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. feigning's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiracle View Post
    I quit a few months ago. I just find the hilarity in giving WLK Icy Touch threat to all classes suddenly makes the game better. It fails to punish players performing badly which in turn hurts a greater portion of the game population. You encourage bad players to fulfill roles they can't handle and then you dumb down portions of the game to compensate. You had DK's back in WLK needing snap threat, they made the change to Icy Touch. Dk's then used just Icy Touch to hold threat and did little else.

    People fall into the routine that threat is easy and is irrelevant, then months down the road they rethink the tanking model. Threat matters a little bit more and you get the frustration that you have now from the bads.
    But that's the thing. Threat doesn't matter right now. Sure, on my hunter if I don't Misdirect and/or Feign while bursting at the start of a fight fully buffed, the tank can say goodbye to threat normally. Thing is, if you play with players doing that, then you have a bigger problem than threat. If your raiders are already doing everything right, then threat hasn't been an issue for a some time. This really only affects those players who really just suck and mash their buttons to make numbers appear. It's not going to make a huge difference to players who already know what to do. And the best part is, in the few situations where the tank needs to grab threat asap and while also on the move, I don't need to hold back quite as much if Misdirect/Feign Death are on cooldown. My point is, this change is pretty circumstantial for good players and really only affects some players a lot. And all it does is make pug tanks not want to rip their eyes out!

    And if threat becomes an issue again down the road, then we'll adapt for that. It would've happened either way, so it's really not an argument against doing this I think.
  1. Cows For Life's Avatar
    Heh instead of fixing threat in a few select cases like fury warrior or feral druids... they want to follow the horrible DK tanking model.
  1. Raim Surion's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Zka View Post
    If that's the case you won't miss out on anything, right?
    Read the whole post: they do it because they want to shift your job as a tank towards active mitigation instead of the current model, where threat and mitigation both play a small role. (unless you're a dk because then you are already playing their future model) They want threat to play a very minor role and active mitigation play major.
    Sounds interesting to me.
    As a side effect, random low skill pug tanks will finally not suck as much on threat, but they will need more heals. Which is not a big issue imho.
    Actually it IS a problem, because you will see these tanks who think they are awesome because they can hold threat in 5 mans now with their 1-2 button rotation, and then get everyone killed in raids.
  1. Zka's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Raim Surion View Post
    Actually it IS a problem, because you will see these tanks who think they are awesome because they can hold threat in 5 mans now with their 1-2 button rotation, and then get everyone killed in raids.
    And why is that a problem?
    Noone is forced to play with sucky players.
  1. Tlaloc's Avatar
    Does that mean me and the mage of our 25 man can both pop 50k and not worry about using MD or Ice Block
  1. daburton's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Mongoose19 View Post
    Rofl indeed making game easier so we can carry casuals/bads. But one day we, the good players will be all gone and nothing will save this game.
    The sooner the better. I swear to god, the second the so called "good players" finally leave this game, I may run naked down the streets yelling a the top of my lungs halle'freaking'lujiah.
  1. Etou's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Zka View Post
    Read the whole post: they do it because they want to shift your job as a tank towards active mitigation instead of the current model, where threat and mitigation both play a small role. (unless you're a dk because then you are already playing their future model) They want threat to play a very minor role and active mitigation play major.
    Sounds interesting to me.
    Exactly. If you look at how tanks gem/reforge/enchant anyway, this is what tanks really worry about. They don't want to worry about threat, they want just enough, or for DPS to cool it. Tanks can't get enough damage reduction, and Blizz is just tuning the game to how we actually want to play.

    I actually look forward to playing looking at a Damage mitigated/avoided meter than a threat meter.
  1. Doombringer's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Vengfulr3ap3r View Post
    This, They need to focus on the actual problems vs fiddling with crap that works fine. Stop dumbing down wow. I mean come on, do they think its a "coincidence" they lost 900k subs? =/
    Actually, WoW isn't dumb enough. That's what lost them the subs. Compare Wrath to Cata. In Cata, they ramped up the difficulty in dungeons (regular and more so in heroic), starter raids, and also altered how healers heal (making them think more). This all made the game more difficult compared to Wrath. People got pissed with it, and left. They tried to affirm their stance with the "Dungeons are Hard!" devblog and people kept leaving. So, they've made concessions.

