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World of Warcraft: The Role of Utility

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,619MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

In The WoW Factor today, we take a look at the concept of "utility" in an MMO with specific regard to a recent post by Blizzard's Ghostcrawler. "For MMO purposes we'll just say anything that isn't directly prioritized on fulfilling a roll of the holy trinity of tank, healer, or DPS is utility." Check out what we think about utility and how it can be managed in WoW. Let us know what you think in the comments.

In Ghostcrawler's most recent post the lead system designer addresses the topic of "The Role of Role" and throws around some ideas about how things may be handled in WoW’s Mists of Pandaria Expansion. All in all it is a very interesting write up that shouldn't be missed by anyone who concerns themselves with MMOs, yet I feel Mr. Ghostcrawler left out a bit of desirable discourse on the topic of utility within the role system. Whether this was through intent or with forethought for length and readability I cannot say, nonetheless there is plenty to discuss regarding what I see as the sickly bastard child of the holy trinity.

Read more of Joe Sanicky's The WoW Factor: The Role of Utility.

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That is one crustacean with a sharp tongue and a keen sense of purpose.

Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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Comments

  • 77lolmac7777lolmac77 Herp Derp, PAPosts: 496Member
    When I played WoW utility = healer class.

    Now anyone can do anything, its like the special olympics
  • cadocado Brossard, QCPosts: 2Member

    I've been playing MMOs forever (MUDs, EQ,EQ2, WoW, VSoH, Rift and everything in between) and I've prety much always played a utility class. My personnal favortie has always been the bard. Which is one of my main beef with WoW: there is no bard. And the paladin is not very 'bardish'.

    It's completely understandable, from Blizzard's POV, to not have much utility-based classes in-game: utility classes aren't 'flashy'. Utility classes are extremely 'second level' in terms of the advantage they provide to a group or raid: only experienced and knowing players appreciate the wide range of skills and goodness that adding a support class can provide. Since Wow, in my humble opinion, is all about bold brushes and crystal clear, black-and-white definition of roles it seems obvious that such sneaky goodness will never come forth in this game.

    Personnaly, if i was a game designer, I'd build a whole world around the perfect 'Quad-nity': Heals, DPS, Tank and Support. Six-man groups with a focus on the utility aspect. I rememebr fondly the raids in EQ in the Temple of Ssra (sp). There was a fight you had to off-tank 3 mobs, mezz 3 more and kite 3 others while killing the Boss. It was epic! Required incredible coordination and lots of support class. My job, as bard, was to 'do whatever I could in whatever situation that needed the most pressing attention': kite or mezz or dps or tank (ok not for too long!).

    Unfortunately, games around designed from the bottom up nowadays. Hard is not in fashion these days...Risk-vs-Rewards is a joke on the latest MMOs. So is shades of grey and utility classes. One can only hope for better days ahead!

  • orbitxoorbitxo fort lauderdale, FLPosts: 1,408Member Uncommon

    hehe, love how you throw in a lil' KoA in there...Its an awsome game! you get to go around doin everything tank-dps-n heals-rogue and you can switch talents any given time you dont depend on noone!

     

    looking foward to G2 too! who also has terrished the mmo 'wow'holy trinity-Game mechanics needs to change nowadays- WoW is an old dinasour-theyve stated the game is co dependent  on 'GROUP' play style , it would take them along time to change that- a little too late imo. It worked back in the the day- But now , one dosent have the time to rely on other peoples (utility) to engage in a game.









     




     

  • NeverdyneNeverdyne Guatemala CityPosts: 167Member

    Originally posted by cado

    I've been playing MMOs forever (MUDs, EQ,EQ2, WoW, VSoH, Rift and everything in between) and I've prety much always played a utility class. My personnal favortie has always been the bard. Which is one of my main beef with WoW: there is no bard. And the paladin is not very 'bardish'.

    It's completely understandable, from Blizzard's POV, to not have much utility-based classes in-game: utility classes aren't 'flashy'. Utility classes are extremely 'second level' in terms of the advantage they provide to a group or raid: only experienced and knowing players appreciate the wide range of skills and goodness that adding a support class can provide. Since Wow, in my humble opinion, is all about bold brushes and crystal clear, black-and-white definition of roles it seems obvious that such sneaky goodness will never come forth in this game.

