DPS Only Classes Are Now Redundant

RIFT Justicar

The incredulous, exuberant, marvellous paradigm of multi-role perfectionism - the RIFT cleric

One of the reasons that I’m not a fan of the Advanced Class system in SW:TOR is because it fills you with hesitation and regret. Having invested four or five hours into your character, you’re suddenly forced to make a huge decision that’s going to impact your playstyle forever more based only upon a tiny Codex entry and a brief glance at skill trees. Furthermore, you sometimes have to pick between giving up any chance of tanking or healing and become a full on DPS only class. The Jedi Sentinel/Sith Marauder and Gunslinger/Sniper are the examples in question. Just why, oh why, would anyone gimp themselves to such a degree?

That was my thinking anyway with my Jedi Knight alt and, as much as I was enticed to try the Sentinel AC, I realised that I didn’t want to be one of those DPS nomads wandering around at level 40 looking for a tank for two hours to help complete a Flashpoint. No thanks. Being DPS only seemed completely redundant, in fact, considering that the Guardian has two very potent DPS tree skill lines as well as a proper tanking one. Simply put, the options for gameplay are far broader with the Guardian than the DPS only Sentinel and I’d much rather invest time in a character who has the choice of tanking at a later stage if so desired.

Many themepark MMOs suffer greatly from this issue, especially older ones like WoW and EQ2. RIFT, as much as the soul system isn’t perfect, handles the whole holy trinity concept beautifully and gives options for even traditional pure DPS archetypes to tank and/or heal. I just adore that flexibility. But classes like the Rogue, Mage and Warlock in World of Warcraft? With three solid DPS talent trees? Aren’t they completely redundant in this day and age?

Blizzard seems to have realised this too and it’s no coincidence that the last class they introduced was both a tank and DPS whilst the new Monk class coming up in Mists of Pandaria can perform all three major gameplay functions – tank, heal and DPS. It seems class hybrids are the future. Which, to be honest, makes perfect sense as giving players the flexibility to perform more than one role would help a lot with the constraints that the holy trinity style of play imposes.

And let’s face it, single role classes were always flawed right from day one. Rewind back seven plus years, before the dawn of multiple talent trees, and you have a pretty broken system comprised of healers who can only heal and tanks who only know how to tank making it pretty difficult to fill out a six man group or a 24+ player raid. Given the makeup of the grouping system in MMOs, it was simply inevitable that healers and tanks were going to be given the option to perform damage roles.

Of course, this creates the problem of function and desirability and, if tanks and healers can put out the same damage as a pure DPS class, suddenly those damage only dealers become less attractive in comparison. Why would I go a Rogue when my Warrior can output as much damage? And why go a Jedi Sentinel when the Jedi Guardian can do just as much damage as well as tank? Personal playstyle preferences aside, DPS only classes are becoming dated and restrictive, a throwback to an older style of MMO gaming.

I don’t have anything against DPS classes, I just dislike their inflexibility and the problems it causes putting together groups. Not that having the option to tank or heal would necessarily mean everyone picks it but at least the options are there and the metaphorical gene pool of class roles is bigger. Plus, how much fun would it be to tank with a Rogue or heal with a Mage in WoW? Adding a fourth talent tree could easily address this and make every class in WoW a ‘hybrid’.

I like DPSing, everyone does – it’s fun to put out damage and nice to not have to worry about other players lives. But I think the days of DPS only classes are numbered and that we’ll start to see more classes with the option of filling more roles in newer MMOs. Frankly, I think that can only be a good thing.

-Gordon

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42 Comments

  1. spinks says:

    See, you might have felt differently if you’d picked a mage on Rift. Yes there was one healing soul but the others were all dps variants which left you puzzling over specialising in AE, DoTs, CC, etc where as a dps class, you want to be functional in encounters that need any of those. I liked the game, but picking between so many similar roles was frustrating.

    I think a lot of SWTOR players are assuming the pure dps classes have a dps bonus, I’m not sure if that’s true or not. But at the same time, there are loads of people who are absolutely certain that they never want to tank or heal so … yeah… who knows?

