Tanks are Weird Things

| Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Let's face it, tanking is a weird concept. Somehow we mange to compel extremely powerful, and often very intelligent being, to attack us and only us. Or even stranger is when they'll still attack other players, somehow in a pattern which makes them ineffective. Kel'thuzad isn't stupid, and yet, he keeps hitting the person most able to survive his attacks, almost completely ignoring the healers.

But aren't tanks inevitable? We can't have the mobs killing our healers, can we? So we must have some differences in how aggro is managed. And flavor will demand that not all classes are as resistant to damage, so by min-maxing a tank will emerge. Making aggro based purely on distance could help, but then how does the mob know which melee to punch? Highest damage could work, but then the highest avoidance players won't be getting hit much, so there's almost no incentive to go for anything other than avoidance.

Players could use distance as a way to tank, dragging mobs away from the pack to keep them busy, so DPS are only dealing with a few at a time. To fix this, I suggest making it impractical to tank more than a few mobs at once. Not by changing aggro, but avoidance: add a cap on the number of enemy attacks which can be avoided in a given time. In other words, after you're tanking four or five enemies, the last ones are going to be getting in free hits. A dedicated tank role cannot handle all the damage.

There will still be the few tank-type players who will be oriented more towards survival rather than killing. They would act as distractions for the strongest enemy. Think of them as the guy who yells "I'll hold him off, you deal with the [less likely to instantly kill you bad thing]!" This doesn't mean that the player class, gear, or spec will be heavily into avoidance, but they will focus on using resources for avoidance. They are interchangeable with the other melee, just taking on a different role for the given situation, and could easily switch to doing more damage.

Maybe it's not time to kill tanking, but to make it more heroic and less ridiculous. Think of when you're soloing something that shouldn't be soloed. I assume you do this at least weekly, just to keep in shape. Do you just run in with all your damage cooldowns? Well maybe, but that's for trivial stuff. More likely you're saving combo points for a kidney shot, leaving some runic power in reserve for a mind freeze, that sort of thing. You're playing more of your class when you tank for yourself.


Chadrassa said...

Okay, completely unrelated, but your article made me realise how much I miss kiting and chain trapping. :(

Zebb said...

An old text-based MUD I played used a Phalanx-style attack distribution system. You had a 3x3 formation, and the people in the front had a higher chance of being hit with the boss's melee attacks. In a full 9-man formation, the front three had a 30% chance of being hit each, middle three 3% each, and the back three split that last 1%. For content you didn't need a full nine-man group, or if a player died mid-fight, the hit allocation for the gaps in the formation were redistributed proportionally, with heavier weighting towards people without someone in front of them.

Once a fight had begun, the formation was set, except for specific class abilities. Warriors, for example, had a "Rescue" ability, allowing them to swap positions with any other player, and rogues had an ability called "Fade", allowing them to switch with the person directly behind them. A common tactic was for a warrior/rogue team to rescue/fade each other, so the Rogue could use their extremely high-damage close-range attacks, and then back up, every time they were off cooldown.

Anonymous said...

This takes me back to Guild Wars. Where Aggro is hardly a concept.

Monsters focus on the squishiest with the fewest hit points. All warriors are damage dealing machines who have higher armor only to be able to survive the initial blows on charging in.

How do you survive when the AI is tuned to attack your squishiest members? Pro-active healing! Much more fun then the whack-a-mole healing of WoW.

Klepsacovic said...

@Chadrassa: You're pushing my one step closer to trying a no-tank heroic.

@Zebb: That's a neat concept, but sounds like it could promote annoying levels of pre-fight prep. Then again, the 'fluid' world of WoW has fights like Saurfang where you're as good as rooted.

@Anonymous: I'll have to look into this. I'm curious how they make it work.

Unknown said...

I believe that you would have every class be able to do/ preform all three needs (Tanking, Healing, DPS) This would make the most sense because "OMG that guy is attacking PLAYER A, I should heal him" "Oh No! The mob is coming after me! I should play more defensively" "We need to burn this guy down! I'll DPS"

This would really create a dynamic game play where everyone would be a hybrid and be able to switch their role on the fly.

Interesting Post.

<3 Fuu

Pazi said...

Bosses aren't intelligent. They are powerfull but dump, and they carry items (loot) that are totally useless for them.
So if someone shouts at them they get really mad and then they get tunnelvision and can't look anywhere else.
I believe WoW is played by so many because its combat-model is so easy. Put more responsibility on everybody and most of the facerolling/no-buffing/no-preparing dps-players will quit.
Besides, I love 5sec-queues as a tank.

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