Mists of Pandaria saw the biggest shake-up of how World of Warcraft tanks are played since the beginning of the game, with the new “active mitigation” philosophy and a total change in how tanks choose their stats.
By and large, it’s been a success. But with any massive change come some issues, and right now, Paladins are staring one of those issues in the face.
Are Paladins really back in the bad old “get DPS gear” days? What are the designers to do to balance the spec without making it boring? Well, fortunately uber-theorycrafter Theck is on the case, and in this particularly fascinating piece, he covers everything from the maths behind the problem to ways that Blizzard can resolve the dichotomy that, it turns out, underlies this apparently minor problem:
“The problem we’re facing isn’t just a case of haste being too strong. It’s good, but it’s not really all that strong compared to the defensive alternatives. Hit and expertise are strong, but haste, mastery, and avoidance are all fighting for a distant third place trophy. Haste just has better fringe benefits than the others.
The real problem is that avoidance is too weak, too passive, and too boring. And to add insult to injury, it’s anti-synergistic with active mitigation stats. So if we choose gear to make our active mitigation better, it makes avoidance even less attractive to us.”
Read the rest of the article here…
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I’m always interested to read items on playing MMOs together, as a couple or a group of friends, in Real Life space. It’s a fascinating dynamic and one I’ve enjoyed for years – there’s something about being able to turn around and high-five/shout at/passionately kiss your fellow players (delete as appropriate) that the best VOIP connection in the world will never be able to match, much as I love our voice-only players too.
In particular, raiding or doing other difficult content with your partner can be a magical experience – the two of you working in unison to achieve levels of competence far beyond what you could manage on your own. And so, I was very interested to read You Yank It, You Tank It’s write-up on the experience of raiding as a two-tank couple today –
“I’ve been asked before how I can stand to co-tank with my hubby… that fulfilling the same role as their S/O drives them batty… Well the reality is that it’s quite easy for us. Being co-tanks and having been co-tanks since Naxxramas days, we’re incredibly in sync with each other. Our raid and guild leading experience only enhanced that connection. You could even say that we push each other to become better tanks. It also doesn’t hurt that hubby is the one who taught me how to tank. Yes, I learned to tank as a death knight from a paladin. [I learned the specifics of dk tanking on my own of course].
A lot of the “most annoying” or “most challenging” aspects of tanking are gone – out the window with a tank couple. Tank swaps? Not a problem. No ego to worry about on the other tank who might not be willing to share aggro. Sudden tank death? Not an issue. Hubby goofed one week and fell off Beth’s web. I hop up to manage Beth between drones while they battle rez him – just in time for him to pick up the next drone. Perfect complementing each other, magical timing, anticipating the other’s moves… And it actually feels that good. We don’t have to mark on trash, we know who’s going to pull what, when and have known for quite some time. We each have fights and areas we excel at – and one class might be better than another on some fights. We try and optimize that where we can.
Our rhythm is so good and so second nature in fact, that on our first run with the new guild we had to throttle it back… actually make some of the calls on vent and let them get a feel for how we work.”
This is an interesting piece on several levels, both for couples already playing together (who may well get tips and ideas from the article), couples considering doing so, and raid leaders or guilds who work with a couple who play together. In particular, I’d never thought of the difference in communication style between a couple and the rest of the raid – whether you’ve got a couple that just reads each others’ mind or one that communicates very freely and openly, it’s something that the rest of the raid needs to work around.
Do you raid as a couple, or have you done so?
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We’re all thinking about tanking at the moment. Does the future contain tanks? And if it doesn’t, is there anything left beyond “lol we al jus DPS”?
Is the future of MMOs an endless hell of mid-60s just-post-Wrath instances with 5 auto-healing, overpowered Death Knights?
Not at all.
Tanking as a mechanic, as Ben Sanders said yesterday , evolved in response to the earliest MMOs’ very simple AI, and the problem of not having clothies die instantly. Buncha monsters? Guy in a dress? What’s to stop them attacking him?
Well, we could implement collision detection, but that’s Hard. Or we could just give another party member the ability to change the monsters’ AI so that they only attack him or her.
And so the tank was born.
But there are a lot of other solutions to the “why doesn’t the clothie die instantly?” question, taken from other computer games, pen-and-paper roleplaying, and even practical experience with real swords. Here are four visions of the future of tanking that doesn’t look a lot like our current “Oy! Ya momma smells like cheese!” model, and frankly, could be a lot cooler…
Shove past the plate
A Live-Action Roleplaying or re-enactment fight goes a lot like this: Two lines of fighters look at each other cautiously. There’s guys with swords and shields at the front, guys with two-handed swords or spears behind them, and either archers or, if you’re in a fantasy setting, guys in cloth with big books at the back. There might be the odd guy in the brush skulking around too, but unless you’re good at that role, it’s a fast path to a long lie-down.
