MMO-Champion - Dev Watercooler -- Threat Level Midnight
Dev Watercooler -- Threat Level Midnight
Blizzard is going to make a couple of changes to threat, among other things:

  • Hotfix: The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.
  • In an upcoming patch: Vengeance no longer ramps up slowly at the beginning of a fight. Instead, the first melee attack taken generates Vengeance equal to one third of the damage dealt by that attack. As Vengeance updates during the fight, it is always set to at least a third of the damage taken in the last two seconds. It still climbs from that point at the previous rate, still decays at the previous rate, and still cannot exceed the current maximum.

Read the entire blog post for more details and upcoming changes.
Originally Posted by Blizzard (Blue Tracker / Official Forums)
Threat revisited

One of the fun things about working on an MMO is that the game design will evolve over time, and you have the opportunity to make changes to reflect those design shifts. (And yes, we know that it can sometimes evolve too quickly).

Back in December, I wrote a blog post about our vision for how threat should work. Since then, the game and the community have continued to progress and the designers have found ourselves changing our minds about the role of threat. Enough that we’re planning to apply a hotfix this week to change how threat works.

Why have threat?

Threat’s role, just so we’re all on the same page, is to make fights more interesting. Tanks spend a lot of effort staying alive, but they aren’t under immediate threat of death one-hundred percent of the time. Plus, their staying alive is also dependent on their healers and other external cooldowns. We have always been concerned that if threat was not a big part of tanking gameplay that tanks might get bored just waiting around until it was time to use a cooldown. Likewise, if DPS and healers had no risk of being attacked themselves then the sense of danger facing a powerful creature could erode. Furthermore, every character’s toolbox includes some cool survival and utility abilities and the game feels more shallow if those are exclusively used for PvP. It’s fun for a mage to Frost Nova an attacker and Blink away. It’s fun for a hunter to Feign Death. Yes your life would be a lot easier without threat mechanics, but our goal isn’t to make fights as easy as possible. Our job is to make fights fun. Having too much to manage might not be fun, but it’s also not fun to be bored.

That’s been our traditional argument for threat needing to matter. Here is the case against it:

Why not have threat?

Throttling


  • As I said in the previous blog post, it’s not fun to feel throttled. It’s not fun for the Feral druid to stop using special attacks in order to avoid pulling aggro. It’s fun to use Feint at the right time to avoid dying, but it’s not fun for Feint to be part of your rotational cooldown. We want you to spend most of your effort trying to overcome the dragon or elemental, not struggling against your own tank.

Tanks are busy


  • I’d also argue that our encounters aren’t really boring these days. We ask tanks to do a lot -- everything from picking up adds, to moving bosses around, to staying out of fires, to providing interrupts, in addition to the classic tank roles of staying alive and generating threat.

Threat stats aren’t fun


  • We put threat stats (hit and expertise for the most part) on tanking gear, because without those, tanks would be limited to choosing from among mastery, dodge, and parry. (In the current state of itemization, you are rarely choosing more Strength, Agility, Stamina, or armor.) Druids can’t parry, and even for the plate users, there is a tight relationship between dodge and parry, and even mastery for the warrior and paladin. That gets us dangerously close to the old model of stacking a single uber stat (like Stamina or defense), which makes gearing choices too simplistic for tanks. Did something drop? Okay, put it on. (Contrast this to a DPS caster who might want more or less hit or might favor haste over crit, etc.)

    We want threat stats to be interesting, but the reality is that they aren’t. Any decent tank will usually choose survivability stats over threat stats. Back in the day when taunts and interrupts could miss, you could argue hit was marginally useful. But in a world where hit is really just for generating threat, it isn’t very exciting and tanks get understandably emo when we put too much on their gear. (DKs are somewhat of an exception in a good way -- more on that in a sec.) We do see some players try and get excited about threat stats or even proud of their ability to generate threat, but overall we feel like threat stats are a trap, and it’s usually the case that improving your survivability will have a better net impact on your group’s progression.

We don’t need a more complex UI


  • We have threatened for years (see what I did there?) to build in some kind of threat tracking tool into WoW. But is that really good for the game? Do we really need yet another UI element for players to look at instead of looking at the actual game world? We know many raiders in particular use third-party threat mods today, but that has really been borne out of necessity rather than a sense that watching threat is super compelling gameplay. (When we say “super compelling gameplay” you can mentally replace that with “fun.”)

