Blizzard just announced that they are attempting to add incentives to the dungeon finder tool in order to decrease DPS wait times by luring in additional tanks and, to a lesser degree, healers. While I understand their goal and it is a noble one, I am not entirely convinced that it is going to prove effective. The incentives right now are as follows: additional gold, chance at a rare quality gem (20-100 gold value), chance at a flask (80-120 gold value), a good chance at a non-combat pet, and a very rare chance at a mount currently obtainable through soloing a 5-man dungeon (Ravenlord, Hawkstrider, or Death Charger). At first glance you’re thinking, hey that’s not so bad that’s a pretty high potential for gold and resources right there eh? We shall see.
Right now, as Blizzard aptly put it, tanks and healers are not frequenting the LFD system for a myriad of reasons. These reasons range from incentive, to group dynamics, to why people don’t really partake in those roles to begin with:
-The first reason is avoiding those roles due to increased responsibility. A DPS can make a crucial mistake and die in an encounter and the fight will generally go on, heck two or three DPS can die in a fight and I’ve seen it conquered. While the speed and efficiency of a run is very much dependent on the skill of the damage dealers, the smoothness and cleanliness of a run is borne on the back of the other two roles. This responsibility, coupled with the fact that those two role’s job requirements are directly linked to how well or recklessly the DPS plays makes it a slightly more risky proposition. Given WoW’s repetitive nature, the path of least resistance is always going to be favorable to players and guild groups will be the preferred method of queuing.
-Healing in cataclysm is not intuitively easy, and tanking continues to be a role that requires a high level of awareness. Both of these roles require the capability to make critical decisions on the fly. The general difficulty in performing these tasks, coupled with the fear of being the weak link in a group or the target of a players derision after making a mistake also serve as a barrier to entry. Simply put, healing and tanking are intimidating to a lot of people.
-Many players enjoy a certain level of obvious gratification when playing the game. While this can certainly encompass vanity pets, mounts, vanity loot, and epic pve or pvp gear, it also includes the visceral satisfaction up blowing stuff up. People like big numbers. Having a very real and tangible metric of how well you are doing your job (not including fight mechanics and interrupts) by way of damage meters, DPS classes are directly rewarded for their success. Similarly seeing large numbers pop up on the screen, and having the ability to kill stuff dead super quick, is generally appealing. While tanks do see big numbers to a degree now with the addition of vengeance, they along with healers are not a class so easily benchmarked by output. Healers are unsung heroes more often than not, and are rarely given credit for melting someone’s face off with the sheer power and awesomeness of their healing. Healers are generally given credit for not screwing up e.g. no one died and the fight ended as intended. Tanks are generally viewed in the same way, in that they are either doing their job or are terrible. Healers and Tanks actually form a more symbiotic relationship in that the skill in which they play and gear themselves properly directly affects the experience for the other.
-Being dependent on other players in order to do your job is felt more by tanks and healers. While everyone’s ultimate success throughout a dungeon is intricately tied to everyone else doing their job, it is perceived that healers and tanks “feel” that more. This can seem like an added sense of vulnerability to new tanks and healers and may sway them from going out and queuing without the safety net of their guild. Sometimes all it might take for a healer to shy away from PUG groups is one idiot DPS player yelling at them, asking why the healer couldn’t keep them up through that kind of aggressive damage taking when others have done so in the past.
-Friends. There is no way to put a tangible measurement on just how significant the benefits of friends are while running a dungeon. If a tank or healer wants to queue, and knows that it will be short they will more than likely help out DPS players within their guild first and foremost in order to shorten their wait. The added benefit of yielding guild experience and reputation pushes this to an even higher level of importance. Even after all of that, the comfort of knowing you’re with guildies may really help someone run heroics who may be less confidant in their skills or is still learning the nuances of the role.
You have a lot going up against you when trying to encourage more tanks (and to a lesser degree healers) to partake in the LFD tool. Money is always a good start, but these days people have access to quite a lot of gold and resources. The companion pets are neat but I think that within the general population only a small amount of players have a strong interest in acquiring more of these. I know from personal experience I really could not care less, though I have Murky and he’s all you ever really need. The mounts seem to be the big thing they’re pushing to encourage players “called to arms” to join the LFD system. These are mounts though that tanks have an extremely easy time farming as they are so durable when running solo (or they are horde and don’t really care about two of the three mounts). I honestly don’t think these rewards offer enough of an incentive to draw tanks and healers away from running with predominantly guild formed groups.
So what else could you do? They talked about valor/justice points being an option they considered but it doesn’t necessarily continue to draw in players once they have purchased everything they need. This limitation though doesn’t just extend to tanks, but to healers and all end game DPS. You need to create a viable, and recurring sink for Justice Points or Valor Points. While I cannot offer an improved suggestion at this time, I think creating a continual use for Justice and Valor points will draw players in. Perhaps they could go a step further and make it so that for each PuG in your group with you, when called to arms, you gain additional points up to a max condition of 4 PuG players. If called to arms players received a significant bonus to Justice Point earnings and, for example, selling purchased Maelstrom Crystals (or the next crafting rare) was a viable source of significant income then that could be a way to go.
I commend blizzard for making the attempt to bring more players back into the fold but I just don’t think the carrot on the end of this stick is big enough. Tanks and Healers will continue to be a challenge role to perform…and they will more than likely continue to play with their guild members on average. I know personally I will continue to only do guild dungeon groups or nothing at all if I can help it. I hope though that all my nay saying is for naught, and that this does have a profound effect on queue times.
[Reference, my first two 85’s were healers with DPS offspecs, and my third will be a tank with a DPS offspec. Maybe my 4th or 5th level 85 might be primarily a DPS class]