Tobold's Blog
Monday, June 14, 2010
Balancing the holy trinity

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.
Adam Smith
A great many MMORPG, especially those with a fantasy setting, have group combat which works with some variation of the holy trinity of roles: Tanks, healers, and damage dealers (often abbreviated as "dps" for damage per second). That is a system which only exists in computer RPGs, because it is based on the artificial stupidity of monsters, which by means of taunt abilities can be persuaded to hit the target where their attacks are the least efficient on. Then you just need a healer to keep that tank alive, and the rest of the group can get down to the real business of dealing enough damage to kill the monster.

In nearly every of the games using such a system, there are too many players choosing a dps class, and too few people choosing a tank or healer class / build to play. Thus getting a group or raid together quite often ends up with too many candidates for the dps spots, and too few candidate for the tank and healer spots, in spite of there being more dps spots. Players and bloggers, as the armchair developers that we are, have often proposed various ideas to break up that holy trinity, for example by adding a buffer role, or by creating a new set of roles. But I think the solution could be much simpler. We just need to apply the Adam Smith quote above, and modify it a bit.
It is not from the benevolence of the tank, the healer, or the damage dealer that we expect our group, but from their regard to their own interest.
The quote easily explains WHY there is a lack of tank and healers: In the current system it is *against* the self-interest of a player to play a tank or a healer. A MMORPG consists not only of group combat, but usually also has a lot of solo combat. And the way solo combat is currently designed, the ability to deal damage is more important than the ability to mitigate damage.

So, curiously enough, one way to balance the holy trinity is to make the tanks and healers the best damage dealers in the game. World of Warcraft is going down that road, by making every tank or healing class a hybrid with a dps role, and making the damage output of the tank/dps, heal/dps, and tank/heal/dps classes at least as good if not better than that of the pure dps classes. Of course that design has other flaws: It makes pure dps classes rather unattractive. For example warlocks and rogues have become rare in WoW, but everybody plays a paladin. And that still doesn't solve the healer / tank shortage problem, I've been in groups with 5 hybrids in which everybody claimed to not have the gear / spec to be able to tank or heal. And the raids in my guild often start with an uncomfortable squirming session in which there is much discussion about who is switching to his healer alt/spec this week. The announced Cataclysm changes in which defense is removed as a stat are presumably addressing just this issue, enabling tank hybrids to switch to a tank role without having spent hundreds of hours collecting specialized gear which is useless for other roles.

So I would propose a different solution to balance the holy trinity: Make damage mitigation more important in solo combat. Instead of giving tanks and healers a second dps role to switch to, combat should be balanced in a way that the ability to absorb or heal damage is as advantageous as the ability to dish out damage. Thus no needs for dual spec or hybrids, a character playing a class able to tank or heal should in his tanking or healing role be able to kill monsters solo as efficiently and fast as somebody who is in a damage dealing role. Which means making the dps classes feel more like the proverbial glass cannon, and forcing them to spend part of each combat with evasive maneuvers, which then effectively dial down their damage output. The rest is basic economics: If it is in the self-interest of players to be a tank or healer, people will automatically choose those roles too, and the numbers will balance themselves out towards what is needed, just like the number of butchers, brewers, and bakers balances itself out according to demand.
One idea I had for tanks is that they could reflect a majority of the damage done to them towards enemies, allowing them to turn defense into a DPS stat. Healers could probably do something similar, like healing oneself does certain amount of damage to a selected enemy.
You also need to adjust the difficulty of dps VS tanking or healing.

WoW is especially bad at this, where a dps can literally stand in one spot and push buttons with one hand while watching a movie (mages lol). On the other hand a healer has to be actively switching targets and spells for 5 minutes straight.

I've always been a proponent of boss abilities that do things to a damage dealing class's output, instead of dealing damage to that unit. If numbers are all that they care about, they'll be more likely to move.

A green ooze on the ground that gives -5% haste every tick. See if a dps has trouble staying out of THAT. But deal 5000 damage a second, and that same dps will stand in it until he dies.
Those mobs that required evasive manouvers and/or damage mitigation were called elite mobs, and they've been practically extinct for two expansions. Why? They were deemed too difficult, and many players simply skipped places like Tyr's Hand or Darkwhisper Gorge.
Similarly you could increase the amount of time it takes for HPs/mana to regen out of combat. That way a warrior who takes forever to kill a foozle but at least can heal up the damage that the foozle did him quickly (because of damage mitigation) can kill things solo at least as quickly as the blaster who can kill the foozles quickly in combat but then has to rest for a while outside of combat.

