Tanking for Dummies

Translating Blue
July 17, 2009, 8:52 am
Filed under: Humor, News | Tags: ,

I am sure you have read that Warrior Q&A by now, haven’t you?  If you haven’t, you might wish to.  It is an exciting and entrancing case study in obfuscation.

You could be forgiven for thinking that our dear Bornakk was speaking in a foreign tongue.  This is not entirely false, but it would be more accurate to say it is as if he is speaking in another dialect of English.  We shall call this dialect (for lack of a better term) Public-Affiarsese.  It is the sad native tongue of those who work for corporations whose intense desire for secrecy runs up against the saleability of public engagement.  It’s unique property is that it allows you to say a great deal without saying anything at all!

As a trained and educated linguist English Major, I have prepared a translation for you.  I can assure you that all appearances of sarcasm and bitterness are purely coincidental.

Historically, warriors have always been one of the most dominant classes in World of Warcraft. In Molten Core and for raids afterwards, warriors were THE tank, no question. DPS warriors could also top the damage meters, and were a very potent PvP force. We think we allowed the warrior class to overshadow some other classes, which is probably to be expected given the iconic nature of the plate-wearing fighter in RPGs that long preceded World of Warcraft. We think they are in a fairer place now, in that there is room on the stage for other classes, yet they are still a very powerful and popular class to play. The warrior class has been a very tricky one to balance, largely due to the way rage converts into damage (which converts into rage, which converts into damage…), and we haven’t completely nailed that design just yet.

Translation: There are still too many of you tanking.  Would you quit it already?  This isn’t Molten Core you know.  We designed all these encounters to favor other tanks, but there are still too many of you.  So we’re going to nerf you to the ground, or at least hard enough that only a dedicated core of people will play you.  Sort of like Beastmaster Hunters but with shields instead of pets they spent hours farming and leveling.

One of the things we want to do in the future is take a hard look at the Arms and Fury trees. There are several talents which just haven’t weathered the course of time well and pale in comparison to some of the newer Wrath of the Lich King talents. We’re happiest with the Protection tree — we made a conscious effort to pare down that tree and remove a lot of mandatory talents in order to give the warrior more flexibility to take some more fun or utility-oriented talents. We need to make the same pass on the dps side of things. The reason we haven’t done so yet is that warrior dps is in a pretty good place and we don’t want to have to nerf the class across the board just to make some talents a little sexier. We will eventually do this though. We also need to make some decisions about the difference between Arms and Fury. Traditionally, Arms was the PvP tree and Fury was the PvE tree. We understand some players prefer that model, but we don’t like the way it cuts off such a big chunk of the class from players who might not have much interest in the PvP or PvE parts of the game. However, we would like to reinforce a little more the kits of Arms and Fury. Everyone (I hope) gets the difference between Frost and Fire mages. Arms is supposed to be about weapons and martial training and feel “soldierly.” Fury is supposed to be about screaming barbarians in woad. You get a sense of that, but it could be stronger. With the death knight, we allowed all three trees to more or less be able to tank. There is a desire among some players and designers to see Arms tank with a two-hander while Prot tanks with a shield. We’re still not sure that’s the direction we’ll go — it’s a ton of re-design and will never work for say the druid or paladin classes.

Translation: Prot warriors get to spec for Deep Wounds now, aren’t you happy?  It’s not like it’s a mandatory talent or anything.  Well, not unless you count being able to compete with Paladins and Deathknights for AoE threat.  But that’s not important.  As for buffing Arms tanking, don’t get your hopes up.  After all, didn’t I just say that we wanted fewer of you tanking?

[Q: What is it that makes them unique compared to all other classes?] The big ones are stances and rage. Other than warriors, only bear druids use the rage mechanic, and that is pretty much just because that form is intended to mimic warriors. Rage is an unusual resource because it is infinite over the course of minutes, but can be very limiting over the course of seconds. While the basic mechanic of rage is interesting, it has caused us lots of balance problems over the course of World of Warcraft — sometimes in the favor of the warrior and sometimes not. It’s probably time to give the mechanic another look.

Stances are intended to be a major battlefield decision for warriors, though we realize it doesn’t always pan out this way. You have access to different abilities in different stances, but pay a rage cost as well as sacrificing the potential to use other abilities. More on this below.

