It’s Two Much!

The MMORPG ‘Holy Trinity’ is going nowhere. Rather than get upset about it, we can dive into the mechanics that build on the concept and make combat interesting. But first, we need to finish establishing what all combat functions are. Not a moment to waste!

1st!

Taking a page from mathematics, we examine the concept of the derivative. What we will concern ourselves with here is the concept that after the base existence of something, there are subsequent existences. The subsequent do not occur without the origin, but provide additional details about the original.

One might liken this to the automobile industry. It exists to fill a basic need: one of travel. Because of automobiles, however, there exists an industry for after-market products, for car mechanics, for automobile schools, for legislature governing road usage etc. For completeness, it’s important to point out that some of these derivatives are cyclic, but what we will focus on are those that aren’t.

(The trinity of basic combat can be seen through real world examples, but for the sake of this blog, it will be applied to MMORPGs. Real world examples will be used, however, to provide support for claims.)

Not Quite as Famous as E = mc^2

Recap time. Previously, we established the fundamentals of combat exist in the form of ‘The 3’:
Tanking – The act of sustaining [incoming] damage.
Damage – The act of removing [opposing] health.
Healing – The act of replenishing [friendly] health.

The derivatives (combat concepts that support the fundamentals) might be defined as follows:
(De)Buffing – The act of hindering/facilitating performance of one of ‘The 3’ in someone else.
Utility – The act of dis/allowing the possibility to perform one of the ‘The 3’ in someone else.

Anything outside of ‘The 3’ is sometimes referred to as ‘support’ because it is a function, a role, an ability, that works to enhance, modify, support an action by someone else. But what does all this mean? What’s going on? Let’s dissect the assertion through examples.

Buffing/Debuffing

This is the art of positively (buffing) or negatively (debuffing) influencing the outcome of someone involved with performing one of the basic 3 combat functions. The key here is identifying that it is not the de/buffer who is actually performing any of the basic functions, they are merely modifying the result of someone else’s efforts. An example or two might help.

* A race car driver speeds their F1 machine through a course. It starts to rain. The rain debuffs (negatively impacts) the driver’s ability to perform his function. The driver pulls into pit lane. His pit crew slap on racing slicks. The tires buff (positively impact) the driver’s ability to perform his function. It is important to note that the driver’s ability to pilot his machine is still his own- outside stimuli affect the outcome of his ability, either positively or negatively.

* A pilot takes off on a bombing mission. Prior to takeoff, his ground crew outfitted the craft with oversized inlets to account for high altitude. These modifications buff (positively impact) the pilot’s ability to conduct his mission. During the mission, he faces strong headwinds. The wind debuffs (negatively impacts) the pilot’s ability to conduct his mission. Again, the important notes are that neither the modifications (inlets) or conditions (wind) do anything more than influence the ability of the pilot.

In an MMORPG, one can perform the roles of buffing through the application of aptly named ‘buffs’ on allies. These typically augment base statistics, increase attack speed, or boost armor. The roles of debuffing might come in the form of decreased healing, slower cast times, or decreasing a health bar cap.

Utility

This is the art of allowing or disallowing the input, or possibility, of someone else performing any functions at all, both fundamental or support. The key here is identifying that it is not the utility who is performing any of the basic functions, they are modifying the input that others have of doing so.

* In the aforementioned F1 driver example, we might view the fuel the engine uses as (positive) utility. It allows the driver the possibility of driving (driving = ability).

* In the aforementioned bomber pilot example, we might view the objective runway being bombed as a (negative) utility. It disallows the enemy planes the possibility of taking off, or subsequently, flying (flying = ability).

In an MMORPG, one can perform the role of utility through positive means, or negative:
+ (Passive) handing someone a health potion, giving them the possibility of healing themselves
+ (Active) using an ability that replenishes someone’s resources, giving them the possibility of using their own abilities to tank/damage/heal or support
– (Passive) handing someone a scroll of silence, giving them the possibility of, upon reading, denying those around them from performing any damaging abilities
– (Active) stun/control someone for a time, negating their ability to perform any functions that would tank/damage/heal or support

Thank You, Philadelphia, and Good Night!

