Lately many discussions have touched upon the topic of the so called 'Holy Trinity' design and yet it seems many define it differently from one another. To that end I figured a detailed look at the trinity and discussion would be beneficial for everyone.
What is the Trinity?
The trinity is the popular, common, and now iconic concept of having three primary roles that form the backbone of a group. Tank, DPS, and Healer. Their are also many sub-roles depending on the particular game as well. This design is popular for many reasons the primary one being it is very easy to design content for and it is recognizable for veterans of the genre. There are a few important things to understand about trinity design including a detailed defining of the roles, a look at what is required to create the roles, and finally a look at STO compared to the classic Trinity.
Tank: The tank takes damage. The two important qualities required to be the tank are the ability to reduce the damage from enemies and ability to make the enemies attack them. In the trinity system a true tank will take as little as half or even one quarter of the damage from an enemy attack when compared to the others.
DPS: The DPS deals damage. They deal tons of damage typically about twice as much as a tank and up to four times as much as the healer.
Healer: Simply put the healer, heals. They keep the tank alive primarily and occasionally heal the DPS but not because they want to.
Secondary Roles: This can be anything from crowd control, to pulling, to utility,
off-tanking, backup healer, and many more depending on the game. These are typically not required though.
System Requirements for Trinity
This is a big part of the trinity style that is often overlooked during discussion. It is pretty easy to define the roles, and to see the qualities that a character wants for those roles. But what qualities or mechanics must the game have for a Trinity system to work?
Hyper Specialization: As I said when defining the roles it is not that a tank merely holds agro they also have the capability to significantly reduce incoming damage thanks to damage mitigation and/or avoidance. A 50 damage hit to the tank would typically deal anywhere from 100 to 200 damage against the other party members. The healer is typically the only one who can heal a significant amount during combat and the DPS will out damage the tank and healer combined by a large margin. They also have built in weaknesses the tank doesn't kill very fast, the DPS will die if a monster looks at him wrong, and the healer doesn't kill period. Many trinity games balance the group vs solo issue by allowing the characters to change gear/skills/styles between group and solo content.
Resources & Downtime: Another thing trinity games have are resource systems. Many characters have mana that is limited during combat, health does not regenerate during combat without heals which cost mana, and after a difficult combat encounter the party will need to rest to restore lost health and mana. This is important because it creates a desire for players to try and be efficient to minimize the amount of downtime during party play. In many good parties downtime can almost be eliminated completely whereas in solo play or extremely difficult content it cannot be. In addition many combats are simply attrition based, will the target die before the party exhausts all resources is the heart of the challenge.
Difficult Encounters: The final thing required for a trinity is that the combat encounters must be brutally difficult as to force the players to specialize if they wish to win. The DPS will die in ten seconds or so to the damage, the tank would take five minutes to kill a monster, and the healer has both of those problems. Many games accomplish this by applying a template to monsters drastically increasing their damage and hit points but not their level.
Trinity in STO
STO has many design differences from the standard trinity that are impossible to ignore. It lacks hyper specialization as every ship has the ability to self heal, damage mitigation differences are not that large between them, and while damage has gotten to the trinity point in some cases it is not enough on its own. Many ships passively regenerate more health over an encounter than another ship would be able to restore to it for crying out loud. Finally there is no downtime, and aside from a handful of long cooldowns this game also lacks the resource management that trinity games require.
PvP has Trinity NooB!
No, no it does not. At-least not the typical trinity. And note this is ignoring obviously broken pre-made combos but the roles in PvP are basically Kill (burst), Support (heal/cleanse/spam clear/etc), Setup (Subnuke/tractor/power drain/etc) and strangly enough that doesn't even apply universally to ship hulls. Some escort Kill ships pack Support and spider tank, a support cruiser may use a Setup eject warp plasma and so on.
Where to Look for Inspiration?
ARPGs. Diablo, Torchlight, Path of Exile and so on are the closest in design to what STO currently has. Think about it, little downtime, casual friendly, pew pew focused, and plenty of character customization/tweaking. In addition for the more hardcore you can focus on completion speed for your challenge just like in an ARPG.
Trinity, making it Happen
For those who are very stubborn and reaaly want to see a trinity here is what it would take and cost.
- Massive increase to overall HP, massive decrease to passive regen
- Moving of BOff abilities like EPTS, HE, TSS up from ensign to Lt for example
- Modification of Hulls escorts/Sci would have much less HP than cruisers
- Increase cooldown length on many boff abilities that are healing in nature
- Massive increase in game difficulty
- Reduced variety and freedom in ship design. Additionally half of current ships would likely become worthless in groups.
- PvE queue would need redone or much fail would happen
- Barrier to entry for end game team play would be significantly larger
I just happen to be hip deep in character design myself for the next PnP RPG my group and I will be playing and this tends to make me think alot more about the trinity and character design in general. The system is a heavily modified D20 and there are four player members which tends to scream trinity aside from everyone hates being the healer. So this is what I have done for the classes myself. Fighter: Inspired heavily by 4th Ed DnD the fighter will deal consistent damage, excel at tanking large groups of weaker enemies, can manipulate enemy positioning, debuff enemy targets, and finally mitigate damage for his allies. Rogue: Stupid high single target damage but inconsistent with lower hit chance, high avoidance defense but it will be streaky, high mobility, and finally a minor amount of CC against enemies. Warlock: High AoE damage, strong debuffs, strong single target damage but his heavy hits are limited via resource. War Priest: Struggling with him a bit he will have powerful buffs that also enhance himself. He will pan out similar to the fighter but be a bit better at defense against single hard hitting enemies and lack the enemy manipulation. Still working on a nitch for 'em beyond the buffing but that just might be good enough as is.
STO's F2P is basically an inferior experience for the masses at no cost being subsidized by a handful of whales seeking whatever it is that motivates them to spend hundreds if not thousands on a game.