Category: Community in WoW


As I’ve already said, in a previous post, I tend to avoid PuG situations where I don’t know people. But tonight late on, being on my Horde characters, and on the whole finding Horde players somewhat more mature than those found in the sewers of Alliance PuGs, I thought I’d risk LFD on my level 41 Druid tank. I have a level 85 Druid tank on Alliance, so am used to playing the class. I thought it won’t be too much of a trial to do a lower level dungeon on this character: I know the class well, what can go wrong?

Enter: humans.

I found myself thrust into Dire Maul in the middle of a fight, literally. Their previous tank must have left in a hurry. Perhaps a bad sign? OK, got bearings, sorted it, recovered and fought. Told the group, it’s been a long time since I was here, guys, really can’t remember the way, and I know a lot has changed, so please guide if you do know it. Seemed to be no problem. No one actually answered, but also no one actually swore at me.  We went our way through the place, a rogue also saying he was not sure of the way, and we went to a place where something used to happen, but doesn’t now, but still all was good. Then there was this one team member. ‘Why aren’t you keeping up, tank? You are a slacker. FFS’. And so on. At first I said, jokingly, my bear’s legs were too short, I was too heavy, but humour simply bounced off this delightful player with no effect. I wasn’t deliberately slow, but this guy was zooming ahead like there was no tomorrow. After a few rather heated exchanges I just said, ‘look, you are rushing like this is the end of the world or something. Chill, maybe? Wait the 3 seconds for me to catch up?’ Then, after more abusive comments, I simply quit group with the remark to the silent other team members, who had elected not to stick up for me, or even to agree with my detractor: ‘really can’t play with adolescent males, cheers guys and good luck.’

I wouldn’t mind if I was crap as a tank. I’m not. I wouldn’t mind if I stood in the fire, did stupid things, pulled unwisely and all the rest of it. I am a competent tank. But being competent is not enough now. I didn’t rush fast enough in an instance I didn’t know. That was all.

All this just goes towards my opinion that Hell is Other People. I love MMOs. I actually do want to play with others, not all the time, but a good part of the time. If I had a lot to learn, fair enough, I’d be armouring my back for the abuse, but even if you know your class and perform well, it’s still not enough to ensure an easy, insult free run. Now I’m feeling like I won’t poke my head above the ramparts again and dare to PuG on my Horde tank. My thicker-skinned friends tell me I should ignore the occasional knob you get in PuGs, but sadly I find it hard. I want to enjoy playing, and you can never guarantee the team you end up with in a PuG comprises decent human beings. At least this recent event is pale in comparison to the one where I had to endure a whole instance of expletives against me because I tried to help a team member with an achievement.

But I’m still here, still playing. Our guild is tiny on Horde, so if I want to progress PuGs are the only way. I expect my skin will thicken again over the next few days and I might try again. Erm, this is supposed to be fun, a game you play for pleasure, right? I know what my Alliance guild mates will say. ‘Why the hell are you bothering?’ I’m bothering because I want to believe MMOs have more decent players than sociopaths. I want to believe we don’t have to exist in gated communities, i.e. guilds. But, by all the gods, it’s hard to keep that belief alive sometimes. Referring back to my earlier post: something has to change, surely?

On a more positive note, have seen the good side of Cross Realm intimacy tonight. Our guild went to Ironforge after our mount runs, and typical Friday night old raid stuff, because someone told us this city was open to Cross Realm. We found players from several different realms there, who were mostly pretty open to interacting, chatting, having fun. At one point we had a little camp of cooking fires, parasols, archaeology toys, other gizmos, and so on, with everyone dancing around them. Made a few new friends too. Really like this aspect of X Realm and hope it stays. Someone told us the quieter cities being X Realm is a bug that will be fixed, but I hope not. There are several things I really don’t like about X Realm, but this new sociable aspect in the quieter cities makes up for it. Hope it’s here to stay.

