Class equality

23rd January 2010 – 3.19 pm

Ancient Gaming Noob gains a level using the Looking For Dungeon tool and concludes that DPS classes are interchangeable. Running through an instance several times with the same tank and healer, but different DPS, could superficially make DPS look replaceable, but there are several factors overlooked. Lower-level instances are significantly easier to run than anything near a level cap, and Scarlet Monastery is no exception. There are few real challenges to be overcome for anything but entirely new players, making differences in class fairly irrelevant. It is probably possible for warlocks or hunters to tank and heal with their pets in such low-level instances, such is the lower level of challenge.

DPS characters are not the only classes that can be swapped around with no discernible difference. I have played as and run with warrior, death knight, paladin, and druid tanks, all perfectly capable in any level of instance. I have also run instances with druid, priest, paladin, and shaman healers, none of them struggling more than others. I can't enumerate the specific tank/healer combinations I've played alongside, but that's because no particular combination has been conspicuous for its competence or otherwise. This indicates to me that if DPS classes are interchangeable, then tank and healing classes are equally interchangeable. But this should come as no surprise.

The reason why the classes are interchangeable is because of all the specific effort made towards balancing the classes. Although there used to be an emphasis on classes filling certain rôles—different classes having different crowd control, AoE attacks versus single-target damage—most classes have been sufficiently homogenised so that one does not have a significant or obvious advantage over another. Many pages of internet text have been dedicated to ranting and whining about why one class is too powerful, or that another has been unfairly nerfed, so it's unsurprising that the approach to balancing the classes has been to make them more interchangeable. And it really should be no surprise that a game design aiming for balance should result in similar experiences independent of the core party composition.

Ancient Gaming Noob continues his thought by linking to a guest post at World of Matticus which suggests the controversial idea that tanks and healers should reap greater rewards than DPS classes. Because tanks and healers are necessary for any instance run, the argument goes, those players who take on these more important and stressful rôles should be given a greater incentive for their efforts. I find I must agree that the tank and healer are necessary. Although I have been in a few unconventional groups, most notably three mages and two hunters completing The Stockades at the right level, the only group that continues to be viable at any level will contain a tank and healer. Whenever I had successfully paired up with another player for some low-key instance runs, it has always been as a tank and healer duo, and we have always prevailed. I have no doubt that tanks and healers are vital for success. But it doesn't then follow that DPS are useless.

I remember receiving a vivid demonstration of the utility of DPS. I am running around Outlands killing pigs with my healer companion, and I am feeling effective and powerful. No pig can stand in my mighty warrior path! Whilst we are on our rampage, another friend turns up, playing a DPS class. My happy little sword-and-shield world of feeling powerful rapidly diminishes, about as quickly as the pigs fall under the dual blades of our newly arrived friend. Instead of each battle allowing me to practice my PvE rotation of abilities, I barely get a couple of hits on each pig before it drops. The DPS not only increases, but soars so that I am almost redundant. This increase in damage output is only amplified in instances against elite mobs.

As a quick calculation, based on abstracted numbers, if a DPS class doubles the damage output of a tank, the mobs are defeated in a third of the time. Adding that one extra player reduces an hour-long run to just twenty minutes. Filling the party with two more DPS classes increases the overall damage output significantly more still. Assuming DPS classes, along with tanks and healers, are interchangeable, a full party will complete a run easily several times quicker than if just a tank and healer attempted the same run. Quicker fights also make tanking and healing easier, less stressful. And this is without accounting for specific fights, where a boss mob will 'enrage' after a set amount of time and wipe the group if not defeated quickly enough.

I admit that healers and tanks are vital, but to suggest that DPS classes don't add an equal contribution to the group is ignoring the value of time. If your time is unimportant, it is likely possible to complete many of the challenges with only a tank and healer pair. But for most people, time is a valuable resource, and being able to make better use of time makes DPS classes just as necessary as healers and tanks. To suggest that DPS classes are anonymous or unnecessary is to ignore the relief of stress and time that comes with quicker combat. And this time is the greater reward that tanks and healers already receive when they are gracious enough to play alongside DPS classes.

  1. 7 Responses to “Class equality”

  2. I think the same could be applied to other types of MMO and solo games. While there is a certain balance that must be maintained for survival, once you have reached the sufficient tank and healing, anything else quickly becomes redundant and nearly useless. Meanwhile, more DPS is going to continue to increase the speed, assuming that they have enough to hit, which creates an entirely different problem. If a group can't get to next target in a timely manner, the added speed in dispatching targets becomes increasingly irrelevant.

    By Kename Fin on Jan 24, 2010

  3. I've recently been running some old 70th level instances with my warrior tank and a druid healer, looking for some rare drops. Whilst it is true that sufficient tank and healing is enough to get through most of the fights, there are points where the two of us need to change tactics.