Warriors also have some unusual mechanics like say their ability to move quickly around a battlefield, to survive massive physical damage through plate armor and Defensive Stance, and game-changing abilities like Spell Reflect.

Translation: We fucked up on rage, and stances really don’t cut it either.  That new MMO we’re working on?  Yeah, no rage there.  We’re never making THAT mistake again.  And stances… well, you know how we changed Thunder Clap?  And how we added Juggernaut and Warbringer?  That should give you an idea about stance dancing.

As for spell reflect, it really was a game changer… that’s why we made it so that it didn’t actually work on anything you might want to use it on in PvE.

We like situational abilities. When specs don’t have situational abilities, it’s easy to fall into a very fixed rotation. We call this the metronome. Push button 1, 2, 3 on your keyboard over and over until the bad guy drops loot. We have made more of an effort in all the classes to have certain moments that require players to pay attention a little more and then reward them when they both cause those situations to happen and then execute on them.

Translation: If you’re talking about having automatic procs off of things like Sword and Board, you can forget about it.  That will never happen.

The purpose of stances is for warriors to have to make decisions in combat. How badly do I want to Intercept now? Should I pay the cost of Spell Reflect? Ideally, we want warriors to switch stances in combat — not every few seconds, but a few times over the course of a battle. Now we realize it’s going to be harder to enforce this in raid fights unless you have a battle with a lot of movement or other unusual circumstances.

We get a fair number of suggestions from players trying to basically slip the stance concept out of the warrior class: make it not take rage, or let them do more abilities per stance so they don’t need to switch stances so often. That’s not really what the warrior is all about though. You should care what stance you’re in and it should be a decision to change stance. Note that if you pay too high a price to change stances, that counts as there not being a decision though.

Translation: Why would you ever want to change stance?  I mean, we gave you all these talents and abilities that let you do things in the stance we want you to be in.

[Q: Has there been any thought on moving away from restricting abilities based on the stance a player is in?] No. The design intent of warrior stances is that you change your toolbar when you go from one stance to another and that that decision isn’t a trivial one. Now, the third part aside from the rage cost and ability limitations is the penalties (such as 5% damage taken in Berserker). We cut those in half recently, and we’d eventually like to get rid of them altogether. We just don’t want to see Arms warriors in PvP in Defensive Stance 100% of the time. We have seen DKs stick with Frost Presence in PvP despite losing 15% damage, so I don’t think you can just argue “Oh, no warrior would EVER do that.”

Translation:We just want to make sure you understand that we don’t want you to have the toys that Death Knights have, so don’t even ask.  And we really don’t want you to stance swap in PvP either.  Especially not to Defensive stance.  If you ever managed to somehow reflect a Frostfire Bolt at a mage, we would never hear the end of it.  Did I mention that we want fewer of you?

Warrior damage was too high in Naxxramas and then a little low early in Ulduar. We think it’s in a pretty good place now and warriors will get a small damage buff in 3.2. Part of the concern here is we used to exempt warriors from the design philosophy that pure dps classes should do more damage than hybrid dps classes. We try to no longer play favorites here. Warrior damage should look like that of Feral druids, Enhancement shamans, Retribution paladins, and death knights. If their damage isn’t at that level, then it’s possible our numbers need some tweaking. However don’t always assume that you can’t possibly improve your gear or your button mashing either. =) Also remember that some fights just favor one class or spec over another. We’re totally cool with that, so long as it isn’t always the same exact class or spec that gets to shine.

Translation: We won’t be buffing your damage, and we certainly won’t be putting DPS rings, necklaces, or cloaks in the game with Strength on them.  And that whole DPS thing?  Yeah, rage is a bitch like that.  Did I mention that rage was a mistake?  Maybe we should give you mana or energy or runic power or something like that, then you might do the same damage as a Enhancement Shaman, or a Death Knight, or a Ret Paladin.

The shouts are supposed to be buttons that warriors push in combat. They aren’t intended to be pre-fight buffs like Arcane Intellect or Prayer of Fortitude. We had a discussion about this recently and decided with glyphs and talents that the duration isn’t a problem. If you lack Booming Voice and the minor Battle Shout glyph, it might be more annoying.

