The Carrot Complex

EDIT: This has turned into a 4-part series! For the full story, read all 4 posts:
Emblems of Easymode
Badges, and Emblems, and Carrots Oh My!
The Carrot Complex
The Radish Reward

With all the discussion about the emblem changes, I was really forced to delve deeper into my psyche and try to divine where this carrot complex of mine comes from.

In case you’ve not been keeping score over my past few posts: I have an issue with the upcoming patch change wherein completing the normal and heroic daily dungeon will award Emblems of Triumph that can then be turned in for all 5 of the Tier 9 pieces. Yes, you can turn them in for other goodies and it will take forever to get a set of T9 in this fashion, my whole issue is that the T9 will be available and I have this irrational perception of tier gear as being sacred.

Gaming History

By and large, I grew up as an only child. I didn’t get a step-type sibling until I was about 12 years old and she is 9 years my junior. My half sister is about 15 years younger than me and lives half a country away.

I am of an age where it was not the norm for a household in my economic bracket to have had a gaming console available. Computer games? I remember playing Oregon Trail at school. You have died of dysentery.

So most of my early gaming experiences were playing Aggravation, Go Fish, or Trivial Pursuit by myself. Well, with 2-3 of my favorite stuffed animals. (Go Fish was really tricky.) To be honest, I mainly put together puzzles, read, and played with Legos (which I still have, neener neener).

Later on in the middle school years, I progressed to playing quick games over at friends’ houses. In 20-30 minutes we could blow through the first half of Super Mario Bros. 3 or go a few rounds in what ever fighting game was all the rage at the time. With my friends having ready access to the games all the time, it was pretty well a beat down on me from pressing the start button. KO!

By high school I was more interested in games that involved a story. It was then and through college that I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, and many others in the role playing genre. Matter of fact, I’ve got a 4th Edition Drow rolled up and ready to play if we could ever get the right people in the right place at the right time. Slackers.

My dad was playing Myst so I gave it a shot. At the time, it was some of the neatest stuff I had seen. I never had to resort to random button mashing and everything was beautiful to look at and explore. But by the end, it was kind of boring.

At 18, I got a job in an arcade. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I know why the crane game sucks. It’s because the arcade employees make it suck. You’re wasting your money. And no, I won’t restock it just for you.

The other employees all would jockey for position around the fighting games while I lovingly restored the pinballs and carefully calibrated the shooting games.

Towards the end of college, I was in a relationship (with my to-be husband) and he had a wealth of experience with board games, platform games, computer games, and role playing games. He still kicked my ass at just about anything we picked up, but it was something that we could do together and he’s a much more gracious winner than I am loser.

Don’t tell him I said this, but I love the fact that he never *let* me win. Anytime I have actually beaten him at a game, either extreme luck was involved, or I earned it.

When we weren’t playing together, I would play games like SimCity or try desperately to beat the single-player modes of Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct.

We eventually got a computer and I would try the games that he picked up.

I played StarCraft when it was new. Beat all the single-player content by myself (go me!) and progressed to the BattleNet.

From there I developed a VERY bad taste for PvP. I eventually left when I got tired of being approached for cyber by 12-year-old boys who would then tell me I was too old to be playing the game when I told them it was past their bedtime.

I returned to single-player games and played favorites such as the original Dungeon Keeper (the second one sucked balls) and Theme Hospital (mine had a glitch and wouldn’t let me past a certain level – I got very good at the first few levels).

I fell in love with Zoo Tycoon, played it for years. I would have two game files saved. In the first, I took the quests in order and unlocked subsequently larger and more complex scenarios. In the second, I played a free-form map with the money cheat. The second was just for exploration and satisfying a need to run amok in the game world. Penguins in the lion exhibit? Why not? The first was where all my sense of accomplishment came from.

