Monday, April 11, 2011

I've Already Been Bribed

I know I'm late to the party here. Tank bribing has been the story du jour for several jours now.  I just had already written a lovely article about botting that was wicked interesting before, you know, actual shit hit an actual fan.  And then there was IC Friday, and no way am I going to post about srs bzns on Friday.  I had an Inception joke to make.  (Side note: I'm still waiting for my top to stop spinning... is this all a dream?).

As such, I figured Monday was a good day to rehash the hash, so to speak, and sling my own mud.  It's not really going to be all that epic since pretty much everything has already been said that can be said about the topic.  There are so many links, I haven't read them all and don't plan to link them because they make my head hurt with their sheer volume.  However, I do feel like I have something to add in my typical "offer up a half-ass solution or stop your whining" mindset. 

Quick recap in case you've been living under a rock like the dudes in the Geico commerical: Blizz is going to bribe the "lowest common denominator (LCD)" (wrt to group make up (math minor much? :-p)) with extra lootz and phat mounts and stuff like that.  Riches and fame... that old story.  In probably 98% of the cases, that will mean tanks.  A healer may pick up a loot bag or two.  DPS are likely shit out of luck.  People are raising Holy Fel about it for a variety or reasons.  I think that, in general, the complaints can be boiled down to "this doesn't really solve the problem, IMHO."  (YHMV - Your humbleness may vary).

Personally, I don't care too much.  Yeah, it sort of seems a bit short sighted and unfair when seen through the eyes of a DPS.  After all, no amount of magic is going to bring my tank/healing spec up to heroic par as a Warlock.  Likely, I'll never had a random shot at the sweet extras they're offering.  From the angle, it is a bit unbalanced, but it is not the first time the game has been unbalanced.  I think Blizz can do better and, in all fairness, they probably will.  At least I hope so.

So what about my potential solutions?  Well, they both stem from the same perception of the problem.  In my mind, the reason for the shortage of tanks in a PuG environment is because tanking in a pure pick up group is a lesson in patience at best.  That is to say, as the disparity in gear widens (which it always does as the game trends away from the last reset/expansion), tanking almost becomes harder (instead of easier, as one might expect).  The reason is that, though we start to "over gear" things, new problems just replace old ones.  You'll still have it where lowbie tanks die, but then aggro also becomes a problem as they just can't hold threat in the face of uber-geared DPS.  With tricky, long dungeons, groups still have to "play well" when they just want to "play mindlessly."

Not that there's anything wrong with playing mindlessly.  A lot of folks would have you believe that we should always have to use CC and every trick in our toolbox or it's bad design.  I would argue that it is perfectly valid to want to have some content that is "easy."  That is, if you would like to choose to AoE rolfstomp a dungeon instead of really having to dial in and pay attention, that is no less "playing."  Games don't have to be challenging to be fun.  Sometimes that helps, but not always.  Let's not get stuck on suffering for the sake of suffering.  The tricky part is how to balance the two extremes.  How to keep enough things challenging and provide some easier avenues without ruining either side of the game.  Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks.  This is no trivial matter.

So let's assume that in Cataclysm, Blizz attempted to originally cater to the base that wanted more of a challenge.  I think we could say they succeeded fairly well in a lot of those goals.  Heroics were hard right off the bat.  Ironically, the challenge sort of ruined the former success of the dungeon finder.  Where before a bit of asshatery was tolerable because runs were quick and finishing them was pretty much a foregone conclusion, now you're stuck spending longer with those same people and potentially not getting any reward for it when the group atrophies.  Sort of lose-lose.   Thus, what we want to do is make it easier to tolerate poor play without completely ruining the challenge for those who want it.

Enter my two suggestions.  First, what if "pure PuG" tanks got a Superman Buff to threat.  Only to threat.  That is, they hit something once, it stays on them.  In this way, you still might have to use CC to limit incoming damage (until sufficient gear levels).  Healers might still have to work a bit at lower levels, but not work saving that damn rogue.  It gives tanks an ultimate level of control without really changing the difficulty.  Sure, you could argue that watching your threat is an added challenge, but really, how much of one?  Good players will do it second nature, poor players just won't do it, and it's the latter that drive tanks nuts.  With a simple, no rewards solution, we could potentially ease a lot of the stress on tanks.  They could focus more on using cooldowns and stuff like that, instead of OMG WHERE IS THAT MOB GOING?!  I could see this as a sort of "playground" for newer tanks getting used to abilities without failing at threat. 

