[TSW, SWTOR, WoW, CK2] Well, it’s certainly been a week.

I thought today I might sum up some experiences I’ve had in games recently. This is mostly a quick fly though, just to demonstrate how incredibly /different/ some games which are nominally similar can be.

The Secret World

tsw

The Secret World had a free weekend, and sadly I didn’t have as much time in game as I had hoped. Partly due to watching the Olympics (on TV) and spending a day out in London (not to go to the Olympics because I didn’t have tickets), and also partly due to getting roped into some raids in SWTOR. So these really will be first impressions.

I like the game a lot, and as other people have said, the setting and storytelling is very engaging. For me there was a disconnect between “secret masters of the world. conspiracy theories.” and “welcome to Kingsmouth, here’s your shotgun. Go kill some zombies.” There is even more of a disconnect between the clever and immersive world building and a public channel full of “LF2M tank and healer”.  I’m also not sure whether I find that the combat fits neatly to the storytelling parts of the game – it’s common for RPGs to have this disconnect but the stylistic difference seems stronger in TSW. It just is a very disconnected game. All the individual bits seem good in themselves, but I liked the RPG/investigative parts so much more than the combat. Partly for that reason, this is absolutely a game that sings “single player or small group only” to me. Even more so than SWTOR.

But for all that, it IS immersive and engaging and I enjoyed how Funcom use the environment to drop clues to the player, as well as the usual “quest person marker” details.  I also always wanted to be an Illuminati, so there is that too. I also get a kick out of ‘take a shortcut through Agartha” and similar funky occult daftness; I love urban fantasy which this game does in spades. I didn’t have much of a chance to really check out any of the riddle quests so I’m still unsure whether I have the patience for that type of play or would get frustrated too quickly.

The screenshot above shows two of the other things I did really enjoy with the game.

  1. Blue hair. Apparently this is more of A Thing than I realised, since a lot of my twitter crowd mentioned that their characters also had blue hair. I do think it’s cool though. I also like how my character is holding the shotgun in the shot, her hands/fingers are actually closed around the weapon. Also was amused at being told I had good aim when I shot something. I am not a firearms person (to say the least) but I feel that using a shotgun at point blank range may not be a big aiming challenge.
  2. This shows a tutorial for the talent system. It’s a voiced video that steps you through how things work. Please could more games do this, it’s great.

Whilst I did get a good first impression from the weekend and would definitely like to spend more time with TSW, I can’t justify a sub at the moment. I just don’t have the time free in my gaming schedule. Maybe in a few months time. But I do want to go back.

SWTOR: All my raiding comes at once!

I think there’s a hidden switch in the communal mind of a new raidgroup that suddenly decides you are good enough (or needed badly enough) to be included in the main team. So I’m guessing all my practice with the Consular and generally being around and genial in guild chat has made a mark; this week I was invited to join the guild for runs in two Operations that I haven’t seen before: Explosive Conflict (Denova) and Karagga’s Palace. The raid leader was also really nice about explaining the fights, and the raids were friendly and patient. And we did clear them both. It was just a great gaming experience.

denova

These screenshots are from Denova, which is a very solid raid in my opinion. The encounters are interesting and well designed, there’s a nice mix of content, and they’re challenging without feeling that you are hitting your head against a wall. Bioware have done a good job with the raid content. Karagga is by far my least favourite of the Operations. The first and last boss are both thoroughly annoying (last boss might have been more fun if I had been on dps rather than healing).

My feelings about SWTOR seem conflicted at the moment. I do genuinely enjoy the game, but I’m not sure about its future. Whatever happens, I’m thrilled to have gotten the chance to play it, and to have met such nice players on both the guilds I’ve been in. This may affect how I view the SWTOR community in general, but even my PUG runs have generally been cordial and friendly. Dropping WoW last December to play SWTOR instead has been a really good decision for me.

In any case, this means that I have now seen all of the PvE content in the game, although there are harder modes for the Ops which we haven’t done yet. I’m not really sure what my next goals are, I enjoy raiding with the guys so will plan to keep doing that though.