The big take-aways are not the chosen words for the base 3 or support 2, but the definitions themselves. Up until this point, the assertion of ‘combat being at its lowest point is summed up in 3 categories’ as been made. We can now add that all derivative combat, the ‘force multipliers’ can be summed up into 2 categories: ones acting on the output (de/buffing) and input (utility) of other combat functions, both of which can be positive or negative.
We have just one more concept of combat remaining! To be continued

Previous posts in this series: combat fundamentals.
Upcoming posts in this series: combat derivative derivatives, and how it all comes together.

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About Ahtchu

Jock. Nerd. Holistic. Game theoretician. Can recite the alphabet backwards.
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6 Responses to It’s Two Much!

  1. Doone says:

    Hmm …I'm gonna play devil's advocate. Not just because we need to see the flipside, but I'm not convinced of the upsides nor of the necessity for a trinity system. It's not necessary, it's not been present in all successful games, especiall RPGs. Right there, you've got a big uphill battle to prove it's somehow a mandatory component of combat in RPGs. There's too much evidence to the contrary.Your previous post in this series shows a pie graph with the holy trinity occupying 3 equal portions of it. That's inaccurate to say the least. At best, the charts are equal ONLY when there's encounter timers. Only. Otherwise, a tank and a healer can theoretically destroy any game content without the assistance of DPS. DPS makes it easier, absolutely. But witness the current state of games which use the trinity. It's an absolute millstone around the communities' neck. No one can get anything done without a tank. The pie chart should show DPS and healing as disproportionately less important than a tank. Again, this can be seen in any current MMO out there which uses the trinity. The roles are far from equal.Even if we consider DPS as fulfilling support roles, such as crowd control, you just argued how those are ancillary tasks. I'm not going to get as scientific as you have in this post in rebuttal to the life analogies. It's not necessary really to proving what I have to say. But the fact is, cars at one point required the massive support industry which developed around it. In today's world, there's no reason (besides money, which is more of an obstacle) cars shouldn't require less maintenance. The technology exists. And that's my counter-argument to you.The technology and ideas exist to throw out the holy trinity. The only lacking is the will of developers to do so.Do you really believe encounters such as Hades in God of War couldn't be replicated in an MMO setting without the use of the holy trinity? If you haven't played it (or really any villains on the God of War series), the encounter requires you to watch your opponent, and your opponent watches you. They fight based on what you do and you do the same. What place does a tank have here? A healer? Is there some reason a hero can't fulfill all 3 roles simultaneously?I would argue that the holy trinity completely destroys the sense of adventure. If a group walks into an encounter and knows before it starts that a "tank" will need to take all the hits, what is there left to discover? Isn't adventure about the unknown? How can there be adventure when it is known what is required before the challenge even appears? No, the holy trinity does more damage to the quality of encounters than good.The holy trinity may not be disappearing, but it's already dated. The only question is whether devs will continue to bore us with it or actually dare to entertain us with encounters that can surprise us.

  2. Ahtchu says:

    Thanks for stopping by and offering critical thought. Couple ideas to throw back and forth:mandatory component of combat in RPGsI've outlined how and why each of the roles is present. There as long as you are able to withstand damage, you are able to tank. The same with the other 2 roles. Perhaps you aren't performing them exclusively, and perhaps you aren't performing them actively (ie. ooc regen) but they are there nonetheless. Establishing this as a fact was the goal of the first post, which the series builds on.pie graph with the holy trinity occupying 3 equal portions of itThe graph was meant to outline their presence. How much each role actually occupies in combat would be a design point. Ex: everyone has 4000hp, max 100dmg max 200heal. Clearly in this system tanking will occupy the biggest chunk. The goal was to establish their presence, and then offer areas of influence that might exist given how a game might be set up. The thought is more abstract, as each game will achieve this differently.No one can get anything done without a tankAgreed about the statement given the current state of affairs. But again I implore to see that this is a design point. If a company makes a game with encounters that deal overwhelming damage (so that a 'tank' cannot withstand) or underwhelming (so that everyone can withstand) then that 'need' would vanish, would it not?The roles are far from equalThey will always be unequal. Good design would pit them in a struggle between themselves.there's no reason (besides money, which is more of an obstacle) cars shouldn't require less maintenanceYes and no. Consider that wear and tear happens to any physical thing, and maintaining will always happen somewhere, albeit decreasing in regularity. We haven't invented self-sustaining mechanics for tire pressure, right?The concept here wasn't so much the tangents of how or why the derivatives came into being, but that derivatives exist.The technology and ideas exist to throw out the holy trinity. The only lacking is the will of developers to do so.I would love to see the proof of this. Consider the following:In this series I've established the fact that tanking, damage, healing all exist on some level, to some degree of involvement in any combat situation. Perhaps I am wrong, but I cannot see how you can do without any one of the three, hence why I labeled them as lowest common denominators. You may not have a system that establishes a tank, or a healer, or a damage dealer, but those functions, roles exist. They might be shared (GW2), they might be passive (rezzing in an FPS) but they are undeniably present. I speak to the roles themselves, not their [current AAA] implementations.I would argue that the holy trinity completely destroys the sense of adventureI would argue that it is the implementation of the holy trinity. Breaking combat into a given 1tank 1heal 2damage and everyone walks around with that as the 'ideal system' is wholly discouraging of adventure, agreed! But it doesn't need to be so rigid, I think we can both agree.The holy trinity may not be disappearing, but it's already dated. The only question is whether devs will continue to bore us with it or actually dare to entertain us with encounters that can surprise us.In the final post in this series I will offer just the consideration you tip your hat to (if I could find a 4hr block to finish this draft-awaiting!) I disagree that the model is dated, just that, again, its implementation is tired, too simplistic, lacking of creativity. If you're willing to bear with me until that post, I think we'll have more to discuss at said juncture.

