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A Beginning

April 27, 2011

Dear Reader,

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)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2011 2:51 pm

    I think a “PuG Reputation” system would go a long way towards, at the very least, keeping the PuGs civil. The hard part would be tailoring it to make it hard to “game” the system. What would keep the sociopath in the group from giving everyone a bad rating? Perhaps having the system deduct 25 percent of any good rating you get for every bad rating you give to a member of the PuG? How would it handle those that get kicked, or drop group? For that matter, how would it handle those that initiate or vote for the kick? I’ve been in groups that have kicked players for no reason that I could discern. For now, though, the only thing I can rely on is my ignore list.

    • April 27, 2011 3:13 pm

      I had considered that problem, too. I thought about maybe having you get an automatic 25 points or so just for finishing the dungeon, so that if you did poorly and everyone downrated you, then you’d still lose about 15 (assuming 10 rep per other person) to 75 (at 25 points per other person) rating. That would prevent a single jerk (who probably would only be able to give or take 5 rep points because they’d probably have a bad rating) from actually harming you.

      Kicked players would neither get to vote nor have the vote made against them; if you’re kicked, that’s enough of a negative vote. Players who drop would work the same way. The only “game” I see is people who queue for a specific boss and then drop afterwards, but since they’re giving up the bonus points from the endboss, I don’t know that it’s that much of a “game,” really. Any suggestions there would be appreciated, though.

      I think the kicking system is going to be somewhat fixed by the patch, since groups of people always require 1 extra vote to kick someone. The one exception, of course, would be for groups of 4 to kick someone (since they can’t require a 5th vote), but that’s a flaw in the kick system, not the rep system.

      Good questions, though. Keep them and any suggestions coming.

  2. Imakulata permalink
    April 28, 2011 2:38 am

    I think there is a couple of problems with a reputation system, mostly because it’s like the LFD itself, only more so:
    1. Anonymity in LFD: If you behave in a rude way, everyone can see you doing so. Sure, they will probably never meet you again and the lack of anonymity has never stopped rude people anyway, but what about the judgment delivered by other players? It’s even more anonymous as there is no connection except “the 4 people were in my party and my rep went down after the dungeon”.

    2. Consequences in LFD: There are consequences for your actions in LFD. If you are considered rude by 3 other players, you may face a votekick. If your group is not good enough, you will wipe repeatedly, making the run longer or even encountering a roadblock – and your personal performance does have an effect on the group performance. What is the consequence of judging everyone down out of spite? It might even give you a very, very small advantage as they will not be able to decrease your points as much if you happen to meet them again next time.

    3. and a new problem, revenge: It’s known that being bad at something often clouds your ability to see how bad you are. I would say it’s safe to assume the horrible players think they are average or better than average – it’s just their bad luck that pairs them with “baddies” (which are in fact good enough for the run but not good enough to carry this player). S/he will even be forced to be polite towards them so they don’t downvote him/her for rude behaviour. I wonder how will they vote after being (in their opinions) subjected to all this.

    In short, what is the incentive for people to judge properly? I understand the system would work if there’s just a few assholes in the system but the LFD works with just a few assholes as well. (They can be votekicked and replaced very quickly.)

    • April 28, 2011 11:19 am

      You make some excellent points, about some of the general comments I made about the system, so I’ll see how I can address them.

      1. If your concern is people understanding why they were downrated, as in receiving feedback to understand what to do better, then that’s easy enough to solve; a downrating could provide a text box, similar to a kick. If someone downrates you, they can, if they wish, leave a comment as to why. Some people won’t, of course, just like sometimes people don’t type anything relevant into the kick vote box. If your concern is the judgment portion, well, that’s the point of the system, so I don’t consider that a flaw, and frankly, if someone’s rep goes down due to 4 people downrating them, that’s all the feedback they really need.

