Tobold's Blog
Thursday, May 05, 2011
 
A question of process

My post on the fear of the sub-optimal evoked a lot of echo, but the fans of the optimal mostly either misunderstood or misrepresented what I said. I am not deliberately trying to make my characters sub-optimal. In fact I believe that optimizing your character can be a lot of fun if it is done as part of the game. Basically you look at a bunch of complicated options, select one on your own, try it out, and see how it works. If it isn't fun and doesn't lead to good results, you discard it, and try something else. Ultimately you arrive at the optimum.

But that isn't how it works today. As spinks says: "Right now, far from having any fun with optimisation, if there was a button in the game that said ‘optimise my character’ that would tweak talent trees, inform the player of the optimal dps rotation, and assign some optimal gear for the current raid then most players would HAPPILY press it."

The problem is not the result of optimization, but the process leading to it. Yes, I want for example my priest in WoW to be optimal. But I would very much like to be able to make a build with lightwell, and see how it works out. Not only do I believe that trying out things for yourself is a lot more fun that looking them up on the internet, I also believe that ultimately the optimum you arrive at through experimentation is *better* than the optimum you looked up on EJ. Because EJ only has the numbers, and doesn't know anything about your personal preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. A build that is optimal on paper is in reality not optimal for everybody.

So I wonder how you guys read crime novels. Just like I want my characters to be optimal, I want to know who the murderer was at the end of that crime novel. I just object to the process of skipping ahead and directly reading the last page. Because the fun is in reading the novel, and guessing for yourself who the murderer is, even if that isn't the fastest or most optimal method. The same is true for MMORPGs: I want to *play* them, not skip them to reach the optimum state. And playing involves trying things out, which by necessity involves being in a sub-optimal state for part of the time.
Comments:
Sadly the game is built in that way that you really need the optimal and don't give you any chance to try and fail..

The difficulty of the content, and the community behaviour make it impossible for anyone to try things and thats why they seek solutions on the Internet about talent tree and rotations..

Especially in a difficult such as a tank or a healer.. simple don't have the correct addons, don't have the optimal tree and rotation and you will get blamed, you will be abandoned in dungeons, e.t.c.

One option is to run on Normals while you are good geared and test some things there, but that is not really a good way to optimize yourself cause you will not ever get on the edge to deal with an extra-bad situation.

I am speaking for World of Warcraft of course.I have played almost the 80% of the MMO on the net.The only game I can think that this would be possible is the Lotro because of it's awesome community...
 
Why don't you simply avoid the crowd of people requiring you to be optimal all the time and find a group to play with which shares your approach to the game?
 
The issue I see in having to work out the optimal for oneself is that it relies on anecdotal evidence, basically.

Either I'm testing my build/gearing in play, in which case my perceptions of how effective it is are biased by my memory and affected by the difference from one encounter to the next, or I'm testing it against a target dummy or in a static situation and then it's just a chore and no more diverting than following a list of instructions from EJ.

Trying to decide on an optimum through experimentation means that any conclusions you come to will almost certainly be distorted by any number of cognitive biases, and by the conditions of the testing.

If I'm testing my throughput as a healer, my perceptions of the effectiveness of a given spec/gear combo are going to be significantly affected by how well geared the tank is, how well geared the rest of the group is, how competent the group is, how awake and focused I am, and the mechanics of the fight in question. In order to reasonably compare two alternative setups, I have to keep all the other factors as similar as possible -- at which point it becomes scientific experimentation and not really play at all anyway, at which point I may as well use numbercrunched theorycrafting and get it right.

I also think it's a false analogy to compare optimising one's character with skipping to the end in a mystery story. That assumes that "reaching an optimised state" is the end goal, just like finding out the plot resolution is the end goal of the mystery story; for many people, reaching an optimised state is the pre-requisite for the activities they enjoy, not the end goal thereof.

There are plenty of people who aren't particularly interested in the process of optimisation and would prefer to follow a list of instructions, since it lets them get on with what they do find fun. Their fun isn't any less valid than the fun of somebody who does want to try it out for themselves.
 
I wrote almost the same post two days ago, I think :)

I agree that the process of optimization is fun. Probably for most players. The problem is that the crowdsourcing allows people to cheat and look the best result up on.

@Helistar, it's not just that people 'force' you to have a certain built. In fact, for me that is the smaller problem. What pains me most is that the builds on the internet, despite all the pigheadedness here, are mostly quite perfect.

They spoil it for you. And you don't get an advantage over other people by experimenting/thinking about it yourself. Yes, I don't like that either. I am one of those players who admit that what other players do, does affect me in MMORPGs.
 
I think that's a poor comparison. When your character is optimised, that isn't the end of the game, as in reading the end of a book. For some that's the start of the game.

In the talent trees now there are fewer viable options. Of these, there will be one that is mathematically superior. Trial and error optimisation is essentially just guessing at maths.

Most optimal builds have a few talent points to move around and not make a great deal of difference to output. Depending on your raid group, you may take a utility talent rather than a minor dps one for instance.

