The real reason for the tank shortage

Let me start off by saying I enjoy playing the tank more than any other role in a themepark. I enjoy the challenge, I find the gameplay more entertaining, and well, I’m not a droolcup so playing DPS would be a waste.

But if you want to know why there is a tank shortage, just watch a tank’s screen during some boss encounters. It’s not a whole lot of fun to have a 24” ultra-bright monitor become a techno rave for 5-10 minutes because the boss is so close to you that you’re inside his crotch, and those fancy effects and great animations he has become screen-filling single-color flashes of nausea-inducing nothingness. Now a single 5-10 minutes stretch is one thing (it still sucks, but at least the suck is limited), but repeat wipes on Mr. Techno? No thanks. An instance where it seems every boss is Mr. Techno? I’ll come back when we can steamroll the place just to see it once.

The bad solution would be to make bosses stationary or move on a pre-set pattern. That’s a cheap way out, and would limit encounter design way too much. Not that I don’t appreciate those types of bosses, I do, and they certainly make nice breaks from crotch-viewing, but it’s not the long-term solution.

The long-term solution is collision detection. Why is it that devs only consider this important for PvP, and even then it’s pretty rare to see it done right (ie: Darkfall)? With collision detection not only would you stop the boss from standing on top of a tank, you could also do a whole lot more with encounter design. Narrow corridors would matter, getting knocked into a corner would matter, and positioning would be a lot deeper if you had to consider where your teammates are running. A giant boss would actually be a giant obstacle instead of yet another mob that the tank finds himself half-way inside of.

Until then, I’ll keep the Advil close at hand.

14 Responses to The real reason for the tank shortage

  1. Angry Gamer says:

    Great Post!

    This idea of the interface failing for tanking (up close combat with larger mobs) is eye opening.

    Frankly, I am used to being buried in the buttons, frames, health bars during either tanking or healing bosses. I never considered the basic “interface and interactivity sux” during these encounters.

    Something I have tried (it’s a work around mind you) but in WOW there is an ultrawide screen setting (can’t remember how) but it makes toons tiny so you can see the whole area (noticed it on tankspot videos). This one idea to work with current games.

    But I really like your idea that tank play sux due to display mechanics …and… that may drive overall tank participation.

    truly thought provoking.

  2. Angry Gamer says:

    also I sometimes tank with my camera pointing down just for variation…

    I also get bored looking at the boss’s legs.

  3. Anjin says:

    Collision detection would shake up the standard encounter so much. In a good way! I get that developers are worried about griefing, but there are ways around that. Not that D&D is the end all, be all of fantasy gaming, but I would much rather fights resembled old RPGs where you have to put a wall of steel between the bad guys and the magic-user hiding in the back.

    Speaking of which, remember when fighters were the ones who did the fighting? And people rolled them because they wanted to hit orcs in the face with a sword, not because they wanted to stare at a dragon’s ball sack while everyone else did the real work?

    • Remastered says:

      Whoa whoa…having stared at my fair share of dragon ball sacks (did that come out right?), it definitely is “real work.” As I’m currently playing a DPS warrior in our guild so Syn can continue work on his tanking skills (it’s a community service project), I can now officially attest to DPS having the sweetest gig. I actually enjoyed a delicious strawberry fruit bar while pulling trash on our run last night.

      • Liero the Great says:

        That explains why SynCaine always whines about DPS being fit for retards only. All his strawberry fruit bars must taste like dragon balls to him–part of the subconscious connection between vision and taste in the human brain. I forgive you now, Syn, you can continue whining about the necessary members of your own guild raid teams all you want, without me once wondering if you could get into Paragon as a dps class, with the consequence if not being you coldly categorizing yourself as well below a pack of drooling rejects.

        Do work, son. But close your eyes while snacking.

  4. pkudude99 says:

    I was tanking the final boss in KB once, and we’d backed into an alcove so it’s knockback wouldn’t make us go all over, and yeah… party member’s spells and hands kept flashing in front of me, the mob’s face was right in mine and was hideously fugly… definitely would have preferred it to be standing a bit farther back.

  5. Polynices says:

    Collision detection raises concerns in the outside world due to griefing and large crowds and so forth but with all the raids and dungeons instanced it seems like enabling it only in those places would work just fine. Not more than 25 people and a few mobs to worry about at once.

  6. Straw Fellow says:

    I wouldn’t say the tank shortage in WoW is entirely due to what the job entails. For some people doing damage is their deal, others like being survivable as hell. I fall into the second category and in most games I play Tank archetypes. For myself I stopped tanking because I kept being bugged to do content I didn’t need anything for.

    But barring that, collision detection makes for some pretty solid gameplay mechanics, but adds a whole host of issues. But let’s assume its being used well then. An interesting mechanic would be using the boss to block, say, healing spells as well. Positioning becomes even more important when you need to be in line of sight. There are a lot of possibilities.

  7. Telwyn says:

    Biggest problem I’ve heard of with collision detection is server lag. DDO had it, so you could have real tank ‘shield walls’ to block bosses from getting at the squishies. But at least when I was still playing just before the F2P relaunch it caused massive lag problems.

    Experienced players would twink their characters and run through whole dungeons to get to the objectives and complete in the fastest time. This usually didn’t require killing all the mobs, so you’d have a mob train following you. They’d all be jostling for position and colliding with each other hence lag-inducing overload on the multiplying collision calculations…

  8. D says:

    No one on Darkfall has ever griefed me with collision detection. Obviously Darkfall griefers are smarter than your average troll but still it has never been a problem. And I don’t think its so far a stretch to make a decent engine for a game with collision detection these days.

  9. Mala says:

    Most of the people who raid can’t even stay out of their own way, let along having to worry about running into other people.

  10. SM says:

    Collision detection is a bad idea in a raid since only so many people can crowd around a boss without getting elbowed out.

    If you make aggro work on dps alone instead of cheap threat abilities then suddenly DPSers have to worry about damage output and mitigation and dumping threat. I think this is what they are planning for GW2. The whole idea of a tank really is sort of stapled on to an aggro mechanic that was exploited early on. It might be fun to play but hardly realistic.

    • SynCaine says:

      How is the first point a bad thing? I mean assuming the encounter is designed accordingly, isn’t that, I don’t know, an interesting problem to solve? Won’t that make encounter design more flexible than “cleave + aoe + stun/slow + gimmick = boss”?

  11. BoxerDogs says:

    Great post. I’m predominantly a console player, and the only MMO I (used to) regularly play was WoW. I tank or melee DPS, and I *love* the technodisco analogy. It’s one of my gripes.

    Anyway, any console gamer would take one look at the screen and say one thing. Bad camera programming. That’s it. ANY CONSOLE GAME that requires (1) hitting a boss and (2) moving, that sticks the camera INSIDE THE BOSS or alternatively splashes the screen with so many vile and frankly unnecessary spell effects that you can’t see what is going on, would get panned in disgust. Shoddy cameras are one of the first things that get slated in any twitch action game. I have beaten various DMCs, Gaidens, Halos, more games than you can point a stick at, and the one thing that makes me hit eject on the console before anything else is shoddy camera work.

    So why is it that MMOs (I assume in general, although WoW is the prime culprit) are allowed to get away with such bad cameras and forcing tanks (and also melees) to look at bosses feet, and why isn’t it an issue I see raised more often?

    Anyways, great blog post, really struck a chord.

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