Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
How the Dungeon Finder beat Gearscore

Imagine for a moment that you could for any given group in World of Warcraft use a miraculous addon which would exactly tell you the overall power score of that group. Being miraculous the addon not only counts measurable things like level, class, talents, group composition and gear, but also harder to impossible to measure things like skill and cooperation into account, and transforms all that into a single number. As that number tells you absolutely everything about a group, you can now compare it to a given difficulty level of a dungeon, and come up with an accurate prediction of that group in that dungeon. The scale would look something like this, from lowest group power score to highest:Now personally I would say that at least for a first attempt on a new dungeon, the middle range of this scale is the most fun, where you use all the available possibilities of your character and your group, and have to figure out how things work. But obviously the further you proceed on that scale, the faster it goes, so with people trying to get the most emblems per minute of repeated heroic runs the AoE end of the scale is preferred by most players. The more powerful the group you bring, the faster you get your rewards.

Now that miraculous group power score addon doesn't exist, and can't exist. However there are addons like Gearscore who at least try to measure the power of an individual character. Take 5 characters with a high gearscore, apply some common sense on group composition, and you end up with a high group power score. This is why Spinks thinks that Gearscore is necessary to evaluate PuGs. The same thinking goes into various other requirements people advertise when putting together a pickup group, whether that is achievements or gear checks.

There are two major problems with the approach: One is that with players preferring faster rewards, the highest score is always the best. The other is that whatever existing score you use, measuring skill correctly is impossible, so group leaders tend to overestimate the need for gear and achievements to compensate for the possibility of low skill. In the extreme somebody organizing a Naxxramas pickup group will only invite people who can demonstrate that there is absolutely nothing in Naxxramas that would still be an upgrade for them. That is completely counterproductive, and excludes players trying to gear up from such pickup groups.

Funnily enough the Dungeon Finder looking-for-group tool introduced into World of Warcraft with patch 3.3 uses a basic form of Gearscore, whose exact workings are secret to prevent players from manipulating it. But what you can do is open the Dungeon Finder (or its hidden brother, the Raid Dungeon Finder with /lfr) and go to the page where it allows you to select a specific dungeon to go to. If you are undergeared, you will find a little lock symbol on the harder dungeons, that is neither you nor a preformed group containing you will be randomly assigned these locked dungeons due to you not having good enough gear for it.

But there is an important difference between the Dungeon Finder and a PuG leader using Gearscore: The Dungeon Finder isn't all that worried about the possibility of somebody having very low skill, nor is being able to finish the dungeon in record time a requirement. Skill in playing World of Warcraft, like many naturally occuring things, is distributed over a bell curve, a Gaussian distribution. That means the chance that somebody is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad at something is very, very small. A random group will nearly always find their skills grouped around the average (in spite of how skilled the individuals think they are). And it will be symmetrical, with good and bad players balancing each other out. In one extreme case I visited at level 79 a normal dungeon where the damage meters at the end revealed my mage in the middle of the 3 dps, with one level 80 full epic hunter at 4.5k dps at the top, and one level 79 death knight with a measly 0.5k dps at the bottom. Due to at least the dps part of a group being a shared responsability, that group did just fine, even with me doing AoE and not being too slow finishing the dungeon.

In short, the Dungeon Finder is balanced enough to put a group together which even in the less ideal cases will finish the dungeon in good time and with few or no wipes. And due to putting the requirements less high, there is even a good chance that the people involved can use some of the loot that drops, which after all used to be the purpose of a dungeon before we got emblem rewards. In spite of putting a group together that few PuG group leaders using Gearscore would have invited, the Dungeon Finder has a very high probability of finding a group able to finish the dungeon successfully, often even in good time.

Now, while I do see the added difficulty when going from 5-man leveling or heroic dungeons to 10-man or even 25-man raid dungeons, both from a point of having a balanced composition and the issue of raid lockouts, I do wish that Blizzard would extend the Dungeon Finder to a fully operational Raid Finder, and not just the hidden and unused fragment they have up to now. There is currently a big hole in the end game content with the Dungeon Finder having filled up heroics, and the guilds mostly doing the higher up raid dungeons, with few or no people visiting Naxxramas. Some further work on the Dungeon Finder tool could make finding a raid as easy and fun as finding a heroics group. And then we would find that in fact you don't need full T9 gear to do a wing of Naxxramas, as the PuG raid leader with his Gearscore addon demands.
Could it be that the Dungeon Finder uses your past performance in dungeons to predict you performance?

If I were Blizzard that's the way I did it ...

The Dunegon Finder would thus learn.
In my experience any piece of technology that learns is a bad thing - especially when coming from a company with as good of a reputation as Blizzard. I mean, haven't you seen ?
People have absolutely no right -- none -- to complain about what raid leaders demands are. If you don't like those demands, then you have the option to start your own group. If enough people don't like the demands of the raid leader, he likewise won't be able to run his run. So the ideal of his demands being unreasonable are completely moot.

