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. alabaster jones's Avatar
    It’s fun for a hunter to Feign Death. put it on a shirt and wear it at blizzcon, do it somebody
  1. Lemons's Avatar
    I love this change. All I'm going to say. It means I get to do more dps! And that's always a good thing.

    I am a little worried about vengeance stacking so quickly. I didn't really understand it (I'm not a tank and I've never dealt with the vengeance mechanic), but if it means tanks will get a fat stack of vengeance really quickly then I don't really like the PvP ramifications of such a change.
  1. Zivel's Avatar
    People saying that this is for the low geared bad tanks in LFD have not thought about holding agro next teir againist a arc mage in ilvl 400+.... you just wont be able to do it.
  1. Strongold's Avatar
    As a combat rogue I salute this change. I switch of blade-flurry off on most of my heroic.... This is a welcome change.
  1. ElAmigo's Avatar
    Active mitigation is a greaaaaat idea and this is a step forward imo into separating the tanks from dps in style of play (honestly the only difference is that tanks are taking dmg once they have targets glued on to them). As to everyone crying that the DK style of tanking is broken well I don't know how hard it is for you guys to realize that it is eaaaaaasily fixed by making DS non avoidable or able to miss....I welcome this change and look forward to having to focus even more on mitigating and avoiding damage through encounters
  1. Sephiracle's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Judgejoebrwn View Post
    Says the guy who quit and therefore never stepped foot in Firelands.
    That comment successfully nullified any point you may have had in your rambling post. Giving all tank specs a 3-5x threat boost does nothing for those that can manage their tools effectively and only hand holds the bad players. We all know what happened to DK's when the Icy Touch change went live and this is effectively the same thing for all of them.

    I can see this change be beneficial if they make other tank classes have active mitigation, but there's been nothing but speculation on that front since the beginning of us discussing the problems that DK tanks have.
  1. Dyzon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ElAmigo View Post
    I don't know how hard it is for you guys to realize that it is eaaaaaasily fixed by making DS non avoidable or able to miss....
    DS missing is NOT what is wrong with DK tanking. This statement just shows your ignorance to the issues inherent in the current DK blood model.
  1. akts's Avatar
    Hurraaaaay! Yay for threat devaluation!
  1. Severusss's Avatar
    People are QQing for no reason. I think there has been maybe one time on Domo where our tank has lost aggro to a dps and that's about it. Getting threat and keeping it in raids isn't challenging even before the change.

    All this means is when I go into a heroic with fire lands gear and our tank has 233 blues maybe he will actually stand a chance of keeping aggro for more than 10 seconds.
  1. Dyzon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiracle View Post
    Giving all tank specs a 3-5x threat boost does nothing for those that can manage their tools effectively and only hand holds the bad players.
    Maybe, maybe not. To be honest the only time threat is an issue is in 5-mans (yes, even for good tanks), if you have threat issues in raids you probably shouldn't have a raid spot or your DPS need a talking to (first 5 seconds of the fight). The idea of managing tools effectively and giving a benefit to doing so is a bit of a separate conversation than from threat in the current model (save for maybe for DKs). Almost no tank good or bad currently has to worry about managing resources to generate threat or sacrifice resources to do so. Threat generating abilities can largely be ignored unless they serve some purpose in regards to mitigation (Runic Empowerment & Rune Strike for instance or Savage Defense). I don't see it hand holding bad players if it's not really an issue, now if they started giving a base 10% less damage taken for x seconds of inactivity, you might have an argument.
  1. ramennoodleking'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.
    Tell that to our blood dk who survived the last 10 seconds of H Rhyolith without a single other person alive and got us the kill.
  1. Damax'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? =/
    they lost 900k subs with (hard lol) cataclysm not during the wotlk easy mode.

    I think people are overacting, they want to make tanks rotation more interesting than just be another dps rotation, the reason they are buffing threat back to wotlk is to focus on boss mecanics and to increase pugs success rate (undergeared tank scenario mostly) Also this give the chance to dps to always go all out and try to get bigger and bigger numbers (pretty damn sure dps loves big numbers)

    the handful of ''elitist'' on here that think not having to care about threat (which no good tank never need to worry about) sucks are sadly not the millions of others who don't care about such a boring number to track.
  1. Dyzon's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by ramennoodleking View Post
    Tell that to our blood dk who survived the last 10 seconds of H Rhyolith without a single other person alive and got us the kill.
    While I don't deny that the other poster was a bit extreme - a single anecdotal event doesn't really do anything to help your point.
  1. melonhead's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Damax View Post
    they lost 900k subs with (hard lol) cataclysm not during the wotlk easy mode.

