On rewarding tanks and healers

Gordon of We Fly Spitfires posted a provocative  guest post last week, suggesting tanks and healers should get more rewards than other characters?

His thinking was that this could address both the supply and demand issue (giving better rewards encourages more people to take up the less popular roles) and also rewarding people for taking on more responsible/stressful tasks. That’s how real life works after all … isn’t it?

I think this is a bad idea on several levels, but to come back to the real life analogy, this is the same reason that teachers and social workers are paid less than lawyers and CEOs, even though their jobs are recognised as being very important and they are often understaffed. And the main reason is that it doesn’t much impact the bottom line. The people paying the CEOs and lawyers feel (for some reason) that their market value is higher.

Or in other words, as long as the majority of players prefer dps roles, they won’t want to pay to feel disadvantaged or to feel that the developers prefer the tank and healer classes. I think current gen games are taking the better route by making it smoother and easier for players to try out different roles on the same characters. And the social rewards for playing the undermanned roles will eventually filter through.

The other reason is that a lot of people who take up careers in teaching, the ministry, social work, etc do it because they feel some kind of a calling, or enjoy other rewards of the work. You don’t need to pay through the roof to get these people, they’d do the job anyway.

There is still a balance point where more rewards would attract more and better qualified candidates. Unfortunately, in MMOs, rewarding the social aspects of group friendly classes acts against the other trend which is being more accessible to soloers.

Or in other words, devs could create awesome group content rewards and that would effectively reward tanks and healers because they get to do it more easily … but people would complain about feeling forced to group.

Other reasons not to overly reward tanks and healers

  • Plays into ‘special snowflake’ syndrome which already affects tanks and healers disproportionately.
  • What are you going to reward them with exactly? More gold, reputation, badges or gear will just mean that they gear up more quickly and are no longer motivated to continue running the instances. Maybe a random pet – a little tank pet might be cute, especially if you could get it to shell dps who stand in the fire.

In fact, far from rewarding tanks and healers, I think that if the disparity continues it’s likely that their rewards will be more spaced out. To encourage the players to keep tanking and healing instances so that the dps can have their shot too. Anyone remember Utgarde Pinnacle at the beginning of Wrath – only instance which dropped a purple tanking weapon. It was run a lot. Because all the warrior and paladin tanks wanted that drop.

That’s how to get more instances running.

And on another note, why don’t we have achievements for different roles?

I don’t get behind extra rewards, but wouldn’t it be fun to have some achievements for tanking 100 instances, or healing them? Or completing some instance or raid in all of your character’s possible hybrid specs, just for fun?

Maybe that’s all the reward people would need.

But devs have been very reluctant to include class specific achievements, even when (as in WoW) they’ve been very explicit that achievement points are pointless and meaningless.

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28 thoughts on “On rewarding tanks and healers

  1. The achievement of being a good tank – without this having somehow stamped into a list/book of deeds – is quite obvious.

    The main tank of the most successful raiding guild on Frostwolf could be picky with whom to group. gearcheck, skillcheck, facecheck. People wanted to do harder dungeons with him, as they saw this as a guarantee for success. I think this is an immense reward for being a tank, with the danger of becoming arrogant if you let it get to your head too much.

    • Server communities are a bit different these days, I think. I wouldn’t even know who the main tanks were of most of the raiding guilds on ours, and favoured alts will be just as good for tanking heroics. So I don’t really think I’d expect most people to know the tanks on their server so much right now.

  2. “Plays into ‘special snowflake’ syndrome which already affects tanks and healers disproportionately.”

    This sums up an argument I stayed clear of myself very, very well. This syndrome is definitely out there, and as a tank (although retired) myself, it’s definitely an issue that can take several wrong turns.

    Regarding my own thoughts on the matter, from a DPS perspective, check out my latest blog post, it’s a bit too long to recreate here :)

  3. I’m very glad that there are no additional rewards for tanks/healers, its worse enough already with tanks getting instant joins for dungeons while the rest (including healers on my battlegroup) has to wait 15+ minutes. The problem is: Wanting the advantages of a tankspecc and thus getting a tankspecc for your second spec isn’t the same as being a real tank. In the last time I saw plenty of tanks who quite obviously didn’t like their job very much but did it anyways, which directly impacted their performance. You get tanks who refuse to tank single mobs. They always pull at least 6-7 mobs together so they can simply drop an AOE and tank like this, even if their gear is blue and their healer is struggling. They are too lazy for single pulls, they don’t want to do more than push one button, they don’t taunt if someone (inevitably) gets aggro, they show every sign of hating their job and only doing it because of the added advantages of being a tank.
    It really is no fun running with such a tank. I’d rather wait five minutes more and get a proper one.