    Personnaly, if i was a game designer, I'd build a whole world around the perfect 'Quad-nity': Heals, DPS, Tank and Support. Six-man groups with a focus on the utility aspect. I rememebr fondly the raids in EQ in the Temple of Ssra (sp). There was a fight you had to off-tank 3 mobs, mezz 3 more and kite 3 others while killing the Boss. It was epic! Required incredible coordination and lots of support class. My job, as bard, was to 'do whatever I could in whatever situation that needed the most pressing attention': kite or mezz or dps or tank (ok not for too long!).

    Unfortunately, games around designed from the bottom up nowadays. Hard is not in fashion these days...Risk-vs-Rewards is a joke on the latest MMOs. So is shades of grey and utility classes. One can only hope for better days ahead!

    I understand your point of view, and the desire of playing a class who's entire purpose is utility. But to say WoW's raid encounters need no utility is actually inaccurate. The thing is, every class has some form of utility, so it's true that there are no pure support classes, but many DPS classes also offer some kind of utility.

     

    Just an example, on the Magmaw raid encounter, you needed a hunter or two, or a frost mage to constantly kite the little bugs that spawn and keep them away from the group. You specifically needed a ranged class capable of slowing or rooting the bugs, and they also had to know how to do it properly since whenever the bugs hit someone they multiplied so it was crucial to keep them kited. That would enter in the realm of "utility" but that hunter or mage was also capable of doing equivalent DPS on the next raid encounter if utility was not necessary then.

     

    So WoW's take is: We do need utility in raid encounters, just we want classes who provide that utility to also be specialized in either DPS, healing or tanking. 

  • orbitxoorbitxo fort lauderdale, FLPosts: 1,408Member Uncommon







    Originally posted by Neverdyne












    Originally posted by cado




    So WoW's take is: We do need utility in raid encounters, just we want classes who provide that utility to also be specialized in either DPS, healing or tanking. 














     




    classic - first they 'borrow' alot of the pvp tactics from warhammer online,  now theyre 'borrowing' concepts from G2 to keep the game fresh- i respect that BUT the one thing they cant do is change the graphics to it. its way dated! other new games will steam roll that!

     





     




     




     

  • quasi_deadquasi_dead LeedsPosts: 84Member

    I like lots of varied utility, and lots of reasons to use it.

    However I imagine it must be a bitch to balance.

  • simmihisimmihi -Posts: 613Member Uncommon



    Originally posted by cado

    It's completely understandable, from Blizzard's POV, to not have much utility-based classes in-game: utility classes aren't 'flashy'. Utility classes are extremely 'second level' in terms of the advantage they provide to a group or raid: only experienced and knowing players appreciate the wide range of skills and goodness that adding a support class can provide. Since Wow, in my humble opinion, is all about bold brushes and crystal clear, black-and-white definition of roles it seems obvious that such sneaky goodness will never come forth in this game.

    That's what i think also. Utility IS nice, but WoW is really a bad example. A recent dialogue i've had in WoW went like this:

    -Me (the healer): Avoid standing in the shiz on the ground, it's hard for me to focus healing the tank and also heal you, just move when it pops under you, it's easy

    - Him (random Damage Dealer guy): I've been here before with other healers, i've never moved from the black circles under me and they've managed to heal me just fine, i lose DPS if i move, you're a shitty healer!

     

    When your content ends up to be often ran by super overgeared people, utility loses it's role. Most likely people will preffer the "power play" methods, where you just ignore the mechanics and compensate by the huge ammount of damage or healing which you can do. This later approach makes the kill much shorter and overall running a dungeon / raid becomes much quicker. In that aspect, utility classes would be marginalised after the point when encounters become trivial.

     

    Let's take Rift for example. They've tried "forcing" the utility class in groups and it works like this:

    Rift has a standard "dungeon finder" group formed by a Tank, a Healer, two Damage Dealers and a Support (utility) class. In a short description, this support class mostly AoE heals when it does damage and provides serious buffs to the group while debuffing mobs. This support role is really needed when you're doing dungeons while leveling, as the gear level is overall bad. Unfortunately, when it comes to heroic instances at cap level, 90% of the time the support class is asked to "switch to DPS" as the group preffers Power Kills, because the gear (usually people have raid or raid-equivalent gear) allows them to play that way.