    • Stabs says:

      While there was only one healing soul in the early high flying days every Mage was expected to be able to heal if needed. Before heroics were nerfed we used 3 healers on some bosses and it was very unusual to use just one healer in a group.

      My guild was nowhere near the most hardcore and we only had one Mage who couldn’t heal.

    • Gordon says:

      I’m sad to hear that about RIFT as I had assumed, and hoped, that the roles were viable specs. Hope that it gets sorted anything as it’s something that attracts me back.

      And yeah, I get people not wanting to tank or heal but I just think it would be nice to have the option should the whim occur.

  2. Xintia says:

    I agree 100% on this one. And as much as I am currently enjoying SW:TOR, this is a big reason I am looking forward to “The Secret World.” Their take on class design and handling roles like tanking and healing fascinates me. Of course, they aren’t the first game to try a new approach at this, and it may turn out horribly in practice, but it sounds amazing.

    And RIFT… yeah, they tried but it really didn’t work. Warriors had the best tanking souls, Clerics had the best healing souls, and Mages and Rogues were stuck with multiple DPS specs and a single support and healing/tank spec. The support specs were very valuable, but totally redundant. You only needed one. And the Rogue tank spec as well as the Mage healing spec were suspect in their usefulness compared to their Warrior and Cleric counterparts.

    That said, if they had turned the Elementalist into a tanking mage spec… I totally would have stayed subbed to play that. ;)

  3. bhagpuss says:

    Ultra-hybrids are flavor of the month. Guild Wars 2 will probably mark the furthest swing of that pendulum and then we’ll start back towards specialization again.

    There isn’t any “right” way to do this. There is a right way to do it in each specific MMO, though. The real problem isn’t that classes are too specialized, it’s that individual MMOs aren’t specialized enough. There’s far too much jostling for the middle ground and far too many MMO houses wanting to be all things to all players.

    It reminds me of the mid-1960s when the profound wish of most pop singers was to become “all round entertainers” and thereby win an audience composed of everyone from toddlers to grandparents. It didn’t work then and it isn’t going to work now.

    • Gordon says:

      The big failing occurs when tanks and healers can output damage just as well as pure DPS classes. In that situation, DPS only is pretty redundant.

      Sometimes I think EQ had it right in that no one could solo so then it meant all roles – and thus all classes – were equally as important as each other.

  4. ran93r says:

    Without any hard data to go on it’s hard to tell if the pure deeps in TOR outperform the hybrids by a significant margin, I do agree that choosing the AC at level 10 (or whenever you manage to get to the fleet, a couple of mine hit 12) without any real info in-game is frustrating.

    I’m on the fence about everyone being a hybrid though, sure it’s nice for everyone to have the ability to do everything simply by respeccing (or flipping to a dual spec) but for me it feels that the homogenisation of all the classes takes away the individuality of the characters. Yeah you have to make hard choices and you might end up rerolling to go down the route that you feel is a better fit later on but we have all been there. It might make for an easier life to have limitless control over class and spec but are you not then opening yourself up to Tanks who never have before and Healers who have just spent the last seven years sticking a dagger up your backside but flipped a switch to get a quick group together? I have seen this in WoW, just because our friendly feral has a resto spec, it doesn’t mean they have invested any time in gearing or learning about it.

    It might not be true for everyone but investing a lot of time into your class and spec only helps you excel at it, I’m not trying to be elitist but given the option I would rather know that my group has at least some experience in their chosen field. Our guilds MT for the longest time only ever had that one toon and he was (actually still is) exceptional at his job, well you would be after 7 years.

    MooMoo’s are supposed to be for the long haul and we do have all those character slots (although I sure hope we get some more for Kung Fu Panda), diluting the game down so much, for me at least, isn’t the answer.

