Guild Wars 2 will have no dedicated healing class, no "tanking" in the classic sense, an intermediary stage between defeat and death and almost no death penalty, developer ArenaNet has revealed.
In a radical revision of the standard combat and grouping mechanics of massively multiplayer games, every class will have healing skills, and players will still have limited combat abilities once they've been "downed".
Key to the new philosophy, the designers explained, was redefining "healing" as "support" and "tanking" as "control".
"There are no dedicated healers that do full healing. Every profession has some form of support to a greater or lesser extent, but none of them enough that they aren't also fighters," Peters told PC Gamer.
The change is partly intended to make it easier to put groups together, and partly intended to make support mechanics more fun, ArenaNet said.
"We don't like sitting around spamming 'looking for healer' to global chat," Peters said. "That feels an awful lot like preparing to have fun instead of having fun."
"What we don't have, and what we didn't want to have, was a character who stands at the back of the party and plays the 'party health bar game' - where they just look at an interface, watch health bars go down, click on a skill, click on those health bars, and that's all they do during combat," added Flannum.
Instead, support will be "proactive". "Healing is for when you are already losing. In Guild Wars 2 we prefer that you support your allies before they take a beating," Peters explained in his piece on the Guild Wars 2 website. "Other kinds of support include buffs, active defence, and cross-profession combinations."
Tanking is "the biggest break from the traditional MMO setup", he said."Tanking is the most rudimentary form of the most important combat fundamental, control... Control is the only thing versatile enough to get away from the rock-paper-scissors gameplay of other MMOs." Warriors might block projectiles or interrupt charges rather than simply soak up damage, Flannum told PC Gamer.
When your health reaches zero, rather than dying instantly you will enter "downed mode", in which you have access to four skills. One will send out an audible cry for help and make you invulnerable for a short period of time.
"Downed skills are less-powerful skills that a player can use in a last-ditch effort to turn the tide," said Peters on the Guild Wars 2 site. "A warrior might daze an enemy by throwing a rock. An elementalist might lock down their foe with Grasping Earth.
"While you are downed, if you manage to kill an enemy, you will rally, returning to life to fight again... This potential to rally from the edge of defeat adds greater drama to combat and gives a player some tactical control while in a state where they normally have none. "
Some professions will have skills allowing them to instantly rally fallen allies. "For example, when a warrior uses 'I Will Avenge You,' and then kills an enemy nearby his fallen allies, his allies will rally. While you are downed or defeated, any other player can come to you and interact with you to bring you back to life. We call this 'reviving', and everyone, regardless of profession, can do this starting at Level 1," Peters said.
Finally, the penalties for being downed, and ultimately dying, will be minimal. "Players who have recently been downed several times will take longer to revive each time. If no one revives you, you can spend a small amount of gold to come back at a waypoint," Peters said.
"It's as simple as that, and why not? Why should we debuff you, take away experience, or make you run around for five minutes as a ghost instead of letting you actually play the game? We couldn't think of a reason.
"Well, we did actually think of a reason - it just wasn't a good one. Death penalties make death in-game a more tense experience. It just isn't fun. We want to get you back into the action (fun) as quickly as possible. Defeat is the penalty; we don't have to penalize you a second time."
Radical stuff. Guild Wars 2 currently has no release date. It will be playable at the Gamescom convention in Cologne (18th to 22nd August), so watch out for more info next month.