In the recent State-of-the-Game letter from EQ2 publisher Bruce Ferguson, he announced that the tanking changes slated for LU 51 would be postponed, and the changes on the test servers would be rolled back.
The information in the letter was very broad and unspecific, so I’ve been snooping around a bit to find out more about what went wrong. The goals of the change, as I understood them, were things that I thought were a good direction.
First, I spent some time combing through the forums on EQ2Flames. Not enough time to really get what the issues are, but enough to see that players were quite upset with the proposed changes, and that unhappiness seemed to be centered around the reduction of DPS that the changes would wreak on fighters.
I had a chance to catch up with Chuman, a Guardian and MT of Lineage, also a former member of Shards of Glory, a great tank and a great friend. I asked him about the changes to tanking and the problems perceived. It was a great conversation and I attempt to reproduce it here. It’s dramatized, and from memory, but I hope it doesn’t distort Chuman’s points.
Me: What’s with the postponed changes to LU51? I take it players on test weren’t happy with the changes?
Chuman: That’s right, Tolly.
Me: How so? Are they unhappy with the DPS reduction?
Chuman: Well, what’s important in a tank, what do you look for?
Me: They control the fight, they keep aggro.
Chuman: That’s right, but what else do you look for? What makes someone a really great tank?
Me: They communicate well. They know the encounters. They set a good pace. They can adapt to a changing situation. As a mezzer, I like to group with a tank that can tell me what they need mezzed and what they want to just tank, and we can adapt on the fly.
Chuman: Yes, and anything else? What gives a tank that last distinction that puts them over the top.
Me: Well, DPS is the last thing they should be thinking about. What’s important is winning, not who parses the most.
Chuman: Exactly. DPS is the last thing that a tank should worry about, which is what makes it a mark of distinction among good tanks.
Chuman: The changes cut tank DPS roughly in half. So whereas before, in a raid situation a good tank would parse 4000 and a great one 8000, now the improvement goes from 2000 to 4000. That’s a major decrease in contribution. The taunts on Test have been increased to the point where I once critted a taunt and taunted for 17,000 hate, with my single target taunt having a cooldown of no more than about 4.5 seconds and zero recover time.
With the changes, anybody could hold aggro with simple button mashing, so there’s very little room to differentiate a good tank from a great one.
Toldain: That still seems to me that it’s more about prestige than about winning. But I’ll grant you this, these changes would have been much better taken if they weren’t a change that takes something away from existing players.
Chuman: Yes, I agree. By the way, what’s the most important thing you can do to keep aggro in the game as it stands?
Toldain: Ummm, big DPS?
Chuman: Not quite. These days, the most important thing you can do is to group with a dirge and have him put the hate-gain buff on you. And coercers are way up there, too. This is a problem for the game.
Toldain: Right, we enchanters took a lot of grief early in EQ2 because the designers wanted to get away from the idea that any single class was indispensible. So now, if Dirges and Coercer’s are indispensible to raids, that’s kind of broken.
Chuman: Really, my opinion is that the problem comes from the decision to have 24 classes in the game and 24 slots in a raid. There’s just no way that was going to work.
And I think that changes need to be made, but the magnitude of the changes was pretty shocking. Many of us were going, “Can’t we split the difference?”
Toldain: So it’s back to the drawing board for them.
In thinking it over, I realize that any capability that is automatic and easy isn’t all that fun. The game design seems intended for aggro management to be a joint effort between all the players in a group or a raid. Why else would players other than tanks have tools to manage hate at all? I don’t think that’s a bad thing, at least in the group game. And hate management isn’t just about hitting your deaggro skills, it’s also about managing your dps profile, putting big hits at the end, rather than leading with them.
A good example of the kind of rethinking that works well is how they have worked the power management tools of Illusionists. We have several:
- A group power regen buff
- A power transfer from mob to group, with a one-minute cooldown
- A long cooldown spell that gives power to anyone getting hit.
- A spell (AA ability) that gives power to a group or raid friend and to you, after a wait of about 20 seconds
- Our epic weapon has a group power gain proc
- The usual mage self-buff that takes health and adds power
To use these well, one must think ahead and adapt to the situation. One must also weave them into the fast-casting, always have the next button clicked in advance, style that enchanters use to maximize output. This keeps things pretty interesting, and never rote. Except for the ability on the epic weapon which is a fire-and-forget sort of thing. Not very interesting, though in some situations it may indirectly boost your dps because you didn’t have to hit your power skills so much.
Currently, the hate management game, at least for raids, is this: Group with a Dirge and a Coercer, and do a lot of dps. That’s got to change. I’d like to see it change to something more interesting, but the changes will affect group and solo play too, which makes it tricky. And the changes will necessarily mean less dps for tank classes playing the tank role, which will make it a tough pill to swallow.