Why DPS are so incredibly stupid

| Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Note: This post takes place in a magical land before heirlooms, trivialized leveling, and faceroll AoE heroics. Imagine it as sometime in BC, when tank/healer leveling isn't trivial, but it's not the absolutely awful task of vanilla.

If you're smart like me, you rolled a tank. Or maybe a healer. We take the hard roles so the DPS can go off and frolic in fields until they get allergies and sneeze and laugh and go into shock and die. But it's okay, because they're just DPS.


I mean, it's a well-known fact that people generally have equal interest in all classes and roles, but that when DPS roll tanks or healers they are too stupid to handle it so they go back to DPS. If you were to watch the starting zones you'd see all these tanks and healers being created and if you track the names you'll see them get to around level 20 and suddenly blink out, only to reappear as a DPS.


Of course. It's simply a fact that most non-tanks/non-healers are too stupid to be tanks or healers. This is why DPS seem so stupid.


Or I wonder if possibly there's something else at play. Could it be that people are not born, or at least do not subscribe, as idiots? Maybe players are generally of around the same intellect. This doesn't fit my ego-boosting elitism, but let's play with this silly idea for a moment.

Let's take someone of equal motivation and intellect and split their fates into tank, healer, and DPS. Two strands go with the 'hard' roles while the other weaves its way through the 'easy' one.

Let's start with the healer. The first thing we should notice is that everything is the healer's fault. Short of someone jumping off a cliff, the healer could have healed better and saved them, and even with the cliff a priest could have use levitate and a paladin could have given hand of protection. Even if the group says nothing, the healer will know on some level that he could have done better, and it will gnaw at him. The only protection is either cynicism, not caring, or the careful balance of knowing exactly the limits of healing and when to blame others. This is why our normal person quit healing.

But let's say he keeps healing. Why is he so much smarter than DPS? Because he matters in the beginning and the end. He has to be on his game or that's it, game over, done. Being failure-adverse just like anyone else, the healer will learn to heal better, to watch better, to know more. He's not actually any smarter, but he is better educated.

Now for the tank. Given well-behaved DPS, he's going to be the puller. If he cannot pull properly, he will be first in line to die. Or maybe second after the healer. But his life is right on the line. He's up front. A DPS can run or feign, but not the tank. So he must watch and be careful at times. He must know where the patrols are, where to pull to, and possibly what abilities to watch out for. Failure-adverse just like the healer, he will learn and become better educated.

The DPS strand won't live the same way. He doesn't pull and he doesn't heal. His failures are slow and not always obvious. He has someone else to keep him alive. What is there to learn in this sanctuary? Very little. Sure, there is much to learn: kiting and interrupts and all manner of little tricks that one can use, but why? It would be as learning calculus in middle school. Sure, you can do it and it might even help, but all the tests are on long division and basic algebra. The normal person, not for lack of intellect, will not become well-educated as a DPS.

For an extreme example, imagine leveling a warrior vs. a hunter. The warrior takes all the hits and cannot heal. His escape options are limited, with all his mobility being focused on getting to enemies, not away. Short of intercepting a nearby critter, he's going to be dying where he fights. So he must learn to pull somewhat carefully. He fails, he dies. So he learns. Meanwhile the hunter is a melee class until level 10. At that point he gets a pet and with growl, autoshot, and feign death (admittedly not at level 10) he is set for the next 70 levels. Failure costs a piece of meat to feed an unhappy pet, not death. Failure is so trivial that it ceases to be a motivation to learn.

The hunter isn't stupid. The warrior isn't unusually smart either. Instead they are both players adapting to their situation. If the hunter had been harder to level, with risk of significant failure, then he would have learned more.

Notice how none of this requires any players to be innately stupid. It doesn't require that players flee from hard classes or roles. All it requires is that some classes or roles challenge the player or not. We know for certain that that condition is met. We have no measurement of player intelligence except biased, selective memory of incidents which may or may not be in any way related to intelligence. Given that we know that the education in WoW varies and that we cannot measure intelligence, wouldn't it be pretty damn stupid to assume that some players are stupid and ignore the teaching aspects of leveling?


