot, so they’re putting in things to prevent that.

  4. Wiqd says:

    Oh and @Beleg – That looks like a Plane of Hate break. Pretty tough, but nowhere near as tough as Plane of Fear breaks. You could spend 2 days doing corpse runs to break Fear.

  5. Azzur says:

    Crowd control was essential for some TBC instances (esp Magisters’ Terrace). I like the concept of crowd control being essential to doing instances but the classes implementation did not support it. For example, there was a lot of “LF1M mage”. In MgT, there was a great demand for 3 CC classes (e.g. mage, lock, rogue). Thus, if you were one of the non-CC classes (shaman, druid), you were stuck. The PvP boss in MgT also essentially needed a Mage if the MS Warrior was one of the opponents.

    This unfairness to classes was one of the reasons why WoTLK had little CC. If Blizzard wants to bring CC back to instances, they would need to balance out the classes’ CCs.

    • Gordon says:

      Exactly why CC is such a tricky mechanic. Make it too necessary and suddenly some classes can’t find groups whilst others are too important. If Blizzard do re-introduce the mechanic in Cataclysm they need to be careful incase they accidently create another mandatory requirement for a group.

  6. Like the commenter above me, I also very much enjoyed the CC in WoW TBC. It was frustrating at the time, but now that WotLK has rolled around with its AoE nuking, all the instances feel the same and I find myself actually missing those CC galore days.

    Of course, the biggest problem was certain classes could only CC certain types of mobs, and some classes didn’t even have effective CCs. It really sucked to have to say no to someone just because they didn’t bring the right ability. A part of me wants CC back, but not if I have to turn away my friends because of their class.

    • Gordon says:

      AoE nuking has it’s fine but, yeah, it does get boring because there’s very little strategy to it. I prefer dungeons when I’m fighting in situations that if you make a mistake – i.e. pull more mobs – it’s a problem and everyone needs to work hard and pull out all of the stops to survive.

  7. Everblue says:

    That’s only PvE of course. CC is still alive and well in PvP I believe, or at least it is in Warcraft.

    Blizzard dealt with cc in Warcraft by giving most classes some cc or kiting ability, so you don’t need a specialised cc-er. Bringing a cc requirement back for Cata is a stated design goal, so don’t write it off yet!

    • Gordon says:

      A lot of people hate the CC in PvP though because no one likes losing control of their character. Plus it’s far too easy to abuse and you can end up getting stun locked by Rogues (which I loathe). I’d rather they removed CC from PvP and added more into PvE :)

  8. boatorious says:

    The problem with crowd control isn’t that it’s difficult, it’s that it’s difficult in a way that’s not fun. Much of the effectiveness of CC in WoW is dependent on class composition. If there’s an elemental or demon in a group, my warlock now has the best CC in the game. If there are only humanoids, I have either a highly unreliable and dangerous CC (fear), or seduce which requires me to dismiss whatever useful pet I am using, and get out the lame succubus to cast that one spell.

    And that’s just how lame CC is when it’s “working”. What about when it’s broken?

    How is CC broken, anyway? When people target incorrectly and hit the wrong mob, or when people accidentally use an AoE spell, or sometimes when the spell just breaks early or is resisted. None of those things results in “fun” : trying to correctly target mobs is not fun, not using aoe is an irritant, and being stressed out because you’ll get one-shot if the CC breaks early (or is resisted) is also not fun.

    Then, every time CC is broken it leads to an argument in the group — who broke the CC and wasted everybody’s time? So pointless. I have no problems with games being difficult — I just want them to be difficult in fun ways. CC (at least in WoW, I can’t speak to EQ or whatever) is not fun.

    So, of course, Blizzard is planning to add CC back into dungeons in Cataclysm. I’m pretty ecstatic about that.

    • Gordon says:

      Hehe. Yeah, you make a lot of good points about why CC isn’t in WoW much anymore, Boatorious. It’s simply too hard a mechanic to balance correctly and either becomes pointless or the bane of every group.

  9. Mojeaux says:

    I miss enchanting the way it was in EQ.

    As for AOE, you could easily CC with AOE attacks. Grab a couple of Enchanters, a couple of nukers and a monk and you had some serious XP coming your way.

    The enchanters could pretty much keep a small army of mobs stun locked by spamming their AOE stuns while the nukers took care of the rest. Every now and then you’d get smacked by a resisting mob, but it wasn’t long before the other enchanter had it locked down and it was dead. Good times.

  10. Ferrel says:

    I’m a big fan of crowd control myself. It actually does force players to think a bit more and be patient. I laughed a bit when you pointed out that one reason we don’t have it now is due to players being so… well… you know ^_~

    I think it still has a place in MMOs. Not the role it did before where no enchanter basically meant no group but certainly more than the “pull it all now” we’re currently experiencing. I think we’ve made aggro a little too dumb in general. Lets face it, the art of being a tank is certainly becoming easier.

    I’d love to see some craziness added back to the mix.

    • Mojeaux68 says:

      Yeah, being a “good tank” meant something back then. I mean, you still have to have SOME skill to be a tank now days, but it’s not like it was back then.

      I learned (much like everything MMO) to tank in EQ, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been complimented/patted on the back in newer games because of my tanking abilities. Now, that’s not to say that I’m a GREAT tank but it goes to show that old school tanking is going the way of the DoDo and newer players who haven’t played with a good tank before are mightily impressed with just a smidgen of skill.

