It Takes a Village to Control Your Hate List

Posted: July 17, 2008 by Kendricke in General Game Concepts
Tags: , ,

Regardless of which MMO you’re currently spending your free time within, there’s a good chance you’re likely to have to discuss the concept of a “hate list” at some point.

It’s possible you hold this discussion during a nice, civilized chat about general game mechanics whilst also enjoying a cup of hot Earl Grey and a biscuit or two, but more than likely, you’ve held this “chat” during a heated exchange with a group member or two after a particularly nasty wipe deep in some ridiculous dungeon where someone managed to grab hate at the wrong moment.  Chances are that someone blamed the player responsible for holding said hate, and that person probably reciprocated with a similar levy of blame pointed firmly at the person who managed to grab said hate in the first place.

Who’s fault was it, though?  Who’s “job” is it to keep hate?  The real answer?  It’s everyone’s fault, because it’s everyone’s job.

For the three of four of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick primer.  The concept of “hate” (or “aggro”) in most MMO’s is the priority in combat assigned by an enemy or target toward the members of your group (or groups if it’s a raid).  In many (if not most) MMO’s, there is typically one or more general character classes which are set up to handle the role of “tank”, which is basically a largely defensive class also often capable of generating additional hate.

For many players, that is the end of any discussion regarding the concept of hate.  To these players, the tank is the end all and be all of hate generation and control.  If a fighter loses hate, it’s obviously his or her fault most of the time because that player obviously wasn’t doing whatever it is that player should be doing in order to keep hate under control.

Excuse me while I sneer a bit.

Veteran players generally tend understand the concept I’m talking about here, though there’s always someone who just doesn’t get it, no matter how often or simply the concept is explained:  hate is everyone’s problem, not just the tank’s.

I was grouped the other night in a dungeon run in Everquest II with a pick up group (ah yes, the pick-up group – nature’s way of telling you that you’re about to spend more time than you probably want to doing whatever it is you’re about to do), as my monk and lo and behold, players started to get attacked left and right.  Now, my monk is level 79 here and geared up fairly well, with at least Adept III taunts.  For those of you who don’t actually play Everquest II (heathens!), that general message I’m putting across here is that my monk isn’t using inadequate equipment.

If I run these dungeons in a guild group, I rarely have issues holding hate.  That’s because my guildmates understand my character’s limitations and they work with me to coordinate attacks in such a way that hate generally stays where we (note, I said “we”) want it to stay.

In the *ahem* “group” I was with over the weekend, hate generally stayed everywhere EXCEPT for me.  This continued to create a situation where I was alternately lectured, berated, or simply blamed for being a horrible player.  Now, I’ll admit that I’m not the world’s greatest monk player (I primarily play healers) and that the monk class in and of itself is not generally the greatest hate generating class in the world.  However, that said, you can’t hold it against the player if you’re going to continually throw your biggest attacks right at the beginning of every fight – even area of effect attacks.

Listen up, players of the world, and listen well:  if you should find yourself continually facing angry monsters in the groups you choose to inhabit, at some point you should probably start to consider the slim possibility that the problem may not actually lie with the tank alone.  If you find that most tanks in most groups you choose to join also have issues keeping hate away from you, take a moment to reflect upon the common pattern here and realize that there’s only two options to consider in such a case:  either (A) you have horrid luck and continually find yourself grouping with the worst tanks on your server or (B) you just might be the cause of your own issues.

Hate control in a group is everyone’s problem.  Accept it.  You’ll find your group experiences to be much more enjoyable when you do.

  1. jason says:

    I have always felt that this Demotivator,, properly described many people in pick-up groups.

  2. Preach it, sister. This monk has the same arguments. It’s part of the reason why I avoid pickup groups entirely. I think what’s worse is that you get players who’ve ready some guide to playing *their* class (*cough*eq2flames*cough*) and rather than actually exploring how that works in groups of differing types, they simply think that’s the be-all-end-all way to play their class forever and ever amen. Thank god for guilds with a sense of humor and a desire to experiment or I’d never group again.

  3. rulez says:

    It’s always a pity to see players at/near the level cap not grasping the basic concepts of combat mechanics.

