Tag Archive: player behaviour


Been a while since I added to my WoW blog. Not because I haven’t been playing but because I’ve been so busy with work – and playing – I haven’t had time to write in depth.

WoW had been in the doldrums for me at the end of MoP. I wasn’t just fed up with the lack of new content but somehow with the whole attitude of Blizzard towards their customers. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but since the dearth of new stuff in WoW urged me again to play Rift, the generosity of Trion towards their loyal customers in contrast to Blizzard’s meaner attitude grated a bit. OK, Trion *need* to woo players. Bizzard doesn’t have to. But even so… grated a bit.

Still, WoD lured me back totally, and I’ve loved the majority of the new content. There are some fun quests, and lots of things to explore and discover in the landscape. I’ve enjoyed the story and even though I now don’t look forward to tackling certain quests hubs for various reasons, on the whole I’ve not got sick of levelling alts. I like the end game play and want to get all my characters to it.

On Proving Grounds, Pick Up Groups and LFR

I’m no great fan of the Proving Grounds, because on some characters it does seem harder to attain the Silver level and be qualified to do heroic dungeons, than it is for others. Also, how can failing by only a couple of seconds mean you’re unfit to do a heroic dungeon? The DPS challenge is the worst. It really is a DPS race and the tasks involved barely emulate what’s required in a dungeon team. Surely, the most vital requirement is moving from the fire? While my hunters and warlock sailed through PG to silver on their first attempts, my mage took a frustratingly long time. I’ve yet to succeed with my paladin, even though my DK sailed through like the hunters. I imagine that I find it easier on certain characters because I play their class the most, but I know others in our guild have had similar complaints and that’s with their mains. But I do have to concede the Silver PG requirement appears to have improved the PUG community. In dungeons – and maybe I’m just lucky – I’ve not come across any jerkish behaviour. Often quite the opposite, as people ask whether others in the team want to complete quests or do the tasks to gain followers while in there. The atmosphere feels lightened. This might be because the standard of play is higher so people get less frustrated. Or maybe it was the lesser skilled people who were the jerks, and they’re just not there anymore.

LFR too doesn’t seem quite so fraught. I assume that the level of gear form it, plus the removal of tier pieces, has put off a lot of the wannabe elitists who often used to make the experience so miserable. LFR is still great for alts, even if the gear isn’t as shiny as it used to be. However, I do think the ease with which people can use PUGs now, plus the fact they’re not as hideous as they used to be, has been a bad thing for guilds. On my alts, if I want to do the legendary ring quests, I have to PUG the heroic dungeons for that part of the chain. Everyone in the guild is either doing their own thing, pugging themselves, or attending to garrison maintenance. We only seem to get together for group play on raid nights. That’s rather a shame because I remember that the last time we were in Draenor – or its alternate version Outland in The Burning Crusade – guild heroics were available every night. Now, it seems rare guildies get together for them. Of course there’s no reason to do them now but for the ring quests and to get a character geared enough to start raiding. No currency to gain, and mediocre gear that’s appealing only to a character who’s just dinged 100 and won’t wear it for longer than a few days. Another reason, I think, is that PUGs of course get a buff that makes the task easier. Without that, taking lesser geared or skilled players along can still make a dungeon such as Slag Mines a possible wipefest. Given the choice, I know I opt for finding a PUG myself, rather than go with a team unlikely to find easy success.

I think heroics need to offer more than a tiny window between hitting level 100, completing legendary quests and then moving on. Being able to attain reputation with various factions in them, or apexis crystals and garrison resources as rewards for completion might be good incentives.

Garrisons

Although I really enjoy maintaining my garrisons, and hope this is a feature that remains – in one form or another – in future expansions, I must say that multiple garrisons on alts are now getting a bit wearing. It takes so long to attend to them all once a day! I wish some mechanism would come into play whereby we could manage the garrisons a bit more effectively. At the very least, let a follower in the mine or herb garden actually collect those materials for us. Have you tried keeping on top of these things on 8 level 100 characters? I don’t mind the constant repetition with garrison campaign quests and Harrison Jones adventures, but please let the mine and garden be a bit quicker to maintain.