Warcraft: Back for more abuse

I picked up a Scroll of Resurrection this week, and thought it would be a good opportunity to drop back into WoW and see whether absence makes the heart grow fonder. (The answer is: no, but it does give a different perspective.) My first impression on logging into Orgrimmar was of overwhelming chaos, noise, people all over the place, randomness on general chat. There’s so much going on and where is everything and heck, there’s so much of it. Like I say: overwhelming.

From what I can gather, the only new content since I last played (in December) is that the Darkmoon Faire has its own zone now. It looks cool and a bit foreboding and the music is good. The new Faire is (as with the rest of WoW), busy, noisy, overwhelming. There are quests which grant tradeskill improvements as well as rewards, and some minigames. None of the minigames looked especially interesting at first glance. There’s only so much designers can do with ‘whack a mole’ or ‘steer the vehicle into the other vehicle.’ This is a shame, because I would have thought a fairground would be ripe for actual vehicle minigames.

It was of course great to chat to my guildies again in game. They are a really good bunch, and have been the one thing I really did miss from not being in game. I did think it was a bad idea to agree when someone suggested queueing for one of the most recent heroic instances. This proved to be the case, and the complaints about poor dps started very soon into the instance. I do think there’s an issue with the game where everyone is studying your dps the whole time in groups using real time damage meter addons, even when they don’t need to. Anyhow, I didn’t stay long, I suspect my dps would have been OK but that’s not an atmosphere you want to learn new fights in.

This, incidentally is where WoW is utterly failing at the moment. If a reasonable, average player cannot learn a new fight in LFG and guild groups are unlikely to form (due to people either preferring the convenience of LFG or being tired of the group content) then your group game is basically dead. I’ve heard arguments that this will be better at the start of a new expansion when the content is new to everyone. I don’t entirely buy it; this may be true … for a week or two.  If Blizzard want to break this chain then they need to a) make the LFG instances easier, no complex boss fights that require a page of tutorial to explain the tactics or tightly tuned dps races and b) give players a chance to practice the fights on their own first. (I’m not arguing against hard instances, but I don’t think they are good LFG content.)

Before being put off grouping altogether, I then thought I’d queue for one of the original Cataclysm heroics. These are instances I’ve run several times in my character’s current gear before taking a break. There were no dps issues, but after one wipe the tank aggroed a pack of mobs while everyone else was running back (which led to another wipe). Here is a snapshot of the conversation that followed:

Me: Could you wait for everyone to get back before starting the next fight?

Him/ Her: No.

Me: Why not?

Him/Her: *pause* Because I like doing things wrong.

Me: OK, have fun then. *leaves group*

Maybe it’s because I’ve just spent time in SWTOR where I haven’t had a single bad group, but two poor PUGs in a row isn’t cool and shouldn’t be the norm. Anyhow, I will be hanging out in WoW for the next month or so. Partly because I feel I’d like the guy who sent me the SoR to get his (ugly) mount, and also because it’s good blogging fodder to come back with fresh eyes and gauge how WoW might feel to other returning players. Right now, I feel that I could happily never run another PUG in WoW ever again.

One thing to note for returners: Your spare justice or valor tokens are still useful, Blizzard regularly upgrade the gear you can trade them in for.

I feel I haven’t said much about good first impressions yet. WoW has an INCREDIBLE sense of being an actual world.  It’s buzzing, chaotic, there’s a lot going on and huge zones to explore.  So I went back to a quieter zone to do some daily quests that everyone else is probably bored with (or even forgot by now) to chill out and chat.

wowreturn

Crusader Kings 2

This is such a big bonkers game, but it’s the best gaming crack since the original Civilisation. How can I be so drawn to a game which I am so bad at playing? My latest ruler did actually manage to win some wars, but I think I could happily watch the game play itself out without me really doing much. Still, I continue to read up about it and try different things in new games. I wanted to mention CK2 in passing as I’m still only scratching the surface but it takes a special sort of game to engender this kind of love from poor players.

It came from the PUG: Is there something in the Northrend water that turns people into idiots?

One of the big questions in WoW at the moment is what effect the lack of challenge in heroic instances will have on the playerbase as a whole.

