A Beginner’s Guide to MMO PvE Content

You’ve picked up an MMO you’d like to play, you followed last week’s tips on avoiding burnout, and at long last you’ve reached maximum level…so now what do you do? This point of the game is what most MMO fans strive for: the “endgame content”. After exploring the world and gathering gear, power, and experience, it’s time to use what you’ve learned and begin tackling the game’s most challenging and epic content. Nearly every MMO will offer two choices to follow upon reaching endgame: PvE and PvP. PvE, which means “Player versus Environment” is the traditional sort of dungeon crawls and massive raids that groups of players face together in an effort to earn their game’s highest rewards. PvP, Player versus Player, is the competitive world of dueling as well as large-scale battlegrounds that offer the same fun as a good match of Halo or Dota. This week, I want to offer some solid guidelines on making the most of your PvE experience, not only at endgame, but also on your way there.

The first thing you need to understand about group content is your role in the party. Nine times out of ten, the MMO you’re playing follows the “holy trinity” of group dynamics. Depending on the class you chose to play, you will fall into one of three roles: the tank, the DPS (damage per second), or the healer. Let’s take a good look at what is required of these three roles.

Often the most challenging role, the tank is the one that takes all the hits. Tanks will wear gear that helps boost their defenses and their health pool, and tanking classes often have spells that shield themselves and their allies. If you are playing a tank, the most important element of your job is managing “aggro”, which is another way of describing the attention of your enemies. Aggro is a gameplay mechanic that determines what an enemy monster targets with its attacks. In most MMOs, being seen is the first step of aggro, but dealing damage or casting healing spells can generate aggro as well. How the tank maintains a high level of aggro is typically through the use of “taunt” attacks that are exclusive to tanks for the sole purpose of generating aggro. Warriors will use a commanding shout to get attention, while paladins shine a holy light that commands enemies attack them. If you are brave enough to volunteer to be your group’s tank, it is imperative you know how to taunt enemies. If you are doing your job, the rest of the group can do their job.

With the tank taking all the hits, the next important step is in keeping him alive. The healer is a self-explanatory role in the group. Most MMOs offer a healer that is of course magical in nature, standing at a short distance from the dangers of combat while casting waves of soothing relief to the more hands-on party members. Your priority as a healer is usually just to make sure the tank is up and alive. Sometimes the other party members will take damage on the side, and it’s possible to heal them up as well, but my advice is to keep your attention on the tank above all else. This sounds easy enough, but often the challenge comes from how you manage your own mana pool. I have seen healers that fire off their strongest shields and most potent heals only to run out of energy halfway through a boss fight. Long story short: it isn’t pretty.

While the tank is getting beaten up and the healer is watching over the group, that of course leaves the most important job: dishing out damage. The more damage you can do to the enemies, the less amount of time the tank needs to take hits and that means less work for the healer. In most groups, regardless of size, most of the party will be in charge of DPS. The DPS role also has arguably less responsibility than the other two roles, so in a lot of ways this is going to be the ideal role for beginners to get into group PvE content. As you clear dungeons and take part in raids, DPS can not only have a lot of fun killing bosses, but also learn a lot about the game so that later they are better prepared to take on the more challenging roles in the group dynamic. The only important tip I have to offer to a DPS player is this: follow the tank. Wait until the tank starts a fight, and then only hit what the tank is hitting. This makes it easier for the tank to manage aggro and that means nothing will be trying to kill you. In the event that a monster starts to attack you, run towards the tank. If you follow the lead of your tank, everything will work out just fine and you’re free to shoot fireballs and swing axes to your heart’s content.

Brewmaster is fun because booze.

Sometimes you’ll find one class can specialize in different roles. Warcraft’s Monk class can choose between all 3 roles in the holy trinity.

Now that you have mastered your role in the group and you are ready to tackle this challenging content, how do you start? For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you are playing World of Warcraft, as many MMOs follow a similar formula. You’ve just created a new character and before long in the leveling process, you unlock the ability to use the “Dungeon Finder” tool to automatically place you into a group of five based on the role you’ve chosen. When enough players have been selected to play, you are teleported to the entrance of a level-appropriate dungeon and it is up to you and your group to defeat all the bosses inside. This level of play is truly introductory. It is offered as a means of not only learning and practicing your role, but also leveling up as dungeons offer a large bonus in experience points and level-appropriate gear. While leveling up in the game, I strongly recommend you take this opportunity to expose yourself to the game’s culture and if you’re lucky you may even make some new friends in the process.

Let’s say you keep this up and eventually hit the maximum level of 100. At level 100, you unlock a new set of dungeons in the dungeon finder that are designed specifically for level 100 players. This dungeons are tuned in such a way that it is going to be a lot more challenging to clear, but the rewards are all the greater. Worry not, though. If you have been practicing the way I suggested on your way to the top, you and your party will clear without too much of a problem. The goal in playing these difficult dungeons is to earn stronger gear that you can use to increase your combat effectiveness, or “item level”. When your item level is high enough you unlock the ability to use the “Raid Finder” which operates similarly to the dungeon finder.

Grr grr grr grr

See, look at this thing. Normally Godzilla has to fight monsters like this, but without him around it’s up to us.

So, what is a raid? A raid is really just a larger dungeon. Dungeons are filled with waves of small, manageable enemies and a handful of bosses. The only difference is that until now we’ve been playing with a group of 5 players. In raids, groups get to be as large as 25 players. Bundle this with the most challenging bosses in the game, and suddenly everyone has a lot more to manage. When using the raid finder tool, you are being put into an easier version of the raid that is designed to be challenging enough for players who are learning as well as rewarding enough for those who want even better gear still. When you’ve managed to get enough gear to put the raid finder behind you it is time to seek out other raiders just like you who are ready for a bigger challenge. You still have the normal difficulty of raids to conquer, and after that heroic difficulty and mythic. It is a fantastic challenge, and one worthy of a champion such as yourself who has made it this far in the game.

If you keep these points in mind as you level up and start getting into endgame PvE, I’m sure you’ll be able to support your team just as much as they deserve. But, don’t forget: it might be someone else’s first time playing, so if you know a good tip for survival be sure to pass it along. The best part of playing PvE content is working together as a team and getting the job done.

I hope this helps you enjoy this unique and often epic genre of games. Next week, we’ll take a look at the other side of endgame content: PvP. If you have any additional questions about MMOs or other games, you can always send me a message on Twitter @TaurenItUp and I’ll be sure to help you the best I can.