     

    In the end, "LF people ilvl 380+ for Temple of Four Winds Raid, /w ilvl and achievement" sounds familiar? For the non-WoW players, the guy was looking to form a group with people wearing gear at a quality of 380 for a raid which drops gear with 359 quality (the higher the number, the better the gear). That raid was "planned" for people at level 330-345 to improve gear, and maybe there, utility has a sense. At a 380 level, the encounters become trivial. The whole game is built like that, it's not gear up as you play, it's hit cap level as fast as you can, get the best gear using the easiest ways then start doing the content, which became over-nerfed and much much too easy. Utility in WoW (as the game is now), except very rare and marginal heroic difficulty raid situations, is pointless.

    Sorry for the wall of text.



     

  • orbitxoorbitxo fort lauderdale, FLPosts: 1,408Member Uncommon

    ive played BC-WoLK-and early-Cata-and simmihi's post is accurate! - not familiar with Rifts raiding roles,

    but you pretty much nailed WoW's current game play state.



     





     




     

  • ThaneUlfgarThaneUlfgar Akron, OHPosts: 283Member

    Simmhi's post is pretty much dead on. Remember at the begining for Cataclysm when everyone had to actually use crowd control and such in heroics? Now that everyone is in at least level 378 gear, that has gone back to the wayside.

  • heavyhebrewheavyhebrew Seattle, WAPosts: 309Member

    Originally posted by quasi_dead

    I like lots of varied utility, and lots of reasons to use it.

    However I imagine it must be a bitch to balance.


     

    This is WoW, balance has never been a real concern. Take for instance this early spot on documentary on PVP balance by one Rogue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJWeWMKfa3g

    TRUST THE COMPUTER! THE COMPUTER IS YOUR FRIEND!

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  • orbitxoorbitxo fort lauderdale, FLPosts: 1,408Member Uncommon

    maybe theyll get it right the second time around with their MoP  'combat pets'




     




    <.<




     




    ok ok nough WoW trashin'...i had fun while i played- but i had to move on!




     




     









     




     

  • fivorothfivoroth LondonPosts: 3,665Member Uncommon

    Utility and support classes were always a b**** to balance.

    Mission in life: Vanquish all MMORPG.com trolls - especially TESO, WOW and GW2 trolls.

  • azmundaiazmundai St Louis, MOPosts: 1,417Member

    I get a very "empty promises" vibe from the whole thing. I doubt there will actually be any real utility in wow ever again .. because then you have situations where hunters need to kite adds. and quite frankly, most of them wont be able to do it .. the qqing will ensue and the nerf bat will return. in this world of Massively Multi-player Online Solo Adventures with lobby games, utility has no place.

    I guess if they bring back CC fights in raids that would be one thing .. but I dont see any real utility being brought back in any real way. Of course they will claim that they have succeeded in bringing back utility just because 1 boss fight requires and add to be cced ..

    LFD tools are great for cramming people into content, but quality > quantity.
    I am, usually on the sandbox .. more "hardcore" side of things, but I also do just want to have fun. So lighten up already :)

  • sanman7890sanman7890 Medina, OHPosts: 96Member

    Originally posted by azmundai

    I get a very "empty promises" vibe from the whole thing. I doubt there will actually be any real utility in wow ever again .. because then you have situations where hunters need to kite adds. and quite frankly, most of them wont be able to do it .. the qqing will ensue and the nerf bat will return. in this world of Massively Multi-player Online Solo Adventures with lobby games, utility has no place.

    I guess if they bring back CC fights in raids that would be one thing .. but I dont see any real utility being brought back in any real way. Of course they will claim that they have succeeded in bringing back utility just because 1 boss fight requires and add to be cced ..


     

    Thats the thing though, wouldn't giving a hunter a bunch of cc make solo adventuring even easier and more empowering, thus appealing to this type of player?