Dungeon Finder


  • I know this bullet will be a point made by players critical of this change, but I would feel remiss in not bringing it up. We want it to be a positive experience when Dungeon Finder matches experienced players with newer players. The skill and gear of the former can help make up for that of the latter. Who better to teach you boss mechanics than players who have done the fights before? Even better, the gear of a veteran tank can make up for the less powerful gear of a beginning healer (which doesn’t necessarily mean a noob -- it could be the alt of a very experienced raider).

    However, this system fails and often spectacularly so when it’s the tank who is the undergeared player. Even if a competent healer can keep the undergeared tank alive, the fully raid-geared DPS spec is going to constantly be on the verge of pulling threat. That’s not an issue of skill. It’s just numbers. It’s also not a problem that is easy to overcome for either the overgeared DPS or the undergeared tank -- it’s just not a lot of fun for anyone.


So now what?

Given all of that, and watching how tanking has unfolded in Cataclysm, we’ve gotten over the concept that threat needs to be a major part of PvE gameplay. We have therefore decided to buff tank threat generation in a hotfix this week to where it’s generally not a major consideration. We expect the community to gradually stop using threat-tracking mods as players realize they don’t need them.

It’s an important distinction that the concept of “aggro” will still exist. If a DPS spec attacks an add the second it shows up, then the creature is going to come at her. However, if a tank gets an attack or two on a target, then the target should stick to the tank. Worrying about who has the creature’s attention should generally only be a concern at the start of a fight or when additional creatures join the battle. Worrying about a warrior or DK (the classes with nearly non-existent threat dumps) creeping up on tank threat after several minutes will almost certainly not be an issue any longer. (And if it is, we’ll have to make further adjustments.)

We like abilities like Misdirect. It’s fun as a hunter to help the tank control targets. We are less enamored of Cower, which is just an ability used often to suppress threat. We like that the mage might have to use Ice Block, Frost Nova, or even Mirror Image to avoid danger. We don’t like the mage having to worry about constantly creeping up on the tank’s threat levels. The notion of aggro (who the target is attacking) is a keeper. The notion of threat races (who is about to pull aggro) is going to be downplayed from here on out.

Upcoming changes

Here are the specific changes you’re likely to see:


  • Hotfix: The threat generated by classes in their tanking mode has been increased from three times damage done to five times damage done.
  • In an upcoming patch: Vengeance no longer ramps up slowly at the beginning of a fight. Instead, the first melee attack taken generates Vengeance equal to one third of the damage dealt by that attack. As Vengeance updates during the fight, it is always set to at least a third of the damage taken in the last two seconds. It still climbs from that point at the previous rate, still decays at the previous rate, and still cannot exceed the current maximum.

Long-term changes

You could argue that once threat is very easy to manage that a warrior tank could just go AFK. In reality, given today’s boss encounters, an AFK warrior would end up standing in the wrong place, missing a tank transition, or otherwise do something or fail to do something that wipes the party or raid.

That said, we ultimately don’t want tanking to be just standing there soaking boss hits and we would like to have more stats on gear that tanks care about. To solve those challenges, we want to shift more tank mitigation to require active management. We’ll still give all the tanks emergency cooldowns like Shield Wall and Survival Instincts. However, we want to move the shorter cooldowns like Shield Block, Holy Shield and Savage Defense so that they work more like Death Strike. Blood DKs have a lot of control over the survivability they get from Death Strike, but as part of that gameplay, they have to actually hit their target. The other three tanks will get similar active defense mechanics. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to use the DK model of self-healing, but they can use the DK model of managing resources to maximize survivability.

Death Strike consumes resources to help the tank survive. We toyed at one point with the paladin Holy Shield being a Holy Power consumer and we think we could do so again. Heck we could make Word of Glory the thing you’re supposed to do with Holy Power, so long as we balanced all tanks around that idea and didn’t feel it infringed too much on the DK mechanic. We could make Shield Block cost rage, and change Protection warrior rage income such that they had to manage rage, the way Fury and Arms warriors now must do. If tanks generated more rage from doing damage and less from taking damage, then hitting a target becomes very important, but for mitigation, not threat management reasons. This is a bigger change than it seems though. We don’t want a model where the Prot warrior ignores Shield Slam, Devastate and Revenge (since threat isn’t a big deal) in order to bank all rage for Shield Block (because survival is). Imagine a rage model where you always had enough rage for your core rotational abilities (they could be cheap or even generate rage), so that you could funnel most of your rage into Shield Block when survival mattered and Heroic Strike when it did not. Redesigning Savage Defense to make it a rage sink is an even bigger change, but we think there is an opportunity there to make the rotation more interesting for druids (and all tanks really). Their rotation would help them achieve the goal that usually matters the most to tanks: living.

