The value of the player behind the character

My writing style at times makes for perfect troll food/bait, generally much to my entertainment. That said, it’s always surprising when non-trolls bite as well, missing the entire point of a post to go after the bait like the trolls do. Such is the case with this post and it’s various responses here and on other blogs, so I guess a follow-up of sorts is due.

Mental exercise time: if you are a guild leader, what criteria do you use when recruiting?

If you are an ‘average’ raid leader in WoW, you look at level/gear/achievements, exclude the psychos (unless it’s a healer, then you just pray the psycho can be contained long enough to progress), and you are good. Come raid time you hope the new recruit knows enough not to cause a wipe, but beyond that no real test of ‘skill’ is needed or considered.

On the other hand, if you are a top raid or arena leader, you more or less ignore level/gear/achievements since those are expected to be maxed out already. At that level, you DO look at skill and will hold try-outs, and you will consider how well the new person meshes with the team. Funny enough, if you run an RP guild (in basically any MMO), you don’t look twice at a character (unless for RP reasons), and it’s all about the player.

In other words, the ‘average’ leader or PUG gatherer will look at the character, while the top leaders will look at the person behind one.

That’s exactly why bringing up top-level raiding or Arena is foolish when Blizzard themselves are talking about ‘fixing’ the issues WoW has today: that linking an achievement is more valuable to a group than bring a good person or having a solid reputation.

Now the why behind this is deeper than just “WotLK made WoW faceroll easy”. Or that cross-server BGs/dungeons made reputations and the sense of a server community worthless. Or the changes to instances; having them give out near top-tier epics along with being ‘mute mode’ AoE-fests. It’s these changes and others, all combined to create the current state of the game. (And as a side note, can we please stop saying WoW is the same game, and those who hate it now but liked it back in 2005 are just ‘burned out’? Fairly sure that when Blizzard themselves starts talking about returning WoW to what it was like before, it’s a good indication that perhaps things ARE different now then they were previously.)

But to get back to the original post and it’s comparisons, do clans in Darkfall ask you to link your bank or ready bag, or ask which specs you are running to make sure they are the optimal ones? Do Corps in EVE ask you to link your top ships, or demand to see how you fit them in case you are not hyper-efficient or running the current FOTM setup? Does the Inquisition League of Legends application ask you to list out which champions you own to make sure you have everyone in Tier 1, or to show us your rune page to make sure that’s ‘correct’? Do we go into a match and double-check everyone’s mastery trees, correcting any ‘incorrectly’ spent points?

No, no, and no.

What a DF clan does look for is someone who fits into the PvP dynamic a clan has going, whether the person behind the character is a combat looter, a rage quitter, or someone who can roll with the ups and downs of the game. Similar criteria for the average EVE corp, and go take a look at the Inq application if you are curious about that.

Again, the point being is that in those games, ON AVERAGE, you are considering the person behind the character rather than the character itself, and this kind of evaluation/demand has various effects on the game’s community and how the players go about things. That’s what Blizzard is trying to get back to; to get the focus more on the person rather than the character. People do very ugly things when items matter more than people when it comes to being ‘successful’ in your game, and that’s on full display in WoW.

That is what I’m getting at when I’m talking about player skill vs character skill. Not how fast you can click, or how well you can memorize YouTube, or how awesome your tic-tac-toe game is, but whether who is behind the character has an impact on the game vs the pure numbers on the screen. That ratio (since if course it’s never 100% character or player, silly trolls) is currently horribly skewed in WoW, and Blizzard is hoping the changes they have planned in Cata will be enough to fix things. By Blizzard’s own admission, it seems the price of ‘accessible to all’ might be a little too high, even for them. Whether they actually go through with the plan, or even if the plan can undo the damage done, is another story.

(No Chuck today, the book is at work and I’m off-site, sorry)

25 Responses to The value of the player behind the character

  1. Carson says:

    Chuck Norris could still post a Chuck Norris fact even if the book was on the moon.

  2. Tipa says:

    Actually, in EVE you are often asked about your build-out, and suggestions are given. It’s friendly, but how you mod your ship very much shows how skilled a player you are, and people DO check.

