I’ve been playing MMO’s a long time (15+ years and a published MMO) and almost since the start healing has been my preferred method of gaming. I love how each decision you make is based on the information that is in front of you at *that* moment – not on what rotation is best, what skill you used last, or what ability does the most damage. (Or even the most healing – bigger isn’t always better!)
So, naturally, when the devs talk about “limited in-combat healing”, the first thing that comes to mind is just a little bit of panic - what am I going to do if I can’t heal?!
The truth though: what I love most about healing, and gaming in general, is the feeling of knowing that I’m needed. That’s a feeling different people get in different ways – without a tank, everyone is dead. Without DPS – what’s the point? But for me, without keeping people alive, I don’t really have a reason to play. I’ve never really been the “Play to Crush” type. (More like the “Play to allow others to crush” type.)
Fortunately for me, the True Holy Trinity, as I (and hopefully the Crowfall devs) see it, is less “Tank, DPS, Heals” and more “Tank, DPS, Support”. At the end of the day, a “healer” is just another support class. What’s the difference if the healer heals for 10k over the course of a fight, or buffs the target for 10k extra HP but can’t heal? From a design perspective, not a lot (well, kind of a lot, since a healer can be CC’d, killed, make a mistake, get out of range, etc. But ignoring that for the moment…) the difference from a player perspective is pretty massive though: it’s the difference between an active, fun class, and a buff bot.
So my hope is that when the Devs say “support” class, they mean roles dedicated to “helping people fight better”. Whether that’s through heals, damage prevention, invulnerability, buffs, teleports to safety, CCing the enemy, etc - it doesn’t much matter. Rather, the important thing is that players are able to significantly contribute to a fight without 1. DPSing, and 2. Without having a lot of down time.
Which leads us to the biggest pitfall of a “support “ class: Situational abilities (and not much else). I’m *all* for a PBAOE that boosts your allies speed, HP, damage, or armor for a short time. CC’s are fun and add a level of skill to PvP (as long as PvP doesn’t become a game of who has the most CCs). Purges, counter spells, limited immunity (I see a meteor headed towards my party, so I cast my 3 second fire immunity spell), teleports, walls, etc. are all a fun, awesome addition to have as a support player.
The problem with the above arises when there isn’t a “situation” to use your situational abilities. What if there is no meteor? What if the target is already rooted? What if your DPS buff is on CD? While other “pillars” of the trinity continue to have a purpose, what I’ve seen in so many games is that support classes really just sit around and spam their weak DPS spells until one of their abilities becomes needed – and honestly, it’s just not that much fun - OR, they have a wide variety of support skills – but most of them are fairly mediocre (5% increased damage for 5 seconds, for example. It's just not meaningful, and the group would be better served with a 2nd dps class).
There are two easy solutions for this – and you see one of the two in most games. The first is to create a DPS class that has a few of those support skills, and call it support. “Yes, this class only does 90% of the damage of other classes, but it can increase the haste of the party and root your enemies too!” The second is to create a situational support class as I talked about above, and then add a few short-duration buffs to keep the player busy – essentially, a bard.
The problem with the first approach is that this is still just a DPS class, and it doesn’t really meet the “help people fight better” criteria of the support Pillar in any meaningful way. Rather, it just gives DPS a few more tricks to help the party. The second approach has its own issues: Who wants to play a game where 80% of what you do is cycle 1 – 5 in order to refresh your buffs constantly or, even worse, just press one of them to select which “song” or “aura” you want up at that exact moment.
The only real option left is some form of support class that is played actively (similar to a healer), that has more to it than just DPS + situational abilities, and that also meets the dev’s goals of not prolonging a fight unduly. (I’d put spamming absorption shields in the same camp as healing – if all you’re doing is spamming a damage reduction shield, what’s the difference between that and buffing a players HP and eliminating the support class?)
A few options come to mind here:
A “situational” support class where the situation is “combat”: Instead of support like CC which aren’t always needed, give the player positional or directional based buffs that increase a friendly player's HP regen, give a nearby player an extra dodge if they’re within X feet, etc. Essentially, make every ability useful all the time, and the player skill will come from choosing the right abilities at the right time, as well as being in position to use them for maximum effect.
Some form of active debuffer: Your abilities don’t do much damage, but whenever they hit an enemy that enemy’s damage is reduced by 50% for 1 second. Whenever you hit an enemy with an ice spell, it reduces their fire damage by 25% for 3 seconds, or increases the next electric damage taken for a certain durration.
Some form of active buffer: While more of a DPS/support hybrid, every time you use spell X to deal damage, anyone within 5m of you gains 1% haste for 2 seconds. Every time you use spell Y to do damage, everyone around you gains 5% increased HP regen for 3 seconds. Every time you cast spell Z, everyone’s damage is increased by 2% on their next hit. Etc. Think the Chloromancer in Rift, the Blood Mage in Vanguard, or the Dagger/Dagger Elementalist in GW2, just replace their heals with buffs.
Any of these options (and many more) makes for an interesting class that is still designed and functions around helping others fight, but does so without just increasing their EHP via healing/shielding/etc.
Anyway, that was a bit of a long post, but I wanted to address two things: One, that just because there is not as much traditional “healing” in the game doesn’t mean that there isn’t a similar role for people to play, and two, is that I hope the Devs are considering a true “support” role as they design these classes and advanced classes – not just a DPS with support abilities, and not just a situational class that has a few things to choose from when the time is right.
With a mix of the rune system, in game skills, and advanced classes, the devs seem to be giving players a great opportunity to mix and match to be able to create a viable, active, and fun support class for the *many* of us who like to do something other than primarily DPS.
Let’s hope so.