And then… CHARGE! Or, more usually, cautious shuffle. There’s no way you’re getting to the guys at the back, because the guys at the front are physically in the way. And trying to close fast on anyone who’s supported by a pike or a two-hander is another good way to get a nice lie-down. Instead, you’ve got to rely on your own mages/archers to open up a breach (a well-timed Fear spell can do wonders), superior combat skills (if you can take one or two of the armour-clad people down you can break through the line and go crazy with an axe amongst the guys in light armour), or occasionally a crazed charge.
In computer games, of course, there are a bunch of well-known problems with enabling collision detection, mostly to do with douchebags blocking the door to the Auction House. But those are solvable problems – possibly solvable with a “shove past” mechanic – and once you enable physical blocking, you end up with a very interesting mechanic that can enable a lot of complex interactions.
Fighters desperately blocking doorways. Rogues taking the long, hidden route around to come up behind the enemy. Mages blasting the enemy back and opening a hole in the line for the fighters to charge through. Complex, interesting tactics.
Smart mobs mean smart PCs
“Right. I’ve scouted the next room, and we’re looking at half a dozen Orc barbarians – pretty dumb critters, they’ll just attack whatever’s nearest, so paladin, you stand at the front and keep them busy. We’ve got bigger problems, though – there’s a skirmisher there who’s going to try and circle round us, so our rogues need to be watching to counter that, and they’ve got a shaman in there with a big guy in armour who looks like a warlord. They’re going to attempt to take out the weakest member of our party, so – “
“Oh, god, not the dress again.”
“Yep, that’s right. Mage, grab a shield and a sword and try to look threatening. Warrior, get in the dress already and look like you’re casting something.”
There’s no threat in PvP, and yet plenty of people seem to enjoy it. So what would happen if we rewrote monster threat to incorporate varying levels of intelligence?
Well, for starters, we’d see a lot more variety in dungeons. No longer would it be the case that everything’s either going to run toward the closest thing or the thing that did the most damage. Instead, you’d have to learn how different monsters worked – dumb monsters would just attack the nearest thing, whilst smarter monsters might try to target weak enemies or healers, hit the highest damage dealers, mob single targets or charge forward to try and get through the lines. And players would have to use PvP-like tactics to counter them – stealth until the time is right, look like a class you’re not, protect and surround the weakest of your party, bait-and-switch the monsters with situations that look tempting but are dangerous.
From my point of view, that sounds pretty damn cool.
The ogre stares at his opponents, confused – then a hole opens in the squishy humans’ group, and there’s a single human there, not wearing armour, with fire building up on its hands. He doesn’t notice the figure lurking in the shadows – instead, he growls a warcry, and charges at the weak, unarmoured creature.
He gets closer – closer – closer – and then the party’s rogue dives out of his hiding spot, slicing neatly at the ogre’s hamstrings as it charges past, ignoring him. It stumbles and falls – and the rest of the party dives upon the now-helpless creature. One down…
Dungeons And Dragons 4th Edition was heavily inspired by WoW, but didn’t want to take the “threat” mechanic across in its entirety. So the designers came up with what’s possibly its best mechanic – “Marking”.
Essentially, most melee classes have the ability to “mark” a target as theirs – focussing on it in combat. That means that they’re concentrating on it as their main opponent, and if it doesn’t concentrate on them, they can take advantage of that.
Provided that monster attacks them, it won’t be under any penalties – but if it attempts to change its focus and attack someone else, various Bad Things happen to it, from taking a bunch of Holy damage from the Paladin’s ability, to being stunned and unable to move if they’re trying to avoid a Warrior.
I rather like this approach – it’s probably the most similar idea of the ones I’m suggesting here to the existing tank idea, but it makes a whole lot more sense. You’re not insulting a monster into attacking someone else – instead, you’re engaging them and taking advantage of any distraction. It also enables a lot of interesting tactical situations, from the horde of monsters (which ones do you mark?) to the creatures that will cheerfully take the damage if they manage to maneuver to attack your clothies.
The Merlin Effect
It’s 2016, and you’re playing a WoW SuperHeroic Dungeon. You’ve got a full party. One Shaman healer, a rogue, Druid and Death Knight DPS, and your tank, or as they’re known now, “controller” – the mage.
Combat starts, and the DPS charge in and start doing what they do best – spamming AOE damage abilities and, if the healer’s lucky, getting out of the fire. Three of the monsters, meanwhile, spot the guys in cloth at the back and charge toward them, cheerfully ignoring the Death Knight hacking away at their backsides. Strangely, the clothies don’t look too worried.
