Sunday, January 31, 2010

Why we play the types of characters we do

If you have been a member of my guild for any great length of time you will have heard me say at least once "people tend to gravitate towards certain types of characters based on their personality."  There are also some who can not commit to any ONE character and that also says a lot about their personality.

There has been a great deal of discussion recently around the blog sphere in regards to the importance of particular roles in 5 man dungeons.  In essence what it all boils down to is that it is more likely that a well geared tank or a well geared healer who are reasonably competent will be able to complete any dungeon no matter what type of dps make up they have with them. As a result of this some feel that Tanks and Healers are more important than dps, especially in regards to completing any objective.

Kaelynn over at Azure Shadows brought up a FANTASTIC point in this debate. It is the disproportionate amount of healers and tanks verses dps that really seems to be driving this issue of this "superiority complex". Think of each of your friends lists, what does it take for a tank or healer to get on it? Usually nothing more than a fairly successful run. Dps on the other hand? They need to have done something OUTSTANDING typically to gain a spot.

So what type of people typically play tanks? Well my observations have been that those tanks that I consider GOOD ones generally display an internal drive to succeed, thrive on challenge, are not afraid of leadership responsibilities, have the ability to analysis situations in a glace and develop strategies. There is a level of stress in playing this role that often the players themselves don't recognize until they are facing burnout because it feeds part of their personal needs. Quite frankly add this to the fact that strong tanks are needed for progression and I think it explains why so many tanks end up in leadership roles within their guilds. Those who get into tanking strictly because it will get them into the que quicker or to gain glory and prestige will not last long in the profession.

Tanks are not only responsible for themselves but also all the "squishies". This means the dps that can not tell the back from the front of a mob or are unwilling to wait for establishment of aggro before they begin damaging. They are responsible for noticing mana users blue bars when making pulls so that healers and damage dealers are still able to perform their jobs. They often have to deal with individuals who feel they could tank BETTER than they resulting in gifts of unsolicited, often caustic advice or attempts to "help" by doing pulls for them.

Few are willing to work with a tank as they learn the skills needed to perform their roles outside of guilds. Just this past week I was in a PuG Halls of Reflection in which the Paladin tank sheepishly confessed he had never done the instance before. Immediately the healer and one dps left the group. The rest of us however were of that rare breed who remember what it was like to first start out and patiently took the time to instruct him on what to do as well as did everything in our power to make HIS job easier. The result? A successful Hall of Reflections run, no wipes, and no deaths. Yeah it doesn't always turn out that way, but when it does those times are sweet.

There are those tanks out there who are total prima donnas and frankly I don't care HOW well they tank and how geared they are I STILL would not desire to run with them. I had the unfortunate opportunity to do a Culling of Strat with one the other day who was proudly displaying his "Astral Walker" Title. Geared completely in either ToGC or ICC25 gear he proceeded to NEED everything that dropped that he could despite the fact we had TWO plate wearers in the group in BLUES that the items were actually UPGRADES for. I could have been understanding that, yeah he had equal right to the loot as well if not for the fact that he had been mocking them for the full run about their low dps and healing (not like it was to low for the instance we were doing and the rest of us couldn't cover for them). When confronted about it, his response was "LoL yeah, well my gear sucks".  (More like he had taken to many blows to the head to consider those where he had once been.) It is individuals like him who make you appreciate the GOOD tanks you know.

Healers on the other hand have changed a bit. Those who were healing back in the days of Molten Core remember the intricate balance of mana management, spell scaling and spell prioritizing. Those who do not have a LOVE for healing consider modern healing "boring" and nothing more than a glorified version of "whack a mole" as the result of the various mods available to healers.

So what kinds of people play healers as mains? I am talking again about those who have chosen the profession due to having a true LOVE for it not just "seeing it as a way into a dungeon or raid spot instantly". In these individuals I have observed  the following traits displayed almost universally: problem solvers, comfortable in support roles, excel at multi tasking, and (dare I say it?) usually perfectionists. They take ANY death as a personal affront (unless of course they are using it as a learning opportunity for the person in question) and some of the "from the BRINK of death" saves I have witnessed indeed seem miracles.

