This is an article in our fictitious series where we imagined a world in which we designed WoW 10.0. Read other articles in this series.
Every World of Warcraft player is familiar with the three major roles: tank, healer, and damage. In fact, these roles are perceived as so integral to this style of game that any major changes would be impossible.
While we agree that the general idea has served us well and will continue to do so in 10.0 and beyond, it is also time for a significant update, particularly to tanks and healers. We’ll first outline the changes, then go into a discussion of how we arrived at them and how they will change the game.
- Enemy melee attacks will do significantly less damage. For most content, any melee character will be able to soak melee hits, no tank required.
- All melee characters will be able to taunt. In addition, any melee character will be able to activate a “high threat” mode to aid in keeping enemies grouped and away from the ranged characters.
- When not getting hit, tank builds will be able to do nearly as much damage as non-tank builds.
- Tanks will be able to spend resources to reduce personal damage taken but at the cost of damage dealt.
- Abilities that protect the party or reduce damage will be moved from healers to tanks.
- These abilities will require spending resources to protect your party but at the cost of damage dealt.
- Party-wide damage reductions are powerful and will be on long cooldowns. We will keep them in check to prevent trivializing encounters.
This system fixes many issues and opens up a lot of possibilities for encounter design.
In WoW 9.x and earlier, group composition was very static. For a 20-man raid you need exactly two tanks. For a 5-man group you need exactly one tank. This has lead to a couple of issues.
In raids we found ourselves designing “tank swap” mechanics into almost every encounter. With few exceptions, the main purpose of these tank swaps was to prevent teams from dropping the second tank from their group. Every fight started to feel very similar to raid tanks.
In Mythic+ dungeons there was a chronic shortage of tanks. It was usually the most difficult role in a group which turned off a lot of casual players, and the tank-to-non-tank ratio was higher than raid content (a 20-man raid required one tank per 10 players, whereas dungeons required 1 tank per 5 players).
These new changes will make group composition much more flexible. By reducing melee damage to a level that can be handled by any melee character, the number of players who can fill the role of soaking melee damage has greatly increased. It opens up group compositions without a dedicated tank, though you will require extra healing to compensate.
We may find that the hardest content still favors a tank (or two), but that’s fine. People pushing the boundaries of the toughest content will always optimize, and part of that optimization is group composition. For people doing medium difficulty content though (think 9.x Heroic raiding difficulty or lower), we want a much larger variety of viable strategies.
A big complaint that we heard about tanks is that when you aren’t tanking… you feel kind of useless. For Mythic+ this wasn’t a big problem because tanks were always engaged, and generally doing good damage as well — tanks were designed to do very competitive AoE damage. Raids were a different story though… the aforementioned tank swap mechanics were an attempt to keep each tank feeling relevant for the entire encounter, with mixed success depending on the fight. There are only so many ways to do it before it starts to feel stale.
This new design has tanks doing much higher damage when not performing defensive actions. Thus they become useful contributors to team damage in the “quiet” parts of fights. But when the damage starts flying, they can start spending resources to protect the team and take load off of the healers — at the cost of damage output. By making defense a lot more dynamic even within a single encounter, we keep those players engaged and open up a lot of encounter design options.
- Healing output and skills will be re-balanced around bosses/enemies that do much lower melee damage
- All healers will gain new skills focused around buffing their allies, similar in concept to Power Infusion
- These abilities will require trading off healing output and personal damage to buff teammates
- Unlike a one-press skill on cooldown such as Power Infusion, these new abilities will reward skilled play by the healer class
- Most self-healing on non-healer classes and builds will be greatly reduced or removed
- These will remain only insofar as they facilitate more casual solo play
These changes will improve on two areas of healing game play that we felt it was time to update, and they will help compliment the new tank changes.
Firstly, the hardest content has shown an increasing trend towards healers doing as much damage as possible. This is particularly true in Mythic+ dungeons. Some players like this, but a lot of players do not. Some people just don’t like doing damage — they played a healer to heal. Other players find the damage game play of healers to be a bit boring… and often it is: most of the design went into the healing kit for these specs.
The second somewhat related issue has to do with the nature of healing in general. When your team first starts a new tier of raid content, healing can be very hard. Everyone is a little under-geared and you don’t know the fights as well. This is where a highly skilled healer will often help your team progress. But as you get better… healing becomes a lot easier. It often gets to the point that your full healing output is overkill, so good healers will try to spend time doing some damage. Healer damage is generally not that great though… so it feels more like a “better than nothing” scenario.
Our solution to these problems was not to beef up the damage rotations of every healer spec to try and turn them all into hybrid damage dealers. Instead we gave all healer specs a more varied toolkit for buffing teammates. Players who want to play a healer as a true support can now use excess resources to buff up their team in various ways, or they can use it on personal damage still. The choice is up to each player and team.