Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Playing with others means compromise

My random thoughts on Cataclysm provoked some comments from people with a very different philosophy than mine. While I was discussing e.g. what class/role to play to fit in best with both my guild and pickup groups, these commenters suggested that I shouldn't compromise. They said I should choose whatever I wanted to play, and then just look for a guild / friends to group with who are compatible with my needs of what class I want to play or what raid schedule I prefer.

I do think that the difference in philosophy is probably due to the commenters and me being of different generations. I'm relatively old for a gamer, technically still part of the baby boomer generation, and not of generations X or Y. Between online games and social networks over the last decade evolved the phenomenon of the "internet friend". People have literally *hundreds* of friends on Facebook. And one of the stories about Cataclysm was people complaining that guilds would be limited to "only" 1,000 members, up from 600. The consequence of having so many friends is that it becomes easier to change your friends than to change yourself.

Now I might be old-fashioned, but my concept of guilds developed in the original Everquest a decade ago, where loyalty was still regarded highly, and people quitting guilds frequently wouldn't get invites into the better guilds. And I do not have strong preferences on what to play, of all the 10 classes and 30 possible talent trees I find over half fun enough to play, and there are only a few I'm absolutely not interested in playing. Thus I prefer to compromise, to consider the needs of other people when selecting my main for example, or to adjust to the raid schedule of my guild, instead of changing friends whenever the current batch isn't a perfect fit for me any more.

Furthermore I believe that there is value in playing with strangers. All of my current online friends were strangers to me at some point. Being able to compromise is an asset in situations where you *can't* choose who to interact with. Just like you can't select the people in your class, or the people you have to work with every day, you can't select the whole population of your World of Warcraft server. Being able to recognize the needs of the other players, and being willing to compromise on e.g. what class and role I play, gives me advantages for example on my ability to find a dungeon group at any odd time and without a long queue wait time. If I insisted to play a dps, and only in groups with my closest friends, I wouldn't be able to group when I wanted.

In the end playing with others always means some sort of compromise. If I were unwilling to compromise on what I play and who I play with, I'd be forced to compromise on when I play group content. Team sports, whether that is soccer or a WoW group, usually requires some compromise on who plays what position. If for some reason your virtual identity absolutely requires you to play a frost mage and nothing else, you can certainly do that; but there is a price to pay for being uncompromising as soon as you want to play group content.
Compromise goes both way, is the thing. If you had a class/spec you REALLY wanted to play, your guild could compromise around you too. There always a bit of to and fro-ing at the start of a new expansion as people decide.
The problem with the idea of compromise in wow is that randomeness breaks everything. I've seen people show up for every raid and do everything right for 9 months straight and get nothing they want and thier guild finally moved on and was horrified when the guy left because they didn't think enough of him to help him finish getting his stuff.

I've seen guilds where in a short time every palidin warrior and mage was geared and all the other classes were fightng over the few scraps that would actually drop for them. Till the guild fell apart.

Of course the flip side is remove random and all surprise goes out the window and the game becomes a math equation.

You touch on something that I think will come out in the wash, so to speak, as guilds adjust to the new size limits in Cata. There is a reason that Blizzard went from 40-man raids to 25-mans. The same logic was behind introducing 10-man content and heroic modes to all of the above. So I have to seriously question the reasoning on Blizzards part of allowing a guild to have 1000 members. WTF is this supposed to accomplish?

I played my Paladin for the past 5+ years as Holy spec and built up quite the reputation on my server as a trusted healer, and even though my guild was social in nature, I still got/get invites from the top guilds whenever they are short a healer/player.

I'm 46 and I place a lot of importance on my characters actions in-game where behavior and committment are concerned. I think there is a wide gap in that regard and in my honest opinion it revolves around age and maturity where the playerbase is concerned.

Before the advent of the LFD tool, if a player bailed in the middle of dungeon encounter, one could expect to be black listed if they engaged in this type of behavior continously. Now, it's a common place activity with cross server group formations within the LFD framework and there is basically no repercussions for doing so outside of a timer penalty. The compromises that players are having to make, accept, and put up with today, introduce a level of frustration that can only be dealt with by developing a thick skin along with a sense of warped apathy.

