Monday, June 15, 2009

The skill

Brian wrote a comment that illuminated the fundamental social error, and also what "the skill" is in WoW (and in all other group efforts): "I've met the M&S players, at least the ones who bother to try raiding, and they aren't clearing very much at all. The only content they experience is content where much better geared and skilled players can drag them through. And in my experience, this isn't too much of the content. Certainly nothing in Ulduar besides maybe FL normal mode. The game is not being geared for M&S, a group of M&S can hardly do OS. What Blizzard is really doing is focusing the game on people for whom both social things and raiding are important. Raids can now be skilled friends instead of having a roster that's filled out like a professional sports team. The fact that Ulduar is much harder than Naxx makes it obvious that Blizzard's intent isn't to nerf difficulty into the ground. They're clearly searching for a good balance point. Gevlon freely admits he places no value on social things when it comes to raiding, making money, or anything else. But I think he's in the minority in WoW. For most of us, skilled or otherwise, we don't WANT a game that forces us to kick someone from our raid permanently because they got frozen on Hodir. Older content basically punished anything but ultimate pursuit of the goal as weakness, and I'm not sure that's very appealing to most people, even if they are pretty good. I don't want to play with complete slackers either, but I like that WoW allows me to pick friends who are pretty good over totally epic players who I can't stand. I already have a job where the results are the only thing that matter, I'm not sure my free time needs to be taken up with another one."

Let's quantify his point: Formerly only "Class A" players could clear the content. It was not fun for him. Let's assume he is "Class A" player. He doesn't want a game that forces him to kick his "Class B" friends and replace them with "Class A" players he can't stand. We can agree with him right? After all, some "Class B" friends won't hurt. They are carried, but not much. They pull like 90-95% of their weight, pulled only for 10-5%. That's acceptable, right?

First we must notice is that this request is just as elitist as the "Class A only" policy. This policy allows only to Class A players to play with Class B friends. Class B players have no right to play with Class C friends. We feel it acceptable as everyone feels it right to get what he wants.

The "Class A only" system is just elitist. The "Class A + some friends" system is elitist and unjust. In the former your success depended only on your effort. If you made it to Class A, you got in. In the latter you still have to make Class B efforts (elitism) and you have to be friendly (favoritism) to get in. If you are either Class A or B, you can be left out if you are not kissing the appropriate ass.

But there is more: What if your friends are Class C? What if your guild have too many Class B friends and too few Class A? You'll wipe, and say that the game is not "accessible". And the game is nerfed once more. However it's an endless cycle. The game can always be nerfed "just a little bit" to allow you to replace one more "totally epic player who I can't stand" with one "friend".

Of course if the game is already "Class B + some friends", more and more players will demand further nerfs to let more "friends" in. At the end of the line there is the "Class D" player, who will demand a nerf to be able to kick that "elitist jerk" who suggested to have some gem in his empty slot and be able to play with his 11 years old brother who uses fireball and frostbolt in random sequence.

There is no hard line in this system. There are no numbers. There is just the feeling of entitlement to play with friends and complete content. However it leads to endless nerfs until everyone can get everything.


Only seven months ago I was wiping on Moroes while others were in Sunwell. Now I'm wiping on FL+4. Did my fire-avoiding skill improved that much? Unlikely, since I'm playing for almost 2 years now. If I couldn't learn to get out of the fire in 14 months, how could I improve so much in 7? I didn't. I could press the buttons pretty well back then.

What I've learned is the skill that matters in all group activity. It's exactly what my dear commenter wanted to avoid in his free time: "results are the only thing that matter". If you invite people for any other reason than results, your group will fail (unless the task is pathetic).

This is the skill that this stupid video game could teach millions of young people so they could be much more successful in real life.

Except: they don't want to learn that. They are social, so they want friends, not results. Too bad that they will learn it, one way or another. If they whine hard enough to make Blizzard nerf this game down, they will have fun with their friends... for one expansion. Then, the even lower skilled people will whine to get another nerf. Finally the game will be no fun to anyone who is not a facerolling moron. And the semi-socials will lose not only the game fun, but also the game friends, as these "friendships" rarely survive when someone quits the game. They will recognize that they spent 100+ days /played without learning or getting anything permanent. And that will suck much more than benching some friend (or being a benched friend) on Mimiron hard mode.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

there is no SKILL in wow.

Even uldar is getting nerfed into the ground.

