The Problem Is Just That No One Likes Tanking Or Healing

WoW Heroic Tanking

Being told how to tank is always fun

Over a year ago I wrote a (slightly provocative) guest post for World of Matticus entitled “Tanks And Healers Should Get The Biggest Rewards“. Everyone went ape shit. Fast forward 14 months and it turns out though that I’m no mere mortal blogger but rather some sort of Nostradamus-esque visionary as Blizzard announced there intention to reward tanks and healers for using the random Dungeon Finder tool. I’m expecting a royalties cheque in the mail any day now.

Plenty of bloggers have written great articles on the subject already, covering a variety of views and opinions, so I’ll try to keep mine brief. Essentially, I don’t really have any issue with the concept of “bribing” certain classes into stepping up to the plate because, well, it’s a game and WoW is already filled with billions of types of incentive-reward-actions so why should this be any different? I do feel slightly sad (and a little perplexed) though about it how it affects the non-hybrid classes as it’s not like those poor souls actually even have a choice of tanking or healing if they wanted to. Sucks for them, I guess. Maybe will Blizz will offer free class changes to compensate? Ha.

Anyway, what I find the most interesting about this huge scale social manipulation is that Blizzard have decided to slap a band-aid on the issue (lack of tanks and healers) rather than address the core problem, that being that no actually wants to play those classes. Surely this demonstrates quite clearly an underlying flaw in the structure of the game and the entire Holy Trinity model? So why aren’t we trying desperately to fix this issue at it’s heart rather than try to force a weird type of social engineering through bribery?

Of course the lack of tanks and healers isn’t an issue solely reserved for WoW as it’s something all MMOs experience although I do get the impression that it’s proportionally worse in Warcraft than anywhere else. Regardless, maybe it’s just time we woke up from our dreamy state of denial, put our heads together, and came up with an alternative to the Holy Trinity that resolves the fundamental problem once and for all.

-Gordon

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62 Comments

  1. Luke says:

    tbh I am not getting why people don’t like to tanking.. healing all right is boring but tanking?

  2. Gazimoff says:

    I don’t think it’s that people don’t want to play the roles. Although my first love will always be ranged DPS I find healing enjoyable. I also love the frantic pace of tanking and would love it for DPS to take on some of those aspects instead of just buttonspamming.

    I think it’s the amount of asshattery you get in LFD these days that’s the problem, and this solution won’t change that. Class homogenisation aside, if you get an environment in which players can get away with being abusive to eachother then they will.

    Remove the asshattery or impose meaningful consequences for donning the asshat and you’ll fix much of the problem with LFD.

    • Wulfy says:

      I agree with Gazimoff. Raiding guilds still seem to be able to field tanks and healers no problem, but they are mysteriously absent in LFD, basically because you never know what you’re going to get.

      Yesterday I got the world’s loveliest PUG, they were friendly, considerate, did their CC when they were asked to and we all wished each other well at the end. However this happens maybe 1 out of 10 LFD pugs I get as a tank. The only reason I even bother with them is my guild is on a bit of a break right now.

      Ultimately, LFD pugs is always going to be inferior to raiding with your friends, and whilst bribes may help the situation some, for me it won’t make a difference. I’ll take the free rewards, but once my guild is back in full swing, I wouldn’t use LFD for all the star ponies in the twisting nether.

    • Gordon says:

      I think you’re probably right, Gaz. I know the PUG environment has certainly put me off tanking in WoW a lot. I wonder if Blizzard could do anything to solve the problem though?

  3. As a healer, I’ve always scoffed at the idea someone could not see healing fun, but it’s very apparent people like me are a minority. Perhaps it’s an ego things with healers – taking a job many don’t like, forgoing the glory, but knowing we’re essential to a groups success.

    I believe the reason I was so enamored with WoW Smite spec priest was that form of healing was different. Same with a Chloro in Rift. The Whack a Mole” healing model really isn’t that exciting for many, and boy are you right – bribing people isn’t a way to fix a problem. Address it and make it more fun. Of course, then you run the risk of upsetting those that like it. Look at what happen when you took away bubble spam for disc priests, or encouraged offensive spells for healing….other don’t like change.