Tuning is also an issue. I would rather raids be tuned or the top 10% of specs than an "any spec will do" raid. Because getting a close to optimal spec requires little trial and error due to the diminished choices. This would make raids far too easy for the majority of raiders who, even without EJ, would pick a better spec than average just by scanning the talents.

If you are looking for full character customisation, there are many games which do it better, primarily single player ones.
 
I've been starting arena, recently. Currently 1600 rating. I've been respeccing, reforging, and sometimes reglyphing, about once a week... and that was starting from a position of having read everything I could find about pvp cat specs.

The 'optimal' answers helped me understand the choices, and what I could optimise for - and that's all. I've then been making choices based on where I felt I had weaknesses.

Heck, the same is true of attempting to decide on hybrid DPS/tank feral spec. Meaningful choices - but a situation so unpredicatble that the right answer *for me* changes week to week, never mind across everyone who might read EJ.
 
I don't think I can reconcile this post with your previous views on harsh games like FFXIV. Do you want the hand holding, or do you want to just "figure it out?"
 
It seems to me that only PvE DPS suffers from having a single, "correct" way. The tank/healer threads I've read on EJ include lots of variations based on situation, personal preference, intended content, etc. PvP is even more open to doing things your own way.
 
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Within WoW (I know you're not specifically taking about WoW but you did mention your priest) you have 85 levels of solo content to optimise your build. The problems arise when you are still having fun 'trying out things for yourself' at other player's expense, i.e anything that involves group play. Are you suggesting that you want other players to be more tolerant and let you 'have fun' while they attempt to progress regardless of your impact on their progression or would you prefer an alternative endgame process that allows you to engage in some form of solo iterative content to allow you to tweak your build to your heart's content? If it's the latter, I'm fairly sure there is scope in most games to allow you to play around with builds without fear of being chastised.
 
1) In WoW, for right or wrong, mostly wrong, the focus is on rushing you from 1 to 85, and heroic geared as soon as possible. In this unfortunate design situation, there is a lot to be said for a button to create a max level player; and similarly a button to optimize the spec. The real problem is that an optimal spec exists. If the game design provides that 31/0/8 is the optimal spec, then not having an EJ web site or an 'optimize this' button means that when I hit 85 and get all my spells, I know I have another one-time grind of spending a few dozen hours at a target dummy and instances computing my optimal spec. If there is no optimal spec, then learning my capabilities to see what works when is useful. When there is an optimal spec and i am just expected to grind towards it, that has little appeal to me. And of course the last place I want to learn something and especially experiment with the suboptimal, is the current LFD group.

2) Personally, I would prefer to look something up rather than experimenting in game to find the answer. With WoW in decline, I am going back to poker. Now I could play ten thousand hands to get a good idea of relative value of starting hands. Or I could just read the table in one of my books. I don't try to "figure out" chess openings, I go to Modern Chess Openings which is in its 15th edition after being revised over the last 50 years. It is a question of "playing the game" versus "computing an already known fact". Having a bot play the game for you does not make sense; but that is different than saying I would prefer to lookup rather than spending hours of experimentation to compute that one haste is worth about 1.2 crit or 0.6 int.

3) I submit the phrase you meant was "good enough" not optimal. I.e. I believe 99.9% of the people who" try something out" do not find "optimal", if only because they do not understand statistics and sampling. E.g. saying that I used X against a target dummy for 5 minutes and it was better than Y is not "testing." As opposed to a couple of hours perhaps in same gear and trying to keep network latency the same. (The standard deviation of fire mage DPS probably being the highest atm. ) In the same way people think there is far more information in their sample of prospecting a few dozen stacks of ore than really is there. A few thousand and we start to get some real understanding. So with all the other uncontrolled variables in a raid ( buffs and debuffs procing from other players ) you might need dozens of raid attempts to understand "optimal". And rarely do people who "try things out" keep things like raid composition and gear constant. I.e. the overwhelming number of people who want to "try things out" will never get optimal and the majority lack the math and scientific methods to even attempt it. Now they may get close and easily achieve "good enough", but that is not what the word optimal means.
 
Here's a thought experiment:

Imagine someone playing a rogue in WoW. He knows where his Kick and Sap buttons are. He knows to not stand in fire. He stays behind targets to avoid cleaves. However, he loves Eviscerate and doesn't keep Slice and Dice going. He's running with some crit and haste gems. Maybe he has a hat he's particularly fond of. In other words, he's not optimized. Are you going to kick him from your dungeon run?

Let's put this into more concrete terms: check your rotation on a target dummy. Then respec, keeping the same tree, but put your talent points into random talents. Now hit up the target dummy again. What's the difference? Is it more than 10%? Do you think it's enough to get you kicked from a dungeon? Raid?

Why does Dave think these sub-optimal builds are impacting his progression? Are dungeons tuned that tightly that 12k dps instead of 13k is all that there is between success and failure?

Or are people assuming that if you don't have an EJ-approved(tm) spec that you don't have a clue on how to play?
 
Why does Dave think these sub-optimal builds are impacting his progression?

