Friday, April 8, 2011

Tank Solution: Larger Groups, More DPS Slots?

Tank motivation is a pretty popular topic in the wake of Blizzard's latest bright idea, so here's a quick drive-by musing for folks, so here's a drive-by discussion point. 

Rohan suggests that distributing the responsibility of the tanking (and healing) roles among multiple players might lessen the pressure and therefore make players more willing to tank. He suggests that 2 tanks, 2 healers and 2 DPS might work.  Chris@Game By Night's experience with public rift groups suggests otherwise, as players would rather wipe and fail than switch over to healing, even when most classes have passive healing options that play almost identically to DPS. 

What if we went in the opposite direction?  The current holy trinity calls for 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3-4 DPS, but it seems that far more than 60% of players only want to DPS.  If you're not going to blow up the entire holy trinity/aggro concept (which no current aggro-based game can do in a patch), and you can't convince players to move over to the tank category, why not change the numbers to match how players actually behave?  Perhaps 1 tank, 2 healers, and 7 DPS would reflect the actual preferences of the population. 

There are problems to overcome.  That said, pretty much all of these games already offer a raiding format that is about twice as large as the default group but only utilities a single tank - if anything, this would lessen the degree to which single group content fosters 2-4 times more tanks than there are slots for in raids. 



  1. I would agree that one of the biggest problems in terms of small-group content versus raid content is the ratio of tanks, to healers, to DPS. Character flexibility options like multiple specs has actually made this problem worse, as now a raid can carry a single "main tank" using his tanking spec all the time, while other "off tanks" can run DPS (or even healing) specs. So you go from 1:5, to 1:10, or even 1:25.

    The problem with simply increasing the number of DPS slots in a group, is that it would require an almost total, and fundamental shift in design for many of the current MMO's. The small group format is based on a specific formula. To alter it would change that entire aspect of the game, a decision not to be taken lightly, or accomplished easily.

    Even if this were done, I am not sure it would "fix" anything. The mechanics of tanking in most games would not change. The number of people willing to fill that role would not change. There might be a minimal improvement in queue times as four or five people get pulled out at a time as opposed to three, but the cumulative impact would likely be negligible.

    With the current generation of MMO's and the way their grouping and combat engines are designed, I really don't see a significant "fix" to this issue. It would all require large, fundamental changes to the way groups, roles, and combat are defined in a game.

  2. I believe changing the required ratio wont fix anything. Either tanking needs to be more attractive or dps less.

    People like dps because it has less stress and its easier to measure your epeen. I would rather see the role of dps to become as complex and critical as the other two roles.

    Lots of quick dps switches to prevent deaths (like saurfang heroic but more regular) that can't be solved by tanks or healers. And more kiting etc. Tunnelling dps shouldn't be an option.

    Find a common way to compare everyone's performance - deaths prevented or something. So that a healer and dps can be compared.

  3. What makes me avoid LFG is dealing with jackass players. The more players in a random group, the more chance of one of them being a jackass. Doubling the number of players in the group halves my desire to tank randoms.

    . . . . which is already low enough that the bribe bag won't cut it.

  4. I might be wrong regarding Chris's post but I'm not sure whether he - and other Rift bloggers who notices this problem - wrote what you think they did. Chris's group in particular had no healer so the one who'd step up would be a single healer. And I believe this is exactly what Rohan is talking about.

    I've forgotten who had a post on 3 kinds of game mechanics a couple of months ago but I believe it can help understanding why the lack of tanks and healers is such a problem in 5-mans.
    The mechanics are:
    1) mechanics that stress the best players allowing them to carry their group through this particular mechanic (e. g. the Foe reaver's robot vehicle)
    2) mechanics that stress the average player allowing the better-than-average to carry the underperformers (e. g. an enrage timer which requires the average DPS to be at least XXX)
    3) mechanics that stress the worst players (either by stressing ALL players or choosing one randomly) so everyone must be at the top of their game to get through it

    The third group is very exclusive as everyone must be on top of their game. This might be a problem for players thinking about running dungeons - they might have doubts about their groupmates' abilities (most of the people are OK but there is a couple of bad apples) or just not want to be stressed by having to perform themselves. Blizzard designers know this and the third group of mechanics is mostly limited to raid which are considered to be playgrounds for people who want to be stressed while playing.

    However, here comes the "but": There is a single healer and a single tank so every mechanic from the 2nd group turns into a 3rd group mechanic. There are 3 DPSers - or rather 3 and a half as tank does DPS too - so this doesn't happen for them. So players worried about their ability to perform will gravitate to DPS role because this allows their (possibly) better groupmates to help them when they do a mistake.