    • pkudude99 says:

      You can be on the fleet within seconds of character creation. No need to wait until the story sends you there at whatever level. Hell, I create a character, use the fleet pass, go talk to all the skill trainers and then head back down to start the game at level 4 anymore all within 10 minutes of creating said character. No use wasting time at level 1 ;-)

    • Gordon says:

      The problem is, in WoW in particular, is that *everyone* solos until 85 because it’s the fastest route and then suddenly switches to healing or tanking specs to find groups. Unfortunately I can’t think of any easy way to solve the issue unless grouping becomes more mandatory.

  5. Azuriel says:

    Two things.

    1) Isn’t it funny how moving the “class choice” to level 10 instead of the character select screen seems to make a world of difference? I had no idea that I would enjoy playing a paladin in WoW or dislike druids when I first started. And yet because SWTOR has you go through several hours of gameplay before you commit, it leads to cries of “AC respeccing!” whereas having the ability to class-change in WoW is a lot less universally desired.

    2) To be honest, I think DPS-only classes are the only way to fit 5+ classes into a game at all. Imagine for a moment that all 10 classes in WoW could tank. Do you honestly think Blizzard would be capable of balancing that? Or anyone? Maybe you get to play fast and loose with class balance in less popular games, but once an MMO develops a certain gravity, people will flee underpowered classes and now suddenly you have millions of FoTM refugees.

    The alternative, I suppose, is making content easier to the point where it really doesn’t matter that druids take 2% less damage than warriors, etc. But is that really what players want?

    • Simon Jones who is blogless says:

      I’m wondering if the lack of a damage meter isn’t more to Biowares advantage than anything, since the lack of widely available hard data as to how classes are doing means they don’t have to balance things as tightly.

    • Imakulata says:

      Ad 1) It might be a WoW syndrome – in WoW, you chose your class at the start and it’s fixed; maybe people familiar with WoW do not consider AC to be a “class” but a “spec” and are genuinely surprised why can they change something about their spec but not everything.

      Ad 2) You have a point; on the other hand, there is 10 classes in WoW that can DPS and have to be balanced and I’m not sure whether people are fleeing the ones considered to be underpowered. Specs, I guess they do, but not classes.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s the several hours of play before you get the choose your AC that’s the problem. If you know you like or dislike the class within 15minutes, it’s so much better to not have to play for 3-5 hours before picking it.

  6. pitrelli says:

    I disagree if everyone was a hybrid it would be boring as hell and not to mention a nightmare to balance. I’m pretty much always melee dps in every MMO I play, why? Because I enjoy it. I don’t believe for one second people roll healers or tanks because they want to serve the community, people roll what they enjoy playing.

    For me you lose the identity of classes once you start to blur the edges too much and its actually one of the reasons rift pissed me off so much. People ended up expecting me to fulfill a role I did not enjoy so I left.

  7. Stabs says:

    I think the reason for picking a dps only advanced class is precisely to signal “I will never heal or tank”. Just as Pitrelli says, for some people it’s nice to not have people ask you to heal.

    I’ve made a Sith Sorcerer alt after playing a Sniper (which was a mistake, I picked Sniper with the intention to respec to Operative later then found out you couldn’t). The Sorcerer is truly seductive as it hits harder, can heal, and has amazingly good cc. Worst of all it’s funnier.

    i think too one shouldn’t conflate SWTOR’s awful grouping mechanics with the viability of pure dps. In a game with a LFD system (a single server one at minimum) you can put yourself in the queue then quest. I found in WoW that I actually preferred the rhythm of pure dps : quest for 30 mins, instance, quest for 30 mins, instance to the rhythm of my tank – instance, instance, instance. The key is for a game system to support you doing something interesting while waiting for a group which SWTOR spectacularly fails to do.

    • Xintia says:

      I was, and remain opposed, to a multi-server LFD solution in SW:TOR, but after almost a month in the game, it is painfully obvious that SOME mechanism must be introduced. And it does no good to say, “Well back in the day, we spam chat and it worked.” Ok, so it worked then. It doesn’t work now. And why doesn’t really matter. It could be people are spoiled, it could be the games have changed, it could be all manner of reasons. But SW:TOR is demonstrating that in 2012, a themepark MMO needs some kind of grouping tool.