They aren't affecting MY progression, but I think that's where the majority of the problems (perceived or otherwise) exist.

In my experience I haven't had a problem with being forced to take a certain build. For example, my latest big raiding stint in WoW was ICC, and as a hunter I tried all three specs on a regular basis. At one point myself and a fellow hunter agreed to take different gemming routes, I went with +Agi, my friend went with +AP with various tweaks to our builds and you know what the result was? In some fights he came out on top, on other fights I came out on top, and the success of one particular build over another was certainly influenced by our playstyles. The only time I saw a reason for an 'optimised' build was either during a gear-check or when we were seriously pushing for progression and I think most people would agree that gear-checks are there for a very specific reason, i.e. to stop top raiding guilds completing raids too quickly. Other than that, as I say, I had no problems with playing around with both my gear and my build, and I never once had anyone suggest otherwise. Also, I don't PvP but as solanti has pointed out, there is even greater scope for tweaking without being chastised.

I can fully understand a top raiding guild insisting on BIS gear and very specific builds and rotations but I'm not sure that applies to 99.9% of the remaining players.
 
@Silvanis: In my experience, poor talent choices, incorrect gems and missing enchants are a sign of other failings.

The talent trees are set up these days To be as streamlined as possible. You take all the obviously DPS talents in your tree and have a few left over. Yet you will see some with PvP or tank talents. Given how easy it is to make or find a decent spec online (not necessarily EJ, just a simple armoury lookup would do) it rings alarm bells to see such.

Do you really think that everyone with a less than perfect spec has one because he wants to spend his spare time in game optimising his spec at the dummy? In most cases, it is because they don't care that they are doing 50% less DPS than they could do, or can't be bothered to read/experiment to find a near-optimal spec.
 
Most of you, Tobold included, sound like you have never actually seen the EJ forums, which is surprising considering how often it is a topic of conversation here.

I have never read anything on EJ that says "this is the only acceptable spec." Individual talents are rated as required (for only a few specific talents central to the spec), recommended, optional or not recommended. It is filled with statements like "if you use this ability more often, you might find this talent more useful." The example build often does not have all talent points spent.

The suggestion that EJ promotes only one talent spec is a flat out lie. And I believe any claim that you actually run into a significant number of players in heroics who say anything about your gear or talent spec is also a lie.
 
Most of you, Tobold included, sound like you have never actually seen the EJ forums, which is surprising considering how often it is a topic of conversation here.

Totally agree with that, it's the same when I read about min/maxing and raid 'elitism' - I think a lot of these opinions are based on assumption (and even worse, other people's assumptions) rather than experience. I'd recommended putting fears aside and jump in and try it, I think many would be surprised how much they enjoy it.
 
Quote=T "Not only do I believe that trying out things for yourself is a lot more fun that looking them up on the internet, I also believe that ultimately the optimum you arrive at through experimentation is *better* than the optimum you looked up on EJ. Because EJ only has the numbers, and doesn't know anything about your personal preferences, strengths, and weaknesses. A build that is optimal on paper is in reality not optimal for everybody."

T,

The optimal build will be optimal for everybody, that's why its an optimal build. The expectation is you will put your preferences to the side and learn to play the optimal way, that is if you wish to progress past the daily quest level of content. If this was a single player game you could "play your way" and fail repeatedly without wasting 24 other peoples time.

Compare MMO end game content to organized sports for a moment. If you want to kick the ball around with friends on the weekend can you play any way you want, yes. If you want to play on a pro team and win the championship do you play your way or do you practice the optimal way to play over and over until you have muscle memory reflex without even thinking about it.

You choose who you want to play with. If you don't appreciate the optimized crowd, avoid them.
 
I agree too. I like having the choice AND having some facts both, it's called an informed decision :)

I'd point out that even in wow, where you have *some* optimal specs for *some* situations, you can always try around some builds (for example, a tank with more self heal and less mitigation). It is not rift, where you have have more choices, and totally no facts except those you collect yourself with a parser, but it's still a creative process imo :)

I'd like very much a research tree and dynamic specs, come to think of it, that'd be fun :-)
 
Isn't this question the whole reason why many of us are dissatisfied with the MMO genre? An MMO should be a wide-open world with countless possibilities to interact with people. Instead, they are stat mills -- focused on how high a single combat-related stat is. How utterly boring!

The elements of a player driven economy, RP, player impact on the world, inter-player allegiance/betrayal, problem solving, etc are largely trivialized -- EVE being the only exception.

There should be many paths to success in a virtual world; many ways to play -- including not even touching combat. My god, I think I will go back to MUDs -- they were way more fun.
 
EJ doesn't tell people exactly how to spec, but it give make some pretty clear ideas on what is best (while acknowledging situational uses) for a general area (raiding, PvP, etc). This information then gets filtered through idiots who insist that they have found the One True way to play and who will then reference EJ as their source, despite possibly misusing or misinterpreting the information. Is that EJ's fault? I don't think so. But let's not pretend that EJ plays no role at all.
 
