Syl over at MMO Gypsy touches on an interesting topic, where she compares the Holy Trinity of Tanking, Healing, and Damaging (DPSing) to time. The gist is she says that tanks create time by keeping the mobs out of the squishies’ faces; healers preserve and extend time by filling those health bars right back up; and DPS are the drivers of time, as they’re the ones progressing the fight by removing enemy health.
It’s a pretty apt comparison. Run out of health, and your time is up. But hidden at the end of her post is a rather fascinating little statement:
“And yet, ironically DPS have always been the undervalued, inflated currency of trinity MMOs.”
It’s often true that healers and tanks get a lot of accolades for pulling off super difficult feats, whereas DPS are often outside the limelight unless they really screw up (or, alternatively, they play pseudo-tank or pseudo-healer and help push past a difficult breakpoint). But on the other hand, as a normal-mode raider, I can tell you that we do value our decent DPS players quite a bit. When you have a DPS player who is incapable of getting out of the fire, or can’t put out the numbers required, it’s immediately noticeable (often by the healers, naturally).
Using Syl’s comparison of role to time, DPS can shorten the encounter length and make healing easier by having higher throughput. The shorter the fight, the less total damage taken over the length of the fight. Healers can spend more resources early on in the fight, and therefore healing is easier. So good DPS in turn can make a huge difference to whether a kill is achieved or not. The opposite is true, of course, where a good healing team can make up for a shortage of DPS, assuming you don’t hit any enrage timers.
So whereas in normal mode raiding or higher where good DPS players are just as difficult to find as good tanks or healers, in lower levels of difficulty DPS get a bum rap almost exclusively. Why is that? Syl suggests that it’s a numbers game. Basically, if you had equal number of healers as DPS, then we’d shower the DPS with huzzahs as well.
I’m not sure I really buy that argument on its own, though, because if the raid dies in LFR the first people blamed are the healers, for better or worse. The DPS might not have had enough DPS to actually complete the encounter before damage ramped up, or they stood in the fire, but nope, people died, so it’s the healers’ fault. I don’t think it’s just a matter of there being fewer people in a given role that suddenly makes them better or more heroic looking to the general audience. Honestly, I think this is just another symptom of a different problem.
(As an aside, this is why I’m actually a fan of pass/fail mechanics that result in instant death. Can’t blame the healer if the mechanic knocks you out of the arena or straight out kills you. Maybe not for everything, but once in a while I enjoy having them.)
My theory is that DPS players get the bad reputation because DPS is the default role. Everything in game really requires some amount of damage output, because how else do you kill monsters? Healers -- and tanks to a lesser extent -- are only really used in group content, so your average MMO player who trundles around the continent by themselves is going to be DPS and DPS only. Therefore when unskilled players enter group settings, the only thing they know is DPS. They’re not the healers or the tanks, so you end up with a disproportionate amount of the populace at the lower end of skill in the DPS role.
|Actual distribution of roles within a 25-man raid in WoW|
Maybe because they’re new, or maybe because they never had to learn or a chance to learn how to play their class, but a large chunk of them are definitely not good players, as anybody utilizing random dungeon finder modes can attest to, in either basic scenarios, LFR, or five-man dungeons in WoW.
Players who do end up tanking or healing have experience at least doing DPS, because it was the default role, so they can concentrate on learning more about their role and not the game in general. Their mistakes are also quite visible, so feedback is immediate and can be applied immediately.
I think Star Wars: The Old Republic actually attempts to solve this default role problem pretty neatly. Or at least, I like the idea, given that I haven’t played the game beyond the demo. Everybody in SWTOR gets a companion NPC to help them out. The companion NPC can be a healer, a DPS, or a tank, so therefore you’re automatically in group content all the time, and DPS is no longer the default role, though caveat there is that you’re still stuck on the tutorial planet without a companion. I almost wish I played end game content in SWTOR to see if I could compare it to WoW as far as the sociology of trinity roles goes.
And if we could get rid of the default role issue, then there’s no reason why group content couldn’t be one tank-one healer-one dps, rather than so lopsided in terms of bringing DPS. We could also spread the love around as far as unskilled players goes, and every role could be equally as annoyed by poor player performance. At which point the next step would be educating players and making your game easier to learn, or at least give enough feedback to let players understand why their performance got them killed.