Welcome to another edition of the rambling bear. Will this be a Bearwall?
Let’s find out together!
Since my Rogue dinged 80 last week, I’ve run quite a few Heroic instances to get geared up.
Why am I getting geared up? Honestly, I have no idea. It’s one of those unexplainable urges, perhaps related to the drive to collect. Even though I have no intention if ever raiding with the Rogue, I still feel an urge to study gear upgrades, plan acquisitions, and do runs to improve my stats. I don’t know where the urge comes from, but there it is.
As I ran all of these Heroics as a low gearscore Rogue climbing the DPS ladder, I ran into what I’m hoping is just a really, really bad run of idiot tanks. Just, “holy crap you morons have no business tanking” kind of tanks.
Interestingly enough, I didn’t have any problems with the behavior of any of the DPS in the runs. Nobody I’ve run with has behaved poorly, or even talked except for saying hi. When things get really bad, it seems like the modern response that has evolved is to just drop group without warning if you’re not happy. No bitching, no recriminations, just ‘poof!’ gone.
On the other hand, and yes I stick with the runs no matter how bad they get out of some kind of sick fascination with these train wrecks, I’ve seen some of the worst tanking I could imagine.
In one case, and I’m not lying, I told a 5450 Gearscore Paladin tank in Heroic Pit of Saron that if he wanted to learn how to tank for the very first time ever, he needed to pick a non-Heroic. Then I joined the other three people that had already dropped group without warning after the third time the healer died from mobs that were never grabbed by the tank… before we ever reached the first boss. That last Dragon trash mob pull was just too much for the group, they all dropped while I stayed long enough to be rude. I’m sorry, if you’ve played long enough to get that kind of gear for your tanking set, and you’re THAT bad, you’ve got issues. Run a normal, for the love of pete. There is a limit to how many mobs a Priest can solo while you go running ahead ignoring everything behind you pull after pull.
As an aside, I am maximizing my “Tricks of the Trade + get on the Healer’s mobs” technique. I find myself using it SO often.
In some ways, I suspect I’m reaping instance karma earned from my “…then you might be a bad tank” post.
Okay, in the interests of fairness, I did have a run with one healer asshat… he didn’t actually say anything bad, but we were doing Heroic Halls of Stone, and everything was going very smoothly, even though we had a very low gearscore Warrior tank. The tank was doing a great job, holding aggro, managing mobs, etc. His gear was just starting out so he was squishier than, say, an ICC tank. But he was doing a great job. I was shocked. Healer was never run ragged out of mana, never too hard to heal, just a little squishier than an ICC tank.
Perhaps it was this squishiness that annoyed the healer, the need for him to actually do something for a change, because when Brann was triggered for the fight against waves of mobs, the Healer dropped group the millisecond Brann was activated, dropped without a word, I guess in the hopes that without a healer the waves would steamroll us.
Fortunately, we got another healer before we even saw the first wave, and we finished the entire run smooth as silk. So, the healer succeeded in doing nothing more than costing himself some Emblems and a deserter debuff, but, oh well. The things some people do, right?
On the other hand, I was in a Heroic Pit of Saron run with a group, and everyone but me was really well geared, run went smooth as silk, and when the crossbow dropped from Krick and Ick, I randomed because there was a Hunter in the group. Hunter ended up winning it on a random, and I whispered him that if he wasn’t going to actually use it, I’d buy it off him for 30 gold.
He gave me the crossbow, refused the gold, and ended up he’s on my server, and has a Rogue raiding in ICC himself, offered some spec advice, gear advice, and has a Leatherworker with leather ICC patterns that he lined to me offering to craft them if I wanted them someday.
Go figure, right? One day you can get runs with people that actively try to drop group at the worst possible moment to screw the other strangers for no reason I can see, and the next you run into someone that just goes out of their way to be nice and helpful, says “Put me on your friends list, if you’ve ever got any questions or could use a tank to run you into HHoR for the offhand Rogue sword, just let me know. My alt is a tank, geared well enough to handle HHoR. I might be able to get some friends of mine to go in with us, too.”
It’s thinking about all this, the core issue of player behavior, the good, the bad and what can be done about it, that brought me to the next train of thought.
I’m always suspicious of comparisons and metaphors and similies, and basically anything that tries to make a point by comparing two different things. Whenever you start out thinking of one thing, when you switch to the other you bring along your own baggage. You’ve got preconceived ideas of what the first thing is, and you apply some of those to imagining the second one.
Still, we do it all the time. Someone tells us they ate in a Hardees, and we ask what that is, if they tell us it’s like a McDonalds, that gives us some vague frame of reference. We’ll picture the typical McDonalds layout, food, speed, cleanliness, price point etc, and figure a Hardees is somewhat like all of those.
