Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Scaling the trinity

I was telling about my experiences with overpowered dps in a heroic group yesterday. But last night I grouped with a nearly as well geared healer, and the poor guy was bored to death. Even my priest, with a far more mediocre gear score only needs to be half awake to heal through heroics. Any even more geared healer has to actually hope that the dps pull some aggro, because otherwise there is nothing even remotely interesting or challenging to do in a heroics group.

That got me thinking about how differently the three roles of the holy trinity of MMORPG group combat scale. DPS is pretty straightforward, the more powerful they get, the more damage they deal, thus the faster the mobs die. But there is an important relation with the power of the tank: For a group to support high dps, the tank needs to be able to hold aggro. Fortunately holding aggro is a function of the tank which isn't always gear-dependant. Many abilities of tank classes to "taunt" grab aggro in a way that does not depend on the damage output of the tank. Fortunately, because otherwise we could all just shoot our protection warriors, as they only deal half the damage of an equally geared paladin or death knight tank.

The other function of the tank, the one that scales a lot with gear, is to survive. Better gear mitigates damage better, and gives the tank a bigger buffer of health. So, the more powerful the tank, the less likely he is to die. Which is good, because when the tank dies, the wipe often isn't far behind. But this leads to a rather strange situation, because a tank isn't actually even watching his own health bar in a fight. The health of the tank is the responsability of the healer, not the tank. Thus a tank who is overgeared for an encounter makes life easier for the healer, not for himself. The tank's main activity is holding all that aggro, and that depends more on taunting the right targets, using the right increased threat abilities on the right targets. As some people remarked in a comment on a previous post, the tank is fighting more against the dps classes in his group than against the mobs. The more powerful the dps, the harder the job of the tank.

Thus even in a completely overgeared group doing heroics, both the tank and the dps are still keeping busy. The dps have a competition among themselves to top the damage meter, and the more damage they deal, the faster everybody gets his emblems. The tank is rather busy trying to compensate for all that aggro the huge damage produces, especially since the dps to top the damage meter are likely to jump into the fight too early, and not allow the tank to properly grab aggro before launching their aoe.

The odd man out is the healer. If the dps kill the mobs ultra-fast, and the tank is skilled enough to hold all the aggro and geared enough to mitigate much of the damage, then healer just has to throw the occasional heal over time on the tank. Otherwise there isn't much to do for him. He could try to add to the damage, but the damage he can do with a healing spec and gear ends up looking ridiculously low on the damage meter, even compared with the tank. Dealing damage for a healer in an overgeared group is more an occupation to keep him from falling asleep, not something that would actually be really useful. The most important addons for a healer in heroics are becoming Peggle and Bejeweled.
I agree that healers' dps will not make a difference in a heroic run with good dps. Nevertheless, reports getting to 1000 dps or so for a holy paladin while healing in heroics, up to 1300 dps in instances with lots of undead (Culling of Stratholme). That is actually approaching the average dps needed from the dps'ers of 1500 or so.
Scaling the difficulty of an instance would definitely be one way to solve the issue although that may be technically difficult to achieve (i.e. measuing the combined power of everyone in the team). Likewise, people would then expect scaled rewards to go with it.

Usually if I'm doing an instance and it's "too easy", the healer would just switch to DPS. Thus we complete the instance faster and everyone's happy.
Well, you wanted accessible. So working as intended. :)

A much bigger part of the user community is starting to feel that content is trivial. So I wonder how long it will take until you grow bored to tears and start to try other things in search of, at least, a mild challenge.
Totally. I switched back to retrib because as holy you had to spend the same effort (gearing, spreadsheets) for only 5mn of "fun" at everyraidboss fight (and zero otherwise). Now i'm having a bit less fun, but all the time :)

And every stat point is achieving something. Manapool size e-peen is only so much when you're never oom :)
For me healing overpowered groups is kind of a zen-like experience, much like driving a car for a longer time on an empty road. Attentive but relaxed, lazy but ready to start acting in an heartbeat if things start to go wrong. The groups where the tank and the healer are overpowered but the DPS sucks are far more boring to me. Chance of death is still zero but you move so much slower. In that case I entertain myself with outdpsing the DDs. Yesterdays Culling of Stratholme featured a thrilling DPS-race between some 1500 DPS Deathknight and me. Sadly the DK won narrowly due to his slightly higher damage on bosses where I have to heal a bit more. I was kinda disappointed, that would have been my first instance where I would have beaten two DDs at once!
So it's not much fun to run a heroic if you're seriously outgearing it.

