Greedy Goblin

Friday, May 6, 2011

The choice

There are a lot of words about optimization in MMOs. Tobold, Spinks, Rohan (and many-many others) all spoke their pieces. However they consider this question philosophical, while it's completely practical. To see it, you must answer the following question: which of the optimization steps brings you the biggest effect on your raiding success:
  • Replacing the last talent point that was different from EJ's "spec of the month".
  • Farming Zul Aman HC to replace your 346 bracer to a 353 one
  • Replacing the +15 all stats chest enchant to +20
  • Replacing skinning to jewelcrafting
  • Maxing out Therazane rep to replace honored enchant to exalted
  • Reforging haste to crit (or vica versa) if EJ says so
  • Replacing your CPU and video card to increase framerate
  • Replacing your ISP to decrease lag
  • Watching every possible video on the encounter
You have your answer? Well it's wrong. Not just a bit sub-optimal, it's terribly wrong. No matter which one you picked, its effect on success chance is just 0.1-0.2% compared to the real answer. This choice alone decides if you down the boss or not. Even if you gemmed, enchanted, talented, reforged wrong, have beginner gear, slack on consumables, play on an old computer with 128kbit internet, but made the big choice right, your chance to win is much higher than doing everything else perfectly but messing up the choice.

The choice is "who do you play with"? If I could go to a Paragon raid, I could go AFK and still clear 13/13 HC. If a Paragon member, with all the gear and skill he has, would go to Argoloth with 9 members of xXxDarkGnomKillazxXx, he would look forward a wipefest (actually just one wipe, because after that half the raid would "g2g sry").

If you want to down the boss, you must choose good players and you must make them choose you. The lower level raiders choose by ilvl+achievment. The higher level ones choose after optimization. To get to higher level raiding everything must serve the purpose of being chosen. Every little "mistake" (even if objectively just 0.01% power decrease) is a signal of being bad. There are many-many bad players out there, so they easily put the M&S stamp on your head. People are extremely cautious. So if you choose to play with people who optimize, you have to optimize too. It's just as obvious as "if you choose to get item X, you have to grind item X"

The above things give the one meaningful, open-ended choice in WoW (and any MMO). Who to play with?
  1. Want to go with high-level raiders? EJ- optimizing and accepting fixed attendance is the way to be accepted.
  2. Want to go with low-level raiders? Farm gear, install underachiever addon.
  3. Prefer to disobey everyone? Don't raid then, be a fan/clown.
  4. Want to play in a friendly atmosphere? Bring your RL friends in the game, teach them how to play!
  5. Or find some unique way no one ever thought of!
I choose this unique way when I started my guild. I've chosen people based on their behavior (no social chit-chat, gz, smilies, lolspeak, demanding boost). Most people believed I'm "doing it wrong". Nefarian disagrees. This was a meaningful, unique choice that no EJ article suggested. Here you don't have to optimize. As long as you can do your job I don't care if you are gemmed for haste while EJ says mastery. The same is true for example the xXxDarkGnomKillazxXx, they don't expect you to have the optimal gem either. Actually they don't expect you to know what gem is.

If you are looking to make a meaningful choice in the game, stop looking at the talent page or thinking about rotations. The EJ guys will do better than you. Figure out your own way of inviting people! One that suits you better than either ilvl+achievement or blind obedience to EJ. Maybe "write a 2000 words essay on the ethical treatment of warlock pets" is the ultimate way to find the best players. Who knows? Obviously if someone figured out that method, join his guild!

This is what I suggest to upset bloggers who have the audience to start a guild. I'm sure if Tobold would start one by any rules, 100+ players would join him on the first week, because they like his blog and agree with him. Of course formulating your random ramblings into guild rules, and then put them to the test is hard. You can fail spectacularly front of thousands of readers. I did with the ganking project, and the undergeared results were inconclusive. I tried again. Refined the ideas and finally it works. Not complete yet, but works.

