Greedy Goblin

Monday, December 15, 2014

Evil by design: worse than AFK

I haven't played World of Tanks for years, since I realized that the matchmaker is rigged. But I still remember a battle, from the beginning to the end, despite I had no recording of it and saw it only once. I was a newb in 2011 and this one battle is responsible for trying WoT again and again, until I had undisputable proof that the devs control my results instead of my gameplay. I didn't want to let WoT go, because I wanted to experience this battle again:

11 kills in a 15v15 battle. Several of them above my tier. And I could take the rest if I don't run out of ammo. The point isn't that I was obviously leagues above everyone on field. It's not even that the flow was so perfect that I have fond memories of it years later.

The point is that the outcome of the battle was "defeat", and I still loved this battle much more than any of my victories (maybe except this). I'm as play-to-win as one can be. I usually rather guard a boring spot all game if it gives a win than be in the middle of the action and lose. My EVE "gameplay" is making ISK and giving it to other people to have fun with, just because it's the optimal way generating dead enemies. Yet here I am, considering one of the pinnacles of my gaming a defeat.

Why do I mention this battle years later? Because Tobold asked why do we hate our teammates for being worse than us. You know how easily I hand out "morons and slackers" to other people. Yet in this game, where my teammates were obviously useless, I didn't write anything nasty to them. I was just sitting there, watching that debrifing, counting the dead ones again and again in disbelief.

Why? Because Wargaming did something perfectly what Blizzard and Riot did horribly: no teammates (besides bannable griefers) can go below the level of AFK, they can't harm your gameplay. Their lack of performance stopped me from winning, but didn't stop me from playing at my peak performance, scoring very high. In WoW raiding or League of Legends, a bad player isn't just "not pulling his weight". He is actively sabotating not only my win, but my gameplay. They are literally worse than having an AFK-er in the corner. This is the definition of a griefer, despite that aren't intentional griefers.

What am I talking about? Let's translate my WoT story to WoW raiding: one by one my raidmates died in the fire, but me and a few good ones kept fighting and getting stellar high DPS, HPS and record low damage taken, almost taking down the boss when we run out of time. Would it be awesome? Yes. Is it possible? No. What will really happen is that moron guy blinks over the raid and Kargath Bladefist cleaves everyone, or takes the healer spot on the chain, resulting in a dead chain group. We aren't just denied the bosskill without being bad, just because he is bad. We are denied gameplay, the fight ended after a minute and now we can spend more time running back, buffing up, explaining the strategy once more to those who don't listen anyway.

Or try League of Legends: despite my teammates was horrible, I could score kills after kills 1v1 until they simply steamrolled mid lane because 3 of us were busy running around somewhere else. Can it happen? No. What will happen is that I score some kills at the start, but then the enemy simply outgrow me, since the morons fed them and stole my last hits. I'm not only robbed of a win, but also I'm stuck under a tower for half an hour unless I want to feed too. What else could I do when my "support" is not supporting and the enemy is 2 levels above me because my teammate fed him 10 kills?

The hate against our own teammates is a design problem: a bad teammate can hurt my gameplay, not just my win chance. What would be the good mechanic in WoW? If standing in the fire would only hurt the bad one instead of the raid or even the healers. Remove all mechanics where other players pay for the failure of someone! If he stands in the fire, he should die, but he should die instantly (instead of giving work to the healers) and shouldn't bring anyone with him. These don't change the fact that the group still loses the encounter. You shouldn't be able to win with several members doing 0 DPS due to being dead. But you should be able to play until the enrage timer if you didn't fail.

Or with League of Legends mechanics: killing enemy players now gives you X gold and Y XP. It should instead destroy X gold (taking items if he has no gold) and Y XP for the victim! This way if you play good, the enemy can't outgrow you and you can still win 1v1 or set up ambushes with your useful teammates. At the end your team will still lose, since a late game 5v5 teamfight won't end well if one of you is a naked lvl 4 due to repeated deaths. But if you are good, you can still have several kills and just one death: the one when they aced the team and washed up midlane.

