Greedy Goblin

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tragedy of commons and PuGs

When I wrote my previous article about the ill-fated PuG, I did not recognized, that this problem is well-known to economics under the name of "the tragedy of commons".

The standard story explaining this problem is the following: there is a parcel of land where the cows can graze. The land is owned by no one, it's common property. The land has limited ability to regenerate. If too many cows eat the grass, the quality of it decreases, and finally the land becomes a barren wasteland where all cows starve. However until it happens, all people has the personal interest to send more cows to the land, since two slim cows are better than one normal. So everyone keep sending cows until the land is destroyed and all cows die.

The scientific definition: in the case of a common resource, the benefit of exploiting the resource goes to the exploiter but the damage is distributed evenly to all users. So everyone is motivated to exploit it until the resource is destroyed. No one wishes the destruction of the resource, yet no one is motivated to do anything to save it.

There are three ways out from the tragedy of commons:
  • privatization: splitting up the resource between users, allowing everyone to use only his own portion. This way the exploiter damages only his own part. This solution can only be used if the resource can be split up. You can split up a piece of land, but not the atmosphere or a WoW raid.
  • polluter pays: some governing power watches over the resource and make anyone who exploit it pay fine. This solution requires such power.
  • regulation: some governing power owns the whole resource and restricts usage, bans exploitation.This solution requires such power too.
The WoW raid is a perfect example of such common good. When the boss goes down, everyone, regardless personal effort gets badge and loot (in the case of /roll or DKP). The leech, who runs with the group but makes no effort, gets the same reward for no cost. Everyone is motivated to exploit the raid, since every minute of slacking is a minute not spent farming the same old instance (= gained for some kind of fun activity like watching TV).

While no one wants the raid be unsuccesful, everyone is motivated to slack, and the lot of slacking will finally leads to wipe.

Let's see the 3 solutions:
  • the world monsters can be privatized by playing alone and tagging them. All the loot of the tagged monster is mine, and I'm the only one fighting the monster. So any kind of slacking would damage only me, so I'm motivated to not slack. Too bad that raid or even 5-man bosses cannot be soloed, so cannot be privatized.
  • polluter pays: the slacker is punished by the raid leader for slacking. -DKP, no roll on next loot, "loot council will remember the slacking" are all examples of this system.
  • regulation: slacking is not allowed, slacker is removed from the group.

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Commenters of the previous article suggested that guilds are superior to PuGs because they are social groups and a person would not slack at the expense of his friends. Notice that there are many social guilds where slacking is rampart, to the point of boosting, where the slacker is the only one who receive reward, the others not. So social connections has nothing to do with stopping of slacking.

However the solution has nothing to do with social groups, the solution is in the guild leadership who either punish or remove the slackers. This also mean that PuGs can be just as successful as guilds as long as they have effective leadership to make sure that no one exploits the common resource.

Many commenters don't understand why do I stay away from guilds? Because I want to prove the above. I want to prove that success - even group success - has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of social effects. You don't need friends to be successful, you need business partners and you don't need to be friendly, social, moral, noble, just economically effective. My goal is to prove this point by PuGging the whole content.

PS: I don't claim that having friends among your partners does not increase your well-being, or friendship is any way wrong. I just say that friendship has nothing to do with success, just as the color of a car has nothing to do with its speed. Pink and brown stripes can decrease your fun during driving, but not the speed or turning capacity of the car.

23 comments:

Shalkis said...

Of course, not all guilds have friendship as the defining attribute. Many top-of-the-line raiding guilds have a system where you can invite friends to the guild, but getting invited to a raid requires fulfilling strict performance requirements, usually measured with gear, spell rotations and knowledge about raid encounter mechanics. It's also true that those requirements don't need to involve guilds at all. It would be interesting to have you and Tobold debate about the matter.

Mouse said...

I like this idea as a concept, but I find one small aspect questionable: What you are implying is that you attempt to recreate a power structure within every pug group. Essentially making up a one shot guild, with possible hangers on from previous instance runs.

It seems to me that you are trying to make this game overly difficult in terms of raiding for yourself. In my opinion, the beauty to guilds is that you are playing with the same people over and over again that manage to agree to a dictated set of terms and submit to a standardized structure.

