When expectations change

Tobold wrote about a week ago about players and their sense of entitlement. Do players have a right to feel entitled to easy levelling, easy loot, and accessible raiding, or is it just as much a sense of entitlement if the hardcore feel entitled to always be a quantum leap ahead of the rest?

The word entitlement implies a sense of  rights. For example,  I have statutory rights as an employee, as a consumer, and as a British citizen. Those rights are enshrined in (local) law. So as a consumer, I’m entitled to buy items that are fit for purpose – and if they aren’t, I can go argue my case in court and the state will back me up if I’m right.

In a computer game, we don’t  have rights in the same sense.  No one is entitled to anything beyond their standard consumer rights when they buy a game. What we do have, however, is a sense of expectation. If I buy a book and I don’t like it, my consumer rights aren’t breached because the book being fit for purpose doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to be a cult classic. It just means that it has pages with words/ pictures on them and can be read (note: insert legal definition of book here if you are feeling pedantic). If the book radically fails to  fit the description on the jacket then maybe, just maybe, I have a case. But if my expectations are shattered then I won’t buy another book by the same author (unless they are shattered in a good way.)

But what expectation do players have from MMOs? The box and advertising will tell you a lot about what it is possible to do in the game, but cannot guarantee that you will be able to do those things, because many of them require the cooperation of other players. That’s  the one thing that no one can sell you, unless the box specifically states, “bring some friends.”

So maybe you go in, sold on the idea that you can create a character of your own to explore and adventure in the virtual world, and meet other people. Those are reasonable expectations. Everyone will be able to do that. But what then? Will the game allow you to finish all of its content, or will some be locked to specific groups of people or need commitments of time or money? If you see someone wearing a cool outfit, will your character also be able to get one? If you read about something fun that another player did, will you be able to do that also?

In a single player game, the answer may well be ‘yes,’ depending on the difficulty and time required. In an MMO, it may also be ‘yes,’ depending on the difficulty, time required, and other players required. But the ‘other players may be required’ is part and parcel of having massive games.

Still, where do the expectations come from of:

  1. Hardcore raiders will become the nobility of the game?
  2. All players will be able to do everything?

The answer is, those expectations come from within the game itself. No one went into their first MMO with any assumptions beyond, “Cool! I can create a character and go explore this virtual world with other people in it.” The assumption that people who put more work into their virtual characters will become more powerful in the virtual world is just a case of people mirroring real world assumptions – that’s not really surprising in itself, but it is the game play that determines what forms of  ‘virtual work’ are most valuable in the game. In a strongly social game, that would mean time and effort spent in politicking and socialising. In a WoW-type MMO it could mean hardcore raiding, or beating the economy.

Expectations can change, or be changed. In Warcraft, each patch has changed the expectations of the player base for the future of the game. If casual players feel more entitled to raids, loot, and achievements, that’s because Blizzard has indicated that this is how the game is now played. It isn’t a sense of entitlement that came out of nowhere. Back in the days of Vanilla WoW there were complaints about raid inaccessibility, but I don’t recall anyone ever expecting that the majority of the player base should or could raid. Similarly, if the hardcore players feel a sense of entitlement, that didn’t come out of nowhere either. The first few years of the game indicated that Blizzard intended a class based playerbase with hardcore at the top. They put dedicated hours into the game on that understanding. Both parties have good reasons for their expectations, but they cannot both be met at the same time.

The developers decide what players are or aren’t entitled to. So when a game changes to the extent that Warcraft has, it isn’t surprising that everyone is on edge. No one knows what their assumptions should be any more. People cling to the last patch as either an aberration that will be fixed in the future, or the shape of things to come. And so we pick apart the discarded musings of the blue posters (official Blizzard posters) as if we could divine the future from their entrails. Our rights in the game may depend upon it.

Dual specs bringing back the hybrids?

Back from holiday now and catching up properly on other blogs, I am seeing a lot of reactions to dual specs. I’m surprised that so many of them are negative for the wrong reasons.

Good reasons to dislike dual specs:

  • They encourage people to act differently than before they were available, and the way in which they act differently is bad for the blogger or bad for the game.

Bad reasons to dislike dual specs:

  • Some totally different reason that you’re going to hang on dual specs, even though a moment’s thought would show that they’re not connected.

Comments from Tobold’s Sunday Post referred to a couple of posts on dual specs.

Forever a noob posts a top class rant that shows mostly that he’s never played a hybrid.

Are you a paladin or warrior in a progression-minded raiding guild?  Better buy some bigger bags.  Because your raid leader is going to FORCE you to carry two or three sets of gear into raids.  Anub’rekhan needs two or three tanks, but Maexxna needs only one.  If dual-spec were around when Naxx came out, anyone who was not the main tank would have been REQUIRED to switch spec to dps after the Anub’rekhan fight.  And you’d better have good gear for both specs.

I have news for you sweetie. Any paladin or warrior who has raided in a progression minded guild is laughing at that comment, because what do you think we do NOW when we have a fight that only needs one tank? I’ll tell you what we do. We switch gear and do rubbish dps/heals. All that dual spec means is that we’ll be able to switch gear and do good dps/heals instead. This is a problem why exactly?