I also think we need some tweaking with the garrison followers. As we can collect so many, being allowed only 25 active ones seems a bit mean. OK I get we can’t have a horde of followers chomping at the bit to devour missions, but perhaps things could be changed so that followers working in profession buildings or the Barracks don’t count towards that 25 man total. Also, couldn’t the inactive ones still appear spontaneously as npcs in our garrisons? We’re allowed 10 mini pets to wander around, so why can’t followers be the same? When our main team are out on missions, our garrisons are sparsely populated.

Paying 250 gold to reactivate a follower you’ve put into retirement also seems a bit steep to me. If we can only have 25 active followers, I think the remaining idle ones should be swapped in and out of our active team as we please, at no cost. As it stands, on my main character I have a bank heaving with bits of gear for my followers that I can’t use, and I don’t want to swap an idle one in temporarily just to slap a couple of 615 pieces on it, then retire it again. It would be nice if it were easier to bring some lower level ones onto the team quickly and easily to level them up and provide more options for our best team. Or alternatively, let follower gear be bind to account, so that our alts can benefit from all that gear lying useless in our mains’ banks.

It’s become clear that the Dwarven Bunker and the Salvage Yard are absolute musts for our characters, especially for alts, yet the poor tailors/enchanters struggle with levelling their followers because many will opt to have the Tailoring/Enchanting buildings, at least until top level, so miss out on the Salvage Yard. Conversely, those of my characters without professions other than gathering end up with a wasted small building slot. So I do think some flexibility needs to be introduced somehow.

Travel

My only other complaint is the continuing lack of flying. On the one hand I get why flying would ruin a lot of the little features in the game, like reaching difficult treasures, but on my 9th alt heading towards 100 I’m utterly sick of fighting my way through every annoying little mob en route to objectives. I remember when flying was brought in for alts in Wrath of the Lich King, and it felt sublimely liberating. Could do with that now too. Yes, we have these odd individuals who want the game to be as hard and irritating as possible, but I imagine the majority feel as I do. Yes, we did the content at worm’s eye level, enjoyed it – even did it on a few alts – but now we would prefer convenience and speed. We’ve already seen all of what Draenor has to offer.
I also think the lack of flying has killed world boss fights. In MoP, I’d regularly log on and join a team to kill the world bosses every Friday evening. I never see that in WoD. Maybe people just do it silently on the Group Finder, but I find myself passing over those bosses continually as I’m being taxied around for quests, and no one’s fighting them. Rukhmar – who can drop an amazing mount, ironically a flying one – is always flapping around Spires of Arak unmolested. Reason? I don’t think people can gather quickly enough, so don’t even bother to try. The bosses are too spread out, but then the starting zones for Horde and Alliance are as well, so that must also contribute to the problem. In MoP, both Galleon and the Sha were very close to the home cities (or shrines) so were quick to reach. Oondasta and Nalak were a bit further away, but didn’t feel as far as the WoD bosses are, mainly because we could fly to them. When you reach Spires of Arak or Gorgrond, even if your taxi is quick, you then have to ride on the ground, around mountains and through areas thick with mobs, to reach the relevant boss. Chances are it will be dead by the time you get to it.

I absolutely understand Blizzard’s reasoning behind why flying was not allowed at the start of the expansion. Being confined to the floor did bring a lot more depth to the levelling experience, but now I truly believe it’s time for Blizzard to relent. Also, doing archaeology without flying is vile. I just don’t do it any more. Not only might you have to ride round an immense unclimbable hill or cliff to get to your next spot in a dig site, (then have to go back to where you started for the next one), it also takes far longer to reach the different sites on ground mounts. Archaeology was never fun for me in WoW – I far prefer the Rift take on it with random artifacts, like the WoD treasures, to be found in the landscape. The mechanics of archaeology are clunky. Your surveying equipment seems dysfunctional to say the least. It can direct you for a long way in one direction only to change its mind and direct you another way. Flying at least made the profession slightly less tedious.