Now, if this was a movie, the game companies would give me some award for recognizing this Holy Grail and make the games no longer frustrating. Except they probably knew all of it for years. The old WoW was much more like this. Remember the old saying "tank dies: healers fault, healer dies: tank fault, DPS dies: his own damn fault". Also they know that one of the criteria of flow is "a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity". They are fully aware that your avatar being killed because another player failed is very much not fun. They simply look at the other side too: the bad player. Currently the bad player who wiped the raid has excuses (jungler didnt hepl me ffs) or even honestly unaware of his fail (the raid technically wipes when the healers run out of mana because of high avoidable damage). If the design would be changed to "you failed, you suffer", not only the bad players would not have fun (being dead while others playing or being lvl 4 when others are geared 18 is not fun), but they would be made aware of the fact that they are useless. Sooner or later, the bad players would quit, denying revenues to the game companies.

Half of the players must lose in PvP and players must wipe for weeks in PvE or they run out of content. The game designers merely found that the better players are more invested in the game, so they are less likely quit if they are frustrated. So they design the game in a way that bad players - who are responsible for group defeat - are having fun, while good players bear the weight of the fail. In this setup, the good players venting their frustration on the bad ones is simply unavoidable. Remember: the bad player is a griefer in their eyes, someone who hurt their teammates more than an AFK-er.

Finally, the most evil part: why don't game companies limit toxicity by removing chats and replacing that with emotes? This way one could communicate "mid lane missing" with one click but couldn't communicate "you are the worst carry I've seen, uninstall the game you damn noob". Game companies only punish racist, homophobic and similar insults, but turn a blind eye on insulting the playing abilities of the other. Remember, I was never banned from WoW after years of calling others "morons and slackers" (I was suspended once for calling them "worthless animals"). The game companies know that they made you mad by giving you horrible teammates and mechanics that punish you for their mistakes. They won't stop doing it, because they want the money of the bad players. But they want yours too, and you won't give them if you ragequit in frustration. So they give you a simple way to cope with frustration: you can call the other player names, as long as you don't cross the line of "isms".

Hell isn't other players. It's the game companies. However, if you go through the process of creating a strategy where the jobs can be defined and every fail can be attributed to someone, you can still play. It just shouldn't be this hard.


PS:
It seems I'm travelling with this "world 4-5K guild" level. I'm just worried about my ilvl as the bosses give nothing.

25 comments:

Magson said...

"If standing in the fire would only hurt the bad one instead of the raid or even the healers. Remove all mechanics where other players pay for the failure of someone! If he stands in the fire, he should die, but he should die instantly (instead of giving work to the healers) and shouldn't bring anyone with him. These don't change the fact that the group still loses the encounter. You shouldn't be able to win with several members doing 0 DPS due to being dead. But you should be able to play until the enrage timer if you didn't fail."

This sounds like the nightmare-level dungeons in The Secret World. In about 90% of the battles if a DPS takes a hit, then that DPS dies. But the rest can still either pull out a squeaker or play until the enrage timer. Actually... usually if 1 goes down you'll be ok, but if 2 go down... might as well just wipe it, unless you do feel like playing until the enrage.

Even so... I like how I'm responsible for my actions, and everyone else is responsible for theirs. I just wish TSW had more than 9 dungeons and 1 10-man raid.

Azuriel said...

The more likely answer is that without the Dance, the encounters would be too easy. If there are no "bomb" or "meteor" style mechanics, what are you left with? Seven bosses with fire on the ground? I hate the Dance more than anyone for precisely the reason why it's so frustrating - all of a sudden the raid is only as strong as the weakest member - but I can't imagine very many other mechanics being remotely as difficult.

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: why can't the same mechanics punish the failer? I mean currently you have bomb and if you don't run out, you kill raid members. Change it that this damage all goes to you.

Or meteor: if less than needed people stand in it, those who stand in it get zero damage and everyone outside dies. If enough stand in it, the damage is normal.

maxim said...

The entire post misses one simple thing - there are other, non-MMO games out there.

If you don't want to share responsibility for the outcome with a team and want to just be personally and independently challenged while just answering to yourself, i highly recommend Battletoads, I Wanna Be the Guy, Ninja Gaiden, Ghouls and Goblins and all the other fun single-player experiences.

I recently have enjoyed Rogue Legacy and Ziggurat very much in that regard.

Comparing World of Tanks to WoW misses the point, because socialization is the core of WoW experience, while in WoT it is merely an afterthought.

Gevlon said...

@maxim: single player games have little content and none of them is constantly added content for years like WoW. None of them are near even to "single player WoW": the leveling part. I see your point, but they are simply too short, simple and shallow.

Also, they lack any kind of ranking that would help seeing if a task is hard or not. I mean I can tie my shoes and can honestly believe that this skill makes me awesome. The only way to disprove me is showing that everyone can tie his shoes, so it's a baseline skill.