It’s quite obvious, when you talk to people who play MMOs, that a large percentage of them prefer solo content, unless they’re with people they already know and trust. Even when they do have a lot of friends in-game, quite often there will be times when they simply want to do their own thing, on their own. Many are glad when difficult content becomes soloable as they level and gear up and don’t have to team with others to conquer it, if they’re after mounts or achievements from such endeavours. I’ve seen the rather baffled objection, ‘but surely, if you play an MMO, a Massive Multi-Player online game, other people are part of the deal. If you don’t like playing with others, go play a solo game.’ But that’s missing the point.

I don’t like playing solo games. I actually enjoy being part of a dynamic, well-populated virtual world. I’m probably less tolerant of badly-behaved players than others might be, and I do tend to avoid situations where I have to be exposed to players I don’t know, in potentially volatile situations, such as pickup groups for dungeons. But conversely, I want to be playing in a world full of other people. Sometimes, I just don’t want to mix with them. It’s not as if, in real life, you do every single thing, every day, with everybody else on your street, is it? But it’d be pretty horrible (for most, anyway), if your house was the only one occupied on that street, or even in the neighbourhood, or the whole town… That would get pretty lonely to say the least.

The thing I dislike most about the majority of MMOs I’ve sampled is the aspect of ‘enforced teaming’, where in order to progress significantly you have no choice but to rely on the co-operation of other players in formally organised teams. But I have seen alternatives, in both Rift and Guild Wars 2, which demonstrate what could be a better way forward for MMOs. Rift didn’t and doesn’t have it down perfectly. The big public events were great when I first played the game, but they got old, simply because they don’t advance your character that much. To be able to tackle even the end game dailies (or some of them), you need dungeon or raid gear, which means taking part in formal team events, which inevitably require research, precise gearing etc etc and all the crap that comes with dipping your toes into PuG waters, never mind the time commitment. Unfortunately, the innovative public events that set Rift apart, and which anyone can join, don’t award much at all. I thought this was a great shame, and it’s contributed to me not playing Rift much anymore, simply because I don’t have time to raid in two games, nor even be part of an active guild in my secondary game. The end zone of Rift, the new island that was introduced in a content patch some time ago, is painful unless you have really good gear. All the mobs are two levels higher than max level for characters, and Rift mobs typically have a lot more bite than WoW mobs, even at equal level. Ouch. Other MMOs I dip into, I do for fun, on a very casual basis. WoW is where I raid and do more ‘serious stuff’. I don’t want that anywhere else. Some players don’t even want that in one game. They love playing MMOs, but they will never be raiders, and why should they be? The most ground-breaking MMO, should it ever appear, will not just revolve around raiding, which comparatively few players see.

So far in GW2 the public events seem better than in Rift. They are more like quests, or scenarios, rather than the Rift model of everyone just piling in and galloping across the landscape, killing various mob groups and bosses. There are objectives to follow, and you don’t even have to team with the others doing it as well. You can all help each other out, for example, by popping down a healing AoE, as my Ranger can, since I’m currently using that particular healing skill for him from a choice of a few. All characters get such choices. AoE effects heal allies, regardless of whether you’re teamed or not. It’s actually fun to join in, because there’s no stress about who’s tanking or healing, or how much dps anyone’s doing. It’s just a case of going for the objective, with as many or as few as you have with you and, from what I’ve perceived so far, the events seem to tailor themselves automatically, difficulty-wise, depending on how many are involved. While you don’t get gear rewards from such events, you do get karma points you can spend on buying gear from various NPCs, as well as fairly decent experience and cash. Quite often, completing the objectives will also help with a task you might be engaged in for an NPC; i.e. the mobs you might have to fight off will be the same as for the task you’re on. Two birds with one stone is always handy!

I really like this way of working. You can solo as much as you like, then take part in public events if you happen upon one, or you could spend an evening actively tracking them down – they are going on constantly throughout the world of Tyria. But it is down to choice. If you don’t feel like it, you don’t have to take part. Rift had this too, while levelling, but in that game the casual player does run into an immense progression wall at top level. Even though Instant Adventures were introduced, which were instanced scenarios for one to four (I think) players, frankly they are not soloable with the kind of gear I had. The cool thing about them was that you could join a queue, like LFD, to do them. When you joined the queue, there was a countdown to the adventure starting, and ideally others would be queuing too, so you’d have help to do them. An entire zone would be instanced for you, with several objectives to complete. Sadly, the few times I put myself in a queue to do them, I rarely had other people joining me, so it was just a pointless wipefest. The times I did have companions it was great fun. It’s a pity, but Rift’s population has declined significantly, I think. In a well-populated game like WoW those Instant Adventures would be great.

