Yesterday I put up a rather long post about what I see as some of the reasons for the disparity in the amount of tanks and/or healers available in the game. The post did not draw a huge amount comments, but it did draw some pretty insightful ones.
After reading those and doing a bit more thinking on the subject some of my opinions are somewhat changed. I thought of simply putting this all in the comments, but it actually deserves its own post.
Remember when I said I might hijack some of your comments for further posting?
I wasn’t kidding :)
In yesterday’s post I broke it down into four categories, mostly to help me keep my thoughts in order. I did, after all, write that before I finished my morning coffee.
Today I am going to go about it just a bit differently..
TheReaper brought up a few good points last night.
In my opinion tanks are far easier to gear than any other archetype in the game.
Are you defcapped? Yes? Stack stamina. No? Get more def rating.
Avoidance automatically increases with gear and unless you went really wrong somewhere threat generation isn’t much of a problem either these days.
There are certain encounters where a specialized set of gear comes in handy, but those are usually hardmodes that I don’t worry about on my twink (even though I have successfully tanked all raid instances in the game and my paladin is currently sitting just shy of 5400 gs).
On my rogue however, gearing is a nightmare. What stats do I look for?
Sounds complicated? Well, it gets worse…
Expertise pretty much trumps everything until you hit the dodgecap (26 expertise).
Hitrating is imperative up to the poison hit cap, which differs depending on: specc, group composition, available debuffs, race and weapon. If you wanted to really squeeze every last drop of dps you might need up to 5 different sets to hit the different hitcaps.
Hitrating raises your soft crit cap, its great if you reached the cap, pretty bad if you didn’t.
Agility/critrating are good until you hit the soft crit cap, but fall behind AP/haste above it.
So every time I could get a new piece of gear I have to pull up my spreadsheet, see if equipping it would bump me over my soft crit cap, regem/reequip hitrating accordingly, figure out if the upgrade is still worth it at that point and so on.
Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness, I want to do that on my rogue, so its hard, I don’t want to do that on my paladin, so it appears easier to me.
Someone with a pally tank main and a rogue alt would probably react in the exact opposite way.
I will admit that when I look back at it with a more critical eye I see that I may have filtered my perceptions of the complexity of gearing through the lens of my experience. Then again, I think we all would.
Today I am both properly caffeinated and looking at this from a wider perspective. The relative difficulty of gearing any character for a specific role will be different for different people. It will also to a large degree depend on who is doing the gearing and why.
First, how familiar are you with the class and role?
If you are gearing a character class you are familiar with for a role you are familiar with it will be a lot easier. Like any other task, it will be easier with experience. The more you do something the easier it seems.
Secondly, What are you gearing for? The reasons you are gearing up will also influence not only your gear choices, but how in depth you need to go into “perfecting” your gear, spec, and play style.
For instance, I enjoy battlegrounds on occasion, but have no desire to do arena. My gearing for PvP would be simplistic in comparison to someone who was playing on a top rated arena team. Someone who levels up and decides just to stay in 5 mans will have less of a need to min-max their character than someone who plans to see Arthas fall in Icecrown 25.
As TheReaper said, Gearing becomes difficult when you try to maximize your effectiveness.
There are the absolute basics like he mentioned about gearing a tank, and I mentioned about gearing a hunter at one end of the spectrum. At the other there are calculators, spreadsheets, stat weighted gear sorters, and just about any other thing you can think of to help min-max. I suppose it’s really about how far you want to go down that particular rabbit hole.
Fortunately (in my opinion) the stats are planned to be streamlined in Cataclysm which should make the learning curve a bit less steep when deciding to change how much you choose to focus on a given role.
A few people touched on the social aspect.
Isa wrote (in part)
… While a different game design could make tanks and healers less obvious points of failure, and thus less scary, I think it’s this social mechanism you’ve mentioned that drives the shortage, and not the design. In other words, I believe game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.
Greysmoke wrote (in part)
… There does seem to be a pervasive idea that once you hit 80, you should know perfectly whatever role you’re playing, so if you’re wanting to switch from dps to heals or tanking, you’re either going to take a lot of abuse OR you’re going to have to rely on friends and guildies to see you through the learning curve. And it seems to be much worse for tanks than healers, in my experience. …
Humans are for the most part social creatures. That is one of the big reasons Wow is so damn popular. If I got this level of enjoyment out of a solo console game I would have saved a bloody fortune over the last four years. Hell, if I were not a social creature I would not be writing about it and you folks would not be here commenting.
