Tesh is asking dangerous questions about balance, classes, and the holy trinity again. Shun the non-believer!
The issue of balance is an important one. If people have a preferred class or style, if that one is weak, then they may be rejected from groups, making the game less fun for them, so they quit, and now there's less money for the developers to use to snort coke and the players left over will be left with a less interesting world, leading to more quitting, and before long the devs are out on the streets doing horrible things to support their addictions. It's quite terrible. What I'm trying to say is that poor game balance is the root cause of that homeless guy on the train who uh... well anyway, you get the idea.
So we want balanced classes. Note that this is not exclusive to a class system, but that I find it easier to use the word class (because I'm a communist) than to try to get at every intricacy of a class or talent or skill or whatever else based system. So pretend that when I say warlock I mean a chaotic evil caster who specializes in demonic summoning and destruction magic.
As any capitalist can tell you, class warfare is a bad idea. Instead it is better to turn the classes inward against each other. This is why we invented racism. We can apply the same method to classes in MMORPGs, reducing the conflict between classes, presumably by balancing them to be interchangeable, and instead causing players within each class to despise each other for the competition.
So how do we get every class to do the same DPS, healing output, effective health, and mitigation? That's right: we don't. That would be a fruitless endeavor to get them exactly the same. Merely adding mobility elements to a fight will make DoTs and instant cast spells better, while lots of adds favor AoE, quick deaths hurt DoT damage, long fights favor efficiency and regen, and so on. They can be close, but never exactly the same, so don't even bother trying for the last few percent. Or more.
Burning Crusade used a model that fit this. Each class brought its own buff(s): totems, magic or physical damage debuffs, auras, judgements, and most importantly, divine sacrifice to save two repair bills because we died a lot. DPS between classes was not balance. At all. But because each class brought a unique, or at least not commonly shared, buff or debuff, adding another class was usually better than stacking up on a single class, even if it appeared to be more powerful. So a class that did 10% less damage but gave a 2% damage buff to 20 people was still better than the 10% higher damage. This was a great situation for everyone around: developers could casually dismiss DPS meters, bad players could casually dismiss DPS meters, and good players could know that they are awesome, because good players don't need a bunch of numbers to know that. There was one group that got left out, a group which I despise for two reasons: first, they ruin my earlier claim of "a great situation for everyone" and second, because these are the self-centered jackasses who ruin just about everything by obsessing over DPS meters.
For some reason Blizzard decided to cater to this last group. This brought about their concept of "bring the player, not the class", which was nice, in theory. In practice it meant that the small DPS differences were put right back in the center. Pinning the balance of a game on a problem which can never be fixed, and also calling huge amounts of attention to it, is a terrible idea. The ironic result is that when attempting to make us bring players rather than classes, given the impossibility of perfect balance, we were more driven to pick classes. Because there was no longer incentive to diversify, that left only the pure DPS numbers as motivators.
I'm not suggesting that it is better to require one of every class, and in fact that wasn't the case. I've seen firsthand the results of fight-specific mechanics to force raid composition. I might have benefited from those gimmicks, thank you very much, Garr, and your eight identical adds which like to attack healers, thereby giving my warlock a guaranteed raid slot. But there is a middle ground, somewhere between stacking the flavor of the month and canceling the raid because of a lack of mages, and in that middle ground the balance between classes is made easier, small differences papered over and made invisible, also leveling some of the effects of player skill. That last part may be the cause of all this trouble, that something feels instinctively wrong about bringing a lesser player for their passive buffs rather than a better player for their epeen-growing DPS results, but when developer instinct conflicts with player fun, it must be set aside.
Well, unless of course they just enjoy watching flame wars between angered customers.
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