The gear progression has been so steep in Wrath, and Blizzard have been so keen to make sure that new 80s can easily catch up (which is a worthy goal and has made a lot of players very happy!) that players race through the level 80 heroics with barely any need or knowledge of tactics. Everything gets pulled in clumps and AEd down. A dps class is measured on how quickly they can down trash – great for puffing up the damage meters. A tank is measured on how quickly they can grab AE threat and sustain it. A healer is measured on how invisible they are to the rest of the group while this is happening – plus ca change.

So the thought is that players are currently being trained to expect that all instances will be a 10 minute AE gankfest. And anything less will be met with screams of frustration. But is that really true?

I’ve run a few PUGs on levelling alts recently, and actually I found that players tend to adapt far better than that. If they need to communicate, then they will pause and do it. So on a BRD emperor run, even the newbies who were acting like twits sat and listened to instructions and used their torches correctly.

For sure, there are still players who forget that not everyone is in full heirlooms and try to run low level instances as if they were on their ICC geared mains. But I suspect that doesn’t last long. The tank who pulled half of Ragefire Chasm last night and then bitched at the healer when we wiped will learn that doesn’t work. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And yet somehow, as soon as players cross the sea to Northrend, they forget it all again

What I have found in general is that aside from the odd tosser, low level groups do tend to eventually get it together.  But somehow, as soon as you start queueing for Northrend normal instances, everyone acts like an idiot again.

So my latest alt in Northrend is a DK tank, and yes I picked blood spec because I like it. The up-front AE threat isn’t as strong as others, but it’s a perfectly fine tanking spec. If I group with impatient dps, I usually mark the first mob with a skull so that they know it will be the one with the highest initial threat. Pretty simple, stuff you’d think. Or at least you might think that if you have never tanked, in which case you would know that inevitably the skull-marked mob will always be the last one standing.

The other day, I did this in a group and one of the other players went ballistic when I asked him to kill the skull first. It was all, “Screw your skull!!!!!” and the like.   I can’t be bothered with that type of hassle any more so I explained that there were lots of things I could be doing in the next 30 minutes and any of them were better than tanking for him, and left.

But what I don’t understand is why he was so angry. I wasn’t rude. All I asked was for him to target the skull first.

Maybe he associated marking as something that was bad, or a mark of a bad group or bad tank. Or just resented being reminded that he wasn’t in a group with a bunch of silent NPC minions who would get on and do their thing so that he could sit back, AE every group and then profit.

Maybe it’s all the saronite in the water, but something in Northrend seems to make players forget anything they possibly learned in instances while levelling.  It is all too easy to understand why people get put off tanking in Northrend. I will probably switch my DK over to dps and only tank with friends, at least until I’ve had a chance to gear up. It’s no skin off my nose and will be a lot less stressful.

It came from the PUG: I never really wanted to be a healer, I think I’ll be …. a lumberjack!

lfginterface

If you’ve never seen the random dungeon finder interface in WoW, this is what it looks like. You can choose which instance you want to queue for – or let the system pick a random heroic for you, as is shown here. And you tick the little circles next to the shield, plus sign or sword to show whether you want to queue as a tank, healer, or dps. If you play a hybrid who can perform more than one role, then you can tick more than one box.

This isn’t rocket science. If you tick the box it means you are willing to play that role in whichever instance you are queuing for.

heallfg

Then when the system is able to match you up with an instance group, you get this little window which shows clearly which role has been assigned to you.

Again, it’s all very clear and not very difficult. And at every stage, if you change your mind you can leave the queue and there’s no harm done. You won’t even get the usual 30 minute dungeon leaver debuff which forbids you from queuing again until it has run out.

Because tanks and healers tend to get shorter queues, you’ll hear a lot of stories about people who queued as a role which they weren’t able to play (either through lack of gear, lack of appropriate spec, or just lack of interest). But usually those guys bail on you at the start of the instance, or get one of their mates to drop from the group so that when the 4-man group re-queues to get a replacement, they can sneakily change the role they queued as.