It has been my experience that with the large influx of new players that the % that are below average has remained stagnant, but in absolute terms has increased. In other words, while pugging there are more people that do not know how to play this game, and or are not willing to learn.

So while a business relationship is possible, the structure of a corporation (i.e. a guild) leads to greater efficiency in terms of profit for all involved (i.e. purple loots).

Alfay said...

The biggest advantage of good raiding guilds is long term stability.

With a fixed schedule and a pool of players who sign up regularly and where the raid lead knows the strengths and weaknesses of the attending players, farming instances for loot is far quicker than trying to get a decent PuG together every week.

Because of this, players in a guild also have a bigger incentive to learn new encounters, because they know there will be farm runs in the future.

Knaughty said...

The point of being in a hard-core raiding guild is not the social element.

The point is to be in a pool of players who are known to be skilled, geared, and not slackers. I know my healers are good, because we train them to be good, and kick out the ones who aren't good, or can't be trained.

To use a job metaphor, since that matches the tone of your blog:

Entry level jobs can easily be filled by recruiting cheap contract labour. Do a basic interview (Your "Patchwerk test") and you can easily find someone who can do a shift at a fast-food joint for a bit over minimum wage. This is your typical PuG. You can even replace them every shift - simple labor jobs can be filled each day by casual workers.

This is not true for skilled work - you need long-term employees who understand the details of their job.

Your job test is "Patchwerk". My guild's "job test" is a written application that must demonstrate research into your spec and role, an armory check. After that, a subset of people are taken on a heroic, most pass. Then we spend one month testing & training them in raiding content before they are offered full membership.

If at a later stage a full member's performance or attendance drop, they are removed from the guild.

My guild has completed all content, including Sarth+3, both 10 and 25-man. As an example, the 10-man version took 12 hours of attempts to learn. This is not amenable to being pugged. We had the same 10 people spend four raid nights learning every little thing about the encounter in order to beat it. If you turn up with 10 randoms for 2 hours... it isn't going to work.

You can't use casual labor for highly skilled jobs. You need long-term employees. If you end up with a mostly static list of friends in your PuG in order to have a robust group of trained people to quickly and efficiently clear content.... well, you have a guild, just without the tag above your head.

spinksville said...

You can think of a guild as a social network. If you join a guild that has the same interests as you, it will put you in a position to be able to easily network with other people who want the same sorts of things.

I don't think you need to make friends, but you could do this yourself but only inviting people from your friends list ... and only put people on your friends list after you have some reason to think that they will have a similar approach to raiding to you.

Hagu said...

Hopefully, beneath the surface is not some un-GG like desire for justice or fairness.

Why do you care if the person performed their job well? Take someone who underperformed absolutely (watched TV, AFKed, facepulled) and relatively ( a third of the DPS of the others) - but their 1000 DPS was the difference between getting the boss down or failure and there were no better alternatives available. Would GG forgo his chance at purples to prevent the injustice of a M&S profiting?

So what if the "lot of slacking leads to a wipe"? If their incompetence adds an hour to the raid, but it would have taken you 3 hours of rigorous interviewing and searching to find a competent group, then aren't the slackers the correct choice? Or you return from vacation on Monday night and the choice is missing a week or a M&S raid that will eventually pay, although at a slower rate than if they were competent.. It's not fair that they receive loot, especially if the RNG smiles upon them. But why would the unfairness of life distract GG from making the proper decision?

Carra said...

You will not be able to do any difficult content with a PUG.

The most difficult content needs weeks or months of training (took my guild two months to down c'thun in the good old days for example). Having new members every week will make this training part impossible.

After all, that's what I understand of "PUG": a random bunch of people. If you "PUG" with the same people every week, it's not really a PUG.

Anonymous said...

"I want to prove that success - even group success - has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of social effects. You don't need friends to be successful, you need business partners and you don't need to be friendly, social, moral, noble, just economically effective. My goal is to prove this point by PuGging the whole content."

I agree with your point above in that success has nothing to do with friends or anything of that like. Leadership definitely plays a very large role in the success of the organization, and this is very apparent in RL.

Nevertheless, the reason PUGs have such a bad reputation and the sort is due to the reasons you have outlined along with non-dedicated and lack of "Business Partners" when you need them.

You could PUG Sart 3D and try to find all of the key resources for the encounter. If you do not have a geared Sart Tank, then the probability of success is little to none. If you do not have the DPS to down the first drake within a certain period of time then the probability of success diminishes again.

