In case you’re behind on your 4.1 information, like I was, there’s a new drama queen in town called Call to Arms. Before I get into it, lets have a look at it:
In patch 4.1 we’ll be introducing Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms, a new system intended to lower queue times. Call to Arms will automatically detect which class role is currently the least represented in the queue, and offer them additional rewards for entering the Dungeon Finder queue and completing a random level-85 Heroic dungeon.
Any time the Dungeon Finder queue is longer than a few minutes for level-85 Heroics, the Call to Arms system kicks in and determines which role is the least represented. In the case of tanking being the least represented role, the “Call to Arms: Tanks” icon will display in the Dungeon Finder UI menu where class roles are selected, and will also display on the UI when the queue pops and you are selected to enter a dungeon. Regardless of your role, you’ll always be able to see which role currently has been Called to Arms, if any.
Call to Arms is meant to lower wait times by offering additional rewards for queuing as the currently least represented role. To be eligible for the additional rewards you must solo queue for a random level-85 Heroic in the role that is currently being Called to Arms, and complete the dungeon by killing the final boss. Every time you hit these requirements (there is no daily limit) you’ll receive a goodie bag that will contain some gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask/elixir (determined by spec), a good chance of receiving a non-combat pet (including cross faction pets), and a very rare chance at receiving a mount. The pets offered come from a wide variety of sources, and include companions like the Razzashi Hatchling, Parrot Cage (Cockatiel), and Tiny Sporebat, but the mounts are those specifically only available through dungeons (not raids), like the Reins of the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, Swift White Hawkstrider from Magisters’ Terrace, and Deathcharger’s Reins from Stratholme.
This system is meant to address the unacceptable queue times currently being experienced by those that queue for the DPS role at max level. The long queue times are, of course, caused by a very simple lack of representation in the Dungeon Finder by tanks, and to some extent healers. We don’t feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little. While this system gives tanks and healers something extra, the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.
While the gold, gems, flasks, and elixirs are OK incentives, we knew we needed something more substantial. We had briefly considered Valor Points and epics, but decided that wouldn’t be working toward the goal of helping DPS players progress, and ultimately wouldn’t keep tanks and healers in the Dungeon Finder system for very long. We settled on pets and dungeon-found mounts as they’re cosmetic/achievement items that players tend to try to get on their own, so why not change that up and offer them a chance to get some of those elusive pets and mounts in a way that also helps other players? Even if they don’t get a pet or mount, or get one they already have, the gold and other goodies still feel rewarding enough that it won’t feel like a waste of effort.
We think it’s a pretty solid incentive to get tanks and healers queuing, give max-level players another way to collect the pets and mounts they so desire, and above all, to improve wait times for DPS players sitting in queues. In the case of lower level dungeons, it’s actually not uncommon for DPS to be the least represented role, and so if this new system works out and we’re pleased with the results, we may consider applying this same mechanic to lower level dungeons as well.
So to sum that up, tanks and healers potentially receive extra rewards for solo-queuing for random heroics. If you’re DPS then you’re basically screwed out of the deal. The rewards are some extra gold (no amount mentioned), a low chance of rare gems or flasks/elixirs suited to your spec, a good chance at receiving vanity pets, and a rare chance at a mount.
The idea is to shorten queue times for DPS by offering more rewards to the tanks and healers who are in shorter supply and in essence the reason for your DPS queue taking so freaking long. When there’s 50 of you waiting to team up with 8 of them, you’re going to have to wait your turn.
The primary point of drama on this is that it’s statistically impossible for DPS to ever get anything out of this deal, so four of the game’s ten classes which are pure DPS classes (no tank or healing spec) are given the inverted hybrid tax by never even having the option of changing spec to benefit from this. The next point of drama comes in which items are being rewarded, particularly the mounts, as people in many cases dedicated a great deal of time to farming those mounts and now people are theoretically getting them “for free”.
I love the irony in looking at my feed reader this morning looking for people who posted about Call to Arms and found that Cold had a new post on Opportunity Cost of Free Items, which applies quite well to the current situation. So remember here, DPS, they aren’t actually getting these items “for free”, they’re having to do the same content that you are. Granted, DPS get nothing but a theoretical faster queue time, but the DPS wouldn’t get anything at all if those tanks/healers hadn’t queued in the first place.