But if you do to much of that you get something like EQ 1 where you spend most of the time watching your character sit on his ass, which isn't too much fun, but I think that some games have gone a bit too far in the other direction.
I really wish games would ditch the holy trinity. It is idiotic for every mob to obediently attack the most heavily armored player, while ignoring the 2-4 guys who are instantly healing all the damage he deals, as well as the other squishy looking guys who are going to town on his ass. But no, after 3 minutes of banging on the same target who is still at full health, why stop now?

In PvP, the concept of a tank does not apply, and the combat is much, much more interesting.
The quote easily explains WHY there is a lack of tank and healers: In the current system it is *against* the self-interest of a player to play a tank or a healer. A MMORPG consists not only of group combat, but usually also has a lot of solo combat. And the way solo combat is currently designed, the ability to deal damage is more important than the ability to mitigate damage.


I've been in groups with 5 hybrids in which everybody claimed to not have the gear / spec to be able to tank or heal.


You say it yourself: The problem is not that players play classes that cannot tank/heal. The problem is mostly not even that players don't have the equip.

The problem is that players don't like to tank/heal.
This doesn't have that much to do with self-interest and leveling speccs. People just don't like the activity.

Remember Ghostcrawlers words a few weeks ago:

I'm just reading a lot of "tanking is so hard" threads, and A) we don't really agree, and B) if it's any less challenging I fear a lot of tanks may get bored and move on to other classes. There are some annoying parts of tanking we need to fix, and we definitely want to fix the threat scaling problem and any major disparities in AE tanking. But if you're looking for an experience even easier than tanking Naxx, I'm not quite sure how to provide that given my A and B above.

Blizzard is desperate. Their usual fix to make things simple didn't work: Tanking still wasn't fun for most people, apparently.

So, I disgaree with most of your post, except for the conclusion.

Let's remove this kind of healing and make 'normal heroes'. Heroes that are not specialised in tank/heal/dps, but behave credible.

That is: They try to evade attacks and do damage by the way.
combat should be balanced in a way that the ability to absorb or heal damage is as advantageous as the ability to dish out damage.

It's fine in theory, but how do you exactly apply that while maintaining the balance between the three? That's the problem that you haven't answered.

Trees /speccs should be about style. Bizzard said so repeatedly and I agree.

One could easily come up with a combination of a defensive cooldown, that reduces your received damage for 7 seconds and combine it with the 6s second spell that requires you to stand still and receive +20% incoming damage.

You could think about abilities that disarm your opponent in a meaningful way, thus that you can dish out more damagem while your opponent cannot.

The 100% focus on tanking/healing/dps is wrong from many points of view. I wrote about the cookie-cutter speccs that it leads to, before.
You also need to adjust the difficulty of dps VS tanking or healing.

I'm going to argue this from a Healer standpoint where I actually disagree with this statement. In my opinion, DPS is not easier than Healing or Tanking. They are required to perform 3 roles during a boss-fight:
1) Maximise DPS on boss.
2) Avoid damage.
3) Perform some special action (e.g. kill/kite adds, etc).

The best DPS can do all 3 effectively and are a great asset to the raid.

The shortage of tanks/healers are due to 2 things:
1) "Funess".
2) The scalability between 5-mans, 10-mans and 25-mans.
25-mans: Tanks - 12%, Heals - 24%, DPS - 64%.
10-mans: Tanks - 20%, Heals - 30%, DPS - 50%.
5-mans: Tanks - 20%, Heals - 20%, DPS - 60%.

Note that this is the "standard" raid composition. If you consider that for some fights, there may be 2-tanks, 5-heals, 18-dps.
@Nils. Does your idea work for say 10 classes in a game? Does your idea work to make all 10 classes balanced, but still retaining any differences to make them unique to one another? I'm not convinced to be honest.

To make all classes equally efficient is impossible IMO. The idea should be to make all classes able to achieve the same, just in different ways.
I’ve never liked the holy trinity; it always felt robotic, predictable, and segregated. Something I’d prefer (that’s still within reason) is a scaled down version where mobs have a threat meter that only minimally affects their behavior (would also need better AI, but that’s not saying much in the MMO genre). So there’d be pretty much only healers and DPS, and maybe some DPS classes who would previously be called tanks have different defensive uses such as paladins being able to briefly protect a player from harm or warriors able to use a minor taunt.