In Rift, playing at top level grinds to a halt, unless you’re willing to take the game more seriously and commit to the activities that are de rigeur for most MMOs at the moment: raiding and heroic dungeons (or the equivalent). I really think this has to change. I would go so far as to say that Rift has foundered – and perhaps others MMOs too – because it has designed itself primarily around raiding as end game content, presumably emulating WoW with its vast subscribership. But Rift has nowhere near the population of WoW to sustain it. As has been amply demonstrated, raiders comprise a minority of MMO gamers; they just happen to be the most vocal on the Internet. I’ve no doubt that if Rift had been less focused on this activity, and its small, non-raiding end game content had been less punishing for those who hadn’t got really good gear, (or could at least have worked for that gear through other means that weren’t rep grinds from hell), the cities would not be so dead now. (Just as a note, the rep grinds for factions was approximately twice what it is to reach exalted with one in WoW, and with rather meagre ways to earn it… outside of dungeons and raids, of course.) I believe that in any MMO, group activities should be there for those who enjoy doing them, but for the vast army of players who like to do things alone, teaming with others occasionally with no pressure, there should be other avenues at end game.

So far, in GW2, the gear I’ve bought with karma points gets better as you progress through higher level zones, although you do have to keep on top of it, and make sure you upgrade your gear by playing in zones appropriate to your level, otherwise your major ‘personal story’ instances become more challenging than perhaps they need to be. But if you do keep abreast of it, the gear in the zones seems to me to be the equivalent of dungeon gear in other MMOs. There is even, once out of your starter areas, two levels of gear to buy, one more expensive, and better, than the other. NPCs who give you tasks around the landscape will each offer a particular piece of gear. They’re not rewards. You buy them with karma points, which are bit like valor points, only gained through doing tasks and solo instances. Group instances only become available at level 36 – or so I’m told! The instances I’m doing at the moment (level 33 on my Ranger) are story-based, per character, and soloable, although I believe you can team with others of your class to do them. I’ve not tried that. I’ve treated GW2 rather like Diablo 3. Keep plugging at it, even if I wipe a bit!

The one thing that dynamic public events need to work is a healthy player base. If the zones are empty, they are useless. No one can solo the end parts of such events with elite mobs to fight. So while these dynamic events are a fantastic idea in a thriving realm, if numbers are down they are just redundant.

I know Blizzard is doing much to implement end-game-changing aspects in Mists, but until we play it, we won’t really know how successful that is. The bottom line is that raiders are a minority in any game, even if they tend to have the loudest voices on forums. While I personally love raiding in WoW, as I’m sure raiders in all other games love it as well, I don’t get why big teams should be the only way to go in MMOs. In real life, someone can work alone somewhere and produce an amazing invention that changes the world, or produce incredible art, or any number of world-enhancing things. It seems odd to me that in MMOs, virtual worlds that in many ways mimic reality, we are forced into certain ways of advancement. Surely, the most innovative virtual world will see beyond this. The whole model of MMOs at the moment breeds among players disrespect, resentment, anger, selfishness, and as many other bad traits as you might care to mention. It’s because of the way they’re designed, with competitive acquisition being the ultimate goal. There must be a way to encourage co-operation without all that fallout, so that people enjoy the company of strangers, and perhaps make new friends, rather than reach for the Ignore button with a weary sigh. Well, there are ways, such as Rift’s Instant Adventures, but you do need a healthy population for those. They are not about epeen, just teaming informally to have… well… adventures. What’s not to like?

