So we’re bribing the tanks now

Blizzard finally caves in and pulls the Oculus maneuvre. Remember how all the whining about getting Oculus in the random dungeon finder abruptly disappeared when they added a small chance at getting a rare mount from the end boss, but only on random runs? Remember how the dungeon itself didn’t become any less annoying, but the complaints stopped anyway?

Now we get Call to Arms, which is supposed to do nothing other than bribe people into tanking dungeons. Much rejoicing to be expected from those who long ago suggested that tanks and healers are shiny and special and thus should receive special rewards compared to those filthy damage dealers who are totally exchangeable and surely contribute nothing to the success of a run.

The Oculus experience shows that this can work. Since WoW distilled itself down more and more to a purely reward oriented game, people will do everything for a reward. I would expect queue times to become shorter indeed. Not sure how much shorter though – or at what cost. It seems obvious that the club of “wanted to jump queue”, “wanted to help a friend jump queue”, “wanted to try tanking, can anyone tell me what rotation to use?” and others will get a new member in “wanted to get the mount lol”. The whole thing is about as bizarre as the demand for Blizzard to “fix the tank shortage” itself, because what’s happening here is that people who don’t want to tank or heal are being bribed into doing it anyway.

Are you happy running with a tank who doesn’t want to tank and a healer who doesn’t want to heal? Remember, their class had the spec for that role before, but they weren’t using it. Now they are. Not for the experience or because they’re interested, but for the mount. Exaggeration? Look at it this way, if you are a damage dealer and your queues became half as long as they used to be thanks to Call to Arms, that technically means that there are twice as many tanks and healers now. Which means that 50% of those available are doing something they don’t like, aren’t really interested in and consequently are probably not very good at. 50%. And that still leaves you with a 15-20 minutes queue.

The problem is not that tanking and healing are not rewarding – they are already more rewarding due to the high horse you automatically get placed upon, instant access to everything you want included. The problem is that most people find these roles boring, and not without a reason.

Healing goes from this nerve-wrecking experience with barely being able to keep people alive while going stark OOM to a ho-hum process of hardly having to do much within a few weeks of gearing. There’s only a brief period of time during which it feels “just right”, when it’s challenging but not exhausting, when you make interesting decisions rather than going through the motions or hectically jumping all over the place. And let’s not even talk about being forced to stare at little green bars for all eternity. Or actually let’s talk about it, but not now, because it’s too large a topic in itself. Healing is broken, fundamentally. A rare drop mount won’t fix it.

Tanking fun scales inversely with gear. Always has, because tanking gear is not exciting. Oh, being highly survivable is exciting. But you never know or feel what’s effecting it. When a damage dealer gets a higher crit chance, bigger numbers pop up more often on their screen and their crit-response procs trigger more often. When a tank gets more survivability stats, well, they can pull an additional mob. Which is why tanks end up overpulling, because it’s the only way to still get the kicks. And then the aforementioned healer suddenly goes from “ho-hum” to “oh my god, what just happened!?” and no one is really amused. And let’s not even talk about Vengeance.

The entire age old concept of the Holy Trinity is to blame. It comes in with the foregone assumption already that damage dealing is the “fun” role, and then introduces two other roles and offers them a Devil’s Contract: you’re going to be really good at This Essential Thing, but in return your damage MUST be rubbish and your play style WILL often be boring. Ever since, and Call to Arms is a great example, developers are mostly busy trying to coax players into signing that contract, rather than addressing the rubbish and boring parts.

Many people already enjoy many aspects of tanking and healing. Many more people could be encouraged to those or equivalent roles if the promise was interesting gameplay rather than inalienability. Everything else is merely a band-aid.

18 thoughts on “So we’re bribing the tanks now

  1. Kring

    The instant queue is already an incredible bonus. If that wasn’t enough, I doubt a non-exclusive mount will be enough to have people sign up as tank.

    I think the idea is more to bribe tanks to queue alone and not with a group and therefore reduce the queue time for all the DD who queue without a heal or tank.

    > Are you happy running with a tank who
    > doesn’t want to tank and a healer who
    > doesn’t want to heal?

    That problem already exists because you also get players who don’t want to do heroics and do them because the VP force them to run their daily. Heroics are already full with people who don’t enjoy them.

    > And let’s not even talk about being
    > forced to stare at little green bars
    > for all eternity.

