Tobold's Blog
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.
I am a casual player. Most of my friends are casual players, too. We prefer to play together when we are on-line, but the big problem is, we always level up at different speeds, and somebody always gets left behind. My Main is currently Lv 66, whereas my friends are already Lv 70. This means if we play together they either get bored doing quests they have already done (and find them too easy), or I end up playing aggro magnet and do a lot of corpse running because the mobs are too high level for me.
Even when I get to Lv 70, I know they will have advanced even further.
I feel I am playing catch-up constantly, and that I'm missing out on the fun they are having at the moment.
I am definitely 'Left behind'.
LotRO will be refreshing. The new level 70 end-game doesn't interest me much because of all the new changes and grinds added (it's getting old).

A new world to explore will be 1000 times better than any new 25 man raid dungeon in WoW.

In retrospect, Naxx gave my guild and I about 6 months of fun (learning and collecting new gear). The new expansion has overwhelmed me with new grinds (rep, keys, Gems , enchants, tradeskills, pots, etc...), smaller dungeons (lots of guild drama) and sub-par upgrades at best (T3 to blues, T4 and T5). I would have to say that Naxx was a better upgrade to WoW than TBC in many ways.
You need a less crappy guild. Transfer servers and join our guild! We have no DKP system, nor a "loot council". It's simple, the raid leaders (usually our guild leaders) post the item, and what classes can roll on it. I.e. Feral Druids and Rogues roll on this leather stuff. Now, a Resto Druid may roll on it, but depending on the item it may be suggested that they not roll or they may be kindly refused. I have heard almost zero reasonable complaints from our guild members about this system. We even allow any PUG member the same rolling authority. I have personally lost two very good ZG/AQ20 items to a non-guild member and another guild member who out-rolled me. I'm fine with it, because I'll just run it again, and I'll get it eventually. :)
I can understand the problem, although I have not had much problems with admitting reaching the "end" of the game. The main obstacle have been whether in-game friends are staying or going to a new game; or finding new friends in a new game.
That part has been much easier being part of a group that has people playing in many different games - much easier to keep in touch with both old and new in-game friends.

Loot or the process of getting specific loot to show off has not really been particularly interesting. In WoW I almost never checked which mobs dropped what or what quests gave specific rewards - if it was something useful it was a nice surprise and it has been important to keep that attitude.

Also, since I am happily playing many alts, my leveling speed for different characters were often different from other guildies. Getting groups together were a bit of a challenge if you were not in the mainstream of leveling speed.

These are some reasons which makes me really like City of Villains/Heroes. The systems there are definitely not perfect, but the best approach I have seen so far.
Level-wise, a player characters level can either be lowered or raised in relation to another player characters level. So a low level can group with a team of high-levels or a high-level can group with a team of low-levels. There are some restrictions in place in certain situations, but it is almost "everyone can play with everyone".

Loot is distributed randomly by the system, there is no "epic loot" or a specific loot tied to a particular mob. If you can count on something specific good loot, it is as a reward for completing a certain mission or story arc (a number of missions tied together in a story).

Playing a superhero/supervillain is not everyones cup of tea and there are certainly problems also. But I think Cryptic has made a good job to provide "ease of teaming" and taken away potential for a lot of player drama around loot. I wish more games would take these matters in consideration.
The worst part about leveling in WoW for me is that any idiot with 2 arms and a heart beat can level their toon, the quests are pretty straight foward and there is enough of them to go around, the people with the most amount of spare time on their hands are going to level faster then anyone who can't play the game because they have a job, or a personal life or anything that interupts possible gaming time.

When I was 68 I did a 5-man with a level 70 warrior, and was thinking oh yeh level 70 this will be easy, but the guy was a complete idiot, the only reason my toon isn't level 70 already is because I've got a busy life on the side of WoW. And thats the worst part about leveling in the game, the thing I like about the end game factor of WoW, is the idiot warrior although he is level 70, won't get squat invites to raids now will he, because after 1 or 2 raids with his guild or anyone that invites him, they will reaslise he is hopeless and won't reinvite him.

