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Friday, 29 May 2015

The Holy Trinity (of MMOs) Part One: An introduction to my MMO experiences.

This is my bugbear.
But perhaps an introduction is in order;
I've been playing MMO's since I was 16~ which is around 15 years of experience.
While players come and go, I can usually rely on the same crowd returning to "try out" any new MMO on the market, and some for the latest World of Warcraft expansion.
To say I have wasted countless days of my life playing games that are little more than a pretty skinner box is probably an apt description.

I will say that my addiction to online gaming has almost certainly saved my sanity, if not my life.
It has kept me in touch with my friends and made me many more that I'd never have come across (how many normal people can boast a sofa to sleep on in almost every country in Europe and some places beyond?) It has broadened my horizons, and dispelled many misconceptions of my fellow man.
Perhaps not entirely wasted time.

But there remains a large part of me that is continually disappointed at potential wasted (often squandered) by continual pandering to even wider audiences.
My first days online as a teenager (late to the party, amongst the last of my peers to get a PC) saw me thrown into a roleplay game like no other.
I speak of Ultima Online.
It's still going though I left is long ago.
For those unaware, it is a true MMORPG.
Players are able to build a unique character from a variety of skills to achieve whatever end they wish, mastering some skills completely, leaving others intentionally stunted. You could be a crafter, with no combat skills at all, or a thief (in the old days you really could steal anything not literally nailed down, including from other players houses and inventory)
Perhaps you'd like to tame a Dragon to do your fighting for you?
Of course certain builds were popularised as very effective but in those early days building a character was truly a feat of perseverance, as you slowly navigated a completely open world to discover which challenges you could overcome, and which would end your life.
In this game, there was no trinity. Each player had to be somewhat self sufficient, with cooperative play leading to feats of achievement that still satisfy me today as memories.

That all changed when I was finally enticed to Warcraft scant months before the release of the burning crusade.
Questing was entirely new to me, as was levelling (in an MMO)
Always before I had gone where I was able to kill the toughest monsters I could to train skills and earn money.
WoW was an entirely different beast.
A game on rails, directing your play and segregating it's population based on their advancement.
It has it's merits as well as pitfalls, the major downside being my complete isolation from those that encouraged me to play in the first place.
The role play was sidelined too, replaced by what amounted to participation in a story.
No more did I see roving bands of players posing as Orcs or Undead to kill other players, nor the casual acquaintances of those farming the same spots I preferred (or the enmity of those that would come to kill me)
Then came the Holy Trinity, and it was a revelation.

I had always preferred playing rough and tumble characters, able to take a hit and shrug it off.
Warcraft took that concept a step further with the Tanking role.
My first outing as a tank was amusingly naive.
I knew my job, I'd had a brief go in a dungeon when levelling a friend's mage, I had all the skills and went to it with gusto.
About 3/4 through gnomeregon a member of my party complain that I never taunted when I did lose aggro or we had adds incoming.
My reply.... "that's a cooldown!"
I had misread the tooltip and thought the very concept of taunting was powerful enough to warrant a minutes long cooldown (Shield Wall being the ability in question, the genuinely powerful 40% damage reduction)
Only after the instance did I see my error, and in one of the more annoying 5 man dungeons.
Still, it cemented my adoration for the role. The strategy of planning a pull, the high pressure and constant attention required, the pure sweat and adrenaline and the genuine appreciation shown my groups (when nothing went wrong)
Tanking, for those of you new to the game, is not what it used to be.

Healing remained a mystery to me for a long time, until months into The Burning Crusade I had finally deemed myself ready after rerolling to a Paladin, levelling as protection because I am insane, and started looking for a raiding guild.
The jackpot was struck with an invite to my first Guild (in any game, I am something of a loner and in any case I'd never been logged in for longer than a few minutes without being recruited into a group on my warrior)
Karazan. There is a reason the place remains a fond memory for WoW players, despite its flaws.
The snag? I had to heal.
Now, I'm never one to shy away from a challenge, and I am exactly arrogant enough to believe I can accomplish just about anything. With the spec I'd never played, in the odds and sods items I'd kept for offspec duty.
Raid Frames? What are raid frames?
What do you mean dispel, how do I do that?
Needless to say, my new friends were not impressed, but they were very patient and helpful.
After initial disasters mostly resting on my novice shoulders we managed to clear the place.
I still have fond memories of my first raid team, my first guild (still in touch with a few faces after all this time) and I even stooped to writing fanfic about our epic Gruul run (gathering 25 players for content is a feat a lot of people take for granted all on its own)

To this day I have never played a damage dealer to any high level of play.
While I do enjoy the concept, I am unable to abandon the more essential duties above. I am more than capable of the role though (good old personal arrogance) and being acknowledged is always satisfying.
Sadly, Warcraft, and many MMOs since, seem to have committed to making the last aspect of the holy trinity all about numbers. Even Wildstar, touted as upping the difficulty, doubled down on ending strategic play and control in favour of aRPG elements and cleaving the universe to death.
For those that lived through the various iterations, this is a corruption of the old term, as the last of the trinity was about crowd control and general utility (buffing/debuffing/kiting)
Along the way something very cool and worth investing in was discarded because lazy players did not want to make that effort and so were not given the same precedence in building a team.

So ends the introduction; tune in for Part 2: Diversity over Inclusivity.