In the end the mobs would attack players based on a loose and dynamic priority system that’s affected by proximity and normal threat, constantly splitting between multiple players while healers focus on healing everyone instead the few really important people. I think it would give the impression of more of a battle and less of a “let’s exploit this guys horrible AI”.

The whole idea of a tank has always seemed completely unnecessary to me. It might add another aspect to the battle, but it feels like an aspect that doesn’t actually add anything. The tank role takes all the potential for damage dealers to be more involved in a fight and pointlessly bundles it up into the responsibility of a couple players.
You should have seen how i levelled up my warrior, and my paladin.

Paladins are common to see aoe tanking 10-30 mobs while levelling.

But warriors can comfortably tank 5-10 mobs while questing, and do so reasonably efficiently with shockwave/cleave/thunderclap.

For many quests, you can make it more efficient to aoe things down as tank than to single target as dps (but varies).

Healers generally can more easily switch roles between heal and dps without too much gear difference.
I like the idea of getting rid of taunt skills and making aggro less predictable. Give every class defensive skills so that everyone needs to play some defense as well as offense.

Another idea might be to make everyone a hybrid. That would increase the number of potential tanks and healers (although it wouldn't solve the problem of people not enjoying those roles).
In casual guilds, dps are plentiful but tanks and healers are hard to find. As you move up the guild progression to more hardcore guilds, dps starts to be in demand while tanks and healer spots are usually full.
There are several reason for this. First, in hard modes, dps has just as much responsiblity as healers and tanks (If they stand in the wrong spot, the raid wipes) Second, hard core guilds tend to stick with their tanks and healers a little bit more because they can get tanks and healers who actually enjoy their roles. Since you need more dps, there are usually more dps spots.
Third, bosses have enrage timers, and in LK, they are more strict and they actually matter. This means that if your dps can't perform or they die, the raid may not instantly wipe, but a wipe is inevetable as their deaths now mean that you have no chance at beating the enrage timer.
I know in my guild, we usually can get the healers or tanks we need, and if not, we can get some of the dps (Who tank or heal our 10 man runs) to switch to tank or heals.
Basically, in higher end guilds, there is less of a disparity of responsiblity between dps and tanks and healers, and there are more spots for dps so more dps are needed.
The FFXI developers didn't realize it but they came up with a solution to the problem with their Ninja class. It was the only tank class I've seen where the majority of people liked tanking (barring expendables costs of course).

There were a number of factors that contributed to this. The main downside (if it could be called one) is it made dedicated healers relatively unimportant. Instead CC and hybrid healers were elevated in importance. For a ninja tank party you could broadly define the desirable roles as tank/dps, hybrid healer, CC, and DPS.
I would advise caution before you make an MMO without tanking. The order (predictability) it generates is essential for player enjoyment.

Most players didn't like the PvP-like encounter in TotC. I know I didn't.

Tanking transforms a very unpredictable environment (too unpredictable) into a very predictable one (too predictable).

Simply removing tanking doesn't work. You either need very good collision control or generally slow down combat, so that the resulting unpredictability doesn't destroy the fun by transforming combat into a chaotic zerg.
I think part of the issue that it DPS is just plain more fun and that healing and tanking is very stressful in comparison. Who really wants the stress of healing a raid when you could just sit back, chill out and DPS away?
@the people who want the holy trinity to go away altogether:
Don't forget that in theory it fulfils a useful role. It forces people to play together in a meaningful way. If you make everyone a DPS you end up with 25 raving idiots who will charge the boss and try to clobber him wildly without giving a single thought about things like Defense. Plus you end up with less possible ways to play the game, making it more boring.

@Azzur: Sure..playing a DPS perfect is difficult. Howevery most people don't play even close to perfect and playing DPS makes sure you can get away without doing a single thing right. Every boss ingame can be done while leaving some DDs at home because Enrage Timers are usually very forgiving. But even 1-2 slacking Healers and your raid is in major trouble. A slacking tank and you don't even need to start.