Last Thoughts

Despite my gripes, I think WoD is a fine expansion and I’m not sick of it yet. Blizzard have brought in many quality of life changes that I think enhance the game hugely. I’m all for simplification in an ageing game that had in many areas become cumbersome. I’m glad to see the back of the overcomplicated gemming, enchanting and reforging for gear. It’s great to do a raid, win something, and be able to wear it straight away without it damaging your delicately-tuned reforging etc. I like the changes to gathering professions in that you can start them straight away, wherever you are, without having to spend days in the starter areas, picking the right herbs or whatever. Players have wanted player housing for a long time and garrisons are moving us towards such a thing. All we lack now is a customisable personal house in our garrison!

I expect an announcement from Blizzard at this year’s Blizzcon concerning the next expansion. I’m eager to discover what they’re planning for it and whether the good parts of WoD will be built upon, and the weaker areas strengthened. We still have at least one major patch for this expansion, and that too might spring some pleasant surprises on us.

Advertisements

On the whole patch 5.4 has been a big success for our guild. We’ve teamed up with another guild to do Flex raiding and our two visits so far to Siege of Orgrimmar have been a lot of fun. We’ve got the first couple of bosses down and nearly got the third the other night before people had to leave because of work the next day. For a new team getting used to working together we’ve done really well, and most importantly we’ve had some enjoyable evenings’ play and have made some new friends on the server. While we’ve struggled over the past few months to get 10 people together for a raid, this Tuesday we had 19 in the team. Some people who’d given up formal raiding in favour of LFR have come back to the team and because people can come and go from the raid without affecting everyone else, guildies who have to start late or finish early could also join us. The difficulty of the encounters adjusts to however many are in the team. This is such a great feature for people who get home late from work, or have kids to put to bed or, at the other end of the night, have to leave especially early for whatever reason.

As well as getting together with another guild who’d been suffering the same problems as us, we’ve also picked up some new guildies who are friends of existing members. I know from experience that the state of guild rosters can – time and time again – change dramatically for the good and the bad, and I’m happy we’re now going through a good time once more.

The Timeless Isle has also been fun to explore and at the start was an absolute gods’ send for alts. I’ve geared up quite a few already with the bind on account epics that can be found in treasure chests and from mob kills. It seems now the drop rate for epics has dropped quite a bit, but the initial week was great. The only thing that’s spoiled the island for me and my friends is the PvP aspect. Yes, we get that Blizzard loves PvP and occasionally, (legendary quest line, Long Strange Trip achievement), likes to force it on players who hate it, and yes, we get that many players actually like it and want it, and we also get that the Timeless Isle is supposed to have a world PvP element to it. But the amount of griefing that goes on does nothing to change my mind about mixing PvP with PvE. For example, late the other night a couple of friends and I decided to team up and find some rare mobs. As we were killing random creatures around us, a group of Horde, all flagged for PvP and all riding huge Traveller’s Tundra Mammoths, congregated on top of us as we were fighting, clearly with the aim of making one of us accidentally hit them. They were taunting us as much as possible with emotes, supposedly to make us even more annoyed with the situation. When these tactics failed – we simply moved to a different area – they followed us and grouped up on our kills as we were looting, again with the clear intent of making someone click on them by mistake and thus initiate combat. There are enough Alliance actually wanting to get involved in PvP, so these idiots should go and pester them instead. If this is world PvP then I don’t think it belongs among PvE players. Also, how brave they are in numbers! It’s not something they’d try alone or in a small group. Cowards.

