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?

Why, Blizzard’s.

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.

38 Responses to “Cybercitizens, wave those virtual passports!”
  1. Xav says:

    Nice and long post, I never thought on rules before and usually accepted the bad behavior as a problem exclusive on the players and not the company to moderate them. You just don’t hang around in real life with people who abuse you unless you have a problem too the only problem here is Dungeon Finder.

  2. bigbearbutt says:

    Well Xav, let’s think about our children (meaning anyone we are responsible for), and how we feel about them playing WoW, or MMOs in general.

    We may tolerate the current iteration of Trade chat ourselves, and group chat, etc. But what about your own kids or young adults?

    If you knew that another game world had built up from the foundation a communication structure that prevented that kind of climate of foul language altogether, would you be more or less willing to allow your kids to play it?

    No taking gameplay or sophistication into question for this, just the aspect of communication. Sure, if Hello Kitty Island Adventure has a great, powerful chat control system, it’s still not likely to be a game we’re rushing out to play. The gameplay isn’t matching our desires. But if the gameplay IS there, apples to apples… would you prefer a place that you knew was less caustic or abusive?

    I know that Cassie and I are both in the Lego Universe beta, and we aren’t beta testing thinking “is this a great game for ME”, we’re thinking “Is this a great game for our son?”

    And in that regard, let me tell you quest difficulty, sure that’s one aspect, but far more is “how easy is it for some 24 year old moron to gank a 7 year old mercilessly? And talk shit endlessly?”

  3. kattrinsaa says:

    While on vacation in EVE today, I ran into a group of unsavory computer generated pirates. in only my second day of vacationing there, I sought help from anyone that would offer it. The only person to respond to my hail was a generically named person with a huge bounty on his head. I was quite reluctant at first to accept his help, thinking he might as soon blow my ship out of the water as my parrot carrying foes, but.. he turned out quite different. He appeared from nowhere helped me sink a few of their ships and proceeded with me to port where he even gave me a new ship.

    Looking at wow from the perspective you describe does completely alter my view or the issues.

  4. Minos says:

    The worst part of the silent runs is that those who prove themselves to be jerks through actions instead of words can’t be added to the Ignore List.

  5. Minos says:

    Hopefully Blizzard doesn’t fall into the gear overinflation trap again in Cataclysm. Right now, new tanks can’t really learn from others’ mistakes, or even from their successes. I’ve seen a lot of people who are starting to tank after having healed or DPSed for a while. But they don’t realize that the techniques they’ve seen vastly overgeared tanks use in heroics aren’t going to work for someone closer to the level of gear the dungeons were designed for.

    We overgeared tanks are making bad role models.

  6. bigbearbutt says:

    That sounds fun, Katt! Except for living in your ship, I tried EVE and just didn’t personally connect with it. I’m glad your pirate was an honest crook… he was on YOUR side!

    Minos… if you install a damage meter addon, it saves your data until you choose to clear it. Mine noted the name and server of everyone in my group, since it shows healing too.

    You can manually add someone to your ignore list even after you are no longer grouped or in an instance with them by typing out /ignore charactername-servername as listed in your damage meter addon.

    Really, that’s one of the only reasons mine is still installed.

  7. Minos says:

    Oh, thanks! They must’ve snuck in the manual /ignore. I’d tried that shortly after 3.3 and only got “character not found”.

  8. Athenrein says:

    If I were still in school, and a sociology major, you’d have just given me my thesis topic.

  9. Jagger says:

    >Really, that’s one of the only reasons mine is still installed.

    DungeonMate is a nice little alternative for stuff like that.

  10. TJGypsy2 says:

    The only behaviors I’ve encountered that I really wish Blizzard would actively do something about are the Anal [Itemlink] type chats in the chat channel, and AFK-bots in the BG’s. I understand why one person reporting someone isn’t enough to boot them from the BG, but there’s nothing more frustrating to me than to win a battleground, and know that a bot who didn’t contribute anything got the exact same XP/Honor that I did.

    I don’t know if Blizzard can actually DO anything about the chat issue, but I know that there has to be something they can do about the AFK thing. It seems to me that if even one person reports you AFK in a BG, and you haven’t done anything for five minutes after that….that would work. I know that reporting lazy players has been enough to make them contribute, so that would be a start.