The mage spins around, and wind howls across the map. The creatures charging toward her are suddenly picked up and flung violently back to where they started charging. The rogue’s getting beaten down by the huge ogre he’s fighting – another spell goes off, and a blast of fire temporarily blinds the creature, allowing the rogue to get behind him and neatly fillet the ogre’s intestines.
Someone’s Done It Wrong, and a pile of adds come charging in from the back toward the party – the mage spins again, and a wall of stone tears away from the ground and blocks their path…
The other great idea from D&D 4th Edition is that of the “controller” class – a class that doesn’t do much damage, or healing, but simply messes with the battlefield and the opponents’ movement. Blasts of wind that knock opponents back or down, walls of elemental earth or fire, illusions that fake opponents into attacking where the party isn’t, the whole nine yards.
We’ve already got these abilities in the game to some extent – Warlocks, for example, can often solo two or three elites by creative use of Fear spells, and Druids and Mages can both root monsters in place. What if, rather than having a “tank” class, there was a class or several classes who had far, far more of these abilities? A tank would be pretty much unnecessary – with a skilled controller in your party, the monsters are only ever going to get in range of the people who you want them to be in range of.
Of the four ideas, this one’s probably my favourite. It’s a really interesting and different way to look at a mage, druid or shaman class – it feels powerful and interesting, and would certainly give the control freaks like me who like being in charge of the battlefield something to do. It allows the monsters to be as smart or as stupid as the game designers want, and unlike a tank class, it’s something that the monsters can have too – an enemy Controller would make for a really interesting fight.
Plus, we’d get the chance to see the mobs dodge out of the way of our fire for a change.
What do you think? Any oideas for the future of tanking? Do any of these visions grab you, or can you think of something even cooler?
_Images from http://mybroadband.co.za/vb/showthread.php/249140-Who-s-going-to-Icon-2010, http://elementz1.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoid=45474536, http://www.dalakora.com/?page_id=120, and http://www.cpvipers.co.uk/larp.php_
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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/_
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We’re still riding the wave of post-4.3 news blogging here at the Melting Pot, and there’s some extremely interesting stuff coming out from the blogosphere, with a variety of fascinating, detailed predictions hitting us over the weekend. So, join me as I take a wander through what our collective crystal balls are showing us.
First up, Dwarven Battle Medic has a detailed 4.3 post, but the part that really interested me was his phase-by-phase suggestions for how the Deathwing fight could work:
The Battle Mages manage to ground him, but as he’s just too powerful they cannot hold him for long. The Raid would fight a partially subdued Deathwing on the ground and have to deal with all the tricks that a very pissed off dragon in command of the element of Earth can possibly think up. Giant Earth Elemental adds that need to be tanked, insta-kill pits opening up beneath people’s feet and giant impaling spikes are some of the possibilities, in addition to having to deal with random, devastating flame breath attacks, claws and tail swipes.
Secondly, the Dead Good Tanking Guide has been thinking about the threat changes, and has a super-detailed runthrough of how, compared to DKs, Protection Warriors (and tanks in general) might change to the new model:
As far as I’m concerned, the biggest stand outs for change are Disarm, Spell Reflect and Shield Block. The former need more common use so are prime candidates for a change, while the latter is the ideal choice to make our mastery (blocking with a shield… Who knew?) more active. I also consider the implications that any sweeping changes would have on PvP, so I’d imagine that deep Protection talents would be the place where these changes are implemented.
And finally, Shintar, the Priest With A Cause, has been imagining the fun we’ll all have with the new Raid Finder:
Just like in the dungeon finder, I expect most people to zone in and not say a word. I can already picture tanks charging in with no consideration for the rest of the raid, just like they often do in five-mans… except that in a raid they’ll end up dying that way, and then maybe drop group. Most people will probably just stand around and wait for someone to tell them what to do, with maybe one or two going nuts with excitement about being in a raid with so many people, spamming chat, changing appearance and bouncing off the walls until they pull something – basically similar to what you see in the starting cave in Alterac Valley.
Frankly, I’ve been trying not to imagine LFR – but it’s still an interesting read.
**So, your turn! Do you have ideas on how the tanking mechanics will work? Or how Deathwing’s raid will come about? (Fee, free to comment on the Melting Pot’s own Deathwing raid speculation post too). Or just how good or bad the LFR tool will be?
Also, I’d love to get some feedback on this style of multiple-link post, as opposed to my usual lists. Do you like it or hate it? I like having the space to showcase each article a bit more, but it does make it longer as a post. What do you think?
All quotes taken directly from their respective articles.
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