    One boss overloads at a certain point of low health. We have shown that we don't have sufficient healing to heal through the extra damage. The other boss has a special attack he performs that is a single hit of mortal damage, which cannot be healed through because of the single point of damage.

    Both cases can be solved by adding extra bodies. Another healer would help with the first boss, and a second tank to take over from the killed one with the second. But this is ignoring the relevance of DPS. Adding one DPS class defeats the first boss quickly enough for the one healer to be sufficient, and damaging the second to below 50% health within a minute avoids the boss's special attack. DPS has its utility, and it is hubris for tanks and healers to ignore this.

    As for DPS defeating targets too quickly, there are two issues involved. The first is a problem of leadership. Rather than focussing all DPS on single targets, the leader should recognise the problem and create two or more groups, each with sufficient tank and healing, to create less redundancy. If there isn't sufficient tank and healing for more than one group, this leads directly in to the second issue.

    If the DPS is killing targets 'too quickly', I would say this indicates that the tank and healer are becoming increasingly irrelevant, not the DPS. Given enough DPS, there is no need to heal through damage, or maintain threat on a single point. As much as it could indicate that adding more DPS doesn't help, it can equally show that DPS is the defining factor in fights.

    Whichever way you look at it, arguments against the utility of DPS can be turned around to show their value instead. It can only be a mistake to consider DPS classes superfluous or somehow less important than other classes.

    By pjharvey on Jan 24, 2010

  4. There's a perfectly good system already in place - gold. If you think that tanks and healers deserve more then pay them to run instances with you or offer your services.

    For example as a random dps I can queue and wait 20 minutes. Or I can pay a tank to queue with him and get instant starts.

    And then it becomes a supply and demand thing. If the number of tanks wanting to do instances falls then the chance of a tank getting paid rises which in turn increases the wait for non-payers which in turn increases the chance of a tank getting paid. At some point the choke point will be healers instead of tanks then the healers will start getting paid. Possibly at some point in the future everyone will want to be a tank or a healer and they'll have to pay people to dps.

    By Stabs on Jan 25, 2010

  5. The opinions you are attributing to me are not supported by what I wrote. Saying that the mix of DPS did not change the outcome of three instances runs is not the same as saying DPS classes are "superfluous or somehow less important than other classes." That is your inference alone.

    I also linked to a post which said that healers and tanks should NOT be given any greater reward in the very same sentence. The idea was merely to bring more attention to that debate. I expressed no actual opinion on the subject. You seem to have missed that.

    By wilhelm2451 on Jan 25, 2010

  6. I should also qualify my statements by saying, I've never actually played WoW, have never run an instance, couldn't tell you a paladin from a sturdy dwarf, but have played a lot of other MMO's in the past.

    @Penny: I didn't mean to imply or suggest that DPS was irrelevant. Merely that there is a saturation point for any given opponent in terms of healing and tank ability. Any additional tank or healing at that point isn't going to help speed the event up or increase your survivability. As obvious exceptions to this are the point of mortal damage and large PVP engagement like a fleet battle a la EVE with it's initial alpha hits.

    All three are needed in a sufficient quantity to handle any given situation. The point I was trying to make was that after said "sufficient quantity" only additional DPS will really make a difference. [And then I didn't really explain the associated problems that brings.]

    @Stabs: Market pressure for pick-up groups. Sounds like an excellent dissertation waiting to be researched and written.

    @Penny again: WOW [in the sense of AWESOME, RADICAL and COOL] - you got a quote from AGN! /me runs off to write a post whereby I disagree with something that may or may not have been said or implied.

    @AGN: I think her "superfluous" comment was directed at my ineptitude with words and less of a direct assumption of your post's intent.

    By Kename Fin on Jan 25, 2010

  7. I see the intent of your reply now, Fin. I misread you, sorry. Hopefully I at least addressed the problems associated with having 'too much DPS'.

    By pjharvey on Jan 25, 2010

  8. The opinions you are attributing to me are not supported by what I wrote. Saying that the mix of DPS did not change the outcome of three instances runs is not the same as saying DPS classes are 'superfluous or somehow less important than other classes.' That is your inference alone.

    The opinion I attribute to you, and initially discuss, is that 'DPS classes are interchangeable', which I believe to be supported by what you wrote. The text you quote is a reply to a comment from a different author, taking the ideas discussed further, and specific to the idea that tanks and healers perform a more important task than DPS, which is the separate but connected second topic of my post.

    I also linked to a post which said that healers and tanks should NOT be given any greater reward in the very same sentence. The idea was merely to bring more attention to that debate. I expressed no actual opinion on the subject. You seem to have missed that.

    It is in no way my intention to attribute the post, the idea, or an opinion either way on the second linked subject to you. Your linking to the post makes a neat segue for me discuss the ideas it presents, and I only ever mention that you link to it. Please accept my apologies if this isn't clear. I have added extra attribution to the sentence in an effort to clarify ownership of the linked post.

    By pjharvey on Jan 25, 2010

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