The other important game in this time for me was American McGee’s Alice. I thoroughly recommend this game for its story and art design. However, I had a problem with this game. Some of the mechanics were very clunky to me. Jumping was a huge part of getting around and I just couldn’t quite master it. I wasn’t particularly interested in “beating” the game, I just wanted to see the story unfold. So, a little research on the internet, and I was in godmode. I explored everything and followed the story to the end. For me, this wasn’t so much a game as it was an interactive story.

We picked up Riven, the sequel to Myst, but by now I had lost all interest in such a “safe” game style. We picked up the cheat book and muscled our way through it just to see all the pretties.

Neverwinter Nights is in my limited repertoire of games I have beaten.

I toyed with Morrowind, but it was too open-ended for me. Whereas in Myst/Riven I felt that I couldn’t impact the world at all, in Morrowind (and Fable too) I felt that every little inconsequential action could have too much impact. I just wanted to look at the bookshelf, I didn’t want to steal the goddamn book! Why can’t I put it back?!?!?!

I played a game called Darkened Skye, but never beat it. Very amusing, all your powers come from Skittles. Yes, the candy. It’s silly, but was a lot of fun to play. However, I got to a point fairly early in the game that I could not beat (I had a lot of problems with ranged classes) and I wasn’t willing to go the godmode route for the game. I was less interested in the story of the game than the mechanics. I wanted to earn getting to the next level.

A little later, we have the Sudeki incident. On the one hand, I was very pleased with having been able to complete all the content except that one bit, but that one bit nagged at my sense of accomplishment.

I’ve picked up and put down dozens of computer and platform games, most of which I’ve never been able to beat.

At this point, MMORPGs are what it’s all about. We had watched EverQuest rise and fall, as well as many other subscription-based games. We looked at WoW, but my reasons for not playing were two-fold. Firstly, you had to pay by the month. What if I didn’t have time to play one month? It would be a waste. Secondly, I had already shown a distinct lack of skill in the gaming world, with a few exceptions.

My husband found this free game called Rappelz. By this time we each had our own computers so we both started playing. I became a member of a guild, worked my way up to co-guild leader, and was a decent player. I was pushing for us to take on raiding to gain control of a dungeon.

Of course, combat in that game is completely retarded, pants on head retarded. You don’t even need to be facing your opponent to hit them. Dungeons are a joke. Gear drops are practically nonexistent and there is no level cap.

But it was a good stepping stone and allowed me to experience a modern MMO.

As a free game, all the good stuff came from their store, where you had to spend real money. I realized that I was having plenty of time to devote to an MMO and that I was spending more money on a free game than I would be spending if I just joined WoW.

Joining WoW

A good friend of ours mentioned that he and his wife were playing WoW and they extended invitations to us (got a couple free months of play off us) and we were hooked.

It took me a little bit to lose my apprehension about the playstyle as it was so different than Rappelz, but I was eventually able to bumble along on my little night elf warrior, getting him up to 65 without ever having set foot in an instance more than a dozen times. I leveled a few other toons up to their mid 20s or so.

WoW seems to be the perfect mix of my two saved games in ZooTycoon. I have direction in the form of quests, but if I just want to run around and grind rep for a Wintersrping saber for 5 levels, I can do that too.

All this time, I was watching the trade chat and seeing all this talk about tier gear. I didn’t really know what it was, but it sounded like getting it should be at the top of everyone’s to-do list.

Then came the big move where our D&D group was being split up and we realized that we were all playing WoW anyway. We all rerolled to a new server and started fresh.

This time around, I was taking it a little more seriously. I chose to play a mage, which is far and away outside my normal comfort zone of a melee class, and started working on the research needed to be a decent player.

I found out what tier gear was and what it took to get it. I watched videos of the raids and read strategies for content I was 30 levels away from.

Somewhere, somehow, the seed of the sacred tier was implanted and took root. The idea of a set of gear just for my class that showed I had been to the darkest corners of the deepest dungeons and returned victorious just set my little heart a-quiver.

