A somewhat lazy Sunday morning, (not really that lazy as I got up at 7am to start cooking my awesome lasagne for about 20 of my wife’s relatives), got me trolling around the internets in a random way. I found a post over at wow riot that goes into some detail about the dire straights that melee DPS are finding themselves in with this expansion. Paragon got the world first Ascendant Council Heroic kill, and issued a statement apologising to their melee DPS players who it seems have had to be benched for every boss fight so far. Apparently the fights have melee running around avoiding a million things and causing the healers to have total heart attacks, while the range DPS stand back and calmly let fly with awesome barrages of death without having to move much at all.

I got a taste of this in heroic 5 mans. I was getting quite dismayed at my low dps relative to ranged classes that I was playing with, until I got called in to take out the 10 man boss in Tol Barad and, while I was not top of the meters at all, I was not that far behind. That boss lets you wail away with just having to avoid some fire stuff now and again. Most other bosses require melee to undertake some dance of death avoidance which would put a ballerina dancing Swan Lake to shame. Paragon’s statement is confirmation of what I was thinking. I had looked at the guild photo in Gevlon’s post on Friday anouncing their 2nd boss kill, and I had been able to recoginse hunters and mages in there, but melee dps I was having trouble spotting. Maybe there is one, correct me if I’m wrong.

It’s one thing to make a class reduntant, but to make one of the four roles reduntant is simply bad game design. The more Cataclysm goes ahead, the more these game imbalances are beginning to surface. Perhaps Blizzard should think again for their next beta and give keys to players who stand a fair chance of reporting game flaws, as opposed to simply zerging through the content and bragging to the world that they are in the beta.

This week saw a lot of discussion on sandbox games and their place in the scheme of things. The ultimate sandbox game of all time, of course, is Dungeons & Dragons. Here is a wonderful quote from James over at Grognardia:

“… D&D isn’t really about anything, except perhaps fantasy adventures, with “fantasy” being defined so broadly as to include, literally, anything that isn’t possible in the real world and “adventure” being defined almost as broadly. D&D doesn’t devote much time to telling you what it’s about. Its rulebooks are never self-conscious enough to devote any pages to the game’s “themes,” for example, and its explicit literary allusions consist primarily of bibliographies of inspirational books rather than anything more concrete. Consequently, the question of what D&D is about falls to each player and each referee to answer, with there being no single answer that is “right” or “wrong,” even if some answers might be closer to what Gygax or Arneson might have had in mind.”

The rules are there to give some sort of order to the chaos, but ultimately you’re on your own. Which is why good players in D&D are almost always builders and not destoryers. Klepsacovic spoke about this the other day when he stated that for an online sandbox game to survive it must reward building more than destroying. Building however, requires greater thought and more intelligent play. It’s easy to burn something down or blow it into smithereens, somewhat harder however, to actually create it in the first place. The same players who scream, “WTF loser rogue dps!” at some poor melee player who had to spend 90% of the fight avoiding damage instead of dishing it out, are not going to take kindly to planning and building something in a sandbox universe.

The tragedy that is Civilization V should really be the wake up call for old school gamers who had hoped that more allowance would be made to their preferred style of play. Here was a game that was the epitome of building, with a large following over a 20 year period, and it was thrown away in order to make the game accesible for the instant gratification crowd that likes to blow things up. It’s an example of why players calling for the crafting experience to be improved in WoW are living in a world of total delusion.

Ultimately however, if you don’t like the latest incarnation of Civ you can pop one of the older games into your computer instead. MMO’s are a different beast though, and this freedom is ironically not available at all to those gamers pining for the days of vanilla WoW. For real gamers, the search is on for a game that will offer the framework of a world which lets players get on with the task of building something for themselves, without the huge risk of it being blown into tiny pieces the first moment they take a week off for a holiday. And which will truly promote the idea of a multi-player universe and not just a collection of people running around and doing the same tasks adjacent to each other. It may come about,but until then, there’s always D&D.