      • Gordon says:

        Nowadays tanking usually just involves having a high enough gearscore to satisfy your team and then running into a room and pulling everything :P At least that’s my experience in WoW PuGs :) I would definitely like to see a return to more teamwork orientated groups.

    • Gordon says:

      Yeah, I’d be happy to see CC make a return myself. Still, it’s often hard to imagine how it would fit in with MMOs that seem to be becoming easier and more solo orientated. Hope we see it again soon though!

  11. Wolfshead says:

    I loved the days we were forced to use crowd control. But I’m a grouchy gamer wallowing in nostalgia. :)

    For me it’s just part and parcel of the dumbing down of MMOs thanks to companies like Blizzard. Soon a trained monkey will be able to play your average MMO with no trouble.

    Next I’m sure healers will be made obsolete. Who needs health points after all? They are getting in the way of fun.

    Next to go will be tanks.

    Eventually there will be one class left. This class will be given a nuclear bomb. Combat will consist of pushing one button. This is the way of things with the current devolution of MMOs revenue procurement system.

    I also see mobs getting stupider too. Perhaps they’ll create a MMO where they put fish in a barrel and the players shoot the fish. Sounds challenging to me! (Oh and let’s not forget to give the player a well deserved achievement too!)

    Look to see raid content get smaller as well. Eventually raids will probably go down to one person raids.

    It’s just a matter of time before we see a convergence of WoW and FarmVille; let me save them the time and call it “WoWville”

    Here’s their slogan:

    “we make stupid games for stupid people, stupid enough to pay us”

    Just be thankful that Blizzard isn’t making a MMO out of Chess. By now they’d probably have most of the chess pieces removed from the game and the board would be a 3rd of the size all in the name of “helping to grow the Chess demographic to keep shareholders happy…”.

    TLDR: MMOs are dead. Stop kidding yourself. Wake up people.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m curious as to whether it’s Blizzard forcing these mechanics on us or if it’s the demand of the player base that’s requesting them. Surely if these decisions were unpopular then people would just simply quit WoW? Maybe we should be blaming the players and not the developers?

  12. Zarianna says:

    I too miss playing the cc class…I particularly miss my bard in eq1 and after playing eq2 extended, I’ve come to find that the bard is nothing more than a buffing bot. :(

    Nonetheless, eq2 is fun with the city names giving me a ton of memories from EQ1 days for me. I was hoping for the element of CC’ing in EQ2 after playing Wow but it looks like it doesn’t exist here either.

    I think that game designers from popular MMO games are driven by trying to make everyone happy. And we all know how impossible that is, somebody is bound to be unhappy as you please the crowds somewhere else. And besides, it’s not really the game designers, it’s the management of game industries that are driving the design…and the only thing that motivates those ppl is $$$. Period.

    I personally think Sony and Blizzard do a fine job of launching a game that’s most of the time fun where I can play with friends. I do not envy their task of trying to balance the classes for PvE or PvP purposes where game design decisions are probably internally politically fueled (as this is true for any company.) Let’s hope that they have good management that has the wisdom to allow game designers to do their job rather than micro managing them as an example. :p

    Just my 2 cents,

    • cc is the best says:

      they so need cc in wow the game went down hill when lichking came out so so boring when u see a pally tanking in ret i used to love when i had to find a grp to do dead mines or on my priest had to shackle the undead in kara now its just pull hald the dungeon and tank and spank zzz zzz zzz zzz will someone bring back good games instead of the crap being released latley

  13. Tetrall says:


    Yeah, I’ve got a theory on that:

    Developers shouldn’t give us “exactly what the majority thinks they want.”

    Let’s say 60% of the community play a DPS build as their main, 20% play tank, 10% healer, 10% an old CC class.

    In this case, the mistake publishers make is bowing to a majority who play a very straightforward class, usually that is flashy and fun in solo content, easy to level, easy to understand but in the end lack the variety of skillset required to keep a more seasoned player.

    Healers, tanks, and CC are all about the group and more complex mechanics. CC being the most varied and complex.

    In LoTRO: SoA the Loremaster was a PAIN to level alone. Your skills could cancel each other (wind lore/fire lore) two awesome AOE debuff against different types of targets.

    Cycling targets to apply single fast cast debuffs, mezzing a big troll add, rooting 8 targets then reapplying that with a bit of well time cracked earth, spot healing, giving mana to your DPS or healer to help out, sucking the mana from an enemy add to prevent him from casting a major spell…

    Ah, it was so cool! You couldn’t do it all, in any situation, picking the priority on what you did first to help control the cadence of the battle was essential.

    It took a good solid year to really understand the Lore Master and you always were discovering new tricks, you went from a player who ran his skills on set rotations to being a player who had both hands on the keyboard to chain skills naturally, tabbing through targets, spitting types of debuffs, mezzes, AOE undead mezzing (man that was epic) and you really felt like an essential player in the group.

    I remember many a 5 man dungeon when a person would drop out and I would come in, “well, we were looking for another DPS, but you came well recommended.”

    We would run through smoothly, laughing and having a blast. Tanks had an easier time, healers didn’t run out of mana, hunters enjoyed more crits…

    And at the end of the day, as I explained what I was doing and how to take advantage of certain things they were amazed at how much my contribution was making their lives easier. I was the support, I didn’t do the big numbers, but I was making a difference.

    And I miss that… Making folks believe my class was actually worth having along. Esoteric skills, weird combos, conditional status effects.

    Nothing compares these days and it’s a crying shame.

  14. I also like the crowd control element in games like EQ

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