I keep saying this and I'll say it again — Web 2.0 happened. You may not like that it happened and that it put paid to all sorts of game designs that used to be viable pre-2005 or so and no longer are, but you do not have a choice in this matter. Technological change can be a bitch — you don't get to reverse its effects, ever, even if you don't like them.

Our problem is that game designers haven't totally caught up to Web 2.0 yet; they're still partly designing their games the way they used to when opacity of mechanics prevailed. They're not entirely stupid to resist the transition, for the implications are wrenching — it may well be that "flexible talent trees" and the like are essentially obsolete (it is quite telling that Rift actually has far fewer viable character builds in than WoW). But it is better to face facts than to hold onto things that cannot work anymore.
 
Amen. You've expressed my sentiments exactly, save that I would add that I prefer for there to be several playstyles that are, if not all optimum, then at least are all workable.
 
Samus, perhaps you're right that the EJ forums don't explicitly dictate the only acceptable spec. But forum contributors routinely rank order dps output of the different class/talent combos given sets of assumptions based on gear, gem, etc. When you go through an exercise and you can quantitatively rank classes with some amount of statistical certainty? That's promoting a talent spec.
 
I don't blame Elitist Jerks for forcing everyone into optimum builds. I blame Blizzard for making a game where such builds exists.

EVE and Guild Wars both have large theory crafting communities just like WoW but there is never only one correct build that everyone has to use. There is plenty of room for individual experimentation with builds in both of those games and coming up with your own unique flavour can be very rewarding.

Of course it is easier to prevent optimum builds in a PVP game because encounters are not predictable but there are other factors involved too.

Partly is is a matter of having a sufficiently complex skill set with lots of interaction between skills and genuine resource constraints that force players to make meaningful choices between skills.

Mob AI is another big issue that is sadly overlooked in many mmorpgs. The humblest of shooters these days have mobs who will run away from grenades and try to flank around behind players yet the biggest bosses in the hardest encounters in mmorpgs still follow rigid scripts that are entirely predictable.
 
Tobold,

When a game explicitly displays the numerical results of actions; doesn't it just beg to suffer min-maxing?

You know the exact health of mobs, how it behaves, when it behaves. Of course the only meaningful choice left for players is to maximize operational efficiency.

Isn't the REAL problem here a critical path analysis?
 
@Hagu

I like that chess analogy a lot, actually, and to extend it a bit — chess players often look back wistfully at some of the famous romantic chess matches of the 19th century, when the masters of the day made dashing, wild, experimental, unusual moves, sacrificing with abandon, and so forth.

Chess isn't like that anymore, though; do that stuff against a master of today, trained by computers, having memorized books worth of theory and you'll just get pummeled. Kinda like showing up to WoW raid with your own personal build.

But this isn't all bad. There is, as many chess writers of the present day have noted, a certain beauty in knowing what the right move is; the fact that computers can "solve" certain chess positions is actually interesting, and has provided us new ways to read the famous chess matches of the past.
 
For all tl;dr:
WoW is not a game for players that want to find optimal solutions by themselves due to linear and easily compareable characters. EVE Online is more suited for this type of a player.

Full Version:
In the end it all depends whether you enjoy being at the optimal point more then getting there.
The rpboem is that if you like climbing on your own WoW is probably not the best choice of a game for you. The design simply creates a 1-dimensional space of all possible characters, or at least only one dimension of that space truly matters for the majority of the players: Combat Effectiveness.
Given that and the simplicity with which one player can compare herself to others on the only reasonable axis there's barely another way then to take part in that race for combat excellence. Only in WoW this race has a fixed result that is the maximal numerical value of DPS/Healing Rate/Armor and the winning solution get cooked up pretty quickly. That doesn't stop players from abandoning the race, only - why race on your own when all of it have already been done by everyone around? It's only logical to use the existing solutions, it would be almost wandering in the dark to do otherwise. So - WoW community will be unforgiving to anyone who does indeed attempt to wander in the dark, cause it would be perceived almost like not using email instead of regular mail for the feel of paper in your hands.

In EVE Online the possible roles can be compared on more then one scale, creating a wider space of possible character. In EVE the theorycrafters may have found the optimal build for every possible axis, but it is up to you which of the roles you want to combine in your gameplay, and so there is no single mathemtically perfect solution that would win it all. Also, there is no limited build for any character, as there are no levels and o level cap, so you need to make your build not as a finite product consisting of 85 levels planned and used for raiding, but be inspired by the moment and current needs, knowing that there is no end to your character progress. And if there is a mathematical limit to the possible DPS in EVE, it's not always as wise to get there, as it can be really costly timewise and will not always pay back. But again, it is a decision of the player, as it is his time to spend. If there's an optimal build for a ship, it's relying on your skillset giving enough possibilities for other players to understand why you're not fitting the ship like they would and not forcing you to use the single perfect fit.

EVE has it's flaws (which you will surely point out as a countercomment), but still - the above serves as an example of a game that is more suited for a player that thirsts discovery and enjoys finding the best path all by herself.
 