Of course whining and moaning about the "bad community" is easier than building a better one. Whining about lack of choices is easier than making a choice and betting your gold, time and blogging reputation on your choice.

Being in a guild you built and running HCs only with them saves you from the situation Grim got:


Alrenous said...

And here we see that asocials understand social contracts far, far better than a social ever does.

Upgrading all gems and enchants, on the entire raid, can, maybe, turn a wipe at 2% into a win.

Sneezing at the wrong time can, on some fights, wipe you at any percent.

As soon as someone points out that obviously, the former is used to signal things about the person behind the keyboard, it's undeniable. Of course that's what it's for.

And as soon as you accept this, it's also obvious that there are myriad better ways to perform such filtering.

And so it's equally obvious that the elite raiders never thought about this at all. It was pure trial-and-error. Someone randomly tried attendance and gems, it worked, now (nearly) everybody does it. Even though they're utterly min-maxxing in game, they're completely incompetent at min-maxing the very first level of metagame.

Aracos said...

Gevlon is dead on here in terms of one thing. The decision with the biggest impact on how you play the game is the people you play with. The times I was happiest in the game are when I was running my own guild, or serving as an officer in one with a seat at the table for making decisions. That extra effort is the price you pay to be able to truly play the game the way you wish. Once my circumstances changed to the point that I could no longer invest that time, my WoW career became a non-stop series of disappointments as I bounced from guild to guild, server to server, trying to find a group that fit my needs. But in the end, the only thing that is guaranteed to fit your needs, is a group of your own design.

Which raises a couple interesting questions. First, should MMO's only be for those people who can invest the time to make those kinds of choices and run their own guilds? And second, if everybody did this, who would you get to JOIN your guild since they would all be off trying to run their own?

Steel H. said...

Undergeared was inconclusive? No way. At least not for me. I first heared about you in a Scattered Shots column about skill > gear, where it said something about a Gevlon who killed all of Ulduar and Yogg in blues. Back then I was still learning the game and trying to find my place, I was in various "ICC 4/12 forever" guilds. Reading about that changed my view of the game, and more...

Anonymous said...

This is an exceptionally good post, and about the only one in the MMO blogosphere this week that makes a decent point (including the dreck about mmos and chess / basketball).

Not that my personal experience adds anything to something that is so blatantly true, but I was for a short time in a proper progression guild (Ulduar period) after being depressed that my M&S guild couldn't kill YS. I joined the hardcore guild as a tank, as they had just lost an OT (and were apparently desperate to avoid cancelled raids), and promptly walked all over YS and several Ulduar hard modes in the first week, with exactly the same tanking gear, gems, spec and rotations as I had before. Unfortunately, I couldn't stand the hours. Getting a better Guild is always going to result in a more optimised boss-killing experience than anything else, unless you are already in a top 5 guild.

Anonymous said...

re: "I don't care if you are gemmed for haste while EJ says mastery."

From what I read, you would take someone with 333 blue gear with the non-EJ gem, but you would not take someone with a 359 epic with an empty gem slot?

Gevlon said...

@Last anonymous: obviously.

@Steel: while it helped you, most dismissed it as "doing old content" (as we killed 8/12, they killed 10/12 in full 264)

Grim said...

That's not how raiding works.
The 2% increase for the whole raid (its actually way more than that if you do all that was mentioned, but that's not the point) does not mean that the raid can now do exactly 2% more damage to the boss before they die.

It means that every time they come close to wiping, there is a lower chance to do so. Not exactly 2% - just lower.

So the tank dropped to 2k hp for a moment? If he had just a few weaker gems and enchants, he would be dead.
Someone was on 10100hp when Chimaeron hit him? If healer had a little less int or haste (HoTs in this case), he would be dead.
You happen to not have any speed enchants on Atramedes? Dead, dead and dead.