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  • azmundaiazmundai St Louis, MOPosts: 1,417Member


    Originally posted by sanman7890
    Originally posted by azmundai I get a very "empty promises" vibe from the whole thing. I doubt there will actually be any real utility in wow ever again .. because then you have situations where hunters need to kite adds. and quite frankly, most of them wont be able to do it .. the qqing will ensue and the nerf bat will return. in this world of Massively Multi-player Online Solo Adventures with lobby games, utility has no place. I guess if they bring back CC fights in raids that would be one thing .. but I dont see any real utility being brought back in any real way. Of course they will claim that they have succeeded in bringing back utility just because 1 boss fight requires and add to be cced ..  
    Thats the thing though, wouldn't giving a hunter a bunch of cc make solo adventuring even easier and more empowering, thus appealing to this type of player?

    yes, but actually having mechanics where his inability to use those abilities wipes the raid, is too "hardcore" or something.

    plus, if there are kite fights, cc fights, mass dispel fights, and dream up 3-4 others ... then how does a 10 man group do all of that and still have 2 tanks and 2 healers?

    with 40 man raids, these things were fine. with 10 man raids all of the fights have to require the same small pool of abilities. thus now the main mechanic in most raiding is: dont stand in the fire, and heal the tank.

    granted, I havent played since LK .. I hear its better than it was .. but I doubt it will ever be the ball breaking fun it was when you were learning Sartura or even Razorgore. Not to mention the stuff before that in EQ which I unfortunately don't know much about.

    LFD tools are great for cramming people into content, but quality > quantity.
    I am, usually on the sandbox .. more "hardcore" side of things, but I also do just want to have fun. So lighten up already :)

  • sanman7890sanman7890 Medina, OHPosts: 96Member

    The easy answer is to design fights where the mold of 2 tanks, 2 healers, and 6 dps or whatever isn't necessary every.single.time.  Easier said then done yes, but this is the developers dayjobs after all.

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  • Mors.MagneMors.Magne LondonPosts: 1,420Member

    But there aren't any utility classes in WoW !

     

    This is because in WoW, no classes level using 'utilities'.

     

    This is what Wikipedia says about utiity classes:

     

    In less simplistic RPGs, a category called utility exists, which is neither Damage or Healing Based. Utility classes often include "Grey Magic" or "Building" functions, such as crafting items useful for weapons, armor, or profit. Grey Magic also includes functions such as transportation and mobility, such as flight and teleportation, or special effects where combat potential is dubious, such as summoning or transmutation. Modern and Future variants include Pilots, Animal Trainers, Engineers, and Scientists whose abilities may have more strategic or plot driven value. """"""     

     

    The best example of a ulility class that I can think of is a character in Eve who trades or mines or builds stuff. However, I think Eve must be a rare exception in this regard.

     

    I can't think of a single 'career utility class' in WoW - they are all adjunctive skills to Tank / Gank / Healing.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    What about designing utility through multiplayer combo interactions?   Lots of  abilities involve combos of individual player actions (where you get a buff on ability B if ability A is active on the target), but what about creating explicitly multiplayer combos where if monster is hit by both effect A and effect B then bonus effect C occurs?  Set it up so one group of classes brings the chocolate and another group of classes brings the peanut butter - but neither is technically the dominent part or the utility part.

    By having different combos available and giving each class/sub-class a collection of the puzzle pieces, you could set up just about any arbitrary complexity of roles/sub-roles desired.

  • HurricanePipHurricanePip Sommerille, MAPosts: 167Member

    I thought the dominator was a good example of a successful utility class.  I always enjoyed an offender in CoH.  Take a defensive/utility class and focus it on dps, which it wasn't naturally designed for.  It's fun with versaltility.  Kinetics was also cool.  While it was a buff, which isn't necesarily fun, you could see the effect whenever it was up and it was up enough to have a huge effect on the group.  It wasn't Bloodlust where you needed to review the logs to see it in action.  Kinetics caused people to bounce around ike superballs, which was awesome and immediately rewarding.

    The lock was probably the closest I found in WoW.  Drain tanking was fun, but it wasn't the same.  There was versatility, but much less utility and that got nerfed /  became lesseffective as time went along.