    I think people are overacting, they want to make tanks rotation more interesting than just be another dps rotation, the reason they are buffing threat back to wotlk is to focus on boss mecanics and to increase pugs success rate (undergeared tank scenario mostly) Also this give the chance to dps to always go all out and try to get bigger and bigger numbers (pretty damn sure dps loves big numbers)

    the handful of ''elitist'' on here that think not having to care about threat (which no good tank never need to worry about) sucks are sadly not the millions of others who don't care about such a boring number to track.
    They aren't buffing anything "back" to wotlk. hand of salv/threat modifiers are ALREADY BAKED IN when you spec tank. This is buffing anything back, this is further reduction, further ez moding, of what used to be an interesting role, tanking. Now you just pick up a shield and auto attack.

    As a 6 year veteran tank, I'm glad this change is coming out now, SW:TOR and and GW:2 are just around the corner, and I won't have to suffer through this long.
  1. Ginseng's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Bennydabull View Post
    A needed change, should make tanking life alot easier.
    Needed for who, bad players, sure.
  1. MasterDinadan's Avatar
    Totally on board with some of the changes, although the immediate consequence of 500% threat will make me a very bored tank. Although, Safeguard is far more viable now that I don't have to worry about screwing a tank with sudden threat drop.Shield Block costing rage sounds like a bad idea though - It really won't make our rotation more interesting since spending rage is just giving up threat, and threat hardly matters now. I hope they think about it hard.I have a few ideas to make warrior tanking more interesting:Shield specialization no longer reduces the cooldown of Shield Block. (they are trying to shy away from 'must-have' talents, and the below change addresses this as well)The cooldown of Shield Block is reduced by 6 seconds whenever Shield Slam deals damage. (the rotation for sword and board is more interesting since it correlates to Shield Block uptime. Hit and Expertise are much less useless, Haste is slightly less useless)Impending Victory talent is removed. Improved Revenge now gives Revenge a chance to proc Impending Victory. (Allowing it over 20% health but trying it to an ability with a cooldown makes it reasonably balanced, especially when you consider trying to work it into your now relevant Sword and Board rotation. Also makes Devastate viable again).New talent - Healing Surge. 2 min cooldown Removes all HoTs on you but provides 50% of the healing instantly (a little more interesting. The loss of HoT in exchange for the instant health is an interesting cost to manage form both a tanking and healing perspective).The above would need to be tested and tuned, but it looks fun to me anyway
  1. masterprtzl's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceleet View Post
    People who raid normal modes obviously don't notice this because the DPS don't have a massive gear advantage over the tank and they don't pull as much DPS, so the threat they generate doesn't really over take the tank.

    In heroic 10/25 man It's a nightmare for the tank and the DPS.... As a Feral Druid with only 1 ability (Cower - Reduces threat by 10% USES GBC AND COSTS 25 ENERGY!) I have to sit idle for 10 seconds before any pull since our tank can't reforge to hit/exp, he really needs the extra stats for all the bosses.

    I lose DPS because I can't pop all my cooldowns right at the start and time it with a prepot, I have to use Cower which further gimps me, so for me, this is a godsend and I'm extremely happy Blizzard has done this!

    This, a thousand times this. My feral pulls threat from ANY tank at the start of the fight. If magically the tank gets misdirects and salvs spammed on me, I can pull like 30k+ at the start, but normally I have to spam cower and waste my CDs sitting there doing nothing and it drops like 18k or some crap... Its so boring to not be able to dps to my fullest potential.
  1. keLston's Avatar
    So instead of buffing DK tanks to make them function at end game raiding (and I mean at a high level, I don't mean your face roll casual 1/7 normal mode garbage), they decided it would be better to nerf the other 3 tanks to be awful? Makes sense. Just kidding.

    Don't worry though, i'm sure someone will droolcup and point out a DK solo'd 1.5 year old content as evidence that DK tanks are fine.
  1. Damax's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by melonhead View Post
    They aren't buffing anything "back" to wotlk. hand of salv/threat modifiers are ALREADY BAKED IN when you spec tank. This is buffing anything back, this is further reduction, further ez moding, of what used to be an interesting role, tanking. Now you just pick up a shield and auto attack.

    As a 6 year veteran tank, I'm glad this change is coming out now, SW:TOR and and GW:2 are just around the corner, and I won't have to suffer through this long.
    wth. 6 year veteran tank and you want to go play gw:2 which has no tank... they are not reducing threat they are increasing tank's threat production. it is further easy mode for threat but if you pick up a shield and auto attack you will die because you will have to use your rotation to SURVIVE and mitigate damage
  1. melonhead's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Damax View Post
    wth. 6 year veteran tank and you want to go play gw:2 which has no tank... they are not reducing threat they are increasing tank's threat production. it is further easy mode for threat but if you pick up a shield and auto attack you will die because you will have to use your rotation to SURVIVE and mitigate damage
    I didn't say anything was reducing threat. L2read.

    I said it was "further reduction... ... of what used to be an interesting role."

    Oh no, I can push holy shield every 30 seconds, and hit shield wall when DBM tells me. 2 interactions required past autoattack. WHEEEEE FUN!

    Furthermore, GW:2 does have tanks, any role can tank, you swap your weapon set to fill different roles. So, talk about an engaging playstyle, my engineer (or whatever cool dps class i decide to roll) can both heal and tank if needed.

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