    Other than that, for the most part I prefer a hands off approach. I like the fact that Blizzard gives me tools to deal with most things on my own without having to open a ticket, and would prefer that, whenever possible, they allow us to police ourselves.

  11. Deandre - Dalaran says:

    Many moons ago, Blizzard had a 1.general that was city wide. For some reason they decided it would be good to remove that while making 2.trade into the city wide channel.

    …and so began the horror that is 2.trade.

  12. TTR_fairy says:

    What, no comments? Seriously, that was deep and a fresh look at WoW, Blizzard’s rules/terms/etc, and the evolving mechanics of gameplay and the lfg system.
    It’d be interesting if Blizz would implement a ‘rate your tank/heals’ system where party members could have the option to give constructive criticism about that player’s performance; if the comment is in asshat format (l2p noob, etc), then it could be forwarded to Blizz and the author monitored…something like that anyways.

  13. TTR_fairy says:

    *edit* iphone view didn’t show me a comments link >.<

  14. What an absolutely fascinating article. I love how you actually moved beyond our common rant (fail PUG! fail PUG! fail PUG!) to the greater implications and ideas behind the highs and lows of interacting with our fellow citizens. I wish MMO Champion would take you up on your column idea!

  15. – Edit: I meant Massively.com, not MMO Champion, of course.

  16. Chris says:

    Re: bad tanks

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a lot of bad advice in the player community when learning to tank. I’ve only been playing wow regularly for about 4 months. I recently rolled a druid and started tanking. I found BBBB in my quest to learn how to gear, spec, play, etc. a bear tank. I’d like to believe I’ve become a fairly good tank thanks in large part for the advice dished on this blog, most of which I cannot find anywhere else that discusses the mechanics of bear tanking and for that I am eternally greatful.

    Why do I think I’m a fairly good tank (note not great)? I can run Heroics and wiping has become a thing of the past. I’ve learned to swipe and charge casters to keep them focused on me, and to manage my rage so I can pickup adds. I have a crit and dodge rating in the high 40s (thanks to this blog telling me to stack agility instead of stanima like EVERYWHERE else). I routinely pop my cooldowns, and ask for magic res from whomever I can get it from. (again all this thanks to BBBB). My proudest moment so far as a tank – Keeping aggro on a HHoR with 3 DPS doing 8k+ DPS and getting the achievement with probably 2 mins to spare.

    I was running a HPoS a couple of weeks ago in boomkin form (trying to learn that as well and gear it for purposes to be explained later). We got a bear tank with 60k health (I have 34k buffed). Stacked everything with stanima. We wiped three times on the first boss. The tank threw a fit at the healer and ragequit. I told the group that I can tank, it’s my main spec and I have the gear for it and never had a problem with this. And I didn’t seem like the healer sucked. We ran the rest of the instance in good time without one wipe. Which is when many in the group expressed they had an epiphany – HP don’t make the tank.

    Why do I bring this all this up? Well because I can’t get a pickup for a weekly for the life of me. I’m not talking ICC, I’m taking Onx. And the first thing everyone gripes to me about is my HP. Doesn’t matter than I’m crit immune, doesn’t matter that I have a dodge rating in the high 40s. And in 2 cases now I had some guy telling me that my bear form was “buffed HP.” I’ve had people inspect me and argue with me that I should be stacking stanima. One person asked my defense rating and got mad that I wasn’t crit immune! I’m getting the feeling that HP is as bad as Gearscore when it comes to judging bear tanks. This is why I’ve now switched to boomkin form and gearing that – so I can run raids and get tank gear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten told what I should be doing as a tank by ppl who it’s obvious they’ve never tanked before. And I think this is why you might be seeing so many bad tanks – there just waaaay to much bad advice out there. And it’s also hard to get practice because no one seems to want to run even the lowest weekly raid without the world’s most perfect tank.

    Anyway just some observations from someone just learning to tank. I know you’ve been doing this a while and have all your friends to run with, but I just started and haven’t really found a group that’ll let me run.

  17. theparanoid says:

    I have notice when I am not on my bear I notice bad tank a lot more then I do bad healers as well. I wonder if it because we know what a good tank those and those not do. So it stands out more. On the healer side you have dps that can and will toss out an off heal which normal can save from a wipe or save some one from dying. But when it comes to tanking there not alot anyone can do about a bad tank.