With the increase in possible guild members, along with the new "guild perks" system in Cata, I forsee a whole slew of new headaches as the rise of the "uber casual guild" stands to dominate the social/player landscape, and I think that the "compromise" you speak of will take on a whole new meaning as players either embrace or reject these changes.
Compromise goes both way, is the thing. If you had a class/spec you REALLY wanted to play, your guild could compromise around you too.

Yes. But obviously that wouldn't work if EVERYBODY insisted on playing what he really wanted to play and expected everybody else to compromise. Basically I'm following Kant's categorical imperative here, which says that you should do what would be okay if everybody did it. Everybody compromising on class choice would work. Everybody expecting the OTHERS to compromise but being inflexible himself won't work.

randomeness breaks everything

Yes. But raid loot is NOT totally random any more. It is part random, part token, and with a half decent loot distribution system and the ability to buy items you randomly missed out on with tokens, nobody should be completely left behind any more.

With the increase in possible guild members, along with the new "guild perks" system in Cata, I forsee a whole slew of new headaches

I'm reserving judgement on that until I've seen the consequences in action. The guild perks system might lead to new headaches, but it also might lead to a reduction in guild-hopping, and thus force people to compromise more. Which I think could be a good thing. A lesson for life, because in life you often get stuck with people you can't simply change out against a new set as easily as changing a guild today.
Generation Me has no idea what you just wrote.

It's crazy too, as I'm one generation younger than you, but myself and those I play with who are my age have seen it as well. The expectation that everything revolves around you, and that you are entitled to the world and more. Be it in an MMO, something like LoL, or even in grade school today, the attitude is everywhere.

Makes it much harder to form a solid guild, and makes being in one that much better.

For some odd reason, compromising is seen as a weakness now.
There's a downside to this: you get pigeonholed into a class that is useful, but that you hate to play. It's not about being a special snowflake: burnout can be a real consequence from compromise.

In FFXI being in an endgame shell often had compromise in spades, where people would have a useful endgame class like bard or black mage to feed the class they really wanted to play instead, but was less useful, like beastmaster or dancer.

Or they had to use the class they disliked to level for merits, while not being able to play in party a class they liked. This caused a lot of people to get bitter over it, and with good reason.

Compromise isn't good in itself.
There's a downside to this: you get pigeonholed into a class that is useful, but that you hate to play.

I think you are confusing compromise with downright surrender. I don't play classes / roles that I hate to play. But among the many classes / roles that I *do* like, I'm quite willing to pick the one that is most useful to others, instead of insisting on some minor preference.
I'm of the (very much) younger generation, and I play what's needed, not what I want.

I always feel as if I'm letting the side down if I play a dps class, rather than tanking and healing (which I'm better at anyway.)
I don't see what it has to do with age, really, but if we're going to discuss this on an age-related or generational basis, "No compromise" was the rallying cry of my generation, the one which came of age along with punk. There's an annoying tendency to stretch the Boomer generation to include about three decades, but no original punk would ever have considered themselves any part of that superannuated bunch of hippies.

On the substantive issue I agree with the people who say you shouldn't compromise and should choose whatever you want to play and look for likeminded friends.
In cooperate culture compromise is out. This is because by definition both parties in a compromise lose (something). That is what they are training us on. Also, us younger players don’t really know what loyalty is. When layoffs come it pretty much is the most recently hired are let go without bias. So, if the same job opens across the street and pays more why not switch? In the present generation you simply can’t assume loyalty will be rewarded before your company goes bankrupt or you are let go. The 25 year career is pretty much dying. The average length a salary worker stays with their employer is around 4 years.

Some of the older employees where I work complain about fresh hires salaries being so close to theirs even though they have been with the company for 20+ years, and how most of the new hires only stay for a couple years then leave for a better paying position in another company. My response to them is ”Three years until you get your pension and health insurance? So your going to stay here until you retire I guess? Well, if the company knows you are going to stay… why should they pay you more? If you are going to stay regardless?”

