Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Solving the Tank Problem

Blizzard unveiled a new system to bribe incentivize tanks to run random heroics.

Everyone else will probably be commenting on it in greater detail. My take is that it is a reasonable experiment. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't. Also, the single best comment on this system comes from Martinel, posted on WoW Insider:
Well. Rogues, mages, warlocks, and hunters...being pure DPS classes, they won't really be eligible for this, will they?

I guess you could call this a hybrid tax...



But seriously, how would you solve the tank problem for real? The truth is that, in every trinity MMO I've played, save one, the tank has been the limiting factor.

Maybe it would be instructive to look at the one game that was different: Age of Conan. To me, Age of Conan tanking seemed pretty hard, so it was quite surprising that you could find tanks.

After ruminating on it, I've come to the conclusion that the key difference was that Age of Conan required two tanks. At first this seems counter-intuitive, how can requiring more tanks for a harder job make it easier to find tanks?

But players have always cited the responsibility of tanking as a key factor in keeping people from tanking. Perhaps people are more willing to tank if they know that the responsibility will be shared, that there will be another tank in the group to help you.

And it's not really that hard to have another tank in the mix. You tank X, I tank Skull. You get the boss, I get the adds. I have better gear, so I'll tank the boss and you can watch and learn from me and do a little DPS. It's easier in instances than raids, because it's really not worth wasting time swapping out a tank for a single fight if you will just need to get them back again.

Healing could also benefit from having two healers, depending on how you heal. If healing is a little more passive, so the healers aren't constantly stepping on each others toes. I'm less sure of this, because AoC required two healers, but healers were pretty rare.

So maybe the proper group would be 2 tanks, 2 healers, and 2 DPS. Or maybe instead of DPS, have 2 Crowd Control, and have all three roles put out roughly equivalent damage. And design the class system to match that ratio, rather than having 50%+ DPS classes/specs.


  1. I don't think this will balance things, and suspect that rewarding non-tanks will make dps become even more expecting of a quality delivery on their terms. After all teh tank is being paid extra isn't he? dps already frustrate me with their attitude, and I hope I'm wrong and it works.

    They should also implement role based exclusion on rolling on gear, so that the dps gear can only be rolled need by the people who are dps. This means the tanks will get first choice on tank gear.

    Having a 2nd Tank is a really interesting idea, especially if the off-tank in a 5 man is well geared as dps, with a good spec. They can "burst tank" when needed and maybe still provide reasonable dps.

    I might suggest that to some guildies and try it.

  2. Blizzard is wrong about believing it’s motivational issue. It’s simply inability issue. Retards can’t tank. They can’t DD either but as there are 3 DDs in a group they can hope to be carried.

    This “fix” is worse than the 1800 honor for TB assault one. We all know what kind of players are interested in pets and mounts. LFD will have lot of tanks. But not any that is better than a Voidwalker.

  3. The best "fix" is to go back to a wrath style system. I've lamented every single person that EVER talked smack about heroics being "too easy" in wrath, knowing full well cataclysm would simply turn out like the 3.3 5-mans.

    Oh sure, it was fun at first, a CHALLENGE! Something to cut your teeth on! Then you realized you still had to do a full daily for those precious frost badges er, valor points, and you wished for an easier instance to mow through. To just, "get it done with".

    I used to enjoy tanking, I really did. But blizz reintroduced my least favorite part of BC tanking: the tank has to mark crap. The tank has to know the CC of all the classes AND decide which CC is best for which mob in a pull, all of which takes time and experience. AND the dps has to follow the marks set by the tank (HAHA!). No, in this age of dungeon finders the lowest common denominator MUST always win or nobody does.

    No, the wow community brought this on themselves with their incessant whining about 'difficulty" and "casuals" and I laugh each and every time they complain now.

  4. Interesting. I haven't tanked in Cata yet but I did back in Wrath (I wanted something challenging) and I was quite surprised that tanking raids was much easier and relaxing than 5-mans. I think the fact raids usually have a raid leader is one of the causes (another is that raids have less trash per boss than 5-mans and keeping my TPS on a single target is much easier for me). In dungeons the tank has to lead, mark, tank multiple targets and watch out for players who are either too slow or too impatient.

    While I find Kalamadea's post easy to disagree with due to overblown statements, one thing s/he said I agree with:
    The tank has to know the CC of all the classes AND decide which CC is best for which mob in a pull [a.k.a. lead the party], all of which takes time and experience.

    One thing we all can do is to make sure the dungeon environment is newbie-friendly. For some reason, many players are unwilling to say they're still learning and would welcome any help, instead they're like: Learning? Who? Me? Oh, I see, it's still 1st of April in your country, ohahaha, it was pretty funny! Of course I did it the right way, it was someone/thing else's fault.

    If the "I know everything" player is a DPS, it's not immediately obvious as there are 2 more DPSers (and tank who does a bit DPS too) to cover their mistakes, but tanks are not only expected to tank but to lead the party as well...

  5. ...and I think if the others would be more willing to help the tank - or even admit that everyone started knowing nothing so it's OK but not asking is something really bad, people would be more likely to admit they need help.

