Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What can Blizzard do to fight the phobia of inefficiency?

Have you noticed that Blizzard’s lead systems designer Ghostcrawler has gone into a frenzy mode on the forums recently?

Day and night he seems to be browsing them, looking for good discussion threads to participate in. Normal working hours won’t apply to him. He’s especially active during the weekends, when other people tend to try to spend some time with their family and friends or diving into their hobbies. If legendary yacht even exists, Ghostcrawler can’t see much of the sea, being too busy discussing with the players.

Did I ever say he is awesome? He really is.

The over-obsession
Anyway: in the stream of blue posts signed GC, a recent thread caught my attention. This discussion is about the new talent trees, about cookie-cutter specs and whether you really have any freedom to put your points wherever you like to, or if this freedom is imaginary, since so much ends up being mandatory.

Ghostcrawler talks about this at length and with a passion that gives me the impression that this isn’t just some ordinary mumbo-jumbo corporate speak, but that the guy actually is worried about certain parts of the game and that he’s tearing his hair because he doesn’t know what to do about it.

He is genuinely concerned about what he calls an over-obsession that the community has for cookie cutter specs.

“It's somewhat understandable because the WoW community has evolved in a direction where being badly informed is worse than being a bad player. We're all very quick to judge each other based on litmus tests, such as gear scores, achievements, or proper talent builds, that likely don't measure performance half as well as we want them to.”
One of the posters in this thread takes up a situation that I think many of us can recognize:

“The Devs may be correct, in theory, that we don't need to squeeze every last drop of DPS out of our talent trees to down bosses. But in practice, you try to get in a raid with a tree that sacrificed 1% DPS for some fun utility, and you don't get an invite. Why would the raid leader take someone that didn't even spec the "right way"? “
Exactly. If you’re just following the EJ recommendation to 99 percent and not to 100 percent you’re per definition perceived as a moron and a slacker, if not by everyone, at least by most other players.

And here’s Ghostcrawler’s reply:

"Posts like this make me very sad. You're portraying yourself to be at the mercy of uninformed yet tyrannical raid leaders who are quick to judge your performance based on perceived "tells." I know you need some basis to evaluate potential recruits or even pug members. But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency -- this terror of being WRONG -- that we have managed to instill in our player base. I honestly think it's one of the greatest challenges facing the game."

Blizzard’s fault?
Did you see that? Ghostcrawler is taking the responsibility for the sad state of the player base. My spontaneous reaction is to say: “no, no, no!” Don’t blame yourself! You’re delivering a great game, if players are dumb jerks it’s not your fault!

But at a second thought I can see that he has a point. Blizzard has a reason to ask themselves why it turned out this way and what they could do about it.

The culture in the community, the atmosphere in the game, the ideals, the ethics, the core values, the attitudes in the player base won’t come out of nothing. It’s the result of a number of combined factors and in the end, gaming companies probably get the audience they deserve. Some of it comes from game design decisions, such as the introduction of the LFD feature, which changed the social structure completely. But it’s also related to out-of-game decisions. What information sources do you provide? How do you interact with the players and the community resources? Which market section is your main audience and how do you present your game to them?

The extreme min-maxing philosophy used to be something that just a tiny part of the playerbase cared a lot about, but nowadays it has spread much more widely, in a twisted form that doesn’t make sense, where players refuse to play with anyone who isn’t completely overgeared for an encounter.

This has nothing to do with understanding the basics of the game, which is a good thing. I’m not talking about concepts such as Gevlon’s recent guide for fresh level 80s. This is something else: it’s pure, uninformed, destructive and ridiculous snobbery that won’t create any better or happier players, only make the game less fun for everyone.

I’ll give the word to Ghostcrawler again, because he says it best:

“How many attempts can you name in your lifetime as a WoW player where your doing 1% more dps would have made the difference between success and failure? And how many of those attempts could you have gotten 10% more dps if you had just totally nailed your rotations etc. on those fights instead of worrying about a theoretical 1% dps gain from a different talent?

Every bit helps, totally. I'm not saying throw a dart board at talent trees and expect to be competitive. But at times it's a bit like stooping down to pick up pennies in the gutter because you're about to plunk down six figures on a house. Hey, that's one-one hundredth less dollar I have to pay. :)

Min-maxxing is fun. It's part of the game. Sometimes (more rarely than is claimed) it's even necessary for progression. Just keep it in perspective. It's probably not going to doom your attempt if you pick up a fun talent instead of a 1% dps increase. If the Saturday pug won't take you because you lack the anointed talent, you're probably better off not running with them.”
Turning around the phobia
Ghostcrawler says that turning around the phobia of efficiency is one of the greatest challenges they have and I believe him. It will be hard, not the least due to the fact that WoW is a fairly old and mature game. It’s easier to maintain an attitude of openness and innocent experimenting in a game that is new and not already analyzed down to the last percent. The information is already there. And the idea that you HAVE to take part of it and use every inch of it to be even a half-decent player is spread all over the place.

Is there really anything Blizzard can do about this? I can’t think of anything. But if you know the answer, please give Ghostcrawler a helping hand. He needs it. The game needs it.

63 comments:

Ephemeron said...

One possible cure for this phobia can be found in other "old and mature" games like Magic: the Gathering and Warhammer. This cure is Randomness.

The less control players have over the results of the game, the lighter the burden of their responsibility.

Andy said...

I wonder if a lot of this nonsense will go away in Cataclysm since there won't be nearly so many 25man PUGs as before, as the organisation effort of herding 25 cats just won't be worth it for the average PUG leader. Let's face it, one of the biggest reasons people join 25man PUGs is because the gear is better.

With that incentive gone in Cataclysm, I suspect most PUGs will be 10man, and as a result raid leaders will (I hope) allow themselves more time to properly assess potential raid members.

It'll also possibly be easier to spot slackers and find replacements for them, as individual performance will matter much more.

spinksville said...

Perhaps Blizzard shouldn't have been so keen to give people the ability to inspect each other's specs ;)

tbh any experienced raid leader will tell you that if they get an application from a competent, committed and regular attending raider with a good attitude, as long as their current spec does not show a total lack of understanding of the class/ game, it would never be a barrier. After all, you can always discuss it with them and get them to respec.

GC is basically correct in every respect. And I think he's over-influenced by the noodles on the boards. But it is entirely Blizz's fault for letting people inspect each other rather than just seeing how another player performs.

Xaxziminrax II said...

Well, there's the obvious answer that Blizzard won't take: Exclude the M&S from their game. The only players left wouldn't worry about a 1% because they can be mostly sure the player can make up for it in performance, and they can also be relatively certain the player has specced out of the marginal dps for a good reason (playstyle, specific encounter, unique challenge, etc) and not "lol itz just a game breh."

Since that won't happen, the other solution would be to make gear and spec as irrelevant as possible. Have encounters challenge player skill nearly entirely. Of course that also won't happen since players wouldn't get the headrush from upgrading gear, or players would catch on if upgrading gear becomes just another minigame with no consequence.

Flyhard said...

I hope this gets better with cataclysm. If they really implement that you can join any raid as long as no boss you have killed this week is still up, we can got and invite ppl on a whim, and they will join, even if it is only to try them out.

That said, PUGs might dissolve faster since you won't screw up your ID by leaving after the first Boss is down.

Kurnak said...

We¡ll have always cookie-cutter specs, even if we'll have now a less fixed spec, allowing some flixibility more. The solution,a nd it's very extreme, it's easy: make mandaotry talents fixed so you don't have even the option to spend talent points on them. You want to be arms warrior? Ok, then you'll get X, Y and Z talents granted, like they grant Mortal Strike when you reach level 10 and decide to be arms. Just make fixed talents available as you level up. Then you only will have a bunch of talent points to spend on utility/situational/fun talents. You'll get some advantage in certain boss fights but not having it (like a racial talent) won't make you worse. Of course, and as I said, this is quite extreme, since you remove from players the possibility of experimentation and investiagtion on talent combinations. But let's face it, nowadays almost all players use the same or very simmilar spec for their class, so it won't be a big difference. And we've also been given smaller talent trees, so fixing mandatory talents seems the next natural step.

sam said...

spinksville nailed it. this wasn't a problem in vanilla wow. It wasnt' that back then raid leaders didn't ask you to spec certain ways it was because they couldn't see your spec. And 99% of the time they couldn't tell if the player was good.
The armoury was the worst design decision they ever made. Giving people the chance to rate each other never ever works well. People individually are rational. People in groups are not.

Shintar said...

I think it's information overload, as Spinks already hinted. Once upon a time you couldn't see people's talent specs and there were no achievements, so people had to judge players in different ways, by actually playing with them or at least consulting word of mouth.