    It’s not that much different then staring at your DoT timers for all eternity. Seriously, I rolled a warlock 6 years ago because I liked playing a warlock. If I wanted to watch some stupid bars for an entire fight I would have rolled a healer. Thanks for making the “rotation” overly complex, that doesn’t add to the “fun” while playing anything but patchwerk. But that’s another topic. 🙂

    A healer should be able to heal without watching bars. And a DD should be able to play flawlessly without the need for cooldown timers and DoT timers and watching if non-stacking debuffs were applied by another class or have to be applied by you. That doesn’t requires skill while playing, only skill while configuring your add-on…

    1. Rem Post author

      I think the idea is more to bribe tanks to queue alone and not with a group and therefore reduce the queue time for all the DD who queue without a heal or tank.

      And what happens to those who would have queued with those tanks to begin with? They go back to Square One. And nobody likes being in Square One.

      Re: complex rotations – I think Nils put it nicely a while ago:
      In short: agreed, “complex” doesn’t equate “engaging”.

    2. Kring

      > And what happens to those who would have
      > queued with those tanks to begin with?

      I think it’s more complex then that. There are a lot of factors. A tank might ask in /g if someone would like to join. Often people join who didn’t intend to run a heroic this evening but they change their mind because of an instant queue possibility. These people won’t join alone if you don’t ask.

      But there is a much more important factor. The only thing Blizzard cares about is to keep as many subscriptions as possible.

      At the moment as DD you have the following possibilities.
      – join LFD alone and wait 40 minutes
      – join LFD together with a healer and wait 10 minutes
      – join LFD together with a tank and get a group instantaneously.

      The people who have to wait 40 minutes are probably the ones most likely to quit the game.

      Now Blizzard can’t increase the amount of tanks (because, honestly, they suck. Tanking and healing is still dull).

      What they try to do is equalize the wait time for everyone. If everyone would join LFD alone (let’s assume you could no longer join as a group) the wait time for DD would probably be around 10 minutes for everyone. That would be the best solution for Blizzard. They are trying to bribe the tanks into joining alone and therefore equalizing the wait time for DD because they wouldn’t short cut the DD queue together with their tank.

      That will, of course, not work.

      The logical next step would be to only reward VP when you queue alone. Regardless if you’re tank, heal or DD. If you queue alone you get your daily VP. If you queue in a group you won’t get them.

      And before you say they can’t do that. They already did such a change once. Take a look at TBC. Back in TBC you got badges for running heroics. People started to only run the heroics with the best badge/time ratio. The disadvantage of this is that it was nearly impossible to run instances with a low badge/time ratio for gear.

      They fixed that by adding the daily dungeon quest which was random and you had a good chance to run the heroic which was the daily because the additional reward always put the daily heroic at the top of the badge/time ratio.

      In WotLK they changed that system in that the real badge could only be obtained through the daily heroic. All the bosses only dropped a worthless crap badge. And then they changed the daily heroic into a random heroic for the LFD.

      If you run a random heroic you got an additional reward but the price was that someone else got to pick the dungeon. And if you wanted to run Occulus, you could. The 4 poor souls which had to accompany you got rewarded with their random reward.

      Only rewarding VP for queuing alone would be the same change as the change that you can only get the VP for running a random heroic but not for running a specific one.

    3. Rem Post author

      Whoa, epic comment!

      Yes, I agree it’s the underlying goal to pull the tanks out of guild runs and into pugs. It is in fact something I was thinking about blogging about for a while: the problem is not that there are no tanks, the problem is that the tanks are perfectly served by guild runs (and if a tank can’t get a guild run on a particular day, they’re often happy to skip it, because they know they can usually get it on any other day).

      But here’s the thing: those “hey, let’s go kill something” runs with guildies on Vent, with people you know and are comfortable around (personality- and playstyle-wise) were some of the best if not the best experiences Cataclysm provided so far. Better than the raids, better than the daily grind, better than running along to the “epic” scripted story. Guild runs are what I started playing the game for, it’s what I co-founded the guild for. If Blizzard is aiming to kill guild runs as collateral damage to shortening the queue times a little … I don’t think that’s good.

    4. Kring

      Oh, and Nils post is amazing. So true.

      And “tanks would claim that more aggro is impossible” made my day. 🙂

  2. Alq

    A lot of people have also missed out on something here – something which I suspect you’ve noticed. Bottom line it’s only tanks who get this, not the healer class – because people still have to queue as healers, it’s only the tank role that’s pretty much instantaneous. So we healers get doubly screwed. Not only do we not gain anything out of it but we’re going to get stuck with those idiot “tanks” (oh, how losely I use that word) who couldn’t hold threat if it were chained to them, with less health than a wet paper bag, and WE’LL be the poor fuckers who get blamed for the wipes…..