Yes - all of this is random and shouldn't even be the case when everyone knows the fight and does it perfectly, but people aren't perfect. The players who are worth having in your progress raid will have done the whole list (the hardware upgrades plateau very fast though, so mostly they'd give exactly 0.0%).

Tairy Greene said...

Sometimes, discussing this kind of gear-spec optimization can lead you to understand that people who play with you are abyssmal morons.
I'm having a hard time in my guild after I discovered that two mages were gemming only crit, a shadow priest gemming only haste, a retry reforging all to crit, shield tanks with just 30% blocking gemming only stamina, and healers reforging to whatever the crappiest stat was. AND officers who didn't give a shit about it.
I started to use sims and tools to analyse people's gear (in ehalers case, for example, because I didn't play one never) and started to understand that we were wiping in Cho'gall not for being undergeared, just for being underrational. If you can't understand that there are people who ACTUALLY prove with maths that a point of intellect gives you more damage that one point of haste, then it's completely natural that your time reaction to break a player cc's is bigger than 4 secs, that you fail to misdirect, that you go omm by 2 minutes on the try, that your EH's tank is lower than a paralysed midget, etc.

My point is, Gevlon is completely right. The best thing you can do to optimize your playstyle is choosing the right people. And sometimes, observing how they try to optimize themselves gives you a hint about their (awfull) skill.

Bobbins said...

What did the moaner hope to accomplish by whining the run was a guild boost run. Why join a LFD group and the moan,whine about 3/5 of the group. The main thing is were they progressing through the dungeon reasonable well?

I am surprised he/she wasn't kicked I don't really think they saw having him in the group such a great asset!

BBQ said...

I agree. The single decision of who you raid with will determine, more than any other factor, how well you do in raids.

I must once again say how little min-maxing will actually help your dps. Other than the very obvious and basic choices (using the right primary stats on your gear and gems), the rest of the little things like using a cheap enchant vs an expensive one, will do very little for your dps.

They will certainly improve your highest possible potential dps. But if you use your brain while playing and learn from mistakes, you can do a lot better than if you changed out skinning for JC

Anonymous said...


Yeah it looks like a boost run...but 3k dps!!? Anyone with a brain could pull that with NO GEAR ON! The person was right to point it out. And Gevlon is right to post it for all of us to see. Damn the M&S!!!

Anonymous said...

So what are you suggesting then? A game that actively screens M&S would not have a place for raid optimizing?

Obviously you need to keep them around for more profits from a design perspective. Would a game where you never have to deal with Arthasdklol and he never has to deal with you be in the best interest of

Brian said...

I think I made a comment back when you started your "no social" guild experiment suggesting that the reason it was working was that by having standards, almost any standards, you'd have a better chance of getting better players. Not because the standards themselves lead directly to killing bosses, but because the kind of people willing to follow them are going to perform better. Optimizing your gear might only increase your DPS by a few percent, but someone who optimizes their gear is the kind of player who does OTHER things to do good DPS.

In theory there should be players that make suboptimal decisions with gear and specs that don't affect their DPS TOO much, and they are otherwise very good players. But if they exist, I haven't met very many. Someone with gear choices that should make their DPS 5-10% worse in fact DOESN'T do 5-10% less DPS, they mostly seem to do more like 50% less DPS.

Are small gear/spec optimization choices that important by themselves? Nope. But someone trying to optimize on the little things is much more likely to optimize on the BIG things, which does make a huge difference.

Vox said...

Others have already said it, but this is bang on. This why I found your "gear critique and optimizing service" interesting - the optimizing probably wouldn't help a ton (some, but not a ton) but the very act of beginning to seek out information sets one down the path of beginning a better MMO player.

chewy said...

Ironic, given that you don't often agree with Tobold, he made almost exactly the same point about a year ago - Gnome painting

Stubborn said...

I agree that moaning and whining about a "bad community" is easier than building a better one. I spent a week and a few days writing about that very topic, in fact. What you did with your guild not only blew my mind and impressed the hell out of me but changed my very definition of community building.

