Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
 
Efficiency is irrelevant

Imagine a guy taking a month of holiday to do a road trip from New York to San Francisco. He sees a lot of America, has a lot of fun, and relaxes. A successful holiday. The fact that he could have gotten from NY to SF much faster and more efficient by taking a plane is irrelevant. Getting from A to B was not the purpose of the trip. Calling him a "n00b", or a "moron & slacker" for not having choosing the fastest route is utterly ridiculous.

The same is true for MMORPGs. Sure, some people have fun pursueing goals, and some like to reach those goals as fast as possible. But that does not make them better players than somebody who spends his time role-playing or exploring. There is no win-condition in a MMORPG; getting from level 1 to 80 with all best-in-slot items in the most efficient way is irrelevant. That is especially true for World of Warcraft, because Blizzard is notoriously slow in releasing expansions. Getting to the end of an expansion faster only means you are blocked for longer without anything left to do. And it doesn't exactly make the fast players more sympathetic that so many of them appear to use that time with nothing to do for berating other players for taking it slow.

One could even argue that the most efficient players are the least good, because by definition there is only one most efficient path and taking it is the least original way of playing a MMORPG. There is only a handful of players actively engaged in figuring out the most efficient path, the large majority of players just copies and pastes the findings of the theorycrafters. How many players rush through content in the fastest possible way, following somebody else's description of a most efficient path? That is certainly one possible way to play a MMORPG, but I see no justification whatsoever to claims that this would be the "best" way.
Comments:
As long as each player is playing solo (or taking a vacation), there is, indeed, absolutely nothing wrong with taking the scenic route. The problem arises when people who are used to different paces are required to cooperate together or compete for the same resource.

Imagine a large band of friendly cyclists who decided to do a road trip. They are driving leisurely on the highway at ten miles per hour, enjoying the view, taking occasional breaks and generally having a good time. Meanwhile, there's a huge line of cars behind them that would very much like to go faster, but are unable to do so because the fun-loving cyclists are blocking the way. The drivers are swearing profusely, honking the horns and generally behaving like... raging elitists?

Or imagine a business meeting that takes place in San Francisco. The participants are flying in by planes from all over the world. Except, that is, for one guy who decides to drive at a slow and ponderous pace instead, forcing everyone else to wait for several weeks.

If you're a lone wolf, you can be as efficient or inefficient as you want. Once you become a part of the group (be it a guild, raid, battleground team, dungeon party, Wintergrasp zerg, etc.), you become subject to express and implied norms and standards of said group, including the ones regulating efficiency and performance.
 
For hardcore raiders, there is a competition to be first in world kills or server kills. They play it as a race, so efficiency is relevant for them.

For casual raiders, the race is to down bosses at a fast enough rate (N bosses per week) that their members don't quit the game or switch guilds. For them, efficiency is necessary for survival as a guild.

For non-raiders, and non-serious PvP'ers, efficiency is irrelevant, because those people are not playing a team sport. They are boating across open seas at their own pace, while the raiders are doing some kind of race.
 
Trouble is that it seems so much harder for players who play this way to play together. I never really understood why it's so hard to get a casual guild that works.
 
There's a huge gulf between those who consider MMOs to be eSports and those who consider them a Virtual Travelogue. The gameworld really has no more consensual context for these groups than the real world has for tourists and sportsplayers.

In real life these groups, and countless other special interest groups, largely ignore each other. Very occasionally they find themselves in competition for resources, but mostly each group does little more than provide background scenery for the other.

MMOs are odd in that the groups have forums where they can argue about who is getting the most out of the experience.
 
Ephemeron, surely we all play games to relax and have fun? It's the "gogogo" players who failing to meet the "implied norm".
 
Dacheng, your question (falsely) assumes that what you describe as "gogogogo" and fun and relaxation are mutually exclusive. Within some groups of players, the fun comes from playing well and being first. Building on what Ephemeron has said, not only are norms for efficiency and performance defined by the raidgroup, but what is "fun and relaxing" can be too.

I think part of what can make the LFD system so frustrating is that it often throws together players with very different standards for performance and fun. In that environment, it's no wonder things can get nasty so quickly. In my experience, raidgroups tend to have fewer problems of this sort because the members are (usually) self-selected.
 
