06/05/2014

What Tactical Flashpoints Teach

This past weekend I decided to do the Forged Alliances story arc on my healing Sage, and the group finder seemed to be absolutely flooded with healers. My first proposed match consisted of three healers and a dps, but one of the other players declined that one before I could. Next the game tried to put me into two different groups consisting of two tanks and two healers each, but I declined both of those as well. Where are all these damage dealers for whom these role-neutral flashpoints are supposedly designed, huh? Eventually I accepted a pop for a group that included two dps and two healers, even if it grated a bit. As much as I love healing, I hate having multiple healers in a small group because generally there just isn't enough damage going around to make it worth it, and I end up spending most of my time doing piss-poor dps instead of what I actually want to be doing. It's even "better" when the other healer refuses to even try to contribute in any way that doesn't involve casting healing abilities and just ends up twiddling their thumbs for most of the fights where nobody takes damage.

Anyway, despite of those gripes it was actually a decent amount of fun. We cocked up the first boss on Tython big time, so that we ended up with four adds up plus a random trash pull that someone managed to aggro during the fight. Two people died and I felt oddly proud of myself for surviving.

The whole experience got me thinking though. Detractors of tactical flashpoints like to complain that they are too easy and will raise a new "generation" of SWTOR players with no understanding of role distribution and no skills in general. While I'm not super fond of the tactical flashpoint concept myself, I can see its benefits and think that it has a place in the game - I just don't want it to be the only option. Either way, I also think that it does teach people some lessons, though I'll agree that they are not necessarily the right ones. (I'm mostly talking about the level 55 tacticals here by the way - Kuat is a bit of an outlier since it's tuned to be doable even by the worst and most undergeared group of lowbies.)

One good thing I have observed is that tactical flashpoints seem to be a great opportunity for less experienced players to learn to appreciate the value of tanks and healers. As the saying goes, you don't know what you've got until it's gone. One example I see quite frequently is that in a group with no tank, the dps are often actually a little hesitant to pull (unless you've got a twitchy Sentinel/Marauder) because if they've done so in the past, they've quickly learned that getting the attention of every single mob at once can be quite painful in a large pull.

On a similar track, having a group with no healer really drives home the point that you're responsible for your own survival and that standing in bad places will kill you. It turns having a healer to keep you topped off at all times into a veritable luxury.

In general, missing the control and safety buffer of a proper trinity group encourages people to look at what other tools they have at their disposal, such as crowd control, stuns and damage reduction cooldowns.

The main problem, in my opinion anyway, is that all these factors combined also foster a certain "every man for himself" attitude. If you can't rely on a tank to control the pull for you, if you can't rely on a healer to heal you, if you can't rely on anyone to do anything, the logical thing is to try and do everything yourself. This doesn't necessarily lead to terrible runs, as a group of four players who can take care of themselves will generally manage to get things done (especially in content that is tuned to be as accessible as the tactical flashpoints currently are), but it can certainly make the experience feel slow and disjointed to a more experienced player. Instead of four "specialists" all co-operating to do what they can do best, you end up with four people all trying to cover all the bases with little to no co-ordination. The most heartbreaking example of this (to me anyway) that I see in almost every tactical flashpoint I do as a healer is that dps waste time running to the kolto stations every time they light up, even if everyone is at nearly full health - even when we have multiple healers and oh god, will you please just do some dps so we can finish this run before bedtime?

But can I really blame them? After all, tacticals have taught them that they can't rely on anyone to heal them, because no two runs they do will have the same group composition. This actually makes me question how much it really benefits the casual/purely dps player to have a grouping mode where they are supposed to adjust their play to a different group setup every time (or else have a terrible slow and clunky experience).

7 comments :

  1. As a casual group runner (I've done maybe 2-3 hardmodes ever, and that was to get HK), I'd say that I tend not to mind/notice the slow, clunky groups. Honestly, as long as someone isn't being outrageously stupid, I'm having a good time.

    It's kind of fun to figure out how to handle a champion+manyadds pull as three sentinels and a gunslinger. Or to have a pair of tanks who get to compete in Hold-the-Aggro.

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    1. Oh, stuff like four dps vs. the world is fun for me too, because it's a challenge. Groups where the dps heal and the healers dps aren't though; they're just slow and awkward.

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  2. One thing to consider here is that SWTOR doesn't have add-ons, so you're left to your own grasp of what you can get away with as far as generating aggro on a mob. That will tend to make some DPS a bit more gun shy than in some other MMOs that allow add-ons. You know the ones, the add-ons that fine tune exactly how much aggro you're pulling, so you can pace yourself properly. If you don't have that, you're in the dark, so you get a bit reticent about being aggressive in your DPS.

    When you land in a tactical without a true tank, suddenly as a DPS you're thrust into threat generating mode, often without the tools to accomplish it. There's no surprise that you're not going to be so gung-ho about pulling mobs, particularly when you have no idea how much threat you're generating compared to everyone else.

    Still, the one or two times I've found myself in a tactical (Kuat, naturally, since it was at low level), I found it on par with the tougher Heroic 4's: doable without the trinity, but it is much harder without a healer or tank. I've been pressed into healing service on the Old Man, and it's a situation I really don't care to repeat. Particularly when I was pulling threat often enough against a Guardian who was tanking, and running OOM (or equivalent) was a real problem.

    But what did it teach? What Fall of the Locust teaches: go slow, use CC when you can, and for pete's sake, make sure you know the tactics before you attack.

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    1. To be honest, I don't think that dps in tacticals really care about threat - other than that they'd rather not have it because it means getting shot in the face. :P

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  3. So I guess I have to start with saying I am all for tactical flashpoints. Especially of the Kuat variety because of the lax level restrictions. I also don't like to PvE, so take that into account when you evaluate my opinion too.

    Tactical flashpoints devaluate the trinity. Healers and tanks, in that order, are most affected by this. At least a tank can do dps, while a healer is doing the equivalent of auto attacking. That said, you can still do a tFP as a trinity. It still works just as well.

    In Kuat, it doesn't seem like you even need a tank though. Sometimes healer yes, but I've never been scared to pull as a dps. I've only ever gone with friends because I refuse to PuG anything in any game as a general rule. Back in WoW, we could have 4 friends, but our one PuG would turn a 20 minute run into a 90 minute nightmare.

    That might be why I dislike PvE so much.

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  4. There is another aspect to these though. They provide a way for people who have never tanked or healed before, to practice doing so without the pressure those roles would have in a regular FP.

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    1. That's the theory, but I'm not sure how much fun it is to practice in an environment where everybody does their own thing and doesn't really "respect" the different roles.

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