Posted 08 August 2011 - 11:26 AM
Warning: incoming essay!
You could always ditch the whole Tank, DPS and Healer archetypes. To see a game where that's devolved into hilarity, check out Everquest. To keep the game challenging, they made it so that the NPCs have 10x as much HP as any player has, and deal about 5x as much damage. To solve that issue, healers can take any player from 0 to 100% HP in one or two casts. It's like rock paper scissors. The tank can either tank an NPC or he can't, there's very little in between with players trying harder. You either get smashed in the first melee round, or the healer can keep you alive no matter how much your HP bar ping pongs.
Glass cannons alone don't work in EQ. They'll get creamed by a snake that bites for 5x the damage their greatsword is doing. You absolutely have to have either have someone with a ton of HP and AC (to reduce incoming damage) and a healer, or you have to abuse the game by chain stunning or rooting the NPC so you can whack away with impunity. Then it gets interesting again when the root breaks and you're dead before you can get another cast off, and the NPC still has 50% of its original HP after 3 minutes of continuous whacking on it.
PvP is completely broken in EQ, this is in reference to PvE.
I'm a bit tired of that formula really, but it's hard to come up with anything else I suppose. I'd like something more realistic myself, but finding a way to make that fun is tough. In real life you didn't exactly have 5 or 6 man bands digging through lost dungeons with one of them volunteering to get hit all the time and another healing him. Mostly because the last part is not terribly applicable to real life, but I hope the point was clear.
In real life, in armies and battles at least, soldiers were more or less uniform. They wore the best armor they could get away with (expense and comfort) and used the best weapons for their position (pike formations, bows, spears, whatever), and each formation generally used the same gear. It made sense in context, but this isn't terribly fun for players who want to be heroes.
I guess the question then becomes what sort of game are you trying to make? If it's a massive battlefield simulator like many modern FPS games are, then it might make sense for players to have little variability in their gear, at least between group mates. Their entire group has a purpose, not individuals. That might make sense.
For heroic individuals like in WoW, Rift, or whatever, you could always reduce the incentive to be a glass cannon. People didn't do this in real life because people didn't want to die. Charging into combat with a greataxe without armor is a great way to kill people, and a great way to lose your only life. Using a pike and some armor would keep you a lot safer, which is what most people cared about. To simulate this, you could possibly ramp up the death penalty. Care has to be taken here though, as games like EQ can cause me to throw tantrums when I die, because in EQ you lose experience when you die, and it takes ridiculous amounts to level up. You could potentially lose hours of time if you were very careless. Remember how unbalanced those NPCs are?
You could also make it impractical to be a glass cannon, and all but require players to take some sort of defensive abilities. If players want to take all offensive abilities and have very low HP and armor, then place groups of NPCs in some areas that are very hard to separate. The player might get the first one, but he'll get killed by the other two. Players won't like things that feel artificially put there to thwart them though...
In the end though, is it necessarily a bad thing that players will find ways to optimize gameplay? If they're dedicated enough to figure it out, don't they deserve some benefit? The trick here is to give players more than one obvious choice (i.e. in WoW, there were only a handful of good talent builds, you were stupid and a n00b if you didn't follow them). This is going to depend heavily on game design though, so I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Success requires no explanation. Failure allows none.