    I think current games are afraid to break the mold simply because of that backlash.

  4. I also forgot to mention what they said….healers and tanks are the first to be blamed for anything in a group. And the internet seems to be full of jerks.

  5. Longasc says:

    The problem is that the root of the problem is the trinity/aggro system which is the core of the game and many others. This can’t be changed – and it does not need to be changed. Bribing was IMO a bad idea. There is already an incentive, but it did not work out: Almost zero queue for tanks and healers. That’s no incentive?

    We apparently do indeed anything for some odd title or virtual reward, but I do not see this making the situation better. It’s rather an opportunity for some players to shit DPS players on the head and tell em they are DPS and therefore worth shit. :> Rookie tanking for rewards will create more horrible PuGs than ever before, and not convert many to become “proper tanks”.

    The really cool and creative people at Blizzard are probably already working on something new and exciting while I see Ghostcrawler and the WoW live team in the bad position of having to entertain an aged and jaded community and having to attract new players as well.

  6. Espoire says:

    I actually left a guild that told me to go shadow. So there definitely are some people that like healing. *wink, wink, hint, hint*

  7. Kierbuu says:

    I don’t know. I liked tanking and healing in and of themselves. I just hated tanking and healing for random PuGs. The big problem is the bad nature of many dps and how the ‘Cataclysm’ model doesn’t give tanks and healers the ability to compensate for unruly damage dealers. Go back to easier (and shorter) dungeons would solve the problem more than extra loot.

  8. vortal says:

    These roles might not suit the people who want to sit back and do nothing. I guess they don’t really want to have the responsibility of tanking or healing placed upon them. I now love tanking ever since I tried it and it is really fun, Healing however can get a bit boring at times.

    I still DPS and notice that the most played classes still tend to be DPS. I guess there are just more of them, then the other roles and the DPS roles just outnumber the tank and healer classes. The Holy Trinity system is really mucked up, but so far I don’t really see a logical alternative, you could add a fourth pillar but that is not going to solve the problem at heart, what we need is a total reformation of the system. I wonder if Blizzard’s creative spark and ingenuity that made them successful, is still there or not?

  9. Bhagpuss says:

    The most fun role in an MMO group is Crowd Control.

    Next is Healer.

    Third is Tank.

    Fourth is General Utility.

    DPS is what you do if there were no real roles left.

  10. Zy says:

    I love healing. Love it. But I hate the cesspool that LFD has become. Do I occasionally get great groups? Yes. There have been many times I have wished for a cross-server friend’s list. But most of the time LFD isn’t fun and a good chunk of the time it is absolutely horrible.

    The CtA bribe would not be enough to make me que if my roll was the one in demand.

  11. Stabs says:

    I like hybriding.

    I genuinely like to play a Swiss Army Knife jack of all trades type of class.

    My issue with the Trinity is that it tends to favour specialists.

  12. [...] to use LFD more in it’s current form, or to shoehorn more DPS into a group. It’s not even that players don’t like to tank or heal. It’s about how to remove the negative aspects of a system that’s so random as to be virtually [...]

  13. wilhelm2451 says:

    I will heal any for any group with my druid. The skill range is fun and I enjoy it.

    Or I should say, druids. I have a few in different level ranges.

    For the most part, for me, DF groups at level cap… well, what used to be level cap, call it 80 and on now… suck a much higher percentage of the time than DF groups throughout the rest of the content. Lower level content groups are almost always very cool.

  14. pkudude99 says:

    *misses original SWG where everyone could self-heal and wear the best armor and do dps*

    Of course you still wanted a combat medic along. . . and/or a doctor. . . but they were usually a crutch and not really all that necessary.

    • Stabs says:

      As a Doctor I found the opposite.

      The people buying buffs off me did not want me tagging along to split their mission rewards. The buffs were good enough that they could grind Rancors and Nightsisters solo. Why split the loot?

      I suggested it a couple of times and usually I got a response as if your Bank Manager had asked to tag along when you go out clubbing.

