Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Reasons, tanks, and healers
Gevlon, not the man for social niceties, made what looked very much like an off-topic comment on yesterday's post, asking what I wanted a druid for. One of my readers, in a much nicer way, and by e-mail, politely asked me something very similar: Why was I trying this multi-boxing thing instead of playing a different game? This larger question has several answers, as motives for doing something are not necessarily just one thing. For example one element was the observation that in EVE very many players multi-box, and I wondered why this isn't more widespread in World of Warcraft. And I thought it might make a nice experiment, something new to experience and to write about. I also was intrigued by the idea of a 2-seater flying mount. But getting a druid leveled up was also part of my motives, which brings us back to the first question. Why a druid?
World of Warcraft, like many similar games, has three basic archetypes: Tanks, healers, and damage dealers. As you can see from my first three level 80 characters, I've always been a believer in specializing, so I made a warrior, a priest, and a mage. That is coming from a background of Everquest being the first MMORPG I played for over a year (I played LPMUDs and Ultima Online before, but not as intensively). EQ had a very clear design philosophy on hybrid characters: They sucked mightily, or at least they did 10 years ago when I played EQ. The idea was strikingly simple: For the benefit of being able to take on more than one role, you paid the price of not being quite as good at those roles than a character who only had one of them.
That made sense, because Everquest is a game of forced grouping, and difficult travel. You often grouped with the people you found at the place where you wanted to adventure, you took what you could get, and so even for a group a hybrid had the advantage of flexibility, balanced with the disadvantage of not being quite as powerful as a single-role character. But World of Warcraft developed in a different way: There was a lot of soloing, and groups were often formed in highly populated areas, so people could afford to be picky and take the candidates most likely to succeed in a group. I leveled my priest under holy spec, and my warrior as a tank, which in early WoW was again a choice with clear advantages and disadvantages: I would get into groups easily, but solo slower.
Over the years, subsequently introduced in many patches, the situation in World of Warcraft changed: Dual-spec was introduced, so suddenly my priest and warrior turned into hybrids with a damage-dealer role for soloing. And the game's two three-way classes, paladin and druid, got boosted to be as efficient in tanking as a warrior (sometimes even more so) and as efficient in healing as a priest. I never was, and still am not, very happy with that. I felt I had chosen specialized classes in a conscious decision to go for well defined benefit, and then Blizzard changed the rules and robbed me of those benefits. It wasn't so bad with the priest, but given the choice between a paladin, a druid, and a warrior as a tank, most groups will either take the paladin or the druid. And of course this development was even more unfair to the pure damage dealing classes, like my mage: A damage dealer gained very little from dual-spec, and then had to see some hybrid class outdamage him.
So I grumbled for a bit, as MMORPG players are wont to do, and then decided that if I can't beat them, I'll join them. This also was a consequence of Blizzard taking far too long to make expansions, so half through an expansion I often have my existing characters leveled up to the maximum that I want, and start making alts. The mage was made for that reason during Burning Crusade, and now that I had three characters at level 80 and in full epics, I made two new alts: A druid and a paladin. Both three-way hybrids to benefit from Blizzard's blatant favoring of hybrids over specialists. And I made two alts because Cataclysm had just been announced, and I wanted to play through old Azeroth again with a Horde and an Alliance character once more before these zones changes forever. Last chance to see, so to say.
While that plan initially looked somewhat balanced, the flaws soon became apparent. While the druid was better to play at very low levels, the paladin got a big boost in power at level 16, and by level 20 was a completely overpowered soloing monster. Even without dual-spec yet, he was what players of previous games would call a "tank mage", that mythical character with no flaws at all, being able to deal as much damage as any other class, while simultaneously being able to withstand far more damage than a pure damage-dealer, and being able to heal himself to boot when things got rough. Furthermore after three level 80 Horde characters, and my highest Alliance character being a single level 60, it was more interesting to play the Alliance paladin than the Horde druid. The druid wasn't quite as overpowered as the paladin, as he had to switch forms to get the benefits from his three roles, while the paladin got all benefits in the same form. And the druid didn't get crazy overpowered spells and abilities like the paladin in the lower levels.
So the paladin took off, and I ended up leveling him all the way to 80, while the druid was still stuck at level 29. I had done lots of groups while leveling with the paladin in tank / damage dual-spec, but changed to heal / damage dual-spec at level 80 because being undergeared matters less for a healer than for a tank. Having thus experienced all three roles of the paladin, I noticed that while there were a lot of advantages to the paladin, it was also simply nice to tank or heal *differently* than my previous characters. Paladin tanking doesn't play the same as warrior tanking. Paladin healing doesn't play the same as priest healing. And that made me think that druid tanking and healing might be interesting too. Especially at level 80 in heroics, where I would have the direct comparison.
But I'm a slow leveler, and the Cataclysm alpha just started, so time is running out. I'm not playing World of Warcraft as intensively any more, I take time to play single-player games or try other MMORPGs to avoid burning out. And I didn't want to get caught short, with my druid not quite 80 yet when the game changes, presumably with patch 4.0 a bit before the actual Cataclysm release. I could use a boost to leveling, and a fresh view, a new method to level up yet another alt. So this is why I'm planning to level the druid, and why I want to do it via dual-boxing. I would like to see how a druid tanks and heals at level 80, compared to the other three-way hybrid, the paladin, and compared to the specialist classes warrior and priest. Triple xp to 60 sound like a good idea to get there, especially since it means playing the game in a different way.