    I think Rohan argues that by allowing the same for tanks and healers their numbers would increase. (Also, denying DPSers the privilege would increase the ratio of tanks+healers vs. DPSers.) There are other suggestions trying to reach the same effect - such as rewarding DPSers extra instead of tanks ("You're getting extra paid so you better make sure your performance reflects this or the kick will be swift and without mercy").

    Regarding your proposal, I think it might help - although the questions are, how would the ratio of roles change? And what is the ratio now? Regarding the latter, it's hard to say as the LFD tool obscures this but based on my experience pre-LFD, the number of DPSers would have to be increased more than two-fold or they would still have a long queue. How much would the groups need to grow in order to ensure the DPSers' queue is not as huge as it is now? (I do realize that compared to pre-LFD the queue is short but I don't think anyone compares the LFD queue to what we had to endure before the LFD tool was introduced.)

    I think you wouldn't do anything about what makes DPSing so popular compared to other roles but I agree this does not need something to be done about it - even if I think it'd be for better.

  5. There should be downside to picking a less responsible role such as more competition between dps.

    but isn't the problem that tanks exist but aren't pugging. One should address that situation directly.

    Although I think the main problem is lack of flexibility in groups. In my experience in other games people will stay in groups that perform less optimally but stay alive. Wow groups seem to be either succeed or die a lot. There's nothing in between.

    Since fixed roles exist, the only option is to make dps more flexible. however given dps inherent selfishness.If they had a choice they'd avoid group-helpful options.

    probably the only way to create hybrid dps classes. so a party might be 1 tank 1 healer 1 hybrid dps + 2 pure dps.

    which also creates the possibility that a parties need not be so fixed.

  6. You already named it, it's a generic problem of the "trinity". Unfortunately I have the gut feeling not even Guild Wars 2 will really make it go away.

    Thinking about LOTRO: No "tank" is needed. Champions can tank everything outside of raids in their - received heal/no blocknig etc. +dps stance. This has the not so funny side effect that the need for a true Guardian/Warden Tank for such situations is not given, for example "turtle" runs are all about DPS, no real tanking needed.

    Right now the "no tanks" situation is more a "tanking in WoW" discussion. And that despite dual specs?

    Actually people should be able to switch to tank mode, DKs, Paladins, Druid Bears... the thing is they don't want to. Probably not even if you bribe them.

    There you got it. Tanking is not fun to most people nowadays. There is no fix for that! Just design future MMOs without the 1 tank + X DPS bashing a boss, occasionally an off-tank needed for adds mentality.

  7. The problem with trying to add more people to the instance is that even if you recalibrate enemy health pools, the added people will render 5 man level mechanics trivial, and designing more complex encounters to deal with that issue winds up throwing you in the situation of a Looking for raid browser. Imagine queueing up, and getting... Magmaw as your daily, with a bunch of the 4k dps jokes that LFD seems to keep tucked away in a back room just for your queue. Good luck getting your VP today.

  8. I'm wondering whether what's needed is a whole bunch of Tank content for solo Tanks. Stuff that can only be completed through the use of Tank skills and can't be DPS'd through, so people have a place to gain some confidence that they perform the role without making an embaressment of themselves in front of a bunch of (possibly highly judgemental) complete strangers.

    Same with solo Healing content for Healers.

    After all, a new potential DPS'er thinks he knows how to DPS because he reckons he's been practicing his DPS all through the solo content.

    On the other hand the Tank-curious and Healer-curious know they don't know how to Tank or Heal because they reckon they've *also* been practicing their DPS all through the solo content. Best stick with DPS and not risk the possible public humiliation of making the claim that you can Tank or Heal and then finding you can't back it up.

  9. I don't think comparing rift groups which are formed on the fly from whoever happens to be in the area to a group formed for the express purpose of completing a dungeon is fair.

    The rift groups (groups formed to close a rift) are assembled as people come into range of the rift and are comprised of individuals who were out solo'ing or maybe duo'ing quests. Thus they will be using much different skill sets than they would if they were if grouped. In a game where you can easily switch from one spec to another you wouldn't really expect to run into anyone out questing in a tank or healer role. Plus the rifts tend to be very easy to deal with and not require much coordination or strategy on the part of the players and the death penalty is extremely lax making failure very unlikely. In the rare instance where a rift does turn out to be mildly difficult you will see people switching to tank and healer roles after a wipe but it should be no surprise that this is not the default action.