But anyway, apart from that aspect, which if you don’t like PvP you just have to take a little extra precaution to avoid, the island is a fun addition to the game. Not sure how long that fun will last, but there are at least a lot of pets to collect off rare mobs, which will extend the interest for some. For those not into pets, I don’t imagine there will be much left for them to do once they’ve earned the timeless coins to buy the items they want. As with all content, the island won’t have an infinite allure – things get used up and players move on. I’m trying not to use it up too fast. Some people are obsessed with grinding the rep for the Emperor, and that’s all they do. But once it’s done, and if done too quickly, what will be left for them? I think it’s better to pace yourself and make the most of the content, rather than gobble it up and then complain about having nothing to do.

I’ve not tried the Celestial Tournament pet battles scenario on the island yet, as I want to get more of my pets to level 25 before embarking on it. Also, you need to put aside quite a few hours to do the scenario while you’re learning it. Friends who’ve done it have taken up to six hours to complete it, (not necessarily succeeding on their first attempt either) and at the moment I don’t have such a chunk of time to devote to one activity. One friend had got almost to the end – bearing in mind you cannot heal or revive any of your pets throughout the scenario – and then failed on the last fight because he literally ran out of level 25 pets to do it. (He has around 100 of them.) He’d spent four hours getting to that point. You can’t ‘save’ the fight – you have to complete the whole scenario or start again. Another friend, who completed it on the first day, has 250 level 25 pets, so as I only have 70 or so, I know I need a far bigger stable of available pets before I attempt this challenge. Once you have learned the fights and if you have enough of suitable pets for the battles, then it takes less time to do the scenario. One friend completed it in 40 minutes today, when he was taking hours to do it last week. I dare say more and more strategy guides will appear for the fights as people complete them, and I’m content to wait a while until others, through trial and error, work out the best teams. I’d rather do the scenario in a couple of hours than in the equivalent of a working day!

A couple of subjects I want to touch upon in this post.

After getting a *tiny* bit tired of the new dailies on Isle of Thunder, I wanted something different to do when I stopped work on Tuesday evening. I reviewed my languishing alts and decided ‘I choose you, Jassenah!’ my Priest. Poor old Jass. He was the bee’s knees in TBC and Wrath when he raid healed a lot. Well, I did, but it was on Jass. (He’s not *REAL* you understand.)

Anyway, after I felt he was well and truly thrashed to a pulp by class changes and dungeon/raid changes in Cata, and never enjoyed healing on him then, he was shelved for a while. Shame, because he was actually the second character I made, after Velaxis, all those years ago, and for a long time was even guild leader, before Vel pushed him off the cliff, being played more.

Happily, MoP has brought Priests back with a vengeance. I should know, because on a couple of raid runs we actually had four of them in our team – a healer and 3 Shadow Priests. OK, that’s really pushing it, and far from ideal, but we lacked bums on seats and wanted a run. What more can I say? Jass is a little powerhouse for levelling. Well he was, because I hit 90 on him the other night, so for him the levelling is over. I’d got him to the Shrine of the Seven Stars a while ago, because I hate having characters wallowing about the landscape with no true city to live in, and no portals to anywhere else in the world, and you have to be level 87 in Pandaria to get to the Shrine. (Not counting the creative jumping off the Wall to get there, but I like to do things proper.) Over the last couple of days, I bit the bullet and pugged relentlessly on Jass in Normal dungeons. No blood was shed. He was easy to play, did good for himself in respect of DPS, so no goggle-eyed pugger was going to shout at him, and I got 3 levels in two nights, plus a ton of gear, so he can laugh in the face of the tough level 90 mobs, which we face when we begin our reputation grinds with dailies. Happily, for alts, that is much easier nowadays, so I don’t mind doing a bit of it.