But what's the point in doing heroics if you don't need any gear from it in the first place?
One thing I used to do when I vastly outgeared a 5-man was to not take a tank. We would just go with a healer and four DPS.

You might give that a go, though it might be harder to do that using the dungeon finder.
When I tank heroic's I run a spec in which I do more damage and take more damage and wear a lot of dps gear (4-5 pieces). Healers need to heal me :) It's still not hard for a well geared healer but at least some attention needs to be paid.
It also fixes a lot of the qq about dps since the tank is doing more damage than anyone else (overall, cheers for trash) than any of the dps. I do 4k over the whole run. I get beat on boss fights but make up the difference on trash
My main is a priest and I am experiencing this kind of 'problem' since I started playing wow in 2005.

I have the impression that healing or the healer role is very hard to balance.

Up to a specific point it is nearly impossible to fullfill your role properly. Raiding and doing dungeons (heroics nowadays) always pushes you to the limits and you have the feeling of beeing too weak, too slow or whatever.

At a certain point everybody understood the fight and there were some improvements through gear and training, for then everything is rather 'boring'.

So even if WoW does very well in creating a flow experience (between anxiety and boredom) on a micro level this is not fullfilled especially for the healer role.

But of course this always also has to do something with experience (lots of boss tries) an repetetive content.

So for now I think halls of reflection is not too easy for a healer (depends on group) and a proper challenge for me sometimes with some groups whereas violet hold is an instance where I can go semi (or 9/10) afk.

I cannot speak for other classes/roles but yes, to some extend tanks have to 'woork' more than I have to. At least this is what my impressions are.
As tank after a while you got to challenge yourself or there will be no challenge left. You've done all heroics tens of times, if not hundreds, you got most achievements available, you know each pack, every dangerous mob, and all patrol routes... There is very little to learn, so the only thing to optimize for is speed.

With paladin for non-icc heroics i just swap to my prot PVP gear (still crit immune, about 12k less hp, a lot lower avoidance, higher block from strength, dps weapon with berserker) and try to see if i can outdps actual dps classes. In most cases i do. ~3-4k average dps with first strike advantage gets you pretty far on overall damage done.

And sometimes i even have to use cds and other abilities to survive if healer lags behind! Fun!

While in my tank gear i can safely cruise through most heroic packs and bosses without any healer - best example was Falric kill in heroic HoR where healer and one of dps died (standing near boss before he becomes targetable is bad!). Safe but boring.

There are ways to spice it up though.

Maybe setting up some group composition "challenges" for Group Finder can work (no tank or no healer with higher ilvl requirement).

Or maybe 5 dps group with "you get healed for 5% of your damage, your group members gets healed for 2% of your damage, all other healing is reduced, and you cannot be crit" buff.
Some of the defensive powersets in City of Heroes felt pretty good even when grouped with competent and decked out players. As a Dark/Dark Defender I was much more involved than nowadays playing my disc priest who basically throws out a few shields and starts smiting.
I think an easy way for encounters to "scale" for overgeared groups is simply to pull more. If the healer is getting bored, whisper the tank to pull more than one group. More damage = more healing.

Just make sure to tell the tank that you want him/her to pull more cause you want to do more healing, not that they're going too slow.
It's obvious that gear inflation turned heroics into a cake-walk. If I'm ever a DPS in a guild run I always try to pull aggro off the tank just to give our tank/healer something to do. They know I'm doing it so it's ok.