Now that you can see on the armoury and in-game how a person is specced, what content they have completed etc. people look at that and can make a judgement instantly without ever having even talked to the person.

Free flow of information is a lovely idea in many ways, but it also leads to harsh discrimination. This is also why there are laws in some countries that actively forbid employers from asking job applicants about things like their age or religion, because even though it's often hugely unfair and irrelevant, people will pick and choose based on those factors if they have the information.

sam said...

That and every design decision blizzard has implemented has reinforced the get to 80 and join the real game mentality that feeds the freaking out and the pressure to get there. Why waste time playing with people that aren't perfect in the part of the game that doesn't matter when blizzard gave you tools to avoid them?

I don't think that was the intent but that's the way it was taken.

Nils said...

Just great, Larissa ;)

For years now I say exactly this:
The community is never responsible/guity. It is always the developers.

Ghostcrawler knows this, but that is not much of a surprise. The guys at Blizzard might not be the most dedicated virtual world/immersion guys, but otherwise they are the best of the best (payed) of english-speaking MMO developers ;)

Players are predictable. They respond to the game they play. Often with considerable delay; that is the problem.
Awful DF-PUGs are an indirect result of the DF mechanic. The guilt is with the developers and Blizzard makes a stand here and accepts the responsibility.
Applaudable.

Redbeard said...

I believe that if Blizzard wants to eliminate this crush to get that extra 1% DPS, they need to change some of the emphasis of the game. Right now, a good portion of it is on raid bosses and endgame. While there are achievements for all sorts of oddball stuff, as long as the primary focus of the game is on endgame and raiding there will be this culture of min/maxers out there.

Tam likes to refer to people showing off their WoWcocks around Dal. What is it now, the Frostbrood mount? Before then, it was the Kingslayer title or the proto-drake you got. All of these come from raiding and the endgame. How often do you see someone showing off Mr. Pinchy or the Venomhide Raptor mount, or parading around in a chef's hat? Once in a great while you see someone with an albino drake or a Sunreaver Dragonhawk, but the protos and Frostbroods are where it's at.

If Blizz wants people to break away from the hard core min-maxers, they need to break away from emphasizing what the mix-maxers glorify.

Shintar said...

Also, to expand on my earlier comparison to the job market - when there are ten times as many unemployed people as unfilled jobs, employers can afford to be picky and look for their "perfect" candidate, turning away a lot of otherwise perfectly capable people.

Now, with raiding there isn't a "hard cap" for available raid spots, but I still bet you that with how accessible raiding has become, there are a lot more people looking to get into it (especially as dps) than there are competent and confident raid leaders, tanks and healers. As a result, raid leaders can afford to be picky, because if you don't want to spec for that 1% extra dps, they probably won't have much trouble finding five other candidates who will.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think there will be more problems come Cata.

Assuming pug leaders would rather run 10mans, then the issue becomes various classes being pigeonholed into specific roles. People will gravitate to those specs as those will give them the greatest opportunity of getting into pugs.

With smaller raid groups, chances are there is less of a margin for error and thus people will be expected to overgeared/perfectly specced/have achievement/insert other criteria.

I'm not so sure about the new raid lockout mechanics either. I'll hold off on judgement for now, but I imagine there will be issues later on and I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard winds up revisiting their lockout method during this expansion.

Anonymous said...

The solution is very simple: remove Armory, in-game achievements, remove numbers from tooltips of abilities and talents, remove combat log and ability to inspect anything on other players.

KiwiRed said...

@shintar, I suspect the new shortage to come with Cata, far surpassing the old tank and healer shortages in its effect on the playerbase, will be the lack of competent raid leaders.

Couple that with the increased combat difficulty, and this could be a rough time for new and inexperienced players.

Larísa said...

@Ephemeron: Randomness won’t discourage the most extreme min-maxer’s. I’m totally convinced they’ll ask for your “luckscore”. Some players just have their way with the RNG and some players are cursed and should be avoided.

@Andy: I wonder if it’s all about the size though? I have the feeling it’s more a cultural thing, an idea that has spread as a plague. The fear of trying any path that isn’t exactly step by step what is recommended by the mighty gods of EJ. Do you really think people will start using their brains again just because it’s a 10 man?

@Spinksville: When did the inspect thing come? Is it such a new thing? As far as I can remember it has always been there as long as I’ve been playing, apart from the achievements then. But maybe my memory is failing me. I find it hard to imagine WoW without inspections. But yes, it must have been very different back in time.

@XaxziminraxII: more move-out-of-fire and less of tank-and-spank? Actually from what I’ve heard that’s exactly what they have in pipeline for us in Cataclysm…(which makes me a tad nervous since I have the situation awareness and the speed of a turtle).

I wonder though if it’s that easy to identify a group of “M&S” (a word founded by Gevlon, meaning “morons and slackers” in case anyone wonders) and try to exclude them. You see: a player that is a slacker in the eyes of you may be someone I wouldn’t mind to play with at all since we get the boss down anyway and he’s a good team member whose company I enjoy. I think there are MANY different opinions about what constitutes an M&S.

@Flyhard: This might change things a little. I wonder if it’s enough to reach what Ghostcrawlers asks for though, a complete turnaround.

@kurnak: They’re more or less taking that step with the slimmed new talent trees where you have to fill one before taking anything in the others. And that was what the original poster was complaining about partly I think, while GC points out that it’s already there in the form of cookie-cutter specs. I think they design it this way to lessen the risk for newbies to make fools of themselves and be mercilessly harassed. They should be somewhat useful whatever they pick. But at the same time I don’t think this is enough to change the mentality of extreme min-maxing.

@Sam: I never saw armory as a mistake… But then I’m brought up with it; it was already in place when I started to play. Maybe you’re right, that it has given far wider implications than you would have thought. Just like LFD did.

@Shintar: Yes, and for some reason the access to the information leads to a culture where you’re expected to use all of it, because if you don’t you’re probably a too “soft” or “lazy” raid leader. I think the over-obsession is reciprocal.

And yes, it might have to do with the abundance of willing raiders these days. Everyone wants to be in the most successful groups ofc. The problem is that they’re looking at the wrong things.

@Nils: thanks Nils! Yeah, you can have a lot of views on the direction the developers have taken the game, but you can’t deny that they take full responsibility for it and it’s refreshing to see when they admit problems like GC does now. Sadly enough I’m not so sure it can be fixed. Not in this game. Lessons to learn for the next one maybe?

@Redbeard: Sad to say I’m awfully difficult to impress in a Dalaran parade. I just don’t pay attention to those things. I would definitely stare in disbelief at the TK mount. But most of the stuff will go sadly un-noticed, be it chef hats or skeleton mounts. Maybe it’s a trend. After being exposed to too many wowcocks we’re developing a certain immunity? That COULD maybe give us some protection against the worst cases of over-obsession.

@Anonymous: well, if anything I expect that people will pug a lot less with the shared lockouts and increased difficulty as has been hinted about. But maybe those new pug leaders will learn to be picky in a better way, looking at people’s ability to play rather than in the 1%-talent GC is talking about? Let’s hope so.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous 2: That’s a lot of things to remove! I honestly find it a tad hard to remember the game without all those features. Do you think it would be more fun that way?

@KiwiRed: yep, with more players gravitating towards 10 man raids, I too can suspect there will be a lack of willing - and above all - good raid leaders. The risk is that the ones that are around will rely even more on shallow ways of picking their team, such as demanding an EXACT copy of the "best" spec at EJ. They're just not good enough to dare to go outside of the norm.

Xinge said...

I actually had a pug raid leader refuse me because my spec was "wrong" because I didn't pick up all three points in Precision on my Fury Warrior. It was like talking to a wall when I explained that my gear already had me hit-capped and then some. He also had a problem with me using a pvp trinket for extra crit rating "instead of the badge gear m8" again not noting the situation with being over hit cap already.

His pug wiped.

Selyndia said...

The culture of needing efficiency has been around for a long time. It’s evolved quite a bit from where it started out; but its there, and it’s there for a very strong reason.

It started out when raids were so tightly tuned that the difference between 1% damage and a fun utility actually meant wiping in raid content. Even back in early TBC entry level 25 man content, you have pre nerf Gruul that required such efficiency and consumable stacking (Stacking of stats above and beyond what you could squeeze out of your own character just through Talents/Gear/Enchants/Gems) that if you didn’t use every single thing, you wiped. Other levels of content was similarly tuned, just with lower requirements as consumable restraints were lessoned (How many people that raided TBC had 1% enrage wipes on certain bosses like Hydross, Leotharis or Fathom Lord?).