Both Rift and Aion have solo and duo dungeons, which again are a great idea, but of course take resources to create. The proposed idea of Proving Grounds in WoW is equally good, should it see the light of day. As described by the developers, these will be solo events, tailored so that participants will be encouraged to use every aspect of their characters – perhaps even skills they didn’t even know they had. As it’s so easy to get to top level in WoW now without learning your class in the greatest of depth, this is a superb idea. What would make it perfect, in my opinion, is a tutorial mode for it, so that all those hapless newbies are given an easy version that introduces them to all those skills they never use. Once they’ve tried that, and emerge victorious, then throw the hard stuff at them. They should have the tools to tackle it then, even if it requires a lot of trial and error to succeed. Difficulty is fine, as long as the education is provided to help people deal with it. WoW doesn’t actually educate its players much at the moment. If Proving Grounds could be entered at different difficulties, top level players could test themselves there to see how they’re doing and newbie players could learn their class. These could be far more creative ways of testing your ability and judging whether your gear is appropriate than using training dummies. A far more interesting way to prepare yourself for other group activities, such as dungeons and raids, in that newbies could then approach such activities with more knowledge of how their class works, and therefore be less subject to abuse from the contingent of PuGs who are eager to criticise others. For veterans, they would simply be a way to judge how their characters are performing and perhaps to help with fine-tuning.

The best thing about MMOs is the fact you share the game with perhaps millions of others, but that is also the worst aspect of it. You can’t guarantee meeting the people you’d like to meet while playing. And everyone has different aspirations in a virtual world. Hell is other people. Too many with different goals, desires and requirements. I believe Blizzard is trying to address this difficult issue – let’s face it, it’s never going to be easily solvable – and I think NCsoft/ArenaNet are too. But there’s still a long road to travel.

As a businesswoman supplying a product, how would I feel if a small percentage of my customers came to me saying, ‘Due to changes you’ve made, your product is now appealing to more people than before and that’s not right. You’re just not listening to me! This is not what I want! You have to change your product back to what *I* want, or else I won’t buy it. I’ve stuck with your product for years. I invested more time in it. Why should others who haven’t invested that time be able to enjoy it as much as I do? They shouldn’t have that, and also I should have privileges. Give them to me now.’

The obvious answer to this of course, (accompanied by an appropriate flippant hand gesture), is ‘off you fuck, dear’, perhaps followed, (if they don’t go away), by a more measured response, ‘I’m running a business, I’m aiming to be successful. You don’t like my product? Too bad. Lots of others do. And no, you won’t be getting privileges. If anyone does, it’ll be the silent majority who simply buy and enjoy what I produce. Bye.’

I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of treatment from a small percentage of customers, and thank the gods (touch wood) I’ve never had to, but this is the situation I’m seeing when, on my Internet ‘car crash spectator’ journeys, I stumble across Blizzard community managers attempting on official forums to deal with the entitled swarm of mannerless nincompoops who are invading these forums to complain about the current and forthcoming changes to WoW. You know, those changes that make more people get to enjoy more of the game? Really bad thing, obviously. It’s best to make people pay a monthly sub to look through a window at a wonderland they’ll never visit. That’s a popular leisure activity, I understand.

What amazes me, and in fact produces awe, is that the community managers don’t turn round and tell these idiots where to go. They are polite and measured. They ‘listen’ and respond with far more respect than is deserved. If it was my business, knowing these complainers are only a minority of my customer base, I probably wouldn’t respond at all, or if I did it would be with the sharp edge of my tongue. Perhaps Blizzard community managers are all on calming medication, or have undertaken rigorous personality tests before they’re let loose in the job. I just couldn’t be that polite to such … well words fail me, or rather civil ones do.

I was told a lovely fact by a guildie tonight. It involved the whole casual vs hardcore conflict, which centres around such sublime assertions that Naxxramas 40 was a great idea; you know, that old raid only 1% of players got to see? 1% of players back when Naxx original was current was around 30,000 – 40,000 people. It’s amazing that the current 1%, i.e. around 90,000 players, laments the loss of this raid they so enjoyed. Hmmm. I’m no mathematician but… The fact is, the figures are bogus anyway. Of that 1% playing in Vanilla WoW, and who raided, how many of those are still raiding now? We can only assume that at least some of them have left the game.