@Topic: I'm not sure if its a good idea to try to raise the amount of tanks and healers. Many people simply don't seem to be made for it and raising the incentives to a point where they will try it anyways just leads to a bunch of strange situations.
Like a healer that suddenly stops healing and starts doing holy nova because there were sooo many mobs on one spot he couldn't resist!
Or a tank who plays for maximum dps without wasting a single thought on durability, giving his healer hell while at the same time mocking their DPS for being below him.
From my Everquest days I still automatically think of the Holy Trinity as Tank, Healer, Crowd Control.

Then there was the equally crucial role of Slower, so that in many cases you actually had to get four slots in the group filled before you could get started.

The last two slots would go to DPS, but if possible you would always try to get someonewho could offer more than that - a ranger who could root-park, a good necro who could do secondary crowd control and emergency rezzes, a bard for all-round utility, pet class or knight for off-tanking etc etc.

A pure DPS class like a rogue or a wizard was really the bottom of the waiting lis for groups. I preferred it that way, on balance. DPS is about the dullest role there is and extending it to the default position has reduced my interest in the combat aspect of most MMOs considerably.
I think part of the issue that it DPS is just plain more fun and that healing and tanking is very stressful in comparison. Who really wants the stress of healing a raid when you could just sit back, chill out and DPS away?

That may have been so in MC, but it is simply wrong nowadays.

In 5mans dps is the only non-boring activity. Healing is ridiculously boring. This holds also true for the low levels!

In raids, healing means ae on group or flash of light on tank.
"The rest is basic economics: If it is in the self-interest of players to be a tank or healer, people will automatically choose those roles too."

It already is in your self interest to pick a healer or tank. My new warrior tank has instant queue times for heroics. If I queue as DPS the wait time is 13 minutes. In other words, I can run three heroics in the time it takes a DPS to run two. If you want to raid or pvp you'll also be far more likely to find a good group as a healer than as a DPS.

"Combat should be balanced in a way that the ability to absorb or heal damage is as advantageous as the ability to dish out damage."

My warrior did more damage levelling as protection than levelling as fury (thanks to super revenge). Absorbing damage is also already advantageous. Prot pallies or warriors can easily farm multiple mobs.
Tobold, you just invented... Vanilla WoW! Damage dealers were glass cannons and there was long downtime for DPS between fights to drink mana or eat HP. People hated it.

What you are missing again is the core problem of MMOs: catering M&S. If a solo monster needs someone to use evasive manuvers means that if someone does not do these manuvers, he dies (otherwise he can just nuke). But people dieing during solo play is the reason why EQ was less popular than WoW.

Solo playing must be simple enough to be done by a retard. But if a retard can do it, a skilled one can steamroll it! Obviously high DPS fits the best the "steamroll" strategy.
Factions Champions was too reliant on RNG, particularly on heroic. The problem is based on the fact that today the majority of classes are glass cannons – this was considered necessary to make the healing game ‘fun’/ ‘challenging’. Combine this with DR on CC and you have a tough encounter.
Health pools (with respect to damage) are seeing a buff in Cataclysm.

Back to the OP: I agree there may be a problem when 1 of the 3 roles is far more ‘fun’ to the majority of players. One way this could be resolved is to blur the lines between the roles and give DPS stuff to do outside damage.

For example: I could have 3 DPS cooldowns, 2 situational CC cooldowns and a healing one. After dropping my DPS CDs, I could use the remaining time to heal someone or CC a mob. Maybe healing/CC would buff my DPS (See the Shaman class in Warhammer).
In my experience the not fun part of any role (tanking/healing/dps) never comes from how the spec itself plays out, but always from the interaction with other players.

For example tanking in raids is not fun if the coordination/communication with the other tanks is bad or if the dps cannot control themselves or if the healers are slacking.

In my opinion it is totally ok that some roles are less popular, there are many more dps slots available in any group/raid than healers/tanks anyways. ;)
Your idea has other issues as well.

Lets say that every class now has a damage reduction ability, and a taunt type ability (or threat drop to enable someone else to "tank"). If these abilities are on a CD (such that you don't just have a tank) then you create a rotation of such abilities creating a set number of DPS with a tanking flavour (say 15s ability, 1 min cd = 4 tanks, 5 to be safe). These DPS select tank type talents to make them easier to heal and survive their 15s tanking. The other 20 or 15 and 5 healers do not change at all.

You have replaced "tanks" with "tanks mk2" and forced a tank rotation onto every fight.

