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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

[WoW] Gatekeeping and risk aversion

I was reading Liore's post, a response to the posts of two other bloggers, about gatekeeping in MMOs, and I found myself pondering. The issue is that gaming is leisure time, and thus we want to ensure we have fun, which for most of us means success or at least a feeling of progress. In a game involving multiple people that means ensuring that each person in our group is as dedicated and skilled as we are.

Because ensuring fun during this time is so vital, it makes us a risk averse. We want to control everything we possibly can to ensure that it goes well. That is what drives us to sites like Icy Veins to seek the best builds, it's what drives us to keep gear gemmed and enchanted despite knowing full well that it will be replaced soon. That same risk aversion means we don't want to have faith that the person in poorer quality gear is at the same skill level we are. We want to take the people with better gear because it tells us that at least this person has seen the fights and handled them. It means that at least one other group thought they were good enough. Now having the gear doesn't necessarily prove anything; they could have been carried through, but it is the strongest indicator we have.

I should add, while I see why PuGs do it, I think its terrible for long-term guilds, where, like in hiring in the real world, you are looking for the person that fits your team, not necessarily the person with the best resume. But in a PuG you don't get that chance at an interview, you only get that resume in the form of their gear and achievements. If your group's success or failure is going to be reliant in part on this person you don't want to take any chances. So when the decision is short-term you take the safest route.

I digress; in the posts Liore responds to they suggested things like an "effort gearscore" or mandatory version of proving grounds, and I agree with her when I say that I do not think they will work. All they attempt to do is automate the process of selection, but WoW has already tried to do that with mixed success. Plus, the community will always want higher standards, and Blizzard will always want lower (because they don't want people to not play their game, they want accessibility). If we institute a "gear score" or even "effort score" for a boss, people will expect it be higher in their own groups. If we institute the requirement of a silver medal in proving grounds, guilds will want gold. No one wants someone who "meets expectations," they want the best they can get.

So even players who meet these automated requirements are not necessarily going to get into raids; all it does is thin the ranks and add barriers to entry, and by now I think its clear that those are things Blizzard wants to avoid.

Unfortunately, when it comes to leisure time, people aren't likely to change their attitude any time soon. For guilds, they'll forever need to take risks on people, but I do not think making things more exclusive is the answer. Sometimes the right player just needs a little tutoring.


  1. There's some "tending toward the median" that happens in the community, though. Blizzard sets minimum requirements based on some set of criteria that I've never quite been able to figure out, the community does tend to overestimate its requirements (I regularly see flex runs trying to fill a dps spot with "i550+", which is just silly) but unrealistic expectations will go unfulfilled much longer than realistic ones will. If I'm in a group of 9 trying to get a 10th and the guy doing the trade barking is looking for significantly more gear than we actually require, I'm commenting &/or bailing.

    What has surprised me is that something like proving grounds gold HASN'T become some sort of requirement... personally, I'd rather take someone with Blizzard minimum gear and PGG than someone with much better gear but no competency validation (and I don't consider "linking ach" a competency validation). Short of someone else playing your account, you can't cheat PGs, you can't overgear them and they require a certain level of skill.

    Based on the recent MMO-C data regarding PG participation, though, it's possible that there simply hasn't been enough PG participation to be used as an entry point. I have PGG in all 3 disciplines, which I thought by now would be pretty much par for the course for anyone with raiding inclinations, but based on their numbers I'm in the 0.4% minority. 0.4%! Crazy.

    I am tempted next time someone asks for a linked ach to link them PGG instead of AOTC:Garrosh, though, and see how it goes. Anyone who doesn't see that as being more valuable isn't really someone I'd want to waste time with. Selection bias can and should run both ways, it doesn't only have to benefit the one doing the hunting.

  2. Great post. I actually like the barriers in place by these games, but I don't think they go far enough. In WoW, I think there's an iLevel requirement for dungeon content, but I'm not sure. As you say, though, gear does not necessarily show competency, and this has been the biggest problem with PUGs. Sure, someone may have the gear, but where is the proof they're good enough. Gear is a terrible indicator, despite it being the primary source of progression.

    In The Secret World, there is a literal NPC called "The Gatekeeper" and he is literally that skill check. TSW has 8 dungeons and a couple raids. Some dungeons have a normal setting, but they all have elite and nightmare modes. Normal gets you leveled gear and doesn't mean much. Elite gives you gear to start nightmare, and nightmare gives you your show-off, smash everything type stuff. Anyone can sign up for normals and elites, but to get into nightmares, you need to face the Gatekeeper. In order to face the Gatekeeper, you must have completed every elite dungeon. By the time you face GK, then, you're already geared to do so. Beating him is tricky, but far from impossible, and then opens up Nightmare, which you have now proven both the gear and the skill to start doing.

    Still far from guaranteeing success in Nightmare, but it's a starting point. Also, it's a great thing to strive for. I'm not a big raider, but I love that I have been able to see the entire story in dungeons, and that I've proven my ability. I may not run NM, but I CAN. That feels good. Now of course the NM running crowd is seperated into the elite and the noob, so much so that the LFG channel is essentially for the elite, and a separate #Noobmares channel has been created by the community for those new to bridge the gap. But nobody in Noobmares questions your gear or ability, because it's ALREADY been proven, and has led to an overall much nicer and less douchey community.

    So, yeah, I say make Proving Grounds mandatory for progression. Noob raiding, I think, would be much less frustrating if it were around, and people would be a lot less hesitant on worrying about the numbers. You'd still have the elite crowd, but overall groups would be nicer and more successful.

  3. Great write up. I tend to agree with you and Liore and I dont even like the idea of automated anything in a game, I mean really what's the point?

    I don't think we need a system for this. I think the more we make our communications with other players more "efficient" by automating them with new systems, the less multiplayer they become. What's an MMO where you dont have to take chances on other players? Its a lobby where the players are incidental to your fun. And we've had those for decades already.

    1. Pretty much; even for people like me who tend to be cautious about guilds, I think automating everything is harming the "MMO" part of the game.

      That said, I am also all for better social tools, like better guild finder interfaces, etc, to help connect people with similar interests.