Healers are not only responsible for keeping EVERYONE alive but providing buffs and dispels WHILE performing that role. They get to chase after tanks that run out of range and pull multiple mobs while only having 25% of their mana. Thrill to dealing with directionally challenged dps, who pull aggro off the tank or receive avoidable damage. All while at the same time monitoring their OWN threat generation and proximity to the fight. Yes, in this day and age of the "over geared run" more frequently well geared healers will be dealing with the problem of boredom in 5 man dungeon runs than frantically trying to keep everyone alive. This doesn't lessen the fact that GOOD healers knows how to use the tools they have effectively. (Few runs can be healed by just using Prayer of Mending and Holy Nova.)

So what about those Dps? The LARGEST section of the pot so to speak? As Kaelynn rightly mentioned we ALL start out as Dps generally since few of us level as Tanks or Healers. (Yeah I know I DID level Holy on my priest but it was NOT easy.) So those Tanks and Healers have to learn their jobs later on. Even the heirloom gear we can get now a days is all set up for dps, not tanking or healing. Do THEY display any personality traits? Actually yeah, I have also observed something there to. They tend to fall into two categories and you can usually see the difference on the damage charts.

Those Dps who are at the top of the meters consistently? They are aggressive, competitive, organized, and often have a rather twisted sense of humor. These guys look at each gear piece based on dps out put, they consider trades based on how it will help them towards their goals. Spreadsheets and specs are the foundation of just about every conversation you over hear regarding their character. At the same time they have that "live on the edge" sense about them. They are adrenaline junkies...sure they may die as the result of a crit but they were doing 14k dps before they went down! 

The other and frankly larger portion of dps fall into the category of "I play a dps because I chose that CHARACTER" or "Form rather than Function". They play a Hunter because they like animals/pets, a Rogue to be a Ninja/Spy/Assassin, a Warrior to carry two HUGE weapons, a Druid to be a shape shifter, a Mage so they can port everywhere/firebomb everyone, a Warlock because demons are sexy, a Death Knight to be an Anti-Paladin, a Paladin to be a Hero of the Light! The list of reasons is almost endless, their attention spans on the other hand....not so much. These individuals also tend to be Altaholics.

When I get into a run and someone tells me they are on their alt my expectations of their performance immediately go down as I have yet to meet ANYONE who can play multiple characters at the same skill level as someone who focuses on a main. That isn't to say they may not be GOOD at that alt, just it will not be as instinctive as it can become on a main. Those of us who play multiple high level characters can attest to those times of panic when you go to hit a key binding only to realize "Wait THIS character can't DO that! or That Key binding doesn't DO what I instinctively wanted to do."

It is becoming harder and harder to recognize an alt verses a main in this day and age of "easy gear". I am at the point where all three of my level 80 characters are geared to Icecrown level and I know many others are dealing with the same. Where before the majority of people would assume if you were geared WELL that meant this MUST be a main. Now a days it is not uncommon for individuals to take their alts into pugs and have them geared comparably to their mains if for no other reason that to better farm Primordial Saronite. In a five man dungeon it really won't make to much of a difference.

If you wonder WHY a particular well geared character is preforming lower than you think they should you can always ASK if it is an alt. Nine times out of ten I have found this to be the case. Those few when it HAS been a main, it is usually was either a NEW main (meaning they JUST made it their main) OR they leveled so quickly they still don't really know what they are doing.

So where does that leave us? If you know WHY a person tends to play a specific type of character it can help you to work with that individual, gaining you more successful runs. Look across your guild, at the people you encounter in your daily pug runs, are YOUR observations similar to my own or totally different? Some people have the idea that if you go into a pug you will NEVER encounter these individuals ever again, but I have found that I am starting to run into individuals that I have done runs with and remembering them, and they remember me. Part of it is due to the fact I tend to do my dailys about the same time every day. A little effort on your part really won't hurt you and even if these individuals are not on your server it may give you unexpected dividends.

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