Ancient roles, and non-negotiation in instance groups part 2

Back in the day, some character classes were known as group friendly classes, and others were solo friendly. The group friendly ones were typically tanks, healers and support classes and they usually had fairly poor dps and were slow at soloing. The others were the dps classes. Group friendly classes asserted their importance in groups because … they couldn’t really do much outside groups. Their whole game depended on being needed in groups. A solo archer could happily knock out the odd level or two, a solo healer was a joke. People used to take pity on their guild healers by helping them ‘solo’.

It’s worth noting this because the idea that tanks and healers are group oriented and dps are solo oriented is rooted very deep in the history of MMOs. This didn’t stop them all being able to work together as a group when needed, older games also had group content that required this. On the other hand, older games also had more downtime so people had time to talk, to discuss their roles, and so on. Plus groups used to go on for hours – it was more a case of camping a location until people got bored rather than going through a directed instance.

So what does this all mean today? Just that if no one wants to talk in a group, then the default position is for people to fall into traditional roles. Tam argues that tanks have some kind of divine right and the only way for dps to assert themselves in groups is to do something dickish. (I would argue that using phrases like divine right is encouraging people to feel oppressed when it’s really just a stupid instance group that doesn’t want to talk to each other.)

But how should decisions be made in a group where the majority don’t care, don’t want to talk and (presumably) just want to get on with it? Standing around trying to decide while the people take the opportunity to each express their own individuality by pulling random trash mobs is probably not going to please anyone. Although who knows … maybe that’s the way the genre is going?

A more pressing issue is simply that some people really do prefer to run instances at different rates. There are definitely players who would be more comfortable chatting for a couple of minutes before each pull and who feel disempowered by the whole LFD/ PUG experience. You won’t see them much in LFD because they either avoid it (probably the correct answer — much better to go with friends who use that style) or sit through the whole thing uncomfortably cowering in terror.

18 thoughts on “Ancient roles, and non-negotiation in instance groups part 2

  1. Perhaps Blizzard could add mutually exclusive “Go, Go, Go!” and “Slow, Slow, Slow!” tick boxes to the LFD interface.

    Because some days you want to go slow, and other days you just want to go go.

  2. Joking aside I’m with Melm.

    ‘cos somedays I’m happy to pewpew from the back with my uber geared raider and somedays I’m happy to sit and chill. But mostly if I wants to chill I do it with some mates…

  3. If tanking came with divine rights, pulling dps-classes and healers supporting we would have had more than one headline like “Mage got stuck by divine lightning”.
    But these are heretic times.

  4. You’re right, it was probably a slightly over-rhetoricised phrase but I thought it was cool 🙂 Also I wasn’t talking about any specific group, I was talking about LFG in general, and I’d read several posts this week about tanks and healers basically running roughshod over the DPS, and the DPS not being able to do much about it, except drop group and wait another 30 minutes, hoping for better. I thought that was interesting in the context of Frostgate, which is arguably the story of a DPS who took being a dick to the next level. I wasn’t trying to kick start a revolution, just to … think about things from a different perspective.

    Also I think I was mainly talking about situations that have already gone wrong – of course everybody wants to just blitz through a dungeon with the minimum fuss (I feel the same way) and it makes entirely practical sense that the tank sets the pace, decides the route, etc. etc. etc. – it makes everyone’s life easier, including the tank’s. But when things do go wrong, “negotiation” largely occurs through displays of power, not communication, and tanks and healers have accepted ways to make themselves heard – usually by stopping doing their job, which has negative consequences for everyone else. DPS not so much.

    The thing is, I don’t see it as the difference between a swift, soul-less run and a warm, fuzzy run, nobody in their right either expects or wants the warm fuzzies from LFG. But I think in agreeing to swift and soul-less you don’t also agree to ill-treatment or, for that matter, compensating for the idiocy or inconsideration of others. A DPS who won’t let the tank pull does not contribute to swift and soul-less, he contributes to fucking annoying, and damages overall group efficiency. But the same token, a tank who wastes time criticising the gear or the DPS output or the personal habits of another member of the group (I have seen some horrendous things said in party) is not contributing to swift and soul-less either. And anybody who tries to bulldoze other members of the party into doing things they explicitely didn’t want to – achis, for example, or arguably optional bosses – is once more breaking the implicit LFG contract. The preference for efficiency should not give people an excuse to exploit, or abuse, others. And sorry to use such strong language but since I have been in groups where one member of the group has been repeatedly calling another member of the group a cunt and a fag, I could term that abuse.