"Ephemeron, surely we all play games to relax and have fun?"

No.

There are many reasons to play games: to relax, to have fun, to win, to challenge oneself, to learn new things, to deliver one's political message (re: Gevlon), to socialize, to vent one's aggressive impulses, to earn money, to triumph over one's peers, et cetera.

To think that everyone plays for the same reason as one does (or, at the very least, should play for the same reasons) is to fall into the same trap as the aforementioned elitists.
 
Tobold,

As a casual player I have to disagree that efficiency is irrelevant. I can only play one MMO at a time due to real life constraints, and I can only play this game for a couple of hours each day.

I dont prepare spread sheets or anything like that, but I do have goals for the game, and these goals require that I spend my time in game as efficiently as possible if I am to make progress towards reaching these goals at an acceptable pace as determined by ME.

There has to be a way of guaging personal progress towards reaching these goals with limited playtime, and efficiency is rather important in determining that.
 
I like the travelling analogy a lot.
Suppose someone wanted to appear in a traveler's journal. He'd have to do something slightly differing from the norm. Travel without money, or without using fuel, maybe on horseback, or without using highways. That would be efficient for attaining his goal. Efficiency depends on the goal you set yourself. So, if that goal is "enoying the experience itself" then yes, slow helps. But you'll never appear in the traveller's journal ( - not that it would matter).

@spinksville: what's a casual guild good for? I frankly, and sadly, don't know. Any organisation needs to fill a purpose, or it'll disappear.

@Bhagpuss: The fact that different social groups meet in mmorpgs fascinated me for a long time. That moment when you enter a random voicechat without knowing whether you'll meet lawyers, actors, nurses, teen mothers, soldiers, kids, unemployed - it can get interesting :-)
I very much agree that in rl these groups are more strictly separated from each other.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Granted, Lujanera and Ephemeron, not everyone plays games to relax and have fun and one can have fun by playing to attain a particular goal efficiently. All I'm trying to say is

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy"


In other words, don't assume that what you believe a particular raid group should be doing is what everyone believes, or is even what the majority believe. We have usually no idea what goals other raid members have when we or they join a raid. We have assumptions, yes, but they may prove to be wrong.
 
@Chris: I believe Tobold's point was that your method of leveling is no less valid than someone who wishes to take their time. If you choose to make leveling your priority, then he is fine with that. He is just saying that you cannot somehow think I am a moron or "n00b" if I choose to enjoy the scenery and level slowly. So, efficiency is an important measure.. TO YOU! For me? Not so much. For me, that would make the game feel like work.

For example, I started playing EQ2 recently and I find myself frequently turning my XP off! These aren't alts, I've never experienced Norrath before and I WANT to take my time so I can learn more about the new world I'm in. There is a questline designed to lead you through leveling more efficiently (Butcherblock), and I've chose to take that route on ONE toon, but I am taking an older, and likely harder, questing route on another. The truth is that I have raided in WoW and currently started in LotRO and I really don't want to have to go through the necessary gearing drama in EQ2.

@Ephemeron: In an MMO, if the cyclists are holding back the cars, you just kick the cyclists from your group or leave group yourself and look for a friend with a car to group with. In other words, nobody is forcing anyone to play with people who like a different pace, not even the random dungeon finder.
 

@Ephemeron: In an MMO, if the cyclists are holding back the cars, you just kick the cyclists from your group or leave group yourself and look for a friend with a car to group with.

What we're seeing here is a culture war of sorts. Whose responsibility is to conform or get out? The cyclists or the motorists?
 
And why should anyone be forced to conform or get out? I really don't see how somebody slowly doing daily quests is in any way hindering the progress of a top raider. The only point where they touch is maybe heroics, and it can be argued that this is because that is content that is easy enough for everybody, while giving rewards up to the highest level.
 
I really don't see how somebody slowly doing daily quests is in any way hindering the progress of a top raider.
And nobody was even implying that they were. As several other commenters have said, it's a-okay to go as fast or slow as you like when you're soloing. There can be no culture and thus no culture war without interaction. The current "battleground" is random heroics, because game mechanics try to fit both groups with very differing definitions of "fun" into the same group(s). If you join a random dungeon group, are you expected to own a bike or a car?
 