    • SynCaine says:

      Yes yes, it’s the same in DF. People will ask what spells you have, how you cast them, etc and help you out. But has anyone said “I fly Frig X” and been denied from a corp, like you will get denied from a PUG if you don’t link the right achievement?

      • Dblade says:

        Yes, actually.

        A lot of corps, especially PVP ones, have a minimum skill point threshold to join. 5-10 million SP, requiring a RR Battleship or mining barge.

        If you want to be in an 0.0 corp, chances are you are not getting in unless you can fly a tech 2 fitted BS or a Tech 2 ship like an interdictor or HAC.

        • J. Dangerous says:

          You missed what he said completely. There is a massive difference between a *minimum SP threshold*, i.e. minimum level and *dictating HOW a character is played*

          If you can’t see the difference it will be very hard to explain, as it is very obvious.

          5-10 mil SP is required to have any impact whatsoever in 0.0 space, much like you NEED to level 80 to take on Lich King. How can you compare this to players deciding certain PLAY STYLES are off-limits? Apples and Oranges.

          And an 0.0 clan is like a professional WoW Arena team. Of course THEY have to dictate even more stringent minimums. Would an elite WoW raiding clan let a lvl 10 in?

          Obviously to participate in certain things you NEED to be a certain “level” (char-wise). That is NOT the “players” but the GAME deciding that. The mechanics demand a minimum character level, not the players.

  3. Sean Boocock says:

    I have found your posts to be inflammatory and provocative, and that you have adopted a tone de rigor for a certain, snarky brand of internet commentary. That’s fine, except when it becomes a way to deflect criticism or distance yourself from an opinion that on later reflection you find hard to support. If someone identifies a weak aspect of your argument and criticizes it, it’s disingenuous to respond “Hah, I was trolling, r u mad bro?” Unless of course this blog is just a performance art piece for your personal enjoyment and those select few who “get it.”

    To the topic at hand, your argument now seems to be that there is a difference in kind between the sorts of things necessary to do “endgame” content in WoW and its equivalent in EVE and Darkfall. The latter requires a competent player behind the keyboard while it is necessary and sufficient in the former case for the character one is controlling to be suitably geared.

    That’s false as a matter of fact, but it’s also false outside of a small but very vocal minority as a matter of perception too. The developer post that ostensibly motivated yours was about some players’ perceptions of what factored into their own performance and to what extent. It was about obsessing over proposed talent changes that result in theoretical gains that are too small to be detectable above the inherent noise of the randomness built into the combat system. What Ghostcrawler was worrying about is a general problem: peoples’ appreciation and understanding of numbers. He wasn’t worrying about if that perception reflected an underlying reality of success equaling bigger numbers. It doesn’t, which is why there is a perception problem in the first place.

    Nonetheless WoW is a gear and stats based game. But so are EVE and Darkfall. Your generalization of the average player’s experience in WoW is a stereotype of a pickup group raider, a social context that doesn’t have parallels that I know of in either EVE or Darkfall. What your argument amounts to is this:

    Since certain raid leaders use gear/achievements as a proxy for experience in assembling trade chat pug raids, most of WoW’s population shares the same attitude and that attitude is ultimately a reflection of a combat system based solely on gear/stats.

    You tell me if that holds up, and meanwhile maybe I’ll try polling the Darkfall forums for the importance of character skill levels in PvP.

  4. Saucelah says:

    I’ve only played a trial in DF — but it’s generally common knowledge that you don’t need max stats to be able to compete with those who have maxed stats. Tactics play a greater role.

    I did not read this post as a redaction but rather as a clarification.

    I’ve played a lot of MMOs, but I’ve never been refused an invite to a PUG based on gear except in WoW. I think it might also be the only game I’ve played where you can easily inspect gear or stats.

    I really think you’ve misread Syn; I do not believe he was claiming that skill has absolutely no role in WoW. Obviously if two identical level characters of the same class with identical gear have a duel, skill or knowledge will be the decider.