    Equally (sorry, this is long, I should probably piss off and write another blog post) the thing about a non-communicative space is that it still has power structures built into it. Take, for example, the notion that a DPS wants to do a random achi – I you yourself have arged that this is something he should do with guildies, not LFG. And he says “can we do [blah]” and you say “I’d rather not” and the group proceeds in silence after that. The fact the group does speak indicates neutrality or disinterest but if you find yourself at the required boss and either the tank or the DPS suddenly start lining up for the achi you’re then in a very difficult position. You can drop group without a word, of course, which will make you feel guilty and would open you to a charge of dickishness from many people. You could protest and thus, again, break the efficiency clause of the LFG contract (which, admittedly, has already been broken but, again, people will generally cut you no slack on this account). Or – the path of least resistence – is that you shut up and do it, even though you didn’t want to and explicitely said so. In which case you’ve kind of been manipulated into it by social discomfort.

    Of course, your options are again moderated by your role. If you’re a tank and the DPS set up an achi you didn’t want to do, you could happily stand at the back with your arms folded and watch him die. The DPS would not be best pleased and some people might consider it dickish but I reckon enough would say “Good for you.” Again, if you’re a healer you can do something similar and not heal – the same applies. But if you’re a DPS? Hmm …well … you could head off on your own and try to solo the instance, I suppose? And we all know what happens if you try to do that.

    Equally if you do end up dropping the group for the sake of your principles, as a tank or a healer you’ve got, what, about 10 minutes of debuff and straight into another instance. If you’re the DPS you’ve got 10 minutes of debuff and maybe 30 minutes of queue.

    And I’m not trying to be all “awww, those poor widdle DPS”, I’m just … thinking aloud really.

    • I do agree that tanks/healers have the opportunity to piss people off in a passive-aggressive way (as well as the usual aggressive-aggressive way), but people in the comments in your thread just all seem SO bent out of shape. It just seems out of all proportion to me. Granted I see very few horrid tanks since I’m usually tanking but even on my alts, I’m not seeing this as a massive major deal.

      I do get the power struggle over whether to do an achievement or not. But then again, we come back to how should you make a decision in that circumstance?

      I think there is also an underlying question as to whether games should offer a role to people who want lower stress. And what happens when you pick a class for flavour reasons and find out that the role at endgame is one you don’t enjoy (should future games disengage the role from the class more? Or would that kill class flavour totally?)

      And also, although I see some dps complain that they don’t like how the roles worked out, I do think most tanks and healers specifically chose that spec because they prefer the more active role. It’s one of the appeals. If I can’t control the group then I definitely won’t tank, because what’s the point?

  5. You’re probably spot on about this being a symptom of how the entire genre is developing; there’s so many aspects in WoW that already scream “massively single-player online game” and the LFG tool has certainly taken this to new heights for the entire genre. So why wonder if people also start acting that way? many people only behave cooperatively if they need to / are forced to by outside factors such as shared want or distress.

    sad but true.

    • And many people resent being forced to rely on others, and if they do play with others, they treat them as the annoyance they are. There’s a spectrum of reasons for why people don’t get along. It’s not always what we might think.

  6. Many people do behave cooperatively even if they are not forced too. It is most often a minority (e.g 1 out of 5 and not even in all LFG that I experienced) who can “screw” it up for the rest.

    I therefore, and have said so before, support the concept melmoth already mentioned (and I like the name of for the ‘swift and soulless option’) “Go, Go, Go” and “Relaxed & Social”-indicator in the LFG button. A tool to discourage grieving might be needed as well (e.g. maybe a 30 min debuff or a vote&report function).

  7. I think the routine of daily dungeons is the biggest part of the problem. By this stage the routine is staid and people just log on and want it done right away, and woe betide anyone to interrupt the schedule.

    I’m fearing the same thing is going to happen in Lotro, because of people ‘needing’ to grind for superior third marks, it does appear to be going that way by looking at the GlobalLFF, which when I first joined was shocked how alike it was to trade chat in WOW at times.

    I like the idea of dailies but they need to be genuine challenges or different ways to approach a dungeon, that need co-ordination and to change them up every few months, not extra reward for being a creature of routine.

  8. When I sign up for LFD I expect each of the people to perform their roles, I don;t think this is unfair. However, it seems that others have differeing expectatations or just join in to be assholes. I’ve noticed a trend recently of tanks joining instances and then just AFKing, I had an UP group where we took down the first boss and the tank just stood there not saying a word not evening clicking need/greed on any loot, I dropped group after several minutes of non-communication. Happened again later on with a Forge of Souls group, tank took out the first pair of mobs and then said “brb” never to return until we voted him out for AFK. I believe that due to the need for tanks and the fact they can get a group virtually instantly they are messing with DPS players that have to wait a substantial time for their dungeons to pop. After recently picking my Shaman back up I’m re-gearing her and running back to back dungeons is the fastest way, having to stop for people being asshats is not making me a happy gamer and I don’t have a guild to turn to either.

  9. Pingback: Thought of the Day: On elitism and speed runs « Welcome to Spinksville!

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