      2. The problem here is the length of time it takes to vote kick. If vote kicks were allowed after the first pull, I doubt I’d be suggesting a secondary system like this, since everyone who was a jerk could be dealt with swiftly. To be clear: I am not suggesting they remove the timer, just that the timer sometimes gets in the way of being able to run a dungeon. Additionally, all the other consequences you mention, wipes, longer dungeons, etc, punish the other people in the group, not just the offending player. That’s the exact problem with the kick system. I’ve written before, but I’ll reiterate here, I’m not looking to discard new people who simply don’t know fights or are learning their classes or getting geared up. My system allows for uprating someone even though they may have had a sub-par performance at the beginning of the dungeon. The kick system does not allow for that. If they perform poorly and the kick cooldown is up, they can be removed without a word, so my system actually benefits inexperienced players more. Also, as I mentioned in another comment, if you’re the kind of person who’s enough of a jerk to just downrate everyone “out of spite,” then probably your rating is so low that you’d have a minimal effect on others, lowering their rep perhaps five points whereas everyone else uprating them would raise it far more.

      3. If you think revenge is a new problem, you’ve been blessed with good PuGs. I’ve had players intentionally cause wipes, leave after a boss pull, and do other “vengeful” things. However, the point of revenge is still valid. I have heard of the psychological phenomenon you refer to (though I can’t think of the name at the moment and don’t have time to look it up). However, you make my point for me. In your example, the overconfident “horrible player” is “forced to be polite towards” the group they’re in. That’s exactly what I want. If they then downrate the other players at the end, I find it likely that what I said in response to issue 1 would apply. If they already had a poor rating (since they’re a horrible player), they won’t be able to affect anyone else’s rep that much.

      In answer to your last question, the incentive that good people make the system work. Good players uprate the good and downrate the bad. By increasing other good players rep, they allow those other good players to more greatly influence other people’s rep, thus making it easier to denote good and bad players. The goal here is to be able to provide information cross-server with a simple number, like giving stars on a review of a seller on ebay. I also suspect that there are far fewer jerks than good people out there in WoW, but the jerks are running the jerk asylum because the good players are avoiding LFD like the plague (not all of them, of course, but some… perhaps “like the plague” was too strong) because they have so little efficacy within it (efficacy being the #1 determiner of job satisfaction, I might point out). This gives power back to the good people and players to provide both a feeling of justice and relevant information to others, hopefully reinforcing the LFD system.

      I really appreciate the comments you left; they certainly gave me an opportunity to more fully think out some of the generalities of my system. Thanks for the comment, and I hope we can have several more discussions like this. (:

    • Imakulata permalink
      April 29, 2011 2:39 am

      I think I see… First, you think that jerks are just a small minority of LFD players and the majority is quite good, don’t you? A lot of people claim there is a lot of jerks in LFD but I wasn’t able to find out whether it’s a hyperbole or they really think so. Too much jerks would probably break any reputation system, but I think you argue there’s enough jerks to make the LFD experience bad (as a rotten fruit can spoil the others) but too few to make an impact on the judgment (even with the risk that people will be more, um, judgmental than they are in LFD).

      Second, while your system might deny the good players reputation rewards, it will (probably) grant them better dungeon runs. Maybe the awards could be cosmetic (e. g. fluff items but not a shorter queue) to make the players want to get the awards by behaving but not feel the world is coming to an end when they are faced with players who downrate them for no reason.

      My concern is that even seeing how your behaviour effects others (without them being able to reward/punish you for it) works as an inhibitor of bad behaviour – and it’s something you can see in the LFD tool but wouldn’t be able to see when judging them. I think you said you understood the trade-off but thought it was worth it. That might be true although I think the rewards need to be balanced to make it feel like an optional reward – and in my opinion the meaning of “optional” is something many players struggle to understand. There will be players thinking they have to get the best reputation and will be unhappy if they fail to do so (maybe even blaming the tool that “lets jerks decrease their rep just because”).

    • April 29, 2011 11:33 am

      Yes and no. I think jerks are a fairly good amount of the LFD players, but I think they’re a small minority of the overall players. I just think a lot of the “non-jerks” avoid LFD because of them, increasing the perception of their size. Other than that clarification, I think you’re quite right about the system; it may not provide tangible rewards for people, but if it cleans up the LFD a bit, that’s more than enough of a reward to me.

      I also understand exactly what you mean by “optional,” and a lot of players might be upset by having to struggle to get to exalted LFD rep. That said, people who grinded MC or Shendralar rep back when it was level appropriate might say “Ah, finally, another challenge.” Who knows; people like strange things.

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