Translation: If you have the right composition in your group, you won’t need Battle Shout anyway.  Just keep up Commanding Shout and be happy we haven’t given anyone else an ability that overwrites it, yet.

[Q: Demoralizing shout tends to have a very minimal impact in most situations, are there plans to improve this ability?] I think by “most situations” you must mean “PvP.” Demo Shout has a massive benefit against raid bosses. It’s probably 20% less damage from a typical boss and literally like 50% against say Thorim’s Unbalancing Strike. However, removing 400 attack power from a Feral druid with 9000 attack power, or a Shadow priest who doesn’t care about attack power at all is of much more limited use. Monsters and players use pretty different combat formulae (which is one of the weird things about the old design of say Vindication). We would like Demo Shout to be more useful in PvP, at least against characters who rely on attack power.

Translation: Demoralizing Shout has always been awesome in PvE against those hard-hitting Physical Mobs.  But if we buff it too much for use in PvP, people might want to play warriors more, and we don’t want that.

[Q: Are there any considerations in store for improving this mechanic and allowing more rage generation in these situations?] Yes. In 3.2 we changed Shield Specialization to provide a little rage on a dodge, parry, or block. This will help in say the 5-player dungeons or in the first few seconds of a raid boss fight. It does not solve the problem of the Prot warrior who is not being targeted (because they are there to pick up adds later in the fight or something). We want to solve that problem by letting Prot warriors generate more rage through doing damage. It could be in the future that we shift most of rage generation to damage done and have little or none in damage taken (and we would have to change a lot of other mechanics to make this work obviously).

Now, long-term we need a better solution to rage generation. Tying it to damage done is logical in the theoretical world of game design, but has problems in reality. When your gear sucks, you have rage problems. When you have great gear, you are no longer limited by rage. That’s just not a great model, and one of the reasons warriors are overly gear dependent.

Translation: Did I mention we would love to get rid of the rage mechanic?  You have no idea how hard it is to balance this shit.  We were considering making it work more off of damage, but that would mean making Protection Warriors do more damage and we really don’t want to do anything that might encourage people to play Warriors more – especially not Protection Warriors.  How about we put in some sort of paid class transfer system for Warriors so you can be Death Knights instead?  Or Rogues maybe?  We do have a shortage of Shamans too, if you’re interested.

This would also be the logical place to talk to you about what we’re going to do with Heroic Strike, but damn, we’re stumped on that one.  Don’t expect any changes on that one anytime soon.  Maybe next year.

Obviously warriors were the traditional tanks and pretty much the only tank in much of World of Warcraft’s history. Warriors now share tanking responsibilities with three other classes, which can feel psychologically like a nerf. In Ulduar, we think warrior tank balance is about where it should be — death knights were a little ahead, paladins were a little behind, and druids were about even with warriors. We are making a few Prot changes to 3.2 to help in some of the areas where they fall short, such as damage done. Death knights are getting a nerf, paladins are getting a buff, and druids might get a nerf or stay as-is. There are plenty of guilds progressing through hard modes with warrior MTs on almost every fight, and we don’t see that changing in the Crusader’s Coliseum.

We’re happy with warrior dps in Ulduar. Whether you go Fury or Arms probably depends on whether you need Trauma or Rampage, and we know warriors in good guilds who flip between both specs. There is some evidence that Fury may overtake Arms dps once you get really good weapons. Dual-wield yet again shows its propensity to scale very well. Warriors will get a slight dps buff through Armored to the Teeth.

Translation: We are really mostly interested in tracking numbers at the far end of the bell curve, like the 98th percentile or so.  That considered, Titan’s Grip is still too powerful and we would really prefer to see more Paladins tanking.  Did I mention the awesome stuff we did to Paladins in 3.2?  That stuff is really awesome.

Shield Block Value just isn’t a strong mitigation stat these days. However, the amount it would need to be increased is enormous in order to make a difference vs. bosses that can hit for 40K. The problem with improving shield Block Value by so much is that Prot warriors would be nigh invulnerable — they literally might take no damage — against large groups of adds, in easier content where opponents don’t hit that hard, and in PvP. The real problem is that the amount blocked doesn’t scale with the amount of the swing. We think block needs to be a percentage of damage blocked in order for the stat to do what we want. But the trade-off would mean that warriors (and paladins) couldn’t block every incoming hit, especially from large groups. Avoidance might also need to come down across the board, and many talents and abilities would need to be redesigned. This is a major change that isn’t the kind of thing we can crowbar into 3.2 with a clean conscience. It is almost certainly the future for the block stat.