I can see why so many people want to play Priests in Shadow spec at the moment. It really is a walk in the Heartland, and although Jass wears cloth armour like other caster classes, he is so durable he might as well be in plate. I love it when I don’t have to be mincingly careful around mobs, which with so many caster classes in MMOs you have to be. I’ve already said on this blog I’m rather impatient when it comes to levelling quests and dailies, so if I can shoot a lot of mobs in the face in one go and survive, that’s dandy. Mind Sear, the Priest AOE skill is marvellous. It hasn’t been emasculated like my Hunter’s AOE, and I can use it a lot. I know Hunter players who have abandoned their main characters because they hate the focus mechanic so much. Plus Hunter AOE is a shadow of its former self in the glory days of Volley. But I digress…

Jass has been a dream to level from 85 to 90. I won’t really be able to use him much in the guild since we’re swamped with Priests already, but I’m not shy to pug with him, because in comparison to a few other classes, (notably DPS melee), I’m not going to play him badly and get yelled at. I’ve dropped into the rotation of Shadow Priest really easily. Whether I will heal with him or not is another matter.

I’ve already written on here about the problems with tanks and healers in the game at the moment. I’ve taken Ysobi, my Druid, into LFR raids up until the second part of Throne of Thunder. After seeing the new third part on Vel, I wouldn’t take Ys in there yet. On Vel, (like two thirds of the raid group I was part of), I struggled with the mechanics on Durumu, which I found as hard as Normal raiding. I don’t want to try healing when I’m still being killed by the floor. That’s just not fair to my team mates. Once I have my head round it, I’ll risk taking a healer in there. Healers have to be focused on the raid frames to heal. Skipping around the shit on the floor is a tiresome addition to all the other things they have to do. I need to be 100% on avoiding the purple maze before I can heal. It didn’t help that when I first did Durumu in LFR we had some comedians in the group, who had clearly benefited from practicing the raid relentlessly when it was on the PTR. That is, they knew it very well, even from day one. Smugly, these people took delight in calling other players ‘retards’, because they were struggling with the mechanics, which in my opinion are badly-designed. Why on earth should players have to turn down their graphics settings on their computers in order to be able to deal with an encounter? Shouldn’t that encounter really be designed so any level of graphics can deal with it? If it isn’t, isn’t it just, well, too gimmicky? Anyway, I’ve read today that Durumu and his floor have been hotfixed a bit as the LFR posse have been struggling with them so much. If I get chance to go in there this week, I’ll be able to see if the changes have made that much of an improvement.

I’ve not tried a Priest as a healer for a couple of years now. Our best healer in the guild is a Priest, but during Cata I felt the class had become more complicated to manage. Druids are really easy to heal with, once you know the lay of the land. Still, I will give it a try, preferably in a guild group first, if I can get one. And that is another story…

Things are a little quiet in our guild at the moment. We’ve had a couple more people drop out of raiding, and it’s nigh on impossible to get any group activities going outside of raid nights. We lost a couple of good social members, because raid drama spilled over into guild chat and the public part of our forum, which they found distasteful, and not something they wanted to see after a day’s work, when they were intending to relax. This is not good for a guild that has prided itself on its mature atmosphere and lack of drama, but still… Nothing incites drama in WoW more than raid politics. I figured all this was a message from the universe to get over my fear of WoW strangers and pug more. If I want to play the game, and take part in activities that need a group, I have no choice. Hopefully, I might meet some new friends, who might even join us.

People have said to me before, and I have found it to be true, that joining random dungeons on the way to top level is a far more relaxed and friendly experience than when you are at max. I really enjoyed the two nights I did this with Jass, talking to people who were bringing alts up as tanks and healers, and everyone being somewhat forgiving of mistakes. Once you hit heroics at 90, (and of course the Normal dungeons are no longer available to you then), the atmosphere changes radically. This is probably because people simply regard them as an inconvenience they have to suffer to get their Valor Points, and they have no interest in socialising or taking things easy. Many have no patience or tolerance either. I really wish the WoW community didn’t have its toxic elements, because when you come across the best of it, it’s a great way to spend an evening. And unless we get a few new people for our guild, or I resign myself to more solo play, I have to brace myself to face that community and hope I find more good than bad.