      • pkudude99 says:

        I’m talking the big raid groups out doing theme parks or hitting up the dungeons, not the grinding for hides or skill boxes or whatever. Of course, it did help to be in a PA… they loved having me do buffs just as we got to the dungeon entrance. TBH, inside the dungeons I really only had to do state-cures. Our combat-medic would toss in the occasional AE heal bomb when he wasn’t applying his poisons or whatnot, and everybody had their Stim-B’s and composite armor, so I got to plink away with my pistol and state cure and that was about it.

        No tank (or everyone was a tank, depending on how you look at it), healer was a crutch (everyone had at least decent self-heals), everyone did dps (and got to choose ranged/melee at their discretion). Worked well.

      • Gordon says:

        “I suggested it a couple of times and usually I got a response as if your Bank Manager had asked to tag along when you go out clubbing.”

        ROFL :D

    • Gordon says:

      Oh you’ve gone and made me miss my Pikeman now :P

  15. KiwiRed says:

    I loved disc healing in Wrath, and was a competent (albeit not confident) tank on my warrior. The changes in Cata were so extreme (and heroics so unforgiving) that, combined with the antisocial nature of pugging, I was put off running dungeons completely. There’s no way I could get the experience I’d need to tank from doing pugs, and healing was stressful instead of satisfying.

    And the bribe they come up with are pets and mounts you can farm elsewhere faster and with far less stress (and abuse)? I think they’re caught between a rock and a hard place: more effective bribes are only good until the players have picked up what they want, and if they make the rewards more unique they’ll raise the ire of the other roles.

    Unfortunately the bribery does nothing to deal with the real problem, abusive interactions between players.

    • Gordon says:

      I quite liked the tough nature of dungeons in Cataclysm and I did have a lot higher percentage of “understanding” groups as a direct result. Regardless though, it’s still very hard to change 5 years of societal behaviour.

  16. numtini says:

    It all amounts to the same issue in WoW. Particularly post-LFD, DPS are assumed to not be able to play their class. Just mash buttons and max DPS, pull aggro, run ahead and pull mobs, don’t learn fights, stand in the goo and so on. And it’s the job of healers and tanks to make up for that.

    Love to tank. Love to heal. Don’t love doing so for PUGs. Between groups being valuable and an overall more mature playerbase, I am having a much better time in Rift though, just as I used to have a much easier time in EQ2. Tell the group you’re not the strongest and they make adjustments. Tell a WoW group, you’re not the strongest and they just kick you or call you a newb and disband or whatever.

    • Gordon says:

      There was something quite nicely balanced about EQ2 groups wasn’t there? I don’t remember it being such a chore tanking in them as in WoW. I think it has something to do with the group size and how a lot of groups in EQ2 rolled with a backup healer.

  17. leah says:

    they need to make DF server only. essentially go back to the pre dungeon finder model except with slightly more efficient way of finding groups. be people act like monkeys in random groups because they can. even if the wait gets longer, they will still be able to find groups, unlike pre cross server where you could find yourself blacklisted and never get another group again. making pugs encompass several battlegroups at the time only exacerbated the issue.

    Blizzard is trying to get as many people to play as they can manage. with old model – you’d eventually weed out the jerks, who would often stop playing because they couldn’t find people to play with, you know being jerks and all. Blizzard wants their subscription money and on a surface, making pugging easier to do – will bring that in. except people who are tired of tolerating abuse will either stick to friends, or stop playing all together.

  18. SmakenDahed says:

    There is no easy compromise. Groups need someone to take the brunt of the damage and someone to fix the wounded. Regardless of how you set it up, someone will shoulder the burden of tanking.

    Consider Rift and how each class has a tank or heal capable soul. Someone ends up playing one of those roles.

    The only way to eliminate it is to make all the mobs soloable but force them into linked encounters so everyone solos together.

  19. Daria says:

    I don’t feel there is a problem with the trinity at all. It only seems to become an issue when you get a game that has a large subscriber base like WoW. It would be very interesting if someone could do a population study on class roles across various MMOs. Is the ratio of tanks/healers vs. DPS the same regardless of MMO? Or is there something about WoW’s community specifically that too many people play DPS? We could only know the answers with hard data.

    I believe the best solution at this point for WoW would be to change the group makeup as some other blogs have already suggested. But that would mean a huge development cost to them as they re-designed and re-tooled all their instances.

