Monday, December 26, 2011

Community Misinformation and Filtering the Noise

Ften's Progress Report: 
Class: Jedi Knight
Advanced Class: Guardian
Current Level: 23
Mood: Far too much Monster Energy for a slow day at work.

Now I know exactly what you are thinking,
You: "Ften, I could have sworn you were dead."
Me: "Exactly, so did I! "

However I am not, and the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated(Thanks MST3K's "Killer Shrews episode for introducing me to that quote, actually by Mark Twain but much less impressive) and I have been playing SWToR(that is Star Wars The old Republic, if you don't know that what are you even doing here?) and really really loving the game.

I have not burnt out yet due to not playing enough to burn out but I think I have gotten a good 24 hours of game-time in and have worked my way up to level 23 on a Jedi Guardian.

Thus far I have had much more time on the forums rather than playing and have observed a very disturbing trend of threads regarding our Advanced Class, The Guardian, and one of it's intended roles, Tanking. The trend is that Guardians are under-powered, clunky, and boring.

So fellow Guardian, SWTOR player, or anyone at all, take a seat(if you happen to be reading while standing), and listen to Uncle Ften, I'm gonna make you feel just all better inside.

What this stems from is "grass is greener syndrome." What this means specifically in this circumstance is that Troopers and Jedi Shadows are also able to tank. Though the people on the forums think their classes mechanics, mitigation or balancing is all-together worse than the other classes whom can fill the same role.

Now I have been playing MMOs for a long time, nearly 10 years to be exact. So let us go through a short history in MMO tanking history.

 In Everquest Shadow Knights were cool, and then they weren't.
 Paladins were cool, and then they weren't.

In World of Warcraft, Warriors were cool until the game hit TBC.
 Then Paladins were the bee's knees.
Then we hit LK and Death Knights were amazing and cheesy!
 Then Ulduar came out and everything was amazing(oh rose colored glasses, how you get so much more rosey when I'm on caffeine).
Warcraft released Trial of the Champions and guess what, Paladins and Warriors were awesome and everything else sucked(at least if you were doing things that actually mattered aka hard mode Anub-Rekhan).
ICC: Yay everything is easymode and nothing matters but people still want to abuse Paladins and Druids and Warriors are 'meh' and Death Knights are 'meh.'
Everything sucks compared to druids to start, then things were as close as they have ever been until block-capping became capable. Then oh no, things are in flux again!

The point of this mini-ridiculous-history lesson? Almost all of this information is driven by community perception and personal bias on the news of what very hardcore guilds do in order to beat insanely hard content.

Community perception is based on that grass is greener theory outlined above. If someone can reasonably prove there is the slightest imbalance towards any class, they can sway an entire forum in a few short posts and examples. Yes, there is an imbalance of course, however the forums and the players in the game itself actually are affected greatly by this because it causes them to believe they are playing an inferior class. Is inferior the truth? In the most black-and-white sense, yes. In real examples of gaming? Not by a long shot.

Theoretical maximums and actual implication of executing theoretical maximums by greater than 90% of players are two different things. I'm a damn good tank, I have skills. Intense skills. My reflexes are off the proverbial chain. My knowledge of encounters is explicit.
To quote a song I love, "I designed the Sears Tower, I make two grand an hour, I don't need these lines to get laid."  -Dropkick Murphys, 'Kiss me I'm Shitfaced'
 I still make mistakes. You can know your priority system without looking at it, continually be on top of every environmental malady in an encounter, be the best geared and talented player, you will still make mistakes.

The community bias towards class-inferiority is used as a scape-goat to fill in most player's desire to not think they are deficient in their execution of the class, their lack of preparation or overall skill. What this leads to is long-winded posts of people who blame their own deficiencies on the designers and everything they did with the game.

Now we have Irae AoD right now(european raiding guild) and other high level guilds in SWTOR who are blazing through content and many are saying that Guardian tanks are simply not worth using compared to Troopers and Jedi Shadows and bring nothing unique to the table that you can't get from another class. Major note;

  • These guilds are some of the best in the world and they are capable of playing at a higher level in very terrible gear on very hard encounters with nearly perfect execution.
  • What the community hears is, "Guardians are dead! We are making all our Guardians reroll other tanks and you guys all should too."