This is the kind of design for which we’re really going to need a lot of feedback once it hits. We can implement and verify empirically how much threat a tank generates, but it’s hard for us to replicate the experience of all of the various raiding groups and dungeon parties out there. We invite you to try out the immediate and eventually the long-term changes when they are available and let us know how they feel. Do you miss the threat game? Are you bored when tanking now? Conversely, with the changes, is tanking more fun for you? Does this new implementation of Vengeance feel better? Some systems design calls we can make just by processing numbers, and some are more squishy and involve a lot gut checks and wishy-washy “but how does it FEEL?” language. Messing with this kind of thing is definitely somewhere in the middle.


Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is the lead systems designer for World of Warcraft, and lead eater at the dinner table.
This article was originally published in forum thread: Dev Watercooler -- Threat Level Midnight started by Boubouille View original post
Comments 302 Comments
  1. Cloudwolfe's Avatar
    Given all of that, and watching how tanking has unfolded in Cataclysm, we’ve gotten over the concept that threat needs to be a major part of PvE gameplay. We have therefore decided to buff tank threat generation in a hotfix this week to where it’s generally not a major consideration. We expect the community to gradually stop using threat-tracking mods as players realize they don’t need them.
    Wait, they are serious.What.. what.... WHAAT? Are you kidding me?!
  1. McFrotton's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Lucread View Post
    I actually quit WoW because of the Blood DK model, so I'm glad I'm not still playing when I read this. Maybe once the Druid/Paladin/Warriors see how frustrating it is to be utterly powerless to mitigate (all runes and cooldowns used..common thing for DKs) they will start QQing and DKs will get fixed.
    Lol its just that you were utterly bad and didnt knew how to manage your rune ressources
  1. nnelson54's Avatar
    I have played World of Warcraft on a consistent basis since the Friends and Family alpha(I got in via an old EverQuest's friend who's real life friend worked at Blizzard at the time) in late 2003 and have played a tank the entire time, minus ICC where our Elemental Shaman left and I swapped to mine to replace him since we had other tanking options.

    And nothing they have ever done to any tanking class(I had a max level of every tank for every expansion, except Vanilla where I was only able to focus on my Prot Warrior because of my work schedule) has ever made me contemplate quiting the game until I read this post.
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Cloudwolfe View Post
    Wait, they are serious.What.. what.... WHAAT? Are you kidding me?!
    Next patch they'll buff dps to where it's not a major consideration, and then they'll hope the community will gradually stop using dps meters as players will realize they don't need them.
  1. lettucehate's Avatar
    Everyone says that this was un-needed, and there were other things they could have been focusing on. What ARE those other things? Rather than just come here and say "ZOMG THREATZ EWER FINE, IM GOING TO BE SOOOO BORED NOW," tell us what YOU would fix.

    I personally like the changes. When I have threat, I'm having fun. When a Fury Warrior (my main is fury, off is prot, both specs are 370+) is popping all his CD's on the pull, getting salved, I'm getting MD'd, and he's still about to pull threat... I'm NOT having fun. The biggest issue is the lack of hit and expertise, and until they fix that whole issue with nearly all tanks, threat was going to be (and is still going to be) inconsistent. So, I welcome any threat changes they make.

    AND... If threat was the last bastion of hope you had in Blizzard and WoW, and you would SERIOUSLY quit over this, I would hate to be your employer.
  1. QwertySham's Avatar
    Sofa-King happy. Great change. Not only can I tank without worrying about people pulling threat off me (when I do actually decide to tank)... I can now (finally) spam Arcane Blast to my hearts content without pulling aggro on my mage! Stoked.
  1. Bootstraps's Avatar
    This will have 2 direct outcomes. Threat won't be an issue, tanking becomes easy. People start to tank more as it is easy, it will decrease dps wait times in queues.
  1. nnelson54's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lettucehate View Post
    AND... If threat was the last bastion of hope you had in Blizzard and WoW, and you would SERIOUSLY quit over this, I would hate to be your employer.
    It made people pay attention to what they were doing. It's just another example in the long line of Blizzard dumbing down WoW to the lowest common denominator. After the first 30 seconds of a fight there's nobody within half of my threat and my guild's DPS all hover between 25-28K. It's just a completely unnecessary change that makes the game more boring for people who weren't bad in exchange for making it easier for people who get a headache trying to think about more than one thing at a time.
  1. feigning's Avatar
    Why is it people are acting like this makes the game easier? Unless you play with terrible people, threat hasn't mattered in a long time. This change really does nothing...
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by lettucehate View Post
    When I have threat, I'm having fun. When a Fury Warrior (my main is fury, off is prot, both specs are 370+) is popping all his CD's on the pull, getting salved, I'm getting MD'd, and he's still about to pull threat... I'm NOT having fun.
    Getting 3x-5x increase in threat does two things.
    1. Make threat not matter
    2. Allow you to be lazy with your abilities.

