[WoW] To run or not to run, and the politics of good enough

Out of all the things I saw in WoW on returning recently, one has been the most surprising by far. After all these years, there’s STILL no consensus on whether or not to run back into an instance after a death/ wipe.

As a point of comparison, in both Rift and LOTRO, the player base (or at least the ones I associated with) only wanted the resser to run back. They see it as part of the healer/ resser’s job, it’s what they signed up for. If anyone else released and ran too, no one minded, but people would wonder why you’d bothered. They’d laugh one of those, “you’re weird,” laughs. Less so if you got lost on the way back.

Rift makes this simpler and quicker by allowing classes with a ressing soul (and spec) to switch specs after being ressed themselves so that they can help res others. It also lets everyone have one self res every 30 mins or so, which ressers tend to rotate (eg. I’ll soulwalk this time, save yours for the next wipe.) So you usually have more than one resser in a Rift group, and usually at least one of them can self res in situ so that no one has to run back.

LOTRO on the other hand likes to make recovery quicker by letting people who release in instances reappear just inside the instance entrance, a modification that I am amazed has never made it into WoW. But the culture in my server is also very clear that only the healer runs back after a wipe.

OK, so that’s the comparison. Now let me recount a couple of experiences in WoW PUGs this week.

1. The arsey healer

The instance was Blackrock Caverns, an instance notable for having quite a long run from the graveyard if you do release from inside it. My character got killed while fighting the first boss and the rest of the group seemed to be doing fine so I figured I’d just lie there and wait for a res afterwards. It wasn’t as if running back would really save any time and I’d probably get back at about the time it died anyway.

But after the boss died, the healer refused to res and instead had a small hairy fit aimed neatly in my direction for not running. “Fine,” I said, “Have it your way, I’ll run back now.”

So they all sat around while I ran back because that healer didn’t think ressing people who died during a fight was his job. I don’t know what would have needed to happen for him to actually use his res. Maybe if I’d died a split second before the boss did he’d have decided I ‘earned’ it. (Or, you know, maybe if he’d been more on the ball I might not have died in the first place.)

It’s not that I particularly enjoy lying on the ground during a boss fight. It’s very dull. But I don’t especially see why I should spend 5 mins running back from a graveyard when a healer could cast a 10s spell to have the same effect.

2. You can’t run here, this is bat country

So another instance or so later, in the Halls of Origination, I die on one of the optional bosses (probably because I had totally forgotten the strategy – does anyone else find that you can only keep so many strategies in your head at the same time? after that, you just forget them unless it’s a really memorable boss, which this wasn’t.). The rest of the group die too. I have already started running back, and find that the shaman had self-ressed and ressed everyone else by the time I got there.

“Why did you run?” they asked curiously.

“I like that you walk,” added the shaman, “But you didn’t have to.”

Valor points and the good enough doctrine

The trouble with WoW after a new patch, when new grinds have been added to the game, is that a lot of people feel a moral imperative to gather as many points/ badges per day as the game physically allows.

So for example, if WoW allows players to gather X Valor Points per week (which can be done by running a mixture of heroics and raids), ultra-keen people will feel that they are obliged to gather exactly X Valor points per week. Any less means that you’re a slacker. Any more means that you’re an idiot who is working harder than you need to.

And when earning X Valor Points would take more time per week than you have available, people start to crack under the strain. After all, how can you tell a hard working good player who is short on time apart from a slacker if not by the number of Valor Points per week they earn? Surely if you were really dedicated to your guild, you’d find the extra time to get those points. (This is sarcasm, btw.)

Anyhow, sensible people realise that good enough will have to be good enough and if you earn your points more slowly, all it means is that it takes a few more weeks to gear up. It isn’t the end of the world. (And most raid leaders would rather that you didn’t burn out chasing that last 0.1% of raid performance.)

Guild Mum discusses this pressure, and makes the smart decision:

I don’t have time to do dailies, raid AND max out my valor points. I’ve got 240 this week. That will have to do. I’m sorry – anything more is just too much work for me. It’s a GAME!

But it’s a shame that so many bloggers feel that they have to apologise for … being sensible.

WoW really is quite phenomenal (and not in a good way) by how pressured everyone feels to prove that they’re ‘a good player’ when in practice anyone can tell if you’re a decent player about 5 mins after being in a group with you.

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19 thoughts on “[WoW] To run or not to run, and the politics of good enough

  1. “…WoW really is quite phenomenal (and not in a good way) by how pressured everyone feels to prove that they’re ‘a good player’”

    You know, what I really would love to know here is why WoW of all games – if only you consider how accessible and main-stream friendly its content has become over the years. it’s not ‘hard’ to progress, to ‘do enough’ in WoW.