    But having played a warlock back in the EoF days I grouped with very good monk tanks a lot. And I can still remember the big challenge of holding back and feeling nearly useless sometimes not being able to use most of the class defining area effect spells…

  4. Kresyllus says:

    Completely agreed, bro. No matter what system is played, this is true with the majority of gaming systems so long as the class trinity exists. (DPS/Heal/Tank)

    A solid tanking creed I’ve adopted that isn’t always true but worth the chuckle.
    “If the tank dies, it’s the healer’s fault.
    If the healer dies, it’s the tank’s fault.
    If DPS dies, it’s their own damn fault.”

  5. Illuminator says:

    Single-target hate lists feel like such a weird concept, something I’d love to get away from. More free-form aggro models with more even survivability between classes seems the better way to go, and reduces class dependency (not to mention stress imo). You’re a dragon; do you narrowmindedly focus on one person the entire time or take more swipes in general directions?

    Remember your earlier commentary on the necessity of healers in MMO’s? This topic plays directly into that. When all enemy vigilance is necessarily directed at few/single targets, healers become the crux of it all.

  6. Lorechaser says:

    C) Everyone is no where near as good at the game as you.

    You’d be really surprised how many people are horrible players in MMOs. When that dude plays alone, he never has any problems with managing hate….

    This is somewhat a problem with class design and the tutorials – there is *nothing* in most games that teaches you how to manage hate/aggro.

    When you’re running around, learning your skills, nothing ever says “Hey, mage, don’t use your big attacks at the beginning.”

    In fact, since the biggest attacks tend to have the longest cast time, mages are often *trained* to begin the fight with them, because it’s the most efficient/safest way to do it. You use a huge blast, then more manageable spells to whittle away health.

    DoT spells/abilities are typically the least common if you aren’t a DoT focused class.

    And really – the idea that you should do *less* damage than you can? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to the average player….

    This is honestly why I wish there was no “tank” archetype in MMOs. If everyone had aggro management tools of their own, and there was a generalized minor tanking focus among all the tough classes, I think it could work. If, rather than a tank class, all the high HP classes had a single protective or taunt ability, that could be used to peel someone off a healer/caster/squishy, but not consistently, everyone would play better, I think. 😉

  7. Kendricke says:

    You know what else is fun, Lorechaser? I love logging in to Team Fortress 2 and watching the sniper go absolutely CRAZY firing as quickly as he can without holding back at all. Then he switches over to his Pyro and no matter what the rest of the team wants him to do, he just keeps spawning and rushing right at the enemy camp over and over again laying down fire the entire time, never letting up at all!!!

    The concept of “holding back” isn’t unique to success in teams in MMO’s only.

  8. Rijacki says:

    I hate you, you hate me, we’re all a part of the whole agro-related-MMO-gaming thing 😉

    Being a class that magnifies hate and has a transfer -and- has gotten a significant increase in DPS recently (coercer in EQ2), hate is on my mind a lot.

    One of the problems in EQ2 is that hate generation is more passive than active. The active tools (taunts) haven’t had the same kinds of increases that the passive ones (dps included) do. A tank whackin’ the heck out of his active hate generation tools has less effect than the spike damage of a caster or scout. While I do think the caster or scout should get some hate (would you like it if a mega-tonne nuke dropped on -your- head?), the tank’s active tools should be better equipped to manage it.

    Another problem is that those who have active dehate tools (i.e. non-sustained spells or triggered skills that drop some of your hate generation for a brief time) rarely, especially in pick-up-groups, use them because the time it takes to cast or perform them will reduce the time they have to do damage. It’s easier to rely on the passive (maintained spells, for example) agro management tools especially since those don’t take in-combat time to cast (unless you die).

    Endemic of EQ2 with it’s stances, too, the offensive vs defensive min/max is really not high or low enough to warrant most to tanks to take the defensive in a “tanking” role because the hate generation (needed for tanking) from damage in the offensive stance doesn’t ameliorate the reduction in any defensive capabilities while the defensive stance’s reduction in damage does effect the hate generation more than the mitigation benefits it receives.

    No tanks?

    The tank model (one person or group of persons taking the focus of the enemy and thus the brunt of the damage so another person or group of persons can deal a higher amount of damage or perform some other act against the enemy) has been a halmark not only of all types of gaming but of any warfare or conflict through history.

    – A flanking maneuver wouldn’t be possible without a “tank” (a tank as a group, not an individual). Flanking maneuvers have won so many different battles through the centuries it would be impossible to name them all. But there are “tanking failures” there, too: the enemy not focused enough on the forward battle being able to thwart the flankers.

