Friday, November 16, 2012

Perceived Wisdom


Yes, the honeymoon is over.

5.1 is marked as a Release Candidate on the PTR. Smart money has a content patch for Christmas, to coincide with the first major break many players will have since the game released (yes I know the US get Thanksgiving but the majority of the player base has to wait for late December) The question then becomes, do we actually need new content?

Part of me finds it hard to believe I typed that: after almost a year of no new stuff AT ALL post Dragon Soul, the one thing everyone complained of was the lack of content... except I'm hearing people beginning to refer to those days as preferable to the situation we find ourselves in now. Hang on, weren't you the same people telling Blizzard there needed to be stuff to do all the time, and now you want to go back to the time where you could moan there wasn't? Welcome to the Human Condition, we're all guilty of it: whether its telling our friends we knew this Expansion was trouble at the start or finally conceding that actually, despite all of the moaning,  some people might have a point. Perception is the real culprit in all of this: Blizzard created the Warcraft phenomena pretty much by accident (by their own admission) because they constructed something lots of people could play in many different ways. While the same remains true, the way the world looks at Blizzard has fundamentally changed. As a result there could be a fight right now over just about any aspect of the game, given the correct combination of factors.

Imagine Blizzard suggested the above as a part of 5.1: should you see two faces or a vase in the picture above? Which one is right? Oh, and what about the people who understand both exist simultaneously? Which version is the one Blizzard ACTUALLY INTENDED? I picked this image deliberately because it is a great metaphor for the game as it stands: you can make of it pretty much what you like. Vase, people, both, one of 'the myriad phenomena of visual and auditory perceptual organization,' you choose what you're looking at. Blizzard rarely publish a definitive rulebook: they don't tell you what to do or what you should wear, they just tell you where to get it. The community works out what's best, and therein often lies a lot of the issues.

However there is a problem that this simplistic metaphor doesn't cover, and it is the one getting so many people frustrated right now. We're still talking about perception, but not simply yours.

We have established this week that the Vaults as an entry level Raiding exercise are not forgiving. 44,000 dps from EVERY damage dealer is a considerable commitment. It is enough to upset some people straight out, to make others switch mains. The fact remains that if everyone else in your group is doing it and you're not, there is a problem. Is it with you? Only you can answer that: for me it was and I took this as a wakeup call to improve my position. However, what if you are already flat out, doing the best you can, and what then holds you back is the time commitment to complete what the game demands of you so you can access better items to wear? This is where the cracks begin to show: the speed at which those around you are progressing, especially if you are part of a Guild that raids, can be very telling indeed. There are, of course, ways around what is now acknowledged as the Daily Gating Problem [TM] but if everybody else can spare the extra hours you just don't have... what do you do?

I'd expect to start seeing more individuals complaining of burn out in the coming weeks, poking fellow players if they don't think they're making sufficient effort, finding ways to highlight other people's failings as a way to cover their own. I'd also expect at least one high profile blogger to call it a day: I'd like to think I'm wrong in that regard but I know this land, I've walked it many, many times in the last few years. People find the game is a great stick to beat themselves with when other things go wrong: why I have I wasted so much time on Warcraft, why is it not making me happy... when the issues very rarely simply stem from the game alone. I know exactly how many days /played I have under my belt, and I know precisely what I have to thank this set of circumstances for. I am a far better person now than I was when I started this journey, but I don't have the game to thank for that. I did that on my own.

The question then, at least for me, becomes the following: just where do I draw the line?

I am lucky enough to know my raid performance is in a Good Place (TM) right now. Not focussing on alts, much as it hurts me, is the right thing to do, because the time I have is limited. I have a gear upgrade coming (bracers via the Augusts) which I can garner simply using Daily Valors if I wish. After that it's at least a week of grinding Shando Pan rep to a point where I can access two more pieces, and capping my Valor using the means available. If I'm lucky this weekend I'll have my reward for Exalted with the Golden Lotus too, but if that doesn't happen, so be it. I am doing the best I know I'm capable of with everything else outside of the game I need to be addressing, and that is the way it should be. I sense with many people it is not fun to have to plan your progress in a game, that they don't play like I do with a list of priorities beside them. For me, it has become a necessity.

You do what you need to survive :D

As a GM there is also the desire to show that I'm able to raid if required, and at the same time the wish I didn't have to encourage other people to do the same. I hope those who do want to take part understand what is required of them, and don't automatically assume they'll be carried by the people who've done more work. Inevitably this is where the perception issues break down, and I imagine the next few weeks will be very interesting for many raiding guilds as all the content becomes openly available and the disparity between aspiration and gear really begins to show. When there's too much to choose from, what is the best option: a little of everything, focus on one thing at a time, or just throw the rule book away and start again? Its not like the game is presenting us with any new quandaries; these decisions have always been there to make. The relationships we have in game are being tested by a new set of circumstances, and it is up to us to perceive what is important enough to work for, and what can be left at the wayside.

It's not a vase, and it's not two people. It's a way to test how we see the world, and how our brains can be deceived by visual stimulus. Never forget it's a game, and always remember your priorities.

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