I've seen a number of posts in which people ask why there are so few tanks and what can be done about it, and most of them seem to miss the mark, either by completely misunderstanding what tanking actually entails or by misunderstanding why people aren't tanking. Really, I don't think it's terribly complicated. Why aren't there more tanks in Final Fantasy XIV? Three pretty straightforward reasons, none of which tends to be addressed when I see people asking that question.
The natural strain
If you've never tanked before, know that tanking is always a stressful thing to do. A good tank has to be aware of everything going on at any given moment, changing targets, watching threat, maintaining survivability, and moving about hither and yon. Tanking is just plain stressful, no matter what game you're playing.
This isn't just a matter of mechanics, either. A tank is expected to know what's going on in a situation even if the rest of the group is just derping through. Being the tank doesn't mean that you have to be the leader, but you're expected to set the pace of content, both by what you choose to engage and how you choose to do it. There's no signal that the tank gets to say when it's time to pull; it's up to the tank to determine that.
A bad pull can mean a wipe, and a good pull means that everything is invisible. For a lot of players, the strain that's inherent to the role is just not a fun ride. Tanking in every game asks a little bit more than other player roles.
The mechanical block
But we're not talking about tanking just as it applies to games in general; we're talking about Final Fantasy XIV. And as someone who's played a lot of tanks over the years, I can say that by and large, tanking in FFXIV is a fair bit harder than average.
There are exceptions, obviously. Titan HM is almost relaxing for a tank; your only real danger is Mountain Buster, and popping cooldowns for that is pretty rote. But by and large, most fights that require the tank to do something require a lot of attentiveness on the part of the tank. Trash pulls are frequently involved, and while bosses don't always require a great deal of investment from the tank, they only occasionally allow the tank to just do whatever.
Part of it is just the nature of the beast. Getting stronger equipment requires you to throw yourself against some rough content that's particularly nasty on undergeared players. You also have to learn the dungeon as a tank for the first time, something that's hard to do when you started out from a DPS or healing perspective.
Part of it also is the game itself. AoE threat for the tanking classes is fairly weak: Warriors have the best tools with Overpower, Steel Cyclone, and cross-class Flash, and even they are going to be hard-pressed to keep up against serious AoE play. There's an emphasis on swapping targets and tank dodges that you don't find all the time. Keeping threat is not something that just sort of happens, and there are a lot of boss fights that require the tank to pick things up, sometimes without a lot of room for error.
All this having been said, credit is due to the game for making two out of eight classes playable as tanks; it's only two out of nine jobs, but that's just because Arcanist pulls multiple duties. I can only hope that new additions keep this ratio.
The environment against it
It's kind of funny, but 2.2 is the patch that makes me not want to be a tank any longer.
Being a tank is always a stressful experience, as I said. As long as it remains a stressful experience, it's going to make people want to do it less frequently. But I've always enjoyed doing roulettes, grouping up with random people and having fun, exploring dungeons, and so forth.
The fact that the tank "bonus" mounts require a couple hundred runs of the highest-end full-group content already feels like kind of a kick in the pants for tanks. That's the opposite of a prize, but whatever. But the player culture since 2.2 went live has made something I used to enjoy something to dread. It might be luck of the draw, but every single roulette run I've had over the past couple of weeks has been another Brayflox HM with people obsessed with running through at max speed, no talking, no jokes, just blitz through.
It isn't fun. And that aspect of player culture, of people treating tanks as if they're basically just the impediment in the way of forming a group, makes me not want to tank except for the people I hang out with and already enjoy. I'll happily take a Brayflox run that's four minutes longer than a speed run if it means a few minutes of laughter here and there.
Yes, I've timed both versions.
I have no doubt that it's fun for certain people, but it's not fun for me in the role of tank, and so I find myself backing off from the roulettes I used to do except what I need to do for my challenge log. And that's what it comes down to, really. When being a tank is already a frequently stressful experience, making the whole thing more stressful and more demanding means that fewer people are going to answer the call.
You don't fix that with mounts (especially not if those mounts are locked behind content that not everyone wants to do repeatedly). You don't fix it with more iconic abilities. You don't fix it with rebranding, you don't fix it with damage numbers, you don't fix it by ignoring the problem. You can't really fix it except by encouraging an environment where playing as a tank feels like it's worth the stress for a reason other than shorter queue times.
Not that you can really patch that in, though.
As always, feedback is welcome down below, or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, I'd like to talk about the stuff creeping in at the corners, the rumors and early translation speak discussing new classes and more adventures. Please look forward to it!
But wait, there's more! I know more than a few readers expressed some sorrow at the fact that this is now biweekly rather than weekly, and you know, FFXIV is something I do a lot of thinking and talking about. So I'm glad to say that myself and my dear friend Nel Celestine are now doing a weekly podcast, Chocobo Dash! The first two episodes are now available: Episode 1 discusses a lot of 2.2 issues, while Episode 2 talks about parsing, Atmas, offhands, and Odin. I've also been doing other Final Fantasy writing on my personal site, but it's not FFXIV-related. So you can look forward to more Chocobo Dash on a weekly basis, which should help ease the loss somewhat.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every other Monday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.