  6. They should just get rid of the concept of single role classes.

  7. The irony of DPS being pissed at this is that the whole "fix" is to help DPS by lowering the queue times. I'm a healer, and I'm not really that concerned about this since I pretty much overgear heroics and can keep a tank alive unless they're completely retarded.

    As for all the problems in general with PUGs, I've come to realize that it's not really about the tank, or the healer, or the DPS. I heard all the horror stories from everyone, but I've only left a PUG once, and I've done a lot of them. I figured a good healer could keep any group up, but I noticed that runs with my DPS DK also went well. I'm now starting to think that leadership/guidance is what holds most PUGs back. Since I'm a raidleader in my guild and also have real life leader experience, I just naturally take charge in a run if the tank doesn't. Ask if everyone knows tactics, explains what went wrong if we wipe, and what to improve and so on. I think I should really try a few runs without saying a word, just to see if there is any difference.

  8. I agree with Kring, they should move away from the single-role classes. I think it would be both fun and challenging to spread the responsibility around amongst all the group members.

  9. I honestly don't see this as fixing anything. Cataclysm was supposed to shoulder some of the responsibility onto healers; opposed to purely tanks.

    One of the comments that you read quite a bit during beta and int he beginning of Cataclysm was that the tank/healer had to shoulder more of the responsibility of ensuring success.

    You have DPS who don't CC. Tanks/healers who wear PVP gear, because they don't want to gear up properly.

    Let's be honest about it: the LFD tool was not made for Cataclsym type content; it was implemented when content was at it's easiest and people were making PuGs within a matter of weeks, not months, of blizzard releasing it.

    The entire LFD system should be scrapped or entirely overhauled to improve their algorithms of finding matches to also include gems/enchants. It should not allow you to que up if your pieces have any Resilience.

    There was no issue with a tank shortage when you looked for a tank on your own realm; this only became an issue when everyone started to use the LFD tool; opposed to spending some time looking for one on your own realm. I honestly thought we were supposed to go back to that time.

    More pets/mounts won't make me heal/tank a LFD heroic; not until they fix the underlying issues with the entire system.

  10. On the two tank design, I found it interesting that the Old Republic demo at Pax East showed a 4 man dungeon with 2 tanks, one main tank and one off tank. In the final boss fight, there were two mobs and each tank took one.

  11. I don't think there is any problem to fix.

    I view the in-game tool as an option for people without guilds or don't have an in-game social circle. Even on my tank I rarely go it alone. First step is to see if anyone in guild wants to run, usually that's what happens. The LFD fills in missing spots only if there are any.

    Yeah, if you are not a tank, don't know any tanks, and don't have a guild, you will have to wait in a queue. I don't see this as a huge problem. It's a backup system, nothing more.

    It's all the more reason to join a guild, which to me is what an mmo is all about. I believe playing with friends makes the game more enjoyable anyway.

  12. If Blizz were to make a race-style instance of 3 dps vs. 3 dps with no PvP element that was only accessible through the LFD tool (so it would only kick in if there was a shortage of tanks), dps would be in short supply or balanced. On top of that, it would force some of the dps who currently don't have the skills to develop the ability to manage their aggro and use cc or die, resetting the run if they wipe (think early days of VH when this happened every now and again). This doesn't reward those in short supply and, if made sufficiently challenging, could benefit the part of the community that folks like Gevlon have identified as the weak link.

  13. What I'm not keen on is that it's encouraging tanks to jump into LDF solo. The husband's only just started tanking heroics on his DK and he really would rather run with friends and guildies while he gets more comfortable in the role. Of course, the system doesn't prevent him from doing it, but if he wants to extend a hand to a guildie DPS for a quicker heroic queue, his generosity doesn't warrant any material benefits from Blizzard -- only if he sucks it up and deals with any number of random scrubs instead.

  14. Cygnia, the idea is not to reward tanks. Why should tanks be rewarded?

    The idea is to reward those who make the queue shorter. Dragging a guildie to the front of the DD line isn't making the queue shorter and therefore isn't rewarded.

  15. Personally I've always believed, that for the most part, there are a tank of tanks in heroics because you simply don't need as many tanks as you do healers and DPS. In a 5m, you need 1, in 10m, 2, and even in 25m, usually 2; some encounters are even 1 tank.

    Why in the world would players gear up a tank if they never got to tank in a raiding environment? Also, I can agree that most MMO players aren't ones that like taking the lead/responsibility, and that fail DPS make tanking a harder job, but I believe the main issue is one I first stated.

  16. ffxi parties would often benefit what was called an "off-tank"

    not so equally much sharing responsibility but being available to intermittently cover.

    But then again ffxi parties often have a job that can also backup heal if needs be. the fundamental advantage in ffxi parties is flexibility.

    1 tank and 1 healer and 3 people can only do dps is fundamentally inflexible. The tank is most at the mercy of inflexibility cos he's the one that's going to die first.