I can only come to the conclusion that a lot of these people sounding off on forums, about WoW dumbing down/becoming too easy/selling out, and being rude and disrespectful to the patient Blizzard community managers, don’t actually attempt (nor ever did attempt) the hardest content themselves. They just like the idea of doing so, spouting off about it makes them look cool, or so they believe, and let’s face it, on a forum no one can tell what you might or might not have achieved within the game.

There are some things that Blizzard does to WoW that I don’t like, and there are other things that I really do like. But at the end of the day, it’s their product, and they are free to do with it what they will. As long as I’m getting pleasure from it, Blizzard will continue to get my subs. If a day should come when that changes, I’ll take my money somewhere else, but I certainly won’t be bleating on a forum, or making videos to display on You Tube, demanding that a successful company should change their product to suit me. I just can’t dispel the nagging suspicion that the majority of people who genuinely go off WoW, or become disappointed with its direction, simply leave the game quietly and do something else that pleases them more. What we are seeing in this tiresomely raw red maw of complaints at the moment isn’t that at all. Is it.

I began writing this post about two weeks ago when the idea to create this blog first came to me. Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed from a couple of articles on WoWinsider this week that quite heated discussions have begun over player behaviour and expectations. Some of this is included in my rather epic piece below. Perhaps, given its length, I should have penned it in purple ink!

The Gilded Past

Most long-standing veterans of WoW, who have played since Vanilla or TBC, look back fondly on the days they joined the game. Viewing Azeroth through a misty lens of golden sunlight, they recall that there was a thing called Community then. There are many tales to tell of people they met out in the landscape, who became friends, or tales of random acts of kindness from complete strangers. I can remember a personality called Mongoose on our server, a level 60 paladin who always used to show up when lowbie towns in Ashenvale or Westfall were being attacked by Horde players – used to happen a lot back in the early days. Levelling was a far slower process then too, so quite often these random attacks were a great inconvenience to players, when their quest NPCs and flight masters in towns were nearly always dead – there were more players levelling their characters then than having top level ones. I’m quite sure the same happened to lowbie Horde towns too. On Alliance, Mongoose would invariably arrive on the field to defend the towns and save the day. I remember meeting him randomly on the road one day while questing, and pausing to thank him for his noble deeds. His response was a dignified ‘You’re welcome.’ To some, this might sound like a different world to the Azeroth we know now.

But Mongoose wasn’t the only champion among us. In those times, it might have been that the people who considered themselves only to be elite raiders, above the hoi polloi, kept to themselves (if in fact such creatures even existed back then). It was a lot more difficult to raid when the teams needed 40 people, and only a few of the top guilds were involved in it. So there was inevitably a percentage of max level players who found enjoyment in other aspects of the game. There was a lot more PvP going on in the landscape, probably because people wanted something fun to occupy their time. The top level dungeons, known only (and confusingly to newbies) by their acronyms or short forms, Mara, BRD, Scholo, Strat, LBRS were often seen as the pinnacle of the game by those who weren’t raiding. It seems bizarre now to imagine people boasted about doing BRD. But they did. It was – and still is – an immense dungeon, and very few could clear it in a night. (I can remember spending five long hours one night in Maraudon, and we still didn’t finish it.) But even though you might have had boasters in the community, it wasn’t much more than that. There was less, if any, scornful rudeness, at least at the level of the game/community that I saw. It might well have been different for the raiders. (I didn’t begin to raid until the advent of Karazhan in TBC.) But for most of us, if anything, people were keen to demonstrate their skills and help others on the way up. In my experience, it was very unlikely a high level player would turn to a lowbie with a sneer and a ‘L2P noob’ comment.

