The flashy menaces of multiplayer games get all the love. Their flurry of sword strikes, bestial roars, and shadowy auras give the deadliest avatars an edge in popularity contests. The damage dealers may get the looks, but the true unsung heroes of class-based games are the support champions and their designers. Creating a combat role that specifically stands back from the fray, setting aside offensive prowess for ostensibly subtle benefits, but nevertheless satisfies a sizeable player base, sounds unreasonably difficult. Yet creating a niche in multiplayer gaming for the reserved and tactical group of players who prefer supporting compatriots to devastating their foes adds an incredible level of nuance to a game experience for all players. The support class remains one of the best inventions of modern multiplayer gaming.
We have come a long way from the hectic firefights of Quake. Modern shooters lean more toward tactics than twitch gameplay and advanced rocket jumps. The run-and-gun shooter is all but dead and class-based combat has soundly taken its place. From Battlefield to Borderlands, support characters and load-outs bolster the efforts of offensive warriors. Bestowing health with spells or med kits keep the damage sponges fit and healthy, revive abilities bring back fallen comrades from death, and ammo packs keep the fight moving. Similarly, MMOs are commonly built on the “one tank, one-support, and three-dps” rule, in which heavy hitters unleash damage on foes while the tank corrals enemies and soaks up hits and the healer… Well the healer stands in the background, heals, and tries not to die.