Anonymous said...

i happen to know hunters are incredibly stupid beings.

Anonymous said...

"Notice how none of this requires any players to be innately stupid. It doesn't require that players flee from hard classes or roles. All it requires is that some classes or roles challenge the player or not. We know for certain that that condition is met. We have no measurement of player intelligence except biased, selective memory of incidents which may or may not be in any way related to intelligence."

We do however have measurements for how when you queue as dps/healer/tank at very low lvls, you often end up as dps. But then when you queue as dps/healer/tank at mid/high levels, you ALWAYS end up as healer/tank. We know absolutely that many people roll tanks and healers and give up on it because it is too hard for them. I am completely at a loss as to why you wrote this long thought-experiment post, when you can just GO RUN DUNGEONS to see these tanks and healers are indeed quitting. Thought experiments are great and all, for those few and far between cases where you have fundamental questions that are difficult to test empirically. This is not a fundamental question, it is not difficult to test empirically. Run low level dungeons, watch as the bad tanks/healers cause wipes and are kicked from groups when they refuse to even attempt to get better. Watch as they stop queueing as you level up, resulting in better groups with longer dps queues, in a quick and steady manner as the levels rise. If you really want to avoid biased/ selective memory, then feel free to take and do mathematical analysis data. At this point we have you noting that no one has bothered to run statistical analysis on this phenomenon, and then countering not with your own meticulous statistical analysis, but with a thought experiment. WTF? Are you able to write a nonhypocritical post? Until you bother to do the measurements and compilation that you rant on about, I'll be content to take my anecdotal observations over your theoretical thought experiments which bear no resemblance to the reality of anyone I've ever talked to.

Nikola Begedin said...

I don't get the whole "tanking/healing is hard and dps is easy" idea. As someone who did all 3 roles, looking at game mechanics, I see nothing hared in being a tank or a dps. The tanks have their threat rotation and other than that, they need to pay attention to loose mobs and their own health and that's about it. Anything else is piss easy with addons. As for healers, again, addons turn healing in a game of whack-a-mole.

The be adequate in any role, you really don't need much skill, especially in this game. To bee above average, something that i might call "truly good", yes, you need skill. It doesn't matter if you are tank, dps or healer.

Now, of course, there's the argument that tanks and healers have much more responsibility, but that's not hard coded into the game, this is what we do to ourselves, mostly, by letting people blame healers and tanks for wipes.

The thing with people being "stupid" because they had an easier time leveling, yes, there probably is some truth in that, but definitely not with everyone. Otherwise, all hunters, affliction warlocks and paladins would be retards. Yes, there is the whole "retardin" and "huntard" thing, but, as much as some would like to claim otherwise, this is not so widespread.

Nikola Begedin said...

@anonymous: I can't really I agree here. I don't think all of this is caused by quiting. I have leveled a couple of alts and i feel this is more due to the fact that allot of new players don't understand the concept of party roles and click all their available roles because the queue is faster. Yes, some of them are assholes that do it out of selfishness and idiocy, but allot of them really have no idea what it is they are doing.

I remember an occasion where a druid queued as tank and then when we asked him to tank, he asked us what that means. The funnies thing was, this was scarlet monastery, he claimed not to have bear form yet, had a feral spec (cat i guess) but was dpsing from caster form O_o. Basically, he did every imaginable thing wrong. Still, after explaining it to him, he apologized and left group.

So yeah, some tanks might be quiting, but the higher number of tanks at lower level is probably also due to people not knowing what a tank is.

Klepsacovic said...

"We know absolutely that many people roll tanks and healers and give up on it because it is too hard for them."
We do? What's the evidence for this? I've seen evidence of players quitting tanking or healing because of frustration with the actions of other players, but not due to the role itself being harder.

