Great unwritten laws of MMOs (and possibly life)

I have been switching between MMOs at the moment, which gives me an opportunity to muse on truisms that seem to be valid for all guilds, all players, and all MMOs.

  1. Law 0: Murphy lives! (Redbeard.)
  2. Every guild or raid group you join that uses voice chat WILL use different voice chat software. It is inevitable that if one guild uses Mumble and another Ventrilo, the third one you join will require Teamspeak. (me). Your guild will use one of the Big Three – EVEN IF the game you all play has a voice client built right in! (Jonathon Barton)
  3. Whining actually does help. The more you whine about not getting that rare drop you want or never being able to get a group to some location, the more likely it is that the thing you want will actually happen immediately afterwards, thus making you look like a miserable whiner with no grip on reality.
  4. Unscheduled maintenance happens on your day off. (Tesh) Or, if you’re in a relevant time zone, right in the middle of your progression raid for the week. (Siha)
  5. Double XP weekends happen on the weekend you are best person at a wedding. (Nick Smith). Or you’re at a music festival all weekend. (Andy Horton)
  6. “You have a push to talk key for a reason. Use it.” (Oestrus). Similarly, at least one person will have their PTT key bound to something like Ctrl or Alt that they also use as a modifier in-game, usually for something they cast quite a lot. (caerphoto). Courtesy of a raid leader I knew – correct positioning of your microphone is not in your mouth and not up your ass. (kiantremayne).
  7. Joining a PUG always means you’ll have an interesting story to tell later. (Jeromai)
  8. Whenever you see one spam mail / message, rest assured, more are on the way.(Jeromai)
  9. The item that you’ve been waiting 7823578923 raids to get will not drop until the raid *after* you’ve bankrupted yourself purchasing an alternative. (Siha) Or that drop you want for toon X drops every time you are on toon Y or Z. (Thelandira/Sheeturself)
  10. If you pick a rare and little-played class, then next patch it will be buffed and everyone will assume you are one of the FOTM bandwagon-jumpers. (kiantremayne).
  11. Whatever class you pick, there’ll be seven others in the guild. Until you get fed up and roll a new character, after which none of the others logs in again. (Zoso)
  12. You like to think you’re a hipster gamer, and you genuinely don’t play a class for it’s power, but no matter what you do, you will end up picking the class Everyone Else plays and getting lumped in with the negative ones. Regardless if this class is ‘Warrior’ or ‘Milk Dud Tossing Basketweaver’, rest assured, everyone will want to play Your Class. (azaael)
  13. Whatever loot distribution scheme you think is equitable, someone disagrees. (kiantremayne)
  14. Your guild forum will only have important/amusing posts when you’re not checking it. (Mika Hirvonen (@Hirvox)
  15. When you’ve finally reached that chest at the end of the never ending tunnel, all the mobs around you will respawn (and pwn you hard with no res point close!). (Syl)
  16. 2 seconds after you finally reach that hard to find Shiny, you will pull unseen aggro that dots you heavily so you die an ignoble death while watching some casual passerby waltz over and pick up your rarely spawned Shiny. (gaspodia)
  17. Your game-friends are never portable, so you wind up building a whole new social circle from scratch in each title. (Jonathon Barton) Or if they do come to a new game with you, they will get bored and move on long before you do. (me)
  18. No matter what the topic in local chat, someone will bring up that WoW did X first, despite the fact that WoW did nothing first. (SynCaine)
  19. Also see: “wish this was like WoW” on day-one of any MMO release. (SynCaine)
  20. Don’t buy a new game at release, don’t log in on patch day. (Indy)
  21. 95% of your guild will not read the forums. (typhoonandrew)
  22. As soon as you decide to purchase a lifetime-subscription, the game will inevitably go F2P (or close down completely) within the next 6 months. (Moridir)

Feel free to add any great unwritten laws of MMOs that you have discovered and I’ll add them to the list.

Sharing information in fights: Everyone’s a critic

I think we can agree that yelling at people in frustration is not the best way to pass on information. (See yesterday’s post and comments.)