    Meanwhile, I’m getting along just fine in Rift. Haven’t had any problem finding tanks and healers for instances there. So I hope the game doesn’t become as large as WoW, because then it will just have WoW’s problems.

  20. Epiny says:

    I like healing the way it is, in fact many of my friends do too. Our guild has always had the issue of too many healers and tanks. We just find DPS to be boring. Yes most people like to DPS but many people also like the current tanking and healing styles of play too. I honestly don’t feel the lack of healers and tanks has anything at all to do with how “fun” it is to actually play those classes. I think it has to do with how much responsibility people are willing to take on in a pug.

    I hear some people who heal and tank in our raids hate to do it in a pug. They say pugs are terrible so they will only DPS in them. That doesn’t make sense to me because it feels like you are contributing to the problem. I PREFER to heal or tank a pug because as everyone has said those are the two most crucial roles. If I can fill one spot I know that at least one crucial role has a competent person… while if I pug’d as DPS I would have to hope for a good healer and tank.

    This new system will encourage a lot of people to try tanking and healing. Some will probably be good and some will surely be bad. Let’s just hope that the bad people either get better fast or go back to DPS.

    • Bootleg says:

      “I PREFER to heal or tank a pug because as everyone has said those are the two most crucial roles.”

      I felt this exact same way in WotLK. I’d tended to play healer, but I often played tank as well. As healer I felt I could carry a group regardless of how bad they were. As a warrior I felt I could only carry the group if at least the dps or healer were competent. Either way, having a good healer or tank in WotLK almost assured success in heroics.

      In Cata that changed. I stopped playing a couple months into the expansion, I burned out and stopped having fun, so my understanding may be outdated. The biggest mechanic that changed was that the dps had to play their role with organization and skill. And this is totally contrary to how most pugged dps wanted to play their class. In my experience, pugged dps just wants to “kill shit.”

      DPS is now as critical to the success of a heroic run as the tank and healer have always been. Dps needs to focus fire, not break cc and execute the plan typically vocalized by the tank. A good tank/healer can still hide mistakes, but too much (which isn’t much) deviation by the DPS will now cause failure.

      Bottom line, being a tank requires a lot more work these days than it used to. You have to mark targets, design a plan and try to get dps to follow that plan. Tanks, in many ways have become babysitters or middle management (which is often a form of babysitting.) It’s not fun. Healers workload has also increased, as one little mistake by the tank or dps really adds to the pressure. When a run goes well, you succeed in finishing it, and rarely get any props. When it goes bad, it’s just get super ugly, especially tanks and healers.

      • Gordon says:

        Also I think the tank often gets given the whole responsibility for leading a group which isn’t necessarily correct. Just because they are tanking doesn’t mean they should be dictating strategies to down bosses! The whole dungeon run should be team effort.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s a vicious spiral. As more and more people have bad PUG experiences, more and more of them will refuse to try to cooperate with other players in them.

  21. Hey, I like tanking and healing! I’m also totally cool with the trinity system. What drives me away from those roles isn’t the mechanics themselves, it’s the thankless attitude I often get, especially when I’m tanking.

    There’s the gameplay and then there’s the community. No doubt both aspects contribute to the problem, but for me, the latter is what bothers me more. In fact, I like taking on these “responsible” roles and I do enjoy doing them…but I’ve literally been scared off by some of the rudeness I’ve experienced in PuGs and randoms.

  22. Shadow-war says:

    What exactly are the bribes being offered? I’m curious as to what exactly Blizzard has planned that they think is substantial enough to get the masses to play the least favorably-viewed roles.

  23. SmakenDahed says:

    Flasks, mounts, and companions is what I hear. Oh, and the baggies they come in will be BoA so you can mail them off to an alt.

  24. Yaggle says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head. I think Blizzard’s goal should be to allow for multiple strategies to kill a boss — including non-tanking strategies. Perhaps one involving multiple de-buffs, one involving fast dps burn-down, of course at least one including tanking, and more. There should be other group compositions capable of killing bosses other than tank-healing-dps.
    I wouldn’t have a problem if having a tank were optimal, but, as I said, their goal should be to offer more possibilities.

