Over the last few months I’ve been running a whole lot of dungeons in World of Warcraft Classic and Retail and in Dungeons & Dragons Online. Most MMORPGs use the trinity system or some precursor or variant thereof. In WoW and DDO characters can be built, depending on their class, to be a tank, healer or damage dealer. In WoW I play healers more than any other role, though I have enough alts to have various options depending on the group make-up for a given dungeon run.
My main in WoW Classic is a Holy Paladin, a healer. His role in any dungeon is to heal the tank, heal other characters and to buff and otherwise help the group to win through challenges. I sometimes try and do some damage, or use the seal & judge combos to bring some utility like self-healing or mana-regen to a fight, but keeping health bars topped up is always the priority.
I read Shintar’s latest post about tanking in PUG dungeons in Star Wars the Old Republic and could imagine just how annoyed I would be by some of the behaviour she observes among the random groups assembled by the queue system. “Unfortunately, people don’t like to wait three seconds to allow me to do this because they want to pull now” and “So I stand there forlornly with only half health after just picking up my loot, as the healer didn’t even bother to throw a heal over time on me after the last fight” are two quotes of situations that would drive me rapidly up the wall if I were playing a tank in such a group.
Granted the linked post is mostly written from the tanking role perspective, not from a healer view, but in any good group the healer and tank are usually on the same wavelength. It’s one reason why my husband and I play MMOs so well together, we make a really great tank+healer team: it’s also our defacto choice for duo play in games like Neverwinter. Playing so much in static groups has me spoiled rotten, I’ll admit. I’d say we make a really well practiced team, along with our close friends that we play with in WoW and DDO.
Pugging dungeons is something I’ve done at times, but I invariably enjoy it less than running dungeons in static groups. Part of that improved experience comes down to the in-jokes, shared histories and relaxed nature of gaming together with close friends. In large measure I think our runs are better because of two things. Firstly we’re patient with each other and do not follow the widespread tendency among MMO-players to speed run everything.
Secondly, we choose roles for a static group and stick to them. These games, for the most part, are designed around having a trinity (or equivalent) group for instanced content. If the tank doesn’t bother tanking, if the healer focuses on damage not healing, or if the damage dealer(s) feel like they should be pulling groups of mobs, then that messes up the group synergies inherent in the game design and it makes everyones’ roles that much harder to execute.
When I play a role, I want to play that role. Sadly it seems like playing in premades is the best way to meet that fairly basic expectation of the group gameplay experience. Maybe I’ve been unlucky with pugs in the past, or I expect too much of random strangers..