WoTLK lessened that substantially with its much lower tuning for non hard mode encounters. Those days of 1% wipes are pretty much gone outside of hard modes, due to the tuning; however, it did something else. When you don’t need to have a perfect set up, but you use it anyways, you do more than the encounter was tuned to, and are effectively “Overgearing” it but are at the appropriate content level. This buys you a margin of error for when people do fundamentally poor performance and do things that would normally wipe a raid, but with enough people ‘over performing’ it still allows the content to be cleared. Let’s say, for an example, that a boss needs 10,000 raid DPS to be killed, and each DPS is expected to put out 2,000 DPS to meet that requirement; however, a ‘properly’ specced, geared, enchanted, glyphed and performing player is capable of pulling out 3,000 DPS, this can essentially be seen in Naxx 10 man Patchwerk. What this means, is that if you bring in people who perform at the exact 2,000 DPS, you have a tightly tuned encounter; but if you bring a group that is performing at peak, you create a 5000 DPS ‘buffer’ to cover you if people mess up. Or, more to the point, it creates a 1000 DPS buffer for each “Perfectly” playing player you bring. The question to ‘tyrannical raid leaders’ then becomes “Why should I throw away the margin of error, when I do not have to, and can use it to handle something unexpected?” The raid leader has no idea if the person they are bringing is going to be doing the bare minimum “2,000” requirement or if they are going to be doing the “3,000” peak performance.

The ICC buff is actually a perfect example of how this works. The ICC buff allows people to make sloppy mistakes, because those that aren’t making the sloppy mistakes are able to perform at a high enough level to make up for those that are not performing to their peak; and at the same time pushing those that are making sloppy mistakes up from the “Below required levels” to “passable” levels.

The situation is entirely Blizzards fault, because in the name of accessibility they tuned encounters to such an extent that a handful of capable players can “carry” several poorer performing players. Ever been in a pug and effectively “Carried” the raid? You know the ones; like Vault when several DPS are pulling sub tank level DPS, or healers being out healed by the Shadow Priests? The ICC pugs where only one or two DPS are killing Bone Spikes on Marrowgar, or most ignore the adds on Deathwhisper or Deathbringer? As a raid leader, the goal is to try and have as many “Carrying” people and have as few “Carried” people as possible; and one of the only ways to determine that is to use the metrics available “Spec, Gear, Gems, Enchants, Glyphs, etc.”

What really is the alternative? Tune encounters even lower to allow all those “Fun” talents? They already are tuned far below that point; how much lower can they go? Or tune the encounters so tightly that they require perfection or a wipe like in previous days? Neither of those options sounds very appetizing. The best way to encourage them, I think, is to create raid mechanics that encourage the utility.

Redbeard said...

@Larisa: I don't think you're the only one unimpressed --I'm not, either-- but at the same time you're not the person that they're trying to impress by landing in front of the Dal bank on a Frostbrood mount.

The issue is the pursuit of certain rewards --like the primary focus of Wrath which is killing Arthas-- leads directly to min-maxing. I've seen it mentioned in innumerable blog posts across the WoW-verse about how you have to be at the top of your game to down him, and to do that you min-max. Sure, there's some luck in the mix, but you mix-max to minimize your luck. RL's want to minimize their luck, so they don't take people who don't min-max.

I'm with Anonymous #1 in that I think it'll be worse with Cat, at least at first. Consider Patch 3.3 the big training ground for how things will be done in Cat, new talent trees or not, and unless Blizz changes the endgame substantially the emphasis on min-maxing will only grow.

Ratshag said...

Is always gonna be min-maxers. Always has been, always will be. Question be, does ya wants fer ta hand'em the keys, the remote, the car title, and a six-pack of Uncle Bonechomper's Day Old?

I thinks that's kinda what Blizz did in Wrash. We gots an ever-increasing supply of data (achievements, iLevels built-in) and add-ons fer ta process thems on the one side, and a raiding system what titled the playin' field much mores toward pugging than what were befores (bring the bugger, not the class, AoE fights, no gated raids and dang few gear check fights) on the other. All adds up ta a world where raid leaders often don't know they's raider pool, but they does know one bugger's stats is 1% closer ta "perfect" than the other, so he picks the first dude. And the min-maxers run amok, chop down the goalposts, and listens ta the lamentations of the wimmenz.

Now, most of these changes? They's fer the good. Cain't thinks of none I'd want fer ta go, other thans the AoE trash fights. So, I's thinkin', can Blizz focus on stuff what gives us non-min-maxers more cards ta play? Incentives fer ta run with yer guild may be one - time will tell. Hopefullies they has some more ideas, and stop handing beers ta the buggers what alreadies has the keys.

Anonymous said...

Here is what i see as the basic problem:

Most people don't know how to raid effectively. Their spell rotation is sloppy (If they even have one), they have weak 'raid awareness'. These things cannot be effectively known about a player without playing with them first.

Second: Raids produce the gear that EVERYONE wants. You simply cannot get gear past a certain point without going on raids. There are also achievements, mounts, etc. that cannot be obtained without raiding.

So, the problem is EVERYONE wants raid rewards, but few people are willing to build the skills needed.

I blame Blizzard. There is only one "Raid effectiveness simulator", and that's the target dummies located in major cities. And even that data, incomplete as it is, is not included in the player's statistics.

What Blizzard should do:

Step one, make am instanced room for the training dummies, one for each kind, only two dummies per room (one enemy for DPS, one friendly for healing). When you enter, all buffs are removed (Like in the Arenas) and a timer starts. Every session lasting over 5 minutes is averaged (with weighting) into one of your "Test dummy statistics" for all to see.

Step two. Make more raid simulators that test different aspects like 'raid Awareness' (You have to get out of the fire while attacking the dummy). Staying in the fire doesn't kill you... just gives you a debuff reducing your DPS.

Examples of dummy types:
Test Dummy: DPS / Healing
Test Dummy: Raid Awareness DPS / Healing
Test Dummy: Aggro

Alternate solution: Make raid rewards useless to casual players, much like PvP rewards are useless to raiders now. How? Add an extra stat (ala resilience) that only benefits raids and only comes from raids. Then have a third typs of gear with no specialization, but looks really cool that is better for 5 mans and heroics, with every piece buyable with emblems / badges / points.

Examples:

PvP Gear; Resilience.

Raid Gear: Elemental Resist. (Have raid mobs do elemental damage, resisted by this stat.)

5 man gear: General stats. Mobs in 5 mans would neither do 'Elemental Damage' nor need resilience.

Give people that don't want to PvP no incentive to PvP.

Give people that don't want to raid no incentive to raid.

Allow everyone to do 5 mans as an initial gear up for PvP / raids.

PvP is either solo or 'arena'. There is already the "Arena Rating" in the statistics.

Raiding has no effective monitoring statistic. Hence the instanced training dummies. All a Raid leader would have to do is look a the 'Raiding' statistics tab to see them.

Gronthe said...

Nobody is to blame 100%, on either side of the fence. Players (who are people and sentient beings to boot) choose for themselves how to act given certain environmental conditions, even if those conditions favor one behavior over another.

I've seen some really good suggestions in these comments (no inspections, take away GS, tuning encounters properly). If there is an emphasis on end game, and in Cataclysm the devs want us to use more CC, yet raid bosses are immune to CC, why pick up any CC or utility talents? What's the point? Yes, the devs have made an environment condusive to certain behaviors, but the blame cannot be all theirs, they are not the only ones making decisions.

Wormskull said...

For me the "efficiency" craze kicked off at the tail end of BC and became dominant in WotLK.

I blame tank AoE.

At the end of BC, folks started calling out for Pally tanks for fast Mechanar runs in the old LFG channel. A pally tank would change the nature of the dungeon from being the at-the-time standard orginised CC, and marked dps targets to being a dpsfest with no need for mob control.

With WotLK, all the other tanks (who'd filled the world with QQ about the pally thing) all got their AoE threat boosted to match.

This changed the whole way that good players could be distinguished. Before that change, LFG was filled with "LF CC", its only afterwards that it became "LG DPS GS 5k+".

I spent BC in an SL/SL spec, did low dps but was dependable at CC, and had a party trick of solo handling all the adds in heroic Black Morass, and that was enough to get me a decent enough reputation to get me all the invites I wanted.

Once tanks could hold all the adds for the dps to just spam them down, there was only ever going to be one way to prove yourself as a player - the meters. In doing away with every measure but pure output, there's no way for a dps player to take pride in their being a good player other than to relentlessly strive after efficiency in a bid to maximise the numbers.

As for who was to blame, my take on it was that when the original discrepancy first showed up, Blizzard could have nerfed Consecrate and put a stop to doing what everyone wanted. I don't think anyone had the 20/20 foresight to know how it would end up by doing the opposite and giving a consecrate like ability to every tank, but I do know that the demand from the player base was overwhelming, and Blizzard chose not to anger the majority of their players. Even now when steps are being taken to nerf tank AoE, there are rivers of QQ and anger. I hope that Cata will get things back on track, and that Blizzard will have learned the lesson to not give in to players demands and let the QQ flow because a populist approach weakens the game.