But when we’re playing in a group in a MMO, a lot of information needs to be communicated quickly. Are we trying to focus fire and if so, does everyone know what they are supposed to be hitting at any time? Do you need to ask another player to remove a debuff from you? Have you just used a cooldown that your tank or healer or dps needs to know about? Are you going to assume someone else’s role because they just died in combat?

A lot of our abilities are designed to interlock with each other. A buff from one player might significantly affect the abilities or optimal ability use of another. If you have debuffs, you need to know when to use them. When you think about it, that’s a crazy amount of information that needs to be assimilated quickly.

So how do we do it?

  • Pre Pre-planning. This is where you discuss the fight and tactics in detail on a bboard before you even step into the instance.
  • Pre-planning. If you know what will happen in a fight, you can pre-arrange the kill order, any crowd control, any other tactics, and roughly when significant buffs will be used.
  • UI. We rely heavily on the user interface for information about when players have buffs or debuffs active on them. This is automatic information provided by the game (and the UI addons, if you use them) and doesn’t require anyone to actually say ‘I’m poisoned!’
  • Flashy graphics. Some spells just come with very unmistakeable graphical effects that no one can miss if they’re paying attention.
  • Boss cues. Some bosses will cue before they make a special attack with either a graphic or some kind of yell. Games don’t tend to use pure audio cues; I’d like to think this was in respect of deaf gamers but it’s probably just because they know a lot of people play with the sound off.
  • Text and macros. Sometimes the easiest way to inform your group or raid when you’ve used a cooldown or buff is to macro in an automatic comment on group or raid chat when you activate it. eg. ** Just used Bloodlust ** The only problem is … not everyone reads text chat in the middle of a fight.
  • Shout on voice chat. Best saved for if something really unexpected happens and pre-arranged plans have to change on the fly. Also probably best left for the raid leader.
  • We don’t. No one says or types a word. We just assume we roughly know what they’ll be doing and go with it. (Really common in 5 man instances in WoW these days, or any content where it isn’t critical to micro-manage.)

Either way, it is a huge amount of information to process and I think regular raiders often forget how enormously overwhelming it may have felt when you first tried a raid, particularly as a healer or debuffer.

Broadcasting Taunts

Given the sheer amount of information flying around, I’ve always tended to the cautious side when I’m deciding which of my abilities and cooldowns to publicise. I was thinking about this lately because with the heroic beasts fight, we do a lot of tank switching in the first part. So I picked up an addon which would automatically tell people on the raid channel when I’d used various different abilities. What I really wanted was to let people know if a taunt had failed, but I figured I might as well add an inform about Shield Wall also (it’s a tanking cooldown).

You know the worst part? Not people complaining about spam because actually no-one complained. I got the impression it was felt to be generally useful. Nope, the most difficult part about automatically informing your group when you use an ability is that … they automatically also get informed when you press the button by mistake.

You don’t realise how naked this makes you feel until you try it. I mean, OF COURSE I press taunt at the wrong time sometimes. So does every tank who ever lived, unless they have it bound somewhere really inaccessible. If it’s not being broadcast, you just whisper to the other tank afterwards and apologise. They’ll shrug it off, we all do it. If using taunt by mistake means it wasn’t up when you really needed it then you can always fake that it missed or failed. But if you broadcast your abilities, then suddenly your entire raid becomes a backseat driver. Or at least it can feel that way.

So one positive side to broadcasting my taunts and cooldowns? You can bet I’m way more careful with them now. There’s no doubt that it’s made me a better player, in that sense at least.

Perhaps we just don’t want to talk to YOU

This is a great (non)news story in the games sphere. Yesterday gaming sites were reporting that Valve’s Chet Faliszek complained that my fellow brits are too quiet on voice chat.

“You guys are notorious non-talkers on both 360 and PC. Americans are just chattering away, working together as a team. If you want to work together as a team you’ve got to talk!”

So assuming this is the case, it’s either that Brits hate voice chat and never talk even to each other, or else there’s something else going on across the cultural divide.