    This change is essentially the change to Icy Touch in WLK for all classes.
  1. Vexryn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by nnelson54 View Post
    It made people pay attention to what they were doing. It's just another example in the long line of Blizzard dumbing down WoW to the lowest common denominator. After the first 30 seconds of a fight there's nobody within half of my threat and my guild's DPS all hover between 25-28K. It's just a completely unnecessary change that makes the game more boring for people who weren't bad in exchange for making it easier for people who get a headache trying to think about more than one thing at a time.
    I have to really agree with this comment.

    I'm hopeful that the new mechanics that will make hit/expertise relevant again (the "DK style of tank design") will make tanking interesting. But for the time being, they just made hit/expertise even LESS relevant, with no clear timeline for solution, and just made tanking a lot less fun and interesting.

    So now the only difference between a tank who executes a good rotation and a tank who executes a bad rotation is... tank dps? :/
  1. schippie's Avatar
    As a tank i actually like this idea. I know it takes away a important part of our job but okay. While this will change how a tank works in the future for now it seems we will just have a easier time dealing with threat than we have had ever before.

    For the people who will say this will make it easier it will only change one thing the mind of the tank is no longer busy with threat but instead focussus on the aspects of a boss fight ... oh wait we already did this common guys even half a decent tank should in raid have no trouble at all keeping threat so this wont change a damm thing. Think before you actually reply.
  1. Vexryn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by feigning View Post
    Why is it people are acting like this makes the game easier? Unless you play with terrible people, threat hasn't mattered in a long time. This change really does nothing...
    Because most players are not very good, and it does make the game dramatically easier for them.

    Not that I'm actually opposed to making the game easier, per se, but there is no reason for a bad tank to learn a proper rotation. It doesn't matter for survival (at least right now), and it doesn't matter for threat either anymore.

    Tanks who only use 1 button FTW now. /sigh
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by feigning View Post
    Why is it people are acting like this makes the game easier? Unless you play with terrible people, threat hasn't mattered in a long time. This change really does nothing...
    Except for catering to bad players
  1. MestHoop's Avatar
    Most tanks jumped for joy whenever someone would propose these types of changes. I personally have theorycrafted quite a bit on the subject and really hope blizz pulls through with something like this soon! The QQ is probably coming from people who don't play tank or only have a tank alt or something like it.
  1. Cloudwolfe's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vexryn View Post

    So now the only difference between a tank who executes a good rotation and a tank who executes a bad rotation is... tank dps? :/
    Spot on, what a joke.
  1. feigning's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiracle View Post
    Except for catering to bad players
    So, the change affects you, since you are good, obviously, and helps some bad players for the first ten seconds of a fight. Are you seriously arrogant enough to say that this makes the game "ezmode" and is catering to bad players? It doesn't affect you. At all. Unless, of course, you are a bad player.
  1. charizma's Avatar
    1 less meter on my screen? sounds good to me!
  1. themaelstorm's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by nnelson54 View Post
    It made people pay attention to what they were doing. It's just another example in the long line of Blizzard dumbing down WoW to the lowest common denominator. After the first 30 seconds of a fight there's nobody within half of my threat and my guild's DPS all hover between 25-28K. It's just a completely unnecessary change that makes the game more boring for people who weren't bad in exchange for making it easier for people who get a headache trying to think about more than one thing at a time.
    If I didn't misread the post, you're missing a point. Threat is being "removed", but it's being replaced by active management of survival skills. The post explicitly states that just taking threat out of the equation would make it boring.
    I think it's a good change. Tanks still get to find something to use and separate good tank from the bad while dps doesn't have to worry about the now-trivial threat management. I mean, waiting for 5 seconds or pressing feint now and then doesn't really add much to fights. In contrast, it's a stale mechanic.
    Win-win.

    This way blizz can go more crazy on fights too because dps will be busy with dps, tanks with survivability, healers with keeping stuff alive. They're all connected but still doing their own thing.
  1. tomolak's Avatar
    I can understand buffing threat gen a bit to compensate for the rapidly rising dps outputs from newer gear, but to a point where it's no longer a major consideration? This is an unnecessary change, and I am speaking as a casual player.

Site Navigation