Realistically these guilds are min-maxing to the utmost level and things are being troubleshot on-the-fly and if something works, they are going to do it. If they kill a very difficult boss with a good composition, and then that composition doesn't work optimally for the next boss, they will switch it up. Right now, Guardians don't really fill any special niche that isn't done just as well or slightly better by the other two tanks available. So you don't have anywhere for the Guardian to shine. Now that might be because Guardians aren't ranged tanks(Troopers) and they're not capable of great damage during a tank-swap fight or tight enrage timers(Shadows on Hard-Mode Eternity Vault), but players see this and immediately over-react.

Now based on these very realistic and theoretical ideas in this blog, we have established that;

  1.  Through MMO history, tanking preference fluctuates with content and the community established most suitable tank to take advantage of the specific encounters.
  2. High-end guilds comprising some of the most skilled players drive the community established ideas and standards, even though 90% of players are nowhere near the skill level of them. And the imbalances that players perceive do not apply to them in the slightest. More than likely they would be better off learning how to interrupt a cast quickly or refine their priority rotation and cooldown usage. 
Right now on the forums we have multiple posts on the various forums around the web saying that Guardians are inferior. I wish I had the time to respond to all of these with my long diatribe that they have been dissolutioned to the point of thinking that they can not play well due to things out of their control. That because they rolled the dice and played the Guardian class, they are suffering while they play. Which of course is preposterous. 

The main concerns
AOE Tanking is very difficult on a guardian. 

  • We realistically have one AOE tanking move at the level I am at(23) and it's on a somewhat long cooldown. I believe it is 15 seconds but it may be 12. How many elite mobs are realistically in a pull that need to be tanked? 3? maybe 4 if you're really intent on taking all the damage of the group? Many mobs I've seen thus far are casters which can be interrupted. Yay, that means you don't need to tank that mob at all. Many of these enemies are very weak when they're not casting and don't need to be prioritized to be tanked full-time. Also they should be marked with a high kill order so they are dispatched quickly. 

  • With force sweep(our AOE monster move) you can maintain initial aggro very easily. After that it's all about prioritizing the mobs in the group and what abilities you should use on each one. This idea is reminiscent of Warrior tanking in WoW's first expansion The Burning Crusade. You have the tools, you just have to use them the right way. 

  • If you don't know how to recognize what your group-mates are hitting, or have not had an established kill order, or just don't know how to tab around quickly or select different enemies quickly even if they are grouped up, you will more than likely find AoE tanking difficult. This is not a class deficiency, this is a "YOU" deficiency. 

Focus generation is atrocious on a Guardian. 

  • Now I've played all sorts of tanks. Tanks with mana, tanks with rage, tanks with runes, all these systems are put in place to moderate your skill usage and increase your skill level and help you figure out how to make the most out of the system. Focus is no different than this. Right now I have Sundering Strike bound to my 1 key, Strike bound to my V key. My rotation revolves around using Sundering Strike on cooldown and then planning ahead at least 3-4 moves in order to use Blade Storm, Master's Strike, Riposte, and Force Sweep on cooldown. The way you do this is to make sure you are maxing out your Focus generation and beyond using Sundering Strike on cooldown to use Strike usually immediately after unless one of those previous important abilities are off cooldown. Up to level 23 so far, I have had zero point zero difficulties generating Focus. In fact it's much easier than managing many other systems I have used in the past. 

  • Guardians even have an ability to generate 6 focus once a minute on command. How easy can they really make it on you? Pretty damn easy. If you find this difficult, "Get the fuck off my porch fatty!" Fight Club might just not be for you! Seamless segue to Fight Club picture.

  • Now I have played a Trooper, I have played some Jedi Consular(that turns into a Shadow), they have very easy utility generation mechanics. It's different than Guardians, but it's clearly more simple. However does that make Guardian mechanics difficult? No, not at all. 

Guardians bring nothing unique to the table!

  • Now this is a big thing for many people. Balancing an 8 or 16 man raid composition as a raid leader can be tricky especially when everyone in your raid is screaming about the best class for this and that. However Guardians can tank and based on work at Guardians have the second most passive mitigation just behind(1% or so) of Troopers and beat out Shadows by quite a bit. Guardians also have the best defensive cooldowns available. 

