|Screenie from MMO Champion. Concern from me.|
Yesterday's patch was a bit of a groundbreaker: not only can we now send BoA's anywhere, or buy Vanity Pets IN-GAME, but we're now seeing the benefits of a vast amount of player information finally being made available on a cross-server basis. Of course, a lot of this stuff has been around for a while (it is undoubtedly what makes LFR work, after all) but when some bright spark pulls the data you can't see immediately out into the open and makes an addon to use it (LFRAdvanced) alarm bells start to ring in my head. And when I say that, I would like to remind everyone who ever had their Gear Score held up for ridicule that there is an 'arbitrary' number in the list of additional information you are presented with which we all know exists anyway but perhaps it would be best if no-one actually could see. Of course, you are presented with similar as iLevel... but there's inevitably something more in the mix.
|LFRAdvanced's range of data, and a telling comment.|
There's already a problem assigning numbers to content, despite the fact that that's the absolute best way of doing things simply. Numbers can be cheated, depending on how said value is calculated. For instance, if the computer only takes the average gear ilevel of everything in your bags (equipped or not) it would be spectacularly easy to 'cheese' if you wanted to dive into an LFR and effectively leech off other people. Ass MMO points out in the article accompanying this: 'The item level is provided by the game, which uses your maximum item level, rather than equipped item level' so you could conceivably deceive the system if you had enough money. Then there is the other, more significant factor at play, borne out by the Challenge Mode experiment. Gear is simply a factor, and it has little or no relevance when presented alongside a superior skillset. It's going to matter considerably less come the Expansion too, but still for the next X months it will be matter very little of people are simply looking at numbers and deciding that the largest single one is the best mark of ability.
This really has to change, and there's part of me that's not sure I even want Blizzard to make that data public to begin with, which is odd, because ideally we're looking for more transparency and not less.
I was involved in a conversation yesterday that happens periodically in the social networks I frequent; the concept of the 'clique' and how perception is probably your worst enemy when it comes to gauging an accurate picture of your place in the World. I can remember even now, as a kid, trying to grasp what it was to be 'cool': was it the way you dressed, or the music you listened to, or was it the friends you knew? After forty plus years I have (just about) grasped the notion that it matters not one jot what others think of you, what is far more important is your own sense of everything around you and how you relate to it. It's the oldest of mid-life crisis 'jokes' but finding yourself really does completely change the way you perceive everything and everyone. Being arbitrarily judged therefore on any one single thing is never going to end up as either fair or reasonable, it requires a wide range of variables to be accurate. Blizzard have given us a number from necessity, because it makes understanding what to aim for easier. Actually, what would have been simpler would have been not to assign a number at all. But when your game is based and dictated by numbers, sometimes there is no choice.
At some point, everything comes down to the balance, the trade-off: is it worth A for B? In the Gaming World I'd suspect the biggest single consideration for most people remains time, and that means if one number gives you a snapshot of a person and their ability, then it's worth a risk. Even though I'd like to spend my time considering the ability of people, most would rather we shut up and pulled. On those statistics then it's fairly clear that the 'Gear Score' model has some real benefits, especially if that value includes the number of items enchanted or gemmed, if they're done correctly, and if the person likes to go afk mid-fight. All those additional factors can be given a numerical value and added to an algorithm, we know this because Blizzard is at least tracking some of them already. I can see by a Guildie friend with no desire to grind a Legendary Cloak from scratch but with dps numbers that put many of our other cloak wearers to shame that it's never just about your gear, but skill can make or break an encounter and there'll never be a way to programme for that unless gear becomes an arbitrary item. The more I think about it, the more I feel that really ought to be the case.
The biggest problem with that, of course, is that then people would actually have to learn to play.
I suppose I should be more encouraged that numerical transparency is becoming more obvious in game, that Blizzard have acknowledged the need to simplify many equations not just for their own benefit, but also for those of the player-base, that to understand what you are and your place in the World is hard enough without needing a fine maths doctorate [*] to work out your weekly reforge schedule. However, we need less judgemental situations and more where the actual ability of players is allowed to shine through. In essence, at least in this respect, PvE could do a lot worse than learn from PvP as an example. Gear needs to stop mattering nearly as much as it does, and numbers need to start reflecting a range of variables and not simply the ones that can be cheated. Everyone should be actually working for their points, not just sitting back and waiting for others to do the work for them.
In my ideal world, you'd not be a number at all. You'd be a free player. [**] Just saying ^^
[*] Or a website, which is probably more the point.
[**] Deliberate misquote, for so many reasons.