But what about someone who decides halfway through an instance run that they don’t want to heal any more? I was in a group this week with one of my alts where the healer had been getting increasingly bolshier and more agitated. He’d been healing fine – regular heroics these days just aren’t remotely demanding.

But for whatever mad reason, he decided that he’d had enough. He whined at the dps shaman to switch to healing. He whined at the tank to switch to healing and the dps warrior to switch to tanking. He kept telling the rest of the group that he was really dps.

Then he just switched spec between pulls without mentioning anything so no one was healing, which inevitably led to a wipe. This was the point where I started a vote to boot him, which duly happened.

The strange thing? We were right next to the final boss of the instance. If he’d just sucked it up for a couple more minutes, he’d have had his badges and could have done whatever he wanted afterwards. The group did fine, we got another healer in a few seconds, who was delighted to have such a quick badge run. But although I try to understand what is going on in other players’ minds when they do something that seems odd to me, with this one I have no clue.

It came from the PUG: When good players go bad!

This week’s pick up group story is a sad tale of miscommunication, failure on behalf of everyone involved (including yours truly) to act like grown ups, and some inventive griefing where the responsible player forgot just one key thing …

The scene is Old Kingdom. I was tanking. The group was itching to move quickly so I pulled the first few groups quite fast. They didn’t handle it well. Now, in my opinion, if you yell at the tank to go go go at the start of an instance, it implies that you don’t want to wait around for marks or to have the kill order explained.

A couple of characters died – but not me because I know:

  1. the kill order
  2. the reasons for that kill order
  3. how to use spell reflect and interrupt to not be killed by spellflingers
  4. And also I have overpowered gear and good tanking cooldowns.

So really, I’m not going to die. You however, over-eager dps who think it’s a great idea to open up as soon as more than two monsters converge in the same place, are not so lucky.  In any case, after this, I decided to take the pulls a bit more carefully and mark as appropriate. It was my mistake, I’d assumed the group was more familiar with the instance than they really were.

This was not fast enough for some of the crew who started to run ahead and pull anyway. I asked them to stop doing that. And all hell was unleashed in party chat. It … was unpleasant.

We were heading towards the blood elf boss when someone else yelled gogogo again. I sat down, just to annoy them, and said, “afk 2 mins to get tea.” I wasn’t actually afk which is just as well because at this point the rogue stealthed up to the boss, pulled it, and used tricks of the trade to misdirect it onto me. So the boss comes running down the ramp and hits me a couple of times.

I think, “You have got to be kidding me,” and leave the instance mid-fight. After which I put them on ignore. Presumably they wiped, although the rogue may have been able to vanish.

People who just lose their senses

I think some players just have poor impulse control, because as soon as anything goes a way they don’t like, all common sense gets thrown out of the window. Yes, congratulations, you can use your class abilities to be really really annoying. But what exactly is the point?

Maybe for a lot of us, the griefer is not hiding very far beneath the surface at all and all it takes is a situation in which we feel powerless to bring out the crazy. (i.e. I think he flipped because he couldn’t bear the thought that he might have to wait for me. Or just go along with my request to stop pulling.)

State of the LFD: Repetition, repetition, repetition

Patch 3.3 in WoW was released in the US back on the 8th December 2009. That means we have had the random dungeon finder for almost three months – my how time flies when you’re having fun.

There’s no doubt that the new tool has been a great success. It has never been easier to find a 5-man dungeon run on any toon at any level than it is right now. Queues are still virtually instant for tanks, and not much longer for healers, which just shows that there are more dps wanting to run instances than there are tanks and healers. So tanks in particular make up less than 20% of the population and a lot of people on hybrid characters aren’t interested in tanking. None of this is surprising. And the wait for dps to get into a group is still a lot less than if people had to form up on their own servers using trade chat.

However, there have been some big challenges for the new tool also.

  • Throwing people with wildly different playing styles together leads to friction. Not only that, but this can put a lot of pressure on new 80s, newer players, and people trying to learn new specs.
  • Cyber-bullying. People find new and interesting ways to grief each other whenever any new functionality is added.
  • Can the hardware cope with the added activity?
  • Burnout.