  25. Shane says:

    Another possible thing to consider is the number of people that do both PvE and PvP content on a regular basis (speaking about WoW specifically).

    Most dps and healer class/specs can get away with not drastically changing their setup. For tanks, Blizzard’s clear lack of dedication to making tank specs meaningfully viable in PvP (both battlegrounds and arena) on a consistent basis forces most would-be tanks into doing much more than just carry around a couple of different armor sets.

    Dedicated tanks will often setup a non-tank PvP spec, which means they are probably going to the trouble of customizing their UI for each spec, complete with key mappings, etc. That takes time to adjust to, and for some people never gets to the point where it’s second nature.

    More casual players often take the path of least resistance, and go with a spec that feels similar in both PvP and PvE. Granted they’ll still likely go with separate talent builds based on the same spec, but the layout of abilities and keybinds won’t change significantly.

    At some point while leveling my current main (Paladin), I made the decision to dedicating myself to the torment of making prot work as a PvP spec, and at the same time, going holy for PvE, so I understand just how challenging it is to play drastically different specs on the same character.

    Having said all that, I still agree with most of you in that the overwhelming level of douche-baggery found on today’s pugs, combined with the added responsibility of keeping said douche-bags alive is probably the biggest deterrent, and I don’t see the upcoming changes doing much to shift the balance either.

    • Gordon says:

      Indeed, it is quite a shift between tanking for PUGs and either PvPing or soloing. I think this disparage puts people off because, aside from the change in mentality and gameplay, there is actually no way of practicising tanking without a group of other players to try it on!

  26. Patti says:

    I think the problem isn’t that tanks or healers need to be cajoled into joining LFD, or that hybrid classes should be bribed to fill those roles. Perhaps the roles just aren’t fun any more!

    Why aren’t they fun? Mostly because of the other players one encounters when running random dungeons. After a few groups like that, a lot of tanks and healers decide to run only with friends and guildies. Why put up with the abuse?

    Sure, Blizzard may be able to change class mechanics in order to mix things up a bit, as far as needing a tank or healer for certain fights, but there’s not much they can do about players who delight in being douchebags.

  27. Andrew says:

    It’s not specifically for Tanks and Healers of course – Allegedly it’s been DPS in the CtA role once or twice (though only once or twice) on the PTR. Which suggests that the bribes are actually working :)

    But even if they don’t get the bag of goodies, DPS should get what they value more than rubies: shorter queue times :)

  28. Wolfshead says:

    There is something seriously wrong when a video game company has to bribe people to play a certain way in order to compensate for poor design in their game.

    • Tenza says:

      This is not a problem with the game’s design, but with the game’s community and the fact that people don’t experience any repercussions when being a Richard. The extreme shift in the people’s notion about what is good or adequate behaviour in the game came over the last 18 month and compared to the way how things worked before than, it completely ruins the experience.

  29. [...] Spark post – been reading a lot of Gordon from ‘We Fly Spitfires’ today, and stopped on his post about the Call to Arms feature Blizzard recently implemented titled: The Problem Is Just That No OneLikes Tanking Or Healing [...]

  30. [...] Still, all of this flexibility is really just a band-aid for a style of gameplay that we all know is ultimately flawed but no one has yet to come up with a better solution for. I know I certainly can’t think of anything (and I’m not saying it would be an easy feat, by any means). However, I can’t help but think that maybe we’re being a little lazy and looking for the easy way out here. Of course, making sure everyone can tank, heal and DPS will smooth out issues with grouping and raiding but isn’t it just a cover up for a more fundamental issues at hand? Perhaps that the sheer concept of raiding is broken? Or that no one actually likes playing tanks or healers in the first place? [...]

  31. Tenza says:

    Personally, I love tanking and healing. However (and I think most of the tanking community) feels with me is that I don’t like getting f***ed in the behind by random DPS. They steal your loot, they don’t respect you (or anyone for that matter) and across average they perform ridiculously bad in their role as damage dealers. As long as Blizzard doesn’t do anything against stealing loot of other roles, etc. like they did for the Dragonsoul (via Raidfinder). The small number of tanks and healers will not rise.

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