Doesn't seem to be any solutions, however, and I wonder if Blizzard even cares how obsolete their heroics have become for the now many, many overgeared folk.

Maybe there need to be Legendary Dungeons, 5 mans that are like mini-raids that really test the skill and (powerful) gear of a small 5-man group. No more nap-time for you, Mr Healer.
I often say, tanking a 5 man random pug is generally easier than tanking a 5 man random guild run. With my guild I end up having to work much harder to keep up aggro. Outside of that, the comments are correct. Go for speed, challenge that healer so he stays awake, he/she will probably appreciate it.

Healer – How rated: fails if people die, fails of keeps going oom. The better gear the healer has, the dps has, or the tank has... the more bored the healer will be, but the less likely to fail. A healers life gets nothing but more boring in heroic as peoples ilvl increases. Less and less button presses.

Tank – How rated: Fails if people die, Fails if DPS pull agro, Fails if they pull slow. The better gear the tank, dps, and healer have the more bored the tank will be. However, the better gear the dps has the more work the Tank has to do to keep threat. As peoples average ilvl increases heroics become more boring, but more work to play perfectly. Less button presses for survival skills, more for threat skills. If you look at the “what makes a tank fail” you will see that little of that is effected by gear. Threat to a small degree is.

DPS – How rated: Fails if unable to kill mobs, dies to fire, or reflection. The better gear the tank, dps, and healer have the easier it is for dps to do there job. Same job, same number of button presses ilvl 200-265.... just bigger numbers. You see that it is hard for dps to fail… especially since there of 3 of them. The only way dps could fail is if all 3 were afk and the healer and tank were producing zero dps, or if the boss has an enrage which simply doesn’t apply to heroics. “A dps” can fail, but it is hard for “DPS” to fail.

With this in mind it is not surprising at all that tanks and healers are lacking for heroics. What do people fear most in WoW? Failing. What is the easiest class to fail at? Tank than heals. Which classes chance to fail is the least buffered by better gear? Tank. Heroics don’t matter and are lame… what is the most embracing place to fail? Heroics.

I work harder today as a tank in heroics than I did in 3.0. I work harder today as a tank in heroics than I have to in raids. In 3.0. Thunderclap and shockwave were enough to keep threat. Come 3.1 I had to throw in cleave spam. Today I have to do all that and tab target to land more threat on off targets. The runs are still boring. I just have to press more buttons. If I don’t press those buttons, dps will pull agro and possibility die. If DPS dies, I fail as a tank. Tank = Bored but busy.

I do less work as a healer than ever. I can do an entire run with just PW:shield on the tank or just renew. If I want to “play” instead of web browse I can spam holy nova and put out 2-6k dps while healing the group. Or I can single target smite spam for 1500ish. Healing is boring and requires less and less input. A dps could probably heal a heroic fine multi boxing a healer. An experienced healer can hardly fail today, but if they only heal they aren’t really even playing the game, but just watching other people play. If you are a healer but press more buttons to dps that heal, what does that say about the engagement of the role? Healer = bored.

As dps I do the exact same amount of work in a heroic today as I did in 3.0. Same number of button presses pretty much. My numbers are bigger. The runs are repetitive but are finished faster today than in 3.0. My class role is just as fun as it was in 3.0. DPS=DPS.
A friend of mine solves this problem by playing an over-geared DPS-spec healer. You now have 4 DPS and 1 tank, with 1 DPS who occasionally throws a few HoTs.
The mechanics of the trinity are the driving force behind the simplification of the game as a whole. As indicated in other posts, the content itself is fast becoming an inconvenience to the main focus of the game -- gear score. One could say in fact that a player's gearscore is the only stat that matters.

Dual-spec, equipment managers, LFG tools are all leading down the road to a game where soon we will only have 1 action button and another for mode -- heal-attack-defense.

I recognize that this is oversimplification but wow is terribly linear -- too linear. The actual "world" part of wow is irrelevant now.
After work I like to relax, slacking as a healer sometimes has its advantages.
Basically the chasing of the 2 Frozen Emblems is the only reason you see Over-geared toons in 5-man heroics.

by this point i already have purchased every thing i can for my offspec and have no need for the Emblems of Triumph.

