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Hypothetical: Alternate Threat Management

Hello mmorpg. I would like to talk about a slightly different approach to threat, and I'm curious if my idea possibly has any downsides I might be missing at first glance. I'm not much of a tank player myself, and who better to ask than the grizzled veterans that have been doing this sort of thing for years? This is less of a discussion regarding any particular game (or examples of games, even), more of a general theorycrafting and game design chat. And before anyone asks, no, I am not making an MMO, but I do need this for… things. Don't worry about it.

Classically, aggro usually looks this: Let's assume a generic trinity-based MMO of some kind, with aggro based on threat (think WoW or FFXIV or millions of other games of this type). All skills generate threat. From what I understand, every mob has a threat table, where they store how much threat was generated so far. If you get to the top of the chart, the mob switches target to you. So you want your tanks to constantly generate threat, and generate more than enough for DPSes and healers not to outpace them, pulling attention to themselves.

My solution is slightly different. Instead of storing total aggro of every single player in the group, a mob could potentially store only the highest current application of threat from a single skill. This value would of course decay over time so that a single high-threat skill would not cause a mob to be glued to you forever.


Let's assume every time the DPS deals damage, they generate threat equal to however much damage they dealt, times some sort of coefficient set up for balance (so skills that are very damaging or very intense generate more threat. A Meteor Shower is scarier than a Firebolt, so enemies are more likely to focus on it). A tank may deal less damage with their skills, so their threat would be smaller by comparison, but they have unique skills that generate a lot of threat as a side effect or that have very high coefficients to compensate. So for example, a Taunt skill, that deals no damage, but generates a decent amount of AoE threat. A single well-placed Taunt may save a DPS from the attention of an enemy he got by getting an awry crit at the wrong time.

What this change does is it makes tanking a little bit similar to healing: as long as there's no major incidents, you can focus on DPSing and doing your rotation, as any other player would, weaving in your tanking skills from time to time to refresh your threat. And only doing the "heavy" threat skills once something goes wrong (similar how a healer will usually not bother healing unless someone gets low) You can no longer rely on smaller incremental threat generation, only the biggest "spike" counts. Also, several accidental spikes are far less dangerous for DPS and healer players.

Also, as a programmer, I find this sort of approach a lot more elegant: you no longer have a many-to-many relationship (every enemy needs a list of all players and their current threat), which grows exponentially both with the number of enemies, but also the number of players. Instead, it's a one-to-one relationship (just one threat score and the player that scored it per monster). Obviously, that's not where the brunt of the resources is going to be spent, especially in a real MMO. And code efficiency shouldn't take preference over gameplay. But it doesn't hurt.

So yeah, do you perhaps see any obvious downsides to this system that I'm missing? If you tank often, would you be okay with this implementation? Would it even make much of a difference? Thank you in advance for your comments!


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