Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From level 15 to 20, or, Groupthink!

In 1971, Stanford University's Professor Philip Zimbardo had a little experiment.

The experiment was intended to be a two week run, taking a pool of twenty-four volunteers (of a 75 volunteer group) to test an idea: that the inherent personality traits of prisoners and guards were key to understanding abusive prison situations.

The twenty-four chosen were then split into two camps; prisoners and guards. Guards were given clothing to define them - khaki pants, military surplus jackets, mirrored sunglasses. Prisoners were dressed in ill-fitting smocks and stocking caps with numbers sewn into them - the prisoners were not referred to by name, but by number.

Ultimately, the experiment fell apart, and was closed in the first six days because the guards took to their roles a little too willingly - while physically abusing the prisoners was outright banned, they were instructed to "promote disorientation, depersonalization, and deindividualization." If you're very interested, you can see the wikipedia article here...

I have to tell you that story, so I can tell you this one.

I spoke about hitting level 15 last night, and Liala, of Disciplinary Action - and the partner in crime for the "festivities" and I hit the Looking for Dungeon finder HARD, and with NO MERCY. Or as hard as a pair of level 15s can manage.

As we've gamed the system, see, by being a discipline priest and a protection warrior, our queue is faster than instant, and within a minute, we've zoned into Ragefire Chasm - a perfect low level dungeon with a few interesting trash pulls to challenge our skills as a tank/healer combination. We've got heirloom gear, we've got talents, we're at least a little familiar with what we're doing, so it's no problems, no issue whatsoever.

Our trio of dps, for the sake of anonymity, were a rogue, a hunter, and a shaman.

And before we can say anything, the Shaman takes off running to the first pack of enemies and decimates them in their heirloom gear. And the second. And the third.

So, we do what comes natural, and that's mouth off about it. Patch 4.0.1 changed a lot of gameplay mechanics in World of Warcraft, to the point of the game being made... I'd almost say easier? Or at the very least, your class has a more distinct STYLE from a lower level - that as you use the tools you're given, you can be pretty good at what you're working with when you level when you quest, when you, yes, utilize the LFD system.

And when you've players in heirloom gear and especially bored players who know what they're doing looking for really quick jaunts through the system, it's easy to be beaten down and turned into a negative wreck by dps declairing "It doesn't matter if we have a real tank or not, because we can just kill everything anyway before it hurts us."

Your argument is invalid. I have bull horns.

This is terrible, and VERY boldly, I'll say it's bad game play for a game that thrives, no, REQUIRES team work.

It creates a feeling from a very early point where you have people who might be INTERESTED in tanking - having done it in, say, Dungeons and Dragons - being turned off because it's going to be a fight for control of the instance against people who are simply going to just go ahead and go do... whatever it is they do. And be successful at it.

I don't know if the dungeons changing in Cataclysm will change this. I hope they do, but I suspect, probably not. But, Liala and I made our stand that day - she was tanking, I was healing, and anybody trying to show us as unnecessary would see how horribly, painfully wrong they are because we wouldn't bother doing our job.

The Shaman/Rogue/Hunter trio finally reached the big room - where you have four packs of enemies standing about, loitering, ready to start casting magic at people foolish enough to pull more than one at a time, a brief reminder that they are not invincible, that they are in a team, that they will not succeed on their own - and when the Shaman died, Liala stepped up, I stepped in, and everybody else stayed alive. As I cast Resurrection upon the  Shaman, the question was asked, "And what have we learned...?"

We made our point very clear. We were not going to play loose and fast with the class roles. That we were here to run dungeons, yes, but that we were going to abuse those who deserved it, but we were going to reward playing "correctly."

The dungeon was finished without incident. The shaman dropped group. And we were both surprised to not see "Shamrackobama has ignored you" on our chat windows.

The rogue stayed stealthed the entire time. The hunter was quick to jump along with us, so we kept going. And going.

We ran through Ragefire Chasm nine times in a row, leveling three times each in the process! 

And every time, we'd get a new "DPS" class who would just run ahead feeling invincible, Every time, they would die, but slowly, they began to heed our directions. We gave them orders, they were listening, and the runs got smoother, the runs got faster, the runs - dare I say - were more profitable. But we picked up a druid on one of these runs whom we'll call Cat. Druids, if you're unaware, shift forms to do damage, to fit their need in whatever role they are required, and Cat decided, he liked being a bear.