    When forming a group for a dungeon on the other hand you are looking at content that is much more challenging and in which each player has a greater stake in the outcome. The players will expect that the group will be maintained from start to finish and not have players dropping in and out every minute or so and so will be far more likely to take on one of the traditional roles knowing that whatever weaknesses it may have the others in the group will be making up for which is absolutely not true of the ad hoc groups in rifts.

  10. It's an interesting idea, but consider the breadth of changes to game mechanics that would be necessary. I can't imagine Blizzard implementing this in WoW. Perhaps in their next MMO?

  11. From a healers perspective, currently the main issue with no tanks quesing boils down to something completely different then what most here post.

    The problem is, and has always been, the DD players.

    In wrath content a decent tank and healer combo could carry all dps players through the easier content. Not untill they hit raids, ( and the harder ones at that ) did the performance of the DD players matter at all ( this is late expansion and doesn't reflect the DD players that went through all the stuff pre nerfs and welfare epics.

    In cata content, i as a healer can pretty much still fix all the mistakes of the DD players in a normal instance, but on HC instance they need to pull their part aswell. Move from aoe damage, kite properly, burn adds fast. etc, unfortunately in LFD groups there are always 1 / 2 DD players that do not follow the tactics. Explaining it in advance won't work, they won't change their attitude untill they've wiped 4 / 5 times on the same fight. And then all of a sudden it comes together.

    Next to that, tanks are constantely losing aggro to melee dps, ( the ranged ones die when this happens so they're less of a problem ) This causes more stress for the healer and tank. Its not faulty tanking, but faulty DD play again, they're simply not hitting the right target, but instead focussing on an add and offtanking that themselves.

    Tanking itself, knowing the tactics holding the aggro, marking the mobs isn't what is holding tanks back from LFD. It is instead the abysmal performance and the blatant refusal of certain DD players to play the group content in the way its intended. There is no problem in "hit skull, then hit X, and do not hit moon at all" Yet every group has a player that is offtanking moon instead of letting it stay a sheep.

    And when a wipe occurs, because of a bad pull, or failure to attack the right target its blamed on the healer. If the healer manages to dodge the blaim by pointing out the ridiculous of avoidable damage being taken and the aggro that DD player had, its blamed on the tank. Neither healer nor Tank can do his job properly if the DD will not perform up to measure. And being made responsible for their failure as is the current attitude is what keeps us away from those groups. Unlike DD players we can get all our dungeoning needs satisfied without relying on LFD. And those DD we team up with aren't found in there anymore either. Leaving just the dregs in there wich dissapoints even more tanks and healers, and encourages them to find an alternative aswell.

    If all DD in those dungeons would perform, and give us a run that isn't a massive stressfest every second pull, we'd still be in there. I'm still healing those HC's on LFD, but i'm getting more and more sick of it. If i take some decent DD's from guild i can complete a run in an hour or so. If i try LFD most of the time i end up spending two hours, having 3 / 4 DD ragequit on me, and a nifty 50 g repair bill. Bribing tanks and healers isn't what blizzard needs to do. They need to improve the quality of players in LFD, anyone who is specced a tank or healer as their mainspec loves to play dungeons. we can't quest at all compared to a DD spec, its not our motivation that is lacking, but rather the lack of a rewarding time queing in LFD. a mount or two won't fix that.

  12. Most of my characters are hybrids. I am level capped on a few, but I still prefer to DPS. Why? It's easier. Back in wrath I chain ran heroics on a few healers and stacked a lot of gear, but got burnt out kind of fast. I prefer to DPS with the knowledge that yes, it may take me 10 mins+ to get in a run. That time is fine for questing or doing dailies.

    The problem is tanking and healing pugs is too difficult for the return usually. Reg runs are fine and not bad, but heroics are just too challenging to be worth it. Unfortunately, most people (myself included) are not running heroics for challenge, they are running them to get loot.

    Personally, I think wrath had the formula about right. Raids should be challenging, people raiding usually want a challenge. But leave the 5 mans more easy mode and you'll make them far more accessible.

  13. actually the heroics are not that hard at all, get a decent group together and you can breeze through them. The failure of group cohesion, lack of proper tactics and patience that plague's LFD groups is what is causing the difficulty.

    The moment any DD player says Gogogo, while a tank and healer are attempting to discuss tactics is where it goes wrong. Regardless of what that specific player knows, he ought to be paying attention instead of trying to speed things up.

