Tobold's Blog
Thursday, July 02, 2015
DPS : Healer : Tank ratio

In a different thread today the discussion turned to the long wait times that you have if you sign up for a LFR group. That is "long" if you are a DPS, "short" if you are a healer, and "instantly" if you are a tank. The tool does nothing but wait for enough players for each role to sign up, and then starts a group. One problem here is that there is very little feedback: You are told the average wait time, but not the reason why. If the tool showed the number of players in the queue (which would look something like 1000 dps, 100 healers, 1 tank), the effect of roles on wait time would be far more obvious and might push some players to try a different role if their class permits.

On the other hand, maybe it is time for something far more revolutionary. Why does a raid need 2 tanks and 5 healers compared to 18 DPS. The ratio is completely arbitrary and is based on how the encounters are designed and how the abilities of the different characters are designed.

Now imagine a redesign which makes tanking and healing far more effective. You could design encounters which work with 1 tank and 1 healer, provided that you give the tank and healer far more powerful abilities for their specific role. And the closer your required DPS : Healer : Tank ratio gets to the actual distribution of those roles among players, the shorter the queues become. And don't forget that if you make tanks and healers more powerful, more people will want to play them, which also helps.

The alternative is designing encounters which don't need a tank or healer at all. For example the premade group finder to kill the champions of hellfire doesn't require any tanks or healers. That might be tactically less interesting, but that could be changed by introducing other design elements which forces people to react more. Right now tanks and healers are "too hard" to play in a group, so people don't do it, and DPS are "too easy", and everybody chooses that role. That is a design problem which can be rectified with a few class changes.

Fights without tank have one major drawback: it such fight players cannot position the boss at will. This puts additional limits on fight design (position must not matter or you must provide positioning mechanisms other than tank).

Also, devising 1-tank and especially to 1-healer raid will raise responsibility pressure for tanks and healers a lot. Some of existing tanks and healers will convert to DPS as a consequence, and we will be back with the current ratio in no time.
Re-designs have been attempted; I'd say GW2 is a good example here and yet, they've softened towards more holy trinity combat over time. Despite the fact that GW2 did have some interesting multi-phase encounters that were dps-only (I still claim Lupicus in Arah was quite great for example, at least pre-changes), scores of vocal players whined on forums and elsewhere that everything was a mindless zerg. What other 'good' examples are there among classic MMORPGs that manage without fix roles?

And it's true that the fixed tank<healer<dps ratios for encounters are pretty inane and should change. It's odd to call it a "holy trinity" and then make it so uneven in party and raid setups..... What also bothers me about the unbalanced design is that the number of classes/roles you can choose from isn't regulated accordingly in most MMOs. If you do go the unbalanced encounter way, class choices need to be unbalanced too; there should be more tank and healing classes than dps ones to choose from (example: FFXIV Heavensward introduced 1 new role each despite the fact that the game already has so many DPS classes and long DPS queues). This may be more of a cosmetic fix because many players still pick their favourite role no matter what but I'm not 100% convinced. The number of roles on offer could potentially impact your overall role ratio for cooperative content down the line.
WoW attempt to get away from the Trinity was scenarios, which I loved and the 1337 did not. Instant queues, failure rate of a % or two and zero of the dramafests from 5-persons. (When I think of my worst WoW experiences, they have all been pugging 5-person content.)

Heals seem easiest to fix in LFR, just boost the healers' power. Saying you go to a solo-tankable encounter after the queue time hits 15 min works for me but some would scream.
Tanking and healing are just thankless jobs. But that doesn't mean they should be rewarded more. And this isn't a class problem or a fixed role problem, there will just always be a disparity of roles people WANT to do. I'm all for classless systems that let you learn whatever, but that system will have the same problem.

DPS is also more flexible. You can either try your best, learn all your spells and use perfect rotations... and be rewarded by seeing your name at the top of the charts, of you can not care at all and not even have a damage meter loaded and skate through LFR.

That said, you can't dispense with the trinity. Without tanks, bosses have to be so weak they're rollovers, or so numerous it's just a mob of thugs.

Reducing the number of tanks / healers just increases the responsibility on them and exacerbates the issue.

Instead, pad the team with NPCs. Once all 18 DPS are selected and 15 minutes have elapsed, fill the tank and healer slots with NPC characters.

LFR isn't supposed to be some cosmic challenge. It's tourist mode, a watered down version of a real raid. Having NPC tanks and healers that are "decent" gets the event going and, as a benefit, gives budding tanks / healers something to compare themselves to. Something that isn't at max BIS that does 3 times more healing than thay do.
Ugh. I was the heal lead for a hardcore raiding guild for a time, back around Ulduar. We had to fight tooth and nail for every raid spot. Not with the other healers! We were always happy to take turns and let everyone get a chance. But with the DPS!

There was a constant push to do content with fewer healers, so that the night could be finished like 5 minutes faster. Really, it just creates conflicting incentives. Healers really depend on each other to keep the raid topped off, so losing 1/5th of your support team really hurts. But a DPSer is an island, they can just do their rotation and execute the fight. Increasing overall dps by 1/18th has essentially no impact on how they play. It just makes the fight a little faster.

