To begin with, Ghost, I have read many, many posts from you and from other Blizz employees, and I have never felt the desire to make a post until now. I may disagree with some things I see written, but it isn't until I saw what your latest information about where you are thinking about taking tanking in Cataclysm that I felt I needed to say a few things, even if it just ends up getting a one liner from you that reads. "You're an idiot. you don't know how to play this game. Quit and go play Star Trek Online." (P.S. unless you post in blue, don't bother saying it)
To quote your post from the thread entitled "Please do away with faceroll AoE tanking"
"And without launching into class warfare again, we think the paladin is a little too good in the AE department so we'd rather bring them down than bring everyone else up."
I respectfully disagree with this assessment. Every other role has their specific items where each class/spec is good with something. That is how the game was designed, and people play the classes that they jive with the best. A tree druid is much better at raid healing than a pally healer, who is much better at tank healing. A Discipline priest is much better at tank healing than a holy priest. Why then, are you trying to force every tank class to be the same?
While I agree that, in minor 5 man instances, every tank should be able to perform decently, I don't think that every tank should be required or even able to aptly perform every tank role in a raid, 10 or 25 man. If you really want every tank to have equal abilities at everything, you could simply wipe out all four class' ability to tank and make an 11th class called "The tank", which would certainly ensure each tank could do everything the same.
I am assuming that this has not happened because you and/or others in Blizz's design department want to maintain some distinction between the four tank classes. Why not make the differences more apparent, as it was in Burning Crusade?
The problem in BC was that there were not enough tanks out there to satisfy the general population, so Blizz made it so that more people could (and would) tank. They added a secondary spec that is just a click away, they added an extra tanking class, and they dumbed down tanking both in terms of gear, skill, and actual boss mechanics that its gotten boring. Now we have a lot more tanks. The problem is they are BAD tanks who don't understand even the basic mechanics of tanking, don't understand how to generate threat with their class, don't like to move or have to think during boss fights, and then complain on forums about how one or another class is "better" and needs to get nerfed.
Before anybody starts saying that Warriors's cant AoE tank or DKs cant hold threat, let me state that I have three toons that can tank: A paladin, a druid, and a DK. I have played them all (and experimented with a warrior) extensively in both 5 mans and raid environments. Each has their little quirks. DKs have amazing CDs that a Paladin does not have. My paladin has massive AoE threat, and I can pull 7-8K DPS on ICC trash (for those of you who don't believe me, I can post screenshots if needed). My Druid is amazing at gathering loose adds, because I don't have to drop consecrate, I can run and swipe constantly to pick them up much easier than a pally tank does.
Before people start saying that my main is a pally tank and I have no issues with threat, I would like to state, flat out, that it is not true. I am well known on my server to out threat even better geared pally tanks, because I chose my gear and my gemming to be more oriented towards threat generation than stam stacking. I feel that simply piling on the HP is a stupid thing for tanks to do, and I always feel vindicated because I feel that it isn't just a tank's job to survive, it's to survive while actually keeping the boss on you. I personally feel that the tanks who sit and moan about the fact they don't have threat are bad tanks because they are not doing anything to remedy it except to complain on forums.
Whenever I enter a pug VoA or ICC 10 group, I am well known enough on my server that, even if another tank has 10% more HP than me, that I will be the main tank because I hold threat better. I WORK for threat. My girlfriend, who is a hunter, has been clocked at 15K DPS on some trash pulls, and over 10K DPS on single target (without weird boss things like the Twin Valks) and I will admit, freely, that I need to tell her to watch her threat sometimes, but it also pushes me to up MY threat as well. And this is coming from a tank who (in the same pulls that she is pulling 15K DPS) is on record to pull 8K DPS as a TANK on trash.
As a side note. I use SoV, and I pull off SoC running pally tanks (comparatively geared of course) without blinking.
I feel that it is Blizz's desire to make tanks more, not less unique recently, your post is only the most recent example of this. Another example is a different post were you were talking about how you want to try to give a druid another interrupt. It has gotten worse over the last two tier sets when all the tanking classes' set bonuses were, to most approximations, carbon copies of each other, especially when compared to the T8 set bonuses (though I will be the first to admit the Pally T8 4 set bonus was decidedly lackluster compared to the warrior or DK one).