You've done an amazing job in the last three days of tearing it all down, though. A better community isn't formed by name calling and labeling. It's formed from polite, rational discussion and agreements. It's formed from inclusion, not exclusion. In fact, history shows us again and again that inclusion, not exclusion, is the key to survival.

One change in Wow that has upset a lot of older players are the more inclusive tactics Blizzard has used to keep its business thriving. It's riled you; it's riled me; hell, I'd guess that just about everyone has horror stories about M&S's now, so I understand why your rhetoric has become extremely exclusionary in the past few days.

My point is this. It IS easier to complain about the community than to build a better one. Some of us are trying. It is ALSO easier to label and dismiss than to understand and fix. No one wants "bad" players to be playing with them, but "with" in a world as large as WoW is actually a very large space. You can play your game your way, and they can play their game their way without ever disturbing you (which you've admitted), and that doesn't make anyone "wrong."

Keep up the good work you do here, and there is plenty of it. Let go of the rest.

Bristal said...

Gevlon you are absolutely correct.

However, I can't help but consider the irony of the great "A-Social One" admitting that the biggest predictor of success is WHO YOU KNOW.

Graylo said...

I would refine your choice a little bit more. I consider the most important choice to be choosing the leader you choose to play under.

My perspective is almost entirely from raiding but I think it applies to other types of organizations as well.

As a regular player we can't always choose who to play with specifically, but we can pick someone with power and entrust them with our choice.

If you pick the right leader you know that your going to be playing with quality people who knows their roles. You also know that bad behavior will be dealt with.

Pick the wrong leadership team and you may have to deal with habitual screw ups and no shows.

Khaas the Insane said...

I've been watching the discussion on many fronts, and what I see is this -

Some people don't like the fact that now everyone can go online and find out what's what, without having to figure it out on their own.

People are mad that technology and evolution of ideas happened.

One could say argue that the meta game of optimization is simply a lower order process now, and that the higher order process is execution, etc.

But frankly, when it comes down to it... it's about having fun. Enjoying the game, on your own terms. If you enjoy wiping so that you can "learn" then do that, but don't expect the rest of us who don't like wasting our times to applaud.

I suggest that Tobold and similar thinkers create a guild where they do not look at strats online, sites like EJ are banned, etc. In fact, communication with everyone else is completely prohibited or strictly monitored. Then they can have all the fun "learning" that they want...

Gevlon said...

@Graylo: but sometimes there is no such leader around. Then you must step up.

@Bristal: no it's not "who you know", it's rather "who knows you"

Yaggle said...

@Khaas the Insane:
I am one who agrees with Tobold on "optimization". But everybody is at least a little bit social. Why would Tobold or I want to be in the same gameworld where everybody else uses online information but we do not? Then we would look like absolute morons for failing at the same things most succeed at. It would be like having to go through school only using crayons when everybody else gets to use pens and pencils. I want "no inspect" and "no armory" for EVERYBODY. Sorry 'bout that.

madscorpion said...

While your undergeared project may have dissolved without reaching your personal goals in mind, i'm going to still suggest that:

"it was the biggest contribution a group of players has made to the game."

The message of the undergeared project is undeniable. I'm still using it to weed out M&S

Anonymous said...

Fair point. But there also comes a point where you have to make a decision on priorities -- do you want to help your current group do the best it can, or focus on individual progression and switch guilds if you don't think they are up to scratch.

A goblin presumably will always pick the latter. But there may also be advantages in sticking with a social group (for a start, they're more likely to be understanding if you have to take time out due to family issues.)

Péter Zoltán said...

Seriously. I have a DK alt, I did 10K+ overall DPS with 10% buff in 329. Without any kind of practice... And basically I just mashed whatever ability was up. How the hell can somegone do 3K dps? Some people are hopelessly fucking dumb.