|'Don't look at me, I turned up without a shirt!'|
There were many images I thought about for this post. Rather worryingly, underwear featured rather prominently (both male and female I should add, no bias here, only an acute understanding of gravity) So did pictures of people wearing headsets and smiling just too cheesily. Yes, this is a post about my view of Support Roles.
Tanks turn up in Game and hit stuff. Healers stop tanks dying. These roles are pretty much irrefutable, despite what some people might like us to believe. The day this game stops relying on those two key roles for anything that involves five people or more is the day that this game stops being what it has been since I started playing it, frankly, and that's why these people's roles define their gameplay. They are intrinsic and inescapable. To do anything, you need those two... except of course you don't. Tanks that can self-heal, Hunters with tanking pets, DK's being perennially OP... some of them don't need anyone other than themselves and time. LOTS of time, and eventually anything can die... so why do we bother with these roles? Oh, and why did we need dps again? Ah yes, I remember. They're here to make big numbers, stand in S%$! and complain their items never drop. All they're interested in is as much dps as their Elitist Jerk-created spec can output...and they need Tanks and Healers far more than these two need them. Hang on though, you mentioned Hunters as tanks, and there are other classes that can do that too... and what the heck has this got to do with Support Roles, if everyone is capable of doing all the jobs at some point anyway?
Time for some qualification of my personal definition. There are those in Raids who happily do as they are asked. There are those who like to pretend they're doing as they're asked but they're not really. Whatever role these people perform it's not nearly as important as the People Who Bring Something Extra: no, not just flasks, not just food buffs, and this isn't about reading tactics and knowing where the s%$! is going to appear. These are the people in your raid that perform a task you don't ask them to: to keep going even when the rest of their compatriots are tumbling. Whether it be a Hunter who sticks on Growl when a Tank dies, the Moonkin or Shadow Priest who drops a vital Tranquility or Divine Hymn when the Raid's health is looking iffy, or the lone tank who takes an extra 2% off the boss before he dies with a consummate display of self-preservation. It's the guys who hang out at Hagara's totems waiting to quickly chain the lightning without running around. It's those individuals who haven't just turned up to hit things or heal them or wave big numbers at them: they are the Enablers. Without them, (frankly) nothing would ever get done, and they are a resource we need to be nurturing and encouraging to flourish.
All too often in Azeroth it's about (in the eyes of the population) being the best: best spec, best gear, best team. You don't need all those things to have fun, or indeed to make progress. Great things can be achieved with far, far less if your Enabler ratio is high. Problem solving, inventive use of anything and everything (within acceptable parameters of course) are the tools of the Enabler's trade. Best of all, these people seldom (if ever) go around pronouncing they are the best at anything. They're just here to have a good time. They tend to pick roles that allow them to give their best in a variety of situations. What I'd like to see in the future, and I'm hoping this might be the way things are heading with Talents, is the opportunity for people to spec themselves to fit holes in raid teams on a boss-by-boss basis. From what little I grasp of Hardcore Raiding, this already happens anyway. If a fight isn't kind to a certain class, they just don't go, if the task is to kill Boss X and then to move on. If a class is lacking certain abilities and the Hardcore stop using them, Blizzard traditionally sits up and takes notice, and this certainly appears to be the case with the Pandas. More classes give more choices, but only if those choices allow a measure of flexibility.
Ultimately, Tanks get to hit and Healers stop them dying, and as a result (as support roles) they are probably not the best choices, because by their very nature they are two sides of the same coin: one needs the other in anything difficult. That leaves the DPS as the perfect place to stick the Support flag, with Hybrids coming along to cover many of the gaps. The 'pure' dps classes should also be given an opportunity to show their worth: kiting, more CC, and ability to act as offtanks if required were all abilities I utilised in the past in various places. It wasn't always about standing and making huge numbers, far from it. These used to be the staples in our Raiding, back when it was Karazhan and Gruul that drove us to want to be better raiders. Kiting adds back from the last room in UBRS was something I loathed at first but came to love, like the Geddon pull in MC. It was a way to show I was more than just a dwarf with a gun, that I was the kind of person that deserved to be in a Team not simply on output but on ability. I don't think I'm a particularly good Enabler however, but I know those in my Guild who are, and without them we'd not now be 8/8 in Dragon Soul. The biggest test of those who grasp the Support Role, in my eyes, are on fights where your margin of error is less than 5%. Deathwing will be easier now we've cracked it, but only with the right proportion of Enablers to make it happen.
There needs to be less of a focus on what people need to do when they play, and more on what they bring as individuals to the table. That isn't necessarily an issue if you have a player who can roll alts to suit their needs, the problem comes with those people who have only one or two toons but have a surfeit of Enabler DNA. Then the game needs to be helping them, by giving them the tools they need to fulfil their potential. Let's see if, after the NDA is lifted next week, Blizzard can bring some realistic new options to the table, and it can once and for all stop being about the classes and genuinely become about the players.