    PS.
    I think the early popularity has more to do with that blue protodrake. Most people who made the efford of finding out exactly what drops in any given instance jumped into raiding asap anyways and don’t needed the sword / expected to get something better fast.

  4. I liked your real life analogy, Spinks! There is something I’d add to that though – supply and demand and training and certification. Not to marginalise social workers or teachers but in our capitalist society the reason they get paid less than laywers or doctors is because the demand of them is a lot less and the time to train (and arguably the skill required) is also a lot less. It takes only 2-3 years to train to become a fully qualified teacher yet it takes up to 10 years to become a GP. Thus the supply of GPs is less and so the incentives (i.e. salary) are higher.

    I’m going to be careful about what I say here in case I start off another ruckus :) but if we apply that logic to MMORPGs, it’s often a lot harder to level up a tank or healer than it is a pure DPS class and that’s an issue that could be addressed.

    The article was wrong to marginalise DPS and their efforts and there’s obviously a strong reaction to the concept of rewarding tanks or healers more over them. I now completely appreciate that.

    However, let’s look at another side of the coin: isn’t it unfair that DPS have an easier time soloing and leveling that tanks or healers? If I want to solo my Priest, I have to Shadow spec him and even then it’s a still a lot harder than leveling, say, a Hunter. Plus, I cannot heal in groups and they don’t want me. Thus, a Priest is a lot more likely to have to struggle up to level 40 and then shell out 1,000G in order to dual spec if they want to both fill a group and solo role.

    Certainly something to consider! :)

    Anyway, thanks for your awesome and insightful response, Spinks!

    • With BC and WotLK buffing to hybrids, it’s not especially hard to level a tank or healer. With cross-realm, it’s possibly easier, since we get to run instances for a break from tedious soloing and get better gear. You don’t need to dual-spec to tank/heal until pretty far in; certainly not at 40.

      @Spinks, I’m not sure making tanks and healers fight the RNG constantly is a good way to go. In that case, it gets DPS into UP, and where else? Blizzard could engineer tanking weapons to only come from very slow badge rewards or instance dailies, but that would be pretty awful and wouldn’t encourage tanking, it would encourage running instances until they can afford the ‘mandatory’ tank gear. BoA emblems might help, giving reward to tanks even after their character had run out.

    • “It takes only 2-3 years to train to become a fully qualified teacher yet it takes up to 10 years to become a GP. ”

      And how long to be a lawyer compared to say .. a lecturer in higher education? :) Basically there are many jobs for which the training is similarly rigorous but the financial rewards are widely disparate, partly because public sector work is not usually rewarded as well as private sector … yet people do it anyway. I’m sure you can think of some examples.

      I do also agree that dps has an advantage in games that depend so heavily on killing stuff to level. But really, dual spec and evening out dps across all classes removed this as an issue for me in WoW. I think all tanks and healers should have access to decent soloing speeds somehow.

      And, I get where you are coming from with the healer but low level WoW instances are tuned for offspecs to heal. I mean, even back in vanilla when I had a priest, I levelled as shadow and healed all the levelling instances for practice on the way. So I do agree with you, but they did think of it.

      @Klepsacovic I agree that making tanks and healers grind extra hard due to RNG isn’t ideal (I don’t personally enjoy it), and probably the more longterm notion is to make tanking and healing easier or find ways to redefine the roles to give wider appeal (like support in CoH, for example). OR make group sizes larger so that the proportions of tanks and healers needed are fewer — WoW actually has quite a small group size so does need more tanks and healers to keep the 5 man groups going.

      • Making tanking and healer easier to level and/or easier group roles in general would solve a lot of the issues… but then I think it would create just as large a backlash of people complaining the game has been “dumbed down”. No win situation! :(

      • True. And not so much dumbed down, but it might remove parts of the role which are interesting for people at the moment. Still, whenever anything changes there will be a backlash.

        The ideal is probably to go with the idea of ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ — but really the issue for both tanks and healers is that the only way to really stand out is in a stressful situation, when things are going wrong. That’s one of the reasons those roles feel stressful (and tanks are also expected to lead.)

        In a smooth run, no one will ever say ‘great tanking’ or ‘great healing.’ Whereas dps can always play the damage meters.

  5. The elegance of City of Heroes was that damage mitigation was often best achieved through debuffs. Tanks were *needed* only for the hardest archvillain fights as a pair of defenders, or better yet, a pair of controllers could “tank” missions at the hardest difficulty setting for the largest group (8). Hopefully it is merely a failure of imagination that game designers continue to be beholden to traditional ideas of tanks as meatshields.