@Dáchéng: the raid's purpose should be clear as the raid leader declared it and you accepted it upon joining. It is possible that some people lied (typically they are here for gear but lied progress), but even they accepted a purpose as a norm.
 
@ Barrista

@Chris: I believe Tobold's point was that your method of leveling is no less valid than someone who wishes to take their time. If you choose to make leveling your priority, then he is fine with that. He is just saying that you cannot somehow think I am a moron or "n00b" if I choose to enjoy the scenery and level slowly. So, efficiency is an important measure.. TO YOU! For me? Not so much. For me, that would make the game feel like work.

The point here is that the players buying into the meme that there is, or is not a correct way to play an MMO, have absolutely no determination on whether or not a preferred playstyle is any more or less efficient than another.

Any rational player understands the importance of efficiency, because most everyone has to limit their activities in the game as defined by the amount of time they have to play. Most players will look at a task in the game and make a personal judgement of whether that task is something that they can realistically complete based on their playstyle and time constraints, so whether you want to admit it or not, efficiency is still considered and an underlying concept that drives our decisions on how we play the game.

"Getting to the end of an expansion faster.." <---what exactly does this mean? Is the end of an expansion guaged in terms of raid content progression, reaching max skills in professions, getting all the achievements associated with said expansion...what exactly?

I've been playing this game for close to 6 years now and I have never once been told that I was "playing the game wrong" by anyone...ever. I'm in the process of obtaining Thunderfury on my Paladin in preparation for the guild perks in Cata, and I've had plenty of guildies tell me that I'm crazy for spending all this time trying to get it, but I dont take it to heart or let my ego twist what they say into some sort of personal attack.

Maybe I'm on a good server, but I never see players telling other players that they are playing the game wrong....shrug. I'm just not seeing the link that Tobold is trying to make with associating efficiency with the "social ills" of the game in this post.

There are two components at work here: One is the single player aspect of the game experience, where a players actions tends to affect only themselves. The second deals with the social aspects of the game as it relates to the interpersonal relationships we have with guild mates or fellow raiders/arena mates. In the former, efficiency is a personal yardstick by which to guage personal progression and nothing else.

However, in the latter, Raids, Arenas and Guild events change the dynamic of efficiency from one of a personal measurement into one that effects more than just the player his or herself. It's not efficient to the raid if a player stands in the fire and wipes the entire group time and time again, so a social guage is developed by which that player is held accountable to certain standards as determined by the group as a whole.

So, is this an issue of how the player is handled by the group in an attempt to get them to conform to the expectations of said group, or is this an issue of someone getting their feelings hurt when suggestions are made on how to become better in the encounter?

The statement that there is no correct way to play the game as a whole is quite correct. However, the statement that there might be a "wrong" way to handle a certain encounter is also correct and just as valid as it pertains to the group as a whole. I think that anyone would agree that it's not efficient to "stand in the fire".
 
@Chris: "I'm just not seeing the link that Tobold is trying to make with associating efficiency with the "social ills" of the game in this post."

I'm not seeing him as trying to even make this link. Maybe you did because it somehow insulted your personal play style. I didn't see him talking about encounters, just leveling and questing.

Even Massively today has a post asking who turns off their XP if allowed to do so. I am one of those people in EQ2. And if someone thinks I am not doing it "right" or efficiently? I really don't care. If they want to pay for my subscription, then they can tell me how to level.
 
Efficiency is always important. What varies is what needs to be efficient. If your goal is to explore, then efficiency means quickly getting everything else out of the way and getting to the new exploration area. If your goal is to raid, then you want an efficient way to get the needed rep, gold, and gear for raiding. Or even just someone who wants to spam trade chat, they want a quick way from their current location to a city, so again, they're going to go for an efficient method such as a portal or hearthstone rather than walking.
 
I agree, Gevlon, that a raid leader can specify some high-level goals, such as "we are doing ICC 10 normal", and "Fresh run, aiming for 7/12 today, continuing tomorrow".