    The raid nerf, the Heroic damage/healing boost, the tweak to CC, now the tanking thing. I wonder what's next. Maybe another raid nerf when 4.3's raids come out...
  1. Malthurius's Avatar
    As a DK tank, I approve. I've avoided rolling a warrior or pally tank because I felt like I was at the mercy of my healer. Having my survival in my own hands somewhat makes tanking more fun, rather than "Gather shit up, and blow CDs accordingly."
  1. Vexryn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Raim Surion View Post
    I do like that they are making efforts to draw players into tanking more, but I believe 3-5 times threat generation is a tad excessive. I think even 2 times would have been enough to breeze through a dungeon with a beginner tank.
    They're raising it FROM 3x (which it already was) TO 5x. Which means they're raising it by 1.666x, not even the 2x you suggest.
  1. Deployed's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiracle View Post
    The problem is that DPS is super easy, and with lack of skilled players continuing to play, the mouth breather dps decide to tank, to compensate they have to make tanking mouth breather easy to keep people from leaving.
    Just to be clear, I'm not actually against the chages, despite what I said. At the end of the day, I'm not a tank, nor do I perform in heric raids where the "issue" that is being addressed (despite the validity of the conspiracy theory), so I can't really say what is and isn't needed.

    However, what I will say is that when it comes to my understanding of heroic raid content, and how DPS perform, even though comparing DPS to Tanking can be summised as "tanking is harder/more complex than DPS", that doesn't mean it's easy to achieve the level that the heroic raiding DPS players achieve.

    I personally feel that the complexity between roles actually closes a fair bit as you progress through the degrees of content difficulty, but if there is a threshold within heroic raid player development where tanks have no option but to sacrifice mitigation for threat, then Blizzard have been doing things wrong.

    If DPS and healers only have to care about 2-3 secondary stats and tanks have to care about 6+, then Blizzard have been doing things wrong.

    If new/bad/learning players are struggling with becoming better, then Blizzard have been doing things wrong.

    These are things that need to be addressed. However, are the upcoming changes the right ones? Player mentality is actually the biggest broken aspect of the game right now.

    Players don't want their time wasted while other players try to learn how to do things right. This is an example of the players doing things wrong.

    New tanks jumping into heroics without leveling through the normal modes is also an example of players doing things wrong.

    However, the biggest issue I see here? This change will not help mid-ranged raids at all. Surely this is the area where uneducated tanks are struggling the most?

    The one positive I will take with me, active mitigation management, even if it does shine a light at DPS and Tanks charing gear in the next expansion. abilities>gear>stupidity.
  1. Vexryn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by daburton View Post
    The sooner the better. I swear to god, the second the so called "good players" finally leave this game, I may run naked down the streets yelling a the top of my lungs halle'freaking'lujiah.
    That would be a sad day for this (or any) game.