Now seems like a good time to mention that while I’m an obsessive altoholic, I am a DPS. My main during BC/Wrath was a Mage and my main right now is a Shadow Priest. Sure, I can heal on the Priest, but I suck at it and it’s not what I like or want to do on her. I do have six level 85 toons, two of which are tanks and one that’s a healer, but they don’t get any play time.
To give you a little bit of hope at least, this does give me at least a small stirring of interest in actually playing my Paladin again. I don’t think I’ll bother taking my healers out, but I might do some tanking for another chance at that stupid Baron’s mount that I’ve tried to farm over 300 times and still never even seen it drop.
The major problem with the system is that it doesn’t actually address the issue of queue times, it simply puts a band-aid on it that will last for a short while and then fall off as the PUG tanks claim the items they want and then stop queuing. Several people have written about problems they see with the system, but the one that I felt was the best read without being over the top ranty or dismissive was Kurn with Why Bribery Won’t Help – Much.
There are always new toons to be leveled and new players joining the game, so the tank and healing pools do get refreshed all the time, but it’s not like every tank out there is going to spend a few hours in LFG every night for the next two years. Basically, the pool is going to constantly dwindle down even though it won’t disappear completely, but we will eventually get back to the point where we are right now.
Another good post I saw on the matter came from Thisius at DoTs and ‘Locks who pointed out that the real issue with people not wanting to queue as tanks and heals is more often the actual community, the people running with them that feed them nothing but criticism and insults or who do stupid crap to make their jobs harder and thus turn them off of tanking all together or at least turn them off of using LFG as opposed to guild runs. Though I would expand the suggestion of giving the tank the ability to kick people to instead give it to whichever of the tank/healer it is that got the Call.
For many people this band-aid will work great for the time that it’s useful, and then things will slide back to how they are right now once all of the special items have been collected. Eventually those tanks and healers are going to get the pets and mounts they want and then they’ll have no more reason to bother with heroics. Not to mention they’ve likely ran enough of them in trying to get those mounts that they’ve got every possible gear upgrade twice over.
Going back to Thisius’s post, we may very well see even more bad attitudes in LFG thanks to this once the dungeon is finished and the DPS see the tank score a rare mount. While some people like myself might congratulate the tank on their new mount, this may very well piss off the DPS to the point that they become dickish where perhaps they weren’t before. And I’m sure you’ll have tanks/healers that will flaunt it and do their best to piss you off even if you didn’t mind before. Just keep in mind that this particular problem is with the players, not something Blizzard has or hasn’t done.
This is where I go ahead and turn the tables a little bit to point out some of the things that not everybody thinks about or is aware of. And for this I’m going to quote one of my friends on twitter, @Feisttherogue, “Fact: the DPS role in WoW has the highest skill cap, fiercest competition, and most objectively measurable performance. The new system takes those players most able to ensure a new tank or healer succeeds OUT of the system, by denying them incentives. All while making it easier for those least prepared to take part to flood the matchmaking system and lower the quality of everyone’s run.”
It’s a simple truth that you cannot get through dungeons at the proper character/gear level without a tank and healer. They are vital roles and even more vital at this early point in the expansion. But good DPS is just as vital and potentially even more so with the recent changes to healing. The point here is that every single person in that group plays an important part in the outcome of any dungeon run. If you don’t have the DPS then those bosses aren’t going down. If you don’t have a tank then your healer’s going to die, and if you don’t have a healer then you’re all going to die. Round and round we go, everyone does their job and we all win, do it not and we all fail.
Feist makes an excellent point here that many people don’t understand or don’t take the time to consider. A somewhat poor tank can still perform well overall if the DPS can throttle their agro and use CC, and if the healer knows how to work within their mana budget, and a somewhat poor healer can still keep everyone alive if the tank is especially good or well geared and your DPS are strong enough to kill the mobs before they pose a major threat and can avoid unnecessary damage like standing in bad stuff. Tanks and healers can’t compensate for fail DPS, though.
So there’s the biggest “hidden” issue, that we’re denying rewards to what are potentially the most important factor in overall success/failure. In defense of this particular problem, at least Blizzard made the rewards mostly vanity items and that all of them can be obtained outside of the Call to Arms system. But, I think they would be better served by giving additional rewards to those dealing with the long queues than by giving them to those with instant queues.
