Yesterday, I said I’d elaborate on my thoughts about improving the community. I called for some suggestions and got one very well thought-out reply from Kialesse, which we’ll talk about shortly. My plan here is to begin to lay out some foundational beliefs about what a community is and how it should function. Today, we’ll focus on the environment WoW has created and how it has shaped the community.
I don’t wish to use Kialesse’s response as my post today, but I will be taking volumes of text from it as talking points. First, I’d like to address this section:
no matter how much or how little Blizz parents us, they simply cannot make their player base care about the other people they are playing with… There is no reward for being nice.
Spot on, I’d say. I think, though, that there’s a reverse point here, too. It’s not that Blizz isn’t parenting the community. It’s simply that they’re not being good parents by setting a good example. I agree that they can’t force people to be nice, but the same is true in real life, yet a lot of people do try to be nice (though of course there are exceptions). What then, does real life have that WoW doesn’t?
Consequences. In real life, if you develop a bad reputation, it makes life a lot harder for you. If you’re known to be a liar or a cheat, if people know you’re a rude jerk, if you’re known to be untrustworthy or dishonest, people won’t stay around you. In WoW, no such reputation exists, so people can use their anonymity as a cloak to hide their disfigured personality. Kia said
The thing is, even if Blizzard instituted a better review system on our PuG-mates (would be great) or got rid of LFD entirely to force us to play with people on our own servers that we’ll have to see again (won’t happen)…
I unfortunately agree that it’s unlikely that LFD will ever go away. It’s too convenient for too many people who don’t particularly care about the actual dungeon experience; they’re grinding away at their points or gear like it’s a job without worrying about how much fun or how enjoyable it is. However, I like the idea of a rating system (which certainly isn’t being first mentioned here; many other bloggers have already mentioned it), and I don’t see why it couldn’t function like a mechanic that already exists in-game and is precisely what we’re talking about: reputation. More on that later, though.
So how did we get here? How did a self-governed environment that started where, as Mhogrim put it,
getting a bad reputation on your server meant re-rolling or never getting invited to groups, and top guilds used to care about their reputation as they had to rely on the server for applicants
turn into a place where people could be such jackanapes with impunity? Well, I see the problem as threefold. First, the game’s focus emphasizes self-centeredness. Second, Blizzard’s attitude has been overly laissez-faire. Lastly, the constantly changing nature of the game has made the player base confused and, thus, irritable.
Put frankly, the generally accepted “object of the game” is accumulation. Like on Wall Street, then, this leads to an environment of risk-taking and greed. The risks in the game, death, for example, aren’t such a big deal. However, the greed is. As Kia said, in PuGs, “You don’t get any shiny stars for passing the rockin’ staff to the warlock for whom it is MUCH more of an upgrade.” This creates a feeling of self-centeredness. Additionally, the extreme theory-crafting has created a culture of the “haves” and the “have-nots.” While I certainly want people in my PuGs to know the boss fights, I generally ask first to make sure and, if someone doesn’t know the fight, I explain it. There are many others out there who are not willing to; instead, they look down on the “have-nots,” creating a greater feeling of self-superiority. Add to this the minutia of which talent point is half a grasshopper’s height better than another talent point, and you get a system that reinforces the “I’m better than this other person” attitude that we see cropping up more and more.
Blizzard has done nothing to help the situation, either. Instead, they’ve repeatedly said in various forms (press releases, blue responses, blog posts) that certain bad behaviors are allowed, that signing on to various servers allows them, and that the community should police itself. However, they’ve given us no tools to do so. They incorporated a cross-server dungeon finder without considering that there are no cross-server tools to deal with bad people, short of starting up a character on the other server and cussing the person out, which is more likely to get you in trouble (that’s never stopped me, oh Brutes from Burning Blade (coincidentally the server I’m now on)). How can one police a community that they have no access to?
Lastly, the game has been going through radical changes in pacing, difficulty, content flow, leveling, and class mechanics. These switcheroos have both widened the gap between the knowledge “haves” and “have-nots,” irritated the veteran players by constantly devaluing their struggles, and reaffirmed the invulnerability of the PC, making it seem that patience is useless and that deaths must mean that someone else made a mistake. Each of these thoughts lead to darker, angrier, more self-serving thoughts including “this dumbass doesn’t know what he’s doing,” “these noobs don’t have the street cred to play with the big boys,” or “screw this group, they’re moving to slowly / wiped once.” All of these hurt the community, but Blizzard either doesn’t see how or doesn’t care that they do. Either eventuality is unacceptable.
How, then, do we begin to reform the community? I’ll have more on that tomorrow, but I want to kick things off today with the idea of a “PuG” reputation. I’m not sure if this has precisely been mentioned elsewhere, but I certainly know a rating system of some kind has been tossed around for a long time. This system would function off the current reputation system, running from neutral to exalted, or, in the other direction, to hated. Each player would be allowed to modify another player’s reputation only a little, say 5 to 25 points (or greater; I haven’t done any math), depending on your own reputation; players with a higher rep would be allowed to more greatly modify others. At the end of a dungeon, then, your reputation could change as much as 100 points up or down. Only players who were randomly selected to be in the group (via LFD) would be allowed to vote, so people who queued together from the same guild wouldn’t be able to boost one another’s rep unless they took the risk and queued at the same time separately and just hoped to be grouped together. Each player could only vote once per grouping, also, to prevent requeueing after a dungeon’s finished with the same “PuGs” to continue working together.
As a reward, each tier of reputation would offer bonuses both within LFD and in the game. The LFD rewards could be something like the “Luck of the Draw” buff (which would then be removed from anyone who has neutral or negative reputation) or faster queue times (which has been mentioned on another blog). The other rewards could be perks like guild perks (lower cost for repairs, lower vendor prices, longer/greater flask/potion effect when in LFD dungeons, etc) or they could be new vanity pets (or the same they’re using in the Call to Arms system), tabards, and other fluff items.
While I’m sure it would take some work to integrate a system like this, I can’t imagine it would be any harder than creating LFD itself or integrating guild rep, and it both benefits their current system and the community at large.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at other ideas for bettering the community including some that have been suggested by commentators and others I’ll make up on the spot.
Stubborn (who wrote far too much today)