Your theoretical points do work on paper but reality of what is experienced when trying to PUG an encounter dictates otherwise.

If you were to gather various experienced players of a particular encounter, you increase your probability of success, assuming everyone is onboard and paying attention. However, the chances that all 25 members are not running an instance with their own guilds are highly unlikely. Most encounters can "carry" a handful of players but there are some that are not forgiving. This is where the frustration kicks in.

All-in-all, I agree with you theoretically but reality dictates otherwise. At least that is my reality on my server.

max said...

And in social guild you are having so much fun while raiding (Ventrilo) that you aren't tempted to do anything else, my guild is casual to the core and we've been playing various games together since 2004 only recruiting 1-2 new persons per year.
We cleared all current content in December, no we don't use DKP or other punishing systems, if you have fun you aren't tempted to "slack", it's fucking game not profession.

HolyGhost said...

So I joined a 25man Naxx pug last night. Hopped onto vent and zoned in.

There were many different guild tags and very few people actually knew each other.

The raid leader did a great job on explaining every fight. To the point of doing puppet shows at some encounters.. (He was the boss, someone else was the main tank... this is how this goes.. this is where you go if this happens kinda deal).

When he got through explaining, he would ask if anyone did not understand.

If no one replied he would then explain that since everyone says they understand if you mess up on what he just explained you will be removed.

On some encounters messing up just happens and that is understandable. No one was removed the whole raid, there were slackers but for the most part no morons at all. I lost too many loot rolls on a healer that barely healed. But that healer (i figured out it was their first time and i just assume they were concentrating so hard on not dieing they didn't heal as much as they will they next time) still followed instructions and died very little on boss encounters.

Overall for a PUG, it was the best held together PUG i've been in. Great leadership, great job on dealing out loot. Making sure the proper class got the right loot. No one bitched or whined about loot and everyone had a good time.

Good PUG's are just the luck of finding 25 people willing to at least try and work together. Don't ever be afraid as a raid leader to lay down rules for your raid and enforce them. With the understanding, no one is perfect, no one just gets it the first time, if they are at least putting forth the effort and trying to be a part of the raid they are a keeper.

Maybe their dps isn't so great because they are focusing more on what is going on around them with the encounter because they are new. This is a PUG, that is understandable.

Most when slacking are noticeable and can easily be delt with.

Leadership is the base for a good raid. Leadership needs to know how to spot slackers from beginners and decide what kind of raid this is going to be. If you want the best of the best.. they are both booted. If you just want a raid with people willing to listen and learn. Keep the beginner, lose the slacker and grab all the purples you can.

Ana said...

You are assuming that there are 24 people who are not committed to another raid group (guild or otherwise) who are sufficiently skilled to clear the content with few mistakes. (Btw achievement for having previouly completed the raid does not demonstrate skill nor does downing Patch - the easiest fight in Naxx coordination-wise.)

Also, you are assuming that those of us who have the gear would prefer to 'watch tv' rather than actually participate in the raid and that everyone is there for gear and thus more likely to free-ride. Have you considered the people who are there just for the satisfaction of cleanly clearing content? Srsly, we exist (but probably in guilds.)

B&K said...

Gevlon said:

"
Many commenters don't understand why do I stay away from guilds? Because I want to prove the above. I want to prove that success - even group success - has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of social effects. You don't need friends to be successful, you need business partners and you don't need to be friendly, social, moral, noble, just economically effective. My goal is to prove this point by PuGging the whole content.

PS: I don't claim that having friends among your partners does not increase your well-being, or friendship is any way wrong. I just say that friendship has nothing to do with success, just as the color of a car has nothing to do with its speed. Pink and brown stripes can decrease your fun during driving, but not the speed or turning capacity of the car."




You seem to lack a fundamental understanding of social structure and function and skills.

While your statement is partially true it is not completely true and it is a huge equivocation.

While it is true that you can be successful without friends, it is not true that friendship plays no part in successes.

Most highly successful people are shoomzers, people persons, they have large social networks and contacts. Why?? because all things being equal or nearly equal in a business deal, a person is more likely to work with a friend then a unknown.

There is indeed reasons, even business reasons, to be nice to others.

Lupius said...

