April 23, 2008

Warhammer Concern

Looking over recent releases from the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) circle, both beta leaks and official information, I have a concern I want to voice. Yes, I said beta leaks, but they are merely confirmation of what is publicly speculated at large.

First, WAR seems to be treading a dangerous line towards the traditional problem most class-based MMO PvP games have: ranged standoff fights. In a ranged standoff, ranged classes spend the entire fight pea-shooting each other back and forth. Any attempt to gallantly charge the enemy down as a melee class is met with death at the hands of the ranged classes.

Now, since WAR is focusing on a lot of keep and castle sieging, the ranged DPS problem is actually OK in my book in certain situations. Ranged DPS should be king in keep fights, simply because melee are physically blocked by keep walls and should be focused around helping take the doors down.

However, what seems to be happening currently (and this is just beta), ranged DPS is king in every single fight. They do massive damage, have tons of crowd control, and for the most part can just walk away when approached by melee.

I think there are a couple contributing factors to the ranged stand off problem. First, the fact that ranged DPS is insanely high. Plus, the ranged classes have a ton of crowd control, as I mentioned. Secondly, and more importantly, the ability for healers to stand in the "back line" and heal the ranged DPS while they have fun. This means tanks/melee DPS don't get heals when they charge, because both the melee and healer are cut down from range. Players are smart and will maximize their progress potential and if that means healing the ranged DPS, who are getting all the kills, then that is what will happen.

That is not how WAR was advertised early on. Mythic was very strong about healing being minimalistic and requiring the healing classes to fight first while they "built up" healing power to heal later. It seems that is not the case any longer, with healing classes able to sit in the back row and heal away on the ranged DPS classes. I hope this is not how the game goes live, because I am sick of pigeon holed healers that just spam heals. Healers should be forced into combat and should be required to stay fairly close to their healing target.

This gives tanks renewed purpose as they have to go in with the healers to defend them with defensive skills such as bodyguard and the fact that through collision detection they can physically block opponents. This also allows melee DPS to get into the fight following the tank and healers in. Then ranged DPS can come into the fight. The battle then becomes a far more classic fantasy fight, with a grand melee in the middle of a bigger fight.

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem the direction that WAR is going any longer. Which brings up problems of its own. Namely, the fact that Mythic has brought stealth back into the game for melee DPS classes. This is a direct result of ranged DPS cutting down melee classes. Now the melee DPS classes are "stealthed" and thus can't be targeted as they approach. Bad design decision in my book, regardless of how limited the stealth is.

This will not ruin the game, but it will definitely create problems as once again far too many ranged DPS classes get played compared to healers/tanks. Thus going right back to the problems of tank and healer shortages every diku-inspired MMORPG has had since Everquest.

Oh well, keep sieges are still looking kick ass.