Jul 30 2010

Gear valuation and addons like “Gearscore”

The addon Gearscore is a very hot topic for discussion right now. At any given point in time, there are dozens of threads on WoW related forums on the issue, and if you ask just about anyone, they’ll have a strong feeling on the issue one way or another. That’s not to say people over-obsessing about gear is a new development in WoW: It certainly isn’t, and certainly not an issue created by Gearscore itself.   Gearscore is simply the flavour-of-the-month means to do something people have already been doing since the advent of MMOs.

To weigh in myself, I can understand the feelings of hostility people have. While in a vacuum, Gearscore can be seen as benign or even helpful, but it has been tainted by the community.  Although it’s not the addon itself that is at fault, it has had a very negative impact on the mentality of current players.  In addition to encouraging the usual gear-obsession, its extreme permeation and popularity has shifted the philosophy and approach to gear valuation for raiders. It has caused people to judge gear based solely on where it drops and the item level it has.  I have encountered new players that assume that “higher number” automatically equals better.  I have also noticed that it has made older players lazy about spreadsheeting upgrades to see if a recent drop really is better. Worse, I have crossed some who may even know an item is better but still wear the worse-but-higher-ilvl piece instead just because they know that half the people around them are judging them based on their “score.”  Players, good and bad, just end up so focused and obsessed on that bottom-line number that they’ve minimised the importance of actually being better in favour of looking better.

However, I absolutely support a raid leader’s choice to require a particular gear level when planning PuGs or investigating subs and new members. I disagree quite strongly with all the people who insist that gear is totally irrelevant or those who imply the people who care are just stuck up elitists. While personally I don’t use any sort of standardized gear scoring system (website or addon), I do regularly utilise the armory to check both gear and experience when seeking out players to fill open positions. I make no apologies for doing so.

If you are of the mind that such behaviour is unfair, consider the other side of that coin:

I am a “serious casual” raider, a raid captain, a raid leader, and a guild leader. I have hosted countless PuG and impromptu raids, including running weekly “farming” 25mans in at least four different instances over two expansions. I am the sole leader of an ICC10, and I am an officer who helps lead an ICC25 raid, which is where I find myself most frequently investigating newcomers. My raid is not “hardcore” or on the cutting edge of progression, but we share a commitment to clearing the content. We devote only a few hours each week to raiding, so we are diligent about making sure those precious hours are spent being productive towards our goals and towards becoming a better raid. So when it is time to fill an open spot, you can bet I’m going to make sure fill it with the best possible option, not just in terms of class balance but also gear and experience.

I’m not doing this to be elitist. I’m doing this because the “raid” belongs to all 25 of us and it is not fair to my raidmates — who have put in hundreds of hours, thousands of gold on gear upkeep, consumables and repair bills, who have worked very hard on their accomplishments, who spent time outside the game researching their class, reading strategies, watching video guides, and participating in “how can we improve” discussions on our forums – to bring in people who have NOT done these things and expect them to make up the difference. It is irresponsible leadership to risk wipes on tough enrages in order to test out the skill of some guy wearing blatantly inappropriate armor. It is improper to ask them to waste their valuable time explaining the fights to new players just for the sake of “giving them a chance.” They did not sign up for that, it is not their responsibility or obligation, and it is simply unacceptable for raid leadership to compromise the raid’s hard-earned progress needlessly.

I have absolutely nothing against those people in non-raiding gear, nor do I have any ill will for those who are new to raiding (in fact, I wish them the best of luck in my favourite aspect of the game). Everyone has to start somewhere. But the caveat is: a progression raid is not that somewhere. So, yes, I owe it to my raid to be discriminatory. They shouldn’t be expected to concede — or even risk — their successes for a stranger. You’re not being fair if you don’t look at things from that perspective.

Being exclusionary in this context is not being snobbish or cruel to new players. They have other options. Those players can simply look for another raid in more-appropriate content for their gear and experience level, or seek out a raid that is dedicated to aiding new players (they exist; I know because I have also helped lead one of those). Most promising of all, they can start their own raid! Most current raiders did not ride in on the coattails of raiders before them; a large number of us headed fresh into the new content at the same time and moved forward together. If we could do it then, so can new players today. You just have to be willing to put in the effort to work your way up from more suitable content rather than waiting for an advanced raid to carry you along tiers above your gear level.

Finally: Yes, skill matters significantly. There are lots of bad, unskilled and/or lazy players across all gear and progression levels. But let’s be practical here: there is no means to “look up” someone’s skill or rank their performance. So raid leaders use what tools are available to them: checking past accomplishments and gear level. Yes, that guy in blues might be a better player than the guy in ilvl 264 epics (side note: why do people in these discussions always assume the circumstances to be where the guy in blues is amazing and the guy in epics is terrible?), but you’d be a fool to take the guy in blues over the guy in epics without knowing either of them. I have no reason to assume either of them is better or worse than the other, so I am going to suppose they are both average players. If they are both average, then you take the best geared and most experienced, of course. It’s common sense. The player in purples certainly has more potential, more experience and, on the off chance he does have weaker skills, more gear that will balance that out, and to push him ahead if he does exhibit proficiency; the odds are vastly in his favour.

The armory let’s us look at more than just gear: we can also tell if they were good enough that a raid kept them around for multiple kills (a raid might carry you through one or two kills but probably not months of them). Yes, it’s possible he’ll die to the fire 20 seconds in, but if he’s had eight kills worth of practice on the fight — and the new guy has none AND will also need us to spend 10 minutes explaining the fight — I’m going to bet on Mister Epics living longer and putting out better results with the added bonus of less downtime for the rest of my team. That is a bet I will win nearly every time.

And let’s not kid ourselves: gear matters. The best skilled player in the world still will be incapable of meeting our DPS requirements if he’s not wearing raiding gear. There is a DPS ceiling based on gear quality; Playing well will make you exceed other similarly-geared players of lesser skill and it can bring you closer to your perfect spreadsheet figure, but it’s not magical and it’s not going to put you on par with people who vastly outgear you because that’s simply a numeric impossibility.

2 Comments

  • By Eli, July 31 2010 @ 14:36

    Your very raid is an excellent example of how true this is. While I felt pretty good about my overall healing and Heroism contributions to your Kingslayer with Ilyeina, I could feel her low health pool a lot, and I’m sure the other healers could too. If she’d been in reasonable ICC gear there’s a pretty good chance she would have stayed up a lot longer and been easier to heal when she got wossnamed into the sword, and we might have gotten through it earlier.

  • By Tziva, July 31 2010 @ 17:58

    oh no, someone is reading my ramblings! hehe

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