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Bring the Player, Not the Class

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I've been thinking a lot about the idea out there to bring the player and not the class. This philosophy is about playing with a better skilled person, or a friend, or simply whomever you want rather than feeling compelled to bring a particular setup into a group situation.


The intentions are excellent. Who doesn't want that freedom? Well, I for one don't always find it appealing.

I'm one of those staunch supporters of archetypes. I like the "holy trinity" gameplay. I like having a tank, a healer, CC, dps, etc. I like roles.

I also dislike homogenization. I dislike the attempts by some MMOs to try and get rid of tanks and healers, and just have every class play the support role and take turns being hit. It's not for me.

Playing a class that feels 'needed' is awesome. That's one of the big reasons I always play support role classes and healers. I feel like they're always beloved by groups, whether you're awesome at it and famous or not.

Now set all that aside for a second.

I was watching the World of Warcraft Mythic Dungeon Invitation where all of the groups had literally the exact same setup: Warrior, Druid, Monk, Rogue, Rogue. It was the meta, and nothing else came close. If my memory serves me, I think it was the WoW devs who came up with the whole "bring the player, not the class" saying. It hasn't been much of a success.

Naturally, I want a balance.

I want archetypes and class diversity, but I don't want cookie cutter setups that people are compelled to play. That's not impossible. 

  • There’s also the question “is the player any good at the class they’re bringing?”. Back in my heavy grouping days in EverQuest we had an extensive roster of potential group members, enough on an average evening to fill more than one group. All of those people were good company and fun to play with, which is why we were in the same chat channel and on each others’ friends list.

    Not all of those people were equally skilled at each of the classes they played. One or two were great company but really not reliable playing even their best-played class. Others were great as tanks or healers or crowd control but not so great in other roles. A few people were excellent at several archetypes.

    When it came to sending tells to put a group together for the evening the first question was “Who’s online?”. The people who were great whatever they played or who always played the same class, which they were great at, got pencilled in straight away. Then came the people who were great at a particular class, with the proviso that they’d be asked to bring that class. If we still had room, we’d ask whoever was the most fun to play with, regardless of skill.

    Most times the group compisition dictated itself but on occasion we had the people but one or two of them wanted to play a class that wasn’t their strong poing, because a lot of the peope we knew played lots of alts. That’s the moment when “Bring the player not the class” becomes a problem in a game with strong archetypes.

    In a game without strong archetypes you can fudge that a little more and it’s probably easier for the very strong players to carry the fun-but-floundering ones. In those EQ days I can only think of one or two players we regularly included who were, occasionally, a liability, but when they did screw up it was a disaster.

    We still included them but over time they did kind of end up on the subs bench. I’m not sure that’s the best game design for an MMORPG.

    • Playing poorly adds an entirely different layer of complexity. I regularly play what would be considered “harder” content. We want to help a lot of our guild get gear and see content so that they feel involved, nurtured, etc. All of that comes from a genuine care for the people.

      Some of them are just really, really bad at their class. We have to carry them a lot. They make running the content much, much more difficult. That’s okay – they’re our guildies. So we carry them in dungeons and raids. We make it work.

      While I agree that excluding people is not “best game design,” I’m not sure that player skill should be a factor in whether or not there are clear archetypes or homogenized roles.

      It’s a tough one. I empathize with both sides of the issue there.

  • Someone who likes playing a healer or a tank would enjoy having roles and maybe even the trinity, those who only enjoy playing dps however find it frustrating because the majority falls into this group and thus the queues for everything is many times longer than for tanks and healers. It’s made even worse by the fact that since there’s such an abundance of dps players in queue waiting to join your group, you become so easily replaced. I once entered a dungeon and immediately stated that it was my first time in this specific dungeon, got instantly kicked from the group because they had no time for a dps that didn’t know the encounters.
    While I agree with you in that I actually prefer playing when there are defined roles, the reason why take are trying to get away from it is to combat this issue, and I like that.

    • I think you make a great case to taking the “DPS” archetype and breaking it up into separate ones. It’s far too broad. Doing damage was actually not part of the original EQ trinity. It was tank, heals, CC. All three of those did damage.

      If the DPS group were given more defines roles — all equally valuable — I imagine it would be far less herd-like in the group-finding process.

  • If my memory serves me, I think it was the WoW devs who came up with the whole “bring the player, not the class” saying. It hasn’t been much of a success.

    What are you talking about? “Bring the player” was a wild, enduring success. The nonsense you’re seeing today is because they (Ion) officially walked back to the dark ages. What you’re seeing is specifically them saying “bring the class.” Instead of letting a player play whatever class they enjoy the most, we have hard metas with clearly superior setups and zero incentive to balance them. Because “eVeRy cLaSs iS tHe sAmE”… except in the ways that, you know, they play.

    WoW never pushed things away from the trinity. What was pushed away was being insta-kicked for being a Ret paladin back in TBC, or not being able to tank Illidan as Prot paladin, or not being able to tank General Vezax as a Prot paladin in Wrath. Did you know what I did, as the Main Tank and Raid Leader for my 10m guild? I rerolled a Death Knight. That is what you get with “bring the class.”

    • I was a ret paladin in TBC. I had to fight incredibly hard to be a ret paladin in TBC. I had to always have a set of tanking/healing gear and weapons setup to switch roles mid-pull. I had to be more aggressive and more perfect on every pull, always popping potions and elixirs (or whatever they were called). I had to bully the healing paladins to make sure they applied their seals, so my “utility” didn’t disappear. (Though pointing out I had the ‘top’ healing from Seal of Light every other boss on top of my dps was fun.)

      And even then, I was only allowed to do it in B raids until I developed such a long track record of being one of the top dps finally let me do what I wanted to. I take pride in it, but yeesh: what a ball-ache.

      It’s kinda what I appreciate about the current FFXIV meta. There are ‘better classes’. But the gap is so tiny that it really does become “bring what you’re good at.”

      • WoW mostly falls into the same meta as FFXIV for the “average” player. A bear tank and a warrior tank can both tank a +15 key. A druid healer and Mistweaver can both heal a +15 key. One is simply better enough at it (because it brings more to the group in some way) that at any serious competitive level it wins out.

    • @Azuriel: I wasn’t implying that WoW ever pushed away from the trinity. If anything, they’ve dug in. I don’t think we’re disagreeing here. Years ago they pushed to make every class at least playable, but there are still clear lines segmenting the best classes from the worst. One only needs to watch the MDI to see that.

      Certain classes are preferred in certain situations. Player skill set as a constant, there is strong meta.