Posts Tagged ‘Role


Will Jedi Knights Be Tanks?

Will Jedi Knights Be Tanks?

First a little background on me. The only MMO I have played to date is World of Warcraft. In WoW, I play a Tanking class called the Protection Paladin. I love Tanking. It’s the most fun role there is in a party.

So as I look at my chosen class for SWTOR, I wonder if Jedi Knights will be a tanking class.

I realize this presupposes that SWTOR will use Tanks, but I believe I make this assumption on solid grounds. Now I know many things can change during the development of an MMO, but we have to go with the knowledge we have at this time.

We got the first hint of how The Old Republic will use the Trinity (Tank, Healer, DPS) in an interview 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)

Okay, so let’s say you’re feeling generous and you are willing to accept that SWTOR will have Tanks. Why then do I think the Jedi Knight class will be a Tanking class? Why not the Trooper, or Smuggler or Consular? I’m not saying those other classes won’t be tanks, they very well might have tanking builds or templates or whatever the terminology will be for SWTOR. But I think Jedi Knights definitely will be Tanks.

Let me direct your attention to an interview done by Gamespot with BioWare’s director of production Dallas Dickinson and senior game designer William Wallace on the Jedi Knight class.

During the interview William Wallace discussed the Jedi Knight in combat. “[The Jedi Knight] has a number of strong single and double lightsaber attacks to damage his enemies and keep them from damaging him. In group combat, the Jedi knight excels at staying at the forefront of the fight and has a number of ways to keep the battle focused on him, letting his allies concentrate on what they do best and also keeping any Sith lightsabers away from unarmored targets.”

As one of the more elegant forum posters once said, Tanking is ticking them off good and then taking it like a man. Tanks maintain threat to keep the Enemy attacking them and then absorb those blows through various skills, spells, and talents.

Look how both of those elements are encompassed in the answer provided by BioWare. The Jedi Knight “has a number of ways to keep the battle focused on him”. That is the first element of tanking. All the damage mitigation in the world isn’t going to help you if the Enemy isn’t attacking you. You might be a brick wall, but the Enemy might choose to beat down the wooden wall instead. So you have to keep the Enemies attention.

The next thing he says is that the Jedi will protect their allies by “also keeping any Sith lightsabers away from unarmored targets.” Specifically now we see the example of keeping the Enemy Sith away from the more squishy members of our party.

Threat is all well and good and necessary, but just as important is the need to stay alive once you have threat. Anyone’s whose played a DPS class in WoW can tell you getting threat isn’t that hard, surviving a couple of attacks from the Boss is much more difficult. In the interview, we can see the second element of Tanking.

The Jedi will have combat maneuver that “keep them [his Enemies] from damaging him.” So the Jedi keeps the attention of the Enemy and then keeps the Enemy from doing damage to him. Perhaps by parrying the blow? Parry is a major skill in WoW that every Tanking class except Feral Druids possesses.

In the interview Mr. Wallace describes the Jedi Knight as leading the group. Typically the Tank is seen as the leader of your party. He directs the pace and the pulls and keeps the party together. The Tank will often be the one to set the strategy as the strategy generally is heavily influenced by his abilities.

We can clearly see from this interview that the Jedi Knight has been designed with the two major elements of Tanking in mind. This doesn’t preclude other classes from being Tanks nor does it mean that Jedi Knights are only going to be able to fulfill the Tanking role. Mr. Wallace specifically mentions the Jedi Knight still being an asset “Even if the Jedi knight isn’t leading the group.”

This is really a smart move by BioWare. Going by my WoW experience, Tanks are the most difficult role to fill in any group, followed by Healers. Many expect the Jedi Knight to be the most popular class in Star Wars The Old Republic. So right off the bat, you will have a large supply of Tank capable players ready for whatever type of End Game content BioWare is designing.


Primary Colors

In the United States, our first school experience is called Kindergarten. One of the lessons we learn in Kindergarten is about Primary colors.