I honestly think in this post compromise isn’t the correct word to use. Rather than compromising with another party, Tobold is trying to rationalize which toon he will primary invest in, using cost/benfit to himself. It is impossible to compromise with yourself.

IMO, and not to put words into Tobold mouth, he simply wants to be a “valuable member.” Many people are like this, including myself. If two of the guild tanks leave, I’ll start thinking, maybe I should get my tank geared. Need another priest for Mind Control, I can do that. Sometimes, people do the preparing silently, and is this case they may move into the needed role or someone else may beat them there. Other people will ask there guild “I could start gearing my tank up if the guild wants me to.” In either case the player is just trying to increase there value among their peer group. Nothing is wrong with this, but I wouldn’t call it compromise. I would call it (get this) Commodity Hedging.

We can use “WoW tons” as a simple value of the combination of ability, stats, availability, annoyance, etc

If a guild needs 2000 tons of DPS, 300 tons of Tankage, and 500 tons of Healing to raid and has (in storage) 2500 tons of DPS, 250 tons of tankage, and 250 tons of healing, healing is at that time the most valuable commodity. If you have 50 tons of warrior tank, and 50 tons of priest healing in your account … In this case the priest has more value, due to less supply. However, in games like WoW you can’t really know for sure, as some other guild member may have a 80 ton priest on another server they are willing to xfer over. And to the guild every toon costs the same (a raid slot), so rationally the guild should take the other priest instead of yours, if they can’t take both.

Playing the “I’ll play what the guild needs,” is in essence the same as a DPSer having their classes nerffed and re-rollng the next OP class. The “guild helper” may try to hold themselves above the fotm rerollers, but really they are one in the same (please remember I am including myself in this). Both players are doing it because they want to be held at a value higher than the “average player.” The fotm reroller does this by switching to the mathematically “best class,” while the guild helper does this by filling in holes. The main difference I see, is the fotm reroller likes competition(dps meters, etc), where-as the guild helper is competition adverse, which is why we aim for gaps, “well if no one else wants to I can try tanking”.

This sucks for me because I don’t have that much play time. So if I keep trying to level, or gear toons to fill the most needed guild role, I end up pretty much never reaching the finish line.
>easier to change your friends than to change yourself.

I thought it was this way in real life too. I bite my nails when I'm nervous and I know a lot of people that think that's gross. But it's such a deep-seated vice that I can't just magically change it, so I find others who are okay with it.

And in America at least, we're always encouraged to "be yourself" and maintain individuality. If you walk a certain way or cut a certain hairstyle, you're frowned upon for cutting it just to appease your friends. Maybe that's why we're such assholes.
Tobold, I come from the EQ generation too. I'm not a baby boomer but I'm also older than most gamers now days.

The problem is alot of young people only see things in absolutes. If you didn't choose your class then you must be playing something you don't like.

I 100% agree with you. In EverQuest most people that understood what the end game was like picked their class based on the needs of their friends and guild mates. We had entire groups of people reroll has Clerics or Tanks because the guild needed them. It was about the guild, not the player, in EverQuest because you were nothing without the guild.

Carry that on today, for me. It's about playing with friends, regardless of what class it is. During EQ I realized I would rather play a non-DPS class and get groups faster than wait around for a group. I rolled an Enchanter. Since then I have learned to love the support caster role. In every MMO now I play a Healer or CC/Utility class as my main.

I enjoy playing these classes, and while I may enjoy playing something else, when I choose these classes it enables my group of friends to have more options when picking their classes.

TLDR: Agree with Tobold 100%
Also an older gamer, also agree w/ Tobolds's "philosophy". Another aspect of being flexible enough to provide the needs of your group, is that you also FEEL needed and valued.

I think for many of us older folks, the sense of being valued and providing a needed role may be just as important than merely playing the class that you want to play, or the way that you want to play it.

I think it would be nice if this expansion resulted in a more cooperative spirit in the game.

A guy can dream, can't he?
It started as a @#$% long comment, then turned into me getting fed up with leaving @#$% long comments on MMO blogs and making my own. Don't compromise on a best-fit guild
At least with respect to the characters/roles that I play in WoW, I am not willing to compromise. I derive a lot of my enjoyment of the game from focusing on playing a certain role (in multiple senses).

