Friday, January 15, 2010

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Due to the Dungeon Finder a larger proportion of World of Warcraft players is now spending a larger proportion of their time in dungeons, running 5-man groups. The group composition is fixed by the Dungeon Finder to be one tank, one healer, and three dps. And because success of a random pickup group is extremely likely, there is very little bickering about whose fault it was that the group wiped. But of course some people like bickering for bickerings sake, so a discussion has popped up in various forms about who in the group is "carrying" who.

Gordon from We Fly Spitfires made a very controversial guest post at World of Matticus asking whether tanks and healers shouldn't get extra rewards for joining a pickup group, as they were the ones carrying the dps. If you look at a simple tank'n'spank combat without an enrage timer, it is possible to do that fight only with a tank and a healer. If it's a boss fight that will obviously take forever, and then you'll post the video of it on YouTube, but the basic impression is that the tank and the healer are the mandatory parts of the 5-man group, and the dps are the optional parts which just server to shorten to time.

Of course you can take the same line of thinking and reverse it, to show how this isn't proof of anything. I still have bad memories of Malygos, because I went there with a group where the tank and healer (including me) were good enough to keep the aggro all the time and keep everyone alive. But then the enrage timer kicks in and the raid wipes, because the dps didn't collectively do X million points of damage in the given time. So already for timed encounters you could say the dps carry the healer and tank. And obviously if the damage output is high enough to kill the mob before it can do serious damage, no tank nor healer is needed at all.

As I mentioned in my previous post, tanks and healers only need to be "good enough" to beat a given encounter or dungeon. But there being 3 dps in a 5-man group, somebody is always running a damage meter, and there is some internal competition. So the guy doing 4k dps says he was carrying the other guy who did only 2k dps. But as Chastity from Righteous Orbs remarks, it is rather his gear which is carrying the 4k dps guy. One person dealing more damage than another is not necessarily due to him trying harder or being more skilled. It can also be due to difference in gear, or even class balance. And in some cases the race to top the damage meter can get the group wiped, because people start blasting away before the tank has aggro, or they AoE where they shouldn't have AoEd.

I do have addons like Gearscore and the Recount damage meter installed, for my own information, with the goal of helping me improve myself. But in my guild the public display of damage meter data is frowned upon, and in raids such "piss-o-meter" data display can get you kicked. Because while these addons have some limited use, using them in a pissing contest of who is better ends up reducing people to a single number, which is not what cooperative multiplayer games should be about.

Instead of demanding higher rewards for those "carrying" the others, or kicking the underperformers directly, we need to realize that we need the other players, and that everybody is carrying everybody else at some point. That undergeared healer and the top dps might look at each other and each think they are carrying the other, but in the end they both need each other. If you could set up the Dungeon Finder to only group you with people with a 6k+ Gearscore, doing at least 5k dps for the dps roles, you'd quickly find that the 5 minutes you'd save on every dungeon run would be more than compensated by the far longer waiting times for each group to form.

In a cooperative multiplayer game it is reasonable to demand that everybody make an effort, but neither gear nor dps are a good measure of effort, nor skill. You can't use the damage meter to judge a person. Do you think less of yourself if you are playing a lesser played, less geared alt? So maybe the person you are looking down upon today will group with you again next week, only that this time *he* is on his main and *you* are on your alt, on the bottom of the dps table.

We play MMORPGs to have fun, to pursue our own personal goals in the game. We play together because some of these goals can't be reached alone, and the social experience of playing together adds to the fun. Instead of worrying that you might be carrying somebody else, sing with the Hollies: "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"!

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