I have been running dungeons and yes, there is a proportional reduction in tanks and healers. But there is no objective evidence that it is due to tanking being hard. There are many other factors, such as gear requirements. Until Outland, if even then, tanks don't need tanking gear, meaning that at low levels anyone waith a tank class can tank. which is not the case at higher levels, especially when we get into heroics. Add on top of that the fact that at low levels specs matter less; for example, my priest leveled as shadow but mostly healed while the tanks I've leveled have tended to use DPS specs even while tanking. This doesn't mean that tanking gets harder, but that it becomes steadily less accessible as we level up,

I'm not disputing any anecdotal evidence, I'm disputing the interpretation of it. That should have been obvious to anyone reading with the slightest hint of objectivity.

@Nikola: You might have brought some objective evidence of stupidity, considering there's a short explanation of the roles when selecting them. Or maybe just impatience and lack of caring about the negative effects on others: asocial self-interest.

Aeven said...

I don't think that tanking and healing aren't necessarily harder, though I will agree that you need to learn a different set of skills in those roles. I think the main difference is that, once you are *in a group* where you are the *only* person filling a role, you're suddenly the obvious point of failure... and that's the only way you can really learn to tank or heal.

Leveling my mage, I think I've gotten called out all of twice a group for being an idiot. I was able to run dungeons as dps, and if I was a little off my game or doing something not quite right, there was plenty of slack. So long as the internet dragons were dead at the end of it all, and I didn't do anything obviously ignorant, who could complain?

In contrast, I've been told multiple times on my healer/tank that I was bad. Horrible. A n00b. That I should go back to playing a huntard or something because I was incompetent. There was no room for forgiveness from some people. If you were a tank, then you had better be a perfect tank (according to their standards of perfect), or you were worthless. Ditto as the healer.

I shrugged it off, mostly, but there were times when I thought "Hey, I'm playing this game to have fun. Is this fun? Do I *really* want to continue to have random people belittle and mock me for failing to play a *computer game*?"

Obviously, my answer was "Yes". It was worth it, to me, to have a tank and healer at 80, so I plugged on. There were enough folks who ere either neutral or able to provide constructive criticism that overall, I had a good experience in groups with both roles. However, I can easily see why someone else would answer differently, and just not put themselves into a situation that opened themselves up to the pressure and associated potential for verbal abuse.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not disputing any anecdotal evidence, I'm disputing the interpretation of it. That should have been obvious to anyone reading with the slightest hint of objectivity."

You wouldn't know objectivity if it bit you in the ass, kleps.

I was not comparing outlands to RFC. I was comparing lvl 15-25 instances to lvl 30-40 instances. Neither one requires gear, or spec. But the queues and tank quality differ hugely.

"We do? What's the evidence for this? I've seen evidence of players quitting tanking or healing because of frustration with the actions of other players, but not due to the role itself being harder."

This is mere semantics. If the actions of other players differ depending on which role you take, then that is what makes the role harder. If you want to change your conclusion to "tanking/healing is harder not because it is intrinsically harder, but because the facerolling dps makes the job of the tanks/healers hard and then abuses them when they fail", I would kinda agree, a little. But, the fact is that a tank and healer can duo everything below lvl 60 pretty easily, while being at the appropriate level, which means that the tank/healer role is necessarily more important than the dps, who usually couldn't trio the content as 3 dps even with skilled players, perhaps it would depend on which dps classes, though. Definitely though, the best way to 2 man low lvl instances with level appropriate toons would be tank/healer, now that low lvl tank dps is insanely high. More important could be construed as "harder", in a fairly meaningful sense. This differential continues in 5 man content to a certain degree, my tank can solo many heroics, meaning that again, his role is clearly the most important, which again makes it "harder" in a certain sense.

could blizzard easily change this, by making the dps more important to the success of 5 mans? they could, but so far, they haven't.

Anonymous said...

