Changing attitudes towards crowd control

Crowd control: the ability to take at least one enemy temporarily out of the fight by use of mind control, hypnotism, a cosh over the head, crazy transformation spell, rooting them to the ground, freezing them in ice – it’s as old as Dungeons and Dragons itself, which makes it rather older as a concept than any MMO.

In Rift this week we ran another 5-man instance in guild. This time it was King’s Breach, and when settling down at the start we discussed which abilities and offspecs people had available. I mentioned I could do some crowd control as well as dps, and so did Pewter. The rest of the group reacted positively, “Great, two crowd control spells available, let’s rock.”

This is part of the whole old school feel of Rift, because in my experience, as soon as people get more focussed on running dungeons quickly, CC goes out of the window. This is mostly because if you have strong (*coff* overpowered *coff*) tanks, healers, and dps with strong AE, then it’s just much faster to burn all the enemies down at once than it is to kill them one at a time with CC.

I was reading WoW forums this week and I saw a new argument against the use of CC in instances:

The thing about CC is you are doing it for the Healer, no one else. One mob less dealing damage makes the Healer’s life easier. However, for tanks (and DPS to a lesser extent), CCing makes their job HARDER. Making sure not to break CC distracts you from doing your proper job.

I think this shows part of the influence of LFD. It’s not so much about the group picking a tactic as, “oh, we only use CC if the healer needs it.” This makes CC sound more like a crutch in PvE than an interesting and valid tactic in its own right.

And more importantly, it means that if you do get a bad pull or an unexpected patrol, a quick thinking CC player is wasting their time, because the other players will either ignore it or simply not recognise the crowd control spell effects.


33 thoughts on “Changing attitudes towards crowd control

  1. It’s an interesting perspective because there’s an element of truth to it.

    To us old school players cc makes things easier because we’re used to encounters that are tuned too hard for a straight up fight.

    But if your first game was WotLK, halfway through, and you learned the game by aoeing in speed runs, hell, if you learned TANKING by aoeing in speed runs there’s a lot of gameplay elements that are foreign to you.

    Old tanks are very good at working with cc-ers. It’s a unique playstyle and it does take an amount of learning.

    I’m seeing an interesting divide. I think Rift is mainly inheriting old school WoW-ers while many new school WoW players find it quite aggravating.

    I also think that it’s very much too WoW’s detriment that there’s this “brain drain” of veterans, especially since tanking has become a job for veterans in WoW.

    In my Rift groups 2-4 out of 5 can tank and 2-4 can heal. Getting a group to be viable from 5 randoms is super easy, in fact I’ve never had 5 people and we’ve not been good to go.

    In the average 5 WoW players less than 1 is willing to tank or heal. It’s perfectly possible to have 5 people and not have a viable group and the dps queue is long and will, bribes notwithstanding, get longer.

    • Both you and Tremayne make good points. But I read the Cata dungeons are more difficult. It will take some time to get over bad old WotLK habits.
      The game lost me with patch 3.x as every class esp. Paladin got overbuffed and people “loved it”. Our Paladin tank could AoE tank every freaking instance without breaking and barely had Karazhan or badge gear. My Warlock was only doing AoE and fighting on the damagemeters with the Shadowpriest, that was the real game.
      This is not only a problem of WoW but of many MMOs that instances and dailies have become “badges/emblems/token” farming runs. People want to get it done quickly and efficiently, not fail and try again.

      • The Cata dungeons were more difficult when Cata launched.

        I think by now everyone outgears them and zergs through aoeing everything.

        That was already becoming the case when I stopped in Feb and I’ve read it’s become the case now.

        This of course depends first and foremost on your tank outgearing the content, thus any new tank in blues is hounded/votekicked out of the groups.

    • I’m not so sure about the old school/new school divide and I kinda think it falls into the same space as people wanting ‘harder’ content. I remember people being positively ecstatic about the reports of the reduced need for CC in WotLK during BC.

      Then they were pleased about the return of the need CC in Cata. Now people are getting irritated by it again.

