Monday, January 25, 2010

Signs of Things to Come, Tank AE and AE Tanking

And interesting WoW Forum thread and some thoughts from GC in this thread about Protect Warrior possible dps increase yet relevant as well to all tanks as a whole and possible signs of things to come in the future at some point. Clearly some things here are on Blizzards radar. Such as the oversimplified use and style of AoE tanking everywhere all the time and the whole AoE Tanking game.

A few things:

1) We're much more concerned about tank single target dps than we are tank AE dps. Especially in Icecrown, there are virtually no fights where the tank's dps contribution on an AE fight is really going to amount to much. You can make an argument that the single target dps can be relevant on e.g. Festergut (though again, I still don't think there are that many cases where the difference between success and fail are the tank's dps).

2) You may find Devastate boring, but Devastate is a very easy ability to buff because even small tweaks have large effects given how often it is used. Buffing say Shield Slam (or even Def Stance) would make the PvP balance we're trying to solve even worse. You'd have to buff Revenge enormously to see a difference. Any buff to Heroic Strike affects dps warriors in PvE as well who aren't hurting at all. Some of the ideas about e.g. Rend are interesting, but we're pretty sure the last thing the warrior needs is yet another ability to manage while tanking. Long term that might be the kind of thing we consider, but given that we're looking for a safe and easy buff, that's not the kind of thing we want to mess with now. (Consider that even if we did a PTR, who is going to be on there when the competition is new bosses in Icecrown?)

3) There are differences in how tanks generate AE threat, and therefore damage. Warriors are jealous of the DK and especially paladin persistent area-based damage, and the others are jealous of the warrior's burst AE threat on incoming adds. Druids are jealous of anyone with more than one button. :(

So, yes, one way of handling this is to give every tank a burst AE attack like Thunderclap, a sustained AE attack like Consecrate, and a mass taunt like Challenging Shout just for good measure. That's the kind of thing we are really reluctant to do though because it just works against the justification for having 4 tanking classes when they all perform the same way including using the same kind of tools. Now, on the other hand no tank should be horribly gimped in any of those situations, and except for rare exceptions they really aren't. We're mostly talking quality of life issues here. (One such exception: DK offtanks on Yogg had trouble picking up adds and the dps couldn't afford to wait. As long as there aren't a ton of fights like this though, we don't think it's a systemic flaw.)

4) Long-term, the paladin manner of generating AE damage and threat is probably too good, especially given how simple it is. To be honest, we have very mixed feelings on the whole AE tanking game. We brought the druid and warrior more in line with the paladin for fear of recreating the Shattered Halls / Mount Hyjal experience, where other tanks just weren't competitive. What that has led to of course is the AE tank + AE style of damage for almost every pull. You need the tools to be able to tank legitimate adds fights (imagine lots of incoming mobs), but does that mean every pull needs to devolve into that? We'd like to see less AE overall, so buffing everyone's AE tools isn't going to be tops on our agenda. That does however mean that we really can't afford to have a "best AE tank", and while things are more fair there than they were in BC, they aren't fair enough.

Sorry for going off topic here, but these kinds of questions have come up a lot lately, so I figured I'd just share some of our discussions publicly.

Lead Systems Designer

I guess if you read GC's comments that it can be read different ways to different people. Such is as everything else in WoW. Anyway Paladin Nerf incomming! ETA Dunno!

Seems to me that's the AE Tanking style that is now may not be as quite intended by Blizzard or probably somewhat out of hand with some imminent changes for the future. But the issue and more is on Blizzards radar for Cataclysm in whatever form changes may come with a less AoE form of Tanking perhaps. Who knows! And I guess in a way this is somewhat related to the debate that's going around with Tank AoE and CC. As well the thinking that everything now is just AoE with all tanks. Tanking without much thought required, unintelligent mob trash packs that are just all AoE all the time it seems, especially in Heroics and some raids. Elite trash mobs just don't feel all that elite anymore, more like pushovers with everyone AoEing all the time.

What I really would like to see for Cataclysm with tanking is not everything being a AoE tanking grind like it is now, that's just boring at some point. Nor would I quite wish to see a great amount of CC return to the overall game, yet some measure of it for relevance in intelligent trash pack design to return for the sake of intelligent tanking among all the tanking classes and some form of intelligent dpsing as well as a result. Much of that is missing in WotLK. See Blessing of Kings as well for some intelligent thought here and older posts.

As far as Heroics and maybe some raids it don't even feel all that heroic anymore when all some tanks do is just run into a pack of mobs as a tank with no consequence whatsoever of anything or abilities a pack of mobs can do. Add some form of intelligent reaction required to how a tank reacts or intelligently pulls a pack of mobs for a challenge as well challenge the dps as well. It was good to give all tanks viable tools to AoE dps yet much of that has lead to just AoE Tanking with much lack of thought and with many dps who do much the same.

Its to be seen how things will turn out, but it seems its on Blizzards radar for the future and Cataclysm to focus on less AoE overall. Be interesting to see how that all turns out as well as it relates to Tanking. Who knows what Blizzard will deliver in the future....

Hoping Blizzard can deliver a fun expansion with Tanking with a bit more Intelligence and with more a lively challenge required for the often bored dps as well.

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