    In regard to rewards for tanks and healers, what is wrong with the current rewards — completion of a dungeon and possibly a drop? Isn’t that the reason why all of us are signing up for dungeons? The problem with WoW is that the loot tables do not adequately reward tanks, as Spinks pointed out. Put good drops in all the dungeons and tanks will want to run all the dungeons, not just Utgarde Pinnacle.

    I think that if you think about tanking or healing as its own reward, then grouping is reward in and of itself. As Gordon (?) has noted, leveling in WoW is based on killing enemies. In order to actually tank or heal, one has to get into a group. The reward is that you get to tank or heal, and possibly get experience points from doing so. The fix is obvious: create a path in advancement by tanking or healing in addition to killing enemies. Hopefully, this too is merely a failure in imagination.

    I don’t know if any non-pet dps class has a leveling advantage over any of the hybrid classes. Warlocks and hunters have their own tanks and are advantaged. I would guess that spriests and mages can kill stuff with about the same efficiency. Rogues probably kill stuff faster than warriors, but I am told that not even rogues can chain kill stuff as well as enhancement shaman.

    • I think you are right about the levelling advantage, but I also think a lot of players formed their opinions based on frustrating experiences in the past — where it really was quite painful in some games to level a tank or healer. I’m sure in some it still is.

      If anything, I think there are some advantages these days to levelling a fairly study character (either due to being a tank or having self heals), as well as the option to get into levelling group content a bit more easily.

  6. This is not a reward issue. The lack of tanks and healers is mostly “lack of skilled players”. A skilled player can be tank, 6K+ DPS or healer. The moron can only be 2K- DPS. If some kind of reward would make them respec tank, that would be no good to anyone.

    • That’s also true, although with the increase of dps checks, we don’t actually want all the more motivated players to be tanking and healing. Being great dps also seems harder to me than being a great tank or healer, it’s not always obvious how to improve.

      But there is still an issue there of supply and demand, and keeping the customer base happy with regular instance runs rather than having to wait 15-30 mins in the queue.

      • I have to ask: what’s the difference between waiting in the queue for 15-30 minutes and standing in Dalaran (or Shattrath before that) and trolling trade chat for 40 minutes for a tank or healer? The system seems a heck of a lot faster now, even if it’s not quite as instant as it was the first few days when everyone and his uncle was trying to get cheesy achievements and pets.

  7. I think most people are missing the stress of playing a tank or a healer as a major reason why people do not do those roles. And the stress is both self inflicted (by the good) and pushed upon us by mean, rude or just jerky fellow players that think they know how to do our job better (yet don’t).

    I stand by that the tank/heal role is a lot harder than the dps role. Good dps is really really awesome when they use all their tools, but passable tanks and healers really stand out as bad or failing while passable dps slides on by. It’s not fair but I don’t want to change it. I don’t want the difficulty of my roles to be lessened just to make it more appealing to the less dedicated. Maybe I have a type A personality and that’s why I like the tank/heal role better than dps (though I do all three).

    So, I don’t think more purple shinies or an easier time of it will make tank/heals more popular. Not one bit. Not after the first random heroic they pug anyways with strangers that feel totally cool with being dickwads about their skill. :)

  8. I wish Blizzard would publish some statistics on tanks/heals/dps for each battlegroup LFG. I suspect the issue is more than there “aren’t enough tanks”.

    Having a tank in your group shortens queue times. All a tank has to do is announce in gchat that he/she will be queueing for a heroic and you’ll end up with a full or nearly full group of people wanting to avoid the queue. The tank is still tanking, but they aren’t participating in the LFG system as much as one who queues individually.

    In my personal case I tank, my wife heals and we have 2 dps we run with consistently. When we queue, we’re pulling 1 dps from LFG making our tank-dps ratio from LFG 1-1. (Sure, the other 2 dps in our group may have wanted to queue individually anyway, but then again they may have ended up doing something else maybe not.) Lastely, depending on our group mood, sometimes we don’t want a random dps from LFG. We share a 3rd account so we’ll queue with a toon from that account, have that toon drop group after we’re queued and 4-man it.

    It’s more than just the tank/healer/dps ratios in the Battlegroup, it’s how they groups are forming.

    • Exactly, I know that especially good tanks like to make up their more or less static groups of guys they had success with. If you are online, they will invite you and then just take random 5th dps player for the bonus maybe.

  9. You can make an argument that Tanks, at least, already do get extra loot. If you’re tanking, the only person who’s actually getting that tanking loot is you. By taking on the more limited roll, you also have less competition for the relevant rewards for said roll.

    This isn’t quite as true of heals anymore, of course, since the the spellpower changes.