    There have been a LOT of pissed off people over this potential action. I was pretty appalled when I first read about it, and I still am. I suspect that Blizz may end up making yet another U-turn over this decision.

    I greatly dislike the whole “must run dungeons” to grind badges for better gear – run them for drops, run them for fun, but don’t force us into having to run them because we HAVE to run a daily for our badges otherwise we can’t raid.

    1. Kring

      Once upon a time badges were planned as an alternative endgame content and they didn’t drop from raids…

      (Yes, I know that you know that. Otherwise you wouldn’t call them badges. 🙂

    2. Rem Post author

      You know, the thing is, with many people, I’m not sure how much they’d actually mind. Since my switch from tanking to DPS I’ve ventured into random dungeons maybe a dozen times, and while most of those experiences were somewhere in the range from “okay” to “perfectly fine”, the ones that were not showed me something shocking: just how much crap people are prepared from tanks.

      One particularly horrifying run was Stonecore. Now, before I carry on, I shall profoundly disclaim that I had a smile on my face throughout the whole ordeal – it was a late weekend evening, I was the only person in the guild online and decided “hey, why not” to queue for a random. I was there with the notion prepared in advance “if this fails, I just go to bed and don’t worry”.

      Anyway, the first tank rushed headlong into the first group, picking some target at random, ignoring the gnome. It was a mess. When it was over, someone asked him whether he knows the dungeon. Sure, he said, and rushed into the second group before I could finish typing my suggestion to maybe do some CC to make things easier. After that, I think someone asked him whether he knows how to tank, but he was already pulling the third pack. After the first wipe on the tire-worm we kicked him (hey, you’re either good or cooperative, you can’t be neither).

      Second tank arrives. Verbal abuse begins. Seriously abusive verbal abuse. Every little, ever so tiny mistake .. no scrap that, something that the tank chose to perceive as a mistake triggered a stream of personally directed expletives and insults. Funnily, none of it towards me – hey, I guess I’m asshole-approved. Still, the others weren’t doing anything wrong either, or tiny and inconsequential mistakes at worst. The tank was the worst player in the group, without a doubt. He pulled the 3 flayers together with the stone giant, predictably got ripped to shreds (4 things at once each of which can take away a big chunk of your health within seconds unless you can focus on it), and while I was laughing – and being ripped to shreds myself – he unleashed a tirade at the healer, who, in turn, not only didn’t do anything wrong, but did everything more than right, keeping our poorly tanked group up as well as possible. I even whispered him to assure him he’s being perfectly fine.

      At one point the tank took to insulting the others in German, suggesting that since they/we can’t understand what he says because he knows two (picture that) languages, they/we are all clearly stupid. I informed him in German, equally in party chat, that he’s being kind of a dick. He carried on telling the others that his knowledge of two languages clearly makes him a vastly superior person. Considering both languages were spoken as poorly as they were, I do have my doubts regarding that reasoning (yeah, totally only for that reason).

      Now came the funny part. Noticing that my attitude towards the tank is being a rather nonchalant one (look, I’ve been a tank for too long, and can still do it if I want/need to, so the “I don’t take shit” gene is deeply nested in me), the mage whispered me asking me not to tease the tank, seeing as he has good gear and the mage would really like to finish this dungeon, he’s been trying to get his daily random done for hours already. I informed him that my tank gear is better and yes, I could tank the rest of the dungeon if I had to. A few minutes later after yet another abusive outburst, the mage told the tank to keep it down, because there are 4 better players in the party than him. The tank rage-dropped. We got a new tank within a minute and finished the run, laughed and joked together (with the last tank) in the end and went our ways.

      I was very amused and entertained by the entire run, but equally shocked. Very much shocked how much outright abuse a mage, a hunter and a holy paladin were willing, almost happy to take from the tank as long as it got the run done. It wasn’t even going smooth, it was stumbling along awkwardly, but as long as it kept moving, they would take it, they would not speak up.

      In a way, they were selling their human dignity for badges. It was a disturbing prospect.

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  4. Lujanera

    I’d like to reply to one comment from the original post:

    “…because what’s happening here is that people who don’t want to tank or heal are being bribed into doing it anyway.”

    Drawing on my own experience and conversations I have had with other tanks, I don’t think this is quite right. It has been my observation that most tanks -like- tanking (otherwise, why not switch roles?) but they don’t like tanking in LFD.