Maybe some time later you actually see a Hardees, step inside and order a meal. When it comes, maybe you’re surprised because the food is more expensive than you expected, or slower than you expected, or fresher or more upscale, whatever. The point is, after you make those initial comparisons in your head, you’re going to be ramming up against your preconceived ideas when you encounter the actual thing.
You start off with a frame of reference, and that informs your thought to some extent ever after.
So, the behavior of players in WoW, and what to do about it? What can be done about it?
When I think of World of Warcraft, I think of it using the same frame of reference as I did when I started planning to purchase it; a video game set in a fantasy world similar to other first person perspective video games, with the addition of a multiplayer aspect.
That perspective works up to a point, right? It’s a video game, ostensibly for fun, and you can play it as one, and there are also other people in it you can choose to hang out with.
I think it breaks down in the fine details. I further think there’s a frame of reference that does work better.
One of the most consistent long term problems players have are related to the behavior of others. Our unhappiness when other players’ actions and behavior and attitude affect our own gameplay experience in a negative way.
Who do we ultimately hold responsible for doing something about player behavior?
The other player? No, we acknowledge the existence of asshats, and we frequently note the stark truth of the John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. We pretty much just say to each other, “yep, Asshats are asshats. Would they pull that shit in person? Nope. Chickenshit little pricks. They’ve finally found a home.”
But we don’t hold them responsible. We don’t expect them to modify their own behavior. In fact, I think most of us have given up on them, and just wonder when the freight train of life is going to run their asses down. Sooner or later, bills come due.
No, we don’t hold the asshats responsible, we hold Blizzard responsible, and we petition Blizzard to return stolen loot, to report offensive behavior expecting them to take action against the other player, and we further expect Blizzard to find ways of blocking player behaviors from being able to affect our game experience in negative ways.
I think some folks even expect Blizzard to come up with ways, through game code and design, to force players to either play their characters well in a group, or be blocked from joining groups at all.
Blizzard, for their part, has their ToS and ToC, and they’ve also been experimenting with programmed methods of adding consequences to behavior.
Vote kicking, deserter debuff durations, streamlined spam reporting, reporting offensive behavior through trouble tickets, blocking players from being vote kicked from groups once a boss fight is engaged, etc.
Blizzard is actively developing and implementing methods of controlling player behavior using rewards and punishments.
What do we expect? We, as players of WoW that pay Blizzard our monthly fee, expect Blizzard to act in good faith to provide us with a safe, friendly environment to have fun. And damn, do people get loud and pissy if they think there’s more Blizzard could be doing.
We expect that when another player succeeds in affecting our gameplay in a really negative way, such as by stealing in-game goods from a guild bank, or by hacking an account, or by using language or behavior intended to offend, we can turn to Blizzard for some kind of resolution.
What we’ve all done together is fulfilled the prophecies of Neal Stephenson and William Gibson and scores of others, and made a reality of the concept of a virtual cybernetic government.
Wherever our meat body may reside, we have these new worlds to live in online. They are here, now, and there are several to choose from.
We pick and choose among them, what features they provide to their citizens, how much the taxes cost us if we choose to live there, what laws and customs we will have to abide by… what behaviors will or will not be tolerated, and how such behaviors will be policed.
Make no mistake, that’s what has happened. Those of us that play a persistant MMO are making choices as to where we live our virtual lives… and companies like Blizzard know this, and are studying methods of keeping their citizens happy.
Blizzard is the government of World of Warcraft. You can decide for yourself how to classify it, but they hold the power over their country, and they can decide what rules or laws they will put into place… and to what extent they will choose to enforce them, if at all.
What I find interesting when thinking of the game as a virtual world, is considering the steps Blizzard has already taken to try and control behavior, and how ably players find ways of bypassing them so as to still hurt others.
Blizzard doesn’t have jail, but they can cancel your account. In the middle ground, there are temporary bans, and there are forced name changes for reported offensive names. Those have been around for years.
But really, how recently did the drive to control behavior through in-game incentives and punishments begin?
Creating the LFG interface tool was an excellent step towards streamlining the matchmaking capabilities of the game… but was it also one of the first steps in trying to build in behavior controls?
I know that in Burning Crusade, people could choose to leave group, and I think you could boot someone from your group, but you couldn’t force them to leave the instance… and the instance wouldn’t let more than the predetermined max number of characters in at one time.
I recall one epic tale of a player in Shattered Halls that was treated offensively by the rest of his group, was somehow made to leave group so they could bring in a friend of theirs as a fifth right at the end, and he refused to leave the instance. He camped the instance refusing to leave for a long, long time… long enough that all of the trash he helped to kill respawned, so that the group would have to rekill everything if they wanted to do it with their buddy instead of him.
