This last week I’ve played through two approaches to “trinity” training in two different MMORPGs. The trinity is a common group role split in MMOs between tanks, healers and damage dealers (a k a DPS). Both games have specific quests now to introduce players to aspects of how their chosen class/spec can or should contribute to small group instanced content.
Proving Grounds, World of Warcraft
Since the previous expansion of Mists of Pandaria, WoW has had “proving ground” instanced challenges as a means to teach players a minimum about how their chosen class/spec can contribute to group content. Your character must enter solo and completes a five person party alongside four NPCs. You then fight waves of opponents whilst an instructor and your NPC teammates give you warnings of what you should be doing, and reprimands if you fail to do it in time.
I’ve done the bronze and silver levels of the healer proving ground (Warlords version) now on my healer shaman. You have to be max level (100) to attempt them and the challenges are geared very much towards end-game content and the types of group challenges you have to face.
The proving grounds are a barrier to some group content – you have to have completed silver level in one role for your class to be able to queue for random-group heroic dungeons. Strangely this is not a requirement for the equivalent raid-finder queues.
M.A.C Support Training, Wildstar
As a recent addition, there are now large boxer robots in the starter areas of Wildstar offering a training mission appropriate to support roles.
All classes in the game can fill two of the three trinity roles either DPS & healer or DPS & tank. I first did this on my engineer who can be a tank, although he’s not geared as one. The quest is level 6 and he is currently level 25 – I was slightly disappointed that he wasn’t sync’ed down to an appropriate level on entering the mission instance. As a result of his level the mission was beyond trivial to complete but I suppose it did meet its objective in so far as it made me create a second ability set (LAS) that actually includes some taunts.
Later we did the same quest on our Chua-pair. Entering the instance on my spellslinger I quickly achieved the goal of healing some boxer robots. It’s slightly weird that the instance is shared with other players but split by trinity role – so I couldn’t see my tank-ish engineer companion. Why have it as a shared instance, to acclimatise players to competing for targets? That may well be a valuable lesson for open world play but it’s a very poor lesson to learn for group content, healers shouldn’t be fighting over who heals whom and tanks should plan to swap control of important enemies not compete for it!
In essence both games have a mechanism to expose players to the holy trinity but in the implementation they are very different. I applaud Wildstar for getting an early intro to the concept however it’s a bit strange they don’t have a damage dealing one as well (e.g. bring enemies health down in X seconds before it resets). Also it would have been nice to have shown how the trinity roles interact more obviously – have the tank take aggro from an NPC/robot that is doing damage to the enemy not just “use taunt X times”.
Proving grounds are a comprehensive guide to some key aspects of group/dungeon gameplay. However they are introduced very late in the game (at the level cap) and by that point I would expect most players to have experienced some random dungeons and very possibly to have learnt some bad grouping habits from other players. They’re tied to the dungeon content of the expansion, content the devs admit they made obsolete far too quickly so I suspect proving grounds hasn’t had much of an effect this time around.
Neither approach is perfect but I do think players in a trinity-based MMORPG should be introduced (or reminded!) of good trinity cooperative gameplay early in the game. WoW’s proving grounds offer a better tutorial of course and there’s a damage version for DPS characters but it’s a very late-in-the-day intro and one that players focused on raid-finder can easily skip.