    A seriously baffling dynamic.

    • It is an interesting question. I suspect it’s related to Blizzard in general, because all of their most successful games have made use of ladders and comparisons to keep people interested and competitive (I’m thinking of Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo 2, etc).

  2. “But after the boss died, the healer refused to res and instead had a small hairy fit aimed neatly in my direction for not running.”

    I don’t understand this attitude. If the healer’s alive at the end of the fight, it’s practically their duty to res the dead.

    Of course, if all the people who can res have died during the fight, then sure, all the dead folks need to release and run back rather than lazily waiting for a res, but that’s an entirely different situation, and I suspect the arsey healer was getting the two confused.

    • For me, what Andy said pretty much sums it up: if I’m alive I’ll probably just res my fallen comrades because it’ll be quicker, but if we wipe, I’d expect everyone to release and run if I have to.

      I tend to imagine that either the other person is sitting staring blankly at a dialog box waiting for me to help them or they’ve gone afk to do something else. I’m neutral towards the former and slightly annoyed by the implication of the latter that my time is somehow less valuable than theirs.
      I also generally feel like the group should at least be willing to shoulder some of the burdens (time, effort, maybe gold for water) of running and ressing.

      That said, I’ve long since given up on actually staring down people who take a different view, especially since the cross-server LFG system was introduced and mixed very diverse server cultures. I do make exceptions though for people who are actively obnoxious or arrogant, and for my pet hate of other people going for a “smoko” while I patiently run in.

  3. I always run, unless someone explicitly says “don’t bother”; it’s just instinct I suppose. I’d be particularly annoyed in games like Rift if the healer was expected to do everything, because, well, that’s even less the dps have to do.

    And, besides, in most cases its generally faster for everyone to run back because then there isn’t the arduous process of drinking, rezzing, drinking, buffing, everyone else healing/eating, then setting off.

    Also: I don’t think it’s a community thing, the whole points=must have issue. Methinks it’s directly Blizzard’s fault for placing so much emphasis (this expansion and in Wrath) on acquiring the next thing. People feel (rightly) that they aren’t playing the game as the developer intended if they aren’t getting all the badges they can.

    • The thing with Rift is that most classes can quickly respec to a utility or healing spec if needed. Chances are you’ll have several people in a group who could do that. But honestly the groups I ran with there thought it was silly to have any more people running back than strictly necessary, it was an interestingly different perspective.

  4. If it’s a wipe, everyone should run back. Because it usually ends up being quicker than one guy running back and ressing everyone. Also, not running back suggests to me you’re also too lazy to not stand in the fire or do proper DPS.

    If there’s still people alive, they should rez. Because this also ends up being quicker.

  5. I find WoW made of a community whose quite happy to tell others how they pull themselves up with their own bootstraps without pulling their own fingers out to help out. And to make it worse, everyone has their own understanding and interpretations of this. Your example, Spinks I think aptly exposes this. This is something I’ve rarely found with the community in City of Heroes and LoTRO.

    I think WoW players must assumes everyone else has some sort of punch card that they have to clock in after upon entering the log’in screen. I can assure them no such device exists. Just saying.

  6. I’ve found the different rez cultures interesting as well. I generally prefer people run back as it saves time on full wipes. When I’m the only one going in/rezzing I’ve also found my team ends up utilizing these little mini-breaks, and I’m just supposed to hold it! I’m calling foul!

    However, refusing to rez a player when I’m standing over their body is just ridiculous.

  7. In Rift, every calling now has a rez available. By the time a character is level 50, there’s very little excuse not so have a spec with bard/chloromancer/paladin/some sort of cleric healing in at least ONE of your slots. I’m not saying people should have to run the entire dungeon in one of those specs if they’d rather be DPS… but they should at least have it available so they can take their turn rezzing.

    On the other hand, if everyone in the group is that competent and thoughtful you probably won’t NEED to take turns rezzing :)

  8. On a wipe, if someone doesn’t run back, I rez them and ask them to please run back with the rest of us next time. I’m not snotty about it, and I rez them first so they know it’s not meant to be a threat, but I like to share the wealth when it comes to pointless running around (you’re right – why hasn’t WoW adopted that LotRO feature?). If someone dies during a pull or boss fight that we finish, I rez them without comment (unless it’s to apologize if I feel I caused their death). I’ve never heard of or seen a healer refuse to rez in that circumstance. Arsey indeed.