I take some issue with your suggestion that expressing a strong preference in that regard comes at the exclusion of compromise in a cooperative game or that it is symptomatic of a generation's narcissism. It is simply an expression of preference, and one that you admittedly do not share.

Since I do have a strong preference to play a specific role/class, I have compromised in other areas. Those include stepping out of events for which I'm not needed, abiding by a raiding schedule that often requires me to reschedule real life obligations in order to consistently meet, make myself available in game to help friends in endeavors I have nothing to gain from save the satisfaction of seeing their success, and serving as an officer in each of the few guilds I've belonged to.
These are all compromises of my recreation time in the service of mutual ends. I can’t feign any true altruism in this as even in the more thankless tasks, like tanking months worth of Lich King attempts for my more casual oriented friends on an alt I leveled in part for the purpose, I derived some personal satisfaction. Ultimately, though, I have fun doing a fairly narrow set of activities and my continuing interest in the game is fueled by them. I play an Affliction Warlock and I make it a priority to be not only the best raiding Warlock on my server but one of the top in the US. My friends recognize, value, and respect that and I try to reciprocate by being an asset whenever they need solid pew, pew (or said DK tank).
This is where I think our paths split. You would rather not play then play another class. Mind you I'm not saying play a class you hate, but we are talking about playing a different class that you may not love, but also don't hate.

I on the other hand would rather not sit out. I also recognize that if by me refusing to play, say a healer, it could result in my friends not being able to play either. That is unacceptable to me.

I have one friend who only enjoys playing his Hunter. He leveled a tank and a healer to try and help out but hates both classes. I on the other hand enjoy healing, tanking, and dpsing more or less equally because I find joy in playing with my friends, not the class. So Should I play a DPS class and force either him or me to sit, or should I pick the class that allows both of us to play?

To be honest the compromises you do admit to taking don’t seem much different than anyone else. Most people work their life around their raid schedule, to some degree. Being in a guild has always been about “make myself available in game to help friends in endeavors I have nothing to gain from save the satisfaction of seeing their success” That is called being part of a guild. That is what you’re supposed to do in a guild. I’m not going to pat you on the back for doing what is expected… though sadly I should because more and more people look at guilds as a way to advance themselves rather than their guild.

Gear became easier to get. Pug raids became common. The amount of “elite” guilds began to dwindle as everyone more or less had access to the best gear. Since being in an “elite” guild no longer mattered there was no reason for players to be loyal to a guild beyond the bare minimum of getting what they needed from it. That is why we have the problems we have today.

Every two steps forward by WoW have resulted in one step back for the MMO community. Everyone gets access to the content/gear; guild loyalty is no longer needed.
"To be honest the compromises you do admit to taking don’t seem much different than anyone else"

Perhaps not at least at the level of detail I described them. When I said consistently meeting raid times I mean 100% attendance for a 12+ hour raid schedule for years. When I mentioned serving as an officer, I also meant the hours before raids I have spent spamming trade to pug players for a run I was inadvertently thrust into leading. I meant poring over combat log parses analyzing fights for ways to improve on a progression encounter. I meant fishing for applicants on disparate forums and in my current guild talking with/reviewing applicants.

I've been a part of 4 guilds on one server for the nearly 3 years I've played and I have only voluntarily left a guild once (the others having disbanded). I spend "off nights" playing with my slightly more casual friends in the guild I left, sitting through hours of wipes on content I could quite literally play blindfolded. I think once could make the argument that specializing in one role, at least beyond a certain point, is more of an asset than being passable at several.

What you and Tobold seem to be suggesting is that there is a moral imperative to play the game in a certain way, namely to level up alts so as to have a stable of characters ready to fill different roles in order to facilitate group play. If Tobold wants to take a Kantian line on playing World of Warcraft, I'm all ears. However, I also know how tenuous that sort of line is and how easily it leads to absurd moral obligations. There aren't that many Kantians around, and even fewer naive ones.