Syl said...

GC really has a point there. i've never played any game where min-maxing was made such a big deal like in wow. i'm not sure why that is, but i think one big reason is certainly the overkill of information you are able to get in wow via mods. you can monitor almost everything and that isn't necessarily so good - people become obsessed with numbers.

i often have the feeling in wow (whenever i hear theorycrafters talk or read certain EJ posts for example) that some people get an awful lot of kick out of making the game sound like rocket science....when at the same time really wow is one of the most beginner-friendly and forgiving MMOs.
i don't think wow requires you to min-max but it sure is a pressure in certain communities.

i wonder how blizzard was to solve this issue, i guess they could turn off all the combat-relevant data to start with. but it doesnt sound like something they would do, in fat they've shown with the armory tool etc. that they want everything in the game to be as transparent as possible.

Nils said...

I wrote about it on my own blog some time ago, but I'll summarize it:

To solve the problem without undoing the armory and similar tools, Blizzard needs to make the measurement of performance more complicated. It must not be about looking at singular numbers (dps,hps,eff. health, GS!) alone.

This is really easy to do by changing a few gameplay mechanics (e.g. tank AOE threat) and encounters themselves: Less dance+dps, more CC, interupt, general smart play, no hard enrages, ...

This is exactly what Blizzard is doing to some extent with Cataclysm. I just fear that they will not have the strength to follow through. I fear they will give in to the vocal minority that is dissatisfied.

Some people say that there will always be an optimum specc. They are correct. But the problem we face is grounded in the ease of information about that specc reaching noob-raidleaders.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

I wonder how much the culture of TMI (Too Much Information) actually does affect the min-maxing, or if perhaps, this attitude is more of a legacy.

What doesn't help is that the people who play, "Dude, it's just a game, lol" are the ones who have BAD talent/gear/gem/enchant (if any) choices, and give the impression that if you don't have the most optimal selections you are stupid.

Aside from doing hard modes, and special under-geared projects (like gevlon does), that 1% means nothing. If someone is stupid, no talent selection or gear is going to make them worth the slot in the raid.

Here's the thing, if people aren't allowed to experiment and try things out, then the game STOPS being fun. As much as part of the reason people act this way is the designer's fault, part of it comes from a type of player.

In a pen & paper environment you would have a much easier time handling this kind of person. But in an MMO with eleven million players, the percent of them are rather high, giving an impression that it is the only way to do things.

I would think that heroic modes would separate them, but when regular modes are getting the same treatment... I'm simply not sure what can be done right now, except try to separate the concept more, perhaps it just hasn't been taken far enough.

Carlic said...

@Larisa

Would it be a good idea to implement a system to where only certain people can view your gear/talents?

Kind of like facebook privacy settings.

Talarian said...

@Nils
I agree with your premise to a degree, but don't understand how removing the dance portion of raid fights increases the complexity of measuring performance. Such coordination is a completely seperate skill from DPS rotations and the like, and in fact the only real way to min/max that particular skillset is pick talents/enchants that buff you run speed and run DXE or DBM, assuming that failing the dance mechanic actually wipes your raid. Case in point, Lich King and Defile, and Quake.

By removing the dance, you remove a specific skill that raid leaders take into account to differentiate players.

Nils said...

@Talarian

I agree. Somehow the "dance" must have slipped in there. I think it is vastly too important in WotLK raids. But that is an entirely different topic ;)

Tesh said...

I'll agree with Spinks and run a brief tangent.

If the idea is to encourage experimentation and play over perfection, the official implementation of this policy is scattered and schizophrenic at best. Talent tree locking (the new system) and costly respecs are one of the bigger anti-experimentation hurdles in the game, and that's pretty core to both leveling and raiding.

That's a design decision purely in the devs' court, and yes, they screwed up there. That is, IF the goal is experimental play and a laid back approach.

I'm not convinced that's the goal, or at least, if it is, that it's everyone's goal over there in Blizzard HQ.

Anonymous said...

If you've played around with the 4.0 talent trees, you'll see that there's much less slack than we have now. Once you go into one tree, you'll have to put 31 points in it. It will be impossible to spend those points without taking a lot of the "right" talents. There will still be room to do it "wrong" but if you do, you end up with an 80% build rather than a 50% build. This is one way the devs are reducing the impact of not having the most efficient build.

Another thing they can do is support guilds of all flavors so that somebody playing with less than the most efficient spec still has a support group and doesn't have to rely on PUGs. If guilds built on personal affinity can still have a sense of progression, there's room for something other than the ruthlessly efficient raiding guild or the hopelessly casual guild that doesn't raid.

Rejection based on inefficiency is most common when strangers want to collaborate and there are more people applying than can be accommodated. More enduring social connections would reduce the need to base invitations on impersonal data while increasing the supply of (appropriate) raid spots would lessen the winnowing pressure.

The game could include better social tools, prompting you to make notes when you do have contact with others (e.g., running VoA or grouping with people on your server) and reminding you of those contacts when you are later forming a raid (or replying to a LFM call). A smarter friends list with more refined degrees of relationship would help here.

Another is to support multiple tunings of a raid. Until now, we've basically had 2 developer-defined settings: normal and hard modes. The ICC buff was a first attempt at a sliding scale of difficulty that players had very limited control over (it was either on or off at whatever the current buff amount was). If raid leaders could decide how to tune a raid (buff player health, buff heals, buff damage) against a known set of boss mechanics, player inefficiency could be accommodated. They could remove achievements for a de-tuned raid as well to acknowledge those who chose to do it at the hardest levels.

I'm convinced that what makes raiding fun and give raids "replay value" is the Goldilocks Experience where the fight is hard enough to be a challenge but not so hard that it's unbeatable. We tend to not repeat raids when the challenge is gone and when we do, it's significantly less fun. There's little in the Goldilocks Experience that's necessarily linked to having an optimal spec or most efficient rotation.

One thing that moves us out of that ideal range given unchanging raid content is gear inflation. If the effectiveness of gear upgrades were less substantial, we'd spend more time on challenging content before outgearing it to the point where it becomes boring. In my opinion, Blizzard has been too liberal in scaling up player abilities with gear. The result has been cookie-cutter gear selection and must-do raids to go along with the "correct" build and rotation. A smaller difference between "bad gear" and "good gear" would reduce the impact of min/maxing.

Anyway, a few ideas on how Blizzard could fix this.

Larísa said...

I won't reply to everyone quite yet - as a matter of fact it's a little hard to keep up with all those well put, thoughtful comments. I just wanted to say that I'm stunned by all the contributions and I wish there was some way we could turn it into a little package and hand it over to GC as a little contribution from the community to help him out. Oh well. Dream on.

TM said...

For me, I probably don't want to join a pug, let alone a guild, where the RL doesn't understand or ask me to explain what he/she sees as an unconventional spec. Choosing a guild/pug is just as much for the individual to pick a group as vice versa!

For me, "I picked up x talent for y buff in this situation where it's useful even though z build is more common" is very different than "I pick gud talent got from EJ!!" I wouldn't want to join a guild that didn't see that difference as important.

The good thing is that however hard you want to minmax your talents, there's a guild for you. From casual guilds that raid in pvp specs with friends, to hardcore guilds that will deny your application based on picking up a +5 strength bonus instead of a +7strength bonus with your Nightmare Tear. The game community is so wide and deep, there's infinite ways to spend your $15.

Pugs asking for achievements/GS when it's the obvious end to Blizzard's policy of making raids puggable. Pugs, by definition, don't have a lot of time to gear/knowledge check. Pugs don't know their players' strengths and weaknesses. People just didn't pug Sunwell so this was never an issue before. (I didn't play pre WLK so I can't say if people were pugging Kara pre 3.0 or MC back in vanilla the way they pug ICC now.)

Lujanera said...

Ghostcrawler says: "I know you need some basis to evaluate potential recruits or even pug members. But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency -- this terror of being WRONG -- that we have managed to instill in our player base. I honestly think it's one of the greatest challenges facing the game."

This quote really caught my attention, too, when I first read it. It's a surprisingly candid view from Ghostcrawler on the current pugging environment.

I like that raids have become more accessible (ie, puggable) in Wrath, but it seems to me that this was done without thinking about the consequences. There is a large population of players that are bad enough that you don't want them anywhere near your raid (anybody that has queued in LFD recently knows this). Such players aren't new, but it used to be that they were filtered by the guild application process or by building a reputation in heroic runs. Such filters are less common now. Raid leaders often have to make decisions about players without any reputation information. It's no wonder the gear/spec requirements have gotten so strict!