However, what I'm really talking about is Ephemeron's comment that once you join a group you become subject to "implied norms", "including the ones that regulate efficiency".

Openly stated goals you can agree with or disagree with, and choose to join or not join a particular raid on that basis. "Implied norms" are fraught with possibilities for raid-rage and drama.
 
Even in the Myst Online community, where it's often stated "The journey is the reward," the loudest complaint we heard was that new content wasn't being released fast enough. (Part of the problem was the initial expectations were set too high.)

In WoW, I always got yelled at for trying to take the time to read the quest text.

Perhaps the rush to progress through the game is subtly implied by the gameplay style. Do games that are turned based instead of twitch based create an atmosphere of a more leisurely experience?
 
Wanna play games your way? Play solo or a single-player game.

As long as an activity involves multiple people, comparisons and judgments will fly.

It's unavoidable, that's what people do: judging others by their own yardstick, or judging oneself with others' standards.

It's so for WoW, it's so for the school yard, it's so for corporate life, it's so for international politics.
 
Your theory sounds plausible but in practice it is false, sicne the game is not designed that way. Some players race to NY not to get there -- making the trip itself an obstacle -- but to scale the tallest building -- ie. get max gear & achievements. The fact that in the case of wow there is a very clear vertical progression path, this is assumed to be the only way to "Win". Unfortunately, it takes a lot of the fun out of the journey and makes the levelling content -- the actual world -- largely irrelevant. They really should rename it "boss fights of warcraft".

If Blizzard was at all interesting in diversifying the world and making it broader and deeper, and truer to a virtual world, they would allow pure crafters, remove levelling, and add other venues of play that were not combat based. ie. pure explorer-traders, entertainers, etc. Then the whole experience would be a journey.
 
@Tobold "That is certainly one possible way to play a MMORPG, but I see no justification whatsoever to claims that this would be the "best" way"

Which claims?
 
Spinks--- because unless your ideal guild is basically a IRC chatroom you can use while playing, there has to be some sort of goal to motivate people to stay, work together, and otherwise act as a team. So the players who want to do a bit more leave or quit, no one has any real desire to join the guild since it doesn't do anything, and so the guild withers as the core quits the guild or the game and no new blood comes in.
 
Dacheng, it's difficult to tell whether you are agreeing or disagreeing with Ephemeron's claim that implied norms exist. Perhaps you are only trying to express your displeasure about running afoul of community norms at some point in the past. Whatever the case, people have beliefs both in life and in WoW and they make judgments of other people based on those beliefs.

The other players in your group, whether you like it or not, may be watching you and silently (or not-so-silently) judging you. Shakespeare notwithstanding, your ability to play within the explicit or implicit norms of the group will determine whether you remain in the group or not. Understood this way, efficiency may be irrelevant or highly relevant depending on your social circle within the game.
 
Again I read one of your posts and have to wonder if I'm playing a different game than you. The players you characterize with

And it doesn't exactly make the fast players more sympathetic that so many of them appear to use that time with nothing to do for berating other players for taking it slow.

don't exist in my own experience. I count myself among those who focus on endgame content, who spend a lot of time in and out of the game proper optimizing my characters' performance. I don't begrudge anyone else for playing the game in a different style with different goals, nor do the similarly endgame focused people I play with. At worst, some of those peers are privately dismissive towards players who spend their time RPing in Elwynn Forest.

This post like many of your prior ones reads like an attempt to justify your playstyle and preferences. You really don't have to as no one is there to attack you. Enjoy the game on your own terms and if someone has a problem with that /ignore.
 
You don't read other blogs than this one, do you? You never heard or read any of the "efficient" players call the "not so efficient" players n00b, moron, or slacker, or complain in other ways about them? You must be playing Hello Kitty Island Adventure, and not WoW.
 
Snippy!
 
if playing efficiently doesn't matter to you, just play however you want. I don't know why you're so focused on trying to put down other players all the time. Who cares what the neighbors are up to.
 
Inefficiency is just as irrelevant as efficiency, since both are subjective frames of reference of a player and a game.

