Monday, April 11, 2011

Tanking: Power and Responsibility

We all know Uncle Ben's dictum: With great power comes great responsibility.

But what about the converse? Does great responsibility require great power?

In my previous post, I suggested that a Trinity game might be better off by sharing the responsibility of tanking between two people.

But perhaps we should go in the other direction and embrace the responsibility. For example, in the description of tanks, emphasize that they are the leader of the group. In a random, rather than having a separate leadership checkbox, have the tank automatically be the party leader in a random dungeon.

And give the tank's greater control over the group. As Dinaer suggests, give the tanks two votes in the vote-kick, with three votes kicking someone. Make it a little easier than the other roles for tanks to initiate vote-kicks.

Maybe there are other powers we could give the tank to help ensure a smooth run.

Having the responsibility without having the power to carry out that responsibility is a hard thing to bear. If we cannot do anything about the responsibility, maybe we can give them enough power to make it easier to shoulder that responsibility.


  1. Of course, the first thing people will say is "what about the prima donna tanks?" To which I would reply: they can only be prima donnas if they have success, whereas "gogogogog" DPS exist as good and fail players.

    In any case, as I have recently argued, the solution to the Responsibility::Enthusiasm Gap is to go back to Wrath-difficulty heroics. You know, the ones with 11 min DPS queues, no talk about responsibility, and a basic acknowledgment that heroics are daily quests, and the faster they are over the better.

  2. Great and obvious idea. However the whole point of LFD is to boost morons. Kicking the morons would defeat the purpose of the feature.

  3. I think the root of the problem is that a random cross server group can't be recreated. Back when a PUG was same server, people took the time to friend good tanks, healers and damage players in order to have personal list of potentials for a future PUG. This system worked good even when you couldn't completely fill a group with "friends" because with a core group any "randoms" added would follow any "rules" the core had for the group.

    Blizzard should consider how they can leverage the "random" grouping of players with LFG with another system that allows people to create the same sort of short-lists people used before LFG to create a PUG.

    This would allow people to move from "randoms" to organic communities of people who enjoyed playing together. It's also a logical extension to the "social networking" they are already pushing i.e. Read ID, etc.

    In the short term, a same server only selection in LFG could provide players a chance to meet new people on the same server at the cost of a longer queue time. Good way to make new friends and recruits.

  4. Thanks for the link Azuriel, couldn't agree more with you as that's basically everythign I've been saying for a while.

    Wrath heroics were fine, indeed optimal. They played to the lowest common denominator and thats what you need with LFD. You didn't HAVE to be a great tank, you could do a full run just fine with a mediocre tank, one that didn't HAVE to shoulder all the responsibility of marking targets and knowing all the CC abilities on top of worrying about positioning and dps not assisting your target.

    Heroics are NOT cutting edge progression anymore, they haven't been since the first few weeks of cataclysm. They were fun at first, challenging. You felt like you earned your gear when it dropped. Hrm, what else was EXACTLY like this? oh yeah! Icecrown 5 mans! remember those? how fun they were at first? how much nifty 232 loot dropped to gear you out? How qickly that wore off and you dreaded getting the HoR loading screen when all you wanted was the 2 frost badges when gundrak would've taken you 8 minutes start to finish? Remember how frustrating it was when the tank or the healer would drop group right as you entered and you had to wait 5 minutes for a new one? Often a few times? Yeah, now they're ALL like that. Thanks forum complainers.

    People that want responsibility will still find it in raids. I just want to have a few beers and smash internet dragons in the face with a giant sword without having to wipe to trash becuase some random person I don't know and will never meet again isn't pulling his weight.

  5. You did it, damn you, you got me blogging with all this.

    One thing I hadn't thought of before, kinda going to you're original post: control. In wrath, as a tank I had control, complete control. Responsibility yes, but moreso control. I determined the speed of the group, I determined how many groups to pull. If a mistake happened, a pat or a bad tab target and a new group came in, I could adjust and handle it. I could watch for dps attacking the wrong targets and taunt them back if I lost them.

    In cataclysm, tanks have even more responsibility, but far less controll. I CAN"T take that extra group of adds, I'll die. I CAN'T keep all those differant mobs on me when everyone's attacking differant targets, I don't have to toolbox for it anymore. And moreso, I CAN mark a kill order, or mark CC, or assign interupts, but I can't garauntee that another player will be bothered to DO those things.

