Are tanks pointless?

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Are tanks pointless?

Postby Koatanga » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:58 pm

In the threat-change thread, I pointed out what I believe to be the fundamental problem with threat not being a concern anymore, which is a disconnection of the personal relationship between the tank and his DPS.

That got me thinking further as to what point there is to having tanks.

The average WoW player is a DPS. Even when there are 3-to-1 DPS to healer or DPS to tanks, DPS still overflow the dungeon finder queue to the tune of half-hour or longer waits being common. It stands to reason that people prefer to play DPS.

Healers are necessary. The point of the game is that you fight things and can take damage from them. The choices for recovery are to heal yourself or to have someone else heal you. Since the average WoW player just wants to pew-pew, they rely on others to heal them. There really is no encounter design that would be compelling without making healers useful. Without the risk of your toon dying, the encounter would seem trivial.

Tanks are becoming scarce. In fact, Bliz seems to be minimising the number of tanks used in raid encounters. Where once you needed 4 and even 5 tanks to survive the epic trash pulls of Tempest Keep, you now only need 2 or 3 tanks for any encounter in the game. Two or three out of 25 is below the one-to-five ration of a standard dungeon party, which again reflects or emphasises the lack of participation in tanking.

Making threat irrelevant also reuces the relevance of tanks. If you don't need someone managing aggro, an NPC could do it. Any tank role in Firelands, for example, could be fulfilled by an NPC tank - perhaps one of the important druids out there. Most can be tweaked to eliminate the need for a tank altogether.

Take Beth'Tilac, for example, one of the few that requires two tanks in the 10-man version. The upstairs tank is only there because the spider has a threat mechanic. Remove the threat mechanic and have the spider hit people randomly, and you no longer need a tank. Down below, the only thing the tank must do is to collect the large adds. It would be simple to remove the large adds, and eliminate the bottom tank.

Once Beth comes down, you need two tanks to swap back and forth because of the debuff. Is that a compelling and defining aspect of the fight? Nah. The point of Phase Two is that damage ramps up until it's unhealable. Tanks could again be left out and the fight would not lose any of its lustre.

So if people in general don't want to be tanks, and if the number of required tanks is diminishing anyway, and if there is no active threat component to tanking, what is the point of having tanks?

Remove threat and what you have is a punching bag who soaks damage so that raid members don't have to. Winning the fight is a matter of adding enough DPS to kill the thing before the healers exhaust their resources and the punching bag dies. The punching bag could be anything, or even nothing - damage could just be spread around the raid. It could be an NPC as is done in quest mechanics.

Threat represents the personal link between the tank and the DPS. Take it away and the tank has no relation whatsoever to DPS other than perhaps moving the boss out of the fire so the melee can hit him easier. Otherwise it makes no difference whatsoever to the DPS if the tank is a player, and NPC, or a fight mechanic.

It really would not take much to remove the tank role from WoW altogether. The DPS-before-the-healers-run-out-of-mana design still works just fine. DPS can still race eachother for Top Dog status. Healers can still try to out-heal eachother. If tanks went away, nothing would change all that much for the remaining players.

So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Iminmmnni » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:07 pm

Koatanga wrote:So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?


Historical design decision. There would need to be a whole lot of normalisation of dps before tanks could be removed. Taking your Beth example, if she's hitting a random player each time, who do you take up? Beth will be hitting someone and even without tanking specs, there will be class/specs that are better than others at being hit and suddenly you're back to de-factor tank-dps classes which have the good surivability cooldowns and you're sending up plate healers and sword&board warriors to 'tank' Beth.

Reduced threat concerns does not mean that tank dps matters less now. Threat didn't really matter before, it doesn't really matter now. Tank dps still has the same contribution to raid DPS as it did before this change.

Also, tanking is a very different play-style to dps or healing and removing tanking removes that depth from WoW. I expect a complete overhaul of combat mechanics would be required if one was to make removing tanking viable. At this point you're looking effectively looking at a different MMO (something much closer to Guild Wars 2 which does not have tanks or healers).
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Relwynd » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:27 pm

Koatanga wrote:So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?


In terms of threat given the current implementation of the threat buff and upcoming change to vengeance? None.