When the Shine Began to Fade

This mellow state of affairs continued into the first expansion to WoW, The Burning Crusade. When the expansion came out, Hellfire Peninsula was stuffed with players – far too many for the game to accommodate comfortably – but the level of behaviour was far higher than the feral pup fight we witnessed on Cataclysm’s launch night. In TBC it was just too busy more than anything. However, as time went on the cracks in the community grew wider and began to show. This was, in my opinion, influenced by Blizzard’s first steps into making content more accessible to a wider amount of players, and when the concept of Hardcore vs Casual first began to evolve. This, quite frankly, has been at the root of most player abuse since then. Blizzard introduced the 10 Man raid of Karazhan that was doable for people new to raiding (enabling them to cut their raiding teeth in fact). On top of that, players could win epic loot in heroic dungeons, (rarely seen outside of raids before), and worst of all, in some people’s eyes, Blizzard handed out what were referred to as ‘welfare epics’, i.e. pieces of nice gear that could be gained from doing PvP arenas – even if you consistently lost your matches (a circumstance since changed and rightly so, really). These epics, while including PvP stats, were also very good for entry level, 10 man raiding. Many new raiders strove to augment their gear with these pieces. Old School Raiders were incensed that the scrubs could get good gear from arenas and use it in PvE content, and were very vocal about it. The rot began to set in.

Until this point I had either been sheltered from this sour elitism by my very newbiness to raiding or else it simply hadn’t existed in such a toxic form. But I only noticed it start to happen with the introduction of the ‘welfare epics’ fairly late into the expansion. This unleashed a tsunami of ill feeling on forums among 25 man raiders, which never went away.

The Community Today

Over the years, and two expansions later, the community of WoW is all but shattered. Consistent anti social behaviour has made many decent players wary and disillusioned in the extreme, or suspicious of players they don’t know. What started as sour grapes among a small percentage of the player base about epic loot has exploded into a whole contaminated breed of players, who consider themselves above others and are not shy of making this plain. I’m not implying these types are Old School Raiders; the majority of the culprits clearly aren’t. They are fairly new to the game, but somehow they’ve tagged onto the whole elitist concept as a means to augment their self-worth. And they can be vicious about it. While in reality, these types probably are the minority, their very behaviour in group situations and their loud trumpeting on forums makes them seem more common than they actually are. These are the vermin who populate PUGs for heroic dungeons, and are sighted quite frequently in LFR. They congregate on forums to tell everyone how WoW is dying because Blizzard is now catering mainly for that most contemptible of life forms – the Casual Player. As to what actually constitutes a casual player is open to interpretation. Perhaps if you wouldn’t consider selling your family for a world first kill you are casual, who knows? But for some, being Hardcore is where it’s at; heroic raids for 20 hours a week or nothing. And in their eyes, no one who isn’t doing top level raiding is worthy of seeing that content at a lower difficulty.

Blizzard, however, is a business, whose aim is to be successful and make money. Perhaps realising that the strident self-proclaimed hardcore were actually a small percentage of its customer base, and that by listening to them and implementing their demands they were driving players away in their hundreds of thousands, (as seemed to happen with Cataclysm – no coincidence surely), Blizzard have visibly changed tack with some introductions to the game late in Cataclysm’s life, (the LFR difficulty of raiding so that virtually anyone can see the end game content), but mostly with their announcements for Mists of Pandaria. It appears to me that the developers are trying to have a more holistic view of the game, with multiple avenues to players’ enjoyment and satisfaction. It seems they are cottoning on to the fact that end game shouldn’t just be about raiding, and they should be commended for that. I hope other MMOs follow suit. And I say this as a core member of our guild’s progression raid team too. But this still leaves us with the problem of bad player behaviour, and the antics that have torn the WoW community apart.

Bullies – The Unpalatable Truth

The fact that random dungeons and raids involve people from across different servers, who will never meet again, removes any shred of accountability. People can be as vile as they like with no comeback.  The only recourse decent players have is the Ignore function, but it’s well known that the Ignore list isn’t large enough to accommodate the amount of unpleasant types you can stumble across in PUGs. We are given the right to report bad behaviour, and we do. But nothing really can be done about someone being a bully. They’re not exactly breaking any rules unless they swear a lot or say something racist or threatening. Being cruel and rude is not in itself a bannable offence. Some players, exasperated by this situation and desperate to change it, have suggested on forum threads that players could be ranked by their peers. For example after doing a dungeon through LFD, players could rate their team mates, downranking those who behaved badly. But this is so patently open to abuse by the very people it would be designed to cull that it’s not even worth thinking about. The bad contingent would simply utilise it to inconvenience other players, or get back at someone for a perceived slight, or just for the hell of harming someone they don’t even know.

