Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Are hybrids cheating dps out of raid spots?

Some pure dps players feel cheated by the general trend towards buffing hybrids. This is an issue that has surfaced in the recent spate of complaints about dual spec which actually are masking a deeper dissatisfaction.

The problem really stems back to fundamental game design issues that were not fully anticipated by Blizzard.

The specialists were promised excellence in a role and the hybrids were promised flexibility and this initally worked well in 2005 in 5 mans and 10-15 man groups. The tank would die so the shaman would take over. The healer would die so the balance druid would start healing. All fine and fun in Scarlet Monastery and UBRS.

It didn't really work in Molten Core. Firstly just about every person with a healing spell was required to heal. We were no longer hybrids we were healbots. Secondly if the tank died a Resto Druid couldn't just go Bear and take over, the demands on gear and talents were too great.

Because the hybrids were "cheated" out of their hybridicity at that stage the game has seen a steady drift towards making hybrids more viable in all their roles, gradually attaining specialist levels of competence. (They weren't really intentionally cheated of course, it was simply the way the game developed).

Now there are two directions for the game designers to go in:
1) specialists are better. This will cause people to lose interest in playing hybrids for fear of being forced to heal. At level 70 the least popular 4 classes were paladin, shaman, priest and druid - the four classes that are capable of healing. This system is unfair on hybrids because they are increasingly forced to heal when they rolled their character to be hybrids.

2) hybrids are comparable. This means that dps spots are shared between 10 classes that can dps with the other 40% or so of raid spots being reserved for hybrids. So hybrids get their own special spots plus some of the dpsers's spots. This is unfair on dpsers because there are less raid spots per person playing the class

So what's the solution? There isn't a simple one. There isn't a fair one.

The picture is further muddled by other factors. Feral Druids are a great pick for a dps spot because they bring combat ress and innervate and, as one of the game's already existing dual specs, on the fly tanking. Boomkins, Enhancement Shamans and Ret Pallies still bring way more raid-affecting buffs that any dps class despite doing excellent individual dps. You'd be crazy to bench your only boomkin for a second mage if the boomkin will lift your whole raid's damage with unique buffs. In fact you could have 2 druid tanks 2 druid healers and still be in the position where a boomkin is a better dps pick than a second mage because of those unique buffs.

At the end of the day someone has to lose out. Giving healers a better deal than dps makes sense because healer numbers are the choke point in terms of how many raid groups a server can support. A server will usually have plenty of surplus level 80 dps and not enough healers to allow them to raid. If you make dps a better option relative to healing or hybriding more people play their dps characters and the problem becomes more acute. When people at 80 spend too long with no raid, no chance of getting a raid, no chance of competing in arena because it's too hard they will leave.

I think that is Blizzard's main motivator here: it is better for the business (and arguably for the game too) to allow more people to raid by giving healers a good package deal than boost dps and see half the server bored with nothing to do (like all the surplus Rogues and Hunters back in the 60 days).

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