      Now for me that solution would be something more akin to DDO’s tool than WoW’s. If Bioware brings in a WoW style LFD, I will be immediately unsubbing. I’m one of those “crazy people” who believes that system did irreparable damage to the social structure of that game. I hope smarter people than me are working on the problem and can come up with a better solution.

    • spinks says:

      In the WoW LFD system, being dps is way way more fun than tanking or healing even with longer queues. Because tanks in particular get crazy abuse and are always demanded to run faster faster faster, it pretty much took the joy out of tanking for me.

      LFD basically is a tool for dps players. There’s no point playing anything else in WoW these days.

      • Gordon says:

        Totally agree. Playing a tank in WoW is usually just vile. Sometimes I enjoy it but it is so much more stressful than just DPSing because other players seem to put a lot of pressure on you to be perfect or have the best gear.

  8. reciprocity says:

    Not to mention the lack of dual specs in SWTOR. After level 20 (where dps specs get a nice 11 point talent), solo questing as a healer is very slow and respec costs double every respec. After respecing to heal every flashpoint (then back to dps to quest), by the time i was 28 I gave up healing because my next respec was 17000 credits.

  9. Gazimoff says:

    I’m going to dub this as a bit of a perennial argument.

    I’m going to disagree on this one (as I’ve blogged about in the past). If you end up playing a hybrid class, there’s this horrible battle of wills that goes on where people expect that because you “can” tank or heal that you “will” tank or heal, particularly if you’re waiting around for a while looking to fill that group. If I’m going to do either of the roles that I enjoy less, I want it to be on my terms by selecting a character that is intended to perform that role.

    • vortal says:

      I agree. The hybrid class needs to function organically with tanking, healing, and damage work together in a manner that I have yet to see in any MMO. I don’t want the class to instead of having 1 limestone block of a role to having 2 limestone blocks which he/she then needs to juggle around like some sideshow performer. It shouldn’t be this way. The classes need to feel organic and work in their own way.

    • Gordon says:

      I can’t say I’ve felt that pressure before but then I’m not adverse to tanking and quite enjoy filling the role if no one else wants to.

  10. hellfire says:

    That’s the long and the short of why pure-DPS is still integral to the MMO. Some people DO NOT want to heal. Ever.

    It gets bagged on a lot for having “too much choice”, but Rift really made this stuff work right. Mostly. After 30 I never tried tanking with my rogue again. While I liked Rifstalker for PvP, I just didn’t enjoy tanking. But I raided/instanced as a Bard or SabDancer as needed with a smile. Not for nothing, but I would frequently get cold-calls for pugs as a bard because a) I was really good at it and b) I didn’t bitch about not being able to DPS. That’s the key – not only was the gameplay enjoyable, but it was trivial to maintain both.

    TOR *could* make this work. On-server LFD, dual-spec and “fixing” sniper/marauder so rage (and whatever the superfluous sniper tree is) becomes a true buff/support tree. Oh, and unlock motherfricking weapon selection from AC. I know WHY they did it, but it’s the dumbest thing in the game right now. That infuriates me more than the terrible UI.

    I feel I’m being punished by having to play a Marauder just so I can have sabers akimbo, which is by far the best way to saber IMO.

  11. [...] presenting solid, persuasive arguments that the DPS-only class is a relic in most MMORPGs, and isn’t much longer for this world –“Let’s face it, single role classes were always flawed right from day one. Rewind [...]

  12. vortal says:

    Multiclassing. Pure and Simple. As you level you can take levels in other classes. Although this may lead to some very VERY complicated builds (as everyone in my D&D group suddenly thinks they’re playing Skyrim) it can also allow for freedom without killing too many sacred cows.

    I say this because I find it weird when classes that I love also have other abilities that they weren’t known for in their Archetype but suddenly have now, it breaks immersion and that just down-right ruins it for me. “The Warrior heals his Rogue comrade who is tanking the foul beast”. Is he a paladin now or what? And is that Rogue a Warrior? This is just an example of how by bending class archetypes too far you could lose class identity. Multiclassing however means you are no longer one specific class but two (or many classes).