Blizzard will not ban unpleasant people from the game. Simple reason? The bullies pay their subs, and that would be lost revenue. I’m not saying the company condones this behaviour – they clearly don’t – but it would be counter-productive, and their accountants would have something to say about it, if they started banning a lot of their own customers. Also the amount of employee hours that would be required to police rigorously all the realms is just unviable. Realistically, it’s not going to happen. This leads me to believe it’s down to us – the decent players – to police our own realms.

The Search for Solutions

I don’t think that punishing people for bad behaviour will have any effect. For a start the only real punishment would be a permanent ban, and that isn’t a likely outcome. But something, surely, could be done? Do we just have to put up with a rabid community that’s now bordering on some sort of science fiction, post-holocaust disaster movie? Do we really have to accept that decency at the levels we used to see has gone for good? Is our only option to ‘man up’, as some commentators have suggested, and simply attempt to ignore the rudeness and cruelty? I personally don’t think we should accept any of that.

It occurred to me that we, the decent players, have been looking at it all wrong. I’ve no doubt others might have thought of this, (I’ve just not read it anywhere), but would it not be feasible to reward good behaviour instead of punishing bad behaviour? There are many ways this could be implemented within the game that could not be easily abused by bullies. Perhaps we could rate fellow players, but ONLY when we’ve got something positive to say. I discussed this with a fellow officer in our guild, and we played around with thinking of a few ways in which rewards could encourage not only better behaviour among players, but also improve the community itself.  Here is a selection of those ideas.

1. The Order of the Mongoose

Joking here with the name, but what I mean is that when players consistently earn good reports for being helpful or skilled in different ways, they could amass points that would go towards a sort of WoW peerage. There could be different ranks for this, beginning with (to keep the fantasy theme) knights who would earn the title Sir or Lady before their character name, on to higher ranks such as could be dreamed up to fit the theme or taken from history –  Lord/Lady Protector and so on. When players come across others with these titles they’d know they were honourable people. They would be ranked according to their success at being decent humans as much as how good they are in raids, dungeons or various PvP scenarios. Player skill is paramount to the game, yes, but so are team spirit, tolerance and self-responsibility.

I would imagine that players would have to earn a lot of points to acquire such a title, but then it would actually mean something, and the players would deserve it. Points needn’t just be earned from behaviour and attitude towards others in dungeons or raids or PvP. If someone should assist others in whatever way, in a city or out in the landscape, or simply through one of the chat channels, they could potentially earn points. Or maybe they were courteous and knowledgeable in a team situation, or were a good leader who contributed to team success in a BG. Players could submit a report about others they felt deserved it. This would, I imagine, have to be a multiple choice questionnaire that donated points to a player automatically, as I doubt Blizzard would have the GM staff to deal with individual reports and dish out the points themselves.

2. Tangible Rewards

Instead of, or as well as, the prospect of earning a difficult to acquire title, fair players could earn more physical rewards. Not everyone is into mounts or titles, so perhaps there would have to be an array of different rewards, including good pieces of gear or weapons. For example, you could have the equivalent of a legendary, but earned in a far different way to however any such weapon has been earned before. I’m sure there are other ways players could be rewarded for treating their fellow players with respect and courtesy. There could be a wall of fame in home cities, for example, or statues of the most decorated players on a server. (Plenty of room in the various throne rooms for those – they could change annually or bi-annually so as not to take up ever-increasing space.) Perhaps the most prestigious of all mounts (such as those handed out for top arena players per season) could be awarded annually to a small amount of the top-ranked chivalrous players. Not only could they cluster outside the banks in cities on these splendid beasts simply to show them off, other players would be aware they’d got those mounts by being ultimately decent people. Few could begrudge them their spoils.

While the Knights of the land might have to commit many valorous acts to earn their titles, lesser acts of decency should also offer perhaps lesser rewards. The idea would be to fix it into the community mind as a whole that good behaviour earns treats. Bullies would be forever excluded from certain mounts, pets, titles, legendaries, or other items.