I applaud Blizzard in acknowledging that there’s a problem and making steps to overcome it. I don’t think this system is the answer, but it will serve as a decent short term band-aid. As a DPS, I really don’t care what rewards other people get if it really does result in shorter queues for me.
Blizzard, “..the incentive is being provided so that we can help players in the DPS role get into more dungeons, get better gear, and continue progressing.” They hope to accomplish that by rewarding tanks and healers to speed up queues for DPS. I haven’t sat down long enough to say “this” is what they should have done, as it will work better because of x, y and z. I have thought about it and gotten a couple of ideas, but I haven’t sat to think about the drawbacks of those suggestions.
I think they could better address the issue of gearing if they simply increased the amount of DPS gear that dropped. My point really is that rather than rewarding tanks and healers for queuing, they should reward DPS for enduring the longer queue times. Granted, that might make some tanks/healers queue as DPS instead, thus lengthening the queues, but at least it’s more directed at the real problem which is gearing up DPS.
By giving the DPS more gear you’re potentially addressing both issues at once. If you drop more DPS gear in dungeons then the DPS get geared faster and then stop running LFG because they already have the gear they need from them, thus lessening the DPS pool and increasing queue rates for the others. If you reward more Justice Points to the DPS then those who can spec into a tank/healing role are more likely to do so once they’ve earned the points to purchase their gear to fill that other role. Pure DPS of course wouldn’t benefit from it beyond purchasing heirlooms or professions mats, but Pure DPS are used to being screwed like that as their reward is (supposedly) higher DPS values than Hybrid DPS. Not that I’m justifying the screwing of the pures, that’s a whole other blog post all it’s own.
Like I said, I don’t think this is a bad short term fix for the issue at hand, but I don’t think it’s worth anywhere near the amount of drama that it’s caused so far. I do think that this is the wrong approach overall though, I feel that the DPS should be more rewarded for their longer queues instead of giving even more rewards to those with already near instant queues. I wouldn’t mind giving an extra 10 minutes to the queue if it meant I was going to get extra items, though I also wouldn’t mind cutting 10 minutes off of my queue if it meant someone else gets extra items.
[EDIT: Forgot the section below.]
What most people are speculating will happen is that people will stay in their DPS gear, swap over to a tank/healing spec, and expect you to carry them through the dungeon so that they can get their freebies while you do all of the work. I can see some people trying to do this, I certainly wouldn’t put it beyond some of the players I’ve seen in my day, but this kind of reaction always provokes and eyeroll from me.
This situation is just like any other – there’s potential for both bad and good. There are dicks in the world, the system will be abused. But, there are still plenty of good players out there who will take advantage of the system as well. We all have different experiences with different aspects of this game, we find parts that we love and parts that we hate. We can both do the exact same content, maybe even in the same guild/group, and both come to different conclusions as to how enjoyable it was or was not. My experience with LFG for example has been very positive; I don’t run into morons or dickheads very often, but it does still happen even to me. Other people have had little-to-no good experiences in LFG at all and refuse to use it.
The fact is you’re not going to get a decent supply of good new tanks and healers if they’re never given an opportunity to try it out and succeed. Some of them are going to fail, you’ll have tanks that leveled in a DPS spec and have mostly DPS gear, but they’re working towards getting a decent set of tank gear and they’re looking for some practice. With any luck they’ll start in non-heroics, but some of them will not. The same applies to healers, of course.
Keep in mind that with the stat changes in Cataclysm it is significantly easier for someone who doesn’t have “tank” gear to step into the tanking role because Defense no longer exists as a stat. He’s probably lacking some Stamina and his avoidance stats could probably use some help as well, but his DPS gear will also give him better threat generation (in theory) so at least the healer should be able to focus primarily on him. Most of the healers (non-Paladin) can make a fairly smooth transition from DPS spec to healing spec while still using their caster DPS gear.
That doesn’t really get across the point I was trying to make…
Alright, let me put it this way – don’t jump to extreme conclusions. Yes, it’s going to happen, but you’re not going to have DPS-tanks in every single heroic you ever run. If you only run a handful, then yeah you might have a handful of them and thus assume that they’re all like that, but that’s just your particular experience up to that point. Give the little guy a chance before you shoot him in the head and leave his body to rot, he just might grow up to surprise you.