Guardians are boring!

  • Really? This? If you can find the playstyle boring, with all the lightsabering, flipping through the air, stuns on groups of enemies, and button-mashing playstyle, sure it might be boring...I certainly do not find it at all boring. Though really you can find anything boring if you do it for hours and hours and hours on end.

How to agree with people you disagree with
Now there is something I will say and agree with the "Sky is falling" crowd; Jedi Guardians are not the most powerful tank. They have minor issues and do too little damage compared to the other tanks. Guardians right now are the theoretically weakest tank having to do with overall utility in the current aspect of hard-mode raiding. However all it takes is one Guardian to do it right, and show everyone that they can do something no one thought they could and all of a sudden Jedi Shadows, or Troopers will be the community perceived weakest tank. All it takes is one player, one high level guild, one encounter designed just right, and the perception completely changes.

Everything is in flux with tank balance and community perception. There is no reason to run away from your Jedi Guardian. Bioware has gotten things pretty damn close in this iteration and just out of launch is damn impressive.

TLDR: No you're not getting one of these you lazy fuck, go back and read the blog and at least try to comprehend something other than people screaming on forums and your guild mates telling you things that have no basis in reality.

You can do it, I believe in you, The Force is with you!

PS-new rig next week, next entry will be vlog entry with my pretty self! <3


  1. I'm a lvl 32 guardian and I approve this message.

  2. Glad I found this. I tried all classes to about level 10 to 15 and Knight/Guardian was just my favourite. So I am playing it because it is the class I so far enjoy playing the most. I am not a hard core player or in a hardcore guild so by the time I get to do a harcore mode (if ever) things may look completely different anyways. :)

  3. Thanks for the support guys and I really appreciate the reads. Honestly most of the crying on forums is because people see high level guilds or hear rumors of things happening and then create their own self-fulfilling cycles of disappointment. Unfortunately they don't realize this and I hope you all stick with your Guardians and have the most fun possible. Of course if you are not having fun, try something else, but at least do what you can to like what you are doing!

  4. Ften. I thank you for this. I always say its the player not the character. Until you get to the black and white math, which we will never get to, it doesn't matter. In the end, maybe just maybe, the Guardian isn't the best in one aspect, but that doesn't mean he isn't overall. It takes a different strategy people expected.

    Lastly I don't think Guardian has a lot of AoE either. I'm level 26 and haven't managed to find a lot of utilities that I have that Guardians don't have. I have range, but they just need to learn to close range. Good read. Good read.

  5. I played a Guardian to 33 and finally set him aside out of frustration. I then rolled a Trooper (Commando Medic) and a Jedi Shadow both to 24 or 25 and I was really surprised how much better these two classes performed (in PvE) than my Guardian.

    I really struggled from the early 20's mostly due to how the Guardian does not receive it's key abilities until much later than other classes. I also observed that there isn't quite as much synergy within the skills available to the Guardian and some even come with odd restrictions such as the target must be stunned/incapacitated but the Guardian might not yet have an ability to produce the status required. Neither of the other classes I have played have this restrction.

    The class really needs some attention because the bottom line is that it isn't as effective or efficient as the others.

  6. I just finished Chapter 1 (or Act 1) story quest line on my Jedi Guardian (lv 32) and while Guardians are weaker in terms of AoE tanking I haven't had any problems with it because of the following abilities: Challenging Call, Force Sweep and Cyclone Slash.

    Typically the starter is Force Leap -> Force Sweep -> Challenging Call (in case of mobs missed by Force Sweep). Then it's a matter of tab cycling and using Slash, (proc'd) Blade Storm, Riposte, etc.

    Also Force Sweep (or Hilt Stirke) followed by Pommel Strike is fairly effective in knocking out a single weak mob early in the fight at levels 30 and under.

    Lastly, Focus generation is more difficult for Guardians because of Soresu Form (1 less focus generated by focus generating abilites, but gains 1 focus for taking damage once per 6 seconds). However, there are abilities and talents which help reduce focus needed for key abilities or increase focus generated.

    Overall, I've found tanking in Guardian to be decent, not as strong as the other tank classes in certain areas but enjoyable enough to play.