Tobold's Blog
Friday, September 21, 2012
Playing without a tank

Guild Wars 2 dungeons, World of Warcraft scenarios, there is a trend towards group PvE without the holy trinity of tank, healer, dps. So how does that work in practice? I've been running the Fall of Theramore scenario a couple of times, and unlike everybody else I wasn't concentrating on the horrible story, but on the gameplay. The first question of course is: "Does it work?". The answer is yes, for small values of "work".

Stated simply, playing without a tank and healer works as long as the challenge isn't too difficult. Three pure dps characters with zero healing nor tanking capabilities can only be in battle for so long. They are able to kill a group of enemies faster than a tank - healer - dps trio, but the holy trinity can keep up their act for considerably longer, and thus ultimately beat harder challenges.

Where it gets interesting is when you look at hybrids. Imagine a perfect 5-man group with a tank that always holds all the aggro, and a healer who always keeps everybody alive. In such a group a dps class with ranged dps and no means to mitigate damage or heal himself works perfectly. In fact it works so well that over the years developers attitude towards hybrids has changed: It used to be that if you had hybrid abilities that allowed you to do other things than just pure dps, developers believed that had to be "balanced" by you having less damage output. But as those hybrid abilities don't count for anything in a holy trinity group, and only the damage output counts, hybrids now deal exactly as much damage as pure dps classes.

And there is the rub: Take away the tank and the healer, and suddenly a hybrid class becomes a lot better. As Keen said, a GW2 dungeon is like a WoW dungeon after the tank dies: "Have you ever been doing a dungeon (probably in a pug), had your tank die, and suddenly the mobs are all over your healer or DPS and people just start running around trying to “dodge” the mobs but instead constantly die? Yeah, that’s Guild Wars 2 dungeons, but all the time." Dodging and kiting are instinctive tactics which simply don't work without a tank pulling off the mob from you. (And I'm an expert on kiting, having done it since quad-kiting with a druid in EQ). What you need in a group without a tank or healer are ways to deflect aggro, to self-heal, or to mitigate damage.

As a consequence my retribution paladin was a lot more comfortable to play in the Fall of Theramore than my mage. While in a 5-man dungeon the mage is easier, because he doesn't have to be so close to the mobs he wants to damage, in a 3-man scenario the armor and self-healing of the paladin are just brilliant. I ended up pseudo-tanking (that is being always the one that pulls and takes the first brunt of attacks from the mobs, but not holding aggro very well afterwards) in a group with two pure dps, and still did rather well on damage output.

I'm not certain what that means for class balance in World of Warcraft. That class balance is already screwed by having to take into account very different activities, like soloing, PvE groups, and PvP. And now we get yet another combat mode, where yet a different set of abilities is optimal. The risk is that in the long run certain classes will become prevalent in certain activities, because they are consider to "suck" in other activities. I don't think that can be what the Blizzard developers had in mind.

My retridin is hugely overpowered in scenarios. I can tank, heal and dps all at the same time. I still have to do the stop dps/move dance on bosses.

Real tanks need a way to grab/hold aggro and mitigate boss spike attacks. In scenarios it doesn't matter if trash escapes you it won't one-shot the caster) and damage spikes are designed to be avoidable through play style, not abilities.

Maybe this is all because Theramore is undertuned (scenarios are designed for quest blues and greens) so my epic armor lets me tank much larger mobs packs than I could handle with L90 tuning.
The main thing is that in a group with no tank/ healer, mages need to play differently and not AE. If DPS only pull what they can tank or can kill really fast, it's fine. Individual mobs don't do that much damage.
I really enjoy the Theramore scenario. It is fast and fun, and often creates those types of "panic" situations that are interesting to deal with.

I did run the scenario with one of my healers the other day and it was an interesting change. We were a bit slower on groups, but on the other hand there was absolutely zero down time and no hesitation as to group size. Different, but also nice. I'm looking forward to trying more of these.
I don't think it will be bad btw and surely will not be challenging. Playing wow since Vanilla I am not remember anything that was group[3] that could not be done very easy by 2 people...Also Blizzard said that scenarios are tuned for leveling and blue dungeon gear.

After a month everyone will faceroll these scenarios, even pure dps with zero heal.
I havent actually picked up GW2 yet, but it sounds like I will enjoy it.

I always got really bored of the WOW holy trinity fights. They were too stable and predictable. I actually looked forward to it when the tank cocked up and created a bit of chaos :)
Blizzard's answer to class equality is to make everything easy.
Oh I also wanted to say that CC'ing is a lot more useful when you have an all dps group. Most pure dps classes have good cc as well as an aggro dump and mitigation/self-heal.
Why I have the strange sensation of that instead of fix a problem, Blizzard created other one?
I think they are trying to put back what they took away by making the game easier. In the old days when you needed help for ordinary quests you would usually go with whoever was there, and got a more varied experience.

But who knows, maybe they will get it right. I'm not playing at the moment. I used to love out-of-the-ordinary dungeons such as Black Morass, where I would have to solo a continuous stream of mobs on my mage. As somebody pointed out, you can handle mobs as dps so long as you make sure not to get overrun.