My second suggestion is that, instead of rewarding mounts and monies in these loot bags, why not stuff them with role specific gear?  Reward tanks with tanking items, not generic items the rest of us would covet.  Make it trivial to "gear" a tank.  If you have a hybrid, make getting a "dungeon" set so quick and easy that there is no reason NOT to be geared.  (This could apply to any role that we're globally short on, but just happens to likely be tanks at this point).  I think we could agree that gear makes things easier.  It should lead to more success and less headache.  I think would go further toward alleviated the problems than getting pets and mounts and such.  What good do those do anyone else?

Finally, we could always bring up the age-old idea of implementing some sort of rating/reputation system, whereby people get voted up or down based on behavior.  The like have been used in certain forums for a while now, and seem to be generally effective.  This would require a whole new design though and probably more manpower than Blizz would want to spend combating asshats.  I think the other two are a bit more elegant in their simplicity.  They use things like temporary buffs (that you could click off, mind you) for threat or filling already offered bags with specific items.  No new infrastructure. 

Anyway, this has gone on long enough for a Monday musing.  I just wanted to offer up a couple ideas that I hadn't seen yet in the flurry of postings.  I'll leave you with this: Hasn't it occurred to anyone that the decrease in effectiveness of the LFD tool may simply be due to the new guild perks working as intended?  An increased emphasis on guild activity would lead to a shortage of random "pick ups," would it not?  Should Blizzard, perhaps, simply respond to queue complaints with "join a guild then, since that's how we've designed the game....?"    



    ...or something.

  2. @Ful, great post.

    I like the idea of bringing back the back of goodies into the Cataclysm. As I've been leveling my disc priest through the BC dungeons, I've been getting a bag with each successful dungeon run. Sometimes useful gear, sometimes it's not. Which is still ok, cuz I call it free gold (or enchanting materials).

    Now, the 30 minute queues, at 1AM server are not unusual. At that time of night, It's just a fact of life. Unfortunately, the geared, guild tanks on at 11PM local are not excited about pugging any dungeon at that time. (That's why I play a healer alt) I typically queue before I start my dailies and hit my spot about the time I finish them.

  3. Your two ideas are just pure win, and I for one vote yes!

    We already have a buff for doing randoms (Luck of the Draw), why not have that put a super-threat buff on the person in the role of tank? It would make tanking a random so much less stressful (and the bad DPS wouldn't complain that you're a bad tank because you can't hold aggro even though they are not willing to follow kill order). Then again, that would make tanking too easy to the people who actually like the challenge.

    Loot bags with actual tanking gear is the best idea ever, and would prevent me from getting grumpy about the tank needing on my intellect plate because "it is an upgrade."

    Wonderful post!

  4. It is important to note that for the first, the buff would be de-clickable. That is, if you want the challenge you could click it off. So when you luck into that good group where people are talking and such, you can still play "as nature intended."

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. It's a nice post, but you're waaay off track imo.
    The issue with queue times is a lack of tanks and to a lesser extent healers. So to create more tanks, there needs to be a nice incentive - this is it. Don't want to tank, then you don't get the extra chance at the goodies.

    What you DO get is shorter queue times and the ability to thump your chest at the top of the DPSometer. It's not like you can't get the goodies from other places either.

    At the end of the day, you just play a warlock (PVE DPS) and a DK (PVP DPS) so you'll never be part of the solution, just part of the problem.

  6. I'll also say that gearing a tank is a lot easier than gearing any other class for these reasons:

    1) You can tank in all/some DPS gear.
    My DK tanked through Grim Batol HC and it was only afterwards my healer said "dude, that was harder to heal than usual" when i realised I was wearing my DPS togs.

    2) Competition for loot is a lot lot lower.
    5-mans - it's just you. And for some 10man/25 man bosses only 1 tank is required, so if it drops it's a given it's yours.

    TL;DR: tank gear in loot bags isn't a viable incentive

  7. Hmm, I disagree with your assessment, but we're really predicating the argument on two different suppositions. I make it very clear that my perception of the problem is not that there are a lack of tanks, but that are a lack of tanks WILLING to tank a heroic PuG due to the unpleasant nature of the runs.