If the rotation is longer then you have your way and DPS are tanks and tanks don't exist but now every fight has a taunt order, every fight has a layer of complexity added on top of it without reason.

Imagine Lich King with this, tank swapping every 15s, twice during soul reaper (which kills a dps unless they are in pure evasion mode). Or even worse, Magtheridon.

Every 2 minutes - 4 people need to hit switches (+ debuff so 8 needed for the fight), all 8 of them will be responsible for being part of the tank rotation as well...

Having tanks lets an RPG focus the fight as it wishes, if it needs more tanks then they can make them function (ROS part 2, rogue evasion tanking. Council fights with mage tanks / boomkins).

What you would likely be better using is a secondary health bar set at say 5x health for dps and 25x health for tanks. Each heal you receive reduces this bar by the size of the heal, when it reaches 0 you can no longer be healed (healers / dps / tanks or someone have abilities to restore this bar but it takes significant time in fight).

DPS no can't stand in fires (they become unhealable or low dps), tanks need to swap.

A forced tank swap might become something like "Curse of Weakness - your spirit bar is reduced to 0 for 15s".

Every long fight now has the tank swaps you want (no single tank can hold a gribbly for ever) and everyone is more conscious of health and survival. You can even tie DPS to being above 1 spirit bar, being on that last bar reduces your damage by a % equal to spirit lost.

If you don't want us to have tanks, then you need to implement collisions and physics and distractions. A large guy in thick armour with a shield is going to stand in front of the boss, and his friends in a wedge behind him... tank tanks through LoS and physical position, the boss cannot reach the others. If you want realism thats it, but I prefer spirit bars.
BLUF PROBLEM STATEMENT: there is a shortage of tanks and healers because it requires two sets of gear to raid/dungeon and to level / farm / pay for repairs / supplies... this, combined with an unbelievable reliance on their intense knowledge of strats and expectation to flawless perform their duties, make these two classes unappealing...

BLUF SOLUTION: Make the gear for tanks and some healer (non-hybrid) classes sensitive to the spec change (dual specs)... when the character puts on tank spec, his gear stats change to tank spec... when he goes to dps, the same gear stats change to provide the dps stats that are associated with that iLevel of gear...

BLUF BENEFITS: time saved in not having to do the work to gain two sets of gear makes the tank classes more appealing as well as making the life support of their gear at least possible...

SUMMARY: DPS classes need only one spec and gear set... Tanks and healers two... plus increase time for studying and knowing strats... lets relieve some of this time consuming requirement with gear set to change to the spec...
Simple solution for healers: If I target a mob and cast Greater Heal, it removes an amount of health from the mob as my Greater Heal might heal me or a party member.

Clearly, that gives healers both single-target and AOE damage spells (well, maybe no AOE for healadins).

Overpowered? Not at all: Damaging health spells can be adjusted if needed to be comparable to other DPS casters.
I don't believe that the solo viability is the real reason why these classes are difficult to find.

As evidenced by the fact that hybrids argue about NOT being the tank or healer even when they are capable.

No. The real reason people don't like these classes is that they don't want the responsibility.

Screw up as a tank, group dies and everyone is pissed AT YOU. Screw up as a healer, group dies and everyone is pissed AT YOU. Screw up as a DPS, blame the Tank or Healer and everyone is pissed at THEM.

Healers in particular get the short end of the stick.

You wipe. Blame the Healer. You down that boss? Thank the Tank.

The end result is that playing a healer or tank is just not as fun as playing DPS.

Given the choice between protecting something, repairing something or blowing something up -- which do you think most people would choose?

Blowing crap up.

Healers in particular get the short end of the stick.

You wipe. Blame the Healer. You down that boss? Thank the Tank.

The end result is that playing a healer or tank is just not as fun as playing DPS.

Which is one more reason against too much in-game support for random groups, that never see each other again.
One thing:
Playing as a leveling(!) tank is a hell of a lot of fun .. for a while.


Roll a deff warrior. Test it. You lead every dps meter, you are almost immortal, but all you ever do is TC Spaaaaam. It's also makes this annoying sound.

Now, you can do a lot more than TC spam (although it is enough to hold aggro). You can use shield blocks and cleave on every swing and you certainly have eneough to do if you want.

Problem is: It's always the same and the only challenge that is there is to pull as much as possible and THUNDER CLAP them down.