(this is where a bear picture would go but I am bad at jpegs)

Bears do plenty of important things in dungeons; they act as a tank class! But one tank is enough! In a five man dungeon, two is too many! AND THREE IS UNHEARD OF!

But Cat, Cat was very good at drawing aggro, which is a very technical, precise terminology that simplifies out to "The Priest Dies." (I'll go into this in a game mechanic post at some point, I like the idea of a numerical value to how much everybody hates you.)

A few times, we told Cat, "Stop trying to tank" and Cat was a chipper sort, so we chattered a bit, and then kept on trucking through Ragefire Chasm and it was somewhere around the 9th time we ran it that night that we decided leaving luck to heaven was a bad idea, and wound up in the eponymous Deadmines.

The thing I want to talk about in Deadmines was not how "elite" we were for surviving a massive barrage when Cat pulled every goblin in the dungeon, but it was when a pair of strong leaders whipped a small group of random players together to become a very effective force.

And then when the pair of strong leaders began acting to serve their needs  - literally, rolling "Need" on items for each other to game the system our way - they put forth a bare minimum of argument. Every body won last night - we both hit level 20, we both recieved a mass of upgrades that'll serve us as we continue to LFD grind... and we learned. We're better players for it, but it was so weird being "IN CHARGE" like that, that when we demanded people stop and listen to us, they did so. And then we proceeded to act according to a plan, and it went well.

The final thought is, that group think in World of Warcraft - to tie it back to the introduction above - is that the most vocal drives the ship. And it's not always the most vocal who has the best interests of the GROUP in mind.

Learning how to play is always going to be the purpose of the "Looking for Dungeon" finder at low levels - it may be an efficient way to level, it may be a good way to break up the doldrums of questing, but it is a way to learn to play nice with other people, and I'd like you all to remember, you're allowed to say "I want to learn."


  1. Man, so true! And as we go into Cataclysm will it not be even more useful and humbling to say, "I want to learn"? It's a tough thing to ask! But I hope we get there...

  2. You say all of this, and have a valid point, but the most fun I ever had in low-level dungeon finder was being an heirloom Shaman DPS and tanking. If we did the dungeon the correct way, as the tank asked, it would have taken a lot longer than I wanted it to; instead, I just utterly wrecked everything, self-healed, and did not die. I had the overwhelming majority of damage done, damage taken, and healing done.

    This is Aura, btw.

  3. Also, had quite a lot of fun as a low-level healy priest healing DPS. I'd rather heal DPS than tanks at that point - the killing got done faster and it was also more exciting.

  4. But... but... then why not queue as a tank? The ACTUAL tank was there to learn how to play his or her class, not serve as a redundant player. That's the whole point of running instances: to learn your role in a group setting. You can't do that if some jackass DPS is constantly ruining the setup of the group.

    Nothing says you can't be the tank; you're CHOOSING to be DPS, so be DPS! Sheesh!!

  5. I don't think you're wrong! It's definitely a Viable Way to play, and while letting the tank tank is "technically right" (which is the best kind of right) with a right minded group, you could easily steamroll your way through a dungeon like that.

    The gameplay of WoW is very big on "training" it's players though, and the inexperienced should be allowed to "l2p newb"

  6. 1) You can't queue as a tank even if you can do the job but are not that class.
    2) It's almost never a newbie tank, who I am glad to let learn, but a 'veteran' who is excited for the chance to lord over and prima donna a group. Having played every role in WoW successfully, I am not in the mood to deal with prima donnas. Training them to know that, hello, you're not as irreplaceable as you like to think.

  7. 3) The point of running instances is gear, really. This may change somewhat with the current realities of WoW, since I'm not there for them, but when you're absent many of your key tools at a low level, you're really not learning your role at all.

  8. I'm going to address point three here, but I think that's a good topic to expand on at a later date.

    When WoW started low level dungeons were multi-hour affairs, that you had to prepare for - now, it's a "more efficient" way to level; doubly so if you grab the quests for the dungeons before hand.

    I'd say more, but this is a good topic, and I think I'll run with it.

  9. When WoW started, it had 20 less levels and a lot less endgame focus. The gear sucked, 3/5 of the roles in the game sucked, no one knew what they were doing, and level 60 was supposed to take forever.

    By the end of Vanilla, however, this was dramatically changing.