I did 10 man uldar the few weeks it was out. It was pretty hard. Then I stopped doing ten mans. Took 2 weeks off. did a few 25 mans (only got 3 things of 25 man loot). Went back to 10 man with people in gear worse then me, who had less uldar experience then me and we one shot every boss up to yogg.

i was pretty disappointed. They have nerfed too many things about Uldar, when really the only things that needed to be nerfed where the fact that a tank couldn't move during laser barrage on phase 4 of Mimiron, and the ignis bug.

WoW has devolved to the lowest common denominator, it seems. People cry, things get nerfed, blizzard makes money.

wtb a new MMO that doesn't have sub par graphics (WAR) or sub par combat (AoC)

Shy said...

I think one of the most coveted skills outside of wow are social skills.

Of course in a highly competitive environment it's to be expected that you're also judged on your skills to perform in the job.

But my experience is that in the life outside of the game the social aspect is about as important, if not more important, to get somewhere in a job, sport, or anything that requires team commitment.

We Fly Spitfires said...

Interesting post!

If socailising isn't important to someone in a MMO, and they just want results, why wouldn't they just play a single player game? The net result is the same - they 'achieve' something.

IMO the whole point of MMOs is about the social interaction. If I wanted a high score, I'd go play Tetris :)

Of course any achievement in a computer game is utterly useless and invalid in the real world :)

Anonymous said...

@WeFlySpitfires

Because in a group game a casual player can blame their failures on the other people, or say "well i'm not a no-lifer" to justify lack of skill.
In tetris you can't say that. If you lose constantly there is only one failure present.

Maria said...

I have one friend with a good attitude to MMORPG playing. He knows exactly what he wants or doesn't want to do. If he gets into a group and someome starts telling him what to do he will get out instantly. He won't use skills he doesn't like, he won't sacrifice himself with skills like Divine Shield, etc... Horrible guy to play with unless you can scream at him RL BUT he doesn't bitch about difficulty, he accepts that he won't see everything and kill everything because of his quirks. That IMO is the most important thing in MMORPGs, you have to know what "level" you are playing in and do it. IF you have 8 per week, you won't see everything, if you want to do exactly what you want 100% of the time you won't raid much, if you are a slow player unwilling to learn tactics then don't go to places that demand it. Simple.

Mentat said...

What I don't get is why people bother playing if they're not going to play well. I guess excellence is out of style now? Anything I do whether its doing my job, helping a friend, or playing WoW, I want to do it well or at the least, as well as I can. I just can't believe the people out there who don't care about the quality of their actions. I don't play WoW even 10 hours a week, but I play those 10 hours as well as I can (which is pretty well.) For some reason this is shocking to people?! Come on people, try excellence, it's good for you.

ZacharyPruckowski said...

Personally, I think Brian is on to something. Allow me to suggest why I consider Blizzard's new difficulty model "fair".

Let's divide players into classes A-D. Class A is absolute min-maxers and play WoW the most. Class B know how to play, and aren't lazy, but are a step below min/max in effort and skill. Class C is M&S who try or at least pretend to try. They have the spark and willingness to maybe be molded into decent players. Class D is M&S who make no attempt whatsoever to better themselves.

An expansion consists of 3-4 Tiers, with each Tier lasting 5-6 months as "top content". Naxx/OS/Maly was a tier (7th since vanilla), and Ulduar is a tier (Tier 8).

A (semi-) hardcore guild (nearly all Class As) will beat a Tier's hard modes in its 5-6 month lifecycle. This is represented by getting the appropriate proto-drake (Ironbound in this case) on 25-man. If Blizzard tuned it right, most good guilds that raid Uld25 8+ hours/week will get their Heroic:Glory of the Ulduar Raider around a month before 3.2 drops, and spend those last 3-4 weeks trying the ultra-hard-modes, like "Alone in the Darkness" or Algalon. The guilds on this track have currently "beaten" Ulduar easy-mode and probably 1/2 of the hard modes (Gevlon's guild is on this track).

The next level of raiding group is "casual-core". It's mostly Class B players, with some Class A guys. Their goal is to beat Ulduar and get as many hard-modes as possible (most they'll manage is half of GotUR). They are likely currently cock-blocked somewhere between their 3rd Keeper and Yogg. They raid Uld25 for 2 nights/week. When 3.2 rolls around, they'll have beaten Yogg and a few hardmodes, but they'll still have a pile to do. Maybe they'll get the 10-man hard-modes wearing 25-man gear. They'll move on to the next raid (AC-25), when it drops.