Players lack good methods for evaluating each other and building reputation. At present, there is little reward for good reputation or punishment for bad behavior because that information is so difficult to share. This is where I think Blizzard could make a real impact on the state of pugging. They could develop tools for tracking whether or not players are happy with others in their raids. For example, suppose I could give other players a 'certified by me' stamp of approval. Future raid leaders could see this and, if they trust my judgement, raid invites would follow. The effects of reputation -- good or bad -- can extend further and become more valuable.

Bristal said...

Really great post, Larissa.

I agree with Spinks. This phobia about not getting into pugs or good guilds without that perfect spec has little to do with sqeezing out 1% more DPS. It's much more about laziness with the more cerebral aspects of the game (like reading).

"Nobody lets me raid if i don't have leet talent spec lol" is an excuse to not really spend any time or effort reading your talents.

That said, as a lazy person myself, with limited time to play, I frequently use talent specs I find online, especially for alts. On my main, I spend more time but I still rely in the work done by others.

If they REALLY want more players to do their own specs and really play around with them, they could start by simplifying them, and writing the talent descriptions more clearly.

And it seems that the next expansion has that goal in mind.

Aloix said...

Great post!

Lots of good comments/things to think about.

Personally I'm a min/maxy type, largely because I like to add that additional 'nerdy/geeky' dimension to the game.
Ideally, I think all types should be able to be accommodated.
I like information, and I don't think taking it away (especially now that we have it) is any sort of solution.

While I'm a fan of 'doing it right' on the technical side, I do think there is a lot of value in the GC comment/quote about 1% DPS from talent spec vs 10% DPS from skill. The thing is, (most) everyone wants something quantitative to judge quality these days. I think that's where the 'inspections' come in, as it's usually an okay filter. (Versus GS or achievements..).
I really like parse tools (WoL etc) for evaluation, but that requires quite a bit of time/skill to do.
Maybe more efficient/accurate 'skill' evaluators are needed?

Perdissa said...

I feel that most players hit 80, starts off in heroics and raids, and happily DPS the way they like. Some realize that they can do better on the meters and find help, usually from the forums or elitist jerks, where there are usually posts for the highest theoretical spec/ gems/ enchants/ rotations.

At the end of this exercise, the player finds that his DPS has indeed improved. If he is helpful, he may dispense his wisdom on other players he comes across; imposing the highest theoretical spec/gemming/enchant/rotations on them. Obviously, if it helped him, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t help others. I feel many sophisticated players are at this stage. Players at this stage will tend to be very critical of other players who aren’t using the theoretical maximum DPS set up, as they have put in work doing their research, and have recently benefited a lot from it.

Many raiding players progress to the next stage, and learns that performing well for each specific encounter and other issues like raid awareness is more important to progression than personal DPS. These players try to improve personal DPS, tuning around specific encounters based on tips from more experienced players. Players at this stage will tend not to care too much about a few non-standard enchants or gems they see on other players. For instance, Tuskarr’s Vitality, a speed boost boot enchant, is used by many raiders over the standard DPS enchant, due to the extra movement flexibility and survivability it affords. This is the stage that GC hopes that most players will be at, and all players have the potential to get past the cookie-cutter stage. It does require, however, awareness that you can further improve. Unfortunately, most pug leaders are more likely than not to be in the earlier stage.

While I agree with you that this is more the fault of players than the developers, the infrastructure built into the game certainly supports min-maxing, and this is probably why the min-maxing mindset is pervasive. For example, gems and enchants both come in 2 tiers, rare and epic. In all cases, the epic enchant/ gem offers a very minor advantage over the rare. Yet, the epic gem/ enchant costs about 5 times more than the rare one. For instance, the 63 SP staff enchant materials are trivial, but the materials for the 80+ sp staff enchant is a boatload of abyss crystals and stuff. Likewise, the cardinal ruby cuts offer very few stat points over the scarlet ruby cuts. If I were to switch all my epic gems to rare gems, or all my enchants to the non-epic version, I’m pretty sure I won’t see much DPS change, certainly less than 5%.

Pangoria Fallstar said...

I don't think as many people read EJ as people think they do. EJ itself is very annoying to read (I mean the forums). Instead people either read some distilled advice, or the follow what someone who has read EJ says.

What I invested in instead was learning the talents myself, and figuring out what felt better for how I played. I compared my talents to other people, and I saw 1 or 2 talents difference. I usually kept my talents because I'd dps equal or more to the person I compared myself to, while having gear below theirs.

Sometimes, another Shaman's single target dps was higher, and I would review the data, and would see more Lightning Bolts cast than I did, and I would see that his haste was much higher than mine.

So my talents were what was best for me. I think that is what GC is trying to say, because as we all know, if you are not optimized for what EJ is suggesting, then you cannot do what they are suggesting. With lesser gear, you have to adjust things.

Frostys said...

To be honest with all of you, I think Blizzard should try to find a way to pull of another ToC on us. Let me explain what I mean.

Around the time of Ulduar, plyer were more and more arguing against the revelance of trash in raids. It's meaningless for some ond only makes runs longer. Raider want loot. While the argument looked true on the outside, there was something wrong with it.

Then came ToC. IMO, that was teh biggest "FUCK YOU" Blizzard ever did to the community and while it might sound stupid, I can only hope they find a way to pull another one but this time, about min\maxing. ToC in teh end was exactly what people were clamoring for. Short enough to be cleared without really needing more than a single night, no "useless" trash, fastest corpse run ever. Looks perfect right?

Wrong. A ton of people ahted ToC in teh end because it was just way to damn bland and I can only hope tehy will find a way to pull another one like that for min\maxing so people get at least some acceptable slack given to them. I don;t mean slack as in you can spec whatever and it work anyway. Nah. Still put a minimum though into it but if I want to neglect 1 dps talent from the cookie cuter build because a fun one I can sometime use is just beside, let me take and and stop QQ'ing that I am not 100% optimized.

waterminty said...

I will agree with Spinks and point the blame at inspections/Armory. People judge other players based on talent spec and gear because it's easier than actually playing with them.

Back in the old days, the only way people could judge other players was by ... playing with them (uphill and in the snow!). I used to pvp a lot on my priest in the year before TBC released. When my smallish guild decided to dip its toes into 20-man raiding, I remember the warrior who main tanked being shocked to find out after a run that I wasn't holy-specced -- and that I had never been. But he wanted me to tank heal because I was good at it, not because I had a cookie-cutter spec and a high gearscore.

Heck, I remember when talent specs were top secret! People didn't like to share their specs or their exact rotations. We liked figuring out our own special specs. I remember my boyfriend and I were upset when talent specs became inspectable!

Of course, on the flip side, I freely admit now that I probably wasn't a very good mage when I raided more seriously. I didn't min-max my talents enough -- I was frost for far too long (well into BWL). But I was still a valued member of my raiding group.

Dàchéng said...

It's very easy to say "don't let us inspect each other's specs" and "remove achievements", this will certainly lead to a situation where we have to actually raid with another adventurer in order to evaluate them. But do we really want this?

For PuGs, first, this is terrible. PuG raid recruiters will have no idea beforehand whether their group is geared for the challenge facing them. At present, if even one (correctly geared) player in a 25-man pug raid performs below par such that the raid wipes, it is usually followed by a string of desertions. Many pugs simply disband after the first wipe. The chances of such a wipe happening is greatly increased if the raid leader has no way of estimating beforehand whether his team members are up to the job. Sure, GS, gear inspections and achievement demands are a terrible way to make such judgements, but they're the best we have at present, for pugs. It's fairly rare for a pug to contain more than a few people that I've raided with before - the vast majority of them are completely unknown to me.

So, if a raid leader has to wait until the raid is in progress to evaluate his team, he is in for a quick wipe and widespread desertions. What can he do, if denied the ability to inspect potential recruits or ask for their achievements? For damage dealers, he could insist on seeing them in action in front of the training dummies. That's a long recruitment process and still gives no way of evaluating tanks and healers. Remember, I am talking about pugs here, not guild recruitment.

Now let me get on to talking about guilds. The situation there, if we removed achievements and inspections (in-game or via armory), is much better, but still not great. Of course when being recruited, officers can afford to take a bit of time to evaluate potential recruits (at present, most guilds don't bother doing this, relying on armory inspection instead, so this is still an extra burden on officers). However characters improve their gear, and with it, their ability (I don't mean that the player ability has changed, I mean that the character ability has - they can do more DPS, or soak up more damage or cast more heals). However, unless we can inspect this new gear, we are forcing officers to continuously test guild members to see if and by how much they have improved. That's a very large extra burden on officers.

That said, I'm sure if we could inspect gear but not see its ilvl, that would be a step in the right direction.

