If we know anything about gaming, it’s that players in multiplayer games love high score tables. The first time I saw one was on an arcade machine in a service station along the M1 (big motorway). I’m not sure how old I was, certainly I had to look up to see the screen. If you got a score that was high enough to place you in the table, you could enter a three letter id and it would be displayed on the machine after you left, for eternity or until someone else displaced you.
The magic of permanence held players in its grasp, even back then.
Sanya has a great blog post about the power of leaderboards to retain players. She looks at it from a developers point of view, discussing what should be ranked and how to appeal to the largest number of players. And then we have World of Warcraft, which only offers official ranks in the PvP arenas. Instead, they give players the tools to create their own leader boards and their own comparisons. Plenty of stats and achievements can be tracked from the armoury, and plenty of addons (gearscore?) and websites are adding in the ranking functionality that Blizzard have coyly abjured.
But in fact, players have been trying to write high score tables for raiding guilds ever since the first raids were introduced. Back then, life was simpler. Progression was mostly linear and so all you needed to know was the hardest boss that a guild had downed. With no server transfers, the server communities were more coherent and so each server would have its own raiding high score table. Beyond that, there was a lot of interest among the raid community in which servers were strongest overall, and which guilds were the world best.
Proof of kills was more awkward, and the internet meme of “screenshot or it didn’t happen” comes from those days. The ritual of the kill shot – getting your guild to line up in front of a dead monster and pose for a photo – was as much about proving to the rest of the community that you’d gotten the kill as providing nice material for the front page of the guild website.
In TBC, there was a lot more interest in automated guild ranking tables. With the armoury, it was possible to trawl everyone’s gear and the preferred sites used that to deduce what the guild had killed. i.e. if you are wearing loot from monster X, that means your guild killed it.
Although progression was a bit murkier, due to having multiple raid instances in some tiers, by the time the expansion moved on to the Sunwell, all was back to normal in the progression ranking world. There were question marks, even then, about how to grade 10 man ranking. For example, when a guild in purely 10 man gear beat Zul Aman in a timed run that was clearly a great and noteworthy achievement. But how to rank it in the tables? Was it on par with a world first kill of Illidan?
Achievements in Wrath have muddied the water yet again. Raid instances have varying types of hard modes. So in a raid like Ulduar or ICC where you can pick and choose which hard modes to do and in which order, how do you rank the first kills? Is a guild that killed the end boss first ranked higher than the guild which killed it second but got more hard modes along the way?
It’s an interesting question, and the guild rankers have tended to simply weight the raid achievements and add them in for a total score. And for more fun, see what happens when different guild ranking websites calculate the progression in different ways. Currently they do also track 10 man and 25 man progression separately but I’m not sure if they track progression for the pure 10 man guilds – it should be possible if you do heavy gear checking.
Here’s a couple of examples (these are the two big ranking sites that I know of):
And still, on the official server bboards, there are unofficial guild rankings based usually on the order in which guilds killed each boss.
Ranking in Cataclysm: Cat among the Pigeons
The big question for those who are interested in this type of thing is how guilds will be ranked in Cataclysm, when there will still be 10/25 man versions of each raid, but the loot will be identical so cannot be used to show who did what.
Or in other words, Blizzard are going to try to make the 10/25 man raids similar difficulty. It’s unlikely that this means exact equality so some fights will be easier/harder on 10 man than on 25. Gear drops will be the same, but presumably the different raids will have different achievements.
So how can you compare the progress of a strict 10 man raid guild to one which is able to hit 25 man bosses where they are easier and then switch back to 10 man for the next one? It will be interesting to see how this works out, because it will be instrumental in determining whether top guilds decide to trash 25 man runs altogether.