WoW is a game. It's entertainment. More loosely its a context for social interaction. I find it prima facie ridiculous that from rational first principles everyone is under an obligation to play with others in a certain, completely disinterested way.
Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Why do you do it?

Doc Holliday: Wyatt is my friend.

Turkey Creek Jack Johnson: Friend? Hell, I got lots of friends.

Doc Holliday: I don't.
Before we go any further I want to say I don’t condemn your play style. I don’t in any way shape or form think you are a bad player. I fear we are close to entering a point where we insult each other and I believe neither of us wants that.

I think I said this on Tobold’s blog… or maybe it was Keen’s. Most gamers think in absolutes, which is completely the wrong way of doing things. It is even more pronounced in the blogging community, there simply isn’t much middle ground, which is why I love Tobold so much. I feel he often considers both sides of an issue and ends up on some sort of middle ground.

I’m not questioning your commitment to your guild. I’m sure you are a core member and probably one of the driving forces in it. Regardless of what class you play I can tell you are passionate about making your guild stronger, and you have found a way to do that while playing your desired class. No one is saying you shouldn’t do that. Even you have said that in one way or another you must make a compromise to ensure your guild becomes stronger. Your compromises have already been listed.

This entire blog post is really about one thing; the guild should come before yourself and how that has changed in regards to people playing for themselves now. MMOs use to be about playing in groups, and as some of us older gamers are accustomed to thinking; our play should improve the needs of the group if possible. I don’t think you can disagree that the importance of the guild in WoW has greatly diminished over the past 5 years, you could argue whether that is good or bad though. Personally I think it’s a bad thing.

My first character in EQ was a Necromancer and I spent hours LFG on her. It came down to a point where I was nearly no use to my friends or guild, and the community in general had no use for me. Sure I could solo, but I wanted to play WITH people. I had 2 choices if I wanted to keep playing EQ. Reroll as a class that could find groups and play the game… or continue to sit AFK as my first class and not play the game. I choose to reroll as an Enchanter, and ended up loving it. That is where my mind set comes from. I would rather play my 2nd choice class if it ensures I get to play the game more.

I think both of us are needed in a guild for it to succeed though. You need people who are specialized at one class. They can mentor other people in that class and are able to focus on the administration needs of the guild. You also need people willing to fill in any role needed to ensure you have the required classes for any given situation.
TLDR: Don’t think in absolutes. Some people should compromise by switching characters and others should find different ways to compromise.
No offense taken or implied by my previous comments. As I said in my first comment I don't think compromising or putting others first in WoW are mutually exclusive with having a strong preference for certain roles.

I do take issue with being obliquely referenced as evidence for a far reaching argument about the narcissism of a younger generation in Tobold's original post. I personally think the conclusion of that argument is false but in any case I am a pretty poor data point to serve in the premise. Nor do I think my comments, like "if tanking is where your true interest lies, be the best tank that your guild could hope for," can be construed as such.
Different players balance the 'game' and 'social' elements of the game differently to derive enjoyment.

For a person who's focused on 'game', someone inclined towards 'social' may seem old-fashioned and impractical:

"Why stick with a guild where you can't play what you want to play?"

Conversely, someone 'social' will think that a 'game' person is mercenary and narcissistic:

"Whatever happened to good ol' loyalty? Kid these days only care about themselves."

I'm sure you can see how dismissive the comments above seem.

This dissonance is not unique to WoW, and can be observed in many team-based activities.

I have only a single main since vanilla because of my limited playtime.

While I can't choose to play the class that the guild needs, I have the benefit of meeting my guild-mates occasionally for face-to-face social gatherings.

Hence, I play the game to kick butt and be the best lock I can be, and not to be the most well-liked player in the guild.

I play WoW for the 'game' and less for the 'social', because the second aspect is real-life for me.

To me, Tobold's choice of playing what the guild needs and putting guild interests above one's own seem quaint, before considering his circumstances and needs.

As a footnote, being too focused on either of the elements can lead to absurd situations.

A lot of interpersonal conflict and drama can probably be avoided if players were more conscious of this dissonance.

Incidentally, I am 37, and hopefully not behaving the way I'm behaving simply because of the year I was born in.
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