That aside, there is a historical significance from most fantasy MMOs with regard to the "Holy Trinity" (Tank, Healer, CC). WoW has always functioned with the need for someone to be there taking the hits and reacting to BBEG's varied attacks. Way back in prehistoric raiding times (T1,T2) most fights could in fact have been performed by an NPC to do the task, as almost every boss was a tank and spank. Threat mattered, but at the same time did not as most raiders were well conditioned to wait for the DPS call from the tank/RL.

Fast forward and you see the evolution of the tank to having more to do than sit there and take a beating with little regard to anything else. They gained additional abilities and talents to given them both threat and damage reduction capacity boosts, and increased responsibility in the form of adds boss positioning, and more recently interrupts.

In a recent blue post the devs commented that while they might be able to program an NPC to take over the job of tanking (with an eye to shortening the dungeon queues) they did not want to as that took away the human element from the task. Marks, pacing, prioritization, all of that would be impossible to do without SIGNIFICANT coding (or Blizz unveiling SKYNET levels of AI hidden in their building...)

Personally, I enjoy tanking not for the threat side of things (for me it was more an anonyance when my first attacks missed so often I generated what I called a hurricane of fail from my whiffs), but for the rush of being the one the boss is trying it's damnedest to put through the floor before it tears apart my fellow adventurers, the movement, the responsibilities that have been placed on the tank as time has moved forward. Heck, I was a warrior in EQ, and that was about as interesting as BEING an NPC in terms of tanking... still loved doing it.

I think most people on this forum would agree that there is a good reason to keep tanking in the game, it is why we frequent the boards and debate (sometimes rabidly) over all its various aspects. We all find it fun in our own was, and would hat to have our fun cut out of the game.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby benebarba » Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:28 am

Koatanga wrote:It really would not take much to remove the tank role from WoW altogether. The DPS-before-the-healers-run-out-of-mana design still works just fine. DPS can still race eachother for Top Dog status. Healers can still try to out-heal eachother. If tanks went away, nothing would change all that much for the remaining players.


As Iminmmnni pointed out - it would be inevitable that defacto 'tanks' would emerge unless class homogenization was taken to ridiculous levels. This happens even in some P&P RPGs that were around before the fantasy MMO embraced the holy trinity format, simply because of the fact that the classes had different strengths and weaknesses.

Lets turn it around. Healers aren't as popular as DPS, though perhaps not as unpopular as tanks. And they 'only' heal. How about a game where every DPS gets a diesel version of that flower in the MF dailies to drop hots on you constantly. You can imagine how that would lead to rather boring gameplay if you didn't like the one style of gaming remaining. Additionally, the fewer roles and requirements for the AI would mean that encounters would probably become much more simplified, random or would become very rigid due to scripting as you have fewer degrees of freedom to vary.

That said - I don't think there is much Blizzard can do to make tanking more appealing. I am in the camp that believes its overall lack of popularity has little to do to game aspects that are in their control.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Skye1013 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 12:43 am

If you remove tanking, then effectively, every fight becomes arena style (Priestess from MgT, Faction Champions from ToC, etc.) And from what I recall... the majority of players despised those fights.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Passionario » Tue Aug 23, 2011 1:14 am

Iminmmnni wrote:
Koatanga wrote:So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?


Historical design decision. There would need to be a whole lot of normalisation of dps before tanks could be removed. Taking your Beth example, if she's hitting a random player each time, who do you take up? Beth will be hitting someone and even without tanking specs, there will be class/specs that are better than others at being hit and suddenly you're back to de-factor tank-dps classes which have the good surivability cooldowns and you're sending up plate healers and sword&board warriors to 'tank' Beth.


At a more fundamental level, the reason for tanking is that the vast majority of all attacks in WoW are of the 'autohitting' variety - that is, they hit or miss depending on the RNG and gear stats, and not on the individual reaction. If players could sidestep fireballs or roll out of an ogre's cleave, it would be possible to make the game tankless.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Dantriges » Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:33 am

Waiting for TERA?

Probably the game engine can´t do that.

And for me personally it´s not my cup of tea but quite a lot other people may like it.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby knaughty » Tue Aug 23, 2011 3:29 am

Koatanga wrote:So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?


Blame Gary Gygax.

Yes, seriously.

The melee/ranged/healer split is his work (from 1971-ish). And melee "tanks" were more or less in place by the mid-70s.

Certainly, with the release of AD&D in 1978, the concept of "guy who stands in front of the squishies wearing as much armour as possible" was reasonably well developed.

