The Tyranny of Being Wrong

22 Sep

Ghostcrawler popped up with a really significant series of responses to boss scaling, hit as a stat and managing talent builds that are absolutely excellent reads.  If you haven’t seen them let me point you to the full thread in case you have a lot of time to kill before lunch.

Teh Thread – Hit as a Stat and Scaling

Teh Thread – Free Talent Points

While all of the discussion is certainly worth reading, perhaps the most telling thing I read was were Ghostcrawler laments the following:

My personal philosophy, as I have expressed before, is that the community tends to be over-obsessed with cookie cutter builds. It’s somewhat understandable because the WoW community has evolved in a direction where being badly informed is worse than being a bad player. We’re all very quick to judge each other based on litmus tests, such as gear scores, achievements, or proper talent builds, that likely don’t measure performance half as well as we want them to.

Emphasis is mine.

This rocked me back in my seat a little at first as the sheer truth of the statement washed over me.  How many times have you seen a player getting picked apart for not min-maxing his talent spec?  How many people have been refused raid spots because they chose to talent a point for utility or PvP instead of taking the generally accepted “right” talent?  Raid Leaders looking for obvious signs of “bad players” almost immediately look to gear and talent specs sending potentially successful raid members to the bench because they refuse to fall in line and spec “right”.  Because I’m used to working within the strict confines of team based sports / games / stuff – I never questioned the need to accept cookie cutter builds.  It was just something you did in order to provide the maximum potential to the raid.  While I missed the utility of my more PvP oriented specs, the reality of raiding in WoW is that you conform to the accepted raid “standards” – regardless of whether they provide any measurable value.

According to Ghostcrawler, this min-maxing (while sometimes entertaining) can be counter productive.

If it’s a talent that provides a 10% dps increase or offers an ability you’ll use constantly, fine. It’s hard to argue that won’t benefit most players. But when I see players obsess over talents that provide a theoretical 1% dps increase that is vastly overshadowed by the noise of their own performance, I shake my head a bit. Want to see what I mean? Compare a parse of yours on the same boss from week to week. You’ll probably see a dps variance of 5-10% or more. That’s the role of your skill, latency, bad luck, lacking the perfect raid comp or whatever else. Worrying about that 1% dps talent was a rounding error. Let’s not forget that what may be 1% on one boss probably is not on another.

More truth – what is that 1% getting you in the grand scale of things?  According to top tier DPS players like Kripparian, spec is important and gear is important, but much less so than player performance.  He’s well known for taking under geared hunters into raids and destroying other players packing identical talent builds and vastly superior gear.  In essence he’s a walking / talking example of how player skill can eclipse gear and talent builds.  Ghostcrawler goes on to confirm this:

How many attempts can you name in your lifetime as a WoW player where your doing 1% more dps would have made the difference between success and failure? And how many of those attempts could you have gotten 10% more dps if you had just totally nailed your rotations etc. on those fights instead of worrying about a theoretical 1% dps gain from a different talent?  Every bit helps, totally. I’m not saying throw a dart board at talent trees and expect to be competitive. But at times it’s a bit like stooping down to pick up pennies in the gutter because you’re about to plunk down six figures on a house.

I think more than anything though, it’s what the Grand Crusader Crab had to say about the evolution of the WoW community as a whole and the development teams culpability in that process:

You’re portraying yourself to be at the mercy of uninformed yet tyrannical raid leaders who are quick to judge your performance based on perceived “tells.” I know you need some basis to evaluate potential recruits or even pug members. But I do wish there was some way to turn around this virtual phobia of inefficiency — this terror of being WRONG — that we have managed to instill in our player base. I honestly think it’s one of the greatest challenges facing the game.

The emphasis is one again, mine.

This last statement is one that gives me some hope.  Everything I’ve read about Cataclysm’s development is that the dev and design teams seem to be working hard to put choice and utility back into the game.  Yet I have to temper my enthusiasm somewhat as I know theory crafters are already hard at work dissecting talent trees and abilities in order to come up with the most efficient and powerful combinations for game play.  I know that the treatises they write and the blogs they publish will be read and re-read by leveling players looking to maximize their game.  Their words will become canon to be spouted by elitists and wanna-bes alike.  While Cataclysm might be changing the game up enough that we have to relearn our place in it, the human need to conquer that change is still alive and well.  As is the equally human need to belittle others in order to elevate themselves.

I’d like to see the dev team take swing at that.


7 Responses to “The Tyranny of Being Wrong”

  1. Nora September 22, 2010 at 16:48 #

    I agree. I’ve always chafed when people telling me I’m “doing it wrong” – not in the way of helpful advice, but that “since you aren’t doing it my way, clearly you must be wrong”. If I had a dollar for every time I had to deal with that nonsense from a certain, happily departed individual, well – I’d already own that sailboat I want. 🙂

    This might be part of what draws me to tanking – it’s nowhere near as competitive as DPS. You can’t be compared to others as much, it’s basically just a question of whether you did your job and kept the bad guys angry at you while protecting everyone else. DPS, I just beat myself up constantly about needing to be better, faster, quicker, higher number output, not as good as player X/Y/Z, etc. It would be great to see more player choice allowed in builds.

    Not sure that will really happen in practice though. Already, players are theorycrafting about the “right” specs. *sigh* Still can hope though!

  2. Capn John September 22, 2010 at 19:57 #

    I found it was even worse as a Tank, especially in the age of the DF Tool-created PUGs filled with the Go!Go!Go DPSers. Not only did they profess to know every single Class inside & out, but they all knew how every single encounter in every single Instance was meant to be Tanked. Incredible!

  3. Spazmoosifer September 22, 2010 at 21:43 #

    Our guild actually has a nice process for handling “non-optimized” specs. We simply ask applicants to explain their spec (regardless of whether it is an “optimized” spec or not).

    This allows the people making the decision to determine if the person knows what they are doing, or if they are simply a lemming that is following a flute.

  4. Mitsune September 22, 2010 at 21:45 #

    This is a good example of why I love GC. He has a good head on his shoulders. I know too many of the exact types described; people who obsess over numbers, but fail to deliver at the level you’d expect of someone for whom 1% is worth their firstborn.

    In a sense, GearScore is the recentmost and strongest symptom of this problem, then? The ultimate tool in enforcing arbitrary conformity? Sure enough, it only touches upon gear, but it works with the same fear. (Rhyme alert!)

    The whole Cata talent philosophy with mandatory utility talents is a little hilarious, a little sad, but mostly fantastic, for this reason. Perhaps it means people will get some diversity without getting shot down by others who utilize EJ math as weapons.

  5. Lujanera September 29, 2010 at 04:09 #

    “…the equally human need to belittle others in order to elevate themselves.”

    I think this might be going a little too far, but I think the desire to determine/establish the pecking order is very strong, especially in WoW. Part of the reason why things like spec, achievements and Gearscore have become so important in terms of getting invites is because players often lack good information about other players’ skill. Absent skill information, the best proxies are those things.

    The creation of the LFD system has, I think, been incredibly positive in a lot of ways but I do think it has helped to fuel the phenomenon I mention in the previous paragraph. Because of LFD, I am now less likely to run dungeons with people on my server and, as a result, to be less informed about who is skilled and who is not. I would imagine many others are in a similar position. As a result, spec/achievement/gearscore has become a more important part of evaluating prospective raid members.


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