One of the things many people fear in a social situation is rejection by ones peers. They may not admit it, or even consciously know it, but it will influence their decisions.
The steeper the learning curve would be to achieve success the fewer will be willing to climb that learning curve. The greater the cost, or more visible the failure would be, the less likely people are to take the risk.
This can be lessened somewhat by being able to practice alone. Target dummies and random critters out in the world do a good job of that for Dps classes. Battlegrounds (especially AV) can be a good training ground for healers.
I have yet to find a way to “practice” tanking in a way that does not involve running a five man. Of course, having said that someone will come by and tell me how to do it now.
The only ways to eliminate that would be for Blizzard to somehow put in the ability to practice tanking into the game, or to eliminate the distinctions between tanks, heals, and dps. Somehow I think that the simulator is more likely in Wow, and eliminating the distinctions is more likely to happen in the next generation MMO, but that is a whole other post.
As Isa said, game design can be a solution but it’s not the real problem.
The more I think about this the more I think it boils down to two major reasons for the disparity.
The first is the fear of failure, particularly of public failure and the ridicule that can go with it.
That goes a long way to explaining not only why people tend to not play the single point of failure roles, but why many that do will have periods of “burnout” where they drop that role in favor of Dps. Whether actually performing the tasks to play the role well is more difficult or not, the perceived stress coming from the fear of failure will get to some people after a while.
I know there was a time when I took six months or more off healing and went shadow on my priest, just because I was tired of getting blamed for choosing to throw my heals on the tank who is holding the boss and letting some idiot that was standing in the bad die.
*note to all: if your feet are on fire… please move.*
The second is the ability to practice and improve ones performance outside of a group setting.
How much “soloable” content that can be practiced on may not be a factor, but I do see a direct relation to role choice. It may be coincidence, but then again it might not.
Training opportunities include everything from “kill ten rats” quests, to target dummies. There are lower level instances to run solo or in a group, battlegrounds to fight in, mobs wandering the countryside, in short it’s a Dps paradise.
By the time people leave their starting zone they have the beginnings of a grasp on Dps. Unless you heal or tank instances as you level every character is a Dps’r all the way to the level cap.
Most training opportunities, most common role.
Training for healing is a good bit harder to come by. Since the only way to learn group healing is to heal groups your choices pretty much boil down to healing instances, healing raids, or healing in PvP. I suppose we could throw in the odd group quest while leveling that requires a bit of healing, but honestly most can be solo’d by a Dps class.
That’s pretty much it for healing. Sure there are a few times here and there where you can learn healing outside of running instances and raids, but not much at all.
Much leaner training opportunities, much fewer players in the role.
Training for tanking is simple. Run five mans, or run raids. That pretty much covers it. Perhaps a few group quests would count here as well. I can think of no ways to practice holding threat and managing cooldowns as a tank in a group other than being the tank in one.
Could you go practice your rotation of a target dummy, or random mobs out in the world? Sure.
Will that show you whether you would actually be holding aggro against high output Dps? No.
Will that get you practice in using your “oh crap” buttons at the proper time? No.
There are a very few skills you could actually practice, such as line of sight pulling of casters, but there is really not much you can do without a group.
Least amount of training available, fewest people willing to step into the role.
I don’t see these things so much as a reason people will not roll a tank or a healer. I see them more of a reason that tanks and healers both will tend to find groups of friends while learning their trade. Friends that will help them out and not give them a bunch of grief as they learn the ropes of that role.
Once a person has done that why would they want to run with strangers? Why take a further chance of getting crap from people you will never see again in favor of rolling with folks you know you can depend on? Why put yourself out there in a spotlight ready to be criticized if someone pulls aggro or stands in the fire?
In the bigger picture I don’t really think that there exists a disproportionate number of Dps. I simply think it much more likely that people choosing the tanking and healing roles are less apt to run with strangers. The are a lot more likely to run with those they have had good luck with before.
The next time you are in a pug 5 man and one of the players says “Hey guys, My gearscore is low and I am new to this role. How about you help me learn the ropes?”
Are you going to be one of those that just bail and leave that person hanging, or will you be one of those that says “Thanks for the heads up, we can do this.”
Think about it.