    Difficulty of the dungeons is not the fix for this, heck LFD stuff is already nerfed 15% by the luck of the draw thing, and its still one rough ride compared to any /2 trade pug, not to mention a guild run.

    force players to discover the dungeon again, and don't let anyone enter it unless they have completed it 10 times in a non LFD group. That solves this problem immediately. No more long que's, tanks and healers aplenty, since they know that the players in that group will at least have some rudimentary understanding of the tactics. And if a DD player can't complete the dungeon 10 times, he shouldn't be queing for it to begin with.

  14. With raids coming down to 10 man, perhaps Blizz should up the basic dungeon to 10 man and design for one tank.

    It seems like the dungeon finder would support fast 10 man dunegons.

  15. If you look at the SWTOR gameplay video (the one of the instance, or whatever they call it) you have a 4 person group, primary tank, primary healer, secondary tank, secondary healer, with the two secondaries being DPS classes. There is a boss fight requiring two tanks, and they simply split up, which seems to work great (there's some debate as to whether the 'group' is cheating as they are devs and their energy doesn't seem to go down, but that's whatever).

    The problem is most people don't want to have to try very hard to play an MMORPG. They are grinding already to get gear, wasting their time and energy to eventually do something cool (raid or PVP), and getting a tank or healer to 85 is boring and even more of a grind than DPS classes (not an opinion I share, but I know I am a minority). Because of this, there are a lot of DPS players. Just try to get a random at any level as a DPS in will be waiting for a longer time than healers or tanks (insta-queues). Its worse at lower levels, if not impossible (waited for 4 hours for a group on a pretty heavy server at around 40 on my healer, 5 on same server for a dps).

    Adding a sixth DPS slot would fix things a bit, but wouldn't deal with the larger issue. More tanking classes, or more DPS/Tank hybrid classes would work...maybe moving shaman into that role somehow, or rogue as a heavy avoidance tank (think ninja in FFXI)

  16. Seems to me that *more* DPS players may well mean *more* headache for the tank who can't even deal with three of 'em running around chain pulling and breaking CC and such.

    I think there's no bandaid fix. Tanking itself has to change, whether that means killing the trinity or tanking toolsets.

  17. FFXI had burn parties that went tankless. 3 to 4 DPS, one healer, one or two support. They worked because you killed faster than the enemies could damage you, and killed hundreds of enemies in chains per hour. Amazing exp but wearying. Support would pull multiple mobs, and sleep them as the dps chewed through them one at a time.

    In endgame they did burns as well. Stack bard and corsair buffs, time your DPS 2-hours, and bring down an endgame boss in under 30 seconds if all went well, with all of one tank to grab initial aggro.

    That's one way of dealing with a tank shortage.

  18. I'm afraid that I do have a solution to this, and I fear to share it as I'm afraid it will "hit the shelves" to speak sooner rather than later if I do. I feel it may be inevitable, here it is.

    The solution is to drop the holy trinity entirely. No more tanks. No more healers. ALL players are DPS and they no longer take direct damage of any kind. Instead, every single fight is timed. If you cannot defeat an enemy in a certain span of time (in effect, if you cannot do enough DPS) you lose the fight, otherwise you win.

    Sounds dumb, isn't it? What's dumb is that is EXACTLY how most players view MMOs now. The exceptions are the tanks and the healers...and, as many of us have pointed out, they are few. :(

    Good article, if it made me sad. <3

  19. If the holy trinity is to be changed so it starts looking like thade's suggestion here, i'm leaving this game for sure. I have 10 alts, all lvl 85, and the three i play most are my priest, druid, and paladin, next is my shaman, the dps classes i have i only ever play in bg's and rarely in dungeons. Its not because i have to wait on healers or tanks since i have access to those through guild. Its simply because i preferr healing in group content. I don't like the fast pace with target swapping, chasing after mobs, and all that nonsense. I preferr the greater picture, healing stuff. And in reality even as shadow i spent a lot of my time healing aswell since for some reason most healers simply can't keep up with the damage or die during the fights.

  20. Id recommend keeping tanks but id increase their survivability in dungeons slightly (not in pvp though). Damage could be increased for the tank specs that underperform (again only in pve/dungeons).

    Add more temporary tank abilities (like rogues defense buff) to dps melee so they can tank for a short period at least in a defense mode when the main tank drops or if adds need to be off-tanked.

    Make critical reduction dependent on stance which can be changed in combat even if you are in dps spec.

    All these ideas will encourage hybridization of melee/dps and encourage all melee to tank a bit occasionally but will not eliminate the main boss tank from the game.


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