It’s about class, in more ways than one

Lately there have been a ton of posts about the differences between the three major roles (tanking, healing, and Dps).

It all started with a guest post over at World of Matticus. As that slowly simmered in peoples heads I suddenly started to see my feed reader positively explode with posts on the subject.

Over the course of a few days it has spawned posts from Blessing of Kings, Spinksville, forbearance, The Pink Pigtail Inn, Azure Shadows, and the  Big Bear Butt to name a few. Actually I suppose I could include myself in that, but you are already here.

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Now, I am not going to get deeply into whether I think tanks and healers deserve a greater reward than Dps for running the same content. I will simply say no.

Same content, same reward.

The party is a 5 player team, and should be rewarded as such.

Now that I got that out of the way, moving on…

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The defining point of this topic seems to be the fact that there is nearly always a lack of healers and/or tanks. That is what I am going to look at.

No, I am not arguing whether there is a shortage or not. There is, and I think I know a bit of why.

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  • Fear

Simply put, both of these roles are single point of failure roles. Generally if one of them goes down it’s a wipe.

Fear of failure keeps many from ever trying.

Peer pressure can be a bitch. Just look at how Kaylynn started off planning to learn tanking as she leveled, and after getting treated like crap by her peers gave up on it.

Yes there will occasionally be a second character in a Dps role that can take over if needed. I have seen a cat Druid go bear when the tank went down. I have seen an elemental Shaman pick up heals when the Priest pops angel form. I have seen Rogues evasion tank that last few percent, and Hunters that pet tanked.

I have seen a lot. However I would say at least 90% of the time that either the tank or the healer goes down we will be running back.

There is a good amount of stress involved in knowing that if you screw up the whole group dies. Lots of people I know play the game as a way to burn off the stress of their daily lives. They don’t want stress where they have their fun.

Barring a complete redesign of the games mechanics I don’t really see a solution for this one. It simply is what it is.

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  • Gear

In my opinion gearing up as a Dps is simply easier. The vast majority of quest rewards are geared towards exactly that.

Dps gear.

Now that makes a good deal of sense on the part of the designers. At the point you are leveling up the vast majority of players do so in a Dps spec. It simply makes sense to do it that way, as the questing is generally more easily managed and faster as Dps.

I know I have always always gone that route, at least until yesterday. (I am going to attempt to level a Pally as Prot. She is all of level 10 right now. More on that in later posts.)

Gearing as Dps is also generally simpler. Lets assume my Hunter just made 80. A little bit of reading shows me that I need to gear for the hit cap of 8%. Once that is done I simply stack agility, int, and perhaps a bit of  stamina and I will be fine.

Not perfect maybe, but fine.

There is also a decent amount of  crafted blue quality gear that will make decent Dps gear. Hell, that same hunter could put on most of the Swiftarrow PvP set with a few other crafted odds and ends and be geared enough to do his job in heroics about 3 seconds after hitting level 80.

From my experience at least there is simply a lot more number juggling that goes on with gearing a tank or a healer.

Take as an example my Priest. As a healer he needs Spellpower, Int, Spirit, crit, haste, MP-5, and Stamina, not necessarily in that order. He needs to balance throughput with mana regen in addition to everything else. Stacking one thing will simply shortchange him somewhere else, it needs to be a balance.

Trying to use my DK tank as an example is pretty shaky for me since I have yet to actually tank with her. I do recall spending quite a bit of time working on which gear to get from what source to achieve all the numbers that were on the notepad I had to write them all down on.

Off the top of my head I can think of Defense rating, Stamina, Strength, hit rating, Dodge, Parry, and Expertise. I am sure there is more that I am forgetting, my notebook with all the math in it is at home. Actually my head hurts just thinking about it.

Simply put, when gearing my character turns from “oh, cool this is an improvement!” to “Hell, I don’t know. Lets do some calculus to figure out if it’s an upgrade.” that is no longer fun for me.

Fortunately most of the solutions that I could think of for this are already being worked on, and are planned for Cataclysm. They have already announced a streamlining of stats to make them a bit simpler when figuring out what to wear.

