The underdevelopment of Tanks in PvP

Knight of the Blazing SunPlaying a tank class in PvP or RvR can really be a frustrating experience. A member of the traditional holy trinity, tanks have been designed for years as the meat shield class with the sole responsibility of making sure the rest of the team does not take damage. Aside from how boring that sounds already, taken out of its element and placed in to a PvP environment exponentially increases the undiversified and really underdeveloped nature of this character class.

The flaws of a Tank in PvP can be summed up quickly in two points.

  • Narrow minded skill design
  • Unsupportive game mechanics

The skills of a Tank class are designed to fulfill a very specific role in PvE. It’s possible that many developers may look at adapting the class as too daunting. It would take innovation and straying off the beaten path to adapt or change skills; something that most developers ignore because using the cookie cutter molds of those who have come before you is much easier. Mythic is taking the first real steps towards adapting the tank class in Warhammer Online. By adapting the taunting skills, tanks will be able to use the skills they already have to fulfill a much needed and much desired support role. I believe taunts will be capable of snaring the enemy, protecting your team mates (in more ways than one), and otherwise hindering the enemy.

I want to talk about the Warrior class in World of Warcraft very quickly because undoubtedly many of you will already be pounding away on the keyboard to point out that someone else has already provided an alternate approach for tanks in PvP. (I garuntee someone will skip this paragraph all together) Blizzard, instead of being innovative and adapting the class, chose to provide Warriors the opportunity to shift their focus away from tanking all together and be a damage dealing class. This is not the answer. Changing a class entirely from a support role to a dps role turns a blind eye to one problem and creates several more. WoW’s approach created a monster and ruined the feel of the “tank” class entirely. Wearing the best armor, dealing the most damage (anyone remember mortal strike?), driving most people to use druids as tanks, fighting over dps gear (dramaaaa)…. not a solution. It’s the most overplayed and grossly unbalanced class in the game.

Going back to the two points I now want to talk about game mechanics. In PvP no one is going to stand around attacking a tank, they’re going to go for the squishy casters standing in the back. Tanks are snared, mezzed, stunned, and otherwise immobilized turning what should be a force to be reckoned with in to a submissive mistake. Change that. Going back to the RvR kings, Mythic is adding collision detection in WAR – a huge step in the right direction. This mechanic diversifies gameplay for everyone. Finally there will be thought given to positioning again! Protecting the healers in a tight circle, blocking the 4 guys chasing the elf in a dress, or simply creating a front line are actually going to be viable. The mechanics need more work than CD though.

Immunities and resistances. Two incredibly overlooked and underutilized factors that should make all the difference in the world. Crank up the magic resistance and physical defenses on a tank. Allow them to run in to the thick of things and use their taunts. There needs to be a big enough change to the resistances that no one will think “root/mez the tank”. They should be saying “OmG move! Here comes the tank!”.

In DAOC tanks with 2-handers and polearms were pretty good. Armsmen could be a nasty surprise when they come up and wail on you. I can’t remember where I read or heard about tanks using 2-handers in WAR so I can’t cite the reference, but I know something is being done to make them more than an annoyance. Tanks will be able to fill the supportive role they truly are and still be able to overcome the extreme bias that PvP always has for damage dealers.

I won’t even assume for a second that Warhammer will figure it all out and solve all of the tank’s problems. They are however taking innovative steps towards developing this class’ mold. I think we’ll see extraordinary results from the taunt changes and collision detection. With a little luck we’ll see resistances playing their part. A tank class could actually be a lot of fun.

  • There is also a huge concept at play with the upcoming Age of Conan that a lot of PVP tanks are interested in. The game is going to have an actual collision mechanic, where tanks will literally be able to keep enemy players and mobs “at bay” by physically blocking them with their bodies and abilities.

    Monsters and players will not be able to just run “through” the tank to get to the rest of the party, and a large part of being a good tank will be knowing how to position yourself correctly to maintain that blocking stance.

    They have even spoken of using lines of tanks in rank to stop entire mobs of enemy players, much like heavily armored first line footmen in real open field battles.

    Cheers!

  • From what I’ve read most (or all) of the Warhammer tanks will be able to use 2 handed weapons to be a more viable threat in pvp, and 2 handed weapons will be useful without major changes to the character (aka respeccing in WoW). Rather than require players to change their tank to play in pvp, they’re just requiring players change the way they play their tank to play in pvp. A tank that just finished up leading a group through some pve content could whip out his trusty 2-hander and go be effective in pvp. Hopefully there will be benefits to sticking with a shield too, such as increased resistances or reflect abilities or something.

    The High Elf swordmaster (the HE tank class) is designed around using 2 handers and delivering chains of attacks. I don’t see why that would be any less effective in pvp, so long as the tank can actually reach a target. With the dearth of CC in WAR and the advent of collision detection, that seems like a reasonable proposition.

  • Is collision detection really going to help much? I can’t see it making a big difference unless:

    1) you’re in a really confining space or
    2) you have a _lot_ of tanks cooperating to form up “walls”.