Throwing random people together into a group can lead to friction, but can also work out. It all depends on the individuals. So it’s a challenge, but not by any means an impossible one. The player base just needs to decide whether it’s able and willing to work together on common goals or not with random people. Issues like rolling need/ greed on frozen orbs, rolling on offspec gear, and the like will sort themselves out in the wash. We won’t all end up agreeing, but we will all end up with some variety of widely accepted compromise.

Cyber-bullying is a larger subject than this post (maybe a future post, or series of posts), and has been going on ever since people have been able to communicate online. It’s nasty and pernicious, but in a PUG you always have the option to just leave and log out. And to put the offender on /ignore, which guarantees not only that you never have to hear from them again, but that the dungeon tool will never group you with them again either.

Hardware is a problem that can be fixed by throwing more money at it. In fact, I haven’t seen a full instances screen at all lately, which makes me think that this is exactly what Blizzard have been doing.

So let’s talk about burnout

People burn out on games for all sorts of different reasons.

  • Run out of goals. You’ve done everything that you want in the game, and you’re bored.
  • Hit the brick wall. There are barriers preventing you from doing your remaining goals in the game, and you see no way to overcome them. And so you’re bored.
  • Repetition ad infinitum. There are goals remaining for you in the game but you would rather skin yourself alive with a potato peeler than set foot into ((overly repetitive content of choice)) ever again.
  • Dramageddon. There are goals remaining for you in the game but you don’t ever want to play with these people again and they’re in your guild, on your server, and you may even know them in real life. You can’t get away from them without leaving the game. But doing stuff with them is driving you nuts.
  • Future goals trump current goals. There are current goals remaining for you in the game, but you choose not to pursue them because it would make it harder for you in future. For example, you choose not to level a new alt now because you want to save it for Cataclysm. So you’re bored until then.

Often many of these conditions apply at the same time. If you are bored anyway because you have run out of goals, you may be more irritable with your guild (and vice versa if many of them are also bored.) Hitting barriers in game also tends to dent the mood, especially if other friends don’t face these issues. (Maybe they just have more time to play.)

Repetition, however, is the game killer. All PvE MMOs rely heavily on some kind of grind, whether you need to grind for crafting materials, or daily quests, or instances, or raids. And for happy players, these grinds are a bonus. They let a player settle into a comfortable daily routine in game, which is fun for a lot of people.

It’s the same comfortable grind which makes so many facebook games so appealing. MMOs aren’t so very far from that mould. It’s just that while levelling you don’t see the repetition so strongly as at endgame. So when a player is bored of the endgame repetition, something’s got to give.

Wrath has encouraged more endgame repetition than any previous expansion in Warcraft. Doubling up of the 10 and 25 man instances has meant many people run the same raid instance several times a week. Ease of gearing alts has meant that people  can (if they choose) run heroics several times a day on different alts. And then raid several extra times a week on those alts too.

So there are plenty of ways for a player to fill in the extra hours in WoW – and even easier if you raid and are on a busy server with lots of pick up raids running. But they are extremely repetitive. The thrill of playing and learning a new alt will wear off in time, and it will wear off more quickly in Wrath because it’s just that much easier to access the content.

So whilst improved access to content is removing some of the barriers which had been causing burnout before — people getting burned out because they needed to run those heroics and raids to gear up but just couldn’t get the groups — instead people are playing more and then hitting repetition burnout.

Bored players, +  5-man random heroics = ???

I’m not saying that everyone is bored, that would be silly.

But increasingly I’m finding that I get sloppy in 5 mans. I can’t be bothered to tackle the pulls neatly, and we’re over geared enough that no one cares whether I do or not (except me) and it won’t affect the result anyway.

This increase of well geared players who simply don’t care as much as they used to is starting to drag the instances down. People still run them enthusiastically, they still want the badges, and they still want to play alts. But increasingly, I’m seeing people very obviously not bothering to play as well as they could. And while it’s fine to chill out in 5 man instance runs when you are over geared, I think that all the repetition is taking its toll.