Scenarios can be played with a 5-man mentality or a solo mentality, but both have their issues.

After several play throughs, I feel that scenarios are the best way to inspire people to use more than their core rotation without having to resort to the holy trinity:
- Playing as a arcane mage, I'm using sheep on the elites, counterspell on the casters, Frost Nova and Ice Barrier when I can't burn down my target fast enough. And I'm considering switching up a few glyphs and talents to be closer to what I'd use in a group.
- My ret paladin got used to use her AoE rotation because her healing allowed her to. Threw in a little bit of CC interrupts. Made me realize I need to get used to doing more.
- My arms warrior has to AoE less, stun, interrupt, charge and self-heal more (including BANDAGING!:)
- Playing with my enhancement shaman makes me wish I had keybound more of my utility spells/totems. I basically did the DPS and heal hybrid bit. Not as effective as I could have been since its a lesser played alt.

I'm excited to play more scenarios with my guildies and use the scenarios to hone my use of non-core abilities to teach me how to do without a healer or tank. Maybe it'll teach me how to play my class better before getting into heroics.
I'm pretty sure I saw plenty of times when it was 0 or 2 epics.


Remember that transmog is a game changer. Someone with a 410 weapon might greatly desire a 384 (or 84 for that matter) weapon. Especially in this "what else are you going to do" week. I think a dev post mentioned transmog re Theramore.

Joao: scenarios certainly did not cause another problem. I.e., they are optional and not really on any progression/grind path. So, like pet battles, if people like them, great; but it won't negatively impact anyone who completely ignores them.

My current estimate is they will not be as popular as I originally thought. My guess is I might use them for undergeared crafting alts and will certainly run every one at least once.


It seems to me that NPCs (e.g. SWTOR companions) are something a developer should investigate. A scenario could be 3 humans, 2 druid NPCs that is more trinity but the NPCs guarantee that there is always a trinity.
You got the wrong type of mage then.. I throw up an ice shield and push a few buttons and the mobs never touch me.. not to mention freezing them with my elemental and my own freeze... mobs do not stand a chance.
Theramore's Fall with a Ret paladin? Yes, please - much fun. I even throw up Righteous Fury to give squishier classes an easier time.

Ascalonian Catacombs? Eh. I will have to admit limited experience (one dungeon run with a guild group in a game less than a month old) is surely a factor, but I spent so much time Downed or Reviving that it was silly. Some abilities seemed to one-shot my thief with no visible warning. We effectively zerged the final boss by releasing to waypoint and running back in. It only got really frustrating on one boss fight, but it was not particularly fun to play through either.
I believe there is a major problem with the GW2/Theramore style of play.

Outside of the unrepresentative world of the blogosphere (what we say doesn’t matter) there are a few facts of life that cannot be ignored. The average MMORPG player in the real world is casual, relatively low skilled and plays a DPS class.

Did anyone ask them what they want? Do you think they enjoy CC’ing, kiting, dodging and having to focus on using self heals to stay alive? Do you think they want that responsibility?

What they really want is to pew pew and see big numbers scrolling up the screen. I can almost see their faces light up when I join Theramore on one of my tanks and they are able to blast away to their hearts content.

It won’t be long before we have blog posts asking why GW2 failed to take a big chunk out of Warcrafts market share…go figure.
Woody: I think what GW2 made a problem with harder non-holy trinity dungeons was solved by the fact that dungeons simply aren't the huge emphasis in the game. WvW is a rather laid back casual PvP, there's plenty of exploration and jumping puzzles to do, and regular easy story modes to do if you really want some PvE.
So it is PVP and Mario brothers versus the dungeon grind and highly addictive gear progression system of Warcraft!

In all seriousness I don't think the majority of MMORPG players had an issue with the trinity dungeons and gear progression system.

I also believe that it will be easier for Blizzard to copy GW2's story modes, jumping sections/vistas, dynamic events and heart-quest system than it will be for Arenanet to copy the "pew pew" and gear progression system of WoW

The later would involve a U-Turn as they deliberately moved away from that game style in the first place.

You can predict what will happen. WoW will become GW2 but with dungeons for all....or you could end up saying that GW2 is as "a WoW clone where the masses can't do dungeons and you don't get decent gear upgrades".

Sounds scarily similar to patch 4.0!
I just listened to Cory S's interview on The Instance.

He said that scenarios were designed to be between a daily quest and a dungeon. The most interesting thing he said was that the three was not fixed: you could have a single person mining scenario or a 40-person AV type scenario. The risk is anything without a trinity is just a zergfest, but perhaps this adds some technical capabilities that designers will be able to leverage in the future. It may be a foundation so that if Blizzard ever decides it needs to respond to Rifts/DE, the infrastructure is in place.
About dynamic events...

About the only explanation I can think of that justifies cross-realm zones is that it enables dynamic world content. You need at least a certain population density in a zone to handle an event.

If this is what Blizzard is planning, they should explain it, since it would provide a potential benefit that might mollify the outrage.
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