    As for the note about what over gear tanks can do. That one of the reason I tend to still run the heroic the way I normal do. Oh sure some times I pull a big mob, but normal when it guild run and I know who my DPS and healer are and what they able to do. Other wise I still run the instance the way I did before just without the pause between fights.

  18. Lancezen says:

    Do you think the citizens (players) should have political parties? I can already see the differences between some of us wanting more government control and others believing that the government will only botch things up. Obviously, you can’t legislate for every possible thing correctly (as proven by the Shattered Halls example).

    In the game as in life, bad people always find a way to be bad, and good people find a way to help others. Thanks for you always interesting blogs!

  19. Talth says:

    I agree with TTR_Fairy. Blizz should come up with a rate your team mates system. Not just for heals or tanks either. They are not always the worst. Too many people are in such a big hurry in this game that they lose sight of the fact that they are playing with others. I am talking about you Mr. Ninja or you Mr. I drop group and don’t finish the instance because the drake/weapon/pet didn’t drop from that boss. Some people are on alts some people are just new. I would have much rather brought those people along to get the emblems from the earlier bosses!

    So yes, I could see a nice rating system put into place. And maybe even a reward for maintaining a good rating in the PuGs! Unlike this sweet achievement system where the points are basically just bragging rights. Sure some of the achievements can get you a reward but basically there is no need for the points except to keep us spending time doing some of the most mundane tasks known to Azeroth.

    /rambling.

  20. Isn’t it funny that we hold Blizzard accountable instead of each other?

    What does this say about the general population and the inevitable ceding of power to government?

    Is the government in RL as a nanny state inevitable if that’s our first inclination and habit in a virtual world?

  21. Sarabian says:

    I think Talth hit on something there. A rating system would be great. Yes, there would be asshats that would rate people low for grins, but those I think would be the exception. I see it as kind of an eBay rating thing and maybe have a control to only group randomly with people in your rating “bracket”.

    No governmental control here, but a good system to self-police random groups. A reward of even a title you can have at a certain rating bracket – kinda like the old style pvp titles.

    That would definitely be a nice starting point.

    Psst! Hey, Blizz!

  22. HerrDrache says:

    Bearwalls are nice – let me put up some graffiti :)

    – Why do you try to gear your rogue properly? Same as why you’re a good tank: You care!
    – Thanks for the hint to /ignore name-server (and the addon) – I didn’t know that (O.O)
    – Sarbian: No. That would not be the exception :( I really doubt it. As clique-ish as some servers are, as some servers are becoming (note trade chat, how all the “bullies” unite and the rest doesn’t do anything), no – there’s no way the rating would work properly.
    And that’s why we turn to the virtual government, the Blizzard GM. There is no way that I, or me and my friends, or anything can negatively impact the “ninja” or the rude, obnoxious, insulting, etc. person. In real life, they’d get their nose punched . In WoW, we can’t do anything…

  23. Talth says:

    Well, I have to disagree about a rating system not working of course. :P I believe it would work great but I am 100% positive that it would never happen anyway.

    @Chris Penn – Obviously the general population is to be held accountable first but there is only so much we can do to “control” them. Basically just add them to the ignore list. Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong. Some people decide to hide behind that avatar and act completely immature or disgusting. As far as being held responsible for their actions that’s where blizzard comes in to play. Giving more controls over the game such as the Gear specific Need/greed. The frozen orbs being greed only now. And to be honest there is only so much they can do to keep things right.

    As for Trade chat and that ridiculousness. I have come to the point where if it gets too out of control I report them for spam as if it were a gold seller. I am sorry to those GMs that end up dealing with it but it is simple for me and they should be reprimanding players who want to ignore the ToS. I mean really, you took the time to make a macro to give me the middle finger via text. I have no problem taking the time to right click your name and select report spam!

  24. Tom says:

    Have been reading this blog a while and this is the most thought provoking post I’ve seen so far, thanks very much.

    I wonder if we could take some of the responsibility for moderating bad behavior back from Blizzard. Would it not be possible to write an application that collects data each time a user runs an instance using dungeon finder. If that data was submitted to a central location then each time you started an instance you could look at the stats of your group mates: how many times have they been kicked from a group, how many times have they kicked someone, how many times have they left early, have other users reported them for ninja’ing or anything else, what is their average DPS, how often do they tank, heal or DPS. You could also read what other comments people have posted.

