Thursday, November 17, 2011

Speculation: Role Breakdown at SWTOR End Game

It has been announced that part of the SWTOR will be Operations. These are large, PVE encounters, and are basically the functional equivalent of raids from other MMOs. The model I was familiar with from my days in World of Warcraft was 10 man raids and 25 man raids. SWTOR is going to alter that mix a bit by using 8 man teams, and 16 man teams. We also know from the descriptions of the various classes that SWTOR will use the classic Trinity system of Tank, Healer, and DPS.
How will your typical team break down into the roles? We know group composition will be determined by encounter design. Unfortunately, all that information is locked up tight behind the NDA, but if we look at the World of Warcraft example, the typical 10 man was 2 tanks, 2 or 3 healers, and 5 or 6 DPS. The 25 man had more flexibility with 2 or 3 tanks, 7 to 9 healers, and 13 to 16 DPS. In the later expansions, 2 tanks became the norm in both 10 man and 25 man content.
Let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that SWTOR Operations will employ 2 tanks in both the 8 man and 16 man environments. With that baseline established, it should be a simple exercise to figure out the number of healers, and then the remaining spots will be filled by DPS. If we have 2 healers in our 8 man team, that leaves 4 spots for DPS, but this really puts some stress on the healers. If there is raid wide damage, and we saw an example of this in the blow back ability the giant robot did in the Eternity Vault video at E3, then the two healers are responsible for both tanks, as well as the raid. They could split this up by having 1 healer cover both tanks, and the other healer cover the raid damage, or each healer would cover a single tank and fill in on raid damage as needed. Either way, the healers are going to be very busy.
I know in Warcraft 10 man teams sometimes ran two healers, but in our group we nearly always ran 3 on new content. This still left half the raid for DPS, but look at what happens if you do that in an 8 man team. Now you have only 3 spots left for DPS. If the boss has an enrage timer, will 3 dps be able to beat it? Even if the boss doesn’t, will 3 dps be able to do enough damage before the healers run out of force, or whatever mechanic the healers are using to power their spells? I think that will lead to the default configuration being 2 tanks, 2 healers, and 4 dps, and really put on onus on healers doing their job well.
8 to 16 scales up much more easily than 10 to 25.  We could try a model that simply doubles the 8 man team to make our 16 man team. That would leave us with 4 tanks, 4 healers, and 8 dps, but I don’t think that is how it will work out. I’m assuming that the same encounters will be used for both 8 and 16 man teams, and given what we’ve seen from Warcraft, the number of tanks generally holds steady.  So we will again have just 2 tanks in our 16 man. Those extra two spots probably go to healers, or one healer and one dps, so your alignment looks like 2 tanks, 4 healers, and 8 dps or 2 tanks, 3 healers, and 9 dps.
One conclusion this line of thinking leads to is that one of the issues we saw in World of Warcraft repeats in Old Republic. You have a need for many tanks in your Flashpoints, but you need far less tanks in your Operations. In Warcraft, this helped contribute to a tank shortage in the Flashpoint level content, called Heroics or simply 5 mans. We could see a similar dynamic in Old Republic where, as a tank, you were practically begged for in Flashpoints, but have a hard time finding a spot in a raid/Operation.
Old Republic appears to have borrowed heavily from World of Warcraft in its design, thereby inheriting its strong market appeal, but also inheriting its issues.
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