Has the “tank” concept passed its sell-by date?

There’s a lot of big thinking going on at the moment. With a number of new games on the horizon, and a certain amount of suprise about how much some of them don’t seem to be breaking the mold (SWTOR – although we shall see…), a lot of people are starting to look at the old, tired WoW/EQ model and asking what really, really big changes we could make to make it work better.

Matthew Rossi is WoW Insider’s warrior columnist, and has been writing about tanks and tanking for years now. He loves tanking, and he makes no bones about it. Which is why he’s such an interesting person to be making today’s Big Suggestion: that maybe the “tank” concept has passed its sell-by date :

“While healing makes a certain amount of sense to people who’ve played other games, the idea of the tanking figure is fairly unique to the MMO genre and has more or less existed in that genre to help make up for the games’ lack of intelligence. The original tank and spank encounters were designed around the idea that the game needed help to decide who the monsters would be hitting. After all, their roots are in pen and paper RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, but there’s no game master to tell the monsters what to do.

With modern encounter design often varying wildly from this formula, one of the reasons for the tanking role has been changed or removed.”

As expected, Matthew goes through the arguments with some flair and a good deal of thoroughness. His points on tanking essentially being a legacy workaround are particularly good, and the idea of opening up tanking to more classes is very appealing – I used to tank instances with my pet as a hunter in Vanilla, and if there was that option again, I’d go back to it like a shot.

(So to speak).

Personally, I like tanking. Whilst it evolved as a workaround for crappy AI, it’s become a fun and challenging part of the game – and, in some ways, the most PvP element of PvE, which also makes it the fastest-evolving and least predictable, at least in a 5-man environment. (“OK, so I think I’ve got everything – OH GOD, what is the mage doing? And now there are adds on the healer! And the warrior’s just popped Bladestorm” – cue frantic keyspamming). I love it. But it’s clear I’m in a minority.

Maybe what’s needed is a new, optional role for those of us with the wierd personality quirk that makes us like tanking, and a tank-free environment for everyone else?

Do you think it’s time to retire the tank? And can you think of a way to satisfy the wierdos who actually like the role?

_Quote taken directly from Matthew Rossi’s column .

Find Matthew Rossi’s writing on WoW Insider at http://wow.joystiq.com/bloggers/matthew-rossi/_