I have to confess that there were times I told my people not to make it look too easy, or someone would end up losing their spot to a dps, or dps-off-healing. Sucks to have to hold back, but you have to look after your people.

Of course, having power over life and death is fun, too. There was one mage that always annoyed me, so I'd make sure they'd die a lot on farm encounters, through cunning use of shields to misdirect healer attention from them just before damage spikes. Mwahaha >:D
And I'd like to add:

"but that could be changed by introducing other design elements which forces people to react more."

RIP Wildstar.

The people that CAN react and avoid are already doing that. The others won't play a game that's "too hard."
This is the sort of discussion that gets my MMO dander up. Why is it always a discussion of modifying incentives instead of making it fun? But I digress.

People know full well that if they are a healer or a tank they will be more desirable for any group activity. That's been true since day one. Aside from an especially obstinate guild leader of mine who refused to let me tank at the beginning of the Burning Crusade even though I had the only defense capped tank in the guild because my rightful place was DPS, nobody was under any delusion on that. But people prefer DPS. You get to post big numbers and have little responsibility. The players that want a bit of challenge and responsibility gravitate towards healing and tank roles. One of the perks of doing that is that you can always get a group to do what you want to do.

At the end of the day, an MMO is supposed to entertainment. It's perfectly rational for people to avoid high-stress, high-blame roles. Healing and tanking is for masochists. You can fiddle with the incentives all you want, but if you make healing really easy, then do you nerf DPS? Cause if you don't, they'll keep the same # of healers and then trounce the boss. Unless there's a rage timer every fight would become trivial.
The holy trinity is the rational result of two things. First, having all your encounters be lots of players against one NPC boss. Second, having your only real method for mitigating damage be to simply have a bunch of armor on one role.

The one boss has to hit someone. If that boss is doing enough damage to threaten a large group of players, that someone has to be a tank. And unless that encounter is going to be very short, that kind of damage is going to require healers.

The other reason I don't think WoW can change things now is because their current system has already driven players who are okay with responsibility into tank and healer roles. If you change things and push responsibility on DPS, those are players who don't want it and aren't used to handling it.
Back when I played WoW regularly, I regularly ran dungeons as a tank and as a healer on my two top characters. I almost never ran dungeons on my DPS. I liked playing the tank or healer because I enjoyed the challenge of those classes. I rarely found the DPS role as enjoyable to play.

For me, the really short queue times for random dungeon groups were one of the benefits of being willing to play a tank or healer. I had put the time and effort into building a tank and learning how to play it passably well, so my reward was being able to get into dungeons quickly. I also sometimes had the bonus that if the group was fairly solid, I could keep it going through multiple dungeons if I wanted.

I never felt Blizzard needed to give me more treasure or more power as a tank or healer. Perhaps a little aspirin as a healer because of certain players, but I take needing some aspirin as a given anytime I do anything in group content. ;)

I agree that making tanks and healers more powerful in their group roles will lead to more people choosing those roles at first, but I also believe it will just lead to even more sloppy play over time. If people are complaining now because the DPS can't be bothered to control their aggro gains or not stand in the fire, just how bad would things get if those same types of players know that the tanks and healers are even more powerful and so able to cover for their sloppy play?

I suspect that in the long run, increasing tank and healing power significantly would lead to greater frustration and perhaps an even lower desire to play those classes, at least once the massive rush for everyone to create a tank or healer as the new shiny was over.
and everybody chooses that role. That is a design problem which can be rectified with a few class changes.

Not if the bulk of players have no interest in challenging play to begin with.

A vast many might just want to treat it like a job - just steady increment of personal gain.

Granted it's the sort of thing to run a test on to check rather than just assume.

But my money is a lot of players of mmorpgs aren't interested in challenge. That's why you get your post about becoming strong but that weakens challenge (ie, compare if you beat challenges in order to not get stronger, but unlock new challenges - that'd be more challenge centric. But where is that in mmorpgs?)
The ratio of 1/1/3 or 2/5/18 is good for organized play; there are enough tanks and healers.

The unpredictability of random groups just makes it so that most tanks/healers don't want to. I am tanking mythic 5men with my 670+ twink (the one decked out in full AH gear ;)) and the dungeons are really fun. But my guild isn't that interested in anything outside our beer'o clock raids.

Getting a group is easy, getting a group with 3 competent DPS not so much. Damage itself isn't that big a problem but too many players are not able to play the mechanics as required. Mythic dungeons pretty much require noone dies if you don't play overgeared, and if 1 of 3 players constantly fail it can take the joy out of it. Haven't had a healer who couldn't keep me up so far.

Not a completionist regarding to items (items are just tools). So while I love tanking I'll not be available for random groups much longer (after having done everything once or twice).

Reducing the tank/healer spots to 1/1/23 in LFR might be OK but if you then get an incompetent one your pretty much screwed. With 5 healers chances are good 2 know what they're doing, with 2 tanks you can just battle rez the one that always dies.

Getting rid of tank/healer requirement at all is a really bad idea IMO. I've seen that in Dungeons&Dragons Online, it leads to utter chaos in random groups. No joy in playing.
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