It's pretty rare to have a pug of all 25 random people who don't know each other. It's hard to imagine the quality of leadership in that situation.

For example, the more successful pugs on my server are those formed by one or two guilds who keep a very short roster of skilled players for 10mans and have to pug out for 25s. In this case, the leadership is very strong and all the pug members wouldn't dare to be caught slacking.

I think this is another case of your "ape subroutines". I always first judge the potential of a pug (even in 5mans) by scanning their guild tags, and I would feel more confident if I see people with the same guild tags, because they are predisposed to be able to "work together".
A raid leader with support from raid members of the same guild has a stronger perceived presence of leadership. Whereas in a complete pug it's "everyone for himself, I slack all I want", no one listens to the raid leader because no one wants to be bossed around. With a half-guild half-pug raid, it's suddenly an "us versus them, I want to prove my worth and be accepted" mentality. Pugs are more likely to listen to the raid leader because (they think) they know half the raid is already listening to him.

Molinu said...

I totally agreed with you right up to the very end. The red ones are clearly faster. ;-)

But yeah, this makes a lot of sense. I've seen some raids go downhill because the leader is too 'polite' to punish the M&S. I'll be bringing the idea up with my guild leader later.

Ken said...

Tragedy of the commons nicely explains our current national economic situation, doesn't it? Bankers exploited the housing market and got bailed out by the rest of the nation (they also pay taxes, but didn't get fined, and have had no accountability).

I think the most obvious benefit of guild vs pug is in the opportunity costs for the members of the guild vs pug. Instead of spending 1-2 hours trying to organize a raid, refine the balance, and direct the PUG most guilds have an arrival time, location, and an ending time....leaving them to play the AH, do dailies, do RL obligations, etc.

Carlath said...

Assume for the moment that your goal is purely an in-game payoff (badges, epics) for time spent, then. I found, applied to, and joined a raiding guild. In the space of three hours, we can easily clear all four wings of Naxx-25, which offers better gear than Naxx-10.

From that purely-utilitarian point of view, I would have to consider a group that took three hours to clear only the Construct wing to not be worth my time. This doesn't take into account that raiding with a good group of people you know and like is *more fun* for a lot of us.

IMHO, your attempt to bypass Guilds is sort of besides the point. Whether you're talking about friends, social groups, or 'business partners', this is really about organizing the group of people you need to make something happen. We talk about 'guilds' a lot because guilds are the in-game logistical tool Blizzard provides for us to do this.

Anonymous said...

"Notice that there are many social guilds where slacking is rampart, to the point of boosting, where the slacker is the only one who receive reward, the others not. So social connections has nothing to do with stopping of slacking."

I think running a lvl60 through ramps with your 80, where you really just want them to stay back and not die (and the run is trivial regardless), has nothing to do with allowing slacking in actual raids. Way to miss the point again.

David said...

The statistical odds of finding 24 other people that can all work together and clear content as fast as a guild are very very low.

If you build a pool of players that you call on regularly to group with, it becomes the exact same social structure as a guild, just with no tag over your head.

For someone who thrives on efficiency your plans make no sense. It makes me think of a company president, who, every morning, strolls down to the temp agency and recruits 25 people for one day, and sends them back home at the end of the day. The same people may or may not come back each business day.

Sure, work will get done, and some of it will get done rather well, and the company may realize a profit. But compare it to a company with 25 full-time employees, you would be hard pressed to out-perform and out-profit them.

Gothica said...

"There are three ways out from the tragedy of commons:

actually there aren't, I'll explain why:

* privatization:
In Brazil lots of people were able tobuy parts of the rain forest. The most profitable return on their investment was cutting down the trees to ranch cattle. Big ranches gained land very cheaply from people who were a) poor and b) disinclined to wander the jungle with spears when they could go to Rio and own a TV
If the government hadn't stepped in the Amazon would be a desert by now

* polluter pays:
this obviously doesn't work. Instead of not destroying your ecosystem this allows people to pay to destroy the ecosystem. That doesn't stop people, and besides at the point of decision-making people don't realise they will get caught and fined.

* regulation:
this simply puts the onus on highly motivated exploiters of the commons to confound under-motivated public economies. For example rhino poaching in Africa is now big business conducted by gangs of up to 50 men armed with assault rifles. We KNOW there won't be wild rhinos left in 50 years, it's simply too worthwhile to eploit them.