With the introduction of Wrath and Blizzard’s changes to allow more people to see end-game content, I knew that I wanted to be there. Definitely not as a member of a server-first guild, maybe not even as a hardcore raider, but I wanted to see it and wanted to develop the skills necessary to do so.

Self-Esteem is not a Vegetable

I’ve read a lot of comments in discussions between the casuals and the hardcores. Many of the casuals accuse the hardcores of having no life and state that the only reason the hardcores care about content being nerfed or the casuals getting epics is because the all the self-esteem for the hardcores is derived from their in-game e-peen.

I don’t understand this argument.

Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t see a connection between my worth as a player and my worth as a person.

When I accomplish something in a game, yes it boosts my self esteem. It boosts my self esteem as a player – not as a person. If I fail to accomplish something in a game, it lowers my self esteem as a player – not as a person. I died to a void zone on KT. Damn, I sucked as a player. Pretty sure my self worth as a person is still intact.

I enjoy walking around Dalaran or waiting for a raid to start and randomly inspecting people. In the privacy of my home I oooh and aaah at tier pieces or items that I know only drop in hard modes. I envy their impressive achievements. I don’t think they are better people than the guy standing next to them in heroic blues, I just think they are a better player.

In martial arts, as a practitioner progresses and passes tests, they are rewarded with a different colored belt. This belt is a visual, iconic indicator of that individual’s advancement. This is how I feel about tier pieces. If I were to ever participate in martial arts and say, managed to get to a green belt, I would not expect to be given a black belt if I repeated the green belt test 1000 times over. Yes, it would make me better – at that level of performance. If for some bizarre reason, I was able to pass the green belt test 1000 times over and was given the black belt, it would devalue that belt for myself and for everyone I saw with it.

What am I Really After?

In WoW, the only real measure for a player’s skill (in PvE, please don’t drag PvP into this) seems to be raiding. But a significant portion of the player base isn’t interested in raiding, at least not on a 25-man level where all the best lootz comes from.

That isn’t to say that the non-raiders aren’t good players. But without this EoT change, they will never have the opportunity to earn their tier gear.

And yes, there is still the possibility of bad, but very patient, players grinding their way to their T9 even though they can’t remember to keep moving on Keristraza.

For the non-raiders, grinding to T9 isn’t rewarding the good players for playing well, it’s rewarding players for being determined and patient.

WoW can be played at many levels of skill. After all my problems with games in general, I want to show that I have improved, that I can learn, and that I can perform at a higher level. I want to be challenged and prove that I can overcome those challenges.

So I guess my problem really is that the item I have arbitrarily chosen as the holy grail of “if I earn this it shows I’m a good player” is limited by the reward mechanics of the game itself.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the exciting (and shorter) conclusion, The Radish Reward!

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10 comments on “The Carrot Complex

  1. Jess says:

    Wow, we have some of the same thinking.

    WoW was my first MMO, I’d played consoles all my life, but WoW was not only my first MMO but computer game, as well. It took my eight months to get my first toon (oddly enough, my mage) to 70. I took a couple of breaks, enjoyed the areas I was in. I was in no rush… until I got to go to Stratholme and Scholomance and found that there was gear that had mage specific attributes. At the time, the guildleader of my guild was a fire mage and he happened to be in the same run with me when I got my first piece. He was very excited for me and told me we could run it again so I could get a few more pieces.
    Then he told me when I hit 70 and got some heroic gear, he’d take me into Karazhan with them and I could get my t4 gear. I did a bit of research and found that two pieces could be got from there.
    I was very excited. I told tier gear in the same respect you do… well, I did until Wrath came out.

    The set bonuses for a holy priest (which is my main now) aren’t very impressive, imo, but for a mage, they are. And I’m working diligently to get my tier pieces for her (I have two, eeeee!)

    Oh and on the topic of D&D, my group meets every Friday night if you’d like to join. *winks*

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  2. Ben says:

    I was having a hard time understanding your argument over the last few entries, but honestly, when you explain it via the green belt difficulty thing, I get it. I raid with a frost mage (it’s a real raid spec, more raid utility than anything else) and I can now see what you mean about the sacred items that are tier gear. Those bonuses really are crazy.