Also, if socialization is a core of WoW, then why is it made negative and frustrating? And what about League of Legends. It's not a "socialization game" and extremely toxic.

Esteban said...

I have to be honest - the fact that you can enjoy a 'eureka' moment over something like this reflects how deep down your own personal rabbit hole you go sometimes.

The whole reason why team-based gameplay, with clans and guilds and so on, is popular is because it reflects real life. The point is not just working alongside other human beings on a team, it is being dependent on other human beings on a team. It's what you have to accept in real life if you want to create anything of any significance. Those people come with their egos, quirks, lazy moments, talents, weaknesses and obsessions. Out in the world, as you well know, you cannot sit back and feel smug about your superiority. You're given the human resources at hand and have to make them work as best you can. Lead, cajole, explain, manipulate or include them among the obstacles, but you're playing the wrong kind of game if you try to isolate yourself.

There already exist many games where you can beat fifteen guys in a row solo and get a nice performance benchmark. They run the gamut from golf through chess to Starcraft. Co-op games are explicitly meant to offer a social challenge, and you can't have that without the main success metric depending on the aggregate performance of your team.

That said, I do agree that binary human bomb and dance mechanics are stupid ways of testing a team. My own preference would be one where individual errors are obvious, but collective redemption is possible. For example, the classic ploy wherein a damage dealer steps into a pool of bad and they get teleported and bound by chains which can be dpssed down by other damage dealers. One is still shamed for the mistake, but the team can pick up the shortfall, up to a point.

Gevlon said...

@Esteban: absolutely not. In real life every one has very specific responsibilities, there are very clear performance metrics and failers (not the team) are punished or replaced. You never see a manager say "we are OK, just everyone must focus". He will sit down with everyone individually, gives a performance review and fire the underperformers.

Samus said...

Gevlon, why do you like raiding at all? If your problem is that you have to depend on all 20 teammates, isn't the easiest solution to not have 20 teammates?

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: You are mixing two different gaming styles with different expectations and requirements. Best example is WoW.

In WoW raiding with a good guild you have a team and you want everyone to contribute and want to win as a team: the good old "the sum is worth more than the parts" ideal. From this point of view is kinda like a team-based sport like soccer: you might be a very good attacker, but without a good team providing you with nice assists you will have a bad game.

This is something expected and that players actually want. It most likely comes from evolution: attaching "rewarding" feelings to teamwork (e.g. in hunting) is advantageous. So it makes sense to try to provide these feelings, which can only be achieved when you actually have to rely on your teammates.

Now take LFR. There is no "team" there. It's basically a way to allow single players to experience content designed for multiplayer teams. From this "single-player" point of view the other players are not your teammates: they are just part of the game mechanics. Basically they are unreliable NPCs.

Of course you can isolate your gameplay from those of others, but only by simplifying a lot of mechanics and completely gutting the teamwork requirement. It makes sense when teamwork is actually not desired (LFR), but it doesn't make sense when teamwork is a fundamental appeal of the game ("team" raiding).

Gevlon said...

@Samus: the problem isn't that I depend on them. That's just real life. You achieve nothing on your own. It's that their contribution can't be assessed easily. It takes more time to actually wiped us than the try itself.

Anonymous said...

"You never see a manager say "we are OK, just everyone must focus". He will sit down with everyone individually, gives a performance review and fire the underperformers."

You absolutely will....when shit hits the fan, the manager does not go "You are all crap and useless", he goes "It is ok, we will get through this" and then helps everyone focus until it is over.
He doesnt raid kick in the middle of a shitstorm :)

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: "the problem isn't that I depend on them. That's just real life. You achieve nothing on your own. It's that their contribution can't be assessed easily. It takes more time to actually wiped us than the try itself."

This is true in most complex teamwork scenarios. In soccer when a team loses a game, how can you decide who is responsible? There is even a single responsible? Even if you analyse only how the opposition scored, you likely can find a single responsible only when a blatant mistake happens, but in the vast majority of cases it's not that easy: maybe the defender was late because the midfielder didn't press the opposition because he didn't expect the attacker to lose the ball because he received a pass difficult to control because the passer was pressed by the opposition... the time most professional coaches have to spend in analising how their own team performs is staggering.

If you want this assessment to be easy and quick you need far easier mechanics which would be deemed too simplicistic by many players, and it only applies when you can decide about the mechanics in the first place. You can do that in a game, but on your work you cannot simply decide that you want something "simpler": if it's complex there is usually a reason (and if there is no reason by all means, make it simpler!).

maxim said...

