Friday, 12 October 2018

Raiding, Casuals, Tryhards and the 'Meter Debate'

 Now i don't talk about this kind of thing much mostly because i'm not a huge group player in FFXIV. I have my real life friends in our little Free Company and we do stuff together now and then, often separately because of our differing tastes for in game activities but i stopped with the '3 figure organisation of players that regularly raid/pvp' schtick back in the first tier of WoW's Mists of Pandaria. So i'll pug a raid now and then but its never a burning need to progress beyond normals for me since its not really what i play for.

 So as you might gather i consider myself an average player. Middle of the road in all roles who isn't amazing but always gets the job done. Thing is there are people to whom thats not good enough and others who consider it being 'try hard'. Really i think it comes down to a few different kinds of players i would roughly sum up as the following:

The Tourist: These are people that use MMORPG's like a very detailed chat room. For them it is a virtual world they can walk around and talk with people in. They will do endgame content at its easiest level and its fine. They saw what they wanted to, took some screenshots and moved on. The world and the people are its own experience for them and they may spend hours just standing around in their house with FC members trying on outfits and talking about the last movie or tv show they saw or something. They are the number padding users you will see in town but never run into in any matchmaking content.

The Anchor:  One of the more disliked subsets by and large. Players that are in most situations, to be blunt, a detriment. You would recognise them from the use of phrases like "Fuck you, you don't pay my sub!" or standing still and silent when asked if they need to know a fight while getting extremely angry if you point out a mistake they made and offer advice on how to improve. They are a combination of lazy and selfish mindsets that are really a fun void. I'm a firm believer in the old saying that 'The Party only moves as fast as its slowest member' and these are the people that dont use cooldowns, often for jobs like RDM or BLM wont even do their full rotation and spend more time in a fight dead than alive. Essentially they want a carry. They believe a subscription fee entitles them to everything without trying and we are all there to facilitate their good time over everything else.

The "Average": People that consider themselves the baseline in terms of skill, commitment and ability but actually might be more skilled than they believe they are but lack the drive or 'hardcore' mindset and don't like to brag. These are the players that are not the "no lifers" that min max everything but read up on patch notes, ensure all their materia is melded, they have the right cross job abilities and do things outside their role such as dps that battle res to save healers in a pinch. They treat the game less like a social experience or a job but just as another videogame where they get out what they put in but often its only one game out of many they play regularly and as such dont commit as much time to it as the progression crowd.

The Statistician:  No not a job in game but the 'number crunchers'. It doesn't always have to be progression raiding for world firsts, it can be obsessive crafters or rare item hunters. Regardless of drive these are the people that crunch the numbers. They have to squeeze every gil, minute and point of damage/healing to get the optimum output for their input. For them part of the fun is to know they did the best they could and for some who use parsers to know that others saw they did better than them.

The Vanguard: First in on patch day, last to leave at the end of the night. These players put their nose to the grindstone not just to progress but to be the first to do so. For them the game IS raiding. Its about pushing the numbers beyond even above average to get to places the average player wont for weeks if they ever will. The chase is brief but for that week of a new content drop it consumers their free time and inbetween its all just upkeep for the next challenge. Golden Saucer? Beast Tribes? completely meaningless content with no relevance to them.

 So why mention all of these? because i've seen a lot of debate brought up lately about the state of the FFXIV userbase and a conflict between the hardcore, casuals and the extremes of either. The arguments can be summed up into a few subsets:

Stalkers: Some people don't just take a bad run and brush it off. Some take it as the beginnings of a vendetta. They will stalk users they dislike and take to forums to badmouth them. Too demanding 'no lifers' or 'asshole shitters looking for an easy carry' are the obvious extremes but in general its a game with a comparatively small userbase of characters with so few players making alts. So your name is your name, your face -until you fantasia- is your face. You have a reputation. I still remember the german dude who melded the Materia for my Stardust Rod back in the day and sometimes we pass each other by at crafting hubs and wave and talk about the recent game updates now and then. Personally having a character rather than an account has always been part of the draw for me. I dont consider my character myself, but i consider it my character. When people think about experiences they have playing with me that character is the name and face and i like moments like someone asking me if i can craft a sword because their friend whos got them into the game bought theirs from me. Thats the .HACK fantasy right there and its great.
Buuut it also means you get this kind of stalking. Dont get me wrong theres at least 6 people i know that in game are huge loot ninjas or trade scam artists and i would always warn anyone away from them. I think i mentioned a good while ago that in the first release of ARR a bunch of french players crashed my servers economy claiming they were trying to 'drive the english pigs out' but in the end their names were blacklisted and nobody would buy from them or run content with them so they fled to Balmung or Moogle since those servers are known for being the 4chan/Reddit unofficial servers where they could find like minded arseholes. So sometimes its okay to remember a name/face in game and warn others. But it just as easily used by dickheads themselves to constantly harass and target others. Maybe they join the same raid and say 'i have logs that say they are shit, kick em' and wether they have improved or not since then its a kick. It also says something about the state of players i'll get to but point is there is this meta creeper idea to the two extremes trying to police each other. Sometimes a little of a userbase policing themselves is fine. But like anything its also very easy to abuse and lead to abuse.

The Changing Face of the Community: Now this is one that is kind of hard to deny. MMORPG's by and large are known for the shit rising to the top in terms of players representing the userbase at large. World of Warcraft in particular has the most rude, arrogant, short fused players in a large number i have ever run into in an MMORPG. If a party wipes once in a dungeon usually 2-3 players just up and leave. If someone makes a mistake theres liberal use of "FFS" and "GTFO FGT" and worse.
Comparatively it used to be different for FFXIV.
I remember the ARR beta. There was a version of 'Raubahns Wall' back then too. it was the MSQ that introduced Yda and Papalymo involving interacting with a stump in the South Shroud. Ask any beta tester and they will no doubt remember this. See there was one issue with this quest: Only one person could do it at a time. Were this any western game it would have been a mad dog pile like the infamous jedi holocron situation that killed Star Wars Galaxies. In a japanese game however? People queued. They formed an orderly line, chatting about the game and what they liked in the beta over 1.0. It got articles all over the web written about 'the most polite mmo userbase in the world' and for a time that was true.
But i don't think it is anymore. Its no secret the game has 'settled' and isn't really drawing in huge new user numbers and as the userbase is stable -though some would say shrinking- the pool of people for any in game activity shrinks. This means the crap rises to the top and its far harder to get people to go from the casual tomestone capper to a full on raider when their first experience is far more likely to be off putting. From what i've read this seems to be a bigger problem for american data centres over eu/asia ones. But just because i dont see it much doesnt mean its not well documented as a growing problem. The crux of it can be summed up pretty easily as one of two things listed below.

The "You dont pay my Sub" faction:  This is a game with a sub fee. That alone can instill in people a sense of 'its MY time and MY money, how DARE you tell me how to have fun' and in theory its not wrong. You dont pay to not have fun, you dont pay to play a game only to be told what to do. This is a fact.
 The issue with the extremes of this is the aforementioned 'Anchor' playertype. They are a weight holding the ground back because they dont want to try and dont see why they should. If they are playing badly, doing their rotation wrong or failing mechanics any attempt to helpfully inform them of how to solve this will be met with vitriol and verbal diarrhoea