(I posted this on my blog, but I figured I might as well put it here, too!)
I’ve been playing a bunch of WoW lately, but my experiences are replaying the usual cycle I go through with every expansion. I start out, level a couple of characters to the max, have a good time running dungeons, then get bored at the endgame. To its credit, Pandaria has kept me interested in my max-level characters far longer than any expansion ever has; there’s a really good variety of things to do when you hit 90.
Still, I’m a tank, and almost every activity I do in the game is targeted towards tanking or finding better tanking gear. Either I’m actually running dungeons or working on rep grinds to get more valor/unlock better gear to buy. I realize that there are a lot of people who enjoy pet battles or PVP or fishing or gaming the auction house or scenarios or whatever, and I think it’s great that Blizzard has managed to incorporate so many alternative ways of playing their game, but none of them have really wound up sticking with me the way that tanking has. My two 90’s are a prot paladin and a brewmaster monk, and I’ve been working on getting a bear druid and my old prot warrior up to the cap, as well. I do one thing in this game, and I like to think I do it well.
Obviously I’ve never been one to make clean UIs.
Which is why it’s too bad that they recently announced that there won’t be any more five-man dungeons in Mists, but at least that announcement has made me feel less guilty about cutting my WoW habit until the next expansion comes out.
I’m not sure I can adequately explain why I enjoy tanking five-mans so much. (For those who don’t play WoW, each five-person dungeon has a tank, who controls the monsters and takes as much of the damage as he possibly can, a healer, who heals everyone in the group, and three DPS, who are responsible for killing everything that you come across.) The bulk of the psychological draw is probably that it’s the ultimate position of authority in the game, in that the tank bears the brunt of the responsibility for achieving the goals of the group. You can limp along with poor DPS, and even a bad healer can be supplemented with self-heals and potions and the like, but a bad tank will often make a dungeon run uncompletable unless the rest of the group composition can compensate for that lack of skill.
I pride myself on not being a bad tank, though, and judging by the comments I get from pick-up groups, I’d wager that I’m on the upper end of the skill scale. Healers enjoy the fact that I pop cooldowns to make their job easier, and DPS appreciate that I keep the pace up and don’t waste my time in guild chat during runs. It’s an oddly parental kind of experience, in that you work with a partner (the healer) to try and get your hyperactive kids (the DPS) through a 20-minute dungeon without any of them getting burned by fire or eaten by an angry ghost.
Maybe don’t stand in that fire, y’all?
Another aspect of tanking that I enjoy is that it lets me be kind of a dick without any major repercussions. I should restate that: I can take revenge on the dicks that populate any given multiplayer game by one-upping them and immediately dropping group, forcing them to wait around for another tank to queue up, which can take a while even at max level. It’s the WoW equivalent of angrily hanging up one of those old rotary phones that hung on the wall of the house of anyone who grew up in the 80s: a forceful, emphatic, and entirely pleasing (to me) retort to bad behavior. If you want to be a dick, you can expect me to put you in the time out box.
To be clear, I don’t really mind bad players, and there are plenty of those as well. We’re talking things like melee DPS who always attack enemies from the front, despite the fact that I take more damage when they do so (thanks to the game’s odd parrying system) and that they do less damage than they would if they attacked the mob from behind. Or players who don’t stack up in the middle for the Sha of Doubt or know how to line-of-sight the group of nine mini-foes during the last fight in Stormstout Brewery, or who’ve run the Scarlet Halls a dozen times and still can’t get away from Harlan’s whirlwind attack. (Which, to be fair, kills more players by far than any other heroic attack that I can think of.)