Also interesting would be if we could see the names of the gems and enchants used, but not their actual numerical stats, which could vary in a minor way depending on some crafting mechanism. So we could see that Johnny has a runed cardinal ruby socketed, and we would know that on average that's +23 spellpower; but depending on the care of the crafter, that could end up as +22 or +24, let's say.

Of course, Johnny needs some way of evaluating the runed cardinal ruby before buying it, so the actual stats need to be visible before socketing. That would also lead to a new dimension in the enconomy. Some might choose to buy high quality gems at a high price to get the best out of their spec, others might choose the cheap and cheerful
route.

Larísa said...

@Xinge: And I suppose it was on some fairly trivial content as well? The revenge is sweet.

@Selyndia: I like encounters that encourage utility too; the problem is that it often ends up in ”must have that particular class in the raid” situations, something that Blizzard clearly wants to get away from. I can understand the reasoning behind wanting margins for error. But it’s still… a bit saddening. And I the end – aren’t we fooling ourselves, staring at that 1 percent, while the problem is that you’re lacking 10 percent due to completely failure at what spells to cast, as GC points out?

We’re very unforgiving about SOME sorts of inefficiency, but are totally prepared to overlook other forms of it that actually are much worse.

@Redbeard: I guess the expectations have changed a bit. I never cleared Sunwell in TBC and I can’t say it was a big issue to me at that point. I was proud and happy that we made it as far as Mother Shiraz before the big nerf. But nowadays maybe more are demanding of the game – and of themselves – that they must clear everything. And then comes the pursuit for min-maxing in a version that actually is a little misinformed.

I hope your predictions about things getting worse in Cataclysm will turn out wrong.

@Ratshag: Yeah, I think things ran a little out of hands to them. Time for GC to reconsider who he wants to give the beer to. I hope they’ll be able to tune it a little bit better in Cataclysm. But still… I suspect it will be hard to change the mentality once it’s so spread all over the place.

@Anonymous: that’s a lot of interesting ideas. I especially like the instanced dummies. I’ve asked for that before. Training fields for new players when they can learn how to tank and heal and move and awareness and all that stuff in an environment where their failures due to lack of practice won’t hurt anyone else.

@Gronthe: I still think that GC is making it right, questioning if they could make design decisions to get the game back on track again. But this doesn’t mean that all players should just lean back about it. Like you suggest in your own blog post, we can strive not to be a part of the problem, but choosing a different path. Taking the leadership in the community.

@Wormskull: Everything I’ve heard about Cataclysm so far points to that it will change the way you ask for. Time to look up and pull out that polymorph spell from my book again.

@Syl: That’s an interesting theory: that the mods are contributing. I wonder if LOTRO will go more min-maxing now that they’re starting to allow mods, as I’ve heard they will. And yes, I think the theorycrafting junkies have done a very good job marketing themselves and their own importance.

@Nils: ”the problem we face is grounded in the ease of information about that specc reaching noob-raidleaders.” I think so too. It’s not necessarily the top of the top among players that are putting up the worst attitudes in this. I think it’s rather the opposite. The less lack of knowledge you have, the more desperate and strict will you be about reinforcing the “one and only” best spec.

Larísa said...

@Pangoria Fallstar: I think the best players, who I really look up to, are those who are knowledgeable and confident enough to experiment and not just follow the beaten path without even thinking a second if it’s appropriate in that very situation. But unfortunately they’re rarely put up as an example, something to strive for. Instead they’re mocked. It’s very counter-productive and yes, it will give us a more boring game – and possibly even worse gamers since they never learn by themselves through trial and error.

About your second comment: The thing with EJ is that that kind of advice assumes that you can adopt it for different situations. But if you’re not experienced or just plain good enough you don’t know how and when to do that.

But yes, I think more people love to name-drop EJ even if they rarely go to the source themselves. At least the mage forums have been more or less useless for a big part of Wrath due to the messiness and the difficulties to search for what you need.

@Carlic: I wonder if the players would accept this by now. We’ve become so used to inspecting anyone. And if you arranged a pug you’d probably require others to let you inspect them anyway.

@Talarian & Nils: Don’t remove the dancing! Wasn’t Shade of Aran way more fun than Patchwerk?

@Tesh: I smell a conspiracy… Is there an internal war going on in the Blizzard HQs? And who’s side is GC on?

@Anonymous: a very good analysis and a lot of good suggestions. I wish there was some way I could forward it so it reached the eyes of Blizzard.
“what makes raiding fun and give raids "replay value" is the Goldilocks Experience where the fight is hard enough to be a challenge but not so hard that it's unbeatable.”
So much this!
Overgearing is overrated. And yay for sliding possibilities! The way the ICC buff turned out was very disappointing in that manner.

@TM: That’s a good attitude tbh. It’s not just the guild or pug that picks you. It’s just as much – or even more – you who choose the pug or guild.

@Lujanera: I like that “certified by” idea tbh, although it could be misused. What happens if someone sells his account? Oh I know it’s illegal, but it exists… Anyway: I’d rather see that kind of positive way of giving feedback. If you could give out negative judgements that stuck on you, it could be misused or even used for blackmailing. “Give me 1k go and I won’t give you a bad grade”. Yes, I’ve got a black view on the community sometimes…

@Bristal: Thank you Bristal! I think too that they’re already trying to take measures of the worries that Ghostcrawler talks about, in Cataclysm. The question is if it will be enough to turn it around. I doubt it.

@Aloix: Thanks! I actually think you can be a geek without min-maxing. It’s more a matter of attitude, regardless of what part of the game you decide to dive deeply in. A dedicated pet collector or a sworn RP:er can be just as much of a nerd as a dps-squeezer. I think.

Larísa said...

@Perdissa: The best wow player I’ve ever met was actually quite reluctant to put in epic gems in his slots, since they did so little difference for the cost. Just not worth it. He min-maxed in other ways and rocked the charts.

The problem is to make those “wanna-be” min-maxers realize that they’re not on the top of knowledge, but just at the first step, and that being a little more relaxed to the cookie-cut thing actually is an improvement, a step-up to the next level. But teaching such things isn’t entirely easy.

@Frostys: So ToC was a “Fuck you”? Haha, I never thought of it that way. So what you suggest is that Blizzard should come up with something to teach the min-max-huggers a lesson?

@Waterminty: Wow, thanks for sharing that story! I’ve never experienced what the game was like without inspection abilities. Talent specs like secrets! Yes, they’ve really switched that around!

@Dàchéng: To be honest I don’t think it’s possible to change the direction of this by stopping us from inspecting each other. There are too many downsides of it so it just wouldn’t work. And however… intriguing your flexible gem idea is I don’t think it will make any big difference either. We’re talking about an entire mentality here! Can you really change a culture that has developed over the course of six years?

Selyndia said...

Oh, I think the days of needing the 1% efficiency from a talent are past, and have been for a long time now from normal encounters. Almost all issues in an encounter can be resolved by a tightening of a rotation, practice with an encounter, and familiarity with your own class and abilities. The 1% difference from a talent is a much smaller amount that can be improved on; yet it is a much more visible point. Looking at your character screen won’t tell me if you catch Malleable Goo, dance in Defile, kill yourself with Instability, or make patterns with Shroud of Sorrow (All of which have a much greater impact on your performance in a raid than any single talent point) but it will show me that you either understand how to maximize your “role” through the displayable abilities (Regardless if they came upon the spec themselves or just copied it from some other source without understanding the spec) or at least have spent some time looking up what is better. There is no quick and easy way to check stats like “Number of times killed by Malleable Goo,” “Does not Decurse on Lady Deathwhisper” or “Ignores adds on Deathbringer.” The problem is, that Gearscore, and Achievements are just simply tools; however, players in general don’t have access to alternative tools, so they try and force the ones they do have to do the roles they need them to do; and hence the over reliance on “Perfect Spec,” Gearscore, achievements, glyphs, etc.

The kind of Utility I was referring to was not so much the “Raid Buffs” etc, but those “Fun” abilities, that can also be particularly useful on certain encounters. An example would be Sprint. If there are multiple movement phases in an encounter that involves going back and forth across a large area, a shorter cool down on sprint through a talent would be ideal; even if it doesn’t provide more “Raw DPS” (The same concept behind why some advocate Run Speed enchants to boots). These are those “Fun/Utility” abilities that can have encounters include something to encourage their use.

Angry Gamer said...

GREAT TOPIC

And you get great kudos for posting this.

I can't read all the comments... so I appologize in advance if this is covered.

But... what about from a raid leaders perspective?

ALL YOU KNOW ABOUT A PLAYER IS THE RELATIVE CHOICES THEY MAKE CONFIGURING THEIR TOON GHOSTCRAWLER!!!!