    – Agincourt would have been a wash for the English if not for the “tank” (the melees in the front lines) holding the focus of the French and not allowing the French to get back to the ranged lines, the archers shooting the heck out of their lines. The real damage dealers were the archers, the front lines’ only role was to make it possible for them to deal that damage.

    – “Cover me, I’m going in!” the mainstay of cops-n-robbers and any other small group incursions (or so the movies would have us believe). The one doing the ‘covering’, what is he if not a tank? He’s the one drawing the focus of the enemy so the damage dealer can get into a better position or can set up a larger form of damage (the equivalent of a long cast spell in the fantasy-based games).

    There would be a thousand examples, but I shan’t go writing them all *grin*.

    In each case, too, the one being tanked for has an obligation to allow the tank to do his job and not draw the hate to himself… at least before it’s time.

  9. Rijacki says:

    and there, I wrote a novel again *laugh*

  10. […] topic over at Clockwork Gamer discusses hate lists and agro and who is responsible for controlling hate. Many argue that it’s the tank’s job and failure to […]

  11. Laldail says:

    Interesting analysis, Rjacki. I disagree with some of your specific comparisons, but in general agree with the point you make. Focusing the attention of the enemy on a single “obvious” opponent” is certainly a historically significant tactic.

    In real life, misdirection, “the fog of war”, cover and disception, fields of fire (as in lots of ammo being hurled downrange), the element of surprise, manuevering speed, terrain (passable/impassible), “the high ground”, and a myriad of other factors all play pivotal roles in determining the outcome of battle. Very little of these kinds of elements translate well, it seems to me, into a playable game like an MMO. The simple exclusion of collision detection in PC models makes simply running through the tank a viable tactic. Fight inside the bad guy, anyone? How do you “surprise” an (seemingly) omniscient bad guy?

    Hate is used largely as a substitute for the absence of real physics and reality limitations that, for playability and marketing reasons, are simply not there in most of these games (MMOs).

  12. Mia says:

    Hate/threat is generally a huge gaping sore in MMOs that nobody seems to be able so solve properly. In WoW, for example, raids simply cannot function without third-party add on threat meters. Most boss fights have time limits placed on them in the form of enrage timers and thus DPS has to walk a fine line between beating the enrage timer and yet staying below the tank’s threat (and the tanks can’t generate as much threat per second as a well-played DPS can). Threat in many ways has become nearly the entire “difficulty mechanism”.

    This is all fine and well and good, until you consider that MMOs today are basically solo games until the “end game”. So you take some DPSer and let them level up 50 to 80 levels, and then you (the game developer) suddenly stick them in a group or raid and tell them they can’t use all their abilities. And then you call them bad players because they don’t understand (and in some cases understand but don’t care) how threat management works. Are they bad players, or is it bad game design to “train” them one way for leveling, and suddenly expect different behavior? I would argue that it’s bad design.

    Yes, players should adjust their playstyle in groups. But in reality most of them barely manage to figure out the basic mechanics of their own class, and nowhere during the leveling process are they taught ANYthing about threat, what it is, or how to manage it. The singular exception to this is some pet classes, who learn to back off if they want their pet tanks to hold aggro. But even many of them expect player-tanks do to a better job than pet tanks can, and thus they’re much less careful with DPS in a group.

    So… yeah. Fundamental flaw in MMO design. DPS classes are given too much burst damage and encouraged to use it until end game when they’re suddenly discouraged by the game mechanics from using their abilities (and aoe-focused classes are even more screwed at the end game).

    It’s a big problem that costs games more players than they realize. How many tanks do you know who refuse to PUG groups or tank for anyone outside of their own guild? I even know a few who hardly tank outside of raids, refusing to even 5 man for guildmates because they are so tired of the repair costs generated by, in essence, the failure of other players to understand the threat mechanics. In the end, people often quit playing tanks and sometimes quit playing the game altogether.

  13. Maverick of Permafrost says:

    I am one such tank. I am an 80 Paladin and the OT of my raid guild and as such i am well geared which while it increases survivability also increases repair cost when you do die. That fact along with the fact that i have no need of anything out of 99.9% of the instances (except Grunblig’s coil in RE2) except a few masters, and the fact that i have grown over time progressivly more tired and disdainful of pickup groups mean i hardly ever (if at all) group out of guild on my tank anymore.

