Why Crowd Control Will Never Return
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.