"Now, of course, there's the argument that tanks and healers have much more responsibility, but that's not hard coded into the game, this is what we do to ourselves, mostly, by letting people blame healers and tanks for wipes"

If you've played all 3 roles, then how haven't you noticed how much more power to prevent wipes you have as a tank than as a healer, and how much more power you have to prevent wipes as a healer than as a tank? Are you bad? How do you not know that you can solo most groups of mobs as a tank, whereas as a dps you'd be owned quick?

Responsibility, as hard coded by blizzard, is about 60% tank, 25% healer, 15% all 3 dps put together. That means that each dps has 5% responsibility. There are exceptions of course, especially at lower lvls the pet classes can pretty much tank the instance with their pet, and also some dps classes can offtank well at lower lvls. That's not really the tank role being less important, that's just other classes being able to do some of the tanking, though.

Let's look at this, as hard coded into the game. necessary to do well in an instance, you have to have aggro control/mitigation (i.e. tanking), dps, and healing. With the insane dps that low lvl tanks do now, the tank is doing up to half the dps of the group, all of the mitigation/aggro, all of the pulling. The healer is doing all of the healing. All 3 dps combined are doing about half to 2/3 of the dps. So, hard coded numbers, the tank is doing 60% of the work, the healer 25%, the dps classes 5% each. Hard numbers, son. could the dps be required to CC? could their dps be way higher than the tanks? I remember those days well. Of course, in those days, holding aggro was much harder, so a good tank was still more important.

Klepsacovic said...

Tanks and healers are more important, of course, because the game is designed to need damage soaked and healed, and dealt. Tanks can damage mobs, meaning that between two players you can get the full trinity. That doesn't make tanking or healing hard.

But funny you should mention DPS 3-manning instances, as my mage has been doing that recently. He's also saved quite a few wipes. See, when tanks aren't overgeared, they can't just stand and soak unlimited damage, so sheep makes a big difference, as does some kiting, interrupts, and careful juggling of line of sight. In this situation I'd say what my mage is doing is much harder than what the tank is doing. If his gear was better I'd be back to spamming blizzard, but that doesn't mean his role got any harder.

My ability to solo groups of mobs as a tank would seem to indicate an easier role rather than a harder one. Maybe my characters takes on a larger 'burden', but as a player I'm not doing anything harder. Let's not pretend that overgeared tanks being able to save a bad pull is a demonstration of skill when it's based more on being overgeared and having trivial aggro. If they weren't so overgeared they'd be as helpless to fix it as a DPS, maybe less so, since even a naked DPS can still CC or kite.

Despite your feeble attempt, your 60%, 25%, 15% are still just arbitrary, not "hard numbers, son." Harder aggro is a DPS problem unless you're in a DPS race fight. With trivial aggro it's no one's problem, but with hard aggro, the DPS are the ones who have to watch their threat; tanks can only help. In the end it is the DPS who casts the spell that gains aggro, so the ultimate responsibility lies with them.

@Aeven: I'm sorry you've run into such rude people. Do you have a guild that you could learn with? I'd hate to see someone give up on tanking or healer too soon, but to each their own.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis, but I think you missed the point WHY DPS players are the least challenged while levelling.
This is partially due nerfed out-of-instance content (prior to patch 2.3 there actually were areas of elite mobs which required good skill to solo even at 5 levels above mobs), and mainly due to AoE-threat/AoE-DPS style of dungeon encounters.
I knew insanely skilled hunters who could simultaneously keep 1 mob trapped, 1 tanked with pet and one kited. It was in BC era. As a warrior tank, I could not hold more than 3 mobs securely, and sometimes even that 3 mobs would own me (blue tank against 2 heroic Coilfang Defenders... that was scary), so the hunter's skill with CC was more or less required for success.
Come patch 3.0, and I loved my buffed Thunderclap, absolutely preached Shockwave and was determined to "show them bastard paladins what AoE tanking is". There it began. I went with the guild group to Magister's terrace, the hardest 5-man heroic of BC. After clearing trash up to the 1st boss, our mage said "I think it's wait for Shockwave and unload thing". And it worked! The previously mentioned hunter did not need to do his CC magic, he needed just to unload.
Now I'm levelling my alchemist mage to 75 and whenever I am running a dungeon, I rarely need to use anything but Blizzard, "Fireball!" proc and Evocate (+Deep Freeze on bosses). I'm afraid my mage is not as skilled as those countless mages that have gone with me in BC heroics.

