Yesterday we started talking about WoW as a game and the expectations of an average player that a game comes with all the pieces one needs to play.
Today I want to talk a little more about the players themselves.
And again, this is in relation to heroics. The raiders can hold their breath until later in the week. =P
We’ve already looked at commitment to the game (game, hobby, or job), but there are 2 other factors that play into how a person interacts with the community.
First is skill.
Going back to the baseball analogy, if you miss the ball, you know there is a problem with your ability to hit. Likewise with catching, throwing, etc.
But how do you measure skill in WoW?
More specifically, how does a new player (or a player that is just at the game level), know how they are doing?
When I first started on my poor abused warrior, I was at the game level.
I logged in, did some quests, looked at all the pretty things, ogled other people’s shiny weapons, boggled at all the acronyms and jargon in trade chat, and just generally followed the very vague path that the game set out for me, following exclamation points from quest hub to quest hub.
Mobs were dying more often than I was so I had no reason to believe that I was doing anything wrong or out of place.
I kept to myself or played with friends of a similar skill level, bypassing the rest of the community almost entirely.
There was no prompt for me to question my skill other than my own lack of self-confidence.
I was fortunate (or cursed, depending on my mood) to have leveled my mage alongside another friend also leveling a mage. We were little mage twinsies.
Except his little mage could beat the shit out of mine.
OK, I knew I wasn’t a great player, but having a direct comparison available made it obvious that I needed some work.
But if I had never played in the same party with his mage, I might never have realized that I could do much better.
And it required Recount for me to even know that I was being trounced.
Just looking at Recount before I had a player comparison, I just had a raw number with no value to apply to it.
Try looking for information on how much damage a leveling character should be doing at various points in the game.
I know I tried for a very long time, but there was so little out there and so much of it was old or contested. Most of it sings the tune of “don’t worry about it until end game.”
It took me quite some time and effort before I reached the same level of performance that my mage twin had reached intuitively.
He had more inherent skill for playing the class than I did. Hell, he has more natural skill for the whole game.
Some people are born with skill. Some people acquire skill, usually with additional commitment. Some people just never quite get the hang of it.
Because I’m a geek, here is a graph.
My mom… well.. she likes to play. She will sometimes go look up how to finish a quest on Thottbot. But she’s just not very good at looking at an ability or skill and seeing how it fits into the big picture. The concept of kiting continues to elude her, which is an issue when you’re playing casters, and other mechanics are just plain hard for her. But she’s having a good time and is always very proud of her accomplishments when she gets something done. If it weren’t for me telling her that she’s a noob, she would think she’s doing just fine.
Across the spectrum is the Ensidias of the world. I imagine the cutting edge players were all very good to start with and have only honed those skills with countless hours of practice and theory crafting.
My cousin could be a top-rate player, he rocks at every game he picks up. But he doesn’t have the interest in taking most games from the game level to the hobby or job level, he just likes playing and happens to be very good at it with a minimum amount of effort.
I consider myself to be a player of average skill. I don’t stand in fire but I sure could use some more work on managing trinket procs to be most effective. I do spend a lot of time both playing the game and researching the game. I am firmly in the middle to upper reaches of this being a serious hobby.
My mage twinsie, Dark/Soth, probably doesn’t spend as much time as I do outside the game focused on it, but I think he takes it more seriously than I do. And his skill just means I have to work that much harder to keep up with him.
With the wonder that is the LFG tool, it would be entirely possible for each of us to end up in the same group. Kungen of Ensidia would be tanking, my cousin had a druid at some point so would probably be healing, me on my mage, Dark on his, and my mom on god-knows what. We’ve got the major leagues, the minors, the B league and T-ball all in the same party. /use Pony Keg
The second factor of community interaction is attitude.
Ours and theirs.
When we throw our name in the queue for a random dungeon, we are handing over control of the party selection to a sophisticated series of algorithms that consistently tells me I have a 4 minute wait time when I’ve been in queue for over 20.
I may get matched with a group of people that may not be able to keep up with me or I may find myself struggling to keep up with them. I may get really lucky and find the “just right” party.
We may find ourselves grouped with people that are on their first 80; maybe just dinged a couple hours ago. The dungeon finder opens up heroic dungeons so into heroic dungeons they go. Matter of fact, I think it makes it the default as soon as you hit 80. (I’ll verify that on my priest before too much longer.)
A person just playing the game will not have the knowledge that they are probably not ready for heroics. All they know is that the game says they can get into heroics now. We, as the educated and experienced players know that the progression should look like normals before heroics. But if the game tells them they are ready, why would a new player question that?
