Monday, April 14, 2008

What can be done to save grouping in WoW?

My mage dinged 70 this weekend, my third level 70 character. At the level cap he can only improve further by getting better gear, but more importantly I want him to get better enchanting recipes. It turns out that these either drop in dungeons, or are received as reputation awards, for which you have to run dungeons. So I need groups, and lots of them. So most of this weekend I spent hanging out in probably the most depressing place there is in WoW: the looking for group chat channel. And the result: I got one group together, and that one disbanded after the first boss of the dungeon. And the reason I couldn't get a group was that there were no healers nor tanks to be found.

The looking for group chat had something tragicomic about him: for hours and hours every single request on that channel was for either a tank, a healer, or both. I had to laugh at one request where somebody tried to organize a pickup raid to Karazhan. He already had 6 dps people for it, and shouted for 1 main tank and 3 healers for an hour before he gave up. Seems that if I ever want to group again, I have to play my tank or healer, the chances of finding a group with my mage are slim, which means he can't get better enchanting recipes before the expansion comes out. :(

Fact is that with every group and raid needing tanks and healers, it is the number of tanks and healers that becomes the limiting factor in how many groups can be created in total. When I log on my priest or warrior, I get lots of tells asking me to group, more than I could possibly do. When I play my mage, there is no group to be found. You simply need 20% tanks and 20% healers of the grouping part of the population, and in reality there are far less than that. And worse: the number of tanks and healers is declining. Even I made a mage so I could finally solo decently fast. Most warriors are either raid tanks and don't need to go to normal dungeons any more, or they have given up on tanking and gone arms or fury. And it isn't any better with the healing classes, even if you get a priest, paladin, shaman or druid in your group, they'll all tell you they aren't spec'd for healing. Even Rohan, WoW's most famous paladin and author of the Blessing of Kings blog did respec to retribution. Nobody wants to tank or heal any more.

I blame bad game design. World of Warcraft is a game of many aspects: group PvE, solo PvE, PvP. DPS classes can get one set of gear and one talent build and be reasonably good in ALL parts of the game. But if a healing class or tanking class gets the gear and talent build necessary for effecting healing or tanking, he gimps himself for solo PvE and PvP. I know myself how immensely frustrating that can be. Plus you are under a lot of peer pressure to help all the dps people in your guild, who all need you to form groups. It is a lot easier to opt out, and either respec or play a dps alt. But the more people opt out of the tanking and healing role, the less groups can form in total, and the more the remaining tanks and healers come under pressure. It's a vicious cycle, that destroys one of the most fun multiplayer aspects of this MMORPG, grouping. What could be done to save grouping in WoW?

One idea is to lower requirements for groups. If a shadow priest or enhancement shaman would still heal good enough to keep the group alive, even if the "tank" is a fury warrior, the possible pool of tanks and healer becomes larger, and more groups can form. But if Blizzard wants to keep high requirements of specialization for tanks and healers, another idea would be to make tanking and healing more attractive, by making tanks and healers more effective in solo PvE and PvP. A third idea would be to make switching roles easier, so a warrior could for example have two alternative talent builds and sets of gear, with an easy and free way to switch between them.

But maybe there are other ideas. How would you solve the tank and healer shortage in World of Warcraft, so that all the other players can finally find a group?

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