    It may be that there exists a marked lack of tanks, but then why only reward for PuGs? Why not reward for rolling tanks in general by making all hybrid class earn more money or something? It doesn't add up with what is being broadcast by the Devs. I'm assuming they can look at stats and such and they don't seem to be saying "we need more tanks." They seem to be saying very specifically "we need more tanks willing to PuG. Alone."

    With that being said, I tanked a lot in Wrath on my DK and the hardest part was trying to gear up. Back then, you had to keep two sets of gear so it was certainly a lot more of a challenge that it is today. I'll give you that.

    In addition, I'm not really a major part of the problem here because the rare times I do PuG, I have my tanking wife with me (which is a side reason that I generally don't tank). I am attempting to level a healer, but time has been an issue for me.

    Which brings me to my basic complaint about the "incentive program." I understand that it's "not like I can't get it from other places either," but can I get it from other places while earning JP/VP at the same time? As quickly? If time is my biggest hurdle to these neat rewards, then it does seem a bit unfair for me, personally.

    (At this point, I would like to point out that I said in the article: I don't care too much. If it happens... meh. I just think they could have put more thought into the solution.)

    Living with a tank has taught me that most tanks feel significantly less stress when they have adequate gear, hence the gear solution I offered. If we're discussing under my supposition (which, in this article, we are), then I think what I propose is certainly "viable," though it may not be "ideal." In fact, I would say it does more to combat the problem (as I defined it) than cosmetic rewards and money.

    What do you think of the first idea I offered? Is that more or less viable in your eyes? Do you see any other solutions besides the one that has been officially proposed, or do you think it's perfect all around, for everyone?

  8. @ Roy

    "The issue with queue times is a lack of tanks and to a lesser extent healers. So to create more tanks, there needs to be a nice incentive - this is it."

    The key issue is not the lack of tanks within the game, it's the lack of tanks that want to torture themselves to get a very small amount of JP/VP. I'm an extremely over geared tank. I also have many many friends who also tank but none of them have ever gone into the LFG alone if they could help it.

    Personally, I still would never put myself through the LFG alone even if they told me I would get a real pony at the end. LFG to me, is an extremely stressfilled environment which is not equal to the rewards that come out of the other side.

    Blizzard is trying to find out what they can do to dangle the "perfect carrot" in front of the Tanks & healers to see what they will do to reve up the solo sign up for these high stress positions. A bag full of crap sounds half assed and doesn't really do it for me.

    Now, if it does actually get more Tanks to sign up or DPS classes to try out their off specs, then great; Grats to them I guess. I believe that they could do better imo :-)

    <3 Your Friendly Neighborhood Fuubaar

  9. @Fulguralis
    Threat is generally a non issue for tanks right now so I don't see how a superman buff as you say would help. I personally run with 1% hit and 21 expertise. Now that's too much exp and I'll be re-forging some of it off into mastery.

    I personally find tanking PUGs the most stress free as I'm in total control. I'm now epically geared (aside from the neck which wont drop for me from atramedes) and have solo'ed a lot of 5 man HC bosses when the rest of the party are dead. In other words, I don't even rely on my healer for the most part.

    On my warlock on the other hand I'm totally dependent on the tank and thanks to the self healing, not so dependent on the healer. As such it's a lot more stressful esp if the tank doesn't take kindly advice.


    Infact, the LFG "problem" is resolving itself on my realm. People in trade are now paying tanks to run with them. Normally it's 50g per head, but I've seen some desperation and 1k per run being offered.

  10. So it seems to me that the issue you're looking to solve is how to motivate tanks that are already geared (and hopefully know wtf they're doing through experience). I would agree then that my solutions don't address that side of things as well. I was thinking more of the newer tanks trying to gear up, of which threat/gear is an issue.

    Interestingly, I sort of like the "50g per head" solution. It relies on the players to go out and cut a deal, and could probably help with forming real connections. After all, if a tank gets a reputation for being both good and fair price-wise, you'll probably put him on your friends list and go back to him when he's available. That may not be such a bad thing.

    I'd be interested to see if the incentives Blizz is proposing would help/hurt such a solution. I would imagine "hurt," just because that same tank could get both gold and goodies if they simple queued now instead of trying to work it out with folks beforehand.

  11. I believe the incentives will be enough to encourage quite a few geared tanks back into the LFD system. Of course they will only stay there until they get their mounts which will only take about 100-200 runs. It's a start anyway...

    I posted my opinion on CTA at