Monday, September 6, 2010

How do I improve your playing? Part 2

A friend of mine wanted to try tanking, he's got both a death knight and a warrior with which he could try it out. Problem is, he doesn't dare to. He's collected the gear and even specced the specs on occasion, but everytime he is going to press that "Join lfg"-button he bails out. He freaks. He's so afraid he'll fail and get flamed that he doesn't even try it once.

Something is very wrong in the world of newbie tanking. The expectations on the average tank is too high and the recognition too low. You get flamed if you do anything less than a perfect run. This isn't how it should be. My friend isn't an exception unfortunately, I know plenty of people who don't dare to try out new things in WoW. But tanking seems to be over represented in this category, by far. When I join lowbie random pugs I regularly hear the healer say that he's new to this and that we should think about that when doing the run. Nothing wrong with that, it's better he tells us now than after the wipe. But how often do you hear a dps say that? I wonder if I've ever heard a dps go "I'm new to this, any tip would be helpful". Funny thing is tanks rarely say this either. Why not? I can think of two reasons; 1) tanks only tank if they're skilled at it, no newbies there or 2) they're afraid of telling everyone about it. How many times haven't we heard about people who have done just this, telling people about their shortcomings in the hope that it will make them understand and go easy, just to realize that no one cares and now they have an incentive to call you noob even if you don't screw up? All too often unfortunately.

There's another side to it as well. Because you get flamed easily as a tank you also become really defensive and bitchy. You start to assume people will complain and think everyone are mindless apes. You want people to do things exactly your way or you start to nerdrage. You won't take shit from anyone and that leads to not even taking advice from anyone. People aren't very good at giving advice tho, it's often more criticism than constructiveness in all that caps you get thrown at you as a tank, so no wonder that you just close your ears to it all. Or even worse, stop tanking all together. What can we do about this?

It's time for a sunshine story in all this darkness.

The other day I was doing Sunken Temple on my shaman and we had a warrior tank who was... well let's say lacking in the tanking skills. He couldn't hold aggro for shit and was running around like a deranged hen trying to keep all the mobs on himself. Keyword here: trying. I noticed this and felt sorry for him. In his defense everyone in the group was higher leveled than him, the shadow priest who constantly pulled aggro even 6 levels above. We dpsers weren't really making it easy on him. Since 99% of all the pulls in ST are aoe-groups and everyone had more aggro than the tank I felt I had to do something.

I've given people plenty of advice, but giving someone in a random pug advice is something completely else to giving a friend or guildie advice. You're going to try to convince a guy who'm you've only just met, will play with for about 30 minutes and then probably never meet again, that he is doing something wrong and that you know how it could be done better. Not an easy task. I wrote a similar post on this last year. The differences between these posts is that the first one is aimed at helping someone you know, where I actually concluded that the best thing probably would be for people to be able to learn things in their own pace. But we all know WoW isn't so forgiving when it comes to random pugs.

Here are some key steps to follow if you want to try giving advice to someone in a random pug;

- Whisper the guy: No one wants announced publicly that you think they're doing something wrong. By whispering it's kept personal and felt less of an attack. After all you're not telling this guy just to show off your mad skills to everyone else in the group, but giving him a personal advice that none of the others will know anything about. This also prevents you being the inciter of a flame war in the group. If you give someone advice publicly, someone else in the group might think it's an invitation to start complaining which easily could derail into nothing useful.

- One advice at a time: Don't hand him the handbook on how to do it. Try to isolate certain issues and work with them step by step. Biggest issue first and so on. Don't spam the guy with whispers, he is trying to tank at the same time after all. Keep the whispers short and constructive - informative.

- Be polite: Most important. If you're not polite when talking to someone they won't even read what you're writing and you'll just be wasting time. Use alot of smileys, make completely sure that you're not trying to complain or be a besserwisser, but actually help.

- Relate: I always tell people that I used to suck too. It's true, we all have. No one ran into World of Warcraft knowing everything about it (I mean not even the designers do) and no one has played without doing a single mistake ever. Tell people that it is ok to do mistakes as long as they're interested in learning and becoming better - most people are if you go about it with the right approach.

There are some things that can screw this up;

- Communication: The tank doesn't speak english. Tough luck. Try to see if he speaks your native language (unless you're english speaking) otherwise there isn't much you can do really.

- Other people are being asshats at the same time: If other people are complaining and whining while you're trying to give modest advice the tank might just think you're all whining and not listen to any of you. This might also be true if the tank just came from a group filled with douchebags, which is difficult to know of course.

So how did it go with my Sunken Temple tank?
Step 1: After some pulls I noticed that the big problem was him just running in and hitting a mob to get some rage to thunder clap. That means he lost aggro on every other mob, since all the dps started aoeing at once of course. Without aggro and rage he had a really hard time getting aggro back to get rage to keep aggro and you know the deal. I whispered him and said; "If you start out with a thunder clap, you'll have all the initial aggro which will give you more rage to keep aggro :)". Note the important smiley in the end there!

Step 2: He answered that he had to build rage to do a thunder clap. If he had no aggro when running into the group he couldn't thunder clap from start. Quite true. He started stance dancing to charge in, thunder clap, switch to defensive stance and start tanking from there. He immediately tried to follow my advice the way he knew how. But stance dancing is tedious, I never do it. So I whispered him: "If you use Bloodrage before running into the group, you'll have rage enough to thunder clap from start :)".

Step 3: The tank stands still. Everyone is waiting. I'm thinking "is he searching for Bloodrage now? Maybe he's never used it? Maybe it's not even in his bars?". I whispered: "It should be in your spellbook if it's not in your bars". He answers "yeah looking now". So wait, very important here, I didn't answer by saying that he was a total noob for not knowing how important or useful this skill could be for tanking. That wouldn't have made him a better tank. At least he was looking for it now, he finds it and places it in his bars. We're progressing.

Step 4: The tank starts using Bloodrage before each pull, successfully thunder clapping from start and having a slightly easier time with the tanking. I notice that he waits for the Bloodrage cooldown before pulling, even though he has plenty of rage and whisper: "You only have to use it when you don't have any rage. Like now you have plenty of rage and you can just pull away".

Step 5: And so it went. I was lucky I know. The tank could communicate his problems to me and was interested in learning. He told me he sucked badly and I told him that considering the circumstances (everyone outleveling him) he wasn't doing a bad job. He didn't chain pull, he waited for mana, he pulled back when we asked him to etc.

This is really all it takes, some communication. Communication that isn't in caps and filled with leet-terms of unskillfulness. Imagine what advice you would like if you played an MMORPG for the first time, and in what way you would like it. It's not that difficult. At least it is worth a shot before the nerdraging and maybe we'll get another good tank into the lfg-pool.

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