@Gevlon
Your straight dismissal of single-player games betrays your lack of experience in playing them.
For every month of WoW subscription you pay, you can buy a new shiny high-tier content-filled single-player game. Skyrim alone could last you a good while.

You can easily sink amazing amounts of time plumbing the depths of a good single-player game, if you personal challenge is all you really want.
It is also pretty easy to learn about what other people can and cannot do and benchmark yourself against them, if that's your thing. Though for games without built-in leaderboards you may have to go to a forum or something.

Socialization in WoW (or LoL, for that matter) has not been negative and frustrating for me. On another hand, i know my share of people who claim socialization for them has been negative and frustrating, but when i tried to figure out why, the end result has invariably been that these peopel are causing their own issues.

For example, by expecting people to just conform to their own arbitrary standarts of how one should and should not play.

Gevlon said...

@Maxim: I can spend all life playing Spider Solitaire built into Windows. It's not particularly challenging. The problem with various different single-player games is the same: everyone and their mother completes it, because they are not meant to be challenging, just solo pasttimes.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gevlon,

Nice progress with PUGs. Do you have the feeling the players you beat these bosses with are alts of hardcore raiders, or people who are new to the encounters? I usually raid with my guild, the LFR and Flex raids I did in MoP made it pretty clear to me that its hard to coordinate, or even communucate, with randoms. How do the raids you attend manage? Are you running with warcraftlogs? Im quite interested to see if the dps/hps/damage taken compare to that of a guild group.

Anonymous said...

@Gevlon: "I can spend all life playing Spider Solitaire built into Windows. It's not particularly challenging. The problem with various different single-player games is the same: everyone and their mother completes it, because they are not meant to be challenging, just solo pasttimes."

You must define "complete". Take Skyrim: is "completion" simply finishing the main quest line in the game? If you stick only to the main quest line you are over in 15 hours or something. If you want to complete every quest in the game it's a completely different story.

The same is true for WoW. If you define as "completion" experiencing the raids you can do that in a few hours. If you define "completing WoW" as getting all possible achievements, it's another story. If you define it as completing the raids in the highest difficulty level, most players will never ever complete WoW and even you will have no chance of doing that unless you find a good team (or wait that the content is nerfed or obsolete).

Single players nowadays have to cater to different playing bases: that's why they offer "everyone and their mother" a way to "complete" it. Actually, WoW does the same thing too: "everyone and their mother" can "complete" WoW, or at least are giving a completion objective taylored to them.

There are still very challenging single player games: although I agree it's not trendy there are still producers/publishers well known and appreciated for the difficulty of their games: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Creator/Atlus

I guarantee you some of these games are very high quality and provide countless hours of challenge, with the only hand-holding being you getting mercilessly curb-stomped if you are not prepared.

JackTheManiac said...

About single player games:

Dark Souls NewGame+++++++++++... goes on infinitly. Not many players did that.

Now there is an mistake in your logic about single player games that ties in with what you say.

If in WoW you wouldn't have to rely on others (could raid solo with balanced raid bosses) it would be like single player games. "Pretty much everyone" would finish Heroic, a good portion Mythic, etc. So it would be the same as solo games. More people than you think would clear them. You play to win and you're good at WoW and Eve (money making at least), but there are many more good players than you appear to think.

It's only hard right now because of the game mechanics, like someone said earlier: "raid is only as strong as its weakest member" (guy who dies first).

I however agree that dances suck, because one guy wipes the raid. So even if I perform stellarly, that doesn't guarantee a win if one guy kills us all. Talked about this with someone actually, the good thing to do is kick and replace one who fails repeatedly.

In GW2 they did partly away with those problems, there is no dance, everyone can go where ever on the battlefield, you do what you must to avoid damage, can swap weapons between ranged and melee. There is also no trinity, but you can gear yourself to be up to be a tank, a healer, DPS, mixmatch roles. For instance "of the Cleric" affix offers Power + Healing power so it may be good to make a Healer/DPS (in theory, I don't play that endgame).

If someone dies you can keep going. If there aren't many AoEs on the ground and other members are handling it, you can combat rez someone. Also death isn't immediate, you can't move and bleed out, but sometimes you can pull a Rally (kill a mob to revive) or bring the person back up (heals or interact with them) before they bleed out. I've seen bosses killed by one guy 25% to 0% while we were all out cold.