As a Raid Leader:
I don't get veteran stripes in the toon link.
I don't get "have a clue" achievements in toon link.


All I get is gearscore, talents, glyphs, gems and enchants... ok and an achievement IF it's old content. (oh and vent check too ;)

AND THAT'S IT.

I am trying to juggle 20+ impatent people to get a raid started. I don't have time to be "forgiving" on a fun spec choice. I just don't _this goes double_ for dps specs.

No offense GC but I don't care about trying to make WOW have "fun" talents. Frankly I just want to get LESS of the "so-and-so has a wierd frost spec lol" whispers from "helpful leet mage" right after a wipe... sigh

thanks for listening... Grrr

Akycha said...

hrmmm
Everytime I see posts like this I thank my lucky stars I'm in the guild I'm in. I get to raid as BM with the spec I like. One of our most valuable players is always on the low end of "what she should do with her talent spec and gear," but she's better than any raid mod you can have. And yes we have people who min/max in the guild as well, but they don't look down on people who don't.

I've seen a lot of pointing to it being about inspection and game dynmantics, but I have to say from my own experiences it comes down to people. People's need to fit in, impatience and desire to be superior.

People in general want to belong. Having the perfect spec or what have you helps make you feel like you belong to a group you aspire too. People also need to feel better than other people. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who will put other people down to make themselves feel better or out of a sense of I'm in the group that knows you are ignorant.

Case and point one of our guild members who is fairly new to the game was gearing up his ret paladin. In Forge of souls we told him to take the mail helm that drops. It was better than what he had and is a good piece so he could spend his emblems elsewhere. Later he was doing a pug and the tank started tearing into him about his helmet being a hunter helmet and not a paladin helmet. Never mind the fact he was second on the dps meters. My guildie was all upset and flustered about it and doubting himself until I explained exactly why his current helmet was good for him.

When people get abused like this then, it is natural for them to want to pick things so they are acceptable.

The other thing I think that feed into this is the thought that oh if we don't down the boss in a few tries then everyone in this group is a loser and it won't happen. I know for me in weeklies if the boss isn't the first boss, I will often look at people's gear. Cause if you don't have that safe margin people will leave. It was the same thing in pug Raids in BC, raids would hemorrhage people if they wiped more than once.

I guess what I'm saying is that there has always been people who needed a yard stick to measure how great they are. No matter which tools they have at their disposal people will find a method to do this. The more people that reach a certain level the more strict or limiting factors people will create to view as the top.

Combined with this is a sense of entitlement or prima dona syndrome. If a goal or a boss isn't downed or done right now, they pitch a temper tantrum and leave. People easily fall into the trap of believing what this person says because they often meet some level high on the imaginary yard stick. Ironically I've often found that when I replace these people even if it is with someone who doesn't do as much dps heals etc... that we tend to down the boss next try. :)

At the end of it all though, I think these sterio-typical min/maxers are not as prevalent as people think. With so many more people playing the game, there is more around to notice, but in terms of how many more people are playing they aren't as numerous as you may thing. Often, it also seems people are labeled into that category who aren't really when you get to talk to them.

Slyght said...

Somebody probably already mentioned this in the comments, but the rise of this mentality was caused because of the *huge* rise in popularity of PUG-raiding in WotLK. Previously, in Classic and TBC, you pretty much had to be in a guild to raid with any amount of success. Depending on the culture and mentality of the guild, you had more flexibility/forgiveness in your spec/gear/etc because the people (hopefully) had some level of connection and trust with you.

Blizzard's solution to this in Cataclysm is to offer huge enticements for being in a guild: Guild Perks, Guild Achievements, exclusive vanity items and heirloom gear, etc. Based on how they've raised the difficulty of solo and 5-man content in Cataclysm, I wouldn't be surprised if the difficulty of the raids is knocked up a notch as well to make them a little less PUG-friendly (at least at first).

Anonymous said...

Isn't Blizz giving tyrannical, ill-informed guild leaders far more power in Cata due to guild rewards? 5% more justice points?

I probably will not hire a male who shows up at a job interview without wearing a tie; not because of a tie per se, but because it shows they do not know or do not care. Similarly, a 1% DPS may very rarely effect your raid's non-HM progression. But it frequently will effect whether you get to raid. So what does it say about the person who chose it?

We Fly Spitfires said...

Very enjoyable post and a hugely interesting subject, Larisa!

Personally, I'm against the whole concept of min/maxing and it's spomething I've been trying to fight against for years. Of course I want to be "good" in my MMOs but equally I want to have fun. GC hit the nail on the head though when he said that really a 1% increase or decrease isn't going to make much of a difference.

I really like the fact Blizzard have acknowledged this though and are taking responisbility for it (not that it's necessarily their job to). All I think they can do is try to make talents and abilities are equally appealing as possible and give encounters in the game flexibility in overcoming them.

Other than that, it boils down a lot to the community, guilds and PUGs that people mix with. I don't want to associate with people who demand I follow a particular spec or set up in order to milk another 1% DPS and all I can is try to find other people to feel the same way.

Finally though I would say that add-ons cause a lot of problems and things like DPS and healing charts and Gearscore don't help anyone. I would like to see them banned in fact.

Lujanera said...

WeFlySpitfires says: "Finally though I would say that add-ons cause a lot of problems and things like DPS and healing charts and Gearscore don't help anyone. I would like to see them banned in fact."

The claim that dps/healing charts and Gearscore don't help anybody is so full of hyperbole and wrongness that I'm reluctant to respond, but I'm going to assume WFS is approaching the topic from a position of genuine ignorance rather than as a troll.

Meters and Gearscore are, in the right hands, powerful tools for evaluating raid performance and approximating ability to perform in a raid. Like most tools, they are both imperfect and subject to being misused. I personally use meters to track how effective I am in getting my rotation right. I have used meters to help others diagnose why, for example, their threat as a prot warrior is lower than would be expected. Gearscore likewise provides utility to raidleaders that are attempting to quickly form a pug raid group.

These addons were created by people trying to solve a problem they faced. The enormous amount of time invested in creating them becomes difficult to explain when one supposes that they are useless. Furthermore, suggesting that these addons be banned is an incredibly narrow view that, I suspect, is informed more by an emotional reaction rather than a fair consideration of the reasons why so many people use addons and why they find them useful.

For those that still think such addons should be banned, here is a challenge: write an alternative addon that provides similar utility without the perceived negative effects. It has been my observation that the ones complaining are rarely the ones working to improve the situation.

sam said...

unfortunately while 1 percent of the population may use the addons and armoury as intended the other 99 percent don't.

How many people think antibiotic use should be limited til it's them that they think need it?

Blizzard wants to make a game where people play together. Everyone else is trying to weed out most players and keep the best one percent. That is breaking the game. Theres a reason 90 percent of all accounts don't last more than a month. Most people log in try to play the game then get bashed because they haven't memorized every bit of data out there.

Old school MMO's were like the playground at school. invite someone try them out. If they worked great if not they didn't get to stay.

WOTLK is like playing a game where you have FBI background checks to be allowed to get on the playground. The Armoury is like the department of homeland securities no fly list

Anonymous said...

This post to me hearkens to the so called 'Casual vs Hardcore' debate.

I firmly fall into the hardcore crowd. I raid 3-4 days a week, done all the content except 25 man heroic LK, and I hold top 20 positions on Heroic Boss DPS parses worldwide for my class.

Yet I find it interesting how the so called 'hardcore elitist' attitudes never apply to my guild. In my guild nobody gives a damn how geared you are, weather that is main raids, or alt raids, barring absolute garbage gear. And it's not because every player in the guild is godlike amazing either, we have people who we 'carry' to some extent, and lots of people who fail at boss mechanics or do sub-par DPS for their spec/class/gear.

When we talk about specs in guild (rarely tbh), nobody bitches people out for missing a talent point. Hell nobody cares if people can do their job. EVERY SINGLE ONE of my 3 PvE specs, I spec outside of the EJ norms by a few points. I spec for pushback resist over everything else. The difference is basically none from the EJ spec, since 1-5% means absolutely nothing in the context of RNG on an average 2-4 min fight, and yeah it's about 3-5% loss for some of my spec choices.

Hell, I'm 2% over hit cap, because I refuse to equip an uglier old cape that has spirit instead of hit. Nobody cares, I'm not being denied raid spots. As a guild we always know that the 2-3% we lose from optimal efficiency, can be more then made up by doing the fight better by many times. And sometimes things like Hungering Cold, Lightwell, Rocket Boots, ect can help the raid.

Yet whenever I read various WoW Blogs (not so much this one, which is why I like it), all I see is people complaining about 'GS reqs' and 'link achve' and 'elitism', and 'EJ ruined the game', 'assholes in heroics telling me how to play'.