Are we as a community going to hold it against the new guy for not knowing that he sucks?
Recount is not part of the standard UI. Nor is any other performance measuring display other than a dead boss or a dead party. If the game itself does not give you a yardstick, how are you supposed to find out about it?
As mentioned briefly yesterday, all this great information out on the interwebz is not covered anywhere in the game. Other games you can pull out of the box and play, where is the clue that this one is different?
There is no warning on the WoW package, “Caution: This game has a rabid fan base with vague but high standards of performance that you will be judged against. In order to avoid being ostracized by the player community you must devote a portion of your play time to researching information outside of the game on sites that are not maintained or moderated by the Blizzard Development Team. This information will often be outdated, incorrect, or buried within elitist jargon – use at your own risk.”
Let’s say that we tell someone, “hey, you suck, go research your class” or, “you know, you might see more damage if you used spell X instead of spell Y; there was a really nice write up on it over at http://www.l2playnoob.”
On what authority are they going to trust us, the random pug member, that we know something they don’t?
We can say, “It’s cool, you can trust me, my main is a [class/spec] so I know what I’m talking about” until we’re blue in the face. There is no proof that any of us are reliable sources of current, valid information. We are not Blizzard, we have no credibility to the other player.
A random person in trade chat summed it up very well, “you’re all strangers on the internet so none of your opinions matter, really.”
Even the most kindly worded and well meaning advice can come across as an attack. And how often do you see polite and accurate advice being handed out to strangers in WoW?
Get on a lowbie character and ask in trade chat what the best stat for a warrior is. Count how many responses of “spirit” and “spellpower” you get. Followed by crit, strength, attack power, stamina, etc. Looks like every stat is the most important stat.
How many times have we been in a group and someone else berates some one else for something? Does that really foster an environment where the noob actually wants to get the information?
Chances are, it’s just a game to that person and they don’t see what all the fuss is to everyone else. The boss died, why are the others so wound up about numbers? Why are they yelling and name calling about it?
Of course, there are individuals that know full well they suck.
Some care and want to do better, many are caught in the “gear will fix it” mindset and doggedly queue for heroics, confident that the next drop will be the one that makes it all work. There is hope for these individuals, providing that the community does not destroy their spirit.
There are the slightly bad apples that get defensive when they are called out for poor performance, usually retorting with comments such as, “I don’t need anyone to tell me how to play my character.” These people don’t get that as many ways as there are to play a character, a DPS warrior does not use a shield and a paladin should train blessing of wisdom. These people would be better off playing a single-player game so that they could play in whatever manner they choose without frustrating the rest of the players.
And then there are the rotten apples, the alts of alts of alts of jackasses that just want to be carried through everything. These people ruin it for the rest of the poor performers. They know better but will do nary to improve their lot, preferring to snatch up whatever loot they can at the expense of the people that worked their tails off to get through the content alive.
Blizzard has made just about all content accessible for all players. Maybe not hard modes and heroic raids, but certainly all 5-man content (even heroic) is accessible. They even have gone as far as offering instant teleportation to these instances. Blizzard wants people in dungeons. We aren’t going to change this, it’s the way it is.
But until Blizzard includes a DPS meter and publishes expected standards, we cannot automatically expect that all our fellow players have a clue about their performance.
The current advertising campaign is using Mr. T. Does Mr. T really scream, “this is a game that requires math and research to do well at?” Not really. Maybe more about fool pitying, but not so much proper rotation and performance expectations.
We can’t do anything about the attitude of the other players. But we can do something about our own.
- With a player base of over 11 million people, it can be expected that skill levels are going to span a very broad spectrum.
- Blizzard has made many efforts to open up more content to more players.
- When queuing for random dungeons we lose the control of selecting our party members.
- New players or players at the game level may be blindly following the path the game has set for them.
- There is no method of gauging performance included in the standard UI.
- There is no way to “prove” that you as a player are qualified to be giving advice to another player.
- When receiving advice, some players are grateful, some are defensive, and some are nasty about it. This roulette wheel of emotions reduces the likelihood that people are willing to help others.
Tomorrow we’ll start looking at expectations, reasonable or otherwise, for what people of varying skill and commitment levels should be producing.
Homework is still being accepted!
Go pug, varying levels if you can, and report back what kind of damage you’re seeing. Be sure to note what the instance was, the level of the player, class, and any extenuating circumstances. Next week we’ll be looking at what average really is in the game world so we need lots of empirical data. Post your results here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.