A Combined Arms Approach?

All hands on deck, we live or we die
Together, together
No matter how far we fall apart,
We bleed together….

-Young Guns

As someone who spent more than 20 years in the US Army, the question is an old one: What’s the best branch in the Army? The infantry guys claim you can’t win without them, the field artillery claims to be the King of Battle, tankers boast about the ridiculous firepower of their ceramic armored steeds and the airborne troops (literally) look down on pretty much everyone. So who’s right? Who IS the best in the Army? The answer, the real answer without any bravado or swagger or posturing, is the same as a parent’s answer to their kids when asked which one they love the most: “I love you all. Differently.” And, to a smart commander, you know need them all on the battlefield if you want to win.


Army Influences

The principle of combined arms operations, that is, using different types of soldiers in roles that make up for each other’s weaknesses, is a staple of officer training in the US Army. You can LEVEL a village with a tank, but you can’t TAKE a village with them. Infantry is great for urban areas, but covering huge stretches of open ground? Not wise. Of course air power, in the form of helicopters and aircraft are great, IF you can protect them from things that shoot them down, which are usually land-based.

These principles won’t be news to anyone who has played a real-time strategy (RTS) game before. RTS’s are great for illustrating the importance of fielding a flexible force whose units complement each other. Some units are swift and a bit soft, others slow and pack a punch like Mike Tyson in his heyday. If you’ve ever played any of the Command and Conquer series, you know what happens if you fail to protect your air defense elements with infantry or tanks on the ground; your ADA units go down, and the skies open up…with fire. Even MMOs like World of Warcraft depend on a form of combined arms doctrine. Think about party make up for instances and raids: Heals. Tank. DPS. Starting to get the picture?


Balancing Fireteams

So what does all this have to do with Destiny? Bungie is clearly trying to create a game that emphasizes and reinforces the social and cooperative dimensions of the game. They want us grouping together and working to solve the problems that they’re busily coding up in Seattle. To that end, they have to find a way of getting us to choose being in a group. One way of rewarding us for doing so will be…not dying. So it seems likely that while we’ll all have our favorite ways of playing, and exploring what it takes to win with whatever class play-style we choose, there will be places and times where we may need the advantage another class brings to the battlefield. At this point, it looks like Titans will bring lots of power and be able to take a lot of damage in a toe-to-toe fight, while Hunters are depending on speed and stealth for their solo survivability, Bungie keeps making reference to the fact that Warlocks use Traveler-based powers to their advantage but to date we only know a little bit about the powers each class brings.

It seems unlikely that Bungie will lock us in to a rigid class requirement the way that WoW has for instances, but there surely will be some way of insuring that a balanced group of Guardians is more lethal than the sum of its parts. The key to all of this is exactly that: balance. Bungie has to make sure that each class and race are better at a few things, without being fantastic at everything.

One final thought: while the grunts and the tankers and all the burly he-men of the Army like to argue about what amazing things they can do, and how they don’t really need another branch to win, I’ve never met an infantryman that didn’t need to eat, or a tanker that didn’t start crying when his giant metal ride ran out of fuel. And everyone, everyone likes to get paid. So the Quartermaster, Finance and the Adjutant General all have their places on the battlefield too. I’m just not sure Bungie needs to worry about coding a class that does paperwork…yet.