An example would be all tanking classes getting their defense capped through talents, similar to the talent Survival of the Fittest which Druids already have. At least that will be one fewer number to juggle.

Not only do I think that will help with designing the entry level crafted gear, but should lessen the need for dual-specced characters to carry multiple sets of gear. A player that can simply re-talent and use most of the same gear is more likely to try out a role than one that has to drop a sizable chunk of change on an “offspec” set of gear.

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  • Skill

There is much to be said for being skilled at what you do.

Running as Dps, Heals, and Tanking require very different skill sets than each other. Yes, that is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating.

Every character that comes into the game starts as Dps. Depending on which race you picked you might be killing anything from wolves to pigs, possibly even walking flowers or glowing worms. The simple fact is you will be killing something, at least for a while.

Could you level up purely through LFG? Sure thing.

Actually I am planning to try it with the Pally I mentioned earlier. My failures should be blogworthy at very least.  

For now though, she is a Dps prot Pally questing her way towards level 15 or so before I start pugging.

With Dps I can (and have) simply solo leveled my way to the cap, learning as I went how to do it. There used to still be a difference in skill however. If you made the level cap as a Dps there was still more to learn. Crowd control, threat management, and  mana management were things that soloing did not teach.

It still doesn’t, but we no longer really use them. The second half of WotLK has been Aoe the trash, blow cooldowns on the boss, balls to the wall and don’t worry about mana or aggro for the most part. If something goes wrong its the tank/healers fault.

Both tanking and healing require a completely different set of skills, skills that will only be learned by practicing them. Unfortunately there is no place to practice them other than in a group. A group generally composed of extremely judgmental strangers. No one likes to be called out as a failure.

Here is a secret. We all start out failing.

Some learn faster than others, some never do. The fact remains that no one simply installs the game one day and magically knows how to do everything.

Another quick example.

I made a party chat macro that goes something like this:

Hiyas folks. Just a heads up, I am new to tanking. I may move a bit slower than you are used to as I am learning the pulls. Please give me a few seconds to get everything really pissed off at me before starting Dps, it will make our lives a lot easier. I will mark the kill target with a skull, please concentrate Dps on that one.

I have so far used that macro three times.

Both times I used it on my lowbie Druid I got a wall of “kk, ok, can do, or thanks for the heads up”, and my favorite “my main is a bear tank, mind if I offer a few tips”? I ran Wailing Caverns twice on that character and had a blast both times.

When I tried that on my level 80 DK it did not go nearly as well.

I decided to forgo the two Emblems of Triumph in favor of going to an instance that I know fairly well. I qued up as a tank for the first time, choosing normal Nexus to cut my teeth on. I que up, zone in, and as we are buffing up hit my macro.

One by one the other four dropped group.

The only one who so much as whispered me was the healer, and all he had to say was “Sorry mate, I just want a quick badge run.”

Four people would rather take a 15 minute debuff than give me that 15 minutes to show that I had a clue which button to push. Three out of the four likely lost a solid half hour between the debuff and the re-que time. 

I wonder if any of them bitched about there being so few tanks while they waited.

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Thats just a single example of how learning the needed skills can be a bit harder for the tanking and healing roles. 

How do we solve this?

I think the new LFG tool will actually go a long way towards helping to even things out given enough time. Other than that I can’t really see a way to get practice in for group roles without a group to heal/tank for.

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  • Design

Just a quick note on design. Since every class has to be able to level solo, and that was set up as a Dps task. Every class has to have at least one spec that can Dps.

Look at that for a second.

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Ten classes, all of which can Dps.

Four can only Dps.

Four can tank.

Four can heal.

Two can do all three.

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There are thirty talent trees.

Six are tanking trees.

Five are healing trees.

Twenty-three are Dps trees.

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The game is designed to favor the creation of Dps characters. Without completely re-inventing how characters work that is not going to change. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Do I have some ideas for how it could be done differently? Oh, I most certainly do, but now is not their time. They will be coming up in another post on what I think Blizzards next generation MMO might be like.

This wall is long enough without me opening that can of worms.

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