How to Fail at Being a Weapon


The lady has a very fine post on WoW Insider about how cookie cutter builds suppress individuality – or words to that effect. I won’t gainsay her observations, but I do have some additional comments to make on the topic.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.  The concept being that players are going to optimize their characters for maximum effect. If Vee’s laments are to be taken patently, then that means that every frost mage looks just like the next, and ever Afflock is pretty much taking the exact same spec. You have probably figured out for yourself at this point that that is not the case. Does this mean that Vee is full of shit?  Not at all!

Please be mindful that Vee’s field of view is extremely limited by the data she has to work with.  And in this case, the data she has to work with is from raiders doing raider things.

Instantly, without taking a breath, we have an automatic bias.

This bias is, strictly speaking, limited to people that (a) raid and (b) upload their combat logs to AskMrRobot’s combat log analyzer.

So, again strictly speaking, Vee’s article ONLY applies to raiders that like AMR over other log analyzers.

Those that do not raid – i.e., a lot of people plus PvPers – are not included in this equation.

If one were to take blog post titles literally – which I discourage – then Vee’s article should be more accurately entitled “How cookie cutter builds discourage player customization in raids“. Because that is one of the only two places (the other being PvP) where this statement is even remotely accurate.

Let me take a moment to be completely honest with you. What you choose as a spec and how you glyph and how you select talents are completely irrelevant if you are not a raider or PvPer.

Pretty much any build will work if you’re just questing, or bumming around Tanaan gathering Fel Blight or whatever that green shit is called, or grinding stupidity points in the Garrison, or, well, most activities in WoW. Talents and Glyphs are mostly meaningless if you are not raiding or PvPing.

Raiding and PvPing are special corner cases where all the rules of Sanity go out the window. In these cases, you must spec for maximum effectiveness. There is no other way. Failing to do so will result in less than optimum contribution from yourself to the effort at hand, be it a raid or battleground.

Yes. Yes, a thousand times. I am categorizing Raiding and PvP as corner cases in the WoW spectrum of builds. Because, when you compare the requirements of these efforts to everything else, they require specific- may I say, perverse – configurations in order for any one character to contribute effectively.

Former WoW lead designer GhostCrawler once confessed that he was surprised that users would optimize on efficiency. I as well would agree. But what he was actually commenting on was our tenancy to optimize on effectiveness, which includes but is not limited to efficiency. GC was wrong and the world may never be the same.

Let’s circle back on Vee’s core conceit here, though. In my mind,she’s late to the party, and I’ll tell you why.

For years we’ve known that raiding and PvP require specific skills. Optimization. Focus on what is required of you, the contributor to the team.

These are very specific environments, and nobody should be surprised that, given a known optimized build, top players would gravitate to the ones that yield the best results for others.   Once you have let the information genie out of the bottle, there is no going back.

Blizz have given us the tools to do this, in the form of combat logs, threat meters, DPS meters, and so forth. Given a source of information, geeks will mine it for all that it is worth, and that means that we’ll arrive at specific recommendations for specific situations.

Up to now I’ve restricted my observations to Raiding/PvP. For raiding, there’s an extra-exotic layer in which one tunes one’s spec PER BOSS. And why the hell not? For the cost of a reagent, one can switch talents and glyphs around like they were backdrops on a Windows PC.

So here are my fundamental observations on all this.

  1. The cookie cutter thing only applies to raiders and PvPers. Regardless of your opinion of what percentage of the playerbase that is, I guarantee it’s not over 70%.,
  2. Optimization is both normal; and EXPECTED for raiders and PvPers.
  3. Optimizing for maximum effectiveness is a normal behavior for anyone that is informed and trying to do the best they can in their role, whatever it may be.
  4. Whoever is not raiding or PvPing may be doing their own thing, but the AMR data does not support any conclusions either way, because AMR does not collect realtime data on non raiders.

I will point out that one major point of Vee’s article is that 3% of the top raiders are different than everyone else, and that may be significant. I totally agree with her premise in that regard. The cookie cutter thing gets you so far – i.e. somebody did the hard work of discovering what works and what doesn’t for you. But the truly excellent players find their own ways of doing things. That 3% isn’t a benchmark. It’s a challenge., It’s a challenge to the number crunchers and theory crafters to do  better.

And after all that, all I can say is: here’s to the 3-percenters.  Keep us on our toes. /respect.

Posted on December 13, 2015, in Game mechanics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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