As I said in my last post when I first read about the Call to Arms incentive I loved it. My educational background is in Economics and Business so this solution makes a lot of sense to me. In business if you need a particular type of employee and there is a shortage of them you raise the salary offered to attract one. Therefore it makes sense to me that Blizzard would offer additional rewards to players willing to fill a role that is in short supply. This is basic economics.
This is so obvious to me that I am a bit surprised when others weren't as supportive as I am. Gevlon made a quick comment on my last post basically saying that the rude behavior of other players would still keep new tanks. However, I want to address the posts made by Allison Robert at WoW Insider.
In Allison’s first post, she argues that the current DPS queue issues are a result of design philosopies from TBC and WotLK clashing in Cataclysm.
In TBC heroic dungeons were hard through out the expansion. They required large trash pulls with crowd control. Groups were hard to find unless you built a network of competent players.
In WotLK, heroics became simple due to several factors. They started out a bit easier then they were in TBC due to simpler design, gear inflation, and general tank and DPS buffs. When, the LFD tool was released half way through the expansion it players overgeared the content dramatically. As a result, player mistakes were hidden. Groups were so easy to find, and mistakes so weakly punished that players no longer had a need to build a network.
In Cataclysm, these two systems converged to create the current issue in Allison's opinion. Harder instances mean that more organization is needed to complete them successfully and that player mistakes are punished more severely. This has caused tanks to leave the LFD tool in mass resulting in 45 minute queue times for DPS trying to use the tool.
In her second post, Allison breaks down the different types of tanks and talks about who would be attracted by the Call to Arms. She divided the tanks into five groups: “Raid Professionals,” “Professionals,” “Apprentice,” “Mercenaries,” and “Opportunist.”
The “Professionals” are experienced tanks who tank as their primary function when instancing. “Apprentices” are players who treat tanking as their primary role, but are somewhat inexperienced with the role. “Mercenaries” are mains that tank as an off spec and have a wide range of ability at tanking. “Opportunists” are tanks that are not interested in the role but give it a try for the potential rewards.
Allison then goes on to argue that the Satchel of Exotic Mysteries is unlikely to attract the “professional” tanks because the rewards aren’t significant enough and it would require them to ignore their friends. Therefore the Call to Arms is more likely to attract new tanks rather then get the existing tanks to queue more frequently.
I don’t think Allison and I disagree as much as I thought I did at first. She out lines the situation pretty well actually, but I do have a couple of problems with her arguments.
Yes, There is a Tanking Shortage:
Probably the most outrageous comment I saw in Allison’s post was in her second post when she quoted “There isn't a shortage of tanks. There is a shortage of tanks willing to tank PuGs.” This is an absolutely absurd comment and anyone who believes it is an idiot.
Edit: Since the entire post is about the Call to Arms, I thought it was clear that I was talking about 5mans, NOT RAIDS. Judging from the comments some people aren't getting that.
Maybe I misinterpreted Allison's quote and when what she really meant was "There isn't a shortage of (raid) tanks. There is a shortage of tanks willing to tank (5-man) PuGs." That may be the case. I haven't looked into the raid tanking situation because it's irrelevant to this post. However, even if there is an abundance of raid tanks out there that doesn't mean there are an abundance of tanks out there willing to tank 5mans.
A lot of prima donna tanks like to argue that the shortage is due to tanks leaving the queue because some DPS are asshats and do stupid things that make their job harder. Tanking is a high pressure position and I know that there are people out there that make life more difficult then it needs to be, but in my experience they are the exception rather then the rule. I’ve done a lot of random groups in all three roles, and I’ve rarely seen someone so bad that they need to be kicked. The real reason tanks don’t pug is because they don’t have to. They can easily fill a group from their guild when ever they want. At worse they have to fill a couple of spots from the LFD tool. If there wasn’t a tank shortage this wouldn’t be possible.
Also, if the shortage was only related to pugs, then it shouldn’t be hard for a DPS to find a tank when they are not pugging. Unfortunately that isn’t the case. As a DPSer, I won’t always find a tank quickly when query the guild or my friends looking for a tank.
So yes, there is a tank shortage and there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. However, it is important to note that the shortage is exaggerated at the moment due to where we are in the expansion cycle. Main tanks have little reason to run 5mans because most of them don’t need the Valor Points or gear any more, because the expansion is 4 months old. Alt tanks also rare because alts are still being leveled up, content is still pretty hard, and there isn’t an abundance of easy gear to be gained because we are still early in the expansion.
Reputations are still Present:
The big theme of Allison’s first post was “Cataclysm returned players to the difficulty of The Burning Crusade instancing model without the benefits that tanks gained from building a reputation as a competent player.” This is completely incorrect. Reputations and social networks are still used to create a majority of the dungeon groups that form. It’s just done a little differently then it was before.
The base of these reputations and social networks has always been the guild. Even in TBC players would ask the guild first if they wanted to do a five man. If a tank was available these groups would fill quickly. If there was a shortage of DPS it was easily filled by making a post in Trade chat. This is almost exactly what still happens today. The only difference is that the premade groups now use LFD instead of Trade chat to fill open spots.