STACK UP JUST STACK UP ON ME IT’S NOT THAT HARD
It’s easy to understand why there are so many bad players in WoW’s endgame: the leveling experience, especially via dungeons, has been made so easy that you can run most content on autopilot without any serious risk of death. The health of every monster in every dungeon between level 20 and 85 should be tripled, just to give some kind of illusion of challenge, and there definitely needs to be more opportunities to emphasize strategic thinking in dungeons before Pandaria. Maybe throw a few mobs into each dungeon that can automatically heal every nearby mob to full, forcing you to CC or target them before taking out anyone else. (The Temple Adepts in Vortex Pinnacle wind up causing wipes, just because no one ever seems to want to interrupt or attack them first.) Or put in a monster or two that can cleave attack for massive damage on anyone who isn’t tanking it, forcing melee DPS to attack from behind or die. Anything to encourage a moment of strategizing rather than blindly running from enemy to enemy for 20 minutes.
Still, if inefficient players bug me, they don’t bug me nearly as much as assholes do, and there are a number of assholes in WoW (although not as many as I would say exist in LoL/DOTA2 or console versions of Call of Duty, from what I’ve heard about those communities). Assholes in WoW are made when players both outgear the challenge in front of them and are obsessed with moving as quickly as possible through a dungeon. They’ll yell at you if you stop to compare your gear with an item that just dropped, will pull extra monsters back onto the group (which makes both the tank and the healer’s job more difficult), and generally just throw hissy-fits and try to kick people if someone needs to take a moment to do anything other than pressing relentlessly forward. True assholery is luckily fairly rare, but it does pop up once in a while.
My answer to the asshole conundrum is usually to just ask politely for them to not do whatever’s making them an asshole, and then drop from the group immediately if they cease to do it. The wait time for tanks to get into dungeons is basically instantaneous, and I’m happy to just log out while the dungeon deserter debuff wears off. I wield the power of the dungeon-drop without much discernment, and I’m sure more than a few innocent victims of it have added me to their /ignore list, but in the end, my guiding principle in gaming is to not put up with being frustrated by assholes.
Epic but stressful.
Even for all their problems, a well-done dungeon run is really fun, although they do get repetitive after a while. But Blizzard’s new emphasis on getting everyone into Raid Finder groups is a bit off-putting to me. If a competent group in a dungeon makes for a nice little pas de cinq, LFR runs are rarely more organized than your average mosh pit, with a far greater chance of people yelling “GO GO GO” at you as a tank. LFR groups have 25 players, but only two tanks, with something like five healers and 18 DPS to round out the group. The end result of that is that your actions as a tank are significantly more important to the survival of the raid than that of any other player. (It’s not uncommon for some DPS players to simply hang back and cast a couple spells at each boss, doing the minimum required to get loot without doing so poorly that they get kicked.)
So tanking raids isn’t exactly a fun proposition for me, especially when faced with the prospect of learning new raids and tanking them for the first time. I can watch videos and read up on each encounter as much as I like, but it’s still challenging the first time, and it’s useful to sit and whisper with my fellow tank before each encounter, discussing strategies and the like. That’s actually one of the fun aspects of the LFR gig. Listening to people rage at you in raid chat for taking your time to do things right? Not so much. I haven’t enjoyed many of my half-dozen experiences in the LFR system thus far, needless to say; if I give it another whirl I’ll probably just flip off raid chat entirely.
It’s possible that LFR will eventually wind up keeping me in the game, but it’s unlikely. It’s seems more stressful than fun, I don’t think I’ve gotten a single piece of gear from any of my runs, and it generally seems to be a system designed for people to yell at tanks. It’s supposedly a way to emphasize storylines more than are actually possible in five-mans, but I can’t say that I’ve really picked up on any plotlines in LFRs beyond “standing in fire hurts and the bad guys are supposed to die.” I’m sure taking down Garrosh will be a pretty epic experience, so maybe I’ll come resub for that, but as of April 8th my subscription is expiring.
Still, as said, Blizz deserves a lot of credit for catering to an incredibly wide array of gameplay tastes in WoW. There’s something for everyone; it’s just a shame that my something is going to be given short shrift for the next 18 months until the next expansion comes out.