  3. Doone says:

    Great feedback and I agree with many of your thoughts. Some rebuttals.First, I'm not advocating getting rid of *all 3*. I'm in argument that any 1 player can perform all 3 simultaneously. I'm arguing that there's no need to make specializations for each of these. They are, ultimately, counterproductive in the struggle to design interesting encounters. It's only interesting the first time you form a group with tank, heal, dps. If all the encounters from there on out require the same formula, you've failed keep the roles interesting. So I'm somewhat against specialization in this regard. I believe whenever there's a trinity system, there's only one way to implement it because, as you've pointed out, the roles are interdependent. Any game using the system must generally use it as we've seen it done already. What different kinds of implementations can we get out of the trinity system that you're thinking of? I really can't imagine, but that doesn't mean you might not have a point. Explain how it could be used differently.As to proof, open up any RPG (multiplayer or not) that you've ever played and there's your proof. Literally. As for MMOs, excepting perhaps EVE, none have tried to do without the trinity really. For a token example though, consider the Shade of Aran encounter in Karazhan in WoW. There's positively no reason most encounters could not be designed in this way, where any given member of the party could be the focus of attacks, as opposed to just the tank or where self-healing can't be integral in the same way specialized healing is currently. The Diablo series is another good token example.

  4. Ahtchu says:

    That you for the ongoing critical thinking. Iron sharpens iron.I'm in argument that any 1 player can perform all 3 simultaneously. I'm arguing that there's no need to make specializations for each of theseI agree 100% with the former. I disagree with the latter, but only that it's a design choice. Fundamentally, yes, there is no 'need'.If all the encounters from there on out require the same formula, you've failed keep the roles interestingConsider that you do not describe an inherent problem with the trinity, but rather, the fundamental flaw of predictability. Design should always attempt to thwart the human desire for apophenia. When all you lean on for [combat] gameplay is the trinity, you've failed as a designer. There must be more to your circus act than a single clown juggling 3 bowling pins.What different kinds of implementations can we get out of the trinity system that you're thinking of?[spoiler alert] I mean to keep my cards close to my chest, but the end of this series deals with precisely this: don't attempt to destroy the trinity (given that it's always going to be present), attempt to build it up, carve out niches inside of niches, as well as more actively lace the derivatives with what I've labeled as the fundamental 3. I'll offer examples to consider as well, to hopefully illustrate the color and vibrancy I feel good design should entail.open up any RPG (multiplayer or not) that you've ever played and there's your proofAgain, until now I've only spoken to the roles, not the niches of said roles and how [most] games institute a 'healer' a 'tank' x 'damage' to a group. I'm still only stating that the roles are always present, I have not yet jumped the shark on why the trinity in a group implementation results in the aforementioned.Shade of AranBeautiful encounter (esp before nerfs, which can be said of almost anything they made). Here, effectively *everyone* has the potential to be a tank. This is a wonderful example of how the implementation of the 3 fundamental, again, roles can be accomplished and that it adds to creative encounters, rather than takes away.

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