While dungeons are easier in general, High Level fractals offers a great challenge, and so do living story hard mode. There are no raids (there are guild challenges and world bosses).

Anonymous said...

Gevlon says: The problem with various different single-player games is the same: everyone and their mother completes it, because they are not meant to be challenging, just solo pasttimes.

This is wrong. Come back when you've beaten Tetris.

Jim L said...

Your complaint is that you don't like it in a multiplayer game when your success is based off the performance of the group and not off of your individual performance.

Then why in the heck are you playing a multiplayer game?

It is like a soccer player saying he doesn't like it when he plays well but his team loses. Then go play tennis or chess because you clearly do not understand team sports.

Anonymous said...

@Maxim: I can spend all life playing Spider Solitaire built into Windows. It's not particularly challenging. The problem with various different single-player games is the same: everyone and their mother completes it, because they are not meant to be challenging, just solo pasttimes.

please beat a preset under 20 seconds.
solve a rubics cube under 10.
try your m4d skills on lockjaw tetris client (fastest tetris client)

for every game in existence, there is competition and deep deep deep meta!

there are world rankings for Solitaire. with rules and validity checks etc.

ever want a challenge? dig into SDA gamelist http://speeddemosarchive.com/

there is challenge and others that want it too. Otherwise why bother for example with streetfighter world championships

Esteban said...

"In real life every one has very specific responsibilities, there are very clear performance metrics and failers (not the team) are punished or replaced. You never see a manager say "we are OK, just everyone must focus". He will sit down with everyone individually, gives a performance review and fire the underperformers."

Other commenters covered most of what I would have said, but yes, actually, the manager frequently does say something of the sort - granted, in a bit more precise and sophisticated way. Motivation, morale, unit integrity, etc., are quite important wherever human beings are concerned. If management meant nothing more than tallying up individual metrics and replacing people as needed, it would not be as highly valued as it is.

Yes, of course you try to get the best team you can by firing and hiring people as appropriate. At the end of the day, though, the Thing has to get Done or the company/department/team fails. It matters very little if underperformers get fired while the project collapses. And I'm sure many of your readers could regale you with horror stories of personnel reshuffles mid-project. (especially fun in niche-skillset environments)

Anyway, I won't press the point further, but I do maintain that the reason why raids aren't tailored to isolate you from the blunders of others isn't that bad players would quit, killing revenue. It's because unavoidable mutual dependence feels realistic and answers a specific human entertainment need.

Anonymous said...

Your RL example is flawed as you are not in a raid guild, which would be like being a company.

You are doing the equivalent of grabbing 10 random people who have never worked together, and putting them in a workplace and expecting no issues.

Sometimes it works flawlessly first time, after all, we all know how to do our jobs, right? But somehow the team dynamic works best when you actually know each other.

There is a reason world first guilds are not PuGs.

Mirkali Maricadie said...

So what you're telling me Gevlon is basically you like Counterstrike. Games that just happen to to throw people into teams but you tend to be independent operators if you choose to with little to no consequence on your gameplay.

Sure, your teammates deaths could feed the enemy's weapon buying, but the higher tier weapons don't make the hugest difference in gameplay.

Xmas said...

MMOs are not the same as set piece competitive games. Counterstrike and MOBAs like DOTA2 are like real life games, like football and chess. Yes, there are some games that secretly or openly attempt to manage your competition to be at the same level as you, but for the most part those games allow modes of matchmaking that can get around this sort of competition molding.

MMOs and games that allow for a pay-to-win purchases have a different goal for gameplay experience. Someone, like yourself, that enjoys a challenge that reflects your skills and/or ability to analyze the metagame will find this unsatisfying.

Антон Е said...

Speaking of team games the key parameter is level of synergy required success.

Playing WoT (and playing Quake Live for example) team synergy is not required for given player. It would be useful in some cases but if you are playing in random team against another random team it's definetely not required and your personal mechanics worth much more than cooperation with the team.

On the other hand games like WoW and LoL require high levels of synergy and while your personal mechanics is still viable, good teamwork beats it without efforts in comparable levels of skill (i.e. you can't win 1v2 or even 1v3 in LoL unless you are extremely fed or just better by a whole league).

You can think of it like "additive" value of player in a team in WoT and "multiplicative" in LoL. If your team in WoT-like game has one bad player, it still has N-(0.95) power, if your team in LoL has one bad player, it has N*(1-0.95) power.

Though it's the reverse side of encouraging the teamwork.