* the world monsters can be privatized by playing alone and tagging them. All the loot of the tagged monster is mine, and I'm the only one fighting the monster. So any kind of slacking would damage only me, so I'm motivated to not slack. Too bad that raid or even 5-man bosses cannot be soloed, so cannot be privatized.

Actually you can solo all content in many games. WoW is successful precisely because you can't solo it all. If you have the big axe off Kel Thuzad that makes you better (hit harder, look cooler) than the next guy. This is why people pay to play WoW they want to feel better than the next guy.

* polluter pays: the slacker is punished by the raid leader for slacking. -DKP, no roll on next loot, "loot council will remember the slacking" are all examples of this system.
Just becomes a matter of not getting caught. For example in my old guild we were strict on consumables (raid leader had an add on that reported who had them on) but didn't inspect to check people had good gems and enchants and some people got very slack.

Some things are hard to measure. I pride myself in being an excellent tank healer. I have high overheal and score low on the meter relative to all the raid healers which is what most of the others prefer. In fact the only thing I really have going for me is that my tank doesn't die if damage is remotely healable. During our recent Sarth 3 attempts the other healers were crappy at keeping their tanks up and we wiped over and over. Despite wiping because of their bad healing they still beat me on the meter!

* regulation: slacking is not allowed, slacker is removed from the group.
you will lose too many people this way. You don't have an infinite supply of highly motivated recruits. I think I'm a pretty valuable member of a raid team but still things happen if someone is at the door or if I'm asked to raid while hungry and have to cook at the same time. Everyone slacks some time.

there are many social guilds where slacking is rampart, to the point of boosting, where the slacker is the only one who receive reward, the others not. So social connections has nothing to do with stopping of slacking.

You can slack in a guild but there are guilds where people don't slack (or are quickly benched if they do). This guide
http://www.stratfu.com/strats/RaidFast
is based on the way American guild Fusion plays.

It takes leadership to motivate people to play a raid with focus and desire. This is why people say do it with a guild not a pug

Do keep going with your experiments in pugging. I'm very interested to see if you can make it work

In the long term if you make it work it's probably because you're a good leader. In which case you would probably be more successful as a guild leader than running great pugs. Still I'd love you to prove me wrong.

The problem as I see it is you have to train and motivate even good players to be effective people too. And each week with a new bunch you will again have to train and motivate them - in the end it's simpler with a captive audience who know what you expect of them.

Mahonnant said...

"Many commenters don't understand why do I stay away from guilds? Because I want to prove the above. I want to prove that success - even group success - has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of social effects. You don't need friends to be successful, you need business partners and you don't need to be friendly, social, moral, noble, just economically effective. My goal is to prove this point by PuGging the whole content."
And then the philosopher stood up and walked, proving that movement exists.
If this is not clear enough : guilds work, they do, look around. Pugging all content (or most of it) is possible, or will be in the future as mudflation slowly flattens difficulty level. The difference between doing it a guild and doing it in a PuG ? Energy spent, you'll lose much more to entropy by going the PuG way.
Let's look at the business partner approach you want to take : have you ever been in one of the competitive guilds ? I'm talking US or EU top 20. Sure there are social bonds forming up in there, but there are disputes too, I've seen some people who couldn't stand each other (socially-speaking) raid together, communicate for the good of the raid and type /ignore [eachother] as soon as raid disbanded. What is that if it's not your idea of business partners ?

Josh said...

http://e4ae.blogspot.com/2009/02/countering-goblin-personal.html

I invite you to respond, Gevlon.

Anonymous said...

The tragedy of commons fails to address the concept of "time", in such that, to follow the analogy, if the individual (or the individuals-use-of the resource) expires before the resource is depleted, then it is in the interest of individual to exploit.

Hatch said...

Have fun Pugging Sarth + 3 Drakes, Gevlon.

Putting "friendship" aside, it pays to be able to return to an encounter over and over with the same group of people, all of whom you get to know how to play with. It raises the performance of all of you as a unit, and is the only way to down sarth 3d with current gear.

And if you just pug the same people every week, then guess what? You are basically a raiding guild with no chat channel.

Sure you can pug trivial content like naxx and "succeed". I think you're experiment is going to fail when you try something that's actually difficult. And it will have nothing to do with "useless" things like "friendship".