Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Blog Entry that IS NOT 16 Pages Long

So here I sit. Sunday afternoon, been at work for 4 hours. Doing my job, having fun. Hurting immensely from my personal training session on Friday afternoon and my 5k run yesterday.
Starcraft 2 is streaming, Idra just took down Boxer in an amazing best-of seven series that it gave me nerd chills, OH THE BANELINGS!
Patriots pre-game is on the radio, as only can be heard on Sundays.
NOS Energy in my hand
And here I sit to write a blog entry on the latest happenings of the week. 

Over the last week on certain forums I have noticed a new build that basically invalidated all my choices on the last immensely long blog entry! Oh well, I had a blast writing it and look forward to getting a full guide out for all of us tanky types in the future once the NDA is lifted and I get some real testimonials with the beta-tanks and how they did what they did and why. 

With everything going on, NYComic-Con, the NDA still in effect, and builds changing, it might be tough to find topics for a blog entry. Well, not for me! Today we're going to discuss tanking and how it has evolved this tank's experience over the past seven years through Everquest, City of Heroes, and World of Warcraft.

Everquest(the original)
Seven years ago I was fresh out of Everquest which I had played for nearly two years. I had tanked and healed in the Planes expansion and the one directly after that. What I remember about tanking in EQ will last  forever. You had to be careful. Everything from grinding AA's to farming materials was Dangerous! As a tank, one had to express caution and control above everything else. Wrong pulls: pulling an entire room accidentally would set you back hours and possibly get your camping spot taken by others waiting for their chance to grind AA's or mobs. 

This led me, as a tank to know when things were linked by 'social aggro,' discovering that four mobs come when you hit one is a good thing to know. As a tank it taught me to know the layout of every area in the game. It's your job to know how groups of monsters or bosses will act. Where the best places to take them to. Patrol patterns. You're job as a tank is to know these concepts, Everquest made this a need instead of a quality of life trait in a tank. 

City of Heroes
What CoH lacked in very serious content, it made up in flash and fun. What it lacked in need for specific execution it made up in mashing buttons and controlling tons of enemies at once. As a 'Tanker' in CoH(which was her-der the Tank class) your job was to mash your buttons that hit a lot of things. Many times you would find yourself in charge of 20 or more mobs all at once. The Holy Trinity we know and love(and hate) existed in many ways in CoH, but was much less stringent at all but the very highest levels. 
Moreover, the adds which you would get during a typical instance in CoH would stream in, or be ranged. A tank would have to use all of their mobility and awareness in order to grab these and keep them from killing your control, damage or healing classes! It was a big game on action and really taught me, as a tank, that awareness of individual mobs in a group is immensely important. Even if there were 30 enemies on the screen, a tank has to be able to identify what each one is hitting

World of the Warcrack
Funny aren't I? We have all heard that term. Why is it called that? Why was there a South Park episode about it? Why did we all play it for basically a decade? Because it was the most complete and fun MMO ever made. The polish out of beta was not perfect, iterations came fast and things changed quickly even after Launch. November of 2004 was a time for the ages. I loaded up my game on launch day and rolled a tank, a Gnome Warrior. We had the largest guild on a launch server. Many server firsts while leveling and after. When a tank hit 60, or any player for that matter, his fourteen hour days of grinding were just beginning. A tank needed his dungeon set 1. NEEDED. There were no options in early 2005 for optional ways to gear. Blacksmithing gear was pretty terrible compared to Valor(the warrior dungeon set one), and Molten Core was a giant scary place where everyone shouted about looting dogs and skipping pulls and wiping constantly for months. First you had to tackle the dungeons. 
As a tank, you started at the high level dungeons, which were Stratholme, Scholomance and Upper Blackrock Spire(I'm sorry lower black rock spire, fuck you and your six hour clears). These dungeons had no player cap at first so you could conceivably bring an entire 40 man raid in each one which was pretty hliarious, even if you did still wipe in Stratholme with 35 people like yours truly. Eventually they were iterated and were whittled down to 5 player limits in Strat/Scholo and 15 players in UBRS. These dungeons were long. It took hours and hours to slowly clear each one. The trash in them was plentiful and abusive. Massive amounts of random stuns(how do you prepare for random stuns!?), fears, mind controls and various hilarious mechanics such as rat traps and stealthed patrols really made you execute perfectly. 

Each one of these took likely a minimum of two hours and a maximum of six hours or more. It was just that long and hellishly punishing if you made mistakes. What I learned from all of this that being prepared for an instance is more important than anything else. If you simply did a few hours of research and knew what you were in for, you can shorten the time investment considerably and make it a more enjoyable for everyone. 

Raiding through what we call Vanilla WoW was an arduous process. It was slow, it took time, and it was difficult. It wasn't simply difficult because of mechanics(encounters in any raiding today dwarf anything seen in Vanilla WoW minus the original Naxx/Late bosses in AQ40) it was difficult because it's not easy to control 40 retards most of whom were watching tv or yelling about how they grinded(ground?) High Warlord and are better than everyone else because they can be online 22 hours a day in Warsong Gulch. 

This lead me to leading many of my raids. My previous experience and knowledge built onto this, having awareness, and preparing for the instances. I was able to identify and micromanage a lot of problems within 40 man and later 25 man/10 man raids. A leader role is something every tank SHOULD be capable of. You have to be able to identify problems not only in your raid strategies in execution, but you should also be capable of identify problems within your raid group. Don't just say, "Look Consular, your healing sucks, look at recount. You are 20% behind. We need a better Jedi Consular obviously and we win."


Leading a raid is to work with each member, to make sure they know how to do their best, and identify with them, as a friend and leader, what they could do better. Not just what they are doing wrong. It is a tank's job to do this. You have to be a leader. Do not want the responsibility? Why do you think there are so few tanks?

Warcraft has gotten more accessible and less stringent. Less time-investment is needed these days and often I just do not log on simply because I've done my time and seven years is long enough I think to play in there. I love the game and everything it did for me as a writer, a group leader and raid coordinator. As a Tank I love what it did for all the iterations. From having to have your rotation planned out 5-7 abilities in advance in Heroic Shadow Labs with little CC, to executing difficult strategies with 9 or 24 friends whom I helped personally get where we were on Heroic Lich King, or through Cataclysm. 

What I took away from Warcraft is that to succeed, a tank must invest in his group mates. A tank must be able to identify problems quickly, not just in the strategy, or the execution thereof but in the group he/she runs with. 

So Ften, you are saying in order to tank successfully I need to do these things? 
No absolutely not. You do not have to know everything about your group, the dungeon, and mechanics before you enter a high level flashpoint or operation. A tank can depend on his group mates to carry this knowledge and the load to explain to him about how to do things. 

However, you will be better off if you do. You might not be a high-intensity tank who has the time to spend reading countless pages on forums, theorycraft and spreadsheets. If you do, you will have a more enjoyable time in the game, a more cohesive group/raid, and a more successfully experience as a tank. 

I love you all and for the love of the Force comment and tell me how much you hate me and my writing and how much you disagree with me! <3
What have you learned through the years of tanking? What do you want SWTOR to do right with tanking?

Next week's installment will talk about the Eternity Vault and what we can derive from what we know so far! 

P.S. You made it this far? Here's a cookie, my new build with the latest beta build. Still going Focus tree, your options in Vigilance are pretty dismal from a tank's perspective!
Beta Tank Build as of 10.16.11

Oh did you want a pvp focused build?
Here you go! One floating point
PVP Hotness 10.16.11

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