Translation: We know block is broken, but don’t expect to see any changes to it before the next expansion.  You can go and commiserate with the Paladins.  Perhaps they’ll tell you how awesome their new ability is.

[Q: With strength being the stat that provides the most benefit in dps scenarios, do we have plans to implement PvP gear like cloaks and rings that have strength instead of attack power?] Doing that just means the item isn’t of any interest to say leather or mail wearers, which means we have to create twice as many kinds of rings. The problem is that some classes value Strength and some value Attack Power. Things would work better if some valued Strength and some valued Agility, and Attack Power was a useful secondary stat to both. This has the added benefit of solving the whole problem where leather and mail look attractive to warriors. If leather had Agility on it and plate had Strength on it, then it’s pretty clear who is getting what item. Strength for rogues and Agility for warriors wouldn’t be junk stats, but they wouldn’t be as attractive as the other stat. Again, this is a big change. We wouldn’t just gut rogue dps by stripping Attack Power off all of their gear.

Translation: Don’t count on it, especially not for PvP.  I mean, heck, Death Knights and Paladins are doing fine without that stuff so really, it would only make people want to play warriors more, and we just want there to be fewer warriors.  Capice?

{NB to Blizzard: If you’re Speaking in Public-Affairsese, the end result is that instead of people thinking you said nothing (which is what I really took away from this, btw) they’ll apply what they’re thinking you are thinking, which is what they’re doing right now.}


7 Comments so far
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pretty good job for an English major

Comment by Davis

I know, right?

Comment by Tarsus

*giggle snerks*

…that said, PROT FOREVER BABY.

I’m actually half tempted to tell the boy to revive his account and le me have it. Then I can leave my warrior on her server, and cheat and have an 80 Ulduar-ready warrior on my main server, too. >.>

Comment by Ambrosyne

Personally, I couldn’t detect any sarcasm at all. .

Good interpretation Tarsus! You’ve made me glad I’m priest and not Nerf machine, uhm I mean warrior.

Comment by Nicoran


That said, yeah. That Q&A was the biggest waste of electrons I’ve seen in a while. To me, it looks like the designers have backed themselves into a corner with a lot of the 2004-era warrior mechanics like stances, blocking, and rage, and the insane 2009-era damage numbers of WotLK have now made them realize that they’re pinned.

But it’s more than just that. I’m not particularly upset about anything, it’s just that I’m concerned because it looks like Blizz is flailing madly around the warrior class. They acknowledge that our DPS is lacking as prot, and that block is a broken mechanic against hard-hitting mobs, but they “do something” about it by capping our block value at (34.5*level) so we get an upper limit on our Shield Slams and SBV? Huh? Wha?

Oh, and this is my favorite part of the whole thing:

When specs don’t have situational abilities, it’s easy to fall into a very fixed rotation. We call this the metronome. Push button 1, 2, 3 on your keyboard over and over until the bad guy drops loot.

Uh, gee, you mean like IT, PS, DS, HSx2, DCx2, DS, HSx4, DRW? No, you don’t want people to have fixed rotations at all.

Comment by Linedan

That Q&A was so lame that I do not have the words to describe how lame it was. And wtf, where is my freaking Heroic Strike fix, how many patches ago did you start mentioning you want fix that?

I laughed a lot reading this translation, nice job, Tarsus. :)

Comment by Kadomi

@Ambrosyne – I know I’m one of those “dedicated few” I mentioned in the translation. I will probably play a prot warrior as long as there is WoW.

@Nicoran – I don’t think it’s “Nerf Machine” so much. Maybe “Disincentive Machine” though. >.>

@Linedan – By situational abilities I’m pretty sure they mean things like Sword and Board, but damned if I can figure out the best way to make that work with the way it triggers the global cooldown. I always end up feeling like I react too quickly.

@Kadomi – Underwhelming is definitely the word I would use. As for Heroic Strike, the earliest I can find mention is February. But it has needed help for a long time.

Comment by Tarsus

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