Thought of the day: More on social responsibility

I’ve been quite interested in the debates Tobold has been having with all and sundry lately on the subject of social responsibility in MMOs.

My personal view is that the only ‘social responsibility’ any player has is just not to go out of their way to chase anyone else out of the game. I will talk more about this later this week, because I’m interested in the notion of building social capital in games and I think devs should be also.

But for now, I have to wonder how many of the people who come out of the woodwork to argue that it’s socially responsible to play support classes or to only queue for randoms if you are ‘a good player‘  (but how are newbies supposed to learn? Not everyone learns best from reading written guides …) actually consider social responsibilities like helping newbies to integrate, or  care about their social responsibilities in real life …

16 thoughts on “Thought of the day: More on social responsibility

  1. Tobold may have gone too far, but “don’t drive people away” is far too little. Just yesterday my alt ended up in a group with a DK who was DPS in blood presence. The priest tried to get us to just ignore it, but I insisted that it is not kind to leave a person ignorant, and it is not kind to leave someone ignorant who is going to be playing with others. That is harming them and future players.

    I can understand letting it go if it was something small like inconsistent disease application or not always assisting the tank, bad behavior, but not so bad to be worth stopping the group or starting a fight. But the wrong presence is a major problem, a major damage loss, a huge irritation for the tank, stress on the healer. Leaving that alone and pretending it’s minor just reinforces it.

    We’re in a group game and players need to think of what they’re doing with others in those groups.

    • Thing is, players do have tools to deal with that. Just boot them. (The guys who flout the boot rules by frex going afk at the instance entrance ARE more of a problem.)

      You might not WANT to deal with it but you basically accept responsibility for dealing with people using tools available when you click on LFD, is the way I see it.

  2. I’m not sure I would say that standard is the correct standard, however I would agree if it was slightly changed.

    “Moderators will enforce a standard of “Don’t drive people away” as a minimum behavior level”

    What the mod’s will enforce is going to be very important, if you look at League of Legends, for example, people know that they wont receive serious bans for a certain level of behavior and flaunt this knowledge even while breaking the rules. How often in trade chat has someone mocked a 12 hour ban they got for various violations?

    I strongly believe it’s a lemming effect, if you slap down the 1% of assholes so that they learn to keep their trap shut the 30% of people that follow them to dickheadland will stop doing so and the net effect is a much happier game.

  3. That sounds reasonable. I’m generally encouraging in normals, willing to explain fights and make suggestions if people want them. I’ll boot you if you don’t listen or want to improve. I’m playing a tank right now, but as DPS (previously), I used the queue time to get stuff done. As a tank, I find myself lacking that time and I sort of miss it hehe.

    Tobold should have left it at: If you don’t want 40 minute queue times, play a tank or healer – otherwise suck it up (or be productive with it; dailies or resource farming).

    • That sounds perfectly fair to me too.

      I do think it’s silly for Tobold to encourage competent dps to queue as tank/ healer instead (although a lot of them probably do to avoid queues anyway). Someone who can do decent dps and get their CC/interrupts right and knows the fight can actually make up for at least one other person in group who isn’t very good. So it’s actually very socially responsible for good dps to queue in their best instance spec and suck up the long queues.

  4. The more I think about this issue, the more I see it as WoW-specific. The current MMO-space is extremely weird in that the one example of the genre that is indisputibly ahead of all the rest in profitability and presence is nevetheless almost completely unrepresentative of the genre.

    The issue of “social responsibility” in this context appears to derive from a combination of the Dungeon Finder mechanic, GearScore, the DPS Rotation and Heroic Dungeons. Other MMOs have some of these but only WoW has all of them and only WoW appears to make such a huge deal about what they all mean.

    As many have pointed out, if you select and build your groups in the traditional manner, the whole problem goes away. Similarly, if you can’t see exactly how much damage everyone is doing on a table, or rate their equipment numerically with an add-on, it’s a lot harder to say, categorically, that someone is a bad player.

    A few games still seem to be chasing WoW, but I have a strong feeling that the center of gravity for new MMO design is spiralling away to somewhere else. For several years designers have tried to clone WoW’s success and all of them have failed. I have a strong feeling that WoW is going to end up beached in a happy place, filled with money, but on its own.

    • I need to think more about this, but my first thought is that you’re probably right. It is definitely partly the LFD, which has made grouping way more accessible and especially to people who don’t have the time (or confidence) to spend creating a group from scratch. But also partly the way Blizzard, by design, has pushed the difficulty up on 5 mans so that your chances of success are increasingly dependent on every person in that group being the equivalent of a raid-ready player (ie. hardcore accomplished). And in particular in Cataclysm, the increased emphasis on dps means that the option really doesn’t exist of playing a laid back support class who can focus on one or two buffs/ crowd control and experienced players would STILL be happy to have you along.

      Or in other words, Blizzard has made it harder and harder for players of mixed skill and experience to play together.

      I’ve certainly played MMOs which were far far more relaxed about grouping, either because they didn’t have fixed group sizes so you could always just invite more people, or the group roles were designed so that there was a role for casual players in groups who weren’t interested in minmaxing, or they were less addon/damage meter focussed. So yeah, I think Blizzard’s design plays into this. They’ve managed to make a game designed around the hardcore which is still played by masses of casual players.

      I think it’s had a bad effect on the MMO player base in general in that people are FAR too focussed on being ‘pro’ (this is where you get ‘pro’ support players who want a design where the best support spec involves gimping your class for everything else, so that the hoi polloi will shy off encroaching on the terrain of ‘pro healers’ et al) and far too little focussed on the social challenges of building groups and alliances and seeing the players you have as an asset to be used to your faction’s best advantage.

      • DPS metres!

        Something I’ve gone back to really enjoying not having to deal with.

