Tuesday, February 9, 2010

On PVE Twinking, Thick Skin and Kid Gloves

The new Dungeon Finder has literally revolutionized the game. Why race to the endgame and wait in line to raid tank? Tanking is fun, that's the bottom line. It used to be that you raced to the endgame in order to increase your chances of finding other players who were on your server and looking for a group. For example, getting a group together to take on Sunken Temple was notoriously difficult when I was leveling my first five or six characters to 80 on The Venture Co. Getting parties together for Lower Blackrock Spire was just impossible, and entirely out of the question. I never even saw the inside of these dungeons until much later on, when I was leading tours for my alts with my main, and at the time I was overwhelmed with a sadness that these dungeons would never get played honestly again, at least not on my server.

All that is over. With the ability to find dungeon groups, and especially the ability to slow down one's experience and level progression, the option to savor these old instances is absolutely back on the table. Players like me, who are "new" to the game, having come in in the latter half of the Burning Crusade expansion, can get a taste of how the game used to be, and it has really broadened my ability to have fun with and appreciate the old instance content.

Blizzard has hit a silent grand slam on this matter. I don't see people talking about PvE Twinking, but I'm here to say it's a renaissance for the game.

Gushing aside, in the first bracket of instances (I don't count RFC--there's not really enough gear in there for it to be considered anything but a trailer to the dungeon game) you're very likely to run into players who have never run an instance before. It's especially sad, given the funny and well written article today at wow.com about how Death Nuggets are the new Huntards, that for truly new players, the Hunter class is still a strong and popular choice, and despite the potential of the class, its subtler aspects do not lend themselves well to novice play in dungeon instances.

By the time they hit level 19, a rogue is either learning how to play their class, or they're getting killed with every pull, and this while leveling. Same goes of a warrior, shaman, all of the classes really. The pet-as-protector does so much to insulate the hunter from harm, that the class stands out in instance play when that dynamic changes.

And, yes, I am specifically talking about novice hunters who leave their pets on aggressive mode, leave growl turned on, can't manage their mana, and generally make a tank's job unreasonably challenging. Not because they're bad or not worthy of playing in dungeons with the rest of us, not at all. Maybe they just spend too much time in the woods and need to learn a bit of teamwork is all. I'm just sayin'.

I've had a couple of great experiences in the last two days in dungeons with solid hunters who knew exactly what they were doing and rained holy havoc on the damage meters. And they make up for the others, but they are rare. I cannot lie. When I see a hunter in the ranks I tend to expect the worst. But, as this is not a productive attitude, I've been trying to be proactive and helpful instead.

A few bad encounters have gotten me into the habit of starting out the event with a standard spiel. First I'll ask if this is anyone's first instance encounter, and if there is a hunter whether they have Growl turned off and passive mode turned on. I'll also look on the party roster to see who is the healer, and then ask who the healer is. Not to be insulting, but I've had Druid Healers who immediately took to Bear form and then ran out and started pulling, then barked at me over and over and OVER again for a res when their laughable 700 hit points were splattered all over the walls and floor.

You can get a general feel in the first couple minutes whether the party is going to be a wash or if it's something you can stick with. If the DPS characters just run out and start going wild, the healer is in there swinging their staff in the melee, or leaving to go back to town for "milk", your hit points are slooooowly creeping downward and never coming back up, and you're scratching your head wondering what cradle these kids just crawled out of, there's nothing wrong with wishing them all the best and move on to another instance for a while. This is the "thick skinned" part of the life. If your party wants to do the dungeon without a tank, it's their call.

You're a tank, after all. You're not going to have to wait for a new group.

On the other hand, if you've got an alert, good natured healer and the players seem to take well to your starting spiel, you might have the makings of a very fun evening. In general, if you're tanking well and you have a good healer, the two of you should be able to offer a lot in the way of coaching and guidance to the dealers. The damage meters will tell you who needs coaching and who doesn't. The hard part about this is not being a sarcastic, arrogant jerk about it, and also not being a patronizing, smug know-it-all. It's worse with the stress of the dungeon and the limitations of text. In these cases, whispering might help--you're not chewing them out in front of the others.

In all cases, chewing them out never helps. Assume positive intent, go in with the goal of being a resource for them, praise them for their successes, and protect them from their mistakes if you can.

Besides, walking a hunter through the process of setting their pet to passive and turning off Growl for the first time might just transform the game for them, and mark the beginning of a new awareness of the potentials of their class.

I don't know if I'll see as much of the new player mentality in higher level instances, but I'm growing to see putting on the kid gloves as just another element of tanking.

No matter how bad it seems, remember this--at least we don't have to deal with Death Nuggets in the early dungeons.

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