I’m not a theorycrafter

This comes out of a discussion I had with Cassie yesterday.

After my WoW Insider article on Threat came out, she read it, as she always does, to be supportive and let me know when I mispelled words or used the wrong phraseology. (I kid! I kid! Love you honey!)

So she read it, and then emailed me at work to let me know that she liked it, and that, even though she doesn’t raid, she understood most of what I was talking about and almost 75% of it made sense.

Which, for me, is a lot.

But it got me to thinking, because I know a lot of folks use the phrase ‘theorycrafter’ to describe what they do. SuraBear calls himself one right on his front page. And it’s a title that is well deserved.

Blizzard rarely, if ever, shares what math they are using internally to do things. Like, almost never. Their revelation of some of the math behind the new skills they announced for the Burning Crusade over a year ago was a marked departure for them.

So a new breed of adventurous investigator was born. A new kind of detective for a new kind of crime; those who test results in game using Combat Logs and repeatable situations to determine on their own the theory behind the math that Blizzard uses, and then share those theories with the rest of us.

Without the Adventurous Theorycrafter, our lives in game would be hell. Even now, people cling to old ideas that what loot drops from a boss is determined by arcane conjunctions of effects, such as what class the raid leader is when the first person zones into the instance, or what classes make up the raid, or other even more esoteric concepts.

I keep waiting for someone to tell me that his Black Swashbucklers’ Shirt is what made the Warrior Tier 4 Helm drop from Prince Malchazaar.

Anyway, the theorycrafters are awesome, and deserve the legends they carve out for themselves.

Me, I don’t think of what I do as theorycrafting. I don’t start off with a clean slate. I research the work of others first. I make assumptions. I hunt out countervailing arguments. I try to see what the thought amongst others is first, and then I lay out things to do in game to test, for myself, whether what I am being told matches what I myself see in game. That ain’t theorycrafting, it’s at best verification.

The special sauce I bring to my approach on these things isn’t a special love of math. I have to use it at work, but that doesn’t mean I want it in my home. Icky maths!

My approach comes from a life long love of playing pen and paper role playing games, and moving around frequently. Often, you are thrown together with new people in the service, and while there are certainly going to be two or three gamers, there will always be two or three folks that have ‘always wanted to play, but never knew anyone that did to get started’.

And it would fall on me, repeatedly, to take a vastly complicated rule system that I knew by heart, and break it down in such a way that I could get the rules across as a cohesive whole that could be comprehended and remembered after about one hour of explanation.

And that is all that I’m doing, except this system I don’t know by heart. So I’m going to a dozen different locations, I’m gathering tons of different opinions, I’m putting it all together to get an idea of how things are supposed to work, and then I go test things out in game. And then I try to write it up as one cohesive little article bringing it all together.

So the actual work is done by theorycrafters. I feel like I am contributing somewhat, in bringing a lot of different published theories and facts together into one place and giving it my testing and then my interpretation. But the hard work has been done before by others, and as has been said by those smarter than I…

I stand on the shoulders of giants.


2 thoughts on “I’m not a theorycrafter

  1. I too feel like that with the true hardcore Theorycrafters – they rock! Reverse engineering the maths out of WoW takes not just time, but also a lot of thought and general “cleverness”.

    I also really appreciate the time that B^3 takes to bring it all together and express a personal opinion that carries a fair bit of weight, especially from an “Oh my, B^3 has been there and done that already” point of view.

    There’s a Management approach to “Team Roles” based on the work by Dr Meredith Belbin, called “Belbin Team Inventory” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belbin_Team_Inventory that I think expresses what you’re doing as a Resource Investigator (although I disagree with the phrase Steal in the wikipedia description – “use” would be more appropriate, as an idea used and acknowledged isn’t stolen)…

    I only bring that up ‘cos my Belbin Team Profile identified me as a Plant/Resource Investigator, and I identify pretty strongly with the way that you go about your blogging!


  2. In all fairness, I’m more of a middle-manager in the world of theorycraft. I’m not (at least thus far) one of those people who go into the game, design and execute experiments, and come out with raw mechanic numbers and such. I simply take the numbers that others’ experimentation dig up, and apply those numbers.

    Think of it like pi. I’m not the guy that sat there and calculated pi to be 3.14159. . . I’m the guy who took that guy’s number and made it actually mean something, by using it to calculate the volume of the earth, the position in space required for geosyncronous orbit of a satellite, or the harmonic frequency of vibration for the Tacoma Narrows bridge (oh, wait, thats right, nobody actually DID that last one. . . whoops!)

    While you may not dig as deeply into the hard numbers as some of us, you ultimately fill the same role, taking game mechanics and making them more understandable for the general public.

    Oh, and for the record, you’re also the reason I HAVE a blog, I never would have discovered the wonder that is the blogging world if I hadn’t stumbled across and started reading your blog on a regular basis.


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