Then you have fail raids. You've got "learning guilds" of Class Cs led by Class Bs. This group barely cleared Naxx-25 by April, and is currently getting maybe 3-4 bosses into Ulduar. It's run by semi-competent Class B people who are trying to "teach" their Class C and D friends how to raid. They'll maybe get through antechamber by the time 3.2 comes out. There are also "fail guilds" which don't even have a few core Class B people. They get 2-3 wings into Naxx and die, or only get Flame Lev and Archavon.

Pre-WotLK, only the first group were getting into Sunwell, and only the A+ group was getting pre-nerf Muru/KJ kills. The second group (who aren't M&S, but also aren't that good) were clearing Kara and maybe Tempest Keep but not Black Temple. The third and fourth groups were pre-nerf Kara wipers.

The WotLK raiding change is that Group 1 is no longer shooting for "clear the instance". It's expected that they'll do that within 6 weeks. They're shooting for "get the hardmode drake" or for pre-nerf* Algalon. Firefighter is the new Brutallus, "Steelbreaker Last" is the new Eredar Twins, and "One Light" is the new Muru. This change lets the next lower group (the Class B raiders) get end-boss kills and advance without bashing their heads too much. This isn't really a dilution of raiding. To kill Yogg-Saron, you still have to be able to stay out of the fire consistently, and you still need a near-optimal spec, and you still need to enchant/gem sanely and you need to actually properly execute your rotation.

* - Eventually he's going to be open for more than 1 hour/week.

Brian said...

Hmm...that was an interesting rebuttal to my comment, Gevlon. And as hard as it is to believe, I find myself agreeing with your point...even if it's not for Goblin reasons :-D

No, I haven't renounced being social, but I realize that it's different saying "results are the only things that matter" and "results matter". Content has become easy enough that among the pool of players who are good enough to do it, I can also find people I like playing with.

So what about people I LIKE but who aren't good enough to bring to difficult content? As Gevlon pointed out, the solution can't be to adjust the content for them, because that is an endless cycle of nerfing to the game. The real solution is for them to improve their skills and/or gear.

Because here's what I realized, from a social perspective, it's STILL dumb to try to drag just anyone along on runs. The skills required to do well in WoW aren't rocket science, and the basic reasons people aren't "good enough" are things that should be easy to fix. Except if the priority is being social instead of being social AND results oriented, there is no reason for people to get any better. And if the content gets adjusted to skills instead of the other way around, any sense of accomplishment is gone from the game.

There's also another social reason Gevlon is right about results. Real friends, instead of real "socials", should WANT to improve to help the group complete the task. It's not very friendly to be continually wiping the raid because you refuse to learn some pretty basic skills. Contrary to my previous comment, it doesn't really take an "elite hardcore raider" to figure it out.

From a social perspective, I think the game can be about achieving something difficult with a skilled group of friends. This should satisfy the goblins and some socials. The people who JUST want to be social can do plenty of things besides raiding, since if being social is the objective, virtually ANY activity will do.

Yaggle said...

I just cannot get motivated to fine-tune my skills in an MMO because the rewards are basically just imaginary. If/when I can earn RL cash from an MMO, I think I might find some more motivation. What is this "excellence" that I am hearing about? Can this excellence bring you fame and fortune? Will the best WoW player be in a movie some day similar to the "King of Kong" movie? I kind of doubt it. "Excellence" ? REALLY? Tiger Woods made a very good choice when he decided what to be excellent at. Top WoW raiders? Not so much.

whatsmymain said...

My original post was pretty much what Zach said. Only posting to remind everyone that we are only in the second tier of raiding. This is like TK and SSC the only difference is there isn't any attunement required to get into ulduar.

Kara atleast required you to (initially) to get the key which also meant you had to have a flying mount. How many 80's have you seen lately w/o cold weather flying needing to get a summon to Naxx?

Anyway the hardmodes aren't designed to be sunwell or anything like that, they are there to keep the hardcore players busy till the next batch of content comes out. The final tier I imagine will be a fairly difficult and I don't believe Blizzard will nerf it as fast as Ulduar.

I'm glad that I have a raid that I can do with my friends who aren't the best (Naxx) and then still raid with players more my skill level in Ulduar.

Wiggin said...

A couple points:

I think there is definite lapse of logic of Brian, but not on the discussion of elitism. While it is a fundamental error to point out one Class A only type as unjust while you favor another (combination of class A, B or C, doesn't matter) I don't think Brian was doing so.

In fact, it could be boiled down to any form of discrimination (which is everyone's favorite way to say 'you can't play with me') is elitist, be it based on gear, play, gender, etc.