Every guild goes through hard times. Some survive, some don’t. We’ve been through worse than this since we began in Vanilla, including two mass exoduses of players, with such a high amount of drama involved, I was moved to write stories about them. On at least two occasions, disgruntled people have flounced off and also attempted to take a lot of guild members with them. Poison whispers; don’t you love them! Both attempts failed – ultimately all that those people could take with them was the friends they’d brought in – but it wasn’t nice to experience, and for a while thereafter a hollow wind always blows through a guild as the dust settles and the departures are accepted. It’s interesting that in the two cases I mentioned, the exoduses occurred after one person brought a lot of friends to the guild, then (certainly so in one case) attempted a coup to oust the existing officers. The first time it happened I was horrified people could behave like that in a game, the second time, (which wasn’t so much a takeover bid, but more of a poaching extravaganza), just wearily resigned that the worst in human nature showed through again. But because we have weathered such storms, I have no fears about us surviving. But, yes, a couple more good people on the roster would be nice. Here’s to positive thinking.

I know a lot of guilds have suffered from game decisions, as they always do. There’s always something that drives players away for a while. At the moment, it is the over emphasis on dailies, and the fact that Normal raids are really hard for people who can’t commit more than a few hours, two nights a week to it. Frustration sets in, because progress in raids is slow, or even stalled, and people become more upset about issues, which if things were better in the game they wouldn’t worry about so much. The annoying thing for us is that we have the personnel, even with the recent departures, but because of real life family and work commitments, it’s incredibly difficult to get 10 on at the same time. Hence, I think we need a couple more people to get over that problem. But recruiting is a nightmare at the moment, because every guild is recruiting. We’re trying, and will continue to try, but we can’t just accept anyone who applies. They have to fit well with us, for their sake and ours. One thing we don’t want to do is compromise the atmosphere of our guild just to get more raiders. We know from experience this never works. And at worst, you end up with the sly snakes, who will turn on you with a poisonous bite some way down the line. We really don’t want any more of those, thank you.

If you saw an advert in your local paper saying ‘free Ferrari to whoever can get to this map reference first’ you’d expect a mass of people descending in that map point and many arguments to ensue.
Rare mounts are the sports cars of WoW. Let’s get that said first.

Secondly, we shall say Zandalari Warbringers.

All the good work Blizzard has done on the Isle of Thunder has been pretty much invalidated by the bloody warfare engendered by the Zandalari Warbringers. For the uninitiated, these difficult elite mobs spawn all around Pandaria all the time, and if you fight and kill them, there is a 1 in a 100 chance of them dropping a much desired sports car, sorry dinosaur mount.

While Blizzard has done a lot of work to lessen player hostility, it somehow forgot all that with the Warbringers. They are not tag to faction. They can only be tagged by one person or group and – huzzah- that tag can easily be stolen. The fact these mobs drop a mount has, as usual, brought out the worst in greedy players.

The horror stories you’ll read on forums are too many to mention, but just a few… Large guilds will place 5 players on each spawn point in every zone of Pandaria. Their warlocks and mages will be spamming AOE spells to guarantee their group gets the tag when the Warbringer spawns. This is wearisome. It’s constant. If you should be lucky enough to get a tag, you will see a lot of other players around you waiting for you to fail. If you don’t have friends along, for most classes these elites are fatal. The minute you fall, after perhaps 20 minutes of hard work, another player, usually with friends, will gleefully hop in and take over your fight.