    It's not about power, it's about controlling circumstances, ESPECIALLY the ones that go south. I don't remember most of my wrath heroic groups, but I remember more than a few where we pulled it out of the fire and got it done. You step into the fire in cataclysm, you're corpse running son.

  6. At the same time, there are enough stupid tanks out there who pull when the healer is drinking, who overpull and blame the healer and/or DPS, or who pull and drop group. Giving them way too much power is not a good thing.

  7. Actually I would have thought that what we have right now already shows that giving tanks more and more power doesn't really make things better. Remember back when tanks really were nothing but meat shields? When they simply couldn't hold aggro on a pull of five or heal themselves? I'm not saying that was necessarily a better game, but people learned to cooperate back then because they had to. Tanks getting better and more AoE threat just led to dps attacking sooner or even pulling for the tank. Tanks getting more self-heals and cooldowns meant that they started running into groups while the healer was drinking, because they could keep themselves up anyway. The harder Blizzard works to make tanks completely independent of everyone else, the less interested anyone becomes in actually cooperating.

  8. "The harder Blizzard works to make tanks completely independent of everyone else, the less interested anyone becomes in actually cooperating."

    THIS a thousand times!

    *IMO* when tanks can handle current content without a healer or DPS as backup, THEN they can have full control and kick whomever they want and rush in to pull too many mobs before anyone is ready, etc.

    Good luck to them and more power to them for it.

  9. I wonder if it would be possible to (in an automated fashion) come up with a tanking skill quotient. Perhaps something as simple as ((boss kills - tanks deaths - times dropped group) / dungeons entered). So presumably your most able tanks would be around 4. Of course, you'd keep these stats only for LFD groups - possibly only for those group where you pugged without a premade group.

    Then the question would be - what do we do with that number? You could give tanks a vote-kick boost based on that number. You could boost the gold or valor/justice points acquired for tanking the run based on that number. Probably the biggest help would be to force the LFD to give those solid tanks other players who had similar numbers... Or stack the groups so that a solid tank got a solid healer, two solid dps and maybe a third guy that could conceivably be carried...

  10. Keep in mind that the idea of tanks as 'leaders' is due to WoW peculiarities that don't necessarily translate to either other games or even WoW at different stages of its existence. Tanks 'lead' by virtue of the fact that they're the one who generally take the last action before engagement.

    As a result, it's simply more convenient to let them 'call the ball'.

    But when other players consistently take the last action before engagement, this is not the case. In much of Classic, the person who pulled the spawn was a CC class (Mages, for example) and determined the tempo of the dungeon.

    Indeed, in Everquest, the 'holy trinity' was actually 4 roles: Tank, Healer, DPS and CC/puller - with the last role really being the 'leader'. The tank was just some guy who waited until the spawn arrived.

  11. I think the point is that tanks would like more control. But more control over the success and smoothness of the run. The last thing tanks need is more control over other group members.

  12. Some MMO needs to have the balls to truly go back to the tabletop origins of RPGs: they NEVER had a tanking role. All the sturdy guys (fighters and *clerics* and maybe even rogues) stood up front and traded blows with the monsters, the magic-users and other rogues stood in the back row using ranged weapons. Worked just fine, no tanks at all.

  13. That's a great quote, but it also reminds me of another one: "Power corrupts". I'm not saying that tanks don't have a great deal of power and responsibility in the group, they are in charge of setting the pace of the dungeon...

    At the same time, I can't help but think of the wrath dungeons. I can't think of a single instance of the dreaded "gogogo" dps, but I had TONS of jerk tanks. The ones who basically ran through the entire instance at break neck speed, expecting you too keep up or die. They could care less for the rest of the group, didn't care if they were out pacing the healer, or ticking off their DPS with constant massive pulls. They never even bothered to check the gear of their group members to see if they could even handle the pace they set, they didn't care. Didn't matter fi you were trying to gear an alt or not. Healer runs out of mana because they pulled 3 entire rooms? That was the healers fault! How dare they interrupt the tanks pulling? You want me, the tank, to mark targets for you? That takes to long! And then they would drop group because they couldn't just blow through the instance as fast as they wanted. It doesn't matter to tanks, because they can go do a daily or two while they wait for their timer, then insta-queue again.