But i find i can still have fun with the right tank. as a Tree in 5000+gs gear i can pretty much over compensate for bad dps or bad tanks.

yesterday my random pug dropped me in H UK. we were done in 6 minutes. the tank didnt say anything, just ran up the ramp and didnt stop until the end. dps maxed out at around 2500, but we had no issues. everyone said thanks and we went our separate ways.
Tobold- as i read your post, i thought you were going to suggest the following.

What if a tank's characteristic was a flat sort of immunity to the external world, resisting both damage and heals. In this way, a super geared tank would take both little damage and little healing. A super healer+weaker tank or the opposite would equally be capable of doing lesser content, but with less of the huge margin that currently exists. It would also create opportunities for interesting new boss mechanisms.
Hey Tobold, take a look at what Damion Schubert (Lead Combat Desinger for TOR)had to say about how the trinity works. It is a good read.
hi, i just reach lvl 80 and im a shammy healer btw, went to heroics last night with the dungeon finder and end up with a really good geared dk as dps, who was taking all the aggro from the tank also a dk, so it was an interesting run, except that the dk keep on talking trash about me for not having a nice gear yet, so ... he died a few times, running heroics is really nice i like a lot but that people who thinks they r gods just because of their gear, i dont want them in my party.
now i know i only need a good gear for raids. or arenas lol
Simple, priest spec shadow and heal with VE....

At least that used to work in instances up to about lvl 45 or so.
I have to agree with Zubon, why does the healer need to be in heal spec? All the healers have respectable DPS specs, and assuming they don't go into Moonkin or Shadow form they can do moderate healing, which is fine given the group.
I think it's time to remove the Frost emblem reward from random heroics. Even people in Triumph emblem gear are way overpowered for the instances... it would be a relief for everyone if ICC raiders were encouraged to stay the hell away from heroics.
According to Blizzard, the dungeon finder tries to group up people with similar gear levels, thus causing the problem you're describing.

But what if they reverse the gear level for healers? Well-geared healers will have a challenge keeping poorly-geared tanks/DPS alive, while poorly-geared healers won't have to heal the over-geared tank so much...

All content is trivial if you outgear it. This isn't an issue of accessibility that can be fixed by changing game. The problem here is that you can still get useful things (e.g. emblems) from content you are too powerful for. To an extent this has always existed in MMOs - people would go grind weaker mobs for saleable items.

it would be tempting to restrict higher-geared characters from entering the easier heroics but then this would effectively lock out new L80s as they were unable to find anyone to group with.

How about a weird idea? Introduce a "nerf" gear set that is less powerful than raid gear, but gives a chance of an extra emblem per boss if worn.
I've found that as a DK tank, I simply don't need a healer for all but the Toc heroic and above instances. DK heals scale with gear (they are % of total health healed), and their relative effectiveness scales with avoidance and mitigation. Thus, I can drop a 7900 heal every 4 seconds on average, which is WAY over the level of DPS I'm taking.

Moreover, if I do have a healer, I simply wear 550 resilience from my pvp gear to be uncrittable, then wear the rest dps gear. Healers still keep me up just fine, and I can do about 5k dps in frost presence.

This is all towards saying that perhaps dungeons are becoming trivial exercises. I would like a super heroic (ilvl 232 difficulty) and ultra heroic (ilvl 251 difficulty) options. Even with the same rewards, I would still prefer those.
I still fondly remember our first heroic Slave pens run.. we were nearly fresh 70, tank was being hit for 3rd his health and i actually was pulling healing aggro from him as priest. CC was mandatory, as 3 mobs on tank meant dead tank, and it took as 7 wipes to get through first 6 packs to opening..
Yea i understand how it would look ridiculous for repeated runs, but i would like adjustable dificulty.

As it is now, i spam holy nova, or swipe, or raid of fire.
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