Because mounts are involved people will not share. It’s amazing how these bunches of pixels can turn people into monsters, but they do. Only the other night, a guild mate and I were at a spawn point and saw a mage struggling badly with a Warbringer. I whispered them to say we’d be happy to help if we could all roll fairly on the mount should it drop. No answer. Not even a ‘no thanks’. Stupidly, I even killed all the wildlife in the area around the elite to make things easier for the mage, as there were grubs and deer all over him. Moments later, guild mates of the mage turned up to aid him and the mob was dead. But not even a thank you or an acknowledgement. I’m absolutely sure if it had been the other way around, that player would not have offered to help us. I also read a thread on a forum where a player spoke to a group of campers, asking to join in, and was told ‘sod off, we all want *all* three colours of the mount and we’re going to get them.’ Sadly they probably will.

All of this stinks highly. If Blizzard is intelligent enough to emulate the GW2 model of anyone involved significantly in a fight to get loot, why not extend this to the Warbringers? While we see community improve 10 fold on the Isle of Thunder, it is still being destroyed by the greed of players over mounts concerning the Warbringers. It really is ridiculously simple. Even the most disgusting player will be turned into part of the community if their reason to be hostile and greedy is removed. I see it every day on the Isle of Thunder. Rather than players shoving others aside or worse, they are calling out map co-ordinates, because other players will only help them, not hinder. I hope Blizzard reads blogs like this and sees what I’m saying. It is the simple truth.

Some time ago, I wrote a post concerning community in WoW and its rather execrable state. All sensible players bemoan the fact that behaviour from others is often disgusting, and many bloggers have been musing about how it could be improved, myself among them. But what I saw tonight made me feel positive about the WoW community for the first time in years.

Blizzard’s decision to allow the powerful rare mobs on the new Isle of Thunder to be taggable by faction, and thereafter available for fisticuffs to any player of that faction, is a marvellous one. Tonight, a few of us in the guild decided to do some group work on the Isle. We’d hunt rare mobs, help each other out with a few quests requiring more than one person and so on. First thing we noticed was how many players were around and not only that… they were talking. We didn’t have to greet the sight of dozens of other players of our faction with a despairing sigh, thinking ‘oh well, there goes my chance at the rare’. Because everyone could join in on the event and get loot from it, there was no need for anyone to be unpleasant or selfish. While we waited for spawns we could… mingle. Unheard of, I know. I chatted to a few people about the new mounts they were on, and about various aspects of the area. I really applaud this new feature and think it should have been instituted well over a year ago, like when Rift appeared with this feature at launch. GW2 took it further. Albeit that game does not have factions, but even so, *any* mob in that game works like the rares do on Isle of Thunder. There is no competition whatsoever for quest mobs. You can casually work with any player who’s around without even having to team with them to share mobs. You can also heal each other without teaming. Admittedly, more of the mobs in GW2 require this type of co-operation because they are not pushovers, but I really think Blizzard should go further than they have and implement similar in WoW. Also, let’s do the same with resource nodes while we’re at it. If you harvest a node of any type in GW2, it disappears for you for a while, but not for other players. How is this not a great thing? Reasons for players to be mean to each other are swept away entirely and if there’s one thing WoW needs it’s those reasons to be swept away.

Another thing occurred to me as we were messing around on the island tonight. If a server has a population imbalance in respect of factions, the lower populated faction will be disappointed and frustrated by the new area, simply because the more numerous faction will control all the tagging on rares, and even if they don’t, if a player hasn’t got a lot of friends around to help with the mobs, they won’t survive, so the larger faction will simply take over once they’re dead. It’s really going out on a limb to suggest this in respect of WoW, I know, given how deeply the faction rivalry is embedded in the game, but I did think about how it wouldn’t hurt for the rares to be taggable by *anyone* who’s there, irrespective of faction, such as we find in Rift.