      The issue I think is that the enjoyment return on the clever use of CC has a very small shelf life. The first couple of time you do it, you go ‘Hah! Take that game! I have overcome this puzzle you have set before me!’

      Then after the first time, it begins to shit you because it’s like having to do a 5 piece jigsaw every damn time. It’s not very complicated but it takes up time that can be spent doing the more ‘evergreen’ parts of gameplay.

      • I’d argue that the annoyance at CC isn’t so much because it’s a bad mechanic as people’s idea of dungeons has changed.

        Back in ye olde times (i.e. Vanilla) I don’t think many would disagree that just finishing some of the longer/harder dungeons was, for a lot of people, a feat in itself; particularly if you were there for the first/second’/third time. The aim was always, first and foremost, to try and stay alive, because a wipe was costly, both time and money-wise (especially in places like BRD, where just finding the place was a challenge, and even once inside the place was vast and intricate.)

        Nowadays, instances don’t take as long and aren’t as complex layout-wise. The impetus is, always, to finish quickly and bump up your fun fun arbitrary points number to the next value which allows you to buy some m0ar prplz. So people don’t like CC, because they don’t just want to finish, they consider it virtually a God-given right that they *will* finish. and what to get it over with as quickly and easily as possible. AOE PEQ PEQ LAZORZZZZ is the quickest, easiest and most boring way to go about it.

    • I’d be very interested to find out if there are a lot of WoW vets in RIFT (and by vets I don’t mean “oh I played WoW in WotLK now I’m looking for a change”, I mean people who played in Vanilla and TBC.) As one of said people, RIFT just didn’t appeal to me in any way, since, by and large, it’s current WoW with the LFD tool removed (which is a plus imo, but not enough to make me sub.)

      In your group comparison, I think you praise RIFT a bit too much. Theoretically 2/5 of people in WoW *can* tank, and 2/5 *can* heal, it’s just, as you say, they’re not willing. It’s not so much that RIFT has infinitely better design, but rather more group-oriented players who will switch roles to help ze group.

      • Dril, if the design of Rift were no better but the groups were composed of more group-oriented players and that were the only difference between the two games then that would make Rift a MUCH better game.

        Not because of design, but because of the people who play it.

      • You’re right about 2/5 players probably being able to tank, and 2/5 probably being able to heal but there are two big differences on top of that:

        1) all Rift classes are (potentially) hybrids. There aren’t any pure dps classes.

        2) In LFD, you are recruited into a group in a specific role so people resist being asked to do anything outside that role. ie. “I joined as a dps, why should I heal? that’s the healer’s job!”

      • @Stabs: undoubtedly 😛 I would never disagree that a good community can make a good game great and a bad game tolerable.

        RIFT seems to be enjoying a relatively nice community, but I just can’t help feeling Trion are going to throw it all with LFD tool, which is a real, real pity. Not to mention they could very well be removing the beauty of their class system by bringing it in as well.

        @Spinks: I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s simply just because they’re all hybrids, but rather that the tanking, healing and support souls (sans Bard) all follow the same mechanics as their dps colleagues because they’re all in the same class. Whilst it doesn’t do much for feeling unique, it does mean that it’s not a massive playstyle jump, which helps a bit.

  2. Yes, CC makes the DPS job “harder” … because WoW has defined the DPS job as “do balls to the wall maximum damage output” by design. Damage dealers do not need to throttle their damage output so they don’t pull aggro from the tank – as far as I can tell, that’s nigh-on impossible unless they’re hitting something that’s not being actgively tanked. And the DPS performance is measured by the community on one statistic alone – damage per second. Respecting (or casting) CC lowers that stat. If you don’t top the damage meter you are a “bad DPS” so the result is inevitable. It would be like me setting up a call centre where the only thing measured and rewarded was how quickly each call was dealt with, then being surprised at complaints that the call centre agents were being curt with customers and cutting them off…

    I’ve seen some “speed runners” already in Rift. I’ve also started doing a few expert-level dungeons in the last week. Those are going to come as a complete shock to some players – unless your group is heavily-overgeared (e.g. in full tier 2 or raid gear doing a tier 1 dungeon) then they MUST respect CC and let the healers recover mana. As an old-school player, doing that is second nature to me, but I can see how some players I’ve met are having trouble adjusting.