    Or you could do it the Skyrim way and have no physical classes whatsoever and be a freeform character who spends points in various archetypes. The biggest problem with this however would be that it would lean towards single player games too much. You can do anything you want: By Yourself. Why need others? Class integrity needs to be here and bending some of the rules is ok, just don’t break the class and make it something that it’s not.

  13. vortal says:

    Another thing I would like to address. Dual Specs. Personally I’m not a big fan of it, but I see why it’s there and why they designed it that way. It is inherently flawed.

    That brings me back to the fact that a role shouldn’t be some hard, and heavy entity that crushes you in its weight. It should be something you specialise in, be able to do very well, perhaps better than what others can. The fact that in a traditional RPG you can be the fragile Wizard yet have restoration magic and abjuration magic that would shield you or your party and heal them. Or be the fighter who can suddenly do burst damage with his mighty 2 hander. Or even be the cleric clad in steel armor take some blows for the team. It should be organic that way. A mage can still be a mage you just need to stop using static “specs” in order to define a role. Something like magic schools or a fighter’s traditions or a cleric’s prayer domains. I like the fact that you can be a speciality in your class a certain kind of Wizard or a special kind of Ranger. That feels good. Not specs.

  14. [...] so often I hear this argument crop up: character classes that can only deal damage shouldn’t exist in modern MMOs. Every class [...]

  15. SKapusniak says:

    Reason I have a Gunslinger rather than Scoundrel, indeed the reason I re-rolled from Scoundrel to Gunslinger after having buyers remorse.

    Sure, you get way more cool and flexible options on a Scoundrel including the healing, but you simultaneously turn yourself from a ranged class using blaster from cover, to a class mostly doing combat at melee range but still with some sort of blaster.

    Wuuuuuuh? So now my job is to deliberately run up to someone specifically to shoot them in face, rather than sensibly shooting them from afar and only doing the shoot them in the face thing if they get too close?

    And then there’s the Jedi Sage, who gets the healing spec, but also takes the dude with the most iconic melee weapon in film history and says ‘nah forget about that’ and turns him into a ranged caster.

    Oooooookay.

    Also Commando, gets healling spec, gets lumbered with the most ridiculously impractical looking weapon in the game rather than a nice sensible assault rifle.

    It seems if you want a hybrid class with a healing spec, you have to deal with enough immersion breaking wtf about your character — along with all too often a baffling playstyle switch — that I’m just not able to suspend my disbelief any longer.

  16. Boris says:

    Actually, I’ve always played a cleric/healer class. Not sure why but I just prefer it for roleplaying. The bad thing about this, of course, is that healers are often designed as glass cannon. Yeah sure they can heal but they have lower hp, low physical defense, etc. I mean, okay I like healing but a pure healer class is a pain to play since all you do is heal. Boring, much?

    The hybrid classes are just so much better if they are done right. There’s no reason why a healer would be unable to defend himself. I know some doctors irl who could kick my behind…

  17. Ferrel says:

    This is exactly why Rift has ruined every other MMORPG for me. I have always loved being a healer for groups and raids. By doing that it often meant being horrible at everything else. I had to level a second character on a second account in EQ2 just so I could play when Ferrel couldn’t get a group. These days that is ridiculous to me.

    Rift Ferrel can heal when necessary but, when I want to just go out and solo, I can do that pretty well. Trion did a great job with versatility in the cleric, warrior, and rogue classes. Mages are a bit left out.

    At the end of the day though, in my eyes, nobody has done it better yet. If a new MMORPG forces me into one role I simply won’t play it. I can’t go back to only being able to heal.

    • Gordon says:

      Exactly – I think people want flexibility now. It’s so nice having the option to perform more than one role and just as how now it’s expected that every tank or healer in every MMO will have a DPS spec, I think it will soon become just as standard for traditional DPS only classes to have tanking or healing specs.

  18. [...] so often I hear this argument crop up: character classes that can only deal damage shouldn’t exist in modern MMOs. Every class [...]

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