    What you're wishing is that the assholes would go away. I wish that too. That's not (necessarily) the same as the good players.
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by feigning View Post
    And if threat becomes an issue again down the road, then we'll adapt for that. It would've happened either way, so it's really not an argument against doing this I think.
    It just masks the real problem, threat not mattering. Healers have to watch bars and heal those that need it. DPS needs to kill things and have to use rotations and watch dps meters to excel. Tanks have to put bosses where they need to go, and some fight's you don't even have to do that.
  1. mysticx's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Zka View Post
    And why is that a problem?Noone is forced to play with sucky players.
    Except LFD-people (who is change is intended for, IMO), but in raids... Well, finding competent people is part of the setup for that kind of content, but that seems common sense to me.
  1. bryroo's Avatar
    It would be nice to see a tank's rotation focus more on smaller mitigation buffs than a handfull of cooldowns. But Littleshashi is right, tanking low level instances will still suck.
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Deployed View Post
    Just to be clear, I'm not actually against the chages, despite what I said. At the end of the day, I'm not a tank, nor do I perform in heric raids where the "issue" that is being addressed (despite the validity of the conspiracy theory), so I can't really say what is and isn't needed.
    I have a hard time believing that threat in heroic raids grants the need of 3x-5x threat across the board for tanks. By blizzard's own admission there's not a large portion of the population that even raids heroic modes.
  1. Djouga's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by daburton View Post
    The sooner the better. I swear to god, the second the so called "good players" finally leave this game, I may run naked down the streets yelling a the top of my lungs halle'freaking'lujiah.
    Oh look someone's mad.

    Threat has gone from bad to worse, but Blizzard is still digging yo.
    It was good in TBC.

    Just to be clear, I'm not actually against the chages, despite what I said. At the end of the day, I'm not a tank, nor do I perform in heric raids where the "issue" that is being addressed (despite the validity of the conspiracy theory), so I can't really say what is and isn't needed.
    Orly? Heroic raids tanks having threat problem? It's more like the average zandalari bads that need that change.
  1. Judgejoebrwn's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiracle View Post
    I did, I just think it's funny how people and devs still think things like threat are hard and burn time fixing what isn't broken instead of fixing what is, i.e. fun and exciting content.
    Says the guy who quit and therefore never stepped foot in Firelands. And I myself have had fun with various fights in every tier of content since Classic.

    I'm not sure I understand what all the debate is about. Let's try to look at all angles here.

    First off, the Dev Watercooler started March 23rd, 2011, with this very topic. They have a reached a resolution they agreed upon would be best at this time for their game. This does not mean they spent the past 5 months working SOLELY on this, so please stop using the scapegoat "they should've been fixing broken things". They probably have dozens of changes/projects they're working on simultaneously, this is simply one that's come to a head.

    Secondly, try to think who this effects and how before you bash it. Their plan is to shift a tanks focus from being concerned with threat as a "fun" factor to being concerned with survival as the "fun" factor. Popping one or two CD's every 3 minutes is NOT an engaging way of surviving. As a tank, the "fun" should be in how well you can mitigate damage, not how well you can dish it out. Up until now, Blizzard believes (and it makes sense) that tanks have been playing the wrong game. And where do you yourself fit in the scope of things?

    -If you're currently pushing Firelands content, chances there aren't many existent threat issues. This means that dishing out threat is already NOT fun because it's currently NOT something that's difficult to maintain. This change takes NOTHING away from you and yet will still give you something interesting to do.

    -If you are experiencing threat issues, whether it be in raids or LFD, this change is certainly for the better. It certainly wouldn't surprise me that would-be tanks are staying out of the LFD due to threat concerns, so I'd agree that LFD groups may form quicker going forward.

    Reading through the other responses, it's quite comical to see the virtually even divide. One person will say "actively managing defensive CD's might make me come back", then the next post will be "shit like this made me cancel". But most of those against this change have piss-poor or irrelevant reasons to shoot it down. I'll quote Chris from the Daily Blink:

    Q. How many WoW players does it take to change a light bulb?
    A. WHAT?! CHANGE?!

    ...if you don't get the joke, you're part of the problem.

    -Judge
  1. Dyzon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiracle View Post
    I think you misunderstood my post. I never said casuals = bad, just that some people consider casuals as bad, hence casual/bad.
    Well furthering the belief that all casuals are bad by saying "casual/bad" is just foolish if you truly don't believe all casuals are bad. Your original statement certainly implied it.
  1. Bazzie's Avatar
    As a tank this makes me feel sad. I miss the days where you could fight with other tanks on threat and would need to use your abilities properly to keep threat. Most of the fights in firelands don't ask too much of the tank allready and it is only getting more boring like this.

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