Rather, the failure of the logic comes from his attempts to "understand" what Blizzard ultimately wants. This seems to be more of an unknown variable. We could discuss in great detail "how much" they want the game to be challenging, or "how much" they want it to be player friendly. The point is, we can't quantify these variables.

Even in your response you address this issue in your criticism of Brian's post, but commit a similar error. Can we assume that Blizzard will ultimately boil the game down to Class D types or worse, simply for the sake of appealing to socials, and if so, isn't that perhaps an example of how they want their game to be played?

We might disagree on this point, but I doubt Blizzard only cares about subscriptions. They want players to have "fun" too, be it through achievement, competition or socializing. Blizzard may or may not favor one element over the other, but perhaps they all must exist to keep subscribers as well as provide a better company image.

Anyways, I've rambled far too long. Always enjoy your posts Gevlon. I have a lot of respect from you, so don't take my criticism too harshly.

ZacharyPruckowski said...

Whatsmymain has a good point - the removal of attunements did much more to help non-Class-As raid than any Ulduar nerf did.

The advantage of attunements is that they make it hard to be carried. To set foot in Karazhan, you had to do a whole series of dungeons to get the key. I don't think "needed flying" was the issue, I think the issue is that under-qualified players couldn't PUG Kara because they couldn't get into Kara. By the time you could run Kara, you already had some decent gear, because you had to run at minimum 6* difficult lvl70 instances to get the key. To do T5, you had to do a whole series of quests and pile of Heroics, as well as kill two T4 raid bosses.

The upside of this is that every Kara raider had to follow a long questline and do a series of dungeons at level to get into Kara, and every T5 raider had to geared and skilled enough to run T4 and Heroics or they couldn't even zone in. No more "OMG, I just dinged 80! LFG Naxx/Maly PST".

The downside is that attunements were a ridiculous pain in the butt. Imagine if moving into Ulduar required that you get your entire raid revered with Hodir, get them through a 20-quest chain, and have them get the "loot Maly's toenail" quest and kill Maly for it. That's fine if you raid with the same 25 guys, but now you've got to get all your alts and any "back-benchers" or replacements through that chain as well. It adds up to a lot of lost raid time.

Bottom line: Attunements are both good and bad. They create a minimum standard to get into the raid, but they're also a time-consuming pain if done to excess**.

* - You also needed the Arcatraz key.
** - Does not include Black Temple attunement. Also leaves off Nightbane chain.

(And just as a quick clarification to a prior post, "'One Light' is the new Muru" meant merely that they're supposed to be the challenges for the hardcore raiders. I'm not directly comparing the difficulty of the two of them.)

William said...

Although attunements have been removed, they have at least been semi-replaced with achievements on most servers. I don't think any raid would take a random person who doesn't even have the achievements for T7 content before letting them into an Ulduar-25 man.

So basically, attunements are no longer strictly enforced by the game, but most decent raid leaders still do a good job of making sure they aren't carrying complete M&S.

Anonymous said...

Meh...Blizzard isn't caving to M&S. Blizz's goal is to: (a) give a challenge to the 'elite guilds' (b)ensure that most raid guilds can complete most content.
If they had static dungeons, (a) and (b) would be mutually exclusive.
So, Blizzard consistently starts out with hard, but achievable raids and gradually nerfs them until my guild can finish them...
The way I look at it, all the raids and achievements are timed and if you can't finish the boss/achievement before Blizzard nerfs it...you just weren't good enough.

Joe nothin' said...

Listen, gav, i think you are missing what this game *is* to alot of people - I dont really understand how that is possiable, becuase you've wrote a post on the topic already, and described it as a poker night.

WoW for me is not a game, its the space between real games, real chalanges and stories. Its something to do with my IRL friends when we dont feel like going out or watching a movie. Its something we do togther, as a group, and enjoy as a group. Its needs to be acciable to us as a group.

Now, i'm not asking for it to be nerfed skillwise. I want things to be hard, i want fires to move out of, i want our defeting something to actually be worth while.
What i do want, what i allways hated about vanilla and TBC was that the challange wasn't a skill challange, it was a numeric chalange. To beat MC, you needed to have enough gear, and to get the gear, you needed to do MC over and over and over again, each time taking one small item. That's what i want changed, and that's what is changing.

The game, as a game, is getting more complex, more intersting, harder in almost everyway. But you need a lesser level of gear to do it, and now skill is worth more then it ever did. This means, that now i can get a bunch of my friends, and raid ulduar. We can do it without raiding three times a week, becuase you need a lesser amount of gear - or in your terms, what is good enough is lower then what used to be good enough.