  3. I used to say that crowd control in a group was like sex in a marrriage. You can get along just fine without it for long periods of time, thinking everything is just as it should be. Then suddenly you get it and you think Oh mah gawd that was so AWESOME! Why don’t we do that ALL THE TIME??

    In a game where CC has been well designed (obvious tells that a mob a soft or hard hold on it, etc) and where the difficulty of the dungeon is closely tuned to the capabilities of the players, good CC can be *the* difference between a smooth run where everyone comes out smiling, and one full of frustration and repetition, because there’s just more going on there than the group can handle.

    The problem is it’s extremely difficult to get exactly that set of circumstances. If it’s difficult to tell that a mob has been controlled, or players as a whole are not familiar with the elements of control, or as soon as the group is able to just destroy the content without having to control parts of it, then using CC is seen as superfluous and inefficient.

    So if it’s so difficult to design for, and to keep relavent, then you have to ask should you try to design for it at all? After all, if you ask players, they’ll tell you exactly what you read in that thread – it makes everyone’s job harder, it slows down the group, and in general we should be able to just do without it. But you have to rememember, players don’t want anything that stands between them and their goal. So I don’t think it’s a design question you should leave to the players. At least not to most of them.

    But what a lot of players fail to realize is that while good CC may be a less effecient way to complete a dungeon, it requires a higher level of engagement, which typically results in *more* fun for the group as a whole.

    I remember as a hunter in early WoW, it took me some time to get the hang of using traps. But over time I became fairly proficient at it, and I took great pride in my ability to quickly and accurately place and manage my traps in an encounter, as well as manage my pet to assist in tanks, as well as not breaking other CC. After having been away for some time, I returned to the game, and in an instance run, began my old habit of trapping adds and using the pet to off tank as necessary. I was told quickly that that wasn’t how things were done anymore (old timer), and to put the traps and pets away. My job was to stand at the back and dish out as much damage as possible as quickly as possible. I was hugely saddened that as hunters our role had been so thoroughly diminished.

    I think you do want CC in a game, and I think it’s important that designers do what they can to force the level of engagment in groups to be at least somewhat higher than “spam aoe until everytthing is dead”, or player fatigue and complains about “the badge grind” will quickly become pervasive.

    I think in order to keep encounters in tune with player capabilities, you have to have some sort of dynamically scaling content within your encounters. And unfortunately as Rift has none (at least as of yet) in their dungeon encounters, I can’t image CC being relevant in Rift for very much longer than the initial few months after any new content push.

    But there is hope, because we’ve seen that they do at least have the capability to scale their content – they do it for Rifts, though not to perhaps the extent they should. So if they break out of the “let’s build instances exactly like WoW” mindset and start building real, scaling content that takes into account the relative level of “gearedness” of the party, then you might actually see that awesome, old school feeling of deft and professional crowd control last throughout the game’s life.

    Great blog Spinks – still remains one of my most regularely read.


  4. Obviously the solution is to make CC the DPS’ problem, not the healer’s. Add some mobs that do no damage at all, but instead cast an aura that reduces damage dealt by players. CC them out of the way or the DPS will have a hard time and just trying to burn them one at a time will result in multiple auras up at once, also not a fun prospect.

    • Exactly this. If all a mob does is damage, who cares? We can handle this.

      Every single mob needs to be able to do something else besides doing damage. We had this, in instances like Mana-Tombs, Shattered Halls, Mechanar

      – mind control
      – CC themself
      – heal
      – knockdown
      – stun
      – debuff
      – poison
      – DoT
      – push back
      – call for help
      – summon additional mobs
      – shouts that increase group damage by 1000%
      – shouts that decrese player damage by… 100%
      – mana burn
      – prevention of mana/rage/energy gain

      • These are all excellent ways to make players care about CC. Damage alone, as mentioned, is a pretty weak way to make CC desirable.