    Do I want to give a tank like that near complete control over my group? Of course not. I don't want to end up in a situation where it's do what I want or be kicked.

    No one should have more control over the group than anyone else. WoW is a team effort. No matter how sweet a tank or healer you are, without those DPS, chances are your probably not going to finish the instance by yourself. It's not just a random 'dungeon' it's random players as well. You are going to get bad players occasionally when you click that LFG button- that's what you are agreeing too. It sucks for the dps just as much as the healer and tank when there's an idiot in the party. But giving one person ultimate control over 4 other people in a group, and basically their time and money, is a bad idea.

  14. Maybe the root of the problem is that tanks and healers are able to cover your ass. A lot of people try to find out how far they can go. And even if they don't, the game allows for a lot of mistakes to be covered by a simple taunt. The problem with that is that additional fun for one player always comes at the cost of reduced fun for another player.

    Imagine the following changes to the game rule.

    1. You cannot gain health from other players healing spells while you have aggro/while you take single target damage. This rule is removed if you select the tank tree of your class.

    Reason: Healers cannot cover your ass if you choose to play stupid.

    2. All tauns are removed from the game.

    It's a stupid concept anyway, nothing was wring with "5 sunders".

    Reason: Tanks cannot cover your ass if you choose to play stupid.

    3. When a mob is engaged by a player, the player who pulled the mob gains a huge amount of initial aggro.

    It's not unresonable to expect a mob to be angry on the first person he notices. Tanks won't have a provlem to tank whatever they've pulled as it'll stick to them for some time because of initial aggro.

    Reason: Tanks pull. If a DD pulls, he has to tank it because the tank can't taunt it because there are no taunts.

    I think these small changes to the rules should change the way the community will play the game because they have to. Everyone would be forced to play responsible and as a group to be succesful.

    - You will not get aggro or die, there's no way to prevent that by the tank or healer because of these rules. Learn to control your aggro.
    - You will not jump around in front of the tank. If you add anything you will die, there's no way to prevent that by the tank or healer because of these rules. Learn to keep formation.
    - You will not pull additional mobs. if you do, you will die, there's no way to prevent that by the tank or healer because of these rules.

  15. @Kring: Interesting suggestions.

    The first is somewhat clunky. I'm not sure if it would have the intended effect that you are looking for. But it is more appealing than the alternative of mobs simply hitting so hard that any DPS who pulls is dead in one shot. Yes DPS should watch their aggro, but it should not be an automatic death sentence, and they should have some tools for mitigating the consequences of it.

    The second is appealing, but I would have mixed feelings about implementing it. On the one hand it makes a lot of sense, but on the other I think making mobs (especially bosses) tauntable has given Blizzard more flexibility in designing encounter mechanics. Perhaps in a strange "twist," you could make ONLY bosses tauntable to allow for those more interesting mechanics.

    I really like your third suggestion, and I understand it is pretty much dependent on #2 being implemented. However as another commenter noted, once upon a time it was very common for DPS to initiate the pulls by using some form of crowd control. Perhaps make an exception that CC spells generate no threat? This would also be helpful in a world without taunts. If a DPS CC's a mob and tanks can't taunt, how does the tank get the attention of that mob when it comes time to kill it? The DPS did nothing "wrong" yet they are stuck with the aggro?

  16. Just a heads up, you're not meeting meta gem requirements in your heal gear

  17. Thanks Jason, didn't notice that I had dropped to only 1 yellow gem. I also lost a JC gem somewhere.

  18. Sure, Aracos and I don't think that I can come up with a solution to a years old problem in 5 minutes.

    I just gave the example to emphasize that I think that a problem of todays group play is that tanks (and healer) can completely cover for your mistakes. And because they can, we expect them to do so. And it trivializes the DD role because whatever you do, the tank can fix it.

    Back in vanilla you wouldn't attack Onyxia in phase 1 because the tank needed some threat lead. Today you can just fire an instant pyro before the tank even reached the boss and if his first hit misses... hey, he's got taunt.

    The same concept could also be achieved by giving DD spells to manage their threat. I'm not talking about the current long cooldown spells.

    e.g.: Put soul shatter on a 10s cooldown, but remove taunt from the game.