    My guild runs 10mans, but I periodically would get into a 25man pug of Naxx. Through a number of lucky occurences, I’ve got full T7.5 gear, and I now have my first T8 piece. I dropped my T7.5 gear for Ulduar offset gear. I saw a drop of almost 200 dps. It’s really crazy just how good those tier bonuses are, isn’t it?

    I’m also a big grinder of rep and items in the game, so I understand that. I didn’t think that allowing 3 emblems per day to a very dedicated individual would be an issue. They already have to do two five man instances each day to get those 3 emblems, and like you calculated, that would likely get them their first piece of tier gear at 25 days. I have to agree that offset gear of the same ilvl should be a good reward for this person running ilvl 200 dungeons repeatedly. They just don’t have to earn the tier gear. At the same time though, what about the unlucky guy who hasn’t seen his tier piece drop, despite crushing the Coliseum each week for a month? He grinded that raid with 9 or 24 others and hasn’t gotten any tier gear out of it. There’s got to be a compensation method for that guy.

    Maybe Emblems of Conquest could be the reward for heroics. It would still mean you’d get T8.5 gear out of it. I wouldn’t complain if there’s someone in T8.5 gear in my T9 run, that’s for sure.

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  3. Dark/Soth says:

    “I would not expect to be given a black belt if I repeated the green belt test 1000 times over”

    You, my dear friend, have just won the internetz. That was perfect.

    Like

  4. gnomeaggedon says:

    Very nice analogy… it all makes sense now…

    Like

  5. Jess says:

    We’re doing Forgotten Realms, v3.5.

    My DM isn’t quite fond of the rules of v4. He’s well versed in v3.5 (doesn’t have to look at the rule book anymore). AND! I’m sort of new to D&D. I just started playing about six months ago… my Dad thought it was Satanic and I also didn’t have as nerdy friends in my home state as I do in the state I live in nao. :)

    I have a friend in WoW who is trying to build a website that incorporates the RNG so my boyfriend and I can play the Firefly (<3) RPG with him via YaHoo and Ventrilo. *crosses fingers he gets it set up soon, getting antsy*

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  6. zupa says:

    How do you feel about people who are unable to obtain tier gear in the current state of play?

    There could be any number of reasons for that to be the case. It could be anything from a physical disability that means they simply can’t raid properly or constraints on their game time. Perhaps they cant afford a PC that is stable in a 25 man group. Maybe they don’t speak the native language on their server.

    I think these people should be able to get at least some of the best gear around. They pay as much as anybody else to play. I remember very clearly not being able to play properly for a week due to an injury i received. I could still log in and run around but couldn’t do anything that involved pressing two keys at one time.

    I’m lucky as it was temporary. Not so for some others.

    Lets fast forward to the point where these unlucky players have some tier 9 gear, obtained slowly and painfully over a long period of time.

    They still can’t raid for the original reasons, my gaming experience is entirely unaffected, but perhaps they are a little bit happier playing the game in whatever capacity they are able?

    Nobody would assume they are more skilled than they are because of their gear. They still wont have a heroic sarth + 3D achievement, but perhaps they won’t feel like second class players anymore?

    So while Tier gear is your holy grail, and very important to you, can’t my buddy with the disability get some too one day without it affecting you, your game play, your raid, or your personal sense of achievement?

    I think he can. You probably wouldn’t even notice =)

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  7. Dark/Soth says:

    Zupa,

    It think its insulting to your friend to assume he has a sense of entitlement to gear available from the soon to be hardest content in the game due to his disabilities and limited play time. Also, your argument is giant fallacy. Ever hear of Appeal to Emotion?

    Like

  8. Glen says:

    If they can’t keep moving on Keristraza, they’re ass and team mates wrath going to handed to them when they accidentally get invited to fight Hordir.

    Like

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