        Even in the absence of CC, these mechanics can make the dps role more interesting in the sense that they require precise adherence to the kill order. You can get through a lot of these sorts of mechanics if you kill the right mob fast, but woe to the group that screws this up.

    • This is only a solution if you consider people not wanting CC a problem.

      To the Wrath generation no cc is an advantage and implementing something like this would make WoW a worse experience for them.

      • CC adds depth to a game. Maybe players don’t want that depth. Or the game might be poorly designed to accommodate it. I think current WoW is in the second category. CC just doesn’t fit in the game very well any more.

  5. All AE abilities should be removed from MMO combat if you don’t want it to get so easy as you gear up and CC be so useless. AE is certainly almost absent (the AE spells were generally quite hazardous to use, as well) from old school tabletop RPGs even if there was CC there.

    That’s really where WoW went wrong — they noticed that different specs had wildly varying AE ability and equalized them upwards instead of downwards. OTOH, recall that in earlier MMOs you could generally CC large packs of mobs (back in the day as an EQ enchanter, I could take out huge numbers of mobs) and when WoW came out it was quite innovative that each CC class could only control a single mob. In some sense that encouraged AE attacks though they could have just been more careful with pull sizes.

    • You’re talking about friendly fire, Polynices, and for reasons related to the GIFT theory a MMO clearly can’t support friendly fire in the way a tabletop game can.

      Even in my D&D games sometimes, to the consternation of the melee, I’d ask casters if they were sure they wanted to fireball the combatants and they’d say yeah, screw it.

      Can you imagine an Alterac Valley where every Volley, every Blizzard murdered your own side too? In a game where you get points for getting kills and lose no points if you kill your team?

      On the other hand the cave full of afkers would get cleared out very fast!

  6. That was an interesting run, not least because my ‘best’ cc could only be placed before combat, so I ended up racing the tank to CC something, anything, before he pulled 😀

    However ‘CCing’ making the tank’s job harder is a byproduct of positioning becoming less of an issue. Corner pulling almost seems to be a thing of the past, even in the harder WoW dungeons, because the positioning is mainly set up nicely and most groups can handle the patrol. The only place in current WoW heroics that puts me in mind of that is Stonecore. Part of a tanks ‘skills’ in raiding have always been positioning, and being aware of CCed targets is a part of that (although it’s also down to DPS communication.) CC forces the tank and DPS to communicate and coordinate during trash pulls, where AoE is much more autopilot for all concerned.

    • Corner pulling is dying in WoW because dps is so aggressive. When I tanked pugs I almost never succeeded in doing a proper corner pull. I’d shoot something, break line of sight then watch the mobs chase the dps who were nuking them while I stood there twiddling my thumbs.

      It’s a side-effect of lowered difficulty, in the old days people messing up a corner pull was probably a wipe so people learned not to do it. Now the dps can just nuke down the mobs with a little healing in pre-85 content.

      • I remember corner pulling being quite a big deal during TBC, and I used to pride myself on being quite good at it. But ofc, wasn’t really needed in Wrath and the playerbase forgets.

  7. One of the better Grim Batol runs I had was when our DK tank asked if I needed CC while I was pally-healing. I told him we could try without it if he liked and if we needed it, we’ll add it in. I kept everyone up, but that level of courtesy goes a long way. Gear-wise, it helped that I COULD keep everyone up.

    But now that I have an undergeared ‘lock, I get randoms on my ass about sacrificing damage for the sake of crowd control (I’m running with the husband’s tank). I’m switching pets in and out, have fear glyphed, but the pressure to put out “big numbers” for the sake of a speedier run is getting annoying — especially since I’m still learning the fights from the POV of caster DPS.