The LFD tool isn’t doomed by any means. It’s holding up well. But it might not be a bad thing if some of those bored players took a break from random 5 mans for awhile, both for them and for the rest of the player base.

And as for the state of the game? Blizzard are taking the smart step in the next mini-patch with nudging bored PvE players towards battlegrounds, where the repetition is broken up by getting to compete against other players.

Plus a new-mini raid with some dragons, and new shiny loot to entice everyone who isn’t Arthas’ed out on raiding this expansion.

And perhaps more enticing still … hints of new pre-Cataclysm changes, and quests, possibly heralding more content for solo players too.

It came from the PUG: Oh, is this an instance? I’m just here to practice my staff skill

I have a lot of sympathy for genuine slackers. The human drive to complete tasks with the least possible effort is the same drive that leads us to generate new and incredible feats of science and engineering. Every great engineering invention started with the thought, “I wonder if there is an easier way to do this?” (Many engineering PhDs end with the thought, “Nope, I guess there isn’t. But at least now I know why.”)

But as all true slackers know, there is a slackers code of conduct.

  1. Don’t put in any more effort than necessary to accomplish your goals.
  2. If you can beat more than one goal at the same time, so much the better.
  3. If someone notices that you are slacking and calls you on it, STOP SLACKING.

OK, now back to the PUG story. I was in an Old Stratholme run for the daily instance and I noticed that one of the other group members was very low on the damage meters. You can use recount to check which abilities people have been mostly using, it’s actually a really handy tool when you’re learning to play a class because it’s easy to compare your rotation with other people. So I moused over his name on recount and saw that his second most damaging attack was a melee autoattack. And he was a mage.

So at this point either he’s the noobiest mage ever or there’s something else going on. And since he had some Icecrown gear, I mentally rolled my eyes and figured he was probably levelling his staff skill. (Which is, by the way, completely pointless for a mage but is also part of an equally pointless achievement.)

I figure, fine. He’s taking the piss. I don’t feel the need to make a scene because it’s only Stratholme but if I have to pay attention during an instance run then I don’t see why everyone else can’t too. So I say something I never thought I would say to a mage, “Could you cast some spells please?”

He at this point makes the tactical mistake of explaining in group chat that he was levelling his staff skill, but notes that he was helping on the minibosses. I say tactical mistake because the rest of the group got outraged and booted him. Since he sounded like a reasonable bloke, I personally would have just said, “OK, fine. But when we get to the town hall, stop doing that please.”  I still think it’s cheeky for an ubergeared player to expect the rest of the group to carry them while they do a totally pointless achievement but I can overlook that if they pull their socks up when I call them on it.

I think I just have a much higher tolerance for slacking when it comes from someone who knows what they are doing. But most players won’t share that attitude.

And on a nicer note

I also had one very sweet PUG this week. One of my guildies was practicing tanking on a Death Knight alt, and since he’s a notorious aggro monkey on his main, myself and one of our other main tanks jumped at the chance to swap to dps specs and get some revenge! (Err, I mean, help and support him while he learns to tank instances.)

We were very lucky and had a fantastic PUG priest in an Utgarde Pinnacle run, who was able to heal through me tanking Skadi in fury gear after the tank died.

At the end of the run, she commented to us that when she zoned in and checked gear, she thought we were going to give the tank hell for being in blues. But then she noticed we all were in the same guild :) So whoever you were, awesome priest, thank you for being awesome.

(And Kesser, if you are reading this, we both thought you’ll be an amazing tank once you have some more gear. But it is part of the job description of fury warriors and boomkins to test new tanks!)

Playing with friends vs playing with strangers

It’s amazing how different the experience can be between playing with friends and playing with strangers.

It’s Us vs Them. Friendly NPCs vs Enemy NPCs. People who are there to help you vs people who are there to annoy you. Moral support vs obstacle to be overcome.

Even if you are the perfect Pollyanna and see all strangers as potential future friends, truth is there are a lot of random players you would never want to be friends with. Maybe they’re horrible people. Maybe you are horrible people.  Maybe they just play so differently that you have nothing in common. Nothing except … a brief meeting in an instance run, like two ships that pass in the night. But then again, some of the coolest, most hilarious, and most unexpected encounters I have had with other players has come from random people in instances. They can’t ALL be the enemy.

