Tank, Healer, DPS

One of the hotly debated topics around The Old Republic is the use of the Trinity system.

What is the Trinity? The Trinity is a basic way of understanding roles within a party or group. It’s easier for everyone to understand what they need to do when given specific roles. The basic roles in MMOs are Tank, Healer, and DPS. DPS refers to all damage dealing members of the party and generally comes in two flavors, ranged and melee. Ranged DPS stands at some distance from the enemy and fires away. Melee DPS is right up in the enemies face hacking and slashing.

Healers are charged with keeping the party alive with their heals.

Tanks are typically the only players who can survive the damaging attacks of the enemy. They need to keep the enemy attacking them thereby protecting their Healers and DPS. If the enemy attacks a healer or DPS they usually will die quickly. Basically the way this work is the enemy attacks your Tank, who is kept alive by heals from the Healers, while your DPS takes down the enemy.

Will this Trinity system of Tanks, Healers and DPS be used in The Old Republic?

This is a key question because often players are more attached to their role than even their class. As they approach a new game they are looking for a ‘tank’ class or a ‘ranged dps’ class because they know they enjoy that role from past MMOs. Players can get bitterly disappointed when they roll a class thinking it will fulfill a role, only to find out that it can’t fulfill that role well at end game. The Developers must be very careful how they describe the classes to avoid this kind of disappointment.

We got the first hint of how The Old Republic will use the Trinity in an interview (http://www.mmogamer.com/06/11/2009/a-new-hope-for-mmos) done by MMO Gamer with Daniel Erickson, Lead Writer on Star Wars: The Old Republic and Jame Ohlen, Studio Creative Director, and Lead Designer on Star Wars: The Old Republic. While discussing combat mechanics James Ohlen said: “we want to appeal to MMO fans who like the strategy and tactics involved in MMO combat, where you have the different character types, the guy who’s a tank that jumps into battle and everyone focuses on him while you have your ranged DPS guys. We still want to have that.” (emphasis added)

You can clearly see that the roles of Tank and Ranged DPS are part of the designers thinking. 

 The next clue we get is the Demo that was shown at PAX and other conferences this summer. The Flashpoint aboard the Imperial starship is the only time we’ve been shown group dynamics. A Sith Warrior and a Bounty Hunter work their way through the starship taking on Rebel soldiers until their climatic ‘Boss’ fight with a full fledged Jedi Knight. As we watch the fight we can see the Bounty Hunter taking the role of Ranged DPS. He stands away from the Boss and fires away with his arsenal.

And what of the Sith Warrior? He is there in melee range, slashing away with his Lightsaber like Melee DPS. But we also see him taking the blows of the Jedi Boss and parrying them with his Lightsaber. He is being a Tank.

But how does he keep the Jedi from leaping over and taking a swing or two at the Bounty Hunter, especially after the Bounty Hunter lights him up with the Flame Thrower? Many games give their tanks some ability that forces the Boss to attack them. We’ve seen nothing like that so far in the Sith Warrior arsenal. Some games employ a Threat point system whereby the tank can produce more Threat points than the DPS and the Boss is scripted to attack whoever has the most Threat points. Other games use collision to keep the Boss attacking their tanks. The Boss can not move through the player, so the player physically blocks the path to the DPS. The Boss can’t get to the DPS so he decides to attack the player he can get to, which is, of course, the Tank. Collision systems tend to be very hard on MMOs because they require more calculations and communication than non collision games.

What do we know thus far, about our healers? So far the only information we have is that each class will have an out of combat heal. To be a healer, you sort of have to have an incombat heal. Could the Developers be designing The Old Republic as a Healerless MMO?

I’ve been playing MMOs for about 4 years now. In my experience most players enjoy the DPS role. Invariably as you are trying to fill groups, it’s always the Tank and the Healer that are toughest to find. Then as you get to end game, Tanks increase in availability but Healers remain tough to find. Perhaps the Development recognized that and there will not be a dedicated ‘main healer’ class in The Old Republic. The first flashpoint we saw had only two player characters in it. By definition, you’d need three to form a Trinity group.

In most MMOs, you need more than two people to successfully complete an instance/flashpoint. Therefore it would be folly to try to draw too many conclusions, but it’s clear that the Developers understand the Trinity roles and want to have them in some form in their game.

As the Development team starts to approach designing their endgame, they will need to tackle the idea of Trinity roles. It will be at that time that we will start hearing more about how the Trinity roles will be implemented in The Old Republic.

More so maybe than any other MMO, players are going to be attached to their class. They want to play the Han Solo fantasy or the Darth Vader fantasy. What will happen if the role that class plays at end game doesn’t mesh with what the player enjoys. If Jedi’s were main healers and Troopers tanks, would have people who really wanted to be a Jedi, roll a Trooper because they wanted to tank? I’m sure some would.

So what role are you looking to play? Do you think your class will have that role at end game?


5 Responses to “Tank, Healer, DPS”

  1. 1 FacelessOnisu
    September 23, 2009 at 9:59 am

    I truly hope they work out the Trinity roles. I am more on the healer side of the trio, but I wouldn’t mind busting out with a Bounty Hunter or Smuggler.

    On another topic, I’m really enjoying the new-ish website. It is weird to see “Trueblade” instead of Honorscode as the author, but its great to see you continue your writing style for a new game. And hopefully a game that doesn’t let down like SWG did in the end.

  2. 2 Flowersz
    September 23, 2009 at 11:33 am

    No healers? For shame!

  3. September 23, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    I wonder if the trinity is really required. Obviously if you remove a healer from WoW the game simply wouldn’t work. But it is entirely possible to design an MMO without a healer. In WoW recently I ran Stratholme on a 61 DK with a 55 lock and 70 lock. Essentially I was tanking but it was a matter of killing them before they killed me.

    Playing a game without a healer gives a constant danger of death if not played right. Parrying an attack can make a difference between life and death. In WoW we fight things that are infintly more powerfull then we are but in the star wars realm there are no infintly powerfull beings. They could give an enemy boss 10 million health vs a players 5000 where a healer is required to keep people alive… or they could give a boss only a few thousand hps more then the players.

    Anyway this probably isn’t the way they are designing ToR but your post got me thinking.

  4. 4 jezter24
    September 24, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    “But it is entirely possible to design an MMO without a healer.”

    I think UO (Ultima Online) is one of the classic examples of no real trinity. There was no “healer” class, there was healing as a skill with bandaids, there was a potion and of course spells that mages had. I would also say there was no real “tanks” either, granted you could have a shield and do melee attacks.

    I have not played UO in a very long time, but I did play it for years growing up. I remember I played Everquest until a certain level and was bored with it. (Was a Dwarf Cleric, and when a mini-game is needed for mana regen should be a clue of somethign amiss). I believe a lot of games use the EQ system as a base, the trinity (tank, damage and healer), how tough bosses are in needing groups/raids and leveling up. I am not saying it is bad (been playing WoW for 5 years now), but I do admit I am interested in how this game progresses.

  5. 5 Divine Justice
    September 25, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I’m thinking they could do something similar to speccing. Perhaps a Sith Warrior could spec for DPS or Tanking. Perhaps a Jedi Knight could spec for DPS or Healing or Tanking, who knows? Or maybe they will have separate classes… Jedi Knight (healer) vs. Jedi Warrior (tank) or something similar.

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