  8. The amount of blame being levied on LFD is getting somewhat comical.

    As a “veteran” tank, I hate CC. It makes trash/encounters more exciting/interesting… for the person doing the CC. For everyone else, all it does is add an extra chance of wiping through no fault of your own. Having to wait for the mage to Sheep does not add anything to my gaming experience, and indeed does detract from it as I have to reposition mobs so stray AoE damage (which tanks have a lot of) does not break it. On the paladin tank, CC is not so bad because I can pull with Avenger’s Shield; on my warrior tank though, it is extremely annoying to charge into a pack of mobs and NOT be able to get snap aggro on everything with Thunderclap (etc) because it will break the Sheep. Sure, I could simply not Charge in or pull with Heroic Throw… but that usually means positioning gets screwed up and/or I am scrambling for aggro on mobs that pounce on the healer for residual healing threat from them putting HoTs or bubbles up on me.

    The LFD tool has nothing to do with any “change” in the community by itself. If people expect success, expect to get through the heroics as fast as possible, etc, it is because of the daily group quest design of heroics themselves. I do not want to run heroics, as a tank or any role; heroics are old, tired content I have beaten 5+ times each. What Blizzard has done is introduced the LFD tool as a way to make their “we want you to run heroics daily” design work where it would not have worked before. Because groups are easy to get (push button and wait), the barrier against doing content you no longer find enjoyable is lessened. Even after daily heroics were introduced in TBC, no one really expected to achieve the 14/week (it’s been a while) Badge maximum because finding a full group every single day was unrealistic, even within a big guild.

    The attitudes you find in LFD isn’t from LFD itself, it is from essentially coercing people who don’t enjoy heroics into doing them.

    “You don’t have to max out JP/VP.” Yeah, sure. Unless you are competing for raid slots against other people who are willing to put in that extra time, of course. Or even if you aren’t competing for raid slots, you are still fighting against the social pressure (real or imagined) of your guildies putting in the extra effort to help with raid progression whereas you clearly are not.

    • This is partly due to tank design in Wrath/ Cata that relies so heavily on AEs. If you think back to TBC, it was part of the tank’s skillbase to be able to neatly grab aggro on all the mobs which were to be tanked, whilst neatly avoiding the CCed ones. And dps were expected to hold fire until the tank had done this (unless they wanted to die). Just because you hate it doesn’t make it bad per se as an approach. The issue then was that not all classes had CC and some instances were designed to suit different classes/ tanks better.

      I think it is true that CC is more fun for the CC classes, although I’d also see tanking as a form of CC. But you can see the appeal in a game design where every class either has CC as baseline or can respec to get it. I think it changes how people see CC as a tactic also.

      Having said that, I agree with you totally about heroics. I never had any desire really to run any heroic more than a handful of times — enough to learn it.

  9. I’m surprised nobody has bothered to mention City of Heroes.

    We’re all focusing on the WoW model of CC right now, and that’s understandable given the prevalence of the title, but let’s put it against another style of CC.

    Dominators and Controllers in CoH have AoE immobilizes, confuses, stuns, lockdowns and other forms of abilities to completely control the battlefield. In this style, in some cases a tank is no longer needed. Get three Controllers on a team and you can lock down entire groups, making damage to your allies incredibly minimal. And yet, if you can’t find them you can still find a tank who will soak up the damage instead.

    Now, this model has its own downfalls, I’ll be the first to admit it, but it does present an alternate solution to WoW’s model.

  10. Back in vanilla WoW, I played a mage, and I was a damn good one. Not because I was the best DPS’er, but because I knew how to place and maintain a sheep better than practically anyone else on my server. It was an art form unto itself, and I was proud of it, and tanks loved me for it. If Blizzard wanted to, they could make CC relevant again simply by making the mobs have some kind of “cooperative” abilities. If one isn’t CC’d, he buffs the mobs, or debuffs your group, or mob A gives an added ability to mob B, something like that. That way even overgeared groups would have to at least consider the need to CC rather than just mindlessly AoE everything to death. And then maybe, just maybe, a person’s other skills might be valuable other than what their DPS or Gearscore is.

  11. I agree with what several people have said:-

    To make CC relevant, the lack of it must impact the group. So combo abilities, buffs, healing or whatever from the mobs.