Imagine that you are a resto druid.  And you really like healing.  How will you respond when your raid leader says, “We don’t need three healers for this fight.  I need you to respec to Feral for dps.”

You’d ask if one of the other healers could do it instead. They all will have the ability to swap to a dps spec.

But my main issue with the argument is this: that situation could come up now. What would the resto druid do  in that case? Heal even though it wasn’t needed? Or throw a few weak nukes and hope for the best. As long as Blizzard is designing raids which may need different numbers of tanks/ healers/ CC/ dps from one encounter to the next, then people are already dealing with these issues.

The blogger’s issue is with raid design, not with dual specs. And frankly, I’d be perfectly happy if I was able to tank all through a raid and never be forced to dps in my prot spec too.

I want bags of infinite size.  If my paladin is going to have to carry three sets of armor, you better give me 30 slot bags.  Or let me teleport my gear directly from my bank.  Or summon gear from some deity on my command.

I’d be down with that. But it’s written by someone who simply doesn’t realise that a lot of hybrids already carry three sets of gear around.

Big Bear Butt (who definitely does know about playing a hybrid) riffs off this rant and takes it in another direction. His issue is more that the availability of dual specs will cause people to act as though they’re necessary.

I can see the day coming when a raid leader asks not “what spec are you”, but “what are your two specs, and how much DPS/Spellpower do you have in each”.

This (for those who are keeping score) is a perfectly sensible reason to be wary of dual specs. It is entirely possible that hybrids will be expected to play at least two of their roles/ specs to raiding levels if they apply to high end raid guilds.

Some people will be delighted, it will be why they wanted to play a hybrid in the first place. Some will refuse, and the world will keep turning. Raid leaders will still recruit primarily for the roles they need.

I’m not unsympathetic, but with my raid leader hat on, I know that I don’t need all my hybrids to be able to switch to heals. Maybe one spot in the raid will be preferred for a dps hybrid who can heal in one or two fights as needed. Just one spot. For all the rest, any dps is as good as any other. And they still get more spots than tanks or healers.

And again, I keep coming back to the point but people work within this framework right now. All dual specs does is make it easier for them to do it more effectively.

If my Druid can now, all in one character, walk into a raid or instance and, within seconds, either be a main healer, main tank or equitable melee or ranged DPS, whatever the Raid Leader wants at the time, AND be as good at it as the other classes are in each role, and the Rogue or Mage can only be a DPS, a DPS or a DPS?


Why would a Raid Leader want a Rogue or Mage anymore? The Rogue and Mage bring nothing but DPS.

At this point, BBB’s issue is not with dual specs any more. It’s with the game design and how the parameters on hybrids have changed with Wrath. It’s a reasonable rant topic, but dual specs isn’t the cause here.

I already ask one hybrid to help heal on the Four Horseman and Sapphiron. Dual spec doesn’t change the fact that some raid encounters need a different balance of tanks or healers to others, and we address this by asking one hybrid player to switch roles in the raid. There was a time when people who played hybrids LOVED that they could switch between nuking and healing in raids as needed without respeccing. There was a time when hybrids loved that they could switch from tanking to dps without missing a beat. All it needed was a change of gear.

We’re going back towards that style of hybrid, not moving away from it.

I don’t need a random hybrid to become a main tank. But I may need someone to dps 90% of the raid and heal for 10% of it. That’s the role that hybrids now fill in Wrath. And all tanks and healers are now hybrids.

Dual specs won’t take raid spots away from pure dps classes. We already do use hybrids in this way. We already do have the raid designs that require some role switching.

Well, from personal experience, I know that when I look at DPS scores, I see Hunters at the top, Retribution Paladins and Death Knights coming REAL close behind, and Rogues and Mages have to work their ass off to squeeze every last drop of utility out of their class to hang tough on their heels.

And finally, this has nothing whatsoever to do with dual specs. This is another, and again perfectly reasonable, request for damage to be evened out between classes. Rogues are definitely still behind where they should be in PvE. He doesn’t mention Fury Warriors but no one will be surprised if they catch a nerf, it’s entirely expected.

Either let Rogues and Mages have a Tank or Heal spec that is on par with other Hybrid classes… OR freaking make them the absolute best there is at what they do, which is kill shit!

And this is a rant about balance and the costs of being a hybrid. Role switching and flexibility are definitely advantages, IF that was what you wanted from a class. But if that was what you wanted from a class, then why not roll one at the beginning?

Is it that rogues and mages want to heal, or is it just that they are jealously eyeing up that one raid spot that is reserved for the guy who will dps for 90% of the raid and heal for 10%? Because by far the majority of raid dps spots will not require role switching.

Or simply that they also are uncomfortable with how class roles have shifted in the game design and how their initial expectations don’t line up with how things are now. That’s fair enough, it has been a big change.

But don’t blame dual specs for every single issue that you have with WoW. It’s not the cause, simply a symptom.