Thursday, April 7, 2011

Random Shots: And You Don't See This As A Problem?

  • Blizzard today announced a solution to the long Dungeon Finder queue times in World of Warcraft. Called Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, the system will provide an incentive for whichever role is least represented (and let's be honest, it's for the tanks) to queue up for random dungeons more often. As a reward for completing the instance, the Call to Arms awards an extra loot bag with gold and the possibility of drawing an epic gem, flask or elixer, pet, or a rare mount.

  • Both Tobold and Rohan refer to it as bribery, and that's what it has come to. Tanking and, to a lesser extent, healing are so unpopular (at least in a random setting) that people would rather play a wildly overrepresented role than deal with the pressure of that kind of responsibility. There would be two ways to deal with the issue: make tanking easier (negative reinforcement) or increasing the rewards (positive reinforcement). Blizzard stated that they like how tanking plays, so they are left handing out big bags of loot.

  • I hate to beat a dead horse here (Oh, who am I kidding? Give me an expired equine and I'll beat it all day long.) but once again we have a demonstration of why the MMO Trinity fails as a system. The trinity was an abberation anyway, an artifact of the MUD days where players exploited the threat rules to control enemies. That this exploit was codified in MMOs and made the default combat paradigm in WoW and its successors is a tragedy. I blows my mind that ArenaNet seems to be the only high profile company to figure this out.

  • Blizzard thinks that tanking should be a challenge. Back when it was an exploit, I could understand that. But now that every group is required to have a tank, it needs to be easy enough 16-20% of the population can do it. Tanking in Rift is not easy, but it's not a tightrope either. And three quarters of the classes can tank if they want. So either make it easier or change the fundamentals of your game so that tanking is not the correct way to manage an encounter.

  • Yes, I'm asking for a lot. But if you are in the position where you have to bribe your customers to play the game right, do you not see that as a problem?


  1. Now, I wrote a piece a while back about how the trinity did NOT exist back in my days of MUDing, at least not on TorilMUD. There were tanks, there were healers, and there were a bunch of other roles to boot, with only a couple of classes being damage before anything else.

    So don't be blaming all of it on how MUDs were played, because they played a lot differently in my experience.

    In TorilMUD mobs would often switch to attack the healer or a caster and the tank would have to keep an eye out and exercise the skill "rescue" and succeed to save the clothie in question.

    WoW, to accommodate their "vision" has had to pare things down to three roles, but it wasn't always that way.

  2. @ tagn - Absolutely, I agree with you. This is not a blame on MUD. Quite the opposite. I guess my point is that modern game have drawn the wrong lessons from their antecedents in their drive to simplify.

    Of course, I could be misreading the history. If so, I apologize.

    By the way, I love your MUD posts to death. More please!

  3. Blogger just ate a long ass comment, I'll try again...

    WoW relies much more heavily on specific, and not really obvious, ability rotations to hold aggro than any other MMO I've tried. For such an easy game, tanking is ridiculously unintuitive in WoW. Tanks I've played in other MMOs tend to have both stronger snap aggro and sustained threat generation than WoW tanks (apart from paladins) that I've messed around with. I'm happy to tank for a PUG in LoTRO for example, you couldn't pay me to do in in WoW.

    Further, I completely agree, the "holy trinity" is an utterly outmoded concept. I particularly despise "agrro management" being such a core mechanic in these games. "Tanks" should be characters that foes can't get past and are hard to kill. Four guys in in heavy armor forming defensive line (ala FF tactics, or WAR PvP oddly enough) makes sense. One guy holding down threat on everything by flinging insults doesn't make the first bit of sense.

  4. ARRGH, blogger ate my long comment too. Sigh...

    Anyway, of course this is bribing. In fact, I seem to remember actually seeing the use of the word bribe written by Blizzard in their own article.

    I personally don't have a problem with the MMO trinity -- in fact, I like it because I like order. It also gives people in a group a clear direction and an idea of what their responsibilities are. However, what I wouldn't mind seeing is more flexibility in the roles. I don't like being stuck doing one thing from the beginning to the end of an instance, in every single encounter from boss fights all the way down to the most trivial and insignificant trash mob. As a tank, I'd love to be more than just a meatshield, it would be nice if I can kick some ass too. Healers shouldn't just be stuck standing in the back concentrating on nothing else around them except for their teammates' healthbars. DPS should have more to concern themselves than with their own performance on the damage meters. In fact, I think that's what's feeding into this whole "me me me, I I I" attitude these days. But really, who can blame them? What else can you think about when damage dealing is all you're good for and you're virtually helpless in any other situation?

    CtA is just a temporary solution to a more serious problem. I think it's an imbalance in the responsibilities expected of the different roles. We didn't see such a huge disparity during the WotLK days, because clearly dungeons now are less forgiving but ESPECIALLY to those in the support roles. Tanking is a bitch, and to a lesser or even the same extent, so is healing...and the job is made even less thankless when your every misstep is criticized or dumped on by the DPS. Spread out the responsibility and make each player pull a similar weight, then maybe they'll understand the pressure.

  5. @ Yeebo - I get that aggro is a poor man's substitute for AI and zones of control, but it really has gone too far. Especially considering that in the game all of these are emulating, D&D, fighters weren't just meat shields. They are also the most deadly class in the book.

    @ MMOGC - The situation you describe is exactly why I enjoy Guild Wars and why I'm looking forward to Guild Wars 2. Except in the highest level instances in GW, there really is no concept of tanking. And GW2 is doing away with dedicated healers as well.

    I think you have a great point about responsibility. If the DPS wasn't the easy mode, people might be more likely to branch out. Of course, I'd also like to see Beast Mastery Hunters, Frost Mages, Combat Rogues, and Demonology Warlocks converted to tanks to give more options.