Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tanking: Barriers To Entry

Continuing my economic analysis of tanking in WoW (and it probably applies just as fully to healing).

A barrier to entry in economics are factors that keep you from entering a market where otherwise you could make a profit. They are the one time costs you a player has to pay (or overcome) to start tanking but that someone already tanking doesn't even notice.

Considering that MMOs have always had a shortage of tanks (and healers) its surprising that WoW's design has such high barriers to entry for tanks--higher than even EQ. The barriers are: class, spec, gear,
knowledge, skill and psychology.

Lets say you're 80, on your first WoW character, and finally decide you want to tank. Chances are that you stuck right there. In WoW 6 classes can't tank (mage, rogue, warlock, hunter, shaman, priest) and 4 who can (warrior, paladin, death knight and druid). If you want to tank you have to give up your main character and start a new one. To add insult to injury, very little of what you have earned on your main will be useful to starting a new character (though more gets carried over now than before).

So lets say that our random 80 is one of the 4 right classes to tank--the next question is do they have a tanking spec? Do they have a talent spec that they can get to, to tank? Has this character gone back to the old world to train/retrain? Or have they spend the 1,000 gold to get their dual spec? In the log run, dual speccing is the better choice--so this barrier would be 1,000 gold and a trip back to the old world.

Ok now we have our random 80 with the right class and spec--but they still aren't able to tank: you need the right gear to tank: instead of damage gear, our player needs to have spent time and money to have a set of tanking gear. Even with defense out of the picture in Cataclysm, tanking gear will look significantly different than DPS gear: more stam, more armor, dodge and parry and it will be gemmed and enchanted completely differently. Mind you the optimal behavior--until you decide you want to tank--is to sell off or disenchant all that tank gear.

Ok now that our tank wannabe has passed the class, spec and gear we're ready to roll, right? Wrong--the player behind this tank needs knowledge. Everything from what his class skills are, where those buttons are on his UI, and what the cool downs are like to knowledge that leaks over into other barriers: do you know what a good tanking spec is? Do you know where to find one? Do you have enough HP? Armor? expertise? Hit rating? Resistances? (And more I am sure I have missed.)

Having passes all those checks--our tank still isn't ready: we need to know if this tank has the skills: does he know where his taunt button(s) is? (G9 on my keyboard). Does he know how to use his class skills in tanking situations? Does he know about pulling? Patrols? Looking out for healer agro on agroed ranged mobs? What about the pulling possibilities his group brings with it? LOS pulling? Staying top agro on 5 or more mobs? That he even has to stay top agro on most of the mobs? Does he have the situational awareness to respond quickly to changing situations?

And the, having satisfied all those prior checks--you have to ask is the player willing to take on the awesome responsibility for taking the fun and time of 4 other players in his hands? Rarely, I am reminded of what it is like to tank for the first time and get a set of nerves when taking on a new instance or boss. I doubt that is comparable to what people think of tanking for the first time if they know the game already--and how fast you can get feedback.


Fuubaar said...

I believe that every type of Class & Spec goes through all of these same things when it's your first time.

If you care at ALL about what you are doing, even as DPS, you need to research, gear, and spend time learning the ropes before you actully throw yourself in to the masses.

My very first toon (still my main today) is a Protection paladin. Funny thing is, I've actually never DPSed before. I can tank ICC 10 with ease on Fuu but make me DPS and I become a HUGE newbet.

Needless to say, it's not just tanks that have to go through this "Barrier" to enter the epeen world of "Heroics".

Guthammer said...

Welcome Foobaar! You're my first commenter! Yay!

Even if the DPS noobs it up, barring someone giving you recount grief, you aren't likely to be caught. Its even less likely that you will end up with someone running back and having to spend 10 gold in reps. Or everyone running back and paying 50 gold combined.

So long as your DPS isn't face pulling its hard for a new 80 DPS to wipe the group. Not so much for a new tank.

24k HP tanks, regularly and actively get told they can't do the i200 heroics-before the first pull.

You man not be playing in your comfort zone DPSing in 5-mans but I would think that for you DPSing a 5 man would be less stressful than say, healing it for the first time, no? Assuming that healing is equally out of your comfort zone as DPS.

You being in poor DPS doesn't make you a noobet, any more than me rolling another level 1 warrior would make me a noobet.

Fuubaar said...

I agree with you regarding the Pressure put on DPS verse Tanks in a heroic environment.

I used to believe that DPS weren't all that important but I've come to realize that this is actually a false statement on my behalf. Look at the set up of heroic.

1 tank, 1 healer, & 3 DPS.

I have found that if two out of the three parts of your group is strong, you will have an easier time succeeding than let's say just one.

To cover up a poor healer, you need LEET DPS & a tank with very good situational awareness. To cover up a bad Tank, you better have leet DPS & a very good healer (spam heals anyone?).

DPS is a whole can of worms because you are not just talking about 1 single person that takes up 100% but three that combined job = 100% 1 bad DPS (33.33% repeating of course) must be made up with the other two. Yes, if one DPS hits the dirt, those other two MUST pick up the slack or they are really going to put pressure on the healer, Tank, and two other DPS to get it done.

Since I've never DPSed in a raiding environment, I've never had to deal with the Enrage timers bosses. I would say that they would be as stressful and AS important as, lets say, a tank getting hit like a dump truck, or for a healer having to deal with LoS issues or raid wide damage.

If you are on the cusp of Raiding, your DPS better be top notch just like your tanks & healer.

It is the Holy Trinity after all ;)

TL;DR is that for those Tanks that get kicked out of heroics for their low HP or "gear requirements" don't let it phase you. Let people know that you are new to tanking and that you would really like to learn how to do it correctly. You have 15 minutes to show them that you are trying before they can kick you from the group. If they do end up kicking you, then good riddence. Why would I stick my neck out to help out 4 other people. Sorry bout cha ;)

On a different note: Welcome to the Blogsphere! Glad to have you :)

Keep up the good work.

<3 Fuu

Guthammer said...

Thanks for my idea of one of my next posts.

I have used the term "catastrophically overgeared" for some tanks (and I think its mostly a tank issue)--but now I have a fuller idea to hang on that phrase.

And for the i200 heroics, I am "catastrophically overgeared". Am I on the high side of geared for HHoR. 36-37K HP, etc (4/5 t9.33/ 1 t10.0)

Anonymous said...

This was a fun read. I think, though, that the biggest barrier to tanking is the mindset necessary to do a good job of it.

At least at the heroic level, most players are able to transition from tank or healer to dps without too much pain. Their numbers may be a little lower, but they otherwise have the skills and knowledge to do a good job. This is true, though to a lesser extent, for anybody switching to healing. I can't tell you, however, how many players I know that have tried tanking and run away screaming. A tank has to be comfortable with being up front and watched by the other four members of the group.

While leveling and gear are also barriers, I think they are not nearly as serious as the above. I think this is the reason why, despite the creation of a new tanking class for WotLK, we still have a tank shortage. It isn't about the characters; it's about the players.