    I also think Blizzard deserves a small amount of credit for the announced change. The tank shortage is a situation that really needs to be addressed. In the past, they’ve tried to do so by increasing the number of characters that can tank (making bears and paladins viable tanks, simplifying bear gear, introducing death knights, adding dual spec, removing +def gear) with little success. This time, however, they’ve taken a new approach by trying to get existing tanks to tank more often. The actual rewards are, in my opinion, not sufficient to have any real effect on queue times, but at least the approach is better.

    1. Rem Post author

      Oh, Blizzard certainly deserves credit. They’re using what they have learned their player-base reacts best to: a carrot on a stick. I commend them for trying. The problem is:

      “It has been my observation that most tanks -like- tanking (otherwise, why not switch roles?) but they don’t like tanking in LFD.”

      Nothing is being done to make tanks like tanking in LFD more. The steps taken are – explicitly and officially – supposed to make tanks tank in LFD regardless of whether they like it or not. The aspect I can’t help disliking about the whole affair is that it once again moves us one step closer to “playing for rewards” rather than “playing for enjoyment”.

  5. Scraddog

    I’m capable of tanking any of the current heroics, hell I even tank raid bosses when we have a tank shortage.

    Will this new shiney change get me tanking using the LFD on my own… erm let me think about that *insert darth vader style no here*

    I see no point in enetering a queue as a solo tank just for a bag which has a chance about as equal as the mob dropping it to get a mount. Heck I can farm the instances that drop those on a daily basis if I really want the mount and I will do it as dps so it takes even less time.

    This entire change is going to get people tanking who are not geared and pretty much don’t have the ability to tank and as soon as some fresh faced heroic ready tank hits a group with some raid geared dps warrior (as you know warriors have no agro dump except death) in the group they will loose threat and the wipes will happen.

    All in all I can see this change making it worse for the DPS as those that do not know nor undertstand tanking is not easy, it requires practice, knowledge and skill and it’s going to be a harsh few weeks for those that pug a lot.

    After that the tanks that should not be tanking will have been weeded out or will get better and then things will probably slide back to where we are now.

    Pessimistic? yes but thats how I view this change

    1. Kring

      I’m quite sure the current reward is only an ice breaker. I’m sure they will increase the importance of the items in this bag until enough people will tank.

    2. Rem Post author

      I’m not sure that’s feasible, though. If you over-reward the tanks (and healers) to the point where damage dealers are at a significant disadvantage .. well .. you technically return to the same state you’re in now, where damage dealers are at a significant disadvantage.

    3. Kring

      That’s an interesting point. I haven’t thought about that. But… the game was never fair. There isn’t an option to gear up your toon without raiding and raiding with a fixed schedule isn’t what everyone considers fun.

      Blizzard doesn’t care. STFU and raid.

    4. Kring

      > Then again, what would you ‘gear up’
      > for if not raiding itself? 😉

      Gear is, for many people, also a reward.

      Your question is like asking “Why should a raid achievement reward a flying mount as there isn’t a single raid dungeon in which you can use a flying mount.”

      For me gearing up a character was always the most enjoyable part of the game.

      In vanilla there were a lot of green and blue items which were better then epics. And I loved to go after those items that were the best for my char. I love spending hours over loot lists and simulationcraft trying to find the most efficient items for my char. THAT’s what’s fun for me.

      BIS lists do exist but they are irrelevant because as soon as you have BIS you’re done. The real challenge is to calculate the best combination of items from the current tier which is obtainable FOR ME and therefore getting MY PERSONAL BIS I can get with my raid.

      There’s no point in a BIS set which includes heroic end boss weapons. 🙂

      So, yes, loot is very important to me as it adds more variables to my calculations.

      Unfortunately this part of the game was killed with the ToC patch. Since then all items from the current tier are guaranteed to be better then items from the last tier and all items have the exact same amount of your primary stat.

    5. Rem Post author

      You touch an interesting tangent, and indeed I intended to write about the relative uselessness of BiS lists for a while already.

      However, regarding gear: sure, it is both tool and reward. But a reward is valued based on the activity it is awarded for. And I’ve seen way too many people (especially in LotRO) complain that their refusal to undertake any effort precludes them from obtaining the best gear. There surely is no cosmic law (that I’d know of) that the best gear must be acquired by raiding, but it is certainly not the most unfair approach, considering it combines utility, activity and reward in one area.

      What I can’t relate to is someone stating that they “need” the best gear, but don’t want to participate in endgame content. Well, if someone doesn’t want to participate in endgame content, they certainly don’t need the best gear, they at most want it. And then it’s not so much “gear up” as “pursue a personal goal”.

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