    I think however the actual problem with LFD is the lack of community. Back in the day my TBC hunter was valued as they were stready DPS and cast iron reliable CC. People in my guild and on the server knew this. In the LFD enviroment that mage might be a complete tool so asking them to sheep might mean a few wipes….easier to just pull it all if the healer can cope. And the healer is more likely to be competent . . . as you dont know either player.

    I see a lot of 25 man guilds dropping to 10 man content (even though its harder, certainly on Heroic) due to lack of players/organisation ease. I see a lot of once proud guilds folding. In the old days before LFD you bumped into ‘new’ players via the daily heroics and if they were good you added them to friends and asked them on dailys more often. If they turned out to be folk you got on with and could also play well you invited them to raid/join your guild/you joined theirs. Now I did still bump into funny/skilled/great folk via LFD but because they aint on my server I’m not going to ever raid with them or use them to replace the normal attrition of the PvE raider burnouts in my guild/raid com/circle of friends who PvE.
    And that to me is the main problem for LFD and PvE.

    I recall a certain DK who used to aggrevate the hell out of me. They were a great player however and as they were on my server we used to play a fair bit. And as time went on I got to know them better and ‘get’ their humour. Eventualy we joined the same guilds, exchanged packages of hard to find goods and still raid together today. This would not happen, or be terribly unlikely, with LFD.

    • I think we still haven’t seen the full longterm effects of 25 mans tending to drop to 10s – I keep hearing more and more that 25s are dying outside the hardcore.

      I suspect the game will get more focussed, 25s will be phased out, and it will probably be seen as a good thing. But I also suspect that as 10 mans split for natural reasons, it will be harder to fill the gaps and part of that is due to fewer server PUGs/ 25s where you might meet people.

      Blizzard have thought of this though, and that’s where the new looking for guild tool comes in… (it’ll still suck to find a raid as a melee though 🙂 )

      • After the 25 mans are gone, the pures will be the next step. I can’t wait to see your census post after 1 year of Cataclysm.

      • On my server, too, we have seen a substantial migration from 25s to 10s. If 25s become so unpopular that they resemble top-end BC raiding (ie, only 1% of players participate in them), I wonder if we will see them phased out.

  12. Late to the party, but to restate the obvious, the death of cc and the positive aspect of the playstyle it encouraged is entirely due to design fail.

    Why was CC necessary to begin with? Because most encounters were designed to overmatch a player group. DPS, excessive tank health and uber healing couldn’t match (and weren’t designed) to match the effectiveness of CC in tipping the odds in the groups favor. Perfect CC evened the odds without adding aggro.

    As a result, you tended to get tactical group play and a better skilled playerbase. The problem is now that encounters are simply not tuned to basically wipe a group without CC anymore (or don’t scale when players are overgeared to provide the same challenge). It just becomes a trivial gogogo speedrun.

    Remember when pullers were just as important as CCers?

  13. I’ve always been in the crowd of “what you do at the lower level is training for the higher levels”. If you take 5 mans as the “lower level” of end-game, then they are training for the “higher level” – raids.

    In a raid, failure to CC (or kiting, or other non-damaging abilities, such as stuns, etc) can mean a gauranteed wipe. How can one expect players to CC/stun/interupt in a 25 player raid, when they’ve never been asked to do so in a 5 man instance – which has fewer penalties and greater leeway.

    @ the whole “CC makes DPS job harder” thing. All I really have to say is “LOL”. Apparently using anything other than an AE damage ability is “hard” now. I guess finding the correct target, and using the correct abilities is a task relegated to only tanks and healers now?

  14. CC definitly is art.
    But not every player is art-aware. “what demon?”, “huh, elemental?”, “didn’t recognize it’s mc’able”, “uh, m-what?”.
    cc’ing something at the right time is as valuable as releasing it at the right time, but that mean to know, how much the tank-heal-team can handle STRESSLESS. Sure, with actual gear and some skill, almost every trashpack is aoe-able. But I prefer fluid runs, where I can stay in motion all the time, because my team is always above 60% mana and no downtime instead of the stop-and-go aoe-parties normally are.
    But as history tells, artists often have to die to raise the value of their art.

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