How we act with friends

So your friends or guildies are people who you know and encounter in game frequently. You know each other’s in-game history – who is the new alt, who knows the instance backwards, who likes to rush, who prefers to go slow, who loves/hates achievements.  And hopefully, you trust your friends.

You are more likely to have discussed your goals for the run before zoning in, and more likely to discuss any issues while in the instance. So for example, if it’s an achievement run, people will know before they join. Friends will also (usually) not boot you if you are having a bad day, it’s enough that you say sorry and explain that you were hungover/ distracted/ stupid and don’t do it again.

Since they are friends and you expect to be dealing with them again, you’re more likely to agree to any requests (can I take this for my alt/ offspec? can we try achievement X?). You have an understanding that they’ll reciprocate. in future if not right now. It’s all part of building an ongoing relationship and strengthening existing social bonds.

Your friends will not only listen to requests, they will also listen to criticism and helpful suggestions. So if someone really isn’t playing well, you expect a friend to take helpful advice without throwing their toys out of the pram — admittedly a lot of this comes down to how the advice is given.

On the other hand, because you’re comfortable with each other, you may also push the bounds more than with a random group. If you want to try crazy deathwish pulls, you do it with friends who you know can handle it. Messing around together is part of the fun of gaming with friends, whether it means attempting instances when you underman or undergear them, running Gundrak in 3.5 minutes, or pulling two more groups before you realise that the healer died (I have never done this, it’s purely hypothetical! And we didn’t wipe anyway!)

Playing nice with others

There may be some people out there who treat every random PUG member as if they were a long lost friend, but they’re not the majority. However, some people genuinely are more careful and polite with strangers than with guildies. Others treat strangers like trash (or like NPCs, which comes to the same thing).

If you want to come across as classy, pick the former rather than the latter. It also encourages other players to reciprocate, nudging them towards ‘treat this person like a player, not an NPC.’ To humanise the other player. Yes, this is like the way hostage negotiators act, possibly a chilling concept.

When the hostage-taker gets to know the hostages and sees them as human beings, it becomes more difficult to execute them.

We call this behaviour playing nicely with others. Whether or not it’s really worth it in a 10 minute instance run with people you may never see again is up for debate. This also follows Henry Higgins’ sage advice: “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.”

So if you want someone to act like a lady, treat them like a lady.

There are times when players will just disagree on what it means to be polite. Is it polite to ask for an achievement? Is it polite to say no? Is it polite to queue up for a random instance if you haven’t bothered to gem and enchant your gear? Is it polite to queue as a tank if you can’t tank and don’t have the gear for it anyway? Is it polite to throw a strop, pull three groups, and then vanish mid-fight if someone doesn’t agree to your request?

These aren’t issues we have with guildies. There’s no need to pussy-foot around being polite, because they’re friends so we feel more comfortable to just explain how we feel. And hopefully no strops ensue.

Do you play differently with friends than with strangers? Any way in particular?

It came from the PUG: Do you want cheese with that?

Unfortunately(?), all my random groups this week have been pretty good so instead of pointing the finger at outrageous behaviour, this week we’ll have to settle for mildly annoying.

Achievements are not the Marmite of WoW, very few people actively hate them with the passion of a billion blazing suns. They are more like  Nutella. Everyone likes Nutella. (Oh no, I missed World Nutella Day! How is that even possible?)

But most of us like it in moderation, and not with every single meal. I reserve the option to say, “No thanks, I respect that your tastes differ from mine but I’ll have my steak without Nutella today.” Frankly, Nutella with steak is an experience you want to share only with very close and special friends, who will put up with experimental cooking techniques and later forgive you if it turns out to be disgusting. Now, imagine Nutella if you also won a special prize for eating a whole jar without throwing up. And if you ate every meal with people who insisted on slathering it over everything and forcing you to do that too.

Yeah, you might go off it after awhile too.

So, back to achievements. A poster on the EU boards this week suggested that the LFD tool could have an option for people to select if they wanted to do achievements on their random run.

