There is an “I” in “raid”

I have previously expressed my dismay at the extreme class pruning that has resulted in hunters having a diminished role as an all-purpose raid utility player. In both Mists and WoD, I loved being the raid DLJ (Dirty Little Jobs) player — the one who always either volunteered or was voluntold to take care of extra duties like flamethrower duty in Highmaul’s Brackenspore or belt duty in Siege of Orgrimmar’s Siegecrafter Blackfuse.

But even if hunters are no longer the automatic go-to player for these extra jobs, I still like doing them and will usually volunteer if given a chance. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to do something extra for the raid team, not to mention the chance to break from what can often be pretty boring pew-pewing? Well, to my surprise, it turns out that many damage dealers avoid these duties like the plague — when the raid leader asks for volunteers, there is often deafening silence, and you can almost see people studying their shoes and doing anything they can to avoid virtual eye contact with the RL.

I am, as I have mentioned several times, quite naive about a lot of things, and this is one of them. It turns out that some significant number of damage dealers do not want to do these extra duties because it can diminish their DPS numbers. These are the same players who want live logging because it allows them to immediately and compulsively check their ranking after each boss kill, who humble-brag about their numbers by sending DPS results out in raid chat and “complain” they only barely edged out the number 2 guy or their numbers are slipping or whatever. They demand certain team assignments when the raid needs to be split up, based not on where they might be most effective due to class abilities but where they can maximize their personal damage numbers.

Now, of course there is an argument to be made that maxing out DPS is the best contribution to the raid, I get that. And there is certainly a very understandable desire to be the best you can be. But this is different — this is a pure ego thing that places personal performance above all other considerations. This is the equivalent of the ball hog on a sports team, the high-paid star that demands to be the one who gets the carry over the goal line or refuses to make a sacrifice bunt.

I bring this up because of the now-infamous actions of one Adois, a mostly-benched healer on Limit’s Mythic raid team. This pathetic person actually DDOS’ed other healers on the team so that Limit was forced to call him off the bench for some of their final Tomb of Sargeras kills. Limit management was quite indignant about this heinous breach of trust and — I presume — kicked him as soon as they discovered what he was doing.

But there is a rather ironic what-goes-around-comes-around aspect to this. Limit is doing a good imitation of Captain Renault in Casablanca, in that they were “shocked, shocked to find out” cheating was going on there. Uh huh. This is a guild that had had its Helya mythic kill disallowed for pretty blatant bug exploitation, and that actually withdrew from world-first competition for Mythic Tomb of Sargeras because, in their own words, they had had too many of their raiders banned and/or quit the team as a result of being caught in the big selling-carries-for-real-money scam. Sorry, but when you promote a culture of cheating, you should hardly be surprised when one of your cohorts does it better than you do. I am in no way condoning Adois’s actions, but honestly he and Limit kind of deserve each other.

Please do not get the idea that I am equating a run-of-the-mill DPS whore with Adois, but I do think their motives are similar: me, me, me, always and only me. It is a mindset I can comprehend intellectually, but which I cannot understand at the gut level. I know this is a particular bias of mine — I am almost exclusively motivated by internal ideas of right and wrong, honor and responsibility, caring little for the approval or adulation of others. Though I pay serious attention to criticism, I do it from a desire to improve my internal compass, not because I care about others’ opinions of me. As a child, I did not need the affirmation of parental approval or good grades or awards, and in my adult life measuring sticks like performance appraisals have likewise never made much of an impression on me.

All this is by way of scratching my head over people who place their own goals over those of a team, or over what may be the goals of their teammates, in a computer game. My experience in this game is that people actually revert to their true selves in it, that many feel free to act without the normal social constraints present in real life. We are free to indulge our inner toddler, I suppose. I don’t condemn the DPS whores out there, or the braggarts who insist on advertising every high damage number or piece of luck-derived gear they get, or the shirkers who never volunteer for extra jobs in raid. I don’t condemn them, but I think less of them, they are not the kind of person I would ever trust to have my back in real life.

Meanwhile, I will continue to volunteer for extra duties, and I will happily go wherever I am assigned. Oh, and I promise to refrain from DDOSing anyone on my raid team.

Cheats and chiselers and lines not to be crossed

Blizzard just announced that they had “taken action” against some players who were accepting real world currency for in-game assistance, such as carrying players for raid clears. You can read the Blue Post here, courtesy of MMO-C.

