Friday, 2 March 2012

Diablo 3: Tactical evaluation - Holy Trinity

Back in the day Diablo multiplayer was firmly an Everyone is Dps game. This was principally due to the lack of a decent heal. The Paladin class had a weak heal but it was unreliably and hugely over-shadowed by other methods of healing such as life leech and potions.

It's also true that the community was less aware of trinity possibilities. The internet only really became widespread for gaming in about 1996 so in 1999 when Diablo 2 came out most players had just moved from single player offline games where of course dps is the default playstyle (perhaps with self-heals).

I think Diablo 3 will see a lot of trinity gameplay. It's possible to make a decent Barbarian tank based on Threatening Shout which with the Demoralise rune becomes a spammable aoe taunt. For example this one has very high armour, stuns, damage reduction, resist bonus and self-healing.

It's certainly possible to make a decent Monk healer. This one relies on high spirit generation to supplement a formidable range of heals with heal on demand Cyclone Strikes.

What's more the other classes have methods of becoming more group friendly. I'll explore in more depth in later posts but to start with the Wizard and Demon Hunter can crowd control and the Witch Doctor can not only crowd control but adds that nice wall of meat to hide behind.

Regarding treasure generation there are two elements to the equation - kills per minute and magic find (or gold find) bonuses. Being in a group may allow you to sub in some magic find gear over other options because other people have got your back.

Regarding difficulty, well, if a monster is challenging to a soloer, is it really challenging to a very high armour Barbarian who is getting healed? Perhaps not. And the challenge can be reduced by burning the monster down fast.

We've been warned Inferno level D3 will be exceptionally difficult. The devs have reported that they're dying a lot in internal play tests. Perhaps one way to handle that challenge is with the Trinity.

A game designer friend is quite convinced that the Holy Trinity is an exploit that became a feature, that originally games were not designed to cope with a team that presents the best armour, the highest dps, and the maximum healing at the point of contact.


  1. "A game designer friend is quite convinced that the Holy Trinity is an exploit that became a feature, that originally games were not designed to cope with a team that presents the best armour, the highest dps, and the maximum healing at the point of contact."

    Based on the design of Warriors in EQ, I find that unlikely. They had high defense and taunts. Solo you don't need taunts, and their low DPS made them a bore to play. In a party, the only possible role they could be useful in was damage sponge.

    There may be older MMOs or MUDs your friend is referring to (I know shit all about M59 for example). However, in any game where high defense low DPS classes get taunts, I'd say the design intention is clear.

  2. If he's right the exploit became a feature in the early 70s.

  3. Combat MUDS definitely had trinity already.

    When i played some in 1990s they already had aggro, healers, exclusive damage dealers, and tanks... i'm sure we even called them tanks too.

    Typical combat was:
    * Tank enters room, draws aggro/cc
    * Rest of the party enters
    * Tank/offtank "rescues" any attacked damage dealers/healers from random aggro swaps (swapping target to him)
    * Healers heal/cc/remove statuses
    * Damage dealers damage/cc

    Looked like natural extension of any D&D-like model.

  4. Surely the trinity goes back to early party RPGs such as Wizardry and Bard's Tale. Pretty much all the class types in MMOs were already present in Wiz 1, and aggro was handled by having front, middle and back rank characters - so the guys in the front rank took most of the melee damage.

  5. Well, there's always a level of tactical combat in the trinity, inasmuch as a game that doesn't explicitly use a trinity, say, FFT or Disgaea, it's just smart tactics to block chokepoints with high defense characters, attack from range, kill healers, that sort of thing. It's all fairly well rooted in real world combat, except for magical healing.

    Still, I strongly prefer that trinityish gameplay be emergent from a wider toolset and player preference, not something explicitly designed around and enforced. It feels like a hack, especially given idiotic AI "aggro" rules.

  6. In the 70s D&D was often played like the miniature wargames it descended from - with lead miniatures and tile maps. So "tanking" was done, as it is in wargames by placement. If you put a fighter in a 5 by 5 square and a wizard behind him he is "tanking".

    However if something flanked you or attacked from behind it messed this up and could be very dangerous.

    At some point during the last 40 years games transitioned from that method of protecting units (which is based on real battlefields where infantry was deployed to protect archers etc) to the trinity style where Fighter types get magical powers to draw off aggro.

    I think what my friend was supposing was that if games were designed to challenge a typical character and a character could either by built as a glass cannon or a meat wall or somewhere on the linear scale between, then a formation that applies the durability of a meatwall with the dps of a glass cannon would be game-breakingly powerful.

    But I don't really know, and he doesn't know. You'd have to ask Professor Bartle or someone like that if you wanted to find out for sure how we moved from one thing into the other.