In all but ICC raids, tanking is stupidly easy nowadays and totally unfun - just like healing. That's the problem.
Some people in this thread are confusing "fun" with "accountability" and "difficulty" with "popularity".

As some others said, the reason why there are fewer tanks and healers at lower-tiers of play is a matter of responsibility. The tank and healer has to pay attention the entire 5-man. A DPS (and I've done this myself when DPSing instead of healing) can half-AFK but if the gear is there your performance is still respectable.

As some other poster pointed out, another issue is competition. A good guild already has the tanks they need, why should they even invite you?

The third element of the problem is there's no tangible way to gauge your performance as a healer or tank when compared to the all powerful Recount meter. If tanks could dps as hard as a mage _and_ hold the threat; you'd see three times as many.

I really liked the suggestion that more raid encounters use performance-void zones rather than damage void zones. It would teach everyone to pay attention to a fight by making DPS more responsible.

And I disagree with Tobold that somehow making the single player leveling game more balanced will make more people want to tank or heal. The problem is with the people, not the game.
"In all but ICC raids, tanking is stupidly easy nowadays and totally unfun"

It's fairly dull and easy in ICC too, if you have the gear for it.
I’m not sure if 2nd Nin was talking to me, I might have missed another comment about removing tanks. If you were talking to me 2nd Nin, I think you’re assuming specifics that I never mentioned, my comment was pretty general. Also, for the record, when I said tanks are unnecessary I in no way meant that WoW should get rid of them, because they would have to significantly change the pacing and mechanics of a fight first. I only used the classes “Paladin” and “Warrior” as familiar examples.
Been primarily DPS w/ hunter. Very fun and complex with traps, shot priority and pet managment. And you are interacting with the virtual environment.

Rolled a healer because I was sick of 20 minute waits on dungeon finder.

Levelled as shadow, did few old world dungeons. Started healing in earnest in Northrend. Got GS up to 5K.

Healing is freaking dull. You don't even get to look at the monsters or scenery. It's all healbot all the time. Whak-a-mole with health-bars.

And not only is it dull. It's stressful. If you screw up, someone lays on the floor staring at the fight for awhile, or the group wipes, and invariably you read "didn't get heals" in chat.

Players need to be able to and responsible for healing themselves more. Healer should be for Tank only, and DPS.

Am planning to try to experience tanking as well, but I expect a similar result. Tanking does not look fun, unless you just have to be in control of everything.
An answer to my rant above is that grouping should provide DPS synergy, which would allow a group to overcome more difficult encounters. And would allow more emphasis on DPS for everyone.

And not just buffs. Real honest to goodness, I fire a particular type of arrow because the mage is casting a particular spell and those abilities together go BOOM. Or the warrior's sword wound does greater damage if the rogue follows with a particular poison.

Thus we all have to have awareness of what the others in the group are doing in order to maxmize the dps. And each member has to actually COMMUNICATE with other members during the fight.

Tanking transforms a very unpredictable environment (too unpredictable) into a very predictable one (too predictable).

Basically I see several problems:

-There are no tools in games for players to handle dynamic environment (they regard everything as chaos). - better target assignment systems could go a long way

-systems are designed around tanking. Thats a not hard problem to overcome, but can be difficult one.

Basically there needs to be more damage avoidance skills given to every class and more emphasis on active defence . tanks could still play a role by expanding on skills like deflect (or whatever was wow warrior skill to intercept incoming attack to target) .

- players are generally to dumb to handle dynamic environments. And thats probably hardest problem as even if you remedy first two when you are make mass market game (WoW) there is no real way around it

But on the other hand.. .why bother? PvE is not designed to be challenging. It is designed to be consumable. Same way you don' make opening a soda bottle a challenge or turning tv on ,etc.
Consumer products have different qualities than competitive sports or even hobbies. They are designed to be accessible

Players who enjoy pve are generally not doing it for "challenge' , it is mostly reward driven satisfaction. holy trinity system is great for it as it allows for quick design of new encounters of reasonable quality -very important feat as you have to constantly produce new content.

The very few elite guilds who do competitive pve would be better served by having more expansive PvP systems.

