Tanking In PvP

Although I’ve dabbled with PvP in many MMORPGS, the only game that I truly gripped me with it was Everquest 2. I played for several years on first Darathar and then Nagafen and I stand by my opinion that SOE managed to create one of the best PvP experiences available. Aside from creating a fair yet competitive environment that offered me the sort of mildly sanitised and strategic PvP I was looking for, SOE did something exceptionally clever – they made proper tanking part of PvP gameplay.

You can run but you can't hide

You can run but you can't hide

Being a tank is about being the meat shield of the group and soaking up damage like a dirty sponge so your comrades can do their jobs. It’s a role I adore and one that’s always frustrated me in many PvP games as it often just doesn’t exist. In PvP in most MMORPGs you don’t play a tank, you play DPS. You may have more hit points, more armor, and more defensive abilities but at the end of the day you’re just another damage dealer because actual tanking doesn’t do anything. And why would it? If you run up and engage your opponent, they will just run around you and target the feeble finger-wigglers in your party instead (poor fellows). SOE had the perfect solution.

They made taunt work in PvP.

In PvP in EQ2, taunt will force your opponent(s) to attack you for a good 3 seconds. That’s 3 seconds they can’t attack your healer, your scout, your mage or your pet Chiwawa. Start being clever with your taunts and suddenly you’ve got the thing that’s the most important aspect of any PvP fight: control.

The ability to taunt in PvP in EQ2 made combat a whole lot more interesting. Fights lasted longer and required more strategy and thought. It wasn’t about who did the most DPS or who was the highest level, it was about working as a team and having faith in your friends. Trust me, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as taunting an entire force of enemy players onto your backside and hoping that your group shows their mettle, keeps their cool and does their job.

Since playing Everquest 2, I’ve been quite surprised at how little affect the taunt ability, and often tanking as a whole, has in PvP in other MMORPGs. Games seem determined to offer a very singular focused form of PvP and relies on damage and independence rather than grouping and strategy. It also seems very odd to me to suddenly re-write the rules of the game. We all know that PvE groups require a tank, a healer and good DPS so why should PvP be any different? Why should my tank have to play a DPS role just to be competitive in PvP?

Tanking in PvP is an interesting thing to ponder and I think it’s lack of purpose has a lot to do with the haphazard development of PvP as a gameplay form. It’s certainly something I’d like to see explored more and given more attention by the developers. PvP shouldn’t just be about rushing and overwhelming your opponent with damage, it should offer the same strategy and group dynamics that PvE does. Kudos to SOE for doing it well.

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20 Comments

  1. spinks says:

    WAR really got this one right. They realising that people hate losing control of their characters (this is why you won’t see the taunt used in PvP much) but allowed their tanks to get a lot of slows and knockbacks, and other abilities to help them keep the enemy melee away from their casters and healers. ie. so you could still protect people in PvP, just using a more natural mechanic.

    • Gordon says:

      I like the tanks in WAR although I remember ending up speccing for damage rather than protection for PvP. It was a different sort of game from EQ2 though because in that it was about small group battles (or getting steam rolled by raids) but in WAR it was more like historical battle fronts with hundreds of players storming castles. I really enjoyed it and it was fun so thumbs up to Mythic.

  2. Jake says:

    I always thought taunt in PvP should make the target change to you and a timeframe where unable to change target, good to see some got it right.

  3. scrusi says:

    I’m with Spinks here, WAR was great in that regard. Taunt was far from useless though, as it made taunted people deal less damage to players other than you. So a taunted player could either hit you 8good) or deal less damage to your healer (good). I really enjoyed playing my Warrior Priest together with my friend’s tank in PvP – a really, really fun experience.
    It didn’t hurt of course that they had collision detection in the game and you could actually tank by standing in the way of enemy meanies. between that, taunts, knockbacks, stuns, and damage redirection tanks had a huge arsenal of useful abilities to draw from.

    • Gordon says:

      I always felt that the collision detection didn’t work very well because most of the areas (especially the scenarios) were so open. It was better in the keeps though and I imagine very cool in dungeon zones.

  4. Rhii says:

    That’s a really interesting way to set it up. There isn’t even tank PvP gear in existence for some classes in WoW, which I know frustrates my prot-pally boyfriend to no end.

    But Spinks is right, I hate losing control of my character for any reason. However, in a game where I can already get feared, stunned for long enough for a rogue to destroy me, or charmed by a Succubus, I don’t really see what the problem would be with losing control of my character for a taunt.

    I presume you’d still be able to break the taunt with a trinket/ability anyway.

    • Gareth says:

      In WoW I think there are too many times when you lose control of your character, WAR got it better and while I play PVE in EQ2 I’ve yet to experience PVP.

      But without it at all then the best we can get is guildwars where PVP was balanced but it seemed balanced around 1v1, good but a different game. Take away these effects from a game like WoW and it just won’t work as stuns etc are used as crutches to make the pvp interesting and not just a Quake style DPS fest.

      While I don’t like losing control of my character I don’t think that’s a reason to remove it from the game, I don’t like dying in EQ2 PVE either, but without it a lot of the game has no meaning.

      The real thing that does frustrate me though is when no action on my part makes any difference to the outcome, that’s when part of a game does feel broken to me and it happens in quite a few games.

      E.g. a rogue stunlocking you down for 15s+ to death in WoW (after stealthing to you from the front, or cloak of shadow’s and just being immune to anything you can do, ie they haven’t had to do anything clever to get within range and then just play by timers).

    • Gordon says:

      Taunt isn’t as bad as something like fear because you can still control your character, you just can’t target anyone else, so you’ve still got all of the options of strategy and attack open to you.

  5. I was always amazed at how mechanics like taunt work in PvE, but not in PvP. It just really never made sense, especially when things like mind control or “bend you over and stick the staf… ewwww damn” always get included for PvP (but are often worthless in PvE).

  6. Scott says:

    Seems like this just changes a PvE aggro management ability into a PvP crowd control ability. I intensely dislike crowd control in PvP because, as someone already mentioned, I don’t like not being in control of my own character. It doesn’t matter if I’m stunlocked for 30 seconds or taunted for 3 seconds, my character isn’t doing what I want him to, and that will quickly get me looking at other games.

    I also never grasped the WAR version either. Granted, I didn’t make it more than a few days in WAR during launch, all in Tier 1, but playing a Goblin Shaman the tanks were practically useless. Sure, that taunt might debuff melee enemies next to the tank but it isn’t affecting the ranged classes from tab-targeting me and shooting me *through* everyone else. WAR had collision detection but the Scenarios were pretty open so a tank couldn’t block someone from getting to me, considering the enemy could simply step *around* the tank and ignore him and run right for me. Stupid…

    • Gordon says:

      I think it’s different from crowd control because the person you taunt can still do everything they normally can expect that they can’t change target. They can still run around, cast spells, use potions etc, so it’s not like being mezzed or frozen in place.

  7. Carson63000 says:

    I agree that it’s surprising more games haven’t adopted this.

    You can argue about whether it’s fun to “lose control of your character” in PvP, and obviously there needs to be a balance there, but I think it’s a fact of life that there will be some sort of crowd control in PvP. Stuns, fears, snares, knockbacks, silences, etc., they exist everywhere. One more different form of CC is really a side issue to whether CC is too dominant in a game.

    Adding “taunt” as an option for another type of crowd control seems obvious. Especially since it’s a fairly mild form of CC – like a snare, it limits your actions, but doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all.

  8. Jason says:

    I’ve never looked into it, so I don’t know. But if a tank taunts a healer, does that prevent the healer from targeting and healing other people?

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