The unknown players that were found through Trade chat in TBC are no different then the unknown players that are currently found with the LFD. They were just as likely to suck in TBC as they are now. The only real difference is that you can’t filter out know asshats, but that isn’t a big problem either. While the vote kick feature is a little clumsy it’s not ineffective. On top of that, there is nothing stopping a tank from trying to form a group in Trade chat Cataclysm. If you want to build a stable of competent DPS from your own server, you still can.
The reality is that the Reputations and networks we formed in TBC haven’t gone any where. They’ve just gotten smaller, because people choose not to form them since the LFD tool is easier to use.
A Change in Perception:
What’s really changed from TBC to WotLK to Cataclysm is our perception of the issue. In TBC, 5-mans were much more important of gearing up a toon. For most of the expansion Heroics were the only source of Badges that were needed to by epic gear for raiders. As a DPSer in TBC it could easily take more then an hour to find a group.
That all changed when WotLK was released. In WotLK, 5-mans were completely unimportant. The gear rewards were fairly weak when compared to the leveling gear and even the level 70 raid gear players picked up in TBC. On top of that the early raids weren’t that difficult so players could easily skip the heroic and still progress. The lack of demand meant that no one really cared how hard it was to form a group.
When the LFD tool was introduced, it came with a reason for all players to do five mans. Badges were now needed to gain tier gear and if you wanted to get your tier as quickly as possible you had to do 5mans. However, many of the players overgeared the content dramatically. As a result new tanks could enter system with little risk. Most of the time overgeared DPS would hide the issues and they would gain gear quickly. As a result the queue times for DPS were relatively low. This is the heart of our current queue problem.
When Cataclysm was released, DPS players are used to 10-15 minute queue times. As a result, 40-45 minute queue times feel huge even though they are significantly less then the time it took to form a group in TBC. The problem we have right now really boils down to unrealistic expectations.
An Incentive to Ignore your Friends?
Another common criticism I’ve heard of the Call to Arms is that’s just an incentive for tanks to ignore their friends. I have a problem with this notion. To me this just sounds like sour grapes from DPS that might lose their pocket tanks. The more appropriate way to think about it is that Blizzard is rewarding players for performing a service needed by the community.
Think about it from a real world perspective. Let’s say a group of friends work in the same company, but friend X has a skill that is in higher demand then the skills of the other friends. If another company comes and offers friend X more money to change companies are they incenting friend X to ignore his friends? No, they are being given an opportunity to provide as service that is in greater demand for greater reward. I think most people would prefer to work with friends if possible, and some times that is worth a pay cut, but I doubt most people would criticize friend X for taking the job with more money.
Will Call to Arms the Desired Impact?
As you know my first reaction was a definite yes, but the more I think about it I’m not so sure, for two reasons.
First, the LFD queue times are going to get better until the next expansion with or without the Call to Arms. As time goes on a couple of things are going to happen. People are going to level more and more alts, and supply more tanks. Yes, there will be more DPS alts as well, but tank alts will be more prevalent because of the better queue times. Another thing that will help, is that better gear will be easier to obtain helping to mask the mistakes of new tanks, which means more people will be willing to give tanking a try. Since these things are going to happen with or without Call to Arms, it’s impossible to tell what kind of impact Call to Arms is going to have.
Second, tanks aren’t the only players avoiding the LFG tool. There are lot of players that don’t use the LFG tool because the queue times are two long. If Call to Arms works and increases the number of tanks entering the queue, this will reduce the queue time for DPS. However, it will also mean that more DPS will enter the queue because of the better queue times and push those queue times back up. They won’t back up to the original level, but it will take a ton of new tanks to significantly change the queue times.
Call to Arms Needs Significant Rewards
After writing all of this I can’t help but agree with Allison’s conclusion. “Call to Arms, at least in its present form, doesn't convince existing tanks to pug as much as it attempts to add tanks to the population.” I don’t see how flasks, pets, and mounts are going to convince tanks to solo queue for a random. Big Bear Butt suggests that Blizzard should offer the very rare pets only obtainable from buy collectors editions and the card game, but he admits that would only work until he obtained the pets he wanted. So the question, is what is significant enough to get tanks to frequently solo queue for in LFG?
My suggestion is gold. The good news is Blizzard has already said that gold will be in the Satchel of Exotic Mysteries. The bad news is if history is any indication I would be surprised if it had more then 50 gold, and I doubt that is enough to attract tanks to the LFG.
The truth is gold/money can be a powerful motivator if enough is offered as a reward. Gevlon has been offering large sums for Guild Achievements and as a result guild is ranked 124th in the world in terms of guild achievements, but for gold to work you have to offer more gold then can be gained by easier methods. You can easily earn several hundred gold per hour by doing daily quests, gathering herbs or leveling a high level alt. Therefore, the solo queuing for a random needs to provide several hundred gold as well for experienced tanks to look at it as a gold making opportunity. If this is done, then I think Call to Arms might have an impact.