Friday, November 16, 2012

Alleged Stealing

I was reading a post on WHU page today and decided I'd like to reply to it. And I did. Then, after giving it some thought ,I decided I am going to write a post about a larger issue.

So the original post was about people snatching items from you while you fight mobs that guard it. From how I understood the post and comments to it most of the people do not see a problem with it, saying if you need an item then make it a priority and make sure you grab it before you finish off a mob. And, note, that this is a hunter community page. Hunters can misdirect threat to their pets and deal with mobs at a better time. So I wrote something like:

Being a hunter puts you at advantage against some of the melee classes that don’t have luxury of misdirecting mobs to a pet. I can see how it could aggravate people that can’t get away from the mob to pick up an item because they get either get interrupted or item is not even lootable in combat (the latter is true for hunters as well).

I had seen people sitting on flying mounts just above an item waiting for someone to aggro a nearby mob and snatching it right after I land before I had a chance to misdirect. This is a common thing I encounter when I gather herbs – druids don’t even have to land and dismount to pick them so they wait until you aggro a mob and then take it on a flyby.

I do not appreciate it personally. I don’t complain about it, it is what it is, WoW is not a community-building game, it promotes a-holeness in people and punishes cooperation and friendliness.

Then I thought of interruptions, when you start picking up an item and another passing mob attacks you and breaks progress. Sometimes it gets very annoying, especially with Shadow-Pan dailies in Pandaria. And I am pretty sure there are other scenarios that affect all the classes regardless of their misdirect, camouflage, or crowd control abilities. But really, if you look at a bigger picture, this is not the problem. The problem is the game culture instilled by the game design decisions made by Blizzard that encourages jerks and punishes ones that are being nice to others. I'll try to lay out how I came up with this conclusion.

If you're reading this you probably already know that World of Warcraft is an MMORPG game. So you log into a server and control your character while interacting with other players and bots (NPC as in Non-Playable Character), fight with monsters/bad guys (or good guys, if you are having problems in your social life). Player can belong to one of two factions (these are Alliance and Horde) that are hostile to each other with no exception. Within a faction player may or may not belong to a guild (only one at a time) - loosely defined band of players.

While completing the assigned tasks (quests) you get gold (funny money) and loot (items, some wearable, some useful, some useless, some are vanity or decorative). While you are leveling (learning skills and building up your character abilities) each kill or completed task also rewards you with some XP points (as in experience) until you reach the ceiling. There are two main types of servers: PvP (as in Player versus Player) where any opposing faction member can challenge you to a fight; and PvE (as in Player versus Environment), where sex, err fight must be consensual.

Warcraft players pay monthly fee to play unlimited amount of hours per month. Most of them want to reach the ceiling as fast as they can and then enjoy the high-level content. Get the best gear available, accumulate most gold, buy vanity items/mounts. Once they reach the ceiling it's kind of a dead end, it's hard to keep people entertained. On the other hand Blizzard does not want people to spend months to level to the highest level possible, at least not while majority of players are not Koreans. So what company does is that they throttle high-end content through a bottleneck. This way you feel like you're getting to the premier level fast enough to not lose interest and then it seems like the ceiling is within the hand's reach but it may take you 3-4 months until you finally reach it. And then year and a half, two years later they release an expansion pack to lift the ceiling to a new height.

All in all, I play on a PvE server on the Horde side and belong to a very informal guild that does not require much from you to join them and gives about the same amount of damn about you in return.

Here's what I think about reward/punishment thing: you gain whatever you gain from the game (satisfaction, gratification, compensation) by accumulating gold and loot. And you accumulate gold and loot by competing with other players, not cooperating with them. Don't start saying word "raiding..." just yet.

If I see someone being hammered by a mob of monsters and help them out I gain nothing. Whatever loot there is it's a property of the player who engaged them first, I get nothing for helping him out. And I loose some: I loose my game time I could've spent on collecting items I need to complete a quest, I loose some more loot later because the guy I helped is probably going to beat me to it since I untied his hands, so I am better off letting him stay busy and run about my own business. So the game mechanics punishes me for being nice to people.

Exact the opposite decision - finish off the guy who is badly beaten by the mobs clears up the field for me, at least temporarily and there is no punishment, so am being rewarded for being jerk. I don't lose anything but gain at least something in return. Another scenario which I put into my original comment: someone just hovers over valuable item waiting for you to aggro a mob and then snatches it from you while you're trying to shake off the mob. The only case where I can get back to the guy directly is when I am on a PvP server and he belongs to an opposite faction and then I have to be better geared than him. On PvP servers it may be a bit better - you don't want to steal from your faction players and then be left alone if "other guys" suddenly attack you. But on PvE servers - there is no backlash, only pure gain for being a jerk.

So there are some specific cases where situation is a little bit different, but not necessarily better:
  1. Some mobs can be killed by multiple players and every one gets a credit for it. The loot, though, belongs to the first one at the corpse. And I had seen it too many times where players fire a single shot towards a target, just to stay in the game and get a credit without putting any actual effort. So I don't have to put an effort in killing the mob, I just have to time run to the corpse at the end of the fight so I get some bonus "stuff" while others are wearing out their gear and keyboard buttons.
  2. Group. In theory you can group with other players and then credit (experience and loot) will be distributed more or less evenly between members. It is a little bit better. However, group to group - same rules apply. And not every quest can be done this way, some items are not distributed, they go to the biggest jerk no matter what.
  3. Dungeons. Group of 5 players runs across a labyrinth killing elite mobs and acquiring better than usual loot. You do need to cooperate, or so it seems; in practice, though, it's a blame game. If something goes wrong it's always someone's fault. You're guilty of not "learning the fight", standing in wrong place, doing wrong thing, or not doing the right thing. I am a DPS character (as in damage dealer), so if I am not the first one out of four in a typical group, then I don’t even deserve to have a game client installed on my computer.
  4. LFR (as in Looking For Raid) - bullet point #3 power 5: 5 times the players, 5 times bickering, whining, blaming, and bullying. And given the size of the group and the fact it's random and changes fight over fight with people departing and joining it is extremely easy to be watching your favorite reality TV show and still be eligible for a loot roll at the end. Why even bother?
  5. Raid. This is probably the closest scenario to cooperative play of all, especially when it's a guild raid, with all the players knowing where you live (WoW-wise). Two points that keep it from being a real thing. One is the same "blame game" as in above, though on a smaller scale. Not sure if it's because a lot of players are immature (literally), or just because they learned the stereotype all the way through bullets 1 to 4 and can't break away from a bad habit. Second - raiding is not for everyone. In my experience few players raid on a regular basis, majority of them don’t get a chance to do it, so the experience is limited to somewhat selected group of players and is not part of the mainstream WoW.

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