The tank shortage solution

May 6, 2010 at 5:34 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

This post is a long-delayed followup to my description of the tank shortage situation.

As mentioned previously, the shortage of tanks (relative to dps and, to a lesser degree, healers) for 5 person dungeon content has existed for several years.  Over that time Blizzard has made a number of attempts to reduce this problem, though with limited or no success.  I believe that both the player population and Blizzard have an interest in reducing the tank shortage.  In this post, I outline some thoughts on ways to reduce the population difference and, hopefully, make the LFG queue shorter for non-tanks.

As I see it, attempts to increase tanks in LFG can be broken into two classes: attempts to increase the number of tanks and attempts to increase the frequency with which tanks tank.  So far, all of Blizzard’s attempts have focused on the first method.  I think that one of the main reasons for the lack of success with this approach is that tanking has a fairly distinct playstyle and, typically, responsibilities outside the narrow definition of the role (eg, marking pulls, leading the group).  As a result, tanking appeals only to certain kinds of players and attempts to increase the number of tanks will be fighting against player preference.

The second method, increasing tank frequency, does not fight against player preference and, rather, flows along with it.  Existing tanks are encouraged to do something they already do and (usually) enjoy.  I think that getting existing tanks to re-queue in LFG is simply a matter of incentives; the positive ones should be strengthened and the negative ones should be reduced or eliminated.

At present, the positive incentives for tanking are quite weak for established tanks.  Beyond the two daily frost badges, there is little reason to run any of the heroic dungeons.  The loot is obsolete, gold is mostly unnecessary, and triumph badges cannot be redeemed for anything useful beyond gems.  Probably the strongest remaining incentive for such tanks is helping friends get their two daily frost badges.  Negative incentives, meanwhile, are still quite strong for tanks.  This primarily takes the form of the players in LFG that the tank will soon have in his or her party.  While most players are acceptably polite and competent, the truly memorable players are the ones that induce tanks to swear off LFG forever.

Below are a handful of different incentives, both positive and negative, that might encourage tanks to re-queue more often.  I’ve tried to focus on approaches that would disproportionately affect tanks, as that is the focus of this post:

More gold/badges for the fifth member of the group
When the LFG system forms a group, usually the missing component is the tank.  Once a tank arrives in LFG, composing a group happens quickly.  For tanks that need money and prefer not to farm or run daily quests, this could be a good incentive for running heroics instead.  Further, it helps to balance tank/healer/dps populations over time in each battleground.  If tanks are suddenly in oversupply, the needed roles will automatically reap the rewards.

Create a market for selling tank services
This is another gold suggestion, though the rewards here are not external to the party (ie, bonus gold from the LFG system) but rather from the other members of the party.  I am imagining a system like the AH where players sign up and set an amount that they will pay for a fast queue.  A tank can then form a group by selecting from these offers.  When the instance is through, the tank collects the money.  A similar market would exist for tanks to offer their services at a price and then dps/healers could select from among the tanks.  I think such a system would be fascinating as it would be entirely player-driven (in the sense that they set the prices) and would reveal much about the perceived value of each role and of a player’s time.

Give tanks more control over group invites
One of my frustrations with the LFG system is that I have no control over who is in my group.  Sometimes I get players that aren’t very good or polite.  If that were my only option, too bad; that’s life.  But that’s not the case!  I know there are good dps/healers sitting in LFG, looking for a tank.  Why can’t I bring them instead?  I can imagine a number of elaborate systems for doing this, but here are a few common-sense additions that would help:

  • Make the /ignore list longer, especially for players on other servers
  • Make /ignore apply to all characters on an account (if somebody is a jerk as a mage, they probably are as a rogue)
  • While /ignore excludes somebody from my group, /friend does not automatically add a person to my group if they are in LFG.  Known-good players are preferable to total unknowns

Let me use Bladestorm on a party member once per heroic
This isn’t a serious suggestion, but it sure would be fun.

Provide a faster queue to alts after tanking
For players with both tank and non-tank characters, it might be worthwhile to tank an extra heroic if it reduced queue times for alts.  I’m a little uncomfortable about this suggestion since it would have to be a strong enough benefit to be worthwhile while weak enough that it does not exacerbate the tank shortage by increasing the number of non-tank alts in the queue.

Provide small utility or aesthetic benefits to tanking
Maybe the benefits to tanking don’t have to be badges or gold but instead small things that modify the character’s smaller utility abilities or appearance.  As examples, successfully tanking a dungeon could:

  • Reduce the hearthstone cooldown for the next 24 hours
  • Reduce tradeskill cast times (eg, faster skinning, disenchanting, etc.)
  • Provide points towards a backpack upgrade (currently it is fixed at 16 slots)
  • Provide a modest amount of rested experience (for tanks not at max level)
  • Add charges to a wand that turns people into a pirate/sheep/reindeer/goblin in cities
  • Increase flight speed for 24 hours
  • Make flasks last longer
  • Provide barbershop-like options for cosmetic changes to armor (eg, shinier or with more spikes)

While I don’t know for certain that any of these ideas would reduce the tank shortage, it seems clear that what has been tried so far isn’t working.  I think it would be very interesting to see what effect changes such as these suggestions — especially an AH-like market for tank services! — would have on LFG queue times and class/spec distribution.



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  1. I really love that first idea. It may need a little tweaking though. In the case where a tank had a couple guildies on for a heroic run, the 5th spot would normally be a dps. Perhaps the incentive could be given to the least represented role in LFG over the last 30min. I think that would pretty much always be tanks, but could be healers sometimes.

    • Signu, I think your tweak makes a lot of sense. It’s probably easier to track and calculate, too.

      My preferred solution would somehow combine the first idea (more rewards for the most needed role) with the second (a market for selling tank services), with an option for players to jump the line if they are willing to pay. The goal would be to have the reward scale with how needed that role is at that point in time. In other words, when tanks are most scarce the rewards are greatest.

      • Paying for priority would make a lot of sense. The players who queue up put in a bid amount and whatever role is most needed gets the combined bid from the other 4 members of the party. People who believe they would be most desired could put in a minimum payment, so that only a group with a combined bid higher than the minimum could be created.

        The only problem I see is people without much money might end up waiting forever because they can’t pay enough to get in a group. But, they could just do a couple dailies as they wait and up their bid.

        • I would imagine that the prices would reach some sort of equilibrium since tanks setting too high a price would have very long queue times. Depending on the balance of classes, you could see something like equal queue times for tanks charging 20g and dps paying 10g.

  2. I’ve found that people are already offering money for Tanks, and as a guys with 3 tank classes at 80 I can make a small amount extra for my time. That said, some runs it is not worth it. Too many asshats exist for me to “get involved” in the tanking problem. I’ll get in, kill, get out thank you.

    Also a bad aspect of the system is the “random” dungoen itself which always seems to be places like OCC or HOS. I hate those places, and even though they are often easy, its been just too many runs in those places, and recently the daily for each of my Tanks was OCC.

  3. […] this blog, is a tank.  I’ve also written about the tank shortage before as well as possible solutions.  In that latter post, I suggested five serious suggestions  (and one unserious suggestion […]

  4. […] It’s a subject I find very interesting, so it’s no surprise that I’ve written about it before.  In this post, I’d like to talk about how the leveling experience can support […]

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