    The reason is simple, within my guild (which is a raid guild) i KNOW that each and everyone of our members has had learned the concept of hate managent, either through them figuring it out on their own, having somone explain it to them….or in the case of some having it hammered forcefully into that thick skull.

    I hate to bring up the raid vs casual player debate, but unfortunatly it does factor in to some degree simply because as the above posted stated the problem is the product of the fact that most new players will solo the majority of the way to 80. Those players reach 80 knowing very little or nothing about how to actually play WITH other classes as a team and by the time they are 60 and reach the point where they actually have to group to get stuff done they struggle. Often times a lot of people never improve simply because when they do group 1. no one actually tells them anything 2. when people actually say something its more of a flame rather than constructive criticism and 3. Many of them dont care. They dont know you and dont give a crap about anything you have to say. Thats how they play, thats how they are gonna play, and if you dont like it or it does not fit in with the current group then clearly the problem is the current group.

    Join an organized raid force though, and one tends to learn hate management real fast either by choice or because you were forced to…either that or you find your self LF guild very shortly.

    Hate managment though goes beyond just managing dps and spike dmg, it includes things like assisting (so your on the right target in a multi mob scenario) and not agroing nearby mobs that you either dont want to fight right now, or dont want to fight at all.

    Hate managment today is nightmare in the pickup arena.
    Take a zone like RE2. You take a pickup group to RE2 and suddenly a 1hr – 1hr 15 min zone becomes a 2 – 2.5+ hr zone because
    1) DPS dont wait for mob to clear on body pull before attacking, thus agroing other mobs

    2) DPS cant manage hate, lead with decapitate/ice comet (what ever the upgrade for that is)/ turn the mobs..mob aoes healer down group wipes.

    3) DPS (mages and rangers are especially prone) find it neccessary to go half way across the room to lob their attacks from max range cause it ‘looks cooler’ and walk straight into the group of mobs to the extreme left of the room that you were avoiding. I Swear take a pickup group into a massive room, clear all but 1 set of mobs and you can trust they will walk straight into those.

    4) Attack the wrong mob. This one is my personal favourite…pull 2 mobs watch 5 members of the group beat on 1 and 1 person beat on the other mob…and die because aoe hate gain is no where as high as the single target hate gain.

    5) Break mez. Pro Tip: The mob wont hate you if you leave it mezzed, chanters were put in game for a reason.

    Combine all the above and its just a total nightmare, and that is why so many tanks opt out. On the server i play on you see almost 24/7 in chat channel RE2 grp LF tank/healer to roll. The reason? Most competent tanks with any sence are running that place with guild members only for the most part so they are either already doing the zone, or locked. The reason the groups are looking for a healer is because due to the load being imposed on the tank by said group a 2nd healer is needed to content with the constant stream of adds and to deal with the constant target switching/healing that is required of a group in which agro is all over the place.

    The above is the same reason many people complain its hard to get non guild groups for lower seb/chardok. I dislike doing those zones with guildies, but i will go if the need updates or realy ask nicely. I would rather go to the dentist and have a root canal than do those zones with a pickup group though.

    The soloution? I really dont know. More education would help but thats very hit or miss, more de-agro spells…possibly but people dont even use the ones they have now…better taunts for tanks perhaps but if you do that you run the risk of trivialising the encounters completly and effectivly removing hate management as a skill for dpsers from the game. I would say though that if your a dps class perhaps the best thing is to go roll a tank alt and go play and group with it to say level 30 or so. Your understanding of the importance and the DETAILS of hate management will increase exponentially.

  14. Mittenz says:

    Tell me about it. I play a healer in most games I play, and I just love running with pickup groups with hybrids in who think their “leet DPS” is the most important thing. Listen, buddy, if my heal takes longer to cast than you take to die, stop getting hate! Also, if you can heal yourself, why don’t you from time to time? In WoW, I usually managed to heal the occasional damage that the DPS classes were taking on top of keeping the tank up; if the DPS weren’t constantly grabbing more hate than they could handle. But shamans… I’ll never group with one again unless I know them or they OFFER to be healer for that group…

    To be fair to a lot of people though, quite often no-one in a pickup group will take the time to explain these details to a player that doesn’t know what they are doing. Sure, not all players will be receptive to this, but you have to at least try or you are as much to blame. I had it easy, damage spells when I’m soloing, healing spells when I’m grouping, not too challenging.

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