Internet HotnessFebruary 14, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Posted in General | Leave a comment
Tags: choice, game design, MMOs
A short while ago, I decided to see if I could get Shaman Herewerd through the magic 10,000dps barrier with the gear he had. He was quite comfortably in the 8,500dps region, and without major gear upgrades, all I could think of was to change the way that I prioritised the use of my skills.
That meant research on the internet.
This is because I would rather go to somewhere like [insert website of choice here] where someone else has spent a good few hours smacking training dummies and working out the numbers, than go and smack training dummies for a few hours myself only to come to the same conclusions.
Numbers are good like that; you have to be specifically trained to make them lie.
So, armed with someone else’s numbers and someone else’s opinion, I was able to take a shortcut, and with a short amount of research, trial and error I was able to gain an extra 2,000dps, thereby hiting the 10,000dps mark (just).
Of course, I didn’t just take the nice faceless man off the internet’s word for it. As well as research, there was trial and error. That testing, allowed me to form my own opinion.
Of course, it was perfectly ok for me to do that; I was just searching for information with which to base my own research on, using it to come to my own conclusions. I was in no way just looking for something to copy.
No, definitely not, no. Not at all.
Because if I had, if I’d just been looking for the latest Internet Hotness, if I was just taking what the internet said was Teh Bestet and not using my own noggin, then I would be at the wrongest end of the Wrong, Wronger, Wrongest Scale, and would most likely find myself in the same MMO Gaming Hell as those who buy accounts off ebay, buy gold from disreputable internet firms, and play in beta tests *and never submit bug reports*.
I suppose the big question isn’t whether or not using the internet to try and improve our game is cheating, but whether or not we allow others to take away our right to play in the way that we want to.
It’s something I’ve been pondering for a while now, and something that I will no doubt be pondering for some time to come.
Ysharros, she-queen of Stylish Corpse, wrote an entertainingly enlightening piece on World of Warcraft’s Tol Barad. Whilst reading through her recommendations for aspiring victors, the part that resonated most with me was this particularly wonderfully written passage:
“VII. Go counter-clockwise — that’ll totally fox ‘em! Okay, I’m (mostly) joking on this one. But you never know. As it stands, everyone knows the general direction of battle is clockwise, and I’m not sure that’s really a strategy.”
It reminds me very much of; “They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way.”; I’m not sure that Wellington was just being all cool and hip when he tripped that one off in 1815, and things haven’t changed as far as most MMO players are concerned.
So it’s not just grabbing talent specs or gear setups from the internet; we also play in certain ways when given a choice. The way that “everyone knows”, with the heavy implication that only noobs don’t.
But I suppose the thing that really got me thinking about this was me attempting to go raiding in World of Warcraft. It was only a few raids, but there was quite a lot of preparation.
There was going on Youtube (other video sharing websites are available. Possibly. I don’t know really, I’m just trying to be fair) and watching videos of the various bosses, what they do and how they can be defeated.
There was reading strategies from various internet sites such as WoWWiki (now I *know* other such websites exist. You can check them out too), and then there was checking the guild’s website to see if anything particular to our guild’s attempts had been posted.
And this was all before turning up at whichever boss was to be our sacrificial altar, and hurling ourselves at it.
Of course, the reason for studying all of those strategy guides was so that we didn’t have to find out what abilities and phases a boss has at the sharp end; it means less time spent wiping on the boss to learn how to defeat that boss.
But it also highlighted how scripted the World of Warcraft bosses are. If we deviated from the plan, we died. If someone was slightly off game, we died. If someone forgot what their role in the operation was, we died. There wasn’t much give, there wasn’t much slack. There was no place for thinking outside the box.
There was just the following of the plan.
I’m sure there was a gentler time, a more beautiful time, when raiders would go out raiding and not have to follow such a strict strategy. That individual raiders could mess up, but the raid team could recover. When it was an individual’s skill that mattered far more than just their ability to follow a list of instructions.
And no, I’m not talking about when a raid team is so over-geared for the instance that they hardly need to bother. I’m talking about when the raid instance was still a challenge for those involved.
Now it seems to me that players are more than willing to point out when things are going wrong, and that it’s *all your fault*. Because *you are doing it wrong*.
I like to think of it as one of the joys of PUGging, but it doesn’t just end there.
A few posts ago, I commented about Sage-Mage and his amazing advice. Well, Sage-Mage isn’t the only know-it-all, flinging out advice like a monkey-poo-flinger, expecting everyone else to be the sort of thicky-thicky-dullards who would not only need his advice, but thank him for it.
PUGging has loads of them, because MMO gaming is full of them.
Even I, at times, have given out advice. I would like to think that my advice was clear, concise, and cogent, but I’m also pretty sure that all of us monkey-advice-flingers tend to think the same about the advice we’re flinging; clear, concise, cogent.
And, no doubt, they’re pretty sure that their advice is being flung at noobs that *require* said advice, because if they weren’t noobs, they patently wouldn’t *need* said advice. Good, experienced players already play in a good, experienced way that needs no advice.
They are already Doing It Right™.
I sometimes wonder if the only way to play correctly, to be seen to be Doing It Right™ is to follow the sage advice freely available on the internet.
Well, it’s certainly easier. It was easier for me to start off with someone else’s hard work, than it was to do all that hard work myself.
There is also the opportunity to devolve oneself of all responsibility, should things go wrong. It’s not *my* fault, it’s this lousy talent spec/gear set I got from the internet. I was just *testing* it out.
Yet I suppose the ultimate irony is that all this theory-crafting, all the strategy guides, all the nasty-cheaty websites that tell us which monsters drop certain gear and the easy ways to complete quests are a sign of a healthy, happy community.
Players who are happy about their game want to tell the world, and the internet lets them. Heck, I’m happy with my hobby; I love MMOs, so that’s why I blog about them (as opposed to blogging about cheese, or doric columns, or any one of a myriad things that I quite like, but just make me happy, as opposed to Happy).
Quite often it’s a healthy community that makes us want to play in the most optimal way. Sub-optimal is great for characters in a novel. To be honest, every novel I’ve read which had Captain Awesome as the protagonist has not been a favourite read. I want sub-optimal in my heroes; I want to see characters strive for success, I don’t want it to be guaranteed from the first page.
Lord of the Rings, source for so many fantasty backrounds in books and films as well as those of the MMOs we play, has a sub-optimal hero. Short, fat, big hairy feet; at first glance, Frodo is hardly the poster-hobbit for death-ninja missions (or even holidays) to Mount Doom.
Yet when it comes right down to it, I don’t think of playing sub-optimal. I might have once (such blissfully naïve days), but not any more. Sub-optimal doesn’t just lead to not being able to see or do everything you might want. No, it leads to something far worse.
The censure of our peers.
There is no winning and losing within an MMO. But there is winning when other players are in awe of us and losing when they think we’re nothing more than a noob. I sometimes think that “Noob” is the greatest insult to an MMO player, and quite a lot more insulting than any of the more pithy Anglo-Saxon-based insults the English language is home to. At other times, I’m sure it is.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why seeking guidance from the internet is so enticing, and so popular. Take the most optional build for your class from the internet. You might well end up a clone of everyone else with the same class, but at least you won’t look like a noob.
Same goes for following the traditional methods of levelling, of instancing, of PvPing, of raiding. Innovation is something that devs get involved in; as a player, shut up and follow the established rule. Show yourself to be a dangerous anarchist with your own opinions, and show yourself to be a noob.