Monday, February 19, 2007
Blessing of Kings
I found a nice blog called Blessing of Kings, talking about World of Warcraft from a paladin's perspective. Especially noteworthy are posts on Is Loot Changing Me? and Left Behind. These posts resonate with me, because they are about somebody who at his core is a casual player finding himself in a raiding guild. Just like me.
I started out World of Warcraft as a casual player. But end of last year I was wearing tier 2 epics from Onyxia, Ragnaros, and Blackwind Lair, which isn't casual at all any more. The Burning Crusade brought some casualness back into my game. But at the same time I feel the same things as GSH from Blessing of Kings talks about in the Left Behind post: The need to keep up with your guild mates, because otherwise you can't play with them.
I'm trying not to feel too strongly about loot. But when recently a warlock rolled and won for some shoulders with healing stats I wanted, I was positively angry. And the announcement that my guild is abandoning their bad DKP system in favor of an even worse "officers discretion" loot distribution is filling me with dread. You could have Solomon himself in his infinite wisdom try to distribute raid loot at his discretion of who needs it most, and who contributed towards it most, and it would still end with lots of ugly loot fights. The one who doesn't get the loot will always assume favoritism or another form of unfairness.
So how does a casual player end up feeling the need to level faster and fighting for loot? I still think that it is due to lack of alternatives: At some point you have done everything there is to do solo, and you there is no attractive way left to improve the power of your character, except raiding. It is a problem stemming from the fact that we can't admit having reached the "game over" status, and insist on keeping playing.
Game Theory is a branch of behavioral economics, and isn't about games at all, except for using games as an example on how people make decisions. But that system can be applied to all sorts of situations, and that includes games. If you study raiding in World of Warcraft like that, many of the strange behavioral patterns of raiders become quite understandable. If you have the choice from a large pool of players, being a raid leader, of course it is advantageous to invite only the highest level and best geared people of the ideal class mix with the best raid talent specs. And that in turn creates a pressure on the people who would like to attend a raid to be highest level, best geared, and ideally spec'd for the raid. All that keeping up with the Joneses in the end only serves to be able to actually play with the Joneses. The alternatives are boring solo grinding, or quitting the game. Raiders aren't a different species of humans than casual players are. It all only depends on how much of the game you already played, and what is left for you to do. If only raids are left, whatever your initial attitude, you end up adjusting to the requirements of the raid end game.
Which is why I'm currently considering the alternatives of either WoW end game v2.0 or starting LotRO. Strange as it sounds, both are valid alternative solutions to the same problem.