Blaugust 2015, Day 9 – Role Call

This writing prompt brought to you by Izlain of Me vs. Myself and I.

Do you find it difficult to play a role outside of your typical class choices? This can be in an MMO, MOBA, single player RPG or any other game that uses class as a distinction for gameplay.

I don’t find it difficult to play non-support roles, just tedious. I am all about supporting the group in the background or the foreground, whether it be via restoring vitality, crowd controlling off-targets, kiting enemies around, or wearing heavy armor and being smacked silly. I have experience in every role that exists within MMOs and other games – at least, that I’m aware of – and, given enough motivation to do so, I find myself performing reasonably well in any of them.

Like Izlain, I played Thief-type classes in games such as the original Thief, Oblivion, and The Burning Crusade. I like the idea of stealthing around and murdering people; I was actually sad when the assassination missions came to an end in Oblivion. I also enjoy being the person who gets the party started and takes all the big hits from the scary monsters. Furthermore, I strongly prefer being up in the thick of things as opposed to plinking away at range, even though I’ve mained ranged characters for significant periods. I suppose this is why the idea of Stalker tanking appeals to me so much in WildStar: stealth, tanking, AND melee damage? Yes, please.

Unlike Izlain, I’m not in love with throwing up big damage numbers – in fact, I’m happy to do less damage if it means I survive longer. I’d rather bore a mob to death if it means I can stand toe to toe with it. (Fun fact: I used to play a MUD in which the best tanking class actually did negative damage when they attacked.) It wasn’t until I reread Izlain’s response to his own writing prompt that I realized how much we have in common. We both have the soul of a Paladin in EverQuest 2; my damage dealer was a Monk which is a somewhat kindred spirit to Izlain’s Brigand.

As I read the above, I notice that what I am saying comes primarily from a PvE perspective. When I think back to my impressions post on Heavensward, it strikes me that I omitted player versus player combat from my characterization of the game as a fairly rigid system that lacked depth because I had never tried its PvP.

Whoops.

I don’t have any problems nowadays with throwing myself headlong into an unfamiliar situation and trying to figure things out as I go – and this includes doing so in a role with high visibility and high expectations. I have learned to embrace the excitement and responsibility of being a tank, for example. In Final Fantasy 14, on more than one occasion I was able to lead a group of new players through a high-level dungeon and one-shot everything by explaining boss mechanics in party chat. When I was leveling up my DPS characters, others did the same.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because there’s a common thread that runs between PvE leadership and PvP with regard to the roles in which I am not yet quite comfortable: those in which you are judged based primarily on your level of competence and performance rather than those which reflect one’s decision to play a particular class or role.

I have no problems with tanking things blindly. If it gets vitriolic, I’ll ragequit. If my group members feed my confidence, I’ll go all out.

Leading in Guild Wars 2, on the other hand, in which one does not have the comfort of traditional support roles to rely on, terrifies me. Why? Because you have to actually be a good leader without relying overmuch on the abilities of the profession (class) that you play. Likewise in PvP in general (not just GW2): if you want to be an asset to your team, your individual performance – regardless of class or role – needs to be at a high level.

I take comfort in familiar support roles, then, because I’ve learned, over the years, how to play them well. My middling performance on my Rogue in WoW arenas, for example, was completely eclipsed by my above-average performance as a Priest because it simply felt more natural to me. The mechanics of a high DPS rotation just do not interest me. A good healing class and game has you go beyond playing whack-a-mole with health bars and factors in positioning, builders, spenders, combinations, resource management, threat mitigation, etc.; these things hold my attention and keep me interested and motivated.

It’s when you expect me to perform at a high level in a non-support role that I have trouble. I’ve led champion trains in the Silverwastes, for example, but that’s about as far as it goes. If you were to ask me to lead a zerg in Edge of the Mists, though, which requires tracking objective timers, terrain, the ability to interpret enemy zerg positions, and knowledge of proper siege placement, well…the people following me aren’t exactly lemmings (in theory), as they would be in a dungeon I’m tanking – they’re active players, some of whom are far more skilled than I am, and will be watching (and criticizing) my every move.

I’m going to run away now. I know how to trade blows with giants, but with other players (verbally or physically)? It’s intimidating. It’s so much easier to just put on a pair of headphones and toss out heals or strap on a sword and board and play tit-for-tat than it is to put oneself on stage and perform well.

Blaugust 2015 Initiative Page

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4 thoughts on “Blaugust 2015, Day 9 – Role Call

  1. The idea of pure support roles appeal to me as well, I just find that the only game where I can get that experience is in League of Legends. There are characters literally designed to fully support and don’t do much otherwise.

    The last real support classes I can think of were the Bards and Enchanters from EQ1. They tried to make similar classes in EQ2 but they ended up still putting out decent DPS on their own. Then again, I haven’t gotten very deep in most of the newest MMOs, despite owning most of them.

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      1. League is a game I love but I recognize the significant barrier to entry. I’ve been playing for so long it seems second nature, but for new players it takes some adjusting and homework.

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  2. Big reason I love healing is because you don’t have to sit and think about rotation and maximizing. If people have HP and gets through it, my job is done! No need to study for it. And I feel I get a good view of whats going on around me.

    Liked by 1 person

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