    Even then – what about ranged attacks? Will your tanks break LOS? If not it doesn’t matter if they’re standing in front of a squishy class.

  • Collision detection benefits everyone by adding another dimension to a virtual game. For tanks it allows them to block both offensively and defensively. Remember DAOC milegates? Imagine tanks blocking the choke point. In WAR there will be keeps/castles – once the enemy breaks down the doors a couple of tanks blocking the door could be the difference between winning or losing.

    I believe it breaks LOS – I’m going crazy trying to find the info I read a few months ago that clarified all of this.

  • I think MMOs should look towards what CoH did and see how that could be applied to tanks. Basically in CoH you used your powers that were a package of resistances and immunities – different types of tankers worked better against different types of opponents, but the main thing wasn’t just that the tank had a million hit points, he was just highly resistant to many enemy attacks.

  • WoW tanks were ‘less’ effective than others in pvp but not entirely useless. As I recall I could pretty much shut down a rogue or hunter if I could get next to them (as a protection spec warrior).

    And more importantly, none of this would be an issue if Blizzard wasn’t such jerks about respecs. Respecs should be free and easy to do – just go to someone in town and flip a switch between two or three saved specs at any time. It’s my character, let me play it however I want to!

  • They are a million different ways to balance classes, from restricting equipment to certain classes (eg: casters can’t wear armor) to letting anyone wear/use anything they want but with bonuses and penalties for each class. If you really want to see players innovate and be creative then I say leave the system as open as possible. In WoW you can go to the forums and easily find what everyone agrees on as the “best” setups for each character class. In fact some groups won’t let you join unless you have your character set up “correctly” for your class.

    I prefer the Eve method which really allows any ship type to be used for any role (some better than others at certain things and some terrible at certain things but still possible). When you look up player specs in Eve, you’ll see that there are always multiple setups for each ship type which “work”, and sometimes a given ship can fill several COMPLETELY diffent roles. In PvP, that adds a whole new layer of strategy because you can’t always assume that a given player is filling the expected roll. For example, there’s a ship type (scorpion battleship)which is designed to prevent other ships from targeting. If flown correctly, it can completely neutralize the fighting ability of several other ships all at once. However, that setup means that the ship will break like glass when it gets hit (no tank). That ship type is usually picked as the first primary target in fleet battles. HOWEVER, by chance or perhaps by design, if you install tanking modules in stead of target jamming then that ship can become perhaps the toughest tanking SOB in its class. There are also countless setups between those two extreems.

    I think the character in an MMO should be like an artist’s pallet and the game designers should provide as many different ways for players to paint their character as possible. That way you don’t end up with a bunch of identical maxed out characters that all look like the same power ranger fighting against another bunch of maxed out characters which all look like another identical power ranger.

  • It would be great if solid models broke LOS. However – this creates sets of new problems as well.

    Imagine LOS for healing of friendlies. Can it be blocked when a freindly is surrounded in combat? Maybe even by other friendlies?.

    Imagine you are an archer or mage (typical stand-in-the back types). How do you do damage if your own warriors are standing in front of you? Do we need an “indirect fire” mechanic?

    How about targeting? Do you “gray out” targets that are not within LOS?

    True LOS would make “high ground” exceptionally valuable, which would be super cool. However I think for the reasons mentioned above, LOS will not be implemented.

    People would likely not experience this is as being an overall “fun” mechanic – even as cool as it could potentially be.

    Also about collision detection. Aas much as I love it as well, please remember the history of how this has used to grief in the hands of mischevious players. Hopefully they have an answer!

  • Very good points Haunted. I’ve read that Collision Detection only works on enemies and that friendlies can pass right through. This avoids potential griefing.

    If CD breaks LOS then I would assume that it’s also true that friendlies can cast through friendlies.

  • I’d rather see the whole current class system burn. πŸ™‚

    I would completely remove taunting, combat healing, and number of other traditions. Stuff like that all stems from the basic principle that characters need to be relatively equal in power (combat effectiveness) to be enjoyable in competitive and cooperative gameplay. I think they can be enjoyable with far, far less balance… that just needs to be in mind at the start of design.

    By the way, I’m currently torn between choosing a Chosen or Marauder as my first WAR character. The Chosen seem cooler, but I want to spend nearly all my time bashing skulls and not acting as crowd control. πŸ™‚

  • We’ve finally coaxed developers in to innovation! We can’t scare them by asking for a revolutionary new idea just yet. That might send them back in to remission. πŸ˜‰ (I agree though, I would love to see a new system altogether)

    The Marauder is definitely my pick of the two. They look awesome!

  • Tanks should have a stunning ability. So if you don’t focus on them, you’re stunned and can’t run after squishies.
    Or has this been done *and obviously also abused* before?

  • player collision will break LOS. The Black ork has moves that pretty much stuns them, knocks them down for a few seconds and another that makes them unable to attack. The taunt in pvp makes it so anyone they attack other than the tank will do 50% less dmg.