WoW = AD&D on a computer.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Dantriges » Tue Aug 23, 2011 3:58 am

Most PC RPGs are AD&D on a computer.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby yappo » Tue Aug 23, 2011 6:10 am

Tanks in a PvE environment in an MMORG aren't needed. At least not in the way we define the term tank today.

Tanks make encounters easier to design though.

Tanks make is possible to have a slightly less able playerbase overall.

So, tanks are not pointless. It's ONE way to solve multiplayer versus NPC fights. It's also a proven solution.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Skye1013 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:19 am

knaughty wrote:
Koatanga wrote:So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?


Blame Gary Gygax.

Yes, seriously.

The melee/ranged/healer split is his work (from 1971-ish). And melee "tanks" were more or less in place by the mid-70s.

Certainly, with the release of AD&D in 1978, the concept of "guy who stands in front of the squishies wearing as much armour as possible" was reasonably well developed.

WoW = AD&D on a computer.

To be fair... most "tanks" in D&D try to stack as much armor as possible while still being able to do as much damage as possible. If you aren't a threat... you aren't likely getting attacked, so unless you have some sort of choke point to be able to stand in the way (which isn't always a possibility) then the enemies (who are smart enough) will try to avoid you while targeting the people actually doing damage.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby yappo » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:44 am

Skye1013 wrote:If you aren't a threat... you aren't likely getting attacked, so unless you have some sort of choke point to be able to stand in the way (which isn't always a possibility) then the enemies (who are smart enough) will try to avoid you while targeting the people actually doing damage.



Fair enough, but a good DM would take into account when the platie announced trying to stand in the way. No running through opponents in D&D :D
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Malthrax » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:49 am

Skye1013 wrote:
knaughty wrote:
Koatanga wrote:So really, what is the point of there being tanks in WoW at all?


Blame Gary Gygax.

Yes, seriously.

The melee/ranged/healer split is his work (from 1971-ish). And melee "tanks" were more or less in place by the mid-70s.

Certainly, with the release of AD&D in 1978, the concept of "guy who stands in front of the squishies wearing as much armour as possible" was reasonably well developed.

WoW = AD&D on a computer.

To be fair... most "tanks" in D&D try to stack as much armor as possible while still being able to do as much damage as possible. If you aren't a threat... you aren't likely getting attacked, so unless you have some sort of choke point to be able to stand in the way (which isn't always a possibility) then the enemies (who are smart enough) will try to avoid you while targeting the people actually doing damage.


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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby Skye1013 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:52 am

yappo wrote:
Skye1013 wrote:If you aren't a threat... you aren't likely getting attacked, so unless you have some sort of choke point to be able to stand in the way (which isn't always a possibility) then the enemies (who are smart enough) will try to avoid you while targeting the people actually doing damage.



Fair enough, but a good DM would take into account when the platie announced trying to stand in the way. No running through opponents in D&D :D

That's where riding skills come in handy :D

Or creatures that have certain abilities, spells, or types.
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Re: Are tanks pointless?

Postby yappo » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:11 am

Skye1013 wrote:
yappo wrote:
Skye1013 wrote:If you aren't a threat... you aren't likely getting attacked, so unless you have some sort of choke point to be able to stand in the way (which isn't always a possibility) then the enemies (who are smart enough) will try to avoid you while targeting the people actually doing damage.



Fair enough, but a good DM would take into account when the platie announced trying to stand in the way. No running through opponents in D&D :D

That's where riding skills come in handy :D

Or creatures that have certain abilities, spells, or types.


I know ;)

In general you'd use a priest/paladin as a 'tank' against undead/demons, for example.

A tank-less MMO would need to engineer a very good implementation of CC and CC-lookalike abilities. You'd probably need some kind of temporary threat as well (target the NPC currently is most likely to attack). Probably including some mechanics that has the NPC attack targets standing in the way (like your trample example). And 'tanking' classes would need mechanisms similar to warrior intervene on rather short cooldowns (in order to start standing in the way again).

'Get the hell out of the way' abilities would have to be usable on a short CD by 'classes' unable to eat a lot of hurt. Something slugging along a big shield obviously don't have very much in the departement of getting away abilities.

Toons would definitely need to be solid, which increases computing load on the system.

Still, tanks as we know them aren't needed. You'd probably end up with a lot more mobile fights.

While I personally believe the learning curve would be too harsh for attracting 10 million plus players, this kind of system would work perfectly well for 'hard core' players.
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