Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I don't think Gearscore is the culprit here
Professor Beej has a very interesting post up in which he blames Gearscore for making him want to quit World of Warcraft. Now I'm not a fan of Gearscore, and on my server the trade chat is full of people discriminating against others based on their gearscore. It works like this: The player checks his own Gearscore, lets say it is 4793. And then he shouts that he is inviting everyone with a minimum Gearscore of 4793, because obviously somebody with a Gearscore of only 4792 is a clueless n00b. Thus Gearscore is used to establish a pecking order to an extremely fine degree. Stupid elitism in action.
But as bad as that is, it actually has nothing to do with Professor Beej's problem. He says:
A 5000 GearScore should mean that the player is ready for a 10-player Icecrown Citadel (ICC), not that he or she has been raiding it for months and does not need any more upgrades. Unfortunately, PuG leaders want higher than that to facilitate guaranteed success. They also demand that players already have their ICC Achievements before they can get into the group, which eliminates anyone who has not already cleared the dungeons at least partially.Now imagine Gearscore would miraculously vanish, and look at Prof. Beej's situation again: Nothing has changed. The reason why he can't get into a raid isn't his Gearscore, which is high enough, but the fact that he hasn't done Icecrown before, and thus doesn't have the achievement. No achievement that proves you already did the dungeon, no invite. Thus simple solution: Use one of those addons that fake achievements to get into that PUG.
But in my case, I can’t get the Achievement because I have to PuG raids. My schedule doesn’t line up with my guild’s raid nights, so I am left high and dry on being able to get my achievement that way. So on the occasions I can play WoW for any lengthy period of time, I have to PuG; it is the my only real way of seeing end-game content. But to get into those raids, I have to already have done the instance.
Bam! Catch-22: PuG leaders don’t want players who have never been in the Instance.
If I look at this situation, I see two factors here that are the problem: The first is that people only consider raiding fun if it is successful, and fast at that. That is a development of the video game age, affecting younger players far more than those over 40, like me. I grew up on board games and pen & paper roleplaying games, which worked on very different basic premises: In most board games only one out of several players wins, which teaches you to enjoy the act of playing the game, because you simply can't win all the time. And in pen & paper role-playing games you don't really win at all, and again do it for the fun of playing. It is only single-player video games which ended up teaching people that it is possible to win every game, and even necessary to win every stage to advance to the next one. With that video game mindset, it is obvious why somebody assembling a pickup group insists of only chosing those players which have the biggest chance of success.
The second factor is the nature of Wrath of the Lich King raiding, which I already discussed last week: Whether you play your character well, and even your gear, are not good predictors for the success of a raid encounter. The real difficulty of a WotLK raid encounter is "learning the dance", practicing a fixed set of moves requiring sub-second reaction times. Which is why Gearscore in this case isn't the culprit: Every PUG raid leader with half a brain will rather invite somebody with the Kingslayer achievement and slightly less Gearscore, than somebody with a few hundred more Gearscore and no ICC achievement at all.
In reality Gearscore matters very little, because World of Warcraft in this expansion has developed into a game in which gear itself matters very little. Somewhere along the way somebody used a bait and switch scam on us, and replaced the classic role-playing game we were playing with a version of a Super Mario jump & run game, in which your character and his gear don't matter any more. If you practiced all the moves and are a good Super Mario player, you can raid undergeared. That sure is fun to some people, but it isn't the game I have signed up for, and not the game I want to play.
Now World of Warcraft is a game of many layers, and just because I don't like modern raiding doesn't mean I don't like the rest of it. But of course if I opt out of raiding, there is a lot less content for me to play through. So I basically have two hopes for Cataclysm and beyond: The first is that the announced changes to raiding will make playing your character well more important again. And the second is that Blizzard introduces the Raid Finder functionality, so that raid organizers can't discrimininate against other players based on Gearscore or achievements.