This is actually the worst idea ever for the players who do want to do achievements on their random runs.

  • Everyone who just wants some quick badges will not select achievements.
  • Every experienced player who already has finished their dungeon achievements will not select achievements (at least not on their main).
  • Every player who hates achievements will not select achievements.
  • Every player who does not feel like talking a random group through one of the more complex achievements will not select achievements.
  • Anyone bored who wants to grief people WILL select achievements.

Nope, the best way to get dungeon achievements sorted out is either to assemble a group on your home server, or bully/ cajole a random group into doing them. Guess which of those options is easiest for most players?

Now, I don’t actually mind being asked if I want to do an achievement in a dungeon run. But I expect people to give up on it gracefully when I say no. Naturally in random groups, this often does not happen.

I was called a noob this week when I declined to attempt Oculus with 5 bronze drakes. No, the reason I don’t want to do that is because I am NOT a noob and I just want my quick and easy badges without having to care whether a random group can sort out drake cooldown rotations.

Given the reluctance of people in the group to speak up or show any other behaviour that would distinguish them in any way from a doormat, I should not have been surprised to see 4 obedient little bronze drakes, and then me on my red. I left. Perhaps they got a tank who’d put up with those demands and got the achievements for them. But I still wonder if the silent members really cared about the achievement or were just falling into line with the most shouty person in the group.

As a basic rule of politeness, I go this way:

  • If even one person in the group wants to kill an extra boss, then we go kill it.
  • If even one person in the group does not want to do the achievement, then we don’t do it.

To me, the basic assumption of LFD is that the group will clear the instance with no special achievements involved. So I think anything that differs from that needs group buy-in.

But achievement junkies are often not polite. They try to bully groups into doing their achievements. They harass and abuse anyone who does not fall into line. So I save everyone the bother these days and just leave as soon as the question even gets asked (unless it’s the sort of achievement that we were going to do just by completing the instance anyway.) No, I am not interested in helping Joe Random get his achievement. I don’t like Nutella THAT much.

It came from the PUG: Move it, slackers!

As part of the tank sampling project, I’ve spent a bit of time on levelling a paladin alt. I ran a couple of Scarlet Monastery instances, courtesy of the random group finder, while retribution specced. Now, low level retribution is fairly hands off. You put up some buffs, judge from time to time, and throw in the occasional Exorcism and stun if you are feeling frisky.

But what struck me about these two runs was that I was playing pretty much similarly in both but had two very different reactions. In the first, the paladin healer berated me continuously for slacking and said she could have pulled more dps in her healing gear. In the second, the whole group was practically worshipping at my feet because of my insane damage.

oppally(Paladin with Bladestorm!)

So what changed? Well, this one is pretty obvious. As part of the first run, I got a really nice weapon upgrade. In fact, if you believe that the purpose of a retribution paladin is to annoy tanks, it may be the best weapon in the entire game, because it randomly procs a bladestorm, as per the screenshot.

Which begs the question: Why did the player in the first group accuse me of slacking? Answer: Because there are some things you just can’t tell from a damage meter.

But still, it’s quite insulting to be accused of slacking when you weren’t. Maybe I was slacking because I didn’t get an heirloom weapon for my alt? But if I had, I never would have gotten to the awesomeness that is the Ravager.

What if you were slacking?

Another slacker moment was had while running my daily for frost badges on my warlock alt. In this case, it was another paladin making the accusations (not sure if they’re more likely to be uppity or if I’ve just been unlucky with paladins this week).

So imagine that the tank is using some dps gear and pulling about 4k dps, and then starts accusing the damage dealers in the group of slacking because she’s top of the damage meter. But all the dps in the group were over 3k, even my alt who forgot to train up chaos bolt past level 1.

Well Ms Uppity Palatank, some of us are mere Saronite Slaves and if you expect us to turn up with full raid consumables and a progression mindset on your random 5 man heroic, then you are doomed to a life filled with disappointment.

Or rather, I might be a slacker but I’ll pull my socks up when it comes to raiding with my mates tomorrow, you however will always be a twat.