WoW really needs something to improve its community spirit, and what’s happening now is a small step towards that. Perhaps Blizzard is experimenting and observing the results and will take it further if it appears to work well. I really hope so. All I know is that I had a fun night with far fewer reasons to get angry and annoyed at other players. I spoke to people I didn’t know in a way I never do. The opposite faction was a minor annoyance, since we outnumbered them so much, (must have been crappy for them, though), and some of them did try to get their sport by messing up our fights if they could. But if there’s only 2 or 3 of them against a couple of dozen of us, even if they tag a rare it’s not going to be tagged for long. That’s why I think the faction aspect should be approached differently, but that would be game-changing in the extreme. The lore of WoW, and its (virtual) thousands of years of politics would be challenged, to put it mildly, if Horde and Alliance became more co-operative with each other. I’d quite like it, but a lot wouldn’t. I have noticed though that for one of the dailies in the Court of Bones you are asked to free captives of either faction: those poor sods in cages. That’s another little inch towards what I’m talking about, isn’t it?

We also visited the Isle of Giants tonight, the new Jurassic Park of WoW. Love all the massive dinosaurs and tamed myself a couple on my Hunter. Pity they shrink like socks in the wash once you’ve tame them, but never mind. My only complaint is that the flying pterrorwings aren’t tameable. They look amazing and do turn up as temporary, secondary combat pets when your Hunter uses the Dire Beast skill. So why they’re not tameable I don’t know. The new dino non-combat pets were virtually spilling from the corpses of the dinomancer Trolls too. We all came away from the place with a nice haul of goodies, not least the dinosaur bones you have to collect to buy the white raptor mount there. I expect the drop rate for the mini pets will take a bashing very soon, so get them while you can. Best to go with at least one friend though, because all the mobs on the island are level 90-91 elites and pack a hefty punch. The immense Primal Devilsaurs do a lot of AOE damage, so it’s advisable to go with a fairly organised group if you want to take those on, including a tank and a healer. You don’t have to fight these big ones, and can avoid them, but one reason you might want to fight them is that they drop a lot more bones, and as you will need 9999 of them to get the mount, that’s as good a reason as any. There’s also a rare mob to be found on the boat that’s moored off the island. The boat has a big Devilsaur on the lower deck and an awful lot of dinomancer Trolls all through it before you even reach the rare. They respawn quickly too, and caused us inconvenience while we were fighting the Big Bad. Fun fight though, and this island is certainly worth a visit for Friday night fun.

For those not yet initiated into the mysteries of this island, it’s found off Kun Lai Summit, north of Zouchin Village. You can’t fly all the way there, and have to watch out for fatigue setting in once you’re unceremoniously thrown off your mount and dumped in the ocean, but it’s not too difficult to reach dry land before the fatigue kills you. If you have the Anglers’ Water Strider mount even better, or of course Death Knights can use their Path of Frost for themselves and team members to travel over water quickly.

I really love the new zones, and am looking forward to more of the Isle of Thunder opening up as time goes on. I especially love the Saurok quest area where you become a Saurok for the duration, along the lines of how we became Nagas in Vash’jir in Cataclysm. Only this transformation happens every day for your quests. And it’s not just one appearance either. You can have the big lizard ruff, or one of the metal masks they sometimes wear, or a fairly regular lizard face minus ruff or mask. There might be others, but so far have just noticed these three. The Saurok can leap miles and I mean really leap miles. Be careful when pressing the space bar to jump; you never know where you might end up. But they’re very agile so take no damage when falling off that mountain you just landed on. I defy anyone not to want these saurians as a playable race after doing these dailies. Try out some of the emotes on them; it’s great fun. They can’t dance, which we found really funny. If you type /dance, they stand up straight and look sort of stunned, as if they can’t bear the humiliation of dancing. But they can do quite a few of the emotes, such as /cower and /flex, both of which are hilarious. As I’ve written a story in which the Saurok make a kind of appearance, though somewhat changed and not called Saurok, (as it’s not a WoW story), I was delighted to find these quests. Just have a soft spot for the race and am really pleased they’re included in this way for players now.

So, 10/10 for the Isle of Thunder. I really look forward to going there and doing my dailies as and when I can. And it’s not often you’ll hear me saying that about dailies!

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.

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?