Somewhere after that Blizzard changed the game so that if you were in another group’s instance, it would boot you out automatically to the nearest graveyard; no more camping to prevent others from playing. No, they weren’t related, what was remarkable about that particular story was that for a change it was the rest of the group that abused the system, and the ability to camp the instance and prevent the fifth from zoning in that upheld justice, or something like that.
Was that Blizzards’ first real act of trying to program in morality, to paraphrase the old “you can’t legislate morality” saying?
Some players would ninja loot items, and then say that it was a mistake, and you could petition Blizzard if you wanted the item back, but they can’t trade it, sorry. Blizzard changed the game so you CAN trade items with other players that were in the instance with you.
Now vote kicking… modifications to the length ot the deserter debuff. Tracking of how often you initiate a vote kick, and adjustments programmed in to limit your ability to vote kick if you ‘overuse’ it. Overuse it? By who’s definition?
While we talk about video games and playing and stats and gear, Blizzard has been patiently assuming the responsibility of creating a system of laws and punishments (and rewards) for a virtual world, and they’re doing it with the pressure of keeping the majority of their taxpaying citizens as happy as possible, so that folks don’t emigrate to another virtual country.
They have other tools to keep people around as active and happy citizens, expanding the boundaries of the game world, new frontiers to explore, new horizons to discover, new opportunities of advancement and excitement.
Are the new Guild leveling rewards an attempt to get us to more effectively police ourselves, by giving lone wolves a tacit reward for playing well with others? Once you are enticed into joining a large guild in the hopes of gaining access to the best rewards, you then become subject to that guild’s rules, and face the consequences if you violate those rules and they find out.
How about the recent Real ID forum foofarah?
We keep talking about WoW as a game, but let’s call it what it really is; a virtual country that we have chosen to become citizens of, with Blizzard holding the reins of government.
I know it’s not a new idea, it’s decades old. But I do think that it’s interesting how different some of Blizzard’s decisions and game designs can look when you change your point of reference away from a video game, and look at WoW as a persistent virtual country that we can all choose to join or not.
This is what we are, my friends. We are all potential citizens of the virtual, with our passports held tightly in our hands. We have the freedom of touring all the worlds of the nether, seeing what each is like, what laws of physics rule these realms, how pretty they may be, what there is to do while we vacation there.
We may even find some that we really like, and may think about making our home there.
Why are the various virtual countries so eager to extend us a warm welcome, all smiles at the immigration offices?
Why, in the hopes that we’ll become tax paying citizens, of course.
As a potential citizen, when we make our decision, part of that decision should be asking ourselves, what are the laws like here? How well are they enforced, if at all? If the other citizens are violent or antisocial, if someone in the game targets me hoping to ruin my virtual life or steal my property, what recourse do I have? How hard is it in this country for others to infringe on my own gameplay, my freedom, my right to property?
I know that I loved reading Neuromancer, and Snow Crash, and so many other books in the cyberpunk genre, but when I thought of those ideas of virtual worlds, I always expected it to come some time in the future.
Many of those worlds painted the future cyberspace as a place where what race, sex, color or age you are would be immaterial; the future cyberspace would be built on a foundation of enlightened utopia, where the quality of your ideas would be all that mattered, and by definition, if you could GET into cyberspace, you would somehow be too intelligent, enlightened and sophisticated to be an ignorant bigot or irritating little prick.
Well, the future is now.
Today, I am a proud and happy citizen of World of Warcraft, and I log in each time, passport in hand, taxes all paid up.
And I encounter the reality of my fellow citizens… ah, well. So much for enlightened intellectualism and the abolition of bigotry and hatred.
Anyone for some [anal] trade chat? /sigh.
When I log into WoW, I’m also eagerly reading about other countries that are being founded even as we speak, countries whose borders are due to open in the months and years ahead.
I look forward to learnig more about those worlds, and perhaps touring them myself.
Are the developers that design those worlds realise that they are the architects, each in their own way, of their own constitutions? Do they plan carefully what laws they will have in place, what measures they will take to enforce them, and what the consequences of those decisions can mean for their long term future?
Star Wars: The Old Republic is coming soon… I was fascinated with the design of the graphics, the announcements of races and classes, and gameplay videos. Now I find myself wondering what the interaction between players will be like, and what limits, if any, will be placed between them?
We’ve long moved past the time when having a profanity filter or a character name approval process is enough for a game to claim to be responsible.
Am I the only one that wishes Massively.com would add a regular column looking into the actual mechanics of controlling character interaction in MMOs, of programming in morality or of policing behavior, and start comparing what is implemented in games due to come out soon? I know that I for one would be fascinated to read it.