As a Paladin tank, I am constantly miffed by the fact that we only have one active cooldown that I can use to keep myself alive. It used to be two, but Lay on Hands was removed as a tanking cool down, so it's down to one, where as every other tank class has at least three. I am miffed, but I accept that because I have Ardent Defender and I have better AoE threat generation. It means I cant be stupid and pull more than I can handle naturally. (ask my healers, I have been stupid on many, MANY occasions, some even refuse to heal me if I pull too much and wipe the group just to spite me). As an aside, I'd LOVE to get an anti fear stance dance if you're going to make every tanking class the same.
Before I sum up this preamble, I beg to bore you to death with even more anecdotal things that I have seen. I used to be in a guild with a warrior tank who was constantly miffed by the fact I could out threat him on my paladin. He !%#@#ed and moaned about it, especially when the guild leader started putting me as main tank because I actually held threat with our DPS. However, he did something that a lot of other tanks simply do NOT do: he tried to better himself. I became an impetus for him to improve not only his AoE threat generation, but his single target as well. He vigilanced the highest threat DPS (again my girlfriend) and that gave him MASSIVE threat generation right there, passively. I have screenshots of me and him both on a boss pulling OVER 10K TPS (Threat Per Second) on omen racing each other. Obviously, he was outclassed on the AoE (even though, but he actually brought himself relatively close to my single target generation (esp after the Righteous Fury nerf) and I feel he became a better tank because of the drive to do this. I don't want to say this with conceit, I truly believe this to be the case.
Alright with that over now, I would like to propose the following to you, Ghostcrawler. Why not make every class distinctly different? Why not make a warrior tank better at certain things (such as single target threat) than a pally tank, which is better at AoE threat. Why not tweak a few boss designs to favor certain things over others?
One thing I could suggest is reworking DK threat generation completely (the 3.3.3 Icy Touch has not taken effect yet, so I cant say how that will work, but I believe that this recommendation stands) so that it isn't so dependant on being attacked? While all the tanks have some threat generation bonus from being attacked (more rage for teddybears and warriors, mana regen for pallies) the Rune strike makes DKs a bit too dependent on reaction, I feel.
Another suggestion is that you return the Bear tank to the style of it can survive magic damage not by interrupting but by virtue of having the HP to survive it. Sure it's a bit more stressful on the healers, but it gives a Bear tank a unique advantage that a pally or warrior tank doesn't have.
Pally tanks and DK tanks have inherently better AoE threat generation, while warriors and bears have more survival abilities for dealing with harder hitting bosses (maybe warriors can have a talent or cooldown that automatically nullifies a cleave attack and bears can have an ability which makes them so fearsome that even bosses cant attack them for a few swings). I have read that crushing blows are coming back, maybe make it so that having a shield is a requisite for nullifying crushing blows to give warriors and paladins some spice over bears and DKs.
Giving warriors an increased reduction in physical attacks either inherently or by a unique cooldown would certainly be in line with their traditional emphasis on strength and overpowering an opponent. This would also be in line with increasing single target threat to be, at baseline, the highest of any class.
First of all, I hope you don't mind, but I changed the topic of the post. We don't think the forum is as useful if every thread is addressed to Blizzard.
Second, we try and prevent homogenization among classes when we can. It's actually very important to us and obviously more important to us than many players who would be satisfied with us just smearing critical abilities across all of the tank classes.
Having said that, we don't think well-defined tank niches are very good for the game. We've even backed off of well-defined healing niches and we'll continue to do so even more in Cataclysm. It comes down to a numbers problem. In a 5-player dungeon you get one tank. If the dungeon happens to be an AE tanking dungeon (Shattered Halls comes to mind) then groups want a paladin and not another tank. Likewise if we positioned DKs as the magic tank, they'd be underpowered on any dungeon without a lot of magic damage. Now maybe that's okay for a 5-player run, but it gets a lot trickier when you're talking about a 10-player raid with 2 tanks. When you're up against the most challenging content, you'd likely want to swap out for the best tank for the encounter, which means keeping a stable of 4 tanking classes ready to come in at a moment's notice. Some amount of swapping is hard to discourage, but we definitely don't want to design dungeons around the expectation that your paladin tank doesn't mind sitting out on the single target fights just to shine on the AE ones. She'll miss out on a lot of badges for one. :(
It is definitely a challenge to keep classes feeling unique while giving players enough flexibility that they don't feel like they constantly have to ask their friends to reroll and / or recruit the missing puzzle pieces into their social circle.