Posted Wed, Apr 03, 2013 by gunky
This one pops up in a lot of games. Characters have a special attack that gives a self-heal, either a large, instant heal or a heal-over-time buff. Give every character two or three of these skills, mixed in with their usual assortment of combat skills, and the need for a dedicated healer and tank is greatly reduced. Alternately, giving every character one or two heal skills that can be used on any character - self or other - does the same thing. Characters would still have unique skill sets and retain their own individual flavour, and progression would still feel important, but every character has the keys to his own survival, and can contribute to the survival of his group.
Standing in the red circle is the reason my guy needs those little green crosses.
Neverwinter has decentralized healing a bit, primarily by having very short cooldowns on heal potions, but also with things like the Life Steal and Regenerate stats on weapons and gear. These are very small heals, but the stats can be stacked up enough to make their healing effect situationally useful.
Pets and companions are kind of a two-fold solution. In a trinity-based game, they can be used to train group-play strategies during solo play. Tanks can use healer pets, which draw aggro and require protection from enemy attacks. Healers can use tank pets, which require constant healing attention and allow the development of specific healing rotations early on. Strikers can train up for group content with basically any kind of pet.
On the other hand, pets and companions can make for a solid non-trinity game as well. Healer and tank companions eliminate the need for task-dedicated classes. They may not do as good of a job at these tasks as human-controlled characters in many situations in trinity-based games, but in some situations they do much better. For example, the Barrow-downs Survival skirmish in the Lord of the Rings Online works best when everyone in the the raid brings a Herbalist companion. The whole skirmish can be run without an actual player-controlled healer because the Herbalist skirmish soldiers handle everything.
A good example of this can be seen in the new LotRO 12-man raid, Fires of Smaug. I tried to run this at level 20 with my level 85 character, and wasn't able to beat it. My Hunter is no slouch in the damage department, and the mobs weren't doing him any serious damage, but there are numerous tasks to complete that require more than one player to participate. There is still some focus on combat - fighting adds that come out at preset times, destroying the contraption in the middle - but success requires a coordinated effort from multiple characters, even when it is attempted at a difficulty sixty-five levels lower than you.
A balanced group would likely have a better chance at success than a group that was, say, all strikers or all tanks, but if the focus is on solving a puzzle or coordinating a team rather than "tank-and-spank" boss fights, it can be done with any sort of group. After a long slog of combat-heavy leveling and questing, it is refreshing to run content that requires thought and planning.
Obviously, there is more to a cooperative, progression-based game than just the trinity, and it looks like a lot of new games are willing to explore these alternate avenues. In a recent reddit "Ask Me Anything" session, Cryptic developer Kevin "cryptic_crucial" Stocker asserts that "The trinity plays a different role in Neverwinter," a decision the design team made during the course of the game's development to give players more of an "action" feel. Neverwinter's clerics don't heal as much as they do in "more traditional MMOs," and tanks use different methods of enemy control, because it's more fun that way.
That's not to say the tank-healer-striker trinity is inherently bad or fundamentally flawed - it is as ubiquitous as it is for a good reason, and I personally enjoy leveling tank classes. But the evolving MMO market requires greater fluidity than the trinity can provide. Players have evolved in the last 10 years, and our games should evolve with us.
What are your thoughts on the MMO trinity? Let us know in our comments!