I like gear score, and I find arguments against it's use specious at best. The problem with gear score is that unthinking people use is as the be all, when it is not and never could be. Gear score is simply a factor in a selection process. It's a datum. The fact is that you have no means of comparative association between characters other than through a means such as gear score. Would you bring someone to ICC that is wearing all greens? Of course not, and gear score only does what we all were doing before this concept. Instead of a numerical figure we were making subjective calls in our mind by looking at the gear, and later adding in achievements.

Can "gear score" be fooled? Of course it can. It doesn't take into account the fact that you are wearing all cloth healing gear as a Ret Paladin, or whether you are wearing proper plate DPS gear. That's a valid argument and should be addressed by the mod maker. Gear score also can't tell you how a player will play his character. It can't tell you whether the player will be afk 50% of the time, but those are problems that no amount of subjective discernment could alert you to before a run begins anyway. Yet the concept of gear score is sounds and should be a valuable tool when building raids.

Are 5-man groups different though? That is the real question, and I think the answer is no. Not different, but easing the range of player you can take on a run without significant problems. I like the dungeon finder because it eases the process of finding groups (considerably). But it doesn't excuse players from their responsibilities of ensuring they are ready for content they are seeking to run. Players now are completely ignoring the intended progression of things, and I find that disturbing. Newly minted 80s with green/blue gear are expecting to run all heroics immediately when they should not be. An ability to be carried through content is not an excuse to do it as a matter of policy. And this I blame on Blizzard for delving too far and allowing this. Slippery slopes are said to be slippery slopes for a reason, and often because they precipitate unforeseen and disastrous consequences.

That sounds a lot like Skynet. What would happen once the Dungeon Finder became self aware?
I think there is more to the dungeon finder than just the obvious gear level aspect. Not sure how smart they have made it though.

Aside from that i had an interesting run on my warrior tank for random heroic.
It went like this:
Ret Pally doing 50% of damage
Warrior Tank doing 25%
Warlock doing 20%
Rogue doing 5%

This was a chain-pull, aoe-fest. The combat rogue never once used sinister strike or fan of knives.

Since the rogue didn't seem to speak english i felt obliged to boot him before the end boss, preventing him getting the key reward of the random heroic - such that he might learn he needs to work out the most fundamental basics of his class.

I'd be interested if any others would act similarly. I expect most would 'let him be' despite the fact he may as well be afk on follow for the entire instance.

Is there a line about what is an acceptable contribution? What if I were to literally afk follow through instances to get free emblems while i am doing other activities?

To be clear, the rogue was mostly not afk - just using entirely the wrong moves to do anything that could be described as dps.
Gearscore isn't bad, it's the community that makes it bad. There is no need to require a 5200 GS tank to do the weekly raid boss. Although if there wasn't gearscore people would be just looking for 44k hp tanks for Patchwork.
Players now are completely ignoring the intended progression of things, and I find that disturbing. Newly minted 80s with green/blue gear are expecting to run all heroics immediately when they should not be.

Who defines "intended progression"? I would say that mostly blue gear is exactly would I would expect a freshly minted level 80 character to wear for his first heroic. Because to get any epics before the first heroic would require a lot of gold, which not everybody has. Heroics are *designed* to get people from blue to purple, not to be run in purples.
Who defines "intended progression"? I would say that mostly blue gear is exactly would I would expect a freshly minted level 80 character to wear for his first heroic. Because to get any epics before the first heroic would require a lot of gold, which not everybody has. Heroics are *designed* to get people from blue to purple, not to be run in purples.

There are two issues that need to be discussed concerning heroics. First, not all heroics are equal. There is a progression in the heroics.

Secondly, to believe that you do not have some responsibility to ensure you are fully prepared to run heroics is (and raids for that matter) is the very essence of the entitlement mentality that has begun to permeate WoW recently. I've spoken about it at various points on my own blog and will be posting a very lengthy post about it today.

Now, heroics are intended to prepare you for initial raiding. At the launch of WotLK it was intended that heroic gear, along with crafted epics, would be what you were to start Naax in. Obviously that isn't the case now as all heroic gear is obsolete (with the exception of the new 5-man gear and perhaps odd pieces in TOC-5), so heroics are run primarily for badges. Yet the difficulty of heroics still require the player to have some level of preparedness. It would be impossible for me to believe that any player could either not afford some crafted gear, or farm for the materials to have it made. But that isn't really what we're talking about. I wouldn't bring someone in greens/blues to Heroic HoR, PoS, or even FoS. But wouldn't have any problem if it were say, Heroic UK or Nexus. The real issue is that people now believe they have no responsibility to perform as part of a group and have the right to be carried and given rewards through the work of everyone else.