  9. It depends on how the fight is going whether I run or not. But if I’m healing, I always run, and I always rez.

    And yesh on the grinding thing. I figured out that between hyjal dailies and running instances on two characters, I could be playing for several hours each night just doing “Chores”. Bugger that for a game of soldiers, I’ll do that if I’ve nothing better to do, but if something more fun comes along, well, it’s a game!

  10. “…WoW really is quite phenomenal (and not in a good way) by how pressured everyone feels to prove that they’re ‘a good player’”

    This is because the playerbase, culture, and devs all have put forth a mighty effort to belittle anyone that is not perfect. The word ‘bads’ and ‘fail’ and ‘don’t stand in the fire’ go along with ‘hardcore’ and ‘hard modes’.

    Combine this with mathematical matrices required to gear/enchant properly with an addon that analyzes all of that into a nice neat number – and if you aren’t high enough – then you don’t measure up.

    Further on top of this add in a built in ranking system that shows your ‘overall gear level’ and fights that are tuned so tight at the high end that the overall description of the encounters is ‘synchronized dancing’.

    Put all of this together in a pot and you get an MMO where

    a) The rest of the gaming world considers the worst part of the game not the game – but the players

    b) Players that are so paranoid of being labeled ‘a bad’ that they are paranoid and at the same time vicious to others in an attempt to prove how much you are ‘a bad’ before you can label them.

    And here is how pervasive that this culture is – 3 out of 4 of the WoW *specific* blogs that I read have talked about ‘the bads’ (yes just like that – or ‘a baddie’) just in the past 2 weeks.

    Words matter – they carry weight – and this kind of culture is self destructive – when asking what will kill WoW – it won’t be the gameplay – the game is fun – it won’t be Blizzard – it is the players themselves – although I put Bliz at a close second as they encourage this culture – just look at the names of the achievements – and yes I know that they are ‘sarcastic’ – but Bliz is the authority figure in this relationship and when they use the terms they legitimize them.

    • Excellent comment, Delurm.

      This specific quality of the playerbase — the arrogance and aggressive one-upmanship and cookiecutterizing of what’s considered to be good– is what has turned me off from LFG, and overall decreased my play time.

  11. I wanted so much to prove how great a player I was that I quit this game.

    The game simultaneously encourages group play but at the same time sets players against one another. The attitude from Blizzard has been a bit backstabby to the people/players who pay them money. I think people are starting to wise up and leave. Not in great masses but enough that Blizzard had to turn LvL1-20 free and give free weeks to the ones who left.

  12. Our guild in WoW is very much close friends and ‘friends of friends’ so we generally don’t have any problems with this. I do think everyone should run if it’s a full wipe but of course I and our other healers will res without any fuss if we survive a partial-wipe.

    As for the community in WoW I agree with others that it’s super-competitive. We tolerate zero pressure re: progression in the guild – the game is a game and we play to have fun not to achieve any goals/timetable set by Blizzard or any other players. We recently recruited someone after running some heroics with them and in the end it didn’t work out – they left since we’re not running heroics often enough for the VP. No hard feelings on our side and understandable but for me personally and the other leaders in the guild this almost fanatical drive towards progress is just something alien to our idea of a game.

  13. I thought there was a consensus on whether to run or not and a simple one too: Either nobody runs or everyone does. I. e. if there is a resser alive or can self-res as the shaman, they will res everyone; if everyone capable of ressing dies, all dead people run.

    Sometimes, you don’t get ressed even if you normally would but it is usually due to two reasons:
    1) The ressers decided to be rude to you (either they’re just rude or they are fed up with your behaviour).
    2) The ressers are busy; res takes about 10 seconds and some time to restore mana – if there is no pause between combat or if it diverted their attention from other group members who are pushing forward, they might not be able to res you.

  14. Shamans never SAY when they can pop and res people, and I have a quick trigger finger on that release button when I can see it is a wipe. When I’m alive and ressing people, I prioritise and res first people who can help me res, then mana users especially if I know they have a lot to do to get combat-ready (warlocks omg I need my pet and my mana and my soulstone and my healthstone and my soul shards and to buff myself and my pet and DI someone omg).

    I’ve had people run back mid-boss-fight and save the day, thanks, random warrior in Grim Batol who died twice but enabled us to finish the fight.

  15. Quick rule of thumb is, if the rezzer has to run back, so do you. If not, then don’t. That’s basically it.

    It’s considered pretty douchebag behavior to lie there relaxing while the healer runs back, sits down to get some mana, rezzes you, heals you up, then sits down again to get some more mana.

    If the rezzer is right there alive and well, then it’s a waste of time making everyone wait while you run back. The only time you need to do so is if there is no one alive to rez you.

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