I work in the manufacturing business and spend a significant amount of time creating documents(pics included) that explain how to do certain tasks. my superiors call this "dummy proofing". it is my experience that no matter how detailed the intructions someone will make a mistake. i must then create more documentation to "correct" the mistake. in time, someone else will make another mistake which leads to more paperwork. my point, there is no end to "dummy proofing".

what does this have to do with gaming? it seems to me that developers, blizzard included, are also advocates of "dummy proofing".
imo, all of this discussion about choices and optimization stems from these futile attempts at making the game(s) "dummy proof", i.e. - accessable to everyone.
and i personally don't see this trend reversing any time soon.
 
I have gone to the end of every crime/mystery novel I have ever attempted to read.

I have hacked linear games that have obscure endgame cut scenes/end graphics... just to get there without the hours of play that some developer thought should be required.


I am just that way... If a game were to provide a barrier or obscure optimization tricks to any portion of content that is overly burdensome to get to. I would quit such game until the game either removed such barrier or an appropriate work around was published on the web [you listening Blizzard???]

I don't care about purist ideas here. My tolerance for pointless frustration is at a minimum. When there was ONE MMO yes you put up with it. But today we have a multitude of choices so why fight stupid?

Why beat your head against against content barriers (or optimization barriers) that will prove meaningless in two point realeases of gear? [to the point: Why optimize when Blizzard will reset your talent points every other month?]

You planting a flag on that difficult instance you will face roll in 2 months? Yeah you are a regular Sir Edmund Hillary...

Besides Achievements are "Fake Achievements" right Tobold???

My POINT is why are you playing games???

Isn't it for this concept called FUN? Arbitrary barries ARE NOT fun. No matter how well intended to 'provide mystery' they ARE STILL not fun.
 
@Bezier
"In the end it all depends whether you enjoy being at the optimal point"

This to me is flawed since their should never be only one optimal point. An MMO should have multiple paths to attain multiple goals. For example, if you want the best gear in the game, then there could be "purchase it", "instance grind", "craft it", "steal it", "pvp it", "rep grind" options to achieve that goal, all of which have different costs in time, money, player cooperation, and skill. This allows different play styles to achieve the same goal based on the player's preferences for spending time, money, etc. Ideally though, the game would have more than one goal anyway.

MMOs at present are linear rinse-repeat cycles -- kill lvl 10 wolf, get lvl 10 sword, now kill lvl 20 wolf and get lvl 20 sword. Blech!
 
Games are this weird thing on the edge of art and competition. You can either play them to win or play them to admire the work of the artists that developed it.

What I find entertaining in games is always the story. I treat games like books, (which they are not) and that is as valid a reason to play them as you 'getting to the last page of optimisation'.

Tobold plays games all the time, but he really enjoys a game disgned so that a player new to the game, or playing casually can come in and have equal fun as the player that spend every waking hour playing it plus minus the innate smarts and generic dexteriety. Other then that Tobold plays games for the same reason you do, it's only that he finds some of them designed faulty, forcing players to du unfun things and being forced to use 3rd party help to bypass the unfun activities.

What you fail to understand is that Tobold actually said the same thing you did - he hates forced obstacles the same as you do, but instead of bypassing them he would like to enter WoW one day to find out, that the obstacles are fun themselves and not at all arbitrary barriers.
 
@Shawno
Seems like you did not read past the first paragraph of my post, where I give an example of a MMO that has not only a multitude of ways to achieving a goal , but also a vast choice of goals to choose from, all of it based on the design that encompassess very different and difficult to numerically compare styles of gameplay.
 
Seconding mbp, and adding that GW also lets you respec extremely easily. That's a huge facilitator of experimentation and a changing metagame.
 
I think you guys are mistaking MMOs for an open-ended world game design. They are not one and the same. So saying that a MMO should have multiple career paths to obtain the same goal is a misleading statement.

And again Tobold, the solution is simple: don't group with people who have different goals than you. You keep making it out to be as if every other player playing the game right now will ridicule you for not playing the optimal spec. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

(And for those of you saying that there shouldn't be any optimal specs ever: What are you, retarded? At that point, we should also lambast a game for having a playstyle that optimizes your performance. We should then also lambast the game for allowing other players to play better than me, because clearly we should all be 100% optimized all the time and everyone should be equal all the time.)
 
Most of you, Tobold included, sound like you have never actually seen the EJ forums

The surest sign that somebody is losing the argument is when he starts making comments like this, accusing people with different opinions of ignorance and stupidity.
 
The surest sign that somebody is losing the argument is when he starts making comments like this, accusing people with different opinions of ignorance and stupidity.

He never accused people of anything. He only commented on their words, which he qualified in the following paragraphs. You make it sound like an accusation, but instead, it's a call for attribution of actual evidence for where it is due. That's not a sign of losing an argument; it's a sign of one side challenging another to back up their premises with real evidence.
 
I think the assumptions drive the answer.

Important things should not be automated (there should not be a "Kill Sinestra" button.