At least with end game contents some factor of player skill is taken into consideration, when creating a decent 25-man raid team....
1) Sounds like your guild isn't friends out for fun, it's folks united for a cause. Exact opposite of my guild-- I know more about the social lives of most of my guildies than I do about their characters. (In my defense, we average at least 3 alts a person.)

2) Hopefully, the smaller group size will allow social mechanics to work-- ie, folks will make more generous choices and the jerks will slowly not be invited any more. This hope, in your guild, is made unlikely by the top-down loot spread. (You might do a search for the US Navy's "petty officer indoctrination" stuff and send it to your guild leaders-- there's a whole section that's basically "how to not look like you're being unfair.")
Not at all, my guild are all great freinds of mine, and there is actually 8 real life freinds of mine in my guild, i used to be room mates with 3 of them.

But I have to say that 80% of the guild are above average players.....Just because your level 70, doesn't make you a good player.
If game theory can explain the irrationality of wanting virtual items... then I'm in.

I could definitely use a better understanding of my own weird quirks for MMo playing.
RE: Is Loot Changing Me?

Nothing is perfect.

Loot is a touchy topic.
Make sure everyone is "on the same page" about loot before you jump into the instance.

Follow the old adage: Treat others like you want to be treated.
Err on the side of generosity.
Do your best to make sure that, as much as possible, everybody gets something for the run.
Excuses are a dime-a-dozen -- try hard to correct mistakes.

For example:
1) An item pops up, and everyone passes, discussion ensues, item given to player XYZ
2) An item pops up, player XYZ silently needs after everyone passes
Same result, very different feelings on the part of the party members.
Don't be surprised if someone just leaves party and hearths out on situation 2 --
"Fool me once, shame on you -- fool me twice, shame on me."

Do not even mention needing for alts, or needing for mats for a profession, without clearing it *before* you enter the instance.
Most everyone "keeps score" -- if you ask to need on an item early, then when a good item drops later defer to someone who is empty-handed. (Personally, these days I never ask for anything and it keeps me out of that situation.)

People have long memories for injustices done to them (real or perceived).
It's just not a good idea to get a reputation as a "loot whore".
"officer's discretion"??

Get out now, before you sink a bunch of time into that arbitrary system.

At least when the system is based on numbers you know where you stand.
As I've been making an effort to PUG the instances I'm doing, I've been going out of my way to inspect each person I'm running with who might be interested in the same items as me. I still have very good level 60 instance gear as a level 66, and I've replaced very little. Usually I'll see that any drops that are upgrades for me are such minor upgrades that I'd rather they go to somebody else who would see a pretty dramatic improvement with the new gear. Being the guy who earned an upgrade and decided to give it to somebody who could use it more is a lot more fun than being the guy who gets angry at who rolled on a certain item. I seem to have a sort of hippie viewpoint on gear right now which is a refreshing change from cussing Ebonroc for not dropping the Drake Fang Talisman after 50 kills.
Thanks for the kind words.

And about the officer's discretion, I'd run. At least with DKP you know where you stand, and your contributions are measurable.

Unless you have absolute faith in your guild leadership, officer's discretion is drama waiting to happen.
officer's discretion is drama waiting to happen

I totally agree. But it is drama *waiting* to happen, and it might well not happen to me. Objecting against the new rule on how to distribute loot is drama happening right there and then, and with me right in the middle. Call it basic cowardice, but I just don't have the energy to fight the guild leadership over this. I still hope that there will be few minor dramas, everybody sees that this is not a good system, and we go back to some sort of DKP system. Being prevoyant can only get me into trouble.
Problem with waiting for folks to come to their sences-- the folks that are passed over a couple of times will likely leave, the ones that get stuff from their friends, the leaders, will stay. And there will be abuses-- that's human nature.

I look forward to your posts about how raiding is now a pain in your guild because you can't get gear. *grin* *tease*
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