This is absolutely reasonable action from Blizz. The activities were clear violations of the Terms of Service agreement, and some forum posters claimed it was getting out of hand — blatant advertisements abounded. I wouldn’t know about that, I tend to be quite naive about these matters. Still, there is a line between the in-game economy and the real world one, at least as far as players are concerned. Blizz went to some pains to point out that raid carries for gold, for example, are perfectly legitimate. It is just when actual rent-spendable money enters in that it becomes illegitimate.

In-game gold versus real-world money is a line most of us can understand, but I wonder if Blizz itself has not blurred that distinction a bit with their introduction of the token. By becoming their own gold seller, they have legitimized a direct connection between real world money and in-game gold. If you have the money, you can pretty much amass as much gold as you want in the game. Yes, you have limits placed on you in terms of how many tokens you can buy over a period of time, but if someone is patient and well-off, they can easily max out gold on every character on every account.

Not that having millions and millions of gold gets you much in the game nowadays, beyond a certain Scrooge McDuck feeling of wallowing in wealth. The reason Blizz’s gold selling has not become pay-for-play is that they have severely curtailed the number of game-enhancing buyable items available. In WoD, for example, you could buy competitive high-level crafted gear, but you were limited to equipping just three such items, thereby ensuring players with a lot of gold could not immediately outfit themselves with raid-level gear. In Legion, Blizz allows unlimited pieces of crafted gear to be equipped, but they prohibit selling (thus, buying) such gear above level 815. It can only be upgraded if it is soulbound — again, prohibiting wealthy players from easily (if expensively) outfitting themselves with high level gear.

Another thing the token has done is give everyone a quantitative way to value in-game items and activities. In the U.S., one token currently buys you approximately 90k gold, and it costs $20. Thus, if for example a guild is selling Nighthold clears for 200k gold (I have no clue if this is the going rate or not), a player contemplating buying the service can know that this means the true cost to them is $30-$40. (If the player is an in-game buyer of tokens as a way to pay for their subscription, then the cost is approximately $30, or two months’ play time. If the player is an in-game seller of tokens for gold, then the cost is $40, or about two game store token purchases.)

Similarly, if a piece of BoE gear is priced at 100k gold, a player can evaluate whether or not it is worth one month’s play time ($15), or $20 of their hard-earned cash from the other perspective.

Still, even if the real world versus game world line has become a bit blurrier, it is still there, and it certainly does not justify crossing it.

Which leads me to the other aspect of Blizz’s announcement that gave me pause. Of note, they indicated some of the presumably-banned players were members of world-first guilds. This is troubling, for basically the same reason I discussed in a previous post: that is, it indicates a lack of high standards of integrity in these guilds. Let’s be honest — there is no way guild management could have been unaware of the money-grubbing actions of the members engaging in this illicit business. But for whatever reason, the guilds these players belong to chose to do nothing about it — the best you can say is they gave tacit approval, and the worst is that they may have shared in the profits.

I know I will get hate mail for this, but given the apparent high profile of some of the guilty ones, I think in this case a bit of naming and shaming might have been in order. If not the actual players involved, then maybe the guilds they belonged to. “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” Maybe a little guild embarrassment would be good incentive to police their own members in future.

How much better it would have been if, when the guilds suspected some of their members were doing it, they issued explicit instructions to knock that shit off or face expulsion. At the very least, they might have taken a page from professional sports and benched the offending players for some amount of time or levied a fine of some sort. Any guild sanction would have demonstrated these professional guilds are serious about policing their own, serious about upholding high standards of behavior. Sadly, insofar as any of us knows, they did not.

I am certain I could play this game forever and not give a flying fig about world first achievements or the inner workings of the professional guilds. I do not care about the pseudo-celebrity players in them. But I do care that some of the players and guilds I encounter in the game seek to emulate those semi-pro players and their guilds. If their role models are cheats and chiselers, then that attitude may well spread down through the game, and it will take away from my enjoyment of it.

In a perfect world — or even an above-average one — guilds would be incensed if their members cheated, and they would take drastic and public action to ensure everyone knew such behavior was unacceptable, to uphold the rules of the game they play, indeed the game they are leaders in. But sadly this is not the case, and we are left with some guilds that get while the getting is good, knowing they need take no responsibility because Blizz will step in and police their players for them. Well, good for you, Blizz. And shame on you, all you who know who you are.