Unimportant things should have game play and UI that minimize them. I don't want to have to wander from zone to zone looking for the Hinterlands; this is not Zork, I want a map. I have addons that autosell grey items and repair whenever I interact with an NPC.

So there are two related questions: is (and the related question should) finding an optimal build be an "important" or "housekeeping" part of the game? Your assumption determines whether Tobold or the look-it-up crowd have the logical answer.
 
Yup, it wasn't an accusation. But it was irrelevant anyways, as the post here is an evolution of the regular whining of how the EJ make WoW unenjoyable.

Tobold actually agrees that that optimisation is great if it is a process you can take part in during the game.

It's not about EJ, it's about the design of a game that makes the optimisation process abearably boring and time consuming ingame to the point, where it's much easier to take it out to a spreadsheet, count it through, test it out and post the result in the web for everyone to use. A design that only allows a few such optimal choices, making choosing between them difficult and unfun. If the game was designed better EJ would be praised for the help they provide, as are the theorycrafters in EVE. There, even if you have all the theory in the world you still can choose to play in your own optimal way.
 
It's not about EJ, it's about the design of a game that makes the optimisation process abearably boring and time consuming ingame to the point, where it's much easier to take it out to a spreadsheet, count it through, test it out and post the result in the web for everyone to use.

I'm not sure what you mean by this at all. What about the design of the game makes it unbearably boring and time consuming to optimize? And then you somehow compare that to taking it through a spreadsheet and posting the result for everyone to use (which most definitely requires more effort). Did you mean to compare that to a readily available optimization?

A design that only allows a few such optimal choices, making choosing between them difficult and unfun.
That's a non-sequitor there; how does having only fewer choices make a decision more difficult? And how does paring down a decision more unfun?

If the game was designed better EJ would be praised for the help they provide, as are the theorycrafters in EVE. There, even if you have all the theory in the world you still can choose to play in your own optimal way.

EJ ARE praised for the help they provide, by the people who appreciate the theory and mathematics that EJ does. See: the many items added into WoW named after esteemed theorycrafters for the various classes.
 
Sometimes I think that a game that doesn't end - that doesn't have a final win condition, actually provokes obsessive compulsive behaviour in people. So that getting even one second faster at progressing becomes an all consuming need (much like needing to touch every fence post when walking somewhere, or a need to have all mug handles facing the same way).
 
Tobold, I think you may need to consider that technology is going against your traditional "do it all in the game client" philosophy.

An increasing amount of MMO play is outside the client.

1) Most MMOs have a external voice communications. (Yes EVE and WoW have in game chat; its just that players tend to not use it.)

2) The modern MMO has player forums. And they are absolutely part of the game. If you are a new WoW player and in-game ask a GM as to why something is not working you will get a response to try the forums and will receive no help with the client. I submit that web forums are part of the game.

3) online status and now chat are becoming part of the MMO web. I.e., you can chat with guildies without using the game client.

4) You can also send and receive EVE email from the web and I assume it will be standard feature.

5) Soon ingame calendars will be accessible from the web and smartphones.

6) All the existing armory capabilities. And there is a forum thread about how there is an additional web API capabilities on the way to get more character, guild and auction house information via the web.

7) And the biggest: auction houses. Already people who are serious about Auction House PvP in WoW tend to subscribe to the Remote Auction House. The RAH is not just a convenience, it provides features that are not available in the game client. E.g., people put competitors on their friends list to see when they log on. But they can use the RAH to buy/post items without being visible to their competitors. And level ones can much easier do the neutral auction house shuffle with the RAH. And the UI is better on the RAH than in the game client.

Let me give you the cynical, jaded Software Product Manager explanation as to why the web content will be growing. If I wanted a new feature and asked Engineering for it I would get all this pushback about "legacy code" and regression testing and impact. There would also be the issues of code size and could the feature increase lag.

Whereas you can go get Web designers (from the local community college, Bangalore or Shanghai) to develop most of it in an industry standard language instead of whatever the WoW client was coded in starting a decade ago. The coders have much fewer worries about code size, efficiency, video cards and somewhat fewer concerns about network performance. And they can update a web app on a Thursday without any legacy client concerns or downloads. I certainly like the faster development from the web.

I just think that technology is pushing towards using more outside-the-client technology. So perhaps the objection to EJ et al as being outside the game client is not as valid in 2012 as in 2004.
 
I posted about this already on Nils' blog, but to me the problem is more one of game design than outsourcing. A game shouldn't have a unique optimal strategy. Both chess and MTG have been outsourced for years, and there are still a variety of playable openings and decks that people continue to study and tweak.

The interesting question to me, and one which I'd love to see a post on, is how MMOs can be designed to allow for more variety in character builds. That would make the character development process more fun.
 
You make it sound like an accusation, but instead, it's a call for attribution of actual evidence for where it is due.

And how would one prove to have read lots of EJ threads, as I did?

Look, I've been hanging around game forums and blogs long enough to be able to correctly identify such sort of remarks. They only serve to derail a discussion from the actual subject, because the person you're accusing of never having read EJ is likely to respond "And you are too stupid to try to optimize your character on your own, you can only copy & paste". And a few comments later we're at Godwin's Law.