  10. I do think that the heart of the heart of the matter is that tank and healer are support roles in a game that is based upon killing things. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is not Hello Kitty Online; it’s the world of WARcraft. People play the game to kill and that’s what Blizzard has to focus on. Would the game be more interesting if that were not so? Maybe. But it wouldn’t be WoW then, it would move in the direction of something like Civilization or The Sims.

    One thing I have like about Blizzard is that they have a core understanding of what WoW’s identity is. You may like it or dislike it but it’s not going to change. There is always going to be a tank shortage and a healer shortage so long as the game is centered around killing. That’s just so.

  11. The solution is to reward them less. If you have less tanks you have to make them run more heroics. (And you have to do it in a way that they don’t mind, because it’s a game and they might abandon their char completely otherwise.)

    Ways to do that would be:
    - Add a buyable ring to the game which is very good for dps and healer but don’t add a version for tanks. They should have to run heroics to get their ring.
    - Add some gear to a PvP vendor where you can buy gear with badges you get from Wintergrasp. Make this gear ok for PvE but don’t add anything with defense or dodge, so tanks don’t want this and run heroics instead of PvP.
    - Add more items to the badge vendor for tanks then for other classes.
    - Don’t add a shield to any of the new heroics… no wait, that would be stupid.

    Also, what’s bad is the current design of the random instance. There is no incentive for a tank to run multiple randoms per day. I level a death knight at the moment and run a random Northrend instance as tank per day for the two triumph badges (I like tanking). I only run one per day because you get nothing after the first and I make way more XP per hour if I’m questing compared to running an instance. Now if I would get two badges for every run, I would make less heroic runs on 80. Hmm…

    And your idea with the sword shows exactly what was wrong in the beginning of WotLK. You could easily find a group for Pinnacle but it was hard to find a group for Nexus, because there is no tank reward in Nexus. I was never able to find a Nexus group with my healer back then. Tank rewards should never be bound to a specific instance. The reverse example is if you try to run a HoR normal. The group will normally be 2 warrior and 3 paladins, or vice versa. :)

  12. On my realm you’ll sometimes see someone offering in trade “I’ll tank random heroics, 50g/30 minutes”. Maybe the solution is as easy as that? If you sign up as tank for the first time, you’ll get 2 EoF and your 33g as everybody. If you sing up again you’ll get 2 EoT and 100g instead of the 16g a dps or heal gets. The tool could even automatically adjust that based on the need.

  13. I would like a selection of healer-appropriate titles – Tam the Masochist and Tam the Self-Righteous would cover most bases I think…

    But, yes, I agree with you entirely, and I like the analogy – ultimately tanks and healers *choose* to be tanks and healers, and that, for me, is where it ends.

  14. Bribing healers and tanks would cause massive drama. I don’t need it and don’t want it, I’ll heal anyway.

    Great DPS are great. I don’t want great DPS to heal, I fail at DPS, we need each other. Bribing bad DPS into becoming bad tanks or bad healers is all kinds of worse.

    Also there are more tanks than raid spots already. Average tanks should still expect a spot in theory but they can’t all get one as it is.

    @Kring
    Hmm, maybe I don’t leverage my scarcity as well as I might :)

  15. As a prot warrior (36K HP or so–amazing how fast that number is going up lately) I feel quite bribed when I queue right now.

    I guess I am weird, I just queue up solo, willing to lead. I am in an instances 15 seconds later. The first time I queued as a DPSer I thought the tool was broken.

    I take advantage of the 10 minute+ queue time as DPS. I have been spending myself into the poor house with the gear upgrades I have been churning lately. I tank my Frost badge run and then do the tournament group dailies (TFB, BBC, Kraken, if its offered) and then queue as DPS.

    The queue time lets me bang out the rest of the dailies, giving me the gold I need for enchants and the like (I really need to cash in my Stone Keepers and buy and sell more epic gems…)

    Roll achievements would be darned cool–though I am not sure how I would feel on my warrior not being able to get the healing one or feel about gearing up in 3 sets as a paladin.

  16. Pingback: re: Tanks and Healers Should Get The Biggest Rewards « Moar HPS!

  17. Pingback: It’s about class, in more ways than one « Dechion's Place

  18. This Sunday at 9 pm I signed up on my tank together with a guild healer for a random heroic. We were zoned into PoS. One of the 3 other people was a paladin who was really surprised that he was chosen as DD although he signed up for heal/DD.

    Then, some time later when a DD had to go it took the tool about one minute to find a new DD. It even estimated a wait time of about 38 seconds although we had a tank and a healer.

    That means, basically, that there was not a single DD in the queue. Otherwise we would have gotten one instantaneously.

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