    I see all sorts of problems with this system in that you are collecting data on people without them opting in but that’s what we do with damage meters anyway. They thing I really like is that it would create consequences for peoples’ actions. You can be an idiot if you like but everyone will know.

    I also think that the comments section could be hilarious.

  25. Chris says:

    @Tom

    Only problem with that system is that it would be abused and misunderstood just like gearscore and HP for tanks. I’m already having problems picking up weekly raids even when I flash the HHoR achievments that I’m completely capable of tanking. Now there will be yet one more thing to boot new, learning, and undergeared (relative to full ICC25) tanks even at low levels. I can see it now: “LF TANK GS6k+, HP50k+, show ach, and 1000+ runs as tank”

    There are a lot of idiots, morons, asshats, and ignorant players that are all too quick to pass judgement to make any system based on data have the intended effect. No amount of data is going to fix that because the root cause is the poor decision making by players. Short of some user run and enforced justice system baked into WoW by blizzard, there’s only so much users can do outside of the game to address the issue. (Could be interesting, WoW having an economy AND politics)

  26. Tom says:

    @Chris

    I agree that this would not help the issue you highlight and that such a system would be imperfect and would certainly be open to abuse but the one thing that it would give us is that there would be consequences to people’s actions. At the moment there is not much incentive for people to act responsibly because there are no consequences to their actions. The worst that can really happen is that someone puts you on their ignore list and when that happens there are plenty of other people to annoy. If there was a way everyone could see stats on how you behaved whenever they interacted with you then there would be an incentive to behave better.

    I think it’s a bit like real life. We have laws, police and jail to deal with things like muggers and bank robbers. We have social pressure to deal with people behaving like asshats. The sort of problems we should expect Blizzard to solve are things like account hacking. I think the player base should be able to solve things like antisocial behavior. Interestingly I would also expect Blizzard to also act in a similar capacity to the Federal Reserve and step in when gold farmers start distorting the economy. I would also expect them to step in when anti-social behavior escalates to serious abuse but every day idiot behavior should be something that we can deal with ourselves.

  27. HerrDrache says:

    My fear/concern/conviction, though, is that the “idiots” are much quicker to group up and skew the stats. They already feed off each other in trade, I don’t want to give them another tool to bully someone just because they found out on facebook that they’re old/young, have a different color, weight, or like anchovies on their Pizza. Looking at not only trade, but also the realm forums, how many people do you see defending someone who’s being torn up?

    We have laws and police to protect us from – percentage wise – a ridiculously small minority, and to stop that number from growing. If “the good guys” don’t come together in real life in significant numbers, then I don’t think it would work in-game either. And social pressure against anti-social behavior? I’m not sure that works anymore either. “We have to be sooooo tolerant, understanding, helping, being politically correct…”, catering to near every nuance of “what the heck were you thinking!!!” that social pressure is beginning to fail.

    Errr… Off my soapbox I go, taking my gloom views with me.

  28. Drew says:

    “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.”

    Do they ever modify their own behavior? Is this a realistic expectation, especially with as briefly and anonymously as we deal with these people in game? The only place it can really come back to haunt you anymore is if you’re looking to join a guild outside of the scope of your friends and family, or trying to get into a PuG raid. In those cases, the reputation you’ve accrued can haunt you, but even still, that’s more on the scale of your reputation in a small town v. in a school of 100 – it’s still perfectly easy to be a d-bag but lay low enough that you can repeat offend.

    Thus, we are left to hope that karma will bite them back, or occasionally do something ourselves to help karma out, like your “bear”icade in the parking lot – the “gift that keeps on giving.” :) You’ve definitely helped karma out on that one, BBB!

    Players also look to Blizzard in their virtual world the way we look to the government in the US. It’s social contract theory – we turn over power and certain natural rights in return for certain protections. We don’t go on Clint Eastwood-style revenge sprees when we are wronged normally because we know that the authorities are there, can take action to right a wrong, and that at the end of the day, if there are damages, we can sue, and with an expectation that we will be able to collect. I think because we’re used to this in our real world, we have similar expectations of the keepers of our virtual world.