I am pretty certain that none of you naysayers ever played Magic the Gathering, so you have no idea of the joy of optimization. But instead of phrasing this opinion in personal terms, I tend to mention deckbuilding in MtG as example without any personal references. So why can't you do the same?
 
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I posted about this already on Nils' blog, but to me the problem is more one of game design than outsourcing. A game shouldn't have a unique optimal strategy. Both chess and MTG have been outsourced for years, and there are still a variety of playable openings and decks that people continue to study and tweak.

You're comparing a PvE game vs. a PVP game. They're inherently different. I'm not saying that a PvE game MUST have only a unique optimal strategy, or that it's good that it does, but PvE games have had unique optimal strategies for years now, and haven't suffered for it.

The interesting question to me, and one which I'd love to see a post on, is how MMOs can be designed to allow for more variety in character builds. That would make the character development process more fun.

Technically speaking, you already have some 30 odd specs, at least 15~ ish are viable in PVE and at least 10~ish are viable in PVP (not really doing specific math here, but you get the idea). There's already plenty of variety. The only problem is that there's 10 million people playing, so no one's going to be especially different.

Editted: Added line breaks for readability
 
...but PvE games have had unique optimal strategies for years now, and haven't suffered for it.

Well, as you can see from the comments to this post, that depends on your taste. If you're interested mostly in execution, then they may not have. If you're interested in experimentation and tactical variety, then I think it's clear they have suffered. Speaking only for myself, it's not fun to fight a boss that's been designed so that only one strategy works, or to experiment with builds in a situation in which one is clearly the best.

Given the fact that developers give players flexibility in designing character builds, I think it's clear that they intend that this be an interesting and engaging part of the game. What I'm interested in is whether it can be made more engaging than it is in the typical MMO.
 
I am pretty certain that none of you naysayers ever played Magic the Gathering, so you have no idea of the joy of optimization.

As pointed out many times in the comments, there is more than enough scope within WoW (the game you appear to be focusing on) in both PvE and PvP to discover the joy of optimising; and to assume EJ offers *the one and only build* in incorrect.

Now back to the topic in hand:

a) there is indeed scope within many (all?) MMOs, including WoW, to have fun playing around with builds, and many have spoken about this from experience;

b) there was also a suggestion that you could try grouping with like-minded individuals to avoid any griefing, is this something you have tried?

c) if you are experiencing problems within heroics using the LFD, simply put the player on ignore and you will never be paired with that player again; if it is a guild member giving you grief, take it up with your GM - griefers are idiots and such be treated as such;

And just to repeat - EJ DOES NOT offer *the one and only* build; it offers suggestions which are very often followed up by hundreds of pages of discussions and counter-arguments - the builds are almost always based on very basic tank and spank boss fights which the build creators openly acknowledge.
 
Why would it have to be me who has to adjust to the preferred playstyle of the cultists of optimization? You can turn those suggestions around and insist that it is the optimization freaks who should make the extra effort to only group with like-minded individuals, and put those they don't like the playstyle of on ignore.

I am speaking out because I do believe that World of Warcraft should not be designed around optimization. It should be designed around average players having fun trying out sub-optimal builds. And a pickup group in a heroic or raid should be able to finish that heroic or raid with such a group of sub-optimal composition, sub-optimal gear, and sub-optimal builds.
 
Why would it have to be me who has to adjust to the preferred playstyle of the cultists of optimization?

I'm not suggesting you adjust your preferred playstyle, quite the opposite, I'm pointing out that there is lots of scope for you to continue with you preferred playstyle.

And the 'optimization freaks' do group with like-minded players, those 'freaks' are mostly in the top raiding guilds.

And a pickup group in a heroic or raid should be able to finish that heroic or raid with such a group of sub-optimal composition, sub-optimal gear, and sub-optimal builds.

I'm not sure that was your original point but isn't making those instances easier the only way to achieve that? And didn't that lead to the situation in Wrath that everyone complained so loudly about? EZ-mode, aoe spamming, zero tactics, lack of CC, etc., etc., etc.? Do you have a proposed solution?
 
I am pretty certain that none of you naysayers ever played Magic the Gathering, so you have no idea of the joy of optimization.

My MTG-playing days are long past, but I still distinctly recall the pure joy of piloting a good, solid netdeck.

Not everyone's a Johnny, Tobold. Us Spikes are people too, even though our idea of what constitutes "fun" might seem alien to you.
 
A net-decking spike will still spend many hours coming up with optimal side-boarding strategies against the local meta-game and so on. And then there is the hunt for the secret tech, the ninja tweak, the one or two card main deck difference from the net-deck that will set them apart as King of the Spikes in the inevitable head-to-head.

Your point is well made, but even the spikiest of spike will look for an edge ;)
 
Why would it have to be me who has to adjust to the preferred playstyle of the cultists of optimization? You can turn those suggestions around and insist that it is the optimization freaks who should make the extra effort to only group with like-minded individuals, and put those they don't like the playstyle of on ignore.