Klepsacovic said...

@Deleted Anonymous: Read the rules and next time troll in a positive manner. Thank you.

@Anonymous: You're absolutely right. Though the funny thing is, the DPS aren't being challenged because the tanks aren't either. When aggro and mitigation are trivialized (also meaning that pulling doesn't need much skill either), then the DPS don't need to use any of their tricks.

BTW, that hunter was crap! Only one mob kited? Let me tell ya, in my day they'd kited three mobs, trap another, pet on yet another, and if they saw a beast they'd scare it for good measure! Then they'd run uphill both ways in Alterac Valley.

If you're looking for some practice for your mage, trying running instances with no tank or healer. But do it while leveling. Sadly the LK instances seem to have too many snare-immune mobs, so kiting doesn't work very consistently. Also it seems that in the late-vanilla area people drop group constantly, so you're almost guaranteed to run undermanned.

Or just set aside some time to think "what should I not be able to solo?" Then go solo it.

Aeven said...

@Klepsacovic: I've got a wonderful guild. Haven't done much tanking at 80 with them, but I hope that will change in Cata. I've really not put much effort into learning how to tank under LK rules, since pally tanking will be changing drastically in a few weeks.

Healing was a tremendous amount of fun, much more than I had expected. Generally less grief, there. too - more than Joe Random dps, but less than a new tank.

Thinking back, my experiences make me wonder if the stress levels and responsibility aren't related to situational awareness. As a dps, you're primarily responsible for yourself. As a healer, for the tank, then yourself, then everyone else in the party. As a tank, you have to keep an eye on all the mobs, on the healer, on the players, on the environment... there's many more ways you can fail (large or small).

TheGrumpyElf said...

Excellent read, I like your style and approach but you seem much to forgiving of DPS.

I am a Hunter, first character and still my main, and I hate seeing DPS like that. Like when I am on my healer and doing runs I rarely, if ever, see a Hunter MD. I can't help but think why is he not doing that.

Stuff like MD, FD, traps, help the tank but screw that, they help the Hunter too. MDing on to the tank makes the tanks life easier which in turn makes the Hunters life easier.

So where you give some forgiveness, I give none. Stupid DPS are exactly that, stupid.

As I said, I leveled as a Hunter and I believe that I must be different because I did not like to die and I did not like my pet to die even if all it cost was some meat. Death means failure and I did not want to fail. Heck using FD means failure sometimes too. If you get to that point it means you "should" be dead.

As I leveled I learned which packs ran, which feared, which needed to be LoS pulled, how much I could do before I pulled off my pet. When the time came and I hit 80 I was a better Hunter for it I think because I actually did not want me or my pet, or anyone with me for that matter, to die. (maybe that is why I like playing a healer)

Perfect example of what I learned by leveling a Hunter. While leveling an alt with a friend I was playing a shaman and we had a quest for those annoying morlocs, you know the ones I am talking about, no such thing as one at a time with them. I told him to stand back and let me pull. One at a time I pulled them out, never catching the attention of any of the others and we took them out one at a time. Now that is how a real hunter does it. If he doesn't, he is just another stupid DPS.

Klepsacovic said...

Stupid DPS are stupid DPS. I just hate seeing that extended to the person overall.

While you call FD a failure, and I agree, it's a failure with barely any negative effect. It's as if instead of dying a voice just said "you would have died, try over again", and then you just stood up, rezed your pet, and went along. No repair, no ghost run, just a few seconds to rez the pet and go along.

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