The primary colors are Red, Yellow and Blue. They are called the Primary Colors because every other color in the world is made by combining those 3 primary colors. We learn those combinations as secondary colors. Yellow and Blue make Green. Red and Yellow make Orange. Red and Blue make Purple. It’s an epic combination.

Class based RPGs have their primary colors as well. I’m fortunate enough, or just old enough, depending on how you want to look at it, to have played many RPGs going all the way back to the PnP (Pen and Paper) Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition.

In that time I’ve observed that the RPG world has primary colors or more correctly, primary classes. Rather than the 3 you learn about with Art, there are 4 in RPGs. These four are Fighter, Cleric, Thief, and Magic User. The Fighter had a huge hit point pool and his main focus was on dealing damage with his weapon. The Cleric had limited weapons skill but was greatly valued for his ability to heal his team mates. The thief was weaker than the Fighter, but had a deadly attack that required special positioning to use. The Magic User had a tiny hit point pool, but could do more damage with his spells than even the best fighter could with his sword.

As games matured secondary colors were added, usually combining elements of the Fighter with elements of the Magic User. You even saw attempts at Jack of All Trades classes like the DnD Bard.

These primary colors would evolve into the primary roles we see in modern MMORPGs. The Fighter, with his huge hit point total evolved into the Tank role. The Cleric evolved into the Healer role. The Thief would become Melee DPS while the Magic User would become Ranged DPS. Again Developers gave us the Oranges and Purples of Tank/DPS, and Heal/DPS.

Just as understanding the relationship of primary colors and secondary colors helps us understand the world of art, the understanding of primary classes helps us understand the world of RPGs and MMORPGs.

First let’s apply this understand to the well known MMORPG, World of Warcraft.

WoW has 10 classes. 4 of those classes are primary colors and 6 are secondary colors. The Rogue is your classic Thief. The Hunter, Warlock and Mage are shades of the Magic User. The other classes are more of a template that is built upon in WoW with Talent trees. Paladins can end up more like a Fighter or more like a Cleric. Druids can wind up in just about any color and are the closest to the DnD Bard as a Class that tries to do a bit of everything.

Tension exists between the Primary Colors and the Secondary Colors, and as the game has matured the Developers continue to address this tension.

Originally, they gave the Secondary Colors penalties, the so called Hybrid Tax, to offset this tension. Now the penalties have been reduced, but the trade off is that the Secondary Colors are made to choose which Primary color they will emulate. Green that is so blue, one might as well call it blue. A Fighter / Magic User who spells are so weak, and weapons so strong you might as well call him a Fighter.

Next, let’s apply this understanding to a new game like Star Wars the Old Republic.

SWTOR has revealed all 8 of its classes, but as we analyze these 8 classes we quickly see not 8 classes, but 4 pairs. These are Smuggler/Sith Agent, the Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior, the Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor, and the Trooper/Bounty Hunter.

The Thief here is probably the easiest to see. The Smuggler/Sith Agent use the trademark sneaking and with the Sith Agent, we even have stealth. While the Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior will have Force powers that might seem Magic User like, their preference for dealing with the situations with their swords paints them more as the Fighter. The Magic User appears to be more easily seen in the Trooper/Bounty Hunter. The spells of these classes may be unlike the typical Magic User, but the archtype of high damaging attacks from a distance seems to fit very well with these two classes. This leaves the Jedi Consular/Sith Inquistior there to take up the Cleric. This is probably the biggest stretch as the Inquisitor has been described as throwing around Lightning Bolts which certainly seems to be more Magic User like. But I have to wonder if we won’t see these two classes falling more into the Cleric role as more information comes out about them.

Whereas WoW seems to be dabbling mostly in the palette of secondary colors, the Developers of The Old Republic seem to be leaning more to primary colors. It will be interesting to watch what ramifications both good and bad come from these formative choices of which color palette to use when designing the class structure.


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 ( 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?

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