It's a solution that applies to everyone.

Sub-optimals should not group with optimals because they'll get scolded.

Optimals should not group with sub-optimals because they'll only get frustrated.

Game Developers should not create situations where the above two will meet. (i.e. Heroics giving epic level loot, meaning that raiders will still do heroics even after they are past that content).

You're taking it as a personal affront, but I'm saying it as a concept that applies to everyone.
 
I'm not sure what you mean by this at all. What about the design of the game makes it unbearably boring and time consuming to optimize? And then you somehow compare that to taking it through a spreadsheet and posting the result for everyone to use (which most definitely requires more effort). Did you mean to compare that to a readily available optimization?

Tobold's post IS about that design, not EJ. Sure, to create and post an optimisation is time consuming and requires skill. From a single person/group of them. When compared to the millions of players trying to optimize characters over and ver again, while not using their mutual discoveries the theorycrafting and posting suddenly seems a much less workload.


The fault of the design is that a theorycrafter can actually cook up a list of optimal builds in finite time being sure no possible optimization is left out. Being sure that these actually the best possible characters to create and that there is nothing more to experiment on for the players. The fault is that the game actually forces you to attempt this beacause a player knows, that buiding this class was already done before and that he's only repeating the very same steps and that chances are, that someone already done it better so why bother. Let's look it up.

The only real measure of a character excellence in WoW is how the character fights. As long as the criteria are singular, it will be easy to line up chars and find optimals, and everyone will continously avoid the effort of finding the optimum themselves, simply avoiding a large part of the game. One should ask why that part is even there, if we have the singularity of excelence criteria and everyone wants to actually get pass that part fully optimized. Wouldn't it be more fun for everyone to simply get an optimized character and start raiding day one?

And yeah, with less choice options the choice is more difficult. People tend to have preferences and having too choose from only the optimal builds will make me play a character like a thousand others and a character that I don't like and can't enjoy. Or, to be honest, seeing a list of optimals will make me not play at all. I mean what the hell? If I want to be praised/respected as a player = I HAVE TO create one of the optimal characters, otherwise I'm a M&S? Tell me that everything is ok with the design here. Who creates a game of this size while expecting players will search for ways of skipping it?
 
exploring the "if it is done as part of the game"

While I consider reading WoW web sites as part of my WoW experience, you and probably most people do not.

Would you consider asking in guild chat for advice on spec/rotations/strategy to be "part of the game" or destroying the fun of figuring it out yourself?

And what if that conversation with a guildies in guild chat occurred on smartphones using the Blizzard Web guild chat? Does that break the immersion and make it feel different?
 
@Hagu

What you wrote about is putting the optimization process to an in-game mechanic, tweaking the way aptimizations are communicated between players. As far as I am concerned it is a part of the problem at hand, but only a part in fact.

Players are forced to use optimal builds provded without chanves to create their own builds or experiments. The question asked should be: Why are players unable to experiment with their own builds? An answer is twofold. First, they actually can experiment and make their own sub-optimal builds, but then *second* every sub-optimal build is A)instantly recognized and B)laughed at with all possible social side effects. After being so harshly disencouraged to experiment a player either quits the game or easily finds external help. Finding external help materials is easy, beacause it's C)relatively easy to create them and D)easy to distribute them without in-game tools.

Based on the above chain of thoughts four factors can be observed, that prevent players from experimentation and self-optimization and enable players to seek it outside of the game:
A)Instant recognition of build quality
B)Lack of respect to anything below optimal in the game society
C)Relatively easy calculable optimal builds
D)Optimization communication outside game mechanics

Hagu - you adressed point D, which I bielieve is one of the minors.
Point B is large and there's little to be done to enforce the attitude of respect toward other players and their choices in a community like WoW. If they know things abut you, they'll use it to clal you names, nothing will change that.
Point C you can discuss, but from my perspective (phD in maths) collecting all the required data and maxing things out is piece of cake, if you care enough to waste the time. I don't and never will.
Which leaves us with point A - how easy other players can pick you up as a sub-optimal how easy it is to classify someone as a good player of a bad player.

My solution (which I repeated here in different forms over the last few days) is to mask that, make it harder to distinguish players.

If you want to see who is better in EVE for most cases you actually have to challenge the guy and involve the risk of getting your ass kicked. This is caused by the facts, that there are som many things you can excell in EVE that it's hard to compare two different characters just by their stats (which you can't normally look up for another player). And the effect of that is that in EVE you barely have any optimal builds that are 'win all'. Sure, there are weaker players and stronger players, but in their class pure math does not allow to calculate who's the bigger fish. And if you're not that certain that you're the biggest and most optimal fish in the lake, you don't tell anyone how bad their build is, and how they are playing it completely wrong, leaving everyone to experiment and have fun minmaxing on their own.
 
Games don't allow much room for failure (read: lack of numerical optimization), as they don't make failure exactly fun. Other players in your group definately don't make failure fun (yours or theirs). Too many times, players confuse 'utter numerical perfection' with fun, and attitudes like that don't chance very often.
 
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