You believe deeply in the social aspect of the game (I believe), yet does the individual not have the responsibility to participate "equally" in a group setting? What is the difference between someone wholly unprepared for content through gear, and someone who simply walks behind the group never engaging in any of the fights? In my belief, very little.

In my earlier comment I said you wouldn't want to bring people in greens/blues to ICC as a means to illustrate how subjective decision making has always been used in the same way gear score is now being used. I did not say that someone in nearly all blues should not be brought on a heroic run.

However I am say that people are turning their back on a concept that is necessary in a game such as this. Progression. Progression is as much to do with player skill, and ability as it does with gear. If you refuse to prepare yourself for whatever level of content you are seeking to play, then you should not expect to be able to access it. And you should not expect that in a group setting people will not be making subjective opinions about you and about whether they want to access content with you.

Welcome to the world and life in general.
if you are only looking at things from the mythical perspective of someone "all in blues" who wants to take their time "seeing" all the 5-man content and who isn't going to raid much, then yes GS is a rough ride. But if you try looking at it from the perspective of the wider pool of players, who have done these heroics 500 times a piece, and who wouldn't be doing them at all without the badges, the utility of gear-appraisal makes more sense.

While a high gearscore does not "guarantee" high dps, a low gearscore DOES guarantee low/medium dps. It's a simple math issue. I've had DKs try to scam their way into Ulduar 10-mans, GS is a huge time saver for hard-working raid formers who have enough work holding a pug-raid together as it is. This article seems to be written from the perspective of someone who doesn't often lead their own raids.

All Blizzard needs to do is increase the degree of gear matching, then fresh 80s can enjoy the content at their own unpressured space and highly geared people can increase their odds of a speedy run.
In my earlier comment I said you wouldn't want to bring people in greens/blues to ICC as a means to illustrate how subjective decision making has always been used in the same way gear score is now being used.

The point of my post is that the built-in "gearscore" of the Dungeon Finder is making a better, more rational decision as a player PuG leader using the Gearscore addon. And that does not contradict your point that the player still wearing some greens shouldn't do Icecrown heroics. As my mage just hit 80, I was able to observe how I was "locked out" by the Dungeon Finder from exactly those Icecrown and ToC heroics when I was still wearing my iLevel 187 crafted blues, and how they opened up one by one after equipping myself with boe epics, emblem epics (which funnily enough you can now get before heroics epics), and the first heroic dungeon epics. So the Dungeon Finder agrees with you on that point.

But before the Dungeon Finder, people organizing a 5-man heroic group for the daily heroic quest often required the [Epic] achievement, or a Gearscore equivalent to it, even if the heroic was an easy one. It is that tendency to use Gearscore to guarantee a silly degree of overgearedness that I protest against. Dungeon Finder is doing much better there.
Unfortunately, multiple wipes will not lead to people switching to crowd control tactics, but to right-click-leave-group tactics.
But overall I'm very happy with the dungeon finder. The majority of pugs I've been in have been successful at clearing dungeons at a fast pace.
The problem here is one of perception versus the ability to use a new tool effectively to advance in content and gear.

I still build premade dungeon groups using guildmates with whom I know are going to play at the top of their game, regardless of gear, and if we are required to PUG the last spot or two in the group with the dungeon finder tool, then we dont bother to even look at the persons gear if they are allowed to join the group - since Blizzard says their gear is good enough for the content by virtue of giving them a spot in the group.

I have had no problems with gear being an issue in any of the random dungeons. The problems have been a mixture of a lack of skill and class knowledge - Hunters whose pets go astray in agressive; Mages who attack the wrong target; or DK's using the wrong presence as dps....ect.

The problems that Tobold describes are all social in nature, and players will use any tool to their advantage if it means quicker content completion and faster badge acquisition.

I also suspect that there is a reason the LFR tool is largely not as polished as the LFG tool is, in that Blizzard wanted some hard numbers on hand before deciding how to best implement the LFR tool where content consumption is concerned. Last week I put together a completely random 10-man group to do the weekly raid which was to kill Malygos. I had never even been in the place before - as was the case with 2 others in the group as well - and we still managed to defeat him in one shot with 2 deaths in the last phase due to players going out of healing range.

How do you committ to requiring to a certain gear level when nerfs and other changes negate pretty much any challenge to the content itself?
The Dungeon Finder does a fine job matching people. But it's just the beginning point, from there it's up to flawed people to decide who's performance is "acceptable"...or to decide, randomly and without cause, who is an idiot and therefore who should get vote-kicked.

The system as is right now allows for wild and extreme expectations to be a means of group formation outside of the LDF tool. There is not fixed progression that Blizzard forces upon players, we're free to create our own rules when left to ourselves...and we do.

I think we should have more standards than just gear score (as the beginning and end of the debate), but if somebody wants to form a group based solely on that there is nothing to stop them other than people refusing to acquiesce.

Alas, capitulation provides access to content and reinforces those behaviors that are extreme.
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