I’ve never been big into shooters or the crowd who play them on consoles, but from MMO experiences I’d say we talk plenty. It’s quite likely that we’re  more reticent about talking to strangers than the average American, but Europeans in general  have a good reputation for being strong on teamwork.

But that doesn’t quite cover ‘notorious non-talker’. What could the issue be?

Chet added, helpfully:

You can go into a random 360 game on US servers and it’s crazy talk. It’s fun.

Right, there’s the answer. Crazy talk. Why do I want to log into a server to play a co-op shooter and be bombarded with some teenage american’s idea of crazy talk? Does that sound like fun? No. It does not. Especially when you take into account that American culture has a greater propensity to smack talk than we do here, particularly in competitive sports or games. It’s not that Brits aren’t just as racist, homophobic, or bigoted in other ways as their US counterparts (present company excepted), but there’s stuff we don’t say that they do.

If you check out the comments to the original post, you’ll see the predictable amount of UK vs US posturing, but in amongst it are a few more clues as to why the Brits might be wary of opening their mouths.

Getting told to ‘shut up limey’ followed by insults towards my family and/or any of the above, well, that’s just not fun, sorry.

I’m a female gamer in the UK and I barely ever use headphones and chat to random people when playing online because I know I’m going to get some stupid American kid spouting sexist (and racist and homophobic) nonsense at me.

I don’t bother talking to Americans ‘cuz everytime I do, they can’t understand a word I’m saying… I’m a brummie

You probably need to hear a Black Country accent to understand where he’s coming from with this. I had a mate at University who was from Birmingham (brummie), we all mocked him relentlessly. I’m not proud but I can see why the Americans might not understand this guy.

I will say that, all trash talking aside, the Americans I play with have the edge over any Brit gamers I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with. Many of the best l4d american gamers stick to tournament(gamebattles)and friends only games.These are the ADULT gamers that most Brits playing online will never run into. See, we hate playing with homophobic 13 year olds too.

So maybe the nicer US players are also playing with friends and not talking in random games. So they exist, but you’ll never run into them.

I’m more than happy to get on the mic & have a bit of banter. But more often than not there is either an abusive, American kid spouting crap, or some tool who thinks everyone wants to listen to his generic dance music down the headset.

I don’t mind playing americans but they do grate sometimes. Seems that alot of our banter goes right over the top of thier heads aswell.

problem is, is if you try to have a laugh with americans they don’t understand the humour, why? simple thy’re american, they only know they’re own culture

(and vice versa)

well i rarely speak ingame, unless i feel i need to tell someone why they are a muppet.

As a British gamer myself, I always wished my fellow Brits would speak up more during online games of Left 4 Dead.

this was one of my personal reasons why I switched my 360 for a PS3. Because on the PS3 your not obliged to talk as much if at all, you don’t feel like your missing the point if you never buy a mic.

I have come across some very nice US players. However these are often the quiet ones.

Now that’s some cultural bias showing right there. Being nice in UK culture is associated with being quiet and polite and cooperative.

Right at the end of the game (no spoilers here!) they all decide to start talking so it was impossible to hear the voice over and understand what the hell was going on. Why talk then!? Surely that’s the prime point to SHUT THE F**K UP!?

Americans talk, but they just talk about general crap. Usually nothing to do with the game in which they’re in.

So maybe we really are more reluctant to open up with strangers and just chat.

I suspect this is actually what Chet was getting at. And perhaps game devs need to consider how they can encourage strangers to bond in a game to build up that level of trust when there are cultural barriers involved.

Or just give us regional servers, age limited servers, or another way of team matching to increase the chance that you’ll end up in a game with people you feel comfortable chatting with.

In which voice chat leads to revelations

If it hadn’t been for voice chat, I never would have known there were so many different ways to pronounce words like:

  • shaman
  • pyrite
  • Moria
  • melee (people who pronounce it ‘mealey’ make me twitch though)
  • the name of just about any NPC

I guess that in games like SWTOR that are fully voiced I’ll just have to yell at the NPCs, “No, you’re saying it wrong!!”