I hope people reading this get the vibe of what I’m suggesting. I’m not convinced all the ideas I’m presenting would work, but there is, I trust, a feeling behind it all.

3. The Problem of the ‘Bads’

One thing that the ‘other side’ might bring up, if they were brought into a discussion about player behaviour, is that some players are so terrible at playing they are actually a liability for teams. They are mostly seen as lazy or stupid people who have never bothered to find out how their class, or indeed the game, works. When coming across unskilled players, some of the more proficient types, (who might under normal circumstances be fairly mellow), can be driven by frustration into a frenzy of rage and insult-bombing, which of course only contributes to the performance of the so-called Bad becoming even worse.

Unskilled players will always be with us. Some people might never totally ‘get it’ but might still, at their level, really enjoy the game. Also, it’s so quick to get to top level now it’s entirely possible even a potentially good player can reach the max without having learned much about their class at all. There is no means within the game itself for them to learn; they have to use third party web sites. And some might not even realise these exist. I felt I had to write quite a long article recently on our guild forum for a few newly-dinged 85s, (friends of friends who joined the game, and therefore our guild), who didn’t really know much at all. Things most of us veterans take for granted they just didn’t know. It wasn’t their fault. WoW is huge. There is a lot to learn, eight years of stuff to learn, and like I said, the majority of this information comes from other players or web sites.

I read a Blue post recently on a forum, in which a Blizzard employee brought up how the so-called Bads, who might simply be uninformed, could be the top raiders of tomorrow if they were only given a chance, advice and help, and treated with tolerance and compassion. How true.

Other MMOs have brought in mentoring systems, whereby high level players volunteer to be mentors for other players. That would surely be another sensible way for people in WoW to earn points towards a title of chivalry. It could work both ways. Mentors could submit reports on their students/apprentices too.

Edit: Interestingly since I began this piece, Blizzard announced the introduction of mentor guilds as an experiment. Personally, I still feel individual mentoring would probably work better, as seen in other games, but my mind is open on the subject. Let’s see how it goes.

4. Guild Contributions to Community

The system could be taken even further for entire guilds to earn this kind of chivalrous reputation. Guilds who organise server-wide events, who are active in the community, or are helpful to newcomers to the server, or generous to fellow players. There is much potential there.

I’m not a game designer. I’m not sure how feasible any of the above ideas are, but to me any level of their implementation would be a step towards the community policing itself and bad behaviour being actively discouraged.

Potential Pitfalls and the Need for Change

The only way a system such as I’m suggesting might be open to abuse is if friends attempted to form a sort of cartel to rank each other, or players utilised multiple accounts for the same ends, but I’m sure with a bit of thought systems could be introduced to offset that. The fact is that the minute any system is introduced into WoW there are players waiting to exploit it and find a way round it, and I can imagine cynical young men (in particular) taking mordant pleasure from acquiring a title of chivalry they hadn’t earned or deserved. It would surely be the ultimate goal of the bully to find a way to get a title like this and then turn round and spit in the face of the community.  Yes, that’s how jaded I am with such types. But, it would soon become patently obvious they had cheated, and ranks and privileges can always be stripped from a player. I think quite wistfully of stocks in city centres where miscreants could be imprisoned for the populace to throw things at them, but perhaps that’s going too far. Anyway, I do think the ideas explored above could form the seeds of change. And we DO need change.

The very people who are ruining – or have ruined – the community will scream in scorn and outrage at these ideas, I know. I will be accused of being a care-bear or worse. For some, it is simply not ‘cool’ to be decent; it’s a sad fact of our current times. But I think Blizzard can do something within WoW that could be so innovative other developers would want to copy it. I do think these measures to greater or smaller degree could do much to improve our community. If people were rewarded for being valiant and noble, as fantastical heroes surely should be to their own kind, especially to those less fortunate than themselves, the nasty contingent would become marginalised. Some might actually be inspired to change their ways – although I wouldn’t hold my breath on that.

The question is, though, would Blizzard have the courage or the means to implement such a system?