    What Syn originally said you reiterated in your post: because WoW is a game of gear and stats based combat in which epic loot plays a major role, they created the culture that emphasizes gear over skill. In other words, Blizzard’s game mechanics created the culture, so they shouldn’t be shocked.

    There’s definitely more skill in WoW’s combat than there was in SWG pre-CU (Rifleman: spam mind shot, look back in a minute or two, spam mind shot again), but gear and a higher level will trump player skill every time in WoW.

    • Sean Boocock says:

      I agree with you to some extent. The focus on gear as an integral part of a linear progression path is a deliberate design decision, and it has helped to engender a culture that puts undue emphasis on it.

      Still, WoW is not unique in this respect. There are two parallel arguments going on in these couple posts and further discussion elsewhere: 1) whether and to what extent the gear/stats/skills of one’s character affects in-game outcomes and 2) the perception by those in the community of what the character vs player’s role is in those outcomes.

      As for 1), gear/stats play a non-trivial role in each of three games I’ve been citing and in the two I’m personally familiar with – WoW and EVE – I’d argue that their role is comparable. No amount of player skill in EVE is going to tank a Sleeper cell or Agent 4/5 mission alpha strike if you don’t have the right ship with the right fittings. Nor will player skill affect the rate at which your frigate mines asteroids or your detection of the covert ops ship about to gank you in low sec. Will player skill save you in your tech 1 cruiser against a well fitted tech 2 battleship? The rejoinder that “gear and a higher level will trump player skill every time in WoW” can just as easily, and falsely I might add, be said of EVE. Because the contribution of a character’s skill/stats is not that simple in either WoW or EVE and beyond clear “gear checks”, both games have a wide scope for player skill.

      Nor do I think player perceptions differ largely between WoW and EVE. A corporation will not be overly concerned with your personality or commitment if you don’t have as a baseline prerequisite the character skills necessary to contribute to the corporation’s goals. At least that was my experience browsing recruitment threads a few years ago with titles like “Low sec industrial corp looking for members; 7 million skill points minimum”. It’s revealing that so many EVE bloggers have fought against the perception that you must have X many skill points and Y ship in order to do anything meaningful in EVE. Their advice to skill for tackling, join a lowsec corp and get smart bombed in your first zerg PvP scenario is valid but also demonstrates some underlying truth to the notion they are trying to dispel.

      Greg Street who wrote the forum post Syncaine originally cited told fans before the release of the Wrath of the Lich King expansion that the designers had adopted a new mantra for WoW raiding. I thought it was relevant here; perhaps you’ve heard of it: “Bring the player, not the class.”

      • Saucelah says:

        Somehow, I skipped Eve. That is, until last month. And you’re right — API creates a similar in-game culture to gear and achievement checks. Of course, many EVE corps just aren’t like guilds — they have a specific purpose and an area they call “home” — if you don’t have the skills to help their purpose or reach their home, there’s really no point in adding you to the corp.

        Do I think DF is somehow better than WoW? Except in the sense of my personal taste, no I do not — I think it is different and as a result, does not engender the same culture.

  5. spinks says:

    In social guilds, people also are keen to look at the person behind the application. (And most raid leaders will at least want to know that you are reliable and didn’t cause major drama in your last guild.)

    I’m not actually sure what that proves.

  6. Bhagpuss says:

    “Unless of course this blog is just a performance art piece for your personal enjoyment and those select few who “get it.” ”

    I thought that was the dictionary definition of “Blog”. It’s certainly why I read blogs in general and this one in particular.

    On the substantive issue, all this discussion seems to be hung up on raiding/competetive PvP/high-difficulty heroic group content. Those are the video-game equivalent of playing team sport in a competetive (if amateur) league. Yes, that will require a minimum level of player skill and assessment and recruitment will take that skill into account, usually as the primary consideration.

    Personally, I haven’t played competetive sports since I was at University 30 years ago. I do play games and sports, but I don’t pick my team-mates by how skilled they are. I’m interested in whether they are good company or not. Same applies in MMOs.

    That said, if you’re going to play pool with someone more than once and look forward to it each time, you do need at least to know the basic purpose of the game and which end of the cue to point at the cue ball, so there is a bare minimum standard required.