Since this is a game to enjoy with friends, as a group, this is what it needs to be.

Joe Nothin' said...

Also, 'we fly spitfires' is right.

Socialising is the only reason i bother playing an mmo in the first place. When i want a real chalange, when i want an actual game, i play a single player game.

Sneaking into a base at the top tier in prototype was 10x as satisfying as beating naxx for the first time, or hitting 80, or even downing rag for the first time all those years ago. Single player games are more complete and more rewarding then anything WoW has to offer, both storywise and game wise.

Vyr said...

For those who said content is nerfed. Or easily cleared. That would depend on how you define "content". If content to you means killing Yogg. Then yes, it was heavily nerfed and you can clear content easily. But for alot of guilds, content includes the hardmodes. You can only claim content was easy after you clear the hardmodes.

For those who said WOW requires no skill. Link me your algalon acheivement and your comment will hold water. If not I am not going to take you seriously. If WoW requires no skil as you mention, how come you haven't killed algalon yet?
"Err.. Cos I have a life?"
"Err.. Cos I have crappy guild mates?"
"Cos I dont raid 50 hrs a week?"

Algalon takes only 1 hour. And you cannot equate time spent with skill. If it really takes no skill, you can just waltz and 1-shot every hardmode in Ulduar. Wouldn't take more than 6 hrs for a full clear.

Gibbiex said...

Here is another perspective. There are different achievements to do in the game. The skill-based requirements for raiding is one, another is doing all the quests, another is exploring, or getting a bunch of exalted reps. I lead a 100 person social guild; everyone has their own thing they like to do. One collects mounts, another does wierd achievements, another does rep grinds.

Honestly, and this may hurt, but most of those who cry that the game requires skill and are hardcore about raiding; they don't have stressful challenges in life. I do, so does my wife. She is an extremely accomplished person, but is an explorer type. So, once she got to 80 she quit the game, b/c there was nothing left to see. It would be ironic I guess if people were to decry her type of play as n00bish or m&s.

I think it's very easy to forget that you have no idea who is behind the screen. Maybe that noob you are playing with is the President.

I guess what I'm saying is that for the raiding component, I totally understand the arguement about the endless nerfs and the requirement for skill. However, it doesn't really matter in the real world. Plenty of people have fun in the game and don't do progression raiding. The point of the game is to have fun, not to make a million gold (unless its fun) or to down supreme boss X.

I say this as a guy who has downed every TBC boss and most of vanilla bosses, and naxx. I know nobody gives a damn about my skill or achievements, and they will not help me one bit in the real world. If you believe this is not true, then perhaps you are a M&S.

Hagu said...

Without too much disagreeing with "results are the only thing that matter", I have some points. Usually costs matter as well as results; would the result of getting BossX down today rather than tomorrow be worth it if the guild breaks apart during looting in a fit of emo recriminations? Which leads to my second point; the value of the results is personal and subjective. Some people might see getting HardAl down two weeks sooner as worth 100 extra hours of progression raiding, some would say 2. The achievements for doing something harder but did not give extra gear were especially problematical with some seeing the result as being a valid way to prove yourself and some seeing it as a waste of effort for no reward. Harder modes for better gear was much easier to defend. Similarly, people may not even agree on what the result is: Is the result getting HardAl down, in which case the result is the same and the +2 week plan is much more efficient. Or is the result getting HardAl down on June xx as realm #7 versus June xx+14 and being realm #13? YMMV

There is a business term, satisficing. You [should] only hire qualified people, but once you reach a threshold, then other factors come into play rather than picking the "most qualified." So if results are the only thing that matters, then you do not want the most skilled players necessarily, rather the preferable ones skilled enough for the results you want. A real jerk who is the only tank on the server to enable the kill will be chosen. But if there are 10 others who will achieve the result, then you might want to choose a lesser skilled player who has other attributes like is pleasant, reliable, brings you free flasks or sleeps with you in real life. So if the results are all that matter, then choosing someone "good enough" is the correct choice since you get the same result with lower "cost." Except you've already been clear that when someone achieves the results but not in your Calvinist / bushido work hard way, then you dismiss it as the appearance of winning. If "results are the only thing that matter" then it sure seems like a less skilled player that hired a more competent guild than yours would be doing better under your metric.

Without getting too philosophical, but you will spend your entire real life without "getting anything permanent" so why expect a game to do more? If you build a Great Pyramid it will last longer than an in-game chopper, but the Buddhist phrase is "all is impermanent."

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