I think the group who seeks challenging pve is possibly even smaller that ultra hardcore pvp one.
What about mobs being played by players? Why not have a random dungeon system where a player can be inserted as a mob in a active dungeon. Might be difficult to do but would be bloody interesting for those doing the instance
My points were more generalised rather than specific. The general point was that if you aim to give people damage avoidance abilities they will stack the minimum number, and if you remove tanking for DPS with evasion buttons its identical to setting up a tank rotation.

Systems can largely be defined in two ways, either damage is mitigatable and people will form a tank corps to deal with it or damage is not mitigatable and we are not meant to take damage (see rainbow 6, or RPGs like SLA).

You can divide it up as you will, but in the end if damage is not evenly split across all dps it will be put onto a few.

The issue people see is that we need a tank, and a healer, and that these roles are less popular. Simply the game play within the game is not setup to allow dynamics within these roles compared to others. Blizzard has said themselves they don't think they could find roles for 5 tanks consistently... the game is set up as 1 gribbly vs raid, not multiple gribblies vs raid.

Faction champions is hated not because it is random, but because the aggro is setup badly.

Tanks are designed to tank, but we have no control in this fight, healers can survive but we cannot actively control a fight based on distance, armour, absolute health as the metrics. If the fight was sensible (pure damage based aggro, if you kite the mob it will avoid you instead and some kind of swarming ai) then it would be more liked... people could understand how do deal with it.
@2nd Nin

It’s probably my fault for not being clear, but I didn’t want current tanking abilities to be distributed amongst the DPS in the way you seem to think I do. When I mentioned classes retaining some defensive abilities, I mean on a much smaller scale than what we have now, with threat that is only minimally controllable by the players. As it is now, players have almost complete control of a mob’s threat, which I think is ridiculous. The players should have to respond to the mob’s actions, not the other way around; it’s not the mobs that this game is made for.

Threat would be for the most part unpredictable, with minor helpful abilities being able to sway a target’s attention. If threat is unpredictable enough, and defensive abilities spaced out and situational enough, then you can’t make a rotation out of it. Technically, everything can eventually have a rotation, but sometimes it’s too long between resets and too complicated to pull off that it becomes more realistic to just live in the now and play by ear. When WOTLK came out, the Ret Paladin DPS rotation became “first come first serve” meaning you use whatever abilities you have up because an optimal rotation would take a few minutes of specific button presses and be to inhuman to follow.

I understand that spreading out the existing abilities we have now in WoW (remember though, I am not suggesting this for WoW) would just create tank rotations, but unpredictable threat means any rotation you have would have to be very flexible, which would defeat the point of a rotation. I don’t necessarily want the tank classes out of the games, just the role. Everybody fights, everybody can be attacked, everybody will try to hold their own and help their team. If you think about it, for the fantasy/sci fi worlds we play in, this is really how it should be. This is how the fights are supposed to be represented, but the mechanic of a tank almost makes boss fights feel like a metaphor for the real battle. The idea of a tank seems to have appeared out of thin air, arbitrarily created for the MMORPG genre out of laziness to improve AI. It only has significance because people have gotten used to it and now for some reason assume that it’s somehow essential to this type of game.
"Playing as a leveling(!) tank is a hell of a lot of fun .. for a while. But all you ever do is TC Spaaaaam".

I found playing as a def warrior a lot more fun (and a lot faster levelling) than fury. At least for the level 60-80 range. It's a lot more reactive and thunderclap is optional.

-Revenge. Sweet damage and only pops up after you dodge/parry.
-Shield slam. A 33% chance to pop up after every devastate or revenge.
-As for aoe. Thunderclap, cleave, shockwave. Playing as a leveling(!) tank is a hell of a lot of fun .. for a while.

Fury was just "click bloodthirst > whirlwind" when you have enough rage. Not nearly as much fun as the reaction based prot build.

Totally agree. The extra reaction in levelling prot was what made it more enjoyable.


What you describe can be summed up by:
"Good dps are the hardest to find. Casual guilds have a lot of people who 'dps' because they cannot do any role well, and get away with saying they are dps."
The issue then though Tobold becomes that if your aggro is uncontrollable how fun is the game?

If you have say 5 targets:

Armoured Footman with sword / shield
Armoured Footman with spear
Light Skirmisher with bow
Light Skirmisher with magic
Light Skirmisher with healing magic

How would you resolve aggro on this? Typically from a meta-perspective it is best to zerg the healer (see pvp), in which case the fight comes down to the survival of the healer, or the ability of others to distract it long enough to let the healer survive (+ some time to kill the others before a victory, but we will assume a 0 death kill is the aim).

