A damage meter is an addon which informs on how much damage everyone in your group or raid has been doing. They have other settings also – you can usually track healing, dispelling, and a variety of other interesting statistics. A very full-featured damage meter like Recount can also tell you which skills each person used most often and illustrate it with funky pie charts.
And like gearscore, the damage meter addons have become so popular that it isn’t unusual for people to boot others from instance runs purely on the basis of the damage meter output without taking into account other factors. For example, just because an overgeared tank can put out 4k dps, it’s not fair to expect a newly 80 dps class to put out the same amount. And as another example, the dps meter doesn’t take into account any time spent buffing, crowd controlling, or doing anything valuable which doesn’t contribute dps.
So why do we need damage meters?
1. It makes the game more fun for DPS players
Playing dps in an MMO isn’t a role which offers a lot of feedback. When a tank or healer fails, they will know immediately. But as dps, you are one of many people all hitting the same enemy. You can even just stand at the back, switch on auto attack and read email, and no one will notice. I know for example on my warlock, once mobs are gathered for an AE and I’m channelling rain of fire, I have 6s to quickly switch windows and check twitter. I mean, hypothetically of course :P
The damage meters give players the feedback which they cannot get via the game interface. And lots of it. Suddenly dps players have a constant source of challenge in the game. They can try to beat the other dps players, or even just try to beat their own previous high damage score on a fight.
Instead of being bored (or as well as being bored in some cases) the damage meters give 19th run of the same instance some more meaning. It’s a constant challenge to try harder, to position better, to stay alive longer and to show the results in terms of more damage.
2. Raid leaders can figure out who needs to improve
Imagine you are leading a 25 man raid. Your raid wipes because they hit a hard enrage timer and you are pretty sure that the problem is just that your raid is not putting out enough dps.
This is quite a common issue. But there are 15 dps players and you don’t know which one/s are the issue. If you did, you could dig deeper – is it a spec issue, a rotation, poor gear, bad reactions? The person can work on their play. And it might be something very simple for them to change.
Better analytics via a damage meter (and a log parser) can provide a lot of helpful information. Morale improves when players know exactly what the issue is that each one might need to work on, it’s much more productive than yelling at 15 people, “just …. do better!!!”.
3. Players can learn from each other
Sometimes you will be in a group with another player who has the same class. But the damage meter says that they’re doing much more damage than you are. Why might that be? Trying to answer that question might involve inspecting the other guy’s gear and spec. It might involve checking via damage meter which abilities he is using most often. It might even involve just asking him for advice.
But without the damage meter to show that the other guy is getting better damage outcomes, a player won’t even know to look for pointers. Sometimes, knowing someone is a better player means that we can try to learn by copying what they do.
I also know that when I first started raid healing on my priest, many moons ago, I learned a lot from comparing the healing and overhealing on my meters to everyone else (overhealing was a factor back then). And even better, I could tell when I was improving.
Issues with Damage Meters
So damage meters definitely make the game more fun for a lot of people. The three factors above represent very real problems which damage meters help to solve.
But the underlying issue is that people don’t use their damage meters wisely, they aren’t good at interpreting the results or taking account of other factors, and Wrath design is heavily skewed towards raw damage being the most effective strategy in many fights. And also, the competitive side of damage meters brings out all the morons.
MMOs for me were more fun when they weren’t just about the damage. I think the damage meters make for a ruder population. I prefer the atmosphere in games which don’t offer them.
But they do serve some very important functions, I’ve used them to become a better player in WoW, and you can too.