One cannot easily express the joy of discovering that specific class in an MMO which just clicks. After time spent slogging along with the class which you think you ‘ought’ to be playing, or which you think would ‘make a nice change’, you reach that moment of despondency where you consider giving up the game. On a whim, you roll a class that you’d been avoiding, because it’s the flavour of the month perhaps, or a certain type of player is generally associated with the class, and you worry that you’ll be an accessory to that sort of reputation. Regardless of reason, you grudgingly roll a new character of that class. Like conciliatory sex, you’re not quite sure how you got started, and you’re determined not to enjoy yourself, but within five seconds you’re wondering what all the fuss was about, and five seconds after that you’re blissfully unaware of anything at all, utterly enraptured as you are by the endorphins of the event.

In the case of the MMO, you’re transformed in an instant from the unnamed father on Cormac McCarthy’s road, into Julie Andrews cresting a sunlight-dappled hill, grass rippling beneath the breeze’s gentle stroke.

‘And the hills are aliiiiiiiive, with the sound of slaughterrrrrrrr!’

And your partner stares in horror at you from their place on the sofa, as, with arms raised, you unleash this shrill falsetto, which threatens to shatter their teeth and your PC’s monitor, and sets half the cats in the neighbourhood into a frenzy of angry confused copulation.

Such was my pleasure at trying the Slayer class in Tera, where before I’d been busy grinding away with the Lancer, which is the game’s tanking class and, shock of shocks, also in short supply for dungeon runs towards the end-game.

Here’s a tale, tell me if you’ve heard it before:

Tera has issues with players trying to form groups for dungeons; the primary block is the fact that the game’s de facto tanking class, the Lancer, is in short supply. Lancers queue for only a few minutes before they’re assigned to a dungeon group, whereas it’s reported that every other class will face a wait of forty to sixty minutes. Why the shortage of tanks? Well, it doesn’t help that the Lancer is the only classic tank at the moment, whereas the other tanking class, the Warrior, is an evasion tank which is both a lot harder to play and a lot harder to heal, outside of expert hands. This is due to change in a future patch, but for the time being, the Lancer is *the* tank. One class, out of a pool of eight.

I think it’s also fair to say that the levelling game in Tera is an unabashed grind, with fights getting progressively longer as the players rise in level; Darwin’s great theory is alive and well in Tera, as evidenced by natural selection favouring those mobs who evolve extra zeros on the end of their hit points. And in the fine tradition of MMOs, the Lancer is a complete slug when it comes to the inevitable solo levelling grind. No DPS stance is granted because, one assumes, it would be considered unfair on the poor DPS classes, who don’t have an alternative role to switch to. So the Lancer class has the rougher responsibility of trying to be a tank in dungeons, and the tougher time of trying to level as a tank outside of dungeons. I mean, it seems fair to me, that’s why we see so many tanks at the end ga… oh wait, I think I might see a problem. I think I’ve got it… I… no. Wait! Yes. Wait! No. No. Yes. No… Hang on. Ye… Mmm. Yes! Got it! Now I could be wrong, but I think this could be one of those issues that’s been reported –here and elsewhere around the blogosphere– on and off, for the past six or more years.

Next up: Why do players solo in MMOs (when they can’t get a group as a DPS class, and tanking is a thankless tedious grind for ninety percent of the player’s time)? Gee, we’ll have to get our greatest experts of expertness on that one right away, Bob.

To my mind the MMO genre as a whole isn’t dying, but it does seem as though it has been floundering for some time. Pundits keep coming up with reasons as to why: ‘Games cost too much to develop’; ‘MMOs are too complicated’; ‘Players are fickle’; ‘The subscription model is outdated’; ‘The subscription model is the One True way to pay for an MMO and F2P is destroying everything’. And on and on. For me it’s this: for whatever reason, a staggering number of MMOs simply refuse to unlearn old falsehoods.

Posted by Melmoth at 11:38 am