    Otherwise you just find something else to do together instead.

    • Mala says:

      Its also about finding people who play like you do, or approach the game like you do. I have some friends who aren’t very good at Starcraft 2, some who simply don’t care to spend any time learning the meta game. If I play against them I can either 1) not play for real or 2) crush them. Neither is particularly fun.

      Of course, Starcraft in particular has a handicap % you can apply, which I do sometimes, which helps me “play for real” without being able to steam roll. But the point is, if you putting time and effort into improving, analyzing, being efficient, you are going to want to spend time with people who do the same. My point being that, its not simply about a bare minimum standard, but also about a relative similar ability to those you are playing with.

      I honestly thing a huge % of the strife regarding player skill comes from the fact that in most MMOs, there is no inherent way to gate based on skill (maybe arenas in wow or something, but thats really just matchmaking for a minigame or separate game, if minigame sounds like I’m dismissing it).

      • Bhagpuss says:

        That’s a very fair point when it comes to competetive play. Back when I played tennis I would always play with someone just slightly better than me if I could. It made me raise my game and enjoy myself and I was still good enough to give the other person a run for their money so they enjoyed themselves too.

        I do see MMOs much more like the countless hundreds of hours I spent playing pool or darts in the pub, though. Ninety percent of what was going on was socialising. No-one ever remembered the games or who won but years later we’d still be reminiscing over certain conversations or arguments we had while playing.

        When Mrs Bhagpuss and I reminisce about MMOs past, it’s mostly the people we knew and the quirks they had that we remember, not how the fights went. The gameworld really just stands in for the pub and the fights stand in for the pub games we’d play while laughing and joking.

  7. Red says:

    Hey syncaine, not related to the subject at hand but what did you think of the Milkfat fiasco back at the LoL boards?

    • Saucelah says:

      Personally, I think it’s happening in online games all the time, the diff here being they didn’t make a secret out of it.

      Really, why care? It doesn’t affect the game in the slightest for me. When I log in and play tonight, nothing will have changed. And I wouldn’t actually want them to do the same for me — I’d lose interest a little faster if I never had a new champ to look forward to unlocking.

      To me, it sounds like: “Waaaaaaaaaah, mommy loves you more than me.”

      • Red says:

        I agree. Besides, unlimited RP or IP wouldn’t give him anything other people competing at the professional level he’s aiming for do not already have anyway.

        • Saucelah says:

          What I really don’t get it is the people that feel this somehow shafts players (such as myself) that have purchased RP. We knew exactly what we were paying for at the time, and they haven’t taken it away from us, so how did we get shafted?

          I’m not asking you, of course, since we’re on the same page.

    • SynCaine says:

      I’ve been swamped at work, and from a quick glance at the General forum I can’t figure out what the deal is, can you give me a brief summery?

      • Paragus says:

        Apparently this Milkfat guy was a top Dota or HoN player and calls himself a professional gamer.

        He had never played a game of League of Legends ever. He contacted Riot or something and told them he was going to switch over to LoL and in 90 days he would be the top LoL player. Riot gave him a bunch of points to unlock maybe all of the characters and skins for free. This caused some sort of rage in the LoL community and Riot took back the points and wished the dude luck on his climb to the top.

        This is what I am understanding at least, I might be wrong.

        • Red says:

          Yeah, this. Thanks to the prolonged server maintenance it has grown exponentially into a much bigger deal than it really is. People found out about the points watching his stream, which showed him with some outrageous amount of IP and RP, 400k I think.

          Ah, and apparently he also demanded to use his famed handle “Milkfat” even though it was already in use, so the original Milkfat had a forced name change.

      • Red says:

        Sorry for double-posting, but this is the thread that started the whole mess: http://www.leagueoflegends.com/board/showthread.php?p=3261434

  8. bonedead says:

    WTB More DF posts, specifically on this new expac/patch deal thats supposedly going live today. I’ve heard it is supposed to reduce the grind more, but all I can find in the player made patch notes is just more mobs/dungeons/models/terrain/mounts/boats. *Tim Allen Home Improvement Confused Sound*

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