I got a long mail from a reader who is very upset about the talent spec choices of paladins, which he quoted as being "healbot, ignored and ridiculed". I'm not going to quote the letter in its entire length, as it is a bit ranty, and a bit too creative in spelling and punctuation. But he went to a lot of work collecting quotes and data from the Armoury. Did you know that 96% of the top 20 5v5 arena paladins are healing spec? And that 92% of the paladins who are exalted with Karazhan and have killed Magtheridon are holy? The quotes are from many of the top raiding guilds, who famously use paladins for healing and priests for dps. Now my highest level paladin is level 32, so I'm not an expert, but from all what I read paladins trying to tank with protection spec or deal damage with retribution spec find that they aren't very successful and nobody wants to play with them.
The underlying problem behind that is as old as Everquest: How strong should hybrid classes be? If a paladin would be as good a tank as a warrior, deal as much melee damage as a rogue, and heal as well as a priest, why would anybody want to play a warrior, rogue, or priest who only does one of these things? If you are a jack of all trades by definition you can be master of none of them. While I don't think a paladin should ever be good at dealing damage (covering three roles is just too much), I think the class could be better balanced to be able to replace either a priest or a warrior in a group that can't find one or the other. The reward for not being master of anything should be greater flexibility. Just like a druid is accepted as healer or tank, so should a paladin be able to tank better.
We discussed yesterday how a game's difficulty limits the players' freedom of choice. Certain classes being forced into certain talent specs is a typical example of that. If a raid group needs every last bit of efficiency to succeed, they aren't going to invite somebody who has chosen to concentrate on the weakest part of his class.
Of course having classes in the game that aren't great at dealing damage is a problem for PvP, where damage dealing is more important. Rumor has it that Warhammer Online will try to make all classes be equally good at damage dealing in PvP, although I have doubts that this will work. Even if you'd manage to make all classes equally good in PvP, you'll pay a price for it in PvE. You can't have a set of classes perfectly balanced in two completely different sets of circumstances without making everybody basically the same, which then would be just boring.