If the only thing that someone wants to do is have the best gear, rarest mounts, and most achievements, then being inefficient at the game isn't going to be fun for them.

If the only thing that another player wants is to see the zones, complete the quests, follow the lore, and keep the game fresh and new, then being efficient at the game isn't going to be fun for them (efficient meaning speedily running through everything).

With 9+ million players, you might argue that there are 9+ million reasons for someone to play the way they do.

All of them are equally "correct" for each individual. It's only when you start assigning people to groups that this "efficient v. inefficient" argument comes up, simply because you're trying to figure out which group someone belongs in.

I don't think there is a way to objectively categorize a player or group of players based on whether they are having fun. Fun is subjective. What might be a blast to you is dull to me. Prove me wrong.

Ultimately, the categories that we choose to group players into can either be totally objective and without judgement, or are subjective, in which case our personal bias comes into play.

Either way, judging how another plays using your personal standard of fun is going to be subjective and full of bias.
 
People are amazing at pattern recognition, even if we aren't conscious of it. It's one of the reasons we even have a concept of "lucky streaks" instead of "random is random" being the default for our minds to lock onto.

These patterns can also be pretty stretched and thin. If every time someone rings a bell, you get slapped in the face, you learn really quickly. If every time someone rings a bell, you get slapped 30 seconds later, you'll still learn it very quickly. If every time someone rings a bell, you get slapped 5 minutes later, well, you'll still probably figure it out after a few tries.

Further more, we're able to recognize these patterns without directly experiencing them. If the bell rings and someone else gets slapped, we still catch on really quickly. And a final piece, we can learn a pattern by being told about the patterns existence.

Now take this out of some lab experiment with salivating dogs and bells, and put it into WoW. Everyone accepts that for a group who's explicit goal is to kill a boss, that someone who constantly dies in the fire is not condusive to the raids goals. Raid members then review that person for other characteristics that seem out of place, looking for a pattern to recognize other problematic players earlier. They will also look in the past, to their previous experiences (questing with the player, playing with the person on another character, watching trade chat) to further complete the pattern.

With all this large amount of capability and effort, patterns will be found. The legendary SP hunter, the guy who only farms and never buys mats, speech habits, or even something as generic as class or name can all be used to chain other characteristics together.

Having found these patterns, they also get shared with our social circle, which will collect reinforcing data to solidify the theory in our minds. The patterns can then be nested or chained together; someone who quests in Silithus will one day turn into a SP hunter. A SP hunter will always stand in the fire. (Wait, how did the hunter make it into a raid? Oh, there goes my pattern recognition dismissing the SP hunter)

So all that to say... the way they express their dismissive opinions may not be the most constructive, but they are grounded in experience. Flawed, personal, unverifiable experience, but experience the same. Which is where all this comes from. But dismissing or getting defensive towards "those players" doesn't seem to be any better than those players in the first place.
 
People are amazing at pattern recognition, even if we aren't conscious of it. It's one of the reasons we even have a concept of "lucky streaks" instead of "random is random" being the default for our minds to lock onto.

These patterns can also be pretty stretched and thin. If every time someone rings a bell, you get slapped in the face, you learn really quickly. If every time someone rings a bell, you get slapped 30 seconds later, you'll still learn it very quickly. If every time someone rings a bell, you get slapped 5 minutes later, well, you'll still probably figure it out after a few tries.

Further more, we're able to recognize these patterns without directly experiencing them. If the bell rings and someone else gets slapped, we still catch on really quickly. And a final piece, we can learn a pattern by being told about the patterns existence.

Now take this out of some lab experiment with salivating dogs and bells, and put it into WoW. Everyone accepts that for a group who's explicit goal is to kill a boss, that someone who constantly dies in the fire is not condusive to the raids goals. Raid members then review that person for other characteristics that seem out of place, looking for a pattern to recognize other problematic players earlier. They will also look in the past, to their previous experiences (questing with the player, playing with the person on another character, watching trade chat) to further complete the pattern.

With all this large amount of capability and effort, patterns will be found. The legendary SP hunter, the guy who only farms and never buys mats, speech habits, or even something as generic as class or name can all be used to chain other characteristics together.