  17. Personally, playing a hunter main myself, I do dislike this system. I do collect mounts and pets, and I find it disrespectful to the time that I have to devote every day for my *one* chance at at a drop, usually after having to travel to said instance and then run through the entirety of it. The sights and sounds of Stratholme get old after a while! Granted, the tanks and healers will get multiple chances at all the included mounts, so it's no guarantee they'd get the one they want; but the fact remains that as a dps main, I will still only get one chance per mount a day.

    I completely agree that a large majority of the problems with LFD groups IS the dps. They've had 85 levels to learn their class and their respective CC abilities and defensive cooldowns. they are not just shiny icons Blizzard gave you to put on your bars. I expect any dps to be able to target a certain mob and click the appropriate button. But at the same time, many of the LFD groups I have been in have been with tanks who couldn't be bothered to mark and would repeatedly throw themselves at groups and bosses regardless of the fact that something was not working. As the tank, it's your responsibility to direct the flow of the group, because you are the one pulling.

    I understand the whole concept was to help poor lowly dps like me to get shorter queue times- but I just don't think this will help. We're likely to see an upsurge in the number of fail tanks who are only in it for the extra gold they can get, who eventually drop out because they cannot complete any dungeons. And at the same time, setting up one or two specs to be 'better' and 'more important' than the others is heading down a bad road.

  18. I'm not sure what will solve the tanking que times. I don' think this is it. This might initially shorten it for a while.

    All in all this won't drive the tanks who want to take becuse they enjoy tanking to the que, this is going to cause alts, os and doo doo's to start running as tanks. This will lead to more frustration by DPS and cause even more backlash.

    I appluad Blizz for trying, I don't think this is the right thing thou.

  19. In retrospect, I think I should have made a thread just to talk about the changes, instead of going off on a tangent.

  20. I've always loved tanking; it's in my blood. I've always played a Paladin in every MMRPG, and I love taking on the role of the leader of the group. I feel this is really ideally suited to the Paladin, everything about the class exudes leadership (except maybe you wussy Holy spec paladins :P j/k) So this is just icing on the cake as all I ever do is tank, pretty much! Bring on the extra rewards, I say!

  21. To be honest, this feels like a "Gevlon" (of the Greedy Goblin) solution to the problem. When I first read him, I didn't really like what he was doing. However, he's achieved enormous success and has converted me from a disbeliever to a believer.

    It's sad that people require such extrinsic motivations to be responsible, but it's the nature of the beast, I'm afraid. Some of us want the challenge and want to learn and improve and are intrinsically motivated to be a better player. A vast majority of people, though, aren't. To fill the gap between the amount of tanks needed and the amount of tanks available, a band-aid, bribery solution has been presented that will probably be extremely successful. It doesn't make my heart happy, but it will probably work.

  22. I gave up on the random dungeon finder some time back. To my mind the problem is that there is very little consequence for being a jerk and no incentive at all for leading, teaching, patience, etc.

    I would much rather see some sort of a player reputation system. At the end of a random dungeon, I should get a chance to say whether I liked grouping with an individual or not. Answering yes awards a point, no subtracts one. Players who queued together cannot vote for or against each other.

    The random dungeon finder then takes your reputation into account when assigning groups so that players with similar reputation scores (maybe within a range) are grouped together. Jerks then only get to play with other jerks (a punishment that fits the crime).

  23. The reason AoC had a good mix of classes was in part due to the talent system.

    Each of the four archetypes (Soldier, Healer, Rogue and Caster) had one archetype specific tree and two unique class specific trees. The archetype tree would determine your role and your class trees would determine your playstyle.

    For example, I played a Guardian and was able to use the same Soldier talents and tank both tiers (I quit just as Tier 3 was released) in either Juggernaut (Sword and Board) or Tempest (Polearm) spec. Changing Stances / Manoeuvres and Stratagems would then allow me to DPS as well as any of the other classes.

    By tweaking the points in the Soldier tree I could increase my damage or my mitigation stats or could build a reasonable hybrid.

    It was th esame with healing - one shared Healer tree and two class specific trees. Typically one would would enable helaing to be converted to damage and one would enable damage to be converted to healing.

    This meant that the DPS also had their own specific roles to play outside pure DPS.

    Giving DPS abilities which are required for a boss (e.g. only DPS classes had instant minion kills which were required on a number of boss fights) put as much pressure (if not more in some cases) on the DPS to perform.

    It was a rare event that our Tempest of Set healers didn't top the damage meters and our tanks were regularly out-DPS'ing some of the "DPS" classes.

    If Blizzard are serious about having more tanks and healers then enabling them in such a way would go a long way towards ths goal.

  24. Kalamadea No thanks, I like the harder heroics, the only thing is they are not as hard as promised. Its hard for tank, and its hard for the healer if the dps/tank screw up but for the dps apart from the need to cc/interupt occasionally its no different. So why not play a dps?

    I think it will help a little, in wrath I had 3 tanks and tanked for pugs on all 3. In cata I have one and I dont tanks for pugs. I tank for guild groups even its only 1-2 times a week.

  25. Better idea...add a BOA consumable that jumps a toon 30 minutes forwards in the queue. So, any tank can run a heroic and then instaqueue their dps main.