    Trade chat *is* pretty repellent, but unfortunately necessary if you’re looking to PuG at all or find someone to enchant something. I’ll be grateful when Cata is released and I have more fun reasons to venture back out away from the cities for a while – I definitely won’t miss it.

  29. Tesh says:

    Freedom tends to work best when applied consistently. Unfortunately, that means some people will always be a problem. That’s one of the prices to pay for agency.

    It seems to me that these virtual worlds don’t need more Big Brother, they need more John Wayne. Give us the tools to stop jerks on the local level, like Puzzle Pirates’ “Black Spots” (effectively a short-term mute of that character; *nobody* sees their chat for a while… and yes, there are bans available for those who abuse that power, only vested in high-ranking pirates). As citizens, we are almost completely powerless in the social sphere. Give us some teeth already.

  30. bigbearbutt says:

    Some great discussion here, just awesome, really like what’s going on.

    Tesh, and those of you advocating more tools for players to police ourselves…. I like that idea.

    What I am reminded of, though, are examples we’ve all heard of, of players that had the power in guilds, guild leader, guild banker, whatever… and seem perfectly nice and emotionally stable. Then, one day, they just snap, go on a long drunken rambling crazy session on vent, and at the end of it gkick everyone and disband the guild, leaving everyone going, “wtf just happened there?”

    Not a “don’t do it”, just an acknowledgement that power in anyone’s hands can be wielded poorly, no matter what their previous track record may be.

  31. Tesh says:

    Oh, definitely. Of course, I’d note that the devs and GMs are people too. ;)

    I’m just more concerned with power concentrated in any small party’s hands, whether devs or players. The power has to go somewhere, and I’d rather spread it around a bit. That has a tendency to balance things out if done right… sort of a “Second Amendment” for game power, as it were. If they want us to police ourselves as a community, we need the tools to do that. Ditto for the forums, and why I never bought the “RealID is the solution to trolling” line.

    It’s funny… Blizzard (or any MMO admins, really) have the power to be the strongest Big Brother we’ve ever seen, but they seem at least slightly content to sit back on the social front and let the dirtbags go wild. I’m happy that they aren’t flexing their totalitarian muscle, but at the same time, it’s not like players have a lot of options. /ignore only accomplishes so much, and doesn’t really address the problem players. When the devs won’t or can’t enforce their own rules on behavior or chat, what else can be done?

    Maybe we need a Spock neck pinch like Star Trek IV. Mute that punk rocker for a while and see if the bus is a happier place.

  32. Chris says:

    Sorry the more I think about this policing ourselves, the less I like it. There’s one thing I like about the asshats right now that would end the minute these tools came out – we’re on the same level. As obnoxious as they can get, that’s all they can be, obnoxious.

    Put out community tools, and these clowns are going start using them against us. You just gave them power. Now they can band together and game and terrorize the system. Imagine a group of idiots that just decided to single you out for bullying – next thing you know you can’t chat with anyone and no longer can get enchants, PuGs, what have you. We had a BIG problem our server with a guild “Geese Howard The Guild.” It was and is a collection of 400 of the biggest jerkoffs you can find. Our server would be trashed if you handed them any community tools to police the morons because they would instantly swamp the system. It took a month of people pleading with blizzard to just get them to stop ginvite spamming everyone. Seriously I got spammed 20 times in an hour. And if you told them to stop eventually elevating to a f-ck off (ignoring did nothing, they’d just spam from another character) they’d find you and harass the ever-living shit out of you by ninja’ing everything or killing the stuff you were trying to kill and spamming you even more. After all the reports the guild still exists.

    The havoc those idiots would’ve done to our server with any of the tools you are talking about gives me the willies. I’ll take the jerk behavior over that.

  33. Tom says:

    Harking back to the digital democracy analogy, I don’t want to be a citizen in a society where we rely on the government to regulate and punish anti-social behavior. I would much rather a society where the citizens have the power to ensure that anti-social behavior has consequences, even though those powers will be abused. If the government is regulating behavior on that level then they would need to use very blunt instruments indeed which would by necessity limit the richness of what social interaction is possible.

  34. Staris says:

    One of the best things about Twitter is that it is self policing. You don’t like someone? you block them. You don’t want to read their tweets anymore, you unfollow them.