Having found these patterns, they also get shared with our social circle, which will collect reinforcing data to solidify the theory in our minds. The patterns can then be nested or chained together; someone who quests in Silithus will one day turn into a SP hunter. A SP hunter will always stand in the fire. (Wait, how did the hunter make it into a raid? Oh, there goes my pattern recognition dismissing the SP hunter)

So all that to say... the way they express their dismissive opinions may not be the most constructive, but they are grounded in experience. Flawed, personal, unverifiable experience, but experience the same. Which is where all this comes from. But dismissing or getting defensive towards "those players" doesn't seem to be any better than those players in the first place.
 
Lighstagazi said...
People are amazing at pattern recognition, even if we aren't conscious of it. It's one of the reasons we even have a concept of "lucky streaks" instead of "random is random" being the default for our minds to lock onto.

You're exactly correct; humans are great at finding imaginary patterns.
 
@Lighstagazi

Very well said!

People have a tendency to try to put people into one of two categories. Either good player or bad player.
When in reality, a person can be extremely good at one minor detail and extremely bad at another - its a complex matrix.

People simplify and group concepts so that they can get their head around it.

In some cases they go as far as to simplify a player down to a number ...
 
This article on doing instances at the minimum level seemed semi relevant.

http://wow.joystiq.com/2010/11/03/15-minutes-of-fame-pve-twinks-turn-lowbie-instances-devilishly/
 
@Tobold

I read pretty widely with regards to MMO/WoW blogs; a cursory Google search should establish that much.

I am also smart enough to be able to contextualize trolls on the internet for what they are and how much of the WoW population they actually represent. I think you've let said individuals (Gevlon et al.) warp your view of who is playing WoW and what their attitudes are.

Lastly, I can't speak for Hello Kitty Online as I've never played it. I have, however, played top-100-WoL-parses. I've also played realm-first-kill. I've played both many, many times. I don't begrudge anyone that doesn't play those games or ever aspire to.

I guess I just don't understand your fascination with engaging in a pissing contest with (stereotypes of) trolls and immature children who play this and other games.
 
All it takes for trolls to triumph is that good bloggers do nothing. - Edmund Burke
 
Lunajera, what I'm saying is that your idea of what the implied norms are in any particular group is different to the idea of every other person in that group. However, your assumption is that it is the same.
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
Dacheng, I don't think it especially matters whether the individual beliefs making up norms are uniform across all group members or not; I haven't assumed anything in that regard. Player A and Player B could have beliefs about normative mage play that are completely orthogonal to each other, but it's not going to end well for Player C if he or she fails to meet either standard. It may help you to think of this as a process that is political in nature because, in the end, it is not the reasoning that matters but the vote.
 
This breaks down though when you play with others. In a group-centered game, this doesn't exist at all. Like Ephermon said.

You join up with a group, you need to pull your weight because it's not just you. Efficiency is not irrelevant then.
 
Efficiency is always important, it's just that the people in your examples had different ideas about what they wanted to efficiently maximize.

If your goal is to explore, then you should be an efficient explorer. If your goal is to raid, then you should be an efficient raider.
 
People should do what they enjoy; it is personal preference whether reading quest text or having DPS spreadsheets are "good."

That being said, if your goal is raiding, then at the start of an expansion, efficiency or rather (efficiency*time_commitment i.e. throughput ) is important. Someone who is level 85 with 4000 JP in the bank on Dec 12th will have more options than someone who arrives on Dec 17th or 25th. The will get more gear and thus invites and thus gear ... They will get crafting patterns and drops when they are much more valuable than even a month later. Whether you get to 85 on Nov 15th or Nov 30th is a very minor difference; but it matters to a raider at the start of the expansion.
 
It surprises me how many people say they haven't encountered this kind of attitude. I could certainly avoid this in game by turning off trade chat and never using the dungeon finder, but when you interact with other people you will eventually run across someone who thinks that: 1) they are good and other people are bad; and 2) they have some objective measure to show that they are good - GearScore, a dps meter, or whatever else.

The "claims" that there is one best way to play - and that it is the way that gets you to max level and gets you better gear the fastest - may not often be stated explicitly, but they are implied all over the place.
 
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