When I look at these attitudes that these 'casual' players hate so much, none or very few apply to good players. Most 'good' players don't care too much about bad players, because they don't play with them. In a heroic, if someone sucks I don't care. If I don't feel like 'dealing with people who pull like snails/do 300 DPS/take 30 seconds to start drinking/2 hours to loot' that day, I don't queue.

Anyways, to FINALLY get to my point...

From the above I have to conclude that the so called 'casual vs hardcore' is really just 'average players who are more relaxed vs average players who care a lot'.

Now before you get the flamethrowers, I'm not trying to insult anyone. Average means average. And the majority is always around average in a large population like WoW.

So the difference here is really a difference of how much people care about the game. Some people hate failing, and therefore try to min max in every possible way, no matter how irrelevant (see my 2% over hit cap, 3-5% dps loss, doesn't stop me from holding top spots), because they hate failing, and if they fail for 'obvious' reasons like someone had a terrible spec, well they get mad.

On the other hand you have the laid back crowd that doesn't care so much. Usually this group minds wiping less to some extent then the former, or if they wipe they don't try to place blame as much, especially on trivial factors.

So what you get is a dichotomy of the player base along this line, that people mistakenly label as 'casual vs hardcore' or 'scrub vs skilled player', depending on your side of the argument, when it is really 'people who are very exacting and care a lot vs people who are more laid back'. And usually the people in the first group tend to be average, because good players know what the real reasons for failure are, ie sitting in the goo, then your DPS is garbage for the next 20 seconds and boss enrages.

Anyways, this is already ridiculously long, and while I have more to say on the subject, because it fascinates me, I fear nobody will read it. I really need to be more concise T_T

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: Don't fear to write walls of texts at the Pink Pigtail Inn. I love them! Every single comment here is read and appreciated, even if I sometimes fail at answering every comment personally, especially when there are loads of comments on a post and some of them come days or weeks after it was posted.

I agree very much with your thoughtful and very well put analysis. The ones who are most obsessed with the "elitist" 1 percent EJ hugging thing aren't the best players. They're average ones who lack confidence and knowledge to see what really matters.

I'm so glad to be in a guild with attitudes that I think are similar to yours.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: PS You don't have to be Anonymous. You can pick a name - just any name you like - to post under. You don't need to be signed up with a google account. Just check the box Name/URL, write your chosen name and post away.

It won't make you less anonymous, but it makes it easier for me to adress you when I reply like this

greg said...

to some degree, there is nothing that can be done. people will always act as water acts (that is, path of least resistance). however there have been some convenience aspects added to the game that have exacerbated the problem. i feel i am in the minority, but i actually love the LFD tool. being able to do dungeons as a change of pace is wonderful....but teleporting right to the dungeon just makes it a grind. i would remove this. it takes the world out of the game.

secondly lack of content at max level. i am sure this has been repeated ad nausem, but there exists little reward for anything other than dungeon (be it raid or LFD) once max level is attained. having 2 years of virtually the same dungeons is simply too long. i remember how much fun i found each instance for the first handful of times i ran it. doing the same ones over and over makes it seem less special. of course anyone can scream "moar contents!" if there exists no way to produce content faster, perhaps limit contant availability?

blizzard could probably solve many of the issues by simply changing its content release. rather than 1 expansion 10 zones, 10 levels, etc etc every 1.75-2.0 years . shoot for 2-3 zones, 2-3 levels, 1 raid 2-3 instances every 6 months. and as a key caveat - do not let the new content make the previous totally out of date.

dunno - just a thought

Larísa said...

@Selyndia: Oh yes, so true. Those who stare blindly at the 1 percent issue have some sort of vain hope that it connects to your ability to avoid goo. It doesn’t.

@Angry Gamer: thank you! I can understand why the people who are willing to lead, especially in a PUG context, want tools to make quick evaluations. And this post – and GC:s philosophical ranting – wasn’t intended as an attack at GS in particular. It’s just that… there is a certain mentality spreading in the game that wasn’t there before and I don’t think it makes good players or better raids or a better game experience overall. It’s so misplaced and uninformed and I wish that they could find some way to tune it down a little. And apparently GC wishes that too. This is a case where there social engineering didn’t turn out the way they wanted to.

@Akycha: Well… the ones who REALLY believe in that crap may not be that many. But they’re very loud and it’s enough to have one of those in your raid to poison the atmosphere for everyone. Same on forums, in trade chat etc. And unfortunately I think especially younger players are inclined to look up to and believe in it, not realizing that the guys they should take example from are the ones that maybe are a little more quiet and not quite as self assured, but on the other hand they know their stuff on a deeper level than just copy/paste the cookie spec of the day.

@Slyght: You have a point. The mentality breeds out of a guild context I think. On the other hand – harder content may make people cling more than ever to it, in the belief that it’s all about the 1 percent when they don’t down the bosses. So I’m not entirely sure they’ll manage to push back this development in Cataclysm. Time will show.

@Anonymous: Well: provided that someone can give a good motivation for why they’ve made a slight change in the ”standard” spec, it certainly is very meriting in my eyes. It shows that you really understand what your spec means, every talent in it and not just copy it mindlessly from something someone else thought out.

I’m not a tie person, so I don’t give a crap about that if I’m hiring people (which I’ve done in the past). Intelligence – of all flavours, including creativity, ability to be a teammember etc) is what matters. Ties are irrelevant and – if anything – a sign of insecurity, an anxiety to please, which not is a merit in my eyes.

Larísa said...

@We Fly Spitfires: Thank you Gordon!

I’ve seen demands to ban Gearscore before, but to be honest I’m not sure that would help that much. It’s just a quicker way to do a superficial evaluation that you would make anyway. I’ve never seen anyone asking for bans of dps and healing charts though, that was a new one to me. You mean that you should be able to measure yourself but not see the results of anyone else in the raid? Hm… Interesting thought, but to be honest, as a dps:er I think this kind of charts can be valuable tools.

A little bit of benchmarking isn’t necessarily just evil. If you’re doing 20 percent less damage than your fellow raider with the same class, spec and equivalent gear, it’s a sign that there’s something you haven’t quite figured out and you might want to ask him how he’s doing it. Without the chart, how would you know?

However: too much of benchmarking and a simplified way of looking at optimization is indeed harmful and spreads a poisoning atmosphere in the game. So it’s a tricky balance. Let the players measure themselves and compete a little against each other, because it’s a part of what makes the game fun. On the other hand: don’t let them go nuts and unreasonable and obsessed with the wrong issues. How to reach the balance? I have no idea. If I had, I’d tell GC.

@Lujanera: well… I don’t want them banned either, but I don’t think it’s a sign of ignorance or stupidity to question them either. I think it’s fair that they’re up for discussion every now and then and that we think over what impact they have – for good and for bad – and if there is anything we can do to counter the possible negative side effects.

@Sam: “The Armoury is like the department of homeland securities no fly list”. Hehe!

I think it’s not just about how WoW is designed though tbh. I think it’s about age. I’ve said on several occasions that I’d not advice a new player to necessarily start playing WoW as their first MMO. They might do better try to jump onto the ship of some new MMO coming out, since this would give them a chance to learn on their own, like everyone else, and more easily find a social network since nothing is set in stone and all are on the same page. The playground isn’t already divided into fixed cliques.

@Greg: That’s an interesting thought. It could be the lack of new content and challenges that makes people obsess over 1 percent since they have nothing better to do. Reminds me a little of some of the quite heated discussions we’ve seen in the blogosphere lately, possibly due to the between-expansion-blues.

sam said...

I agree I played back in Vanilla. Back then I raided quite a bit. WoW is not for a new player no MMO is after the first expansion or two. Unless you have Lots of time to play and RL friends to play with its pointless.

But the Armory intensified every bad habit and tendency that playerbase already had. It was something that is great for the top 1 percent and horrible for everyone else.

Imagine if anyone anywhere could pull your credit score, bank balance, high school records, college records and driving record with a quick easy internet search from thier phone or computer.

That's what the Armoury has become in game. And a simple opt out wouldn't even work because you'd be excluded for trying to hide that you were bad.

If blizzard were to remove the ability to inspect characters and their achievements and specs, then everyone would have to "gasp" play with each other and find the good players the old fashioned way.

I think when you hear people whining about how great vanilla wow was that is what they miss. Back then everyone had to look for players which meant socializing and running old instances and people actually met had fun and made connections. Now its check the armory or launch LFG and don't talk.

Anonymous said...

You are the worst kind of "fanboy" and the part of the reason I hate Wow. You socialist, weak minded, lonely person. Delete your toons and start living life.

Larísa said...

@Anonymous: Hello troll! First time visitor? Have a pint and cool down. Cheers!

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