        DPSmetres are… horrible things. Or well. A single factor that can turn slowly into a Horrible Thing. One of the glaring differences (and Recount was always one of the first addons I downloaded!) I’m seeing now in GW, after a month to see Cataclysm then going home is… what a horrible effect DPSmetres have on mindsets.

        With DPSmetres, suddenly being good is doing more damage than everyone else, and damn the consequences. No! Can’t waste time CCing or anything, can’t buff anyone else, because that might take away time from my almighty DPSmetre score!

        Yes, I’m exaggerating – but that DPSmetre stuff is also something that particularly struck me about WoW, and WoW’s entire combat architecture, when I was running Domain of Anguish with 2 friends in GW last night.

        That is, even though WoW encourages team play on the surface, the very construction of the classes and builds encourage solo play. That is, everyone plays as an autonomous unit within the group, caring only for their own cooldowns and buffing their own roles. Tanks and healers too.

        I’m not explaining this very well, I’m afraid. But it’s things like… how GW has a spell called ‘Splinter Weapon’ that when cast on a target, makes each of their physical attacks hit 4 other targets, for x number hits. And the damage/DPS boost is attributed to the target, not the caster. This sort of spell is VERY common in GW. And really, all you have to give up to bring it is one slot on your 8-skill skillbar.

        In WoW, the only thing I can think of that comes readily/easily to mind, that buffs someone else, and gives them the benefit in terms of numbers, is Power Infusion. And you have to go pretty deep into the Disc tree to get that. Basically, (I don’t think) you would have that without being a Disco-preet.

        I guess what I’m trying to say is one of the things I didn’t like about WoW was how, when it comes down to the actual nitty-gritty of it, team play is NOT built into the system and NOT encouraged on a truly fundamental level. (Bear in mind, I played WoW for 3 years – Vanilla to end of TBC – before moving to GW.) And it’s this very obsessive individuality built into the system that, paired with DPSmetres, encourages mindsets which are counterproductive to achieving team play and spirit.

        This is something inherent in the architecture itself though, and there’s no point or purpose in railing against it. Either you can accept this kind of play, and enjoy it, or you can’t.

        Hope this gave a slightly different perspective as to why DPSmetres can be da ooky. =)

        DPSMetres tend to encourage selfish play.

        *waddly nugget waddles off, leaving another crumbly battery wall of text in her wake*

  5. Imagine you do select and build your group in the most traditional manner possible, getting 4 real life friends together for a project where you level up grouping together. You ask who wants to play what, and all 5 want to play a dps. What do you do?

    I think most people in that situation would clearly see that two of the five friends will have to switch to tank and healer, otherwise their project to play together is a non-starter.

    • I haven’t seen that, but I HAVE seen groups of friends where two (or more) people wanted to play a healer. What would you advise them? Or what if the person in the group of friends who wants to tank turns out to be really really bad at it?

      • Ha, and in fact, the game will let you roll with two healers if you do it the conventional way, and it will work out fine. Most problems really do evaporate if you build your groups by hand.

      • The problem I’ve mostly had with two healers is that they get annoyed at each other for healing each other’s targets, particularly if your group very obviously does not need two healers. Healers often like to feel needed and if they are very obviously not needed they will get pissy and not have fun.

        What I’m getting at, and you’re avoiding, is that a large part of the problem is WoW’s insistance that a group of 5 must be made up of 1 tank, 1 healer, and 3 dps. So if your 5 friends had other ideas, you’re going to struggle. And if no one wants to tank then you need to GUILT someone into doing it whether they want to or not. You can play around with the numbers if people are playing hybrids, but WoW has deliberately made it harder and harder to do so — frex you can’t make a proper hybrid build any more even if you wanted to.

        I think this problem is getting worse in MMOs and its because people are more and more likely to enter the game with a premade group or guild including people they already know. Back in the day, my memory is that we’d be more likely to actually meet people in game and build groups that way, so players would have been experimenting with classes and would have already picked one they liked by the time you met them. This is more like going into things blind, or picking classes based on what you liked before or how the descriptions sound, which isn’t always the best way to make decisions. You can easily end up with one guy in your group who ALWAYS plays the tank and one who ALWAYS plays the healer. And I’d argue that’s possibly bad for burnout (people can get bored of the same roles, esp if they want to try tanking or healing but their fixed group can’t allow it) or encouraging more people to try those roles.

    • Problem is unless those 2 friends find they like tanking or healing, chances are the little bubble of friends will bust. I’ve seen it many times. You can’t force people to like a class: if they don’t, those friends will find they will level separately, get new friends, or quit the game.

      I’ve also seen the flip side or your argument in FFXI: crappy players picking a healer, tank, or support class and getting carried by the DPS. Depending on the instance or leveling, it can be possible to make mediocre progress through brute force DPS, especially if the DPS is an offtank.

      FFXI took it to a whole new level: it was possible to remove both tanks and healers from the equation entirely:

      Burn party: 3 DPS bouncing hate, two pulling and CC support, one healer.

      Pet Party: 3-6 pet jobs, no tanks or healers.

      Even in some endgame instances, these worked.

      I think the problem is that WoW really is a crappy game in terms of mechanics, with little to no options in the hamster wheel they call raids for variant playstyles to emerge. It takes the diku mud model, ruthlessly pares it down, and loses all the variations the old model had for class utility.

  6. In our last friends levelling groups we had two druids and two pallies, that way we were never short on tanks/healers, it was very easy doing dungeons. However, on the social responsiblity side I play games to have fun, generally if I am healing it feels more like work, especially when bad players are being bad players. I shouldn’t be penalised for picking a support class rather than the “all-star DPS”but when I play DPS I feel more relaxed about doing things than when I choose to do either of the other two roles. I play my games to relax after working all day.

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