Aggro must be controllable, things are not random. In the setup above we would likely see a party order similar to:


The shieldman acts as a tank directly through LoS and physical presence to a similarly (or larger) target.

I honestly cannot think of a way to make a non-aggro solution work without resulting in having a huge amount of homogenisation amongst the classes. If aggro is random then everyone needs abilities to allow them to survive the targeted damage for a duration (50% shield wall for duration + healing say), if its targeted then only a few need to deal with it (unless the few are randomly selected at the start, but then everyone needs defensive abilities).

Monsters need to make sane choices, now in PvP our choice is often hit the healer (healer heals self, damage hits us), or hit the dps (healer heals dps, dps hits us). Which is the essence of this issue, who do you hit and why, and if you hit them they need to be able to survive or the game is no fun.
I honestly cannot think of a way to make a non-aggro solution work without resulting in having a huge amount of homogenisation amongst the classes

The amount of homogenization necessary was already present in WoW right from the start - every single class has damage avoidance skills ( barkskin, evasion, blink, mana shield etc)

The paradigm of a dps/healers never being hit imho is silly one.Mutliplayer FPS manage variety just fine and they are a lot more constrained than MMOs in terms of game mechanics

Absolutely! Healers work in PvP so why can;t they work in PvE. Trying to follow the gold-standard of "the healer must never get hit" has lead most MMOs down a path that they're struggling to escape from. Which is that most boss fights are now little more than dps-races.
Multiplayer FPS games are a completely different fight model though typically.

Most MFPS games feature squad on squad (2-63 people) or squad on horde type mechanics, with single large gribblies typically not dealing the kind of damage that MMORPG games deal with.

I suppose you could restructure the game totally such that everyone can take the damage and recovers quickly (a shield type mechanic like Halo?) but then how do you actually use aggro. Army of Two used a relatively nice mechanic for swapping the focus of the enemy, however it doesn't really scale well to 25 players at once especially if the enemy should have as much intelligence as possible.

If everyone takes a little damage, then any kind of focus damage must be tied to either a cooldown and no-focus mechanic (so the players cds can be off for when it is next used) or a random mechanic (which is less immersive). Imagine Soul Reaper on a non-tank, it would be a largely non-issue if it has to be survivable on a single cd, or he has to not target them for a melee hit afterwards (even tanks taunted for it to start).

You can push other damage models, but to do so means a complete restructuring of the game system to accomadate it.

On the not creating a tank rotation using cds, how would that work exactly? Either the attacks would be random (throwing off a rotation and making life just annoying) or it would be based on some kind of threat model (so the rogue with high threat = target, he gets squished till he drops aggro and it goes to the next evasioning rogue). That is what I can't see, how can you make it non-random and not deterministic?

Multiplayer FPS games are a completely different fight model though typically.

I suggest to compare it to PVP in mmos (which can be from 1 vs1 to massive 100vs 100 battles). Even with currently flawed systems it works ok. With enhanced systems (such as better combat mechanics, better targeting and group control tools) it would be much better.

MMOs can use some very nice dynamics from FPSs though. Such as that positioning, cover and collision actually matters.

I suppose you could restructure the game totally such that everyone can take the damage and recovers quickly (a shield type mechanic like Halo?) but then how do you actually use aggro.

Aggro is implicit , e.g. target is picked not on the basis of who taunts its the most, but its picked nevertheless. In PvP for example target which is picked typically retreats or it dies in focus fire. Even without collision detection there are typically clear separation lines (squishies in the back -tanks in front)

The damage avoidance and mitigation is basically 3 things: - positioning (cover or out of range), defensive cooldowns, and healing

Without aggro mechanic players have to be more pro-active to avoid damage (that includes sprinting away and activating defensive cooldowns) ,heals need to be more group based (since everyone will be taking damage) and emphasis should be on target control (snares/cc)

After being targeted and blowing up defensive CD the player must run away and hide behind defensive lines (or communicate with healer/tankers to receive protection). It is very similar to PvP situation when you yourself is largely responsible not to run head on deep into enemy formation and use defensive cooldowns because no one will grab aggro off you

Collision detection along with enhancing defensive abilities of tank classes (allowing them to guard other players) would go a long way.
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