Wednesday, October 01, 2008
I received two mails from readers, one about how WoW battlegrounds could improve by using the contribution system of WAR public quests, and one about how tanks in WAR seem to be undervalued in the contribution system. Both subjects serve to show how measuring contribution is difficult, which makes handing out rewards for a group effort difficult.
WoW battlegrounds, especially Alterac Valley, suffer from most rewards being given out just for showing up. That leads to people going afk in the starting cave, or when reporting tools were introduced, going into hiding first and then going afk. If being on the battlefield was enough to get most of the reward, then why contribute? The WAR public quests and scenarios suffer from the opposite evil, they try too hard to measure contribution, and some contributions are simply too hard to measure. You end up getting less points if you guard a flag in a scenario, or if you tank in a public quest, or do other things that are beneficial for the whole group, but aren't measurable on an individual level. As a result players are taught that it is better to behave stupidly, to leave flags unguarded, to not use taunt in a public quest, etc., because MMORPGs are huge Skinner boxes, and we are being trained towards specific behavior via rewards and punishments.
And there isn't really a perfect solution for the problem. Often some sort of mixed approach, rewarding you both for just being there and for your participation, are tried. Typical example are WAR public quests, where loot is handed out based on a dice roll based on just having minimally contributed, plus a modifier that tries to measure contribution. If three people, a tank, a healer, and a damage dealer would do a public quest together, with nobody else around, the WAR system is skewed in a way that the healer would come first in contribution, and the tank last. That is simply a question of weighing factors, apparently one point healed counts for more than one point of damage dealt, and the use of a taunt ability is either not counted at all or given a very low point value. Efficient group combat is often a matter of agro control, and that is hard to measure. And even if contribution could be measured more accurately, then you'd still get situations where the highest contributor rolled low and the lowest contributor rolled high, inversing the rewards for contribution situation. But if there was no random roll involved, there would be no good reason to join a public quest already in progress, so the current system is probably still the best possible. It should be modified to give more contribution points for taunting, because already some tanks just don't taunt at all, because their relative contribution goes up if they let the healer and damage dealer pull aggro and die.
I like the contribution system in WAR scenarios more than I like the WoW battleground system, because at least no one can leech afk. But I am somewhat disadvantaged by the WAR system, because I tend to think strategically in WAR, guarding flags or capturing unguarded ones, and end up with less renown points and xp than players who just fought stupidly for no strategic purpose. Scenarios like Stone Troll Crossing make me crazy, because it is so terribly obvious how you could easily prevent the other side from tagging the third troll stone and winning the scenario, but everyone is too busy to rack up personal kill points to do so. In many WAR scenarios I get the feeling that "capture the flag" is too complicated a concept for most participants, and they prefer to all just brawl somewhere in the middle. But of course a contribution system that hands out more points for that stupid brawl than for doing anything strategic is to blame for that. In total the side that acts more strategically wins more points, but on an individual basis you are being punished for acting strategically. At least tanks end up less disadvantaged in WAR scenarios than in WAR public quests, because being in the middle of the fight and surviving counts for a lot of points.
In summary I think the mix of being rewarded for showing up and for contributing is a good compromise. But the system should be tweaked to give more contribution points for activities that help the group, instead of just measuring points of damage dealt or points healed. Measuring contribution is difficult, and we'll never see a perfect system, but some improvements are certainly still possible.