Once more into the breach, my friends…
In my last post I talked about Rift and groups and solo play. An interesting theme seemed to arise from some of the comments, and one that I found curious.
Today I want to talk about player choice and game design. I’m going to keep using Rift as an example but this could equally well apply to certain other games.
At the risk of over-simplifying things enormously, when you log into an MMO you have some broad decisions to make: the first is what style of gameplay you’re about to undertake. Are you going to putter around & craft? Just logging in to visit friends? Are you planning to solo? Are you planning to Group and go after content that way? For the purpose of this post I’m looking, once again, at Solo vs Group.
Say you’ve decided to Group. Now you’re going to pick a role. Do you want to be the Healer? A Tank? DPS? Buffing/support?
Let’s say for the sake of argument that you want to be a Group Healer. So here’s your character; a blank slate. Since you want to be a Healer, you pick Souls & Skills (in another game this could be Talent trees or whatever) that are heavy in healing capabilities. If you want to be a Healer and you take a bunch of skills that are focused on Taunting, you’d be a pretty poor Healer, right?
Can we all agree so far? Healers should take skills that help them heal. If a Healer takes skills that emphasize taunting over healing, you’re probably not going to be a great healer. Does this illustrate an example of bad game design? Does anyone think that?
Now let’s back up the decision tree a bit. Back up to the Solo vs Group decision. Here’s where my opinion seems to diverge with some others. When I decide I’m going to Solo I use a build that emphasizes that play style. I don’t take a bunch of group buffs: I won’t be in a group! I will look at self heals, or self shields, or perhaps a pet. I will probably set up a hotbar full of various consumable items that will help me to either survive or reduce down time between fights. Conversely if I’m going to Group I’m going to skip the self heals and instead take, maybe, a group-based stat buff or an AOE taunt or something else that works best in groups.
When I suggested that this was the best way to play Rift solo (specifically I said that if you’re going to solo a lot, some kind of self heal or pet will make life easier), some people suggested back that if playing Solo required using certain (Solo friendly) skills, it was an example of bad game design.
I don’t understand the difference: Healers need to take healing skills, Tanks need to take tanking skills. Everyone seems to agree on this and no one seems bothered by it. But when Soloers need to take solo skills, suddenly its bad game design?
It is essential to keep in mind that the only permanent decision you make in Rift is your archetype. That you’re stuck with, but within it, you can have several (at least 3 and maybe 4) Roles and each Role can use any 3 of your 8 souls, and each Role can have its own distribution of skill points and skills. You can switch Roles anytime except in mid-battle. And if a Role isn’t working out, fr a few virtual coins spent at a trainer you can reset it and build it anew as something else. So if you’re playing Solo and someone throws you a Group invite, you tap on Hotkey and now your Grouping Role is active.
To me this is the opposite of bad game design. I find it to be kind of awesome in fact. But it *seems* not everyone agrees.