    Wow would be good if we could self police a bit more. However, I don’t care about the spam in trade chat. I mean, the game (in Australia) has a M for mature, so I mean, kids shouldn’t be playing it anyway. There IS a language filter already and it isn’t hard to ignore people. WoW is like real life, really. . . there are always stupid people and you just learn to nagivate around them.

  35. Moonking says:

    I think too many people forget that WoW is just a game. We’re not a society. We’re all playing a game for fun. A game rated teen and up. If people choose to let younger children play it they are bad parents. There could be an argument raised that the games rating should be far higher to include online interactions,but getting into a debate this deep about it one must always remember its just a game. The only question is, are these interactions with rude players something you want to keep paying for? Because even using your analogy of government…no business, no country, and no government making this much profit is going to change anything unless it starts effecting the bottom line.

  36. Arneus says:

    Regarding rating systems:

    I played Clan Lords before the mechanics caused serious wife aggro :). In that game they had something called Karma. It was a point total that you built up over time. Each day you could give and receive a set number of Karma points. I think it was 5 points given and fewer received. You could give or receive good OR bad Karma. The limits made it difficult to Karma bomb someone and in the end a character’s Karma total was a really good reflection of whether they were fun to play with.

    In a sense it was like the DIGG rating systems or the like/dislike rating systems you see for posts on forums. The community rates your behaviour. That is the one thing I find frustrating about wow sometimes is that when you get ninja’d and make a comment to someone else about it they say “oh everyone knows he’s an asshat”. It just highlights that there is no mechanism in this virtual world to identify the asshats.

    I don’t want the asshats removed I just want some way of identifying so I can make an informed choice about joining a PUG raid. I don’t know if the Karma system would work in WoW but some way of gathering the reputation as a great tank/healer/dps or just as someone fun to play with would be nice.

  37. talisien says:

    The first MMORPG ever Meridian 59 had a great system for discouraging player ganking, revenents would spawn from the lower lvls body they were the lvl of the killer and pretty much couldnt be evaded they chased forever until they killed you.
    I beta tested it love it world pvp all the tme you could take over diff cties so many great concepts that got trashed.
    Merdian 59 was bought by sony a year later everquest was released.

  38. Grimm says:

    I noticed a lot of folks discussing the notion of ‘ceding power to government’ – I think it’s important to note that in a virutal world, you are facing the nigh-precise opposite of how power flows in the real. That is to say, power is a direct result of the code.

    Look at Trade as a wonderful example: it is a global communications medium, but it isn’t multithreaded or separated by topic. Instead, it is designed to be a single communications path.. and the only power that you, as a player, have is to opt out. There’s no middle ground, no “I want to see items that link level appropriate content for me’ – you simply have to choose to either participate fully in some manner, or to leave entirely. Loot thievery? It’s similar:

    In the real you’d have dozens of options. You could beat the snot out of that schmuck right there, having lasting consequences for them. You could choose to harrass them at work/school. You could call the cops. You could take them to court. You could find their home and steal something of equivalent value. Suffice it to say that your options in the real are both varied (limited only by your choices) and consequent (the things you do, and have done to you, have long-lasting import). In the VR setting, there are strict controls placed around what you do or don’t do by the programmers – I can’t just attack you, and even if I can (on a PvP server, for instance), your consequences aren’t much more than a few minutes of lost time.

    Roll back to EQ – if I stole loot from you in EQ, I had recourse to the GMs, sure. But I could also do nasty things like get you killed… and if I did that, you lost experience, and possibly levels. THere were asshats, certainly (especially on PvP servers) – but the consequences were a bit more dire, and the asshattery was honestly far less common. Eve? I can’t get into eve as some can – but, honestly? The general asshattery there, on its frontiers, is really a function of who can enforce what government where, and it has a different dynamic. Some might say that that’s the point of the game.

    On WoW, though, the power to deal with your own situtations is proscribed by the programming. You are only granted so much power, and if Blizzard keeps the rest, there’s not much you can do about it.

    Also, Moonking?

    I think too many people forget that WoW is just a game. We’re not a society.

    This isn’t true. A society happens whenever several people gather together for a shared experience, and could arguably be defined by the ‘unwritten rules’ that spring into place to make that society up. Need before Greed, sharing cash, the buffs you’re expected to provide or the portals you’re expected to throw. You’re expected to use polite language, to help out where you can, to play to the best of your ability – and if that’s not a society, what is?

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