    The comment that I would make for future MMOs actually isn't character related, but content related.  CoH for example promoted that fun, jump in and have it play mentaility.  Attacking large packs of varying mobs is fun.  CoH promoted movement and positioning.  WoW on the other hand was a very standard pull and kill single mobs at a time, which got to be a mind numbing process.  It was very robotic in nature where something like CoH seemed to flow much better.

    If you strip away the gear, WoW isn't the most fun game in the world.  It's an old design paradigm that hasn't changed in a long time.  Maybe the KoA MMO uses some of the mechanics from the WRPG game because that system is fantastic.  If they fix the camera, it would be even better.

    If you don't worry about it, it's not a problem.

  • BlackWatchBlackWatch OKC, OKPosts: 983Member

    The other problem with 'utility' classes is the way they are viewed by 'pure' (dps/healing/tank) classes. 

    At the end of the RAID, an everage player is going to look at numbers using Recount or some other RAID encounter add-on. 

    Most people won't take the time to research what type's of buff's/boosts or alternate functions that the utility class player brought to the RAID. Unless the utility player found a way to stay towards the top of DPS/HPS charts, then they will likely be criticized. 

    And beyond that... a lot of players won't understand what impact having the utility player in their RAID will do to their own numbers.  Most players will simply think... 'wow, I did 15% more dps this week on this fight due to RNG or that new piece of gear'.  They don't get that it was actually due to a buff or a certain class-synergy provided by the utility player.

     



     

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  • DjildjameshDjildjamesh maasdijkPosts: 406Member Uncommon

    hybrids and utility classes can not exist with addons like recount / skada and the likes. People would end up comparing DPS / Healing carts etc.

    I vote for NO addons in MMO's  -  (i don't mind cosmethical addons tho)

  • Mors.MagneMors.Magne LondonPosts: 1,420Member

    Originally posted by Djildjamesh

    hybrids and utility classes can not exist with addons like recount / skada and the likes. People would end up comparing DPS / Healing carts etc.

    I vote for NO addons in MMO's  -  (i don't mind cosmethical addons tho)

    I don't entirely agree with you. I think it depends on the game and how you define what a 'utility class' is.

     

    For example, in Eve Online the whole universe relies on utility classes that have nothing to do with combat directly. For example, to make a ship, you need a miner for the resorces, someone who has the skills to build it, someone who has the skills to transport it, and someone who has the skills to sell it!

     

    Arguably, the people who use the ships (for tank / gank / heal etc) can be less well off financially than those who spend their time using the utility skills. And money can be a real power.

  • SkuallSkuall UnknowPosts: 1,285Member Uncommon

    i miss the old days

    bards/enchanters/ect , fun classes to play

    the problem lies when buffs are just auras. thats wrong  , DD+debuffs , or DD+buffs atached are the way to go

  • MeltdownMeltdown Home, NHPosts: 1,184Member Uncommon

    Two reasons I see the role of utility getting removed from WoW and recent MMOs:

     

    1.) Leveling through solo-play, pure utility classes have a HELL of a time soloing content and therefore are typically either OP or UP, and are a balance nightmare. The obvious fix is to give small amouts of utility to the DPS classes and remove the need for any pure utility class. 

     

    2.) Group LF1M Need CC. We all love the good ol' days of EQ, but do we really remember looking for an enchanter for hours just so you can level? It creates this huge supply/demand issue for character classes when you split it between dps/heals/tank/utility, simplifying the system to dps/heals/tank allows for supply to even out across the three... in theory! Of course we know the current issue is the lack of tanks in these games, but again don't be surprised if the next big game just has dps/heals and how it will be praised for not using the trinity, then bashed because of the shortage of healers... 

     

    I didn't mind when WoW took the utlity and spread it across the dps/healer classes, i thought it was good. What really ticked me off was when they took the buffs each of the classes had and started homogenizing them... making a large amount of combinations of classes effectively useless for utility. Hell I enjoyed playing a paladin for the longest time because I had great utility buffs for everyone at the raid... not so much anymore.

    "They essentially want to say 'Correlation proves Causation' when it's just not true." - Sovrath

  • avaliceheartavaliceheart Los Angeles, CAPosts: 24Member

    Mm yeah, utility classes are kind of ..limited.  But it's what I prefer. I always prefer to play pure healer or pure tank. I actually dislike games that take out the healer class...

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