The Best of Both Worlds

In most fantasy based MMOs these days (and even in most non-fantasy based ones), there are only three functions a player performs at the root: take/absorb damage, deal damage, heal damage.  Most games also usually have one class that is designed to exclusively do one of those tasks.  A warrior tanks, a cleric heals, a wizard or rogue does damage.  Then we introduce the hybrids and controversy ensues.

In real life, at a real job, it is perfectly respectable to have people who specialize in small skill sets working alongside people who have two or three lesser specialties, not to the depth or quality of the single set specialist.  I’ve encountered this in my own life, worked with a guy who was aces at building databases and understanding database structure however his every attempt to ever do user interface work not only looked horrible but failed to function.  I’ve also worked with people who can build the most beautiful web pages but couldn’t properly lay out a database design to save their lives.  Personally, I live somewhere in the middle, I generally do all of programming work from UI to database with a decent degree of competency.  I’m not the best at any of it, but I do all of it well enough.  Usually in a work environment, its best to have a team built mostly of specialists with one or more generalists to support everyone else and to translate and transition work between the specialists.  See, when the UI guru and the DB savant get into a knock down drag out over design, I’m the guy who knows enough about both to be able to talk to both of them and make them see that they are actually agreeing with each other, but using different terms, or to make simple suggestions for both sides to bring them to a point where the work can get done.

In game design, this is where the hybrid should be.  He should be a mix of tanking, healing and damage dealing, any two or all three, to various levels but never as good as the single focus classes.  Hybrids should also be rare, and largely confined to group settings, because the whole point of the hybrid is that he supports other classes in doing their work by picking up slack or boosting just a little.  The problem, of course, is that hybrids are often more dynamic, by design, than the single focus classes, and so they attract more players.  While many people are content to be a specialist in real life, in gaming they want to be able to do everything, on one character.  So you end up with a bunch of people playing Paladins because they want to tank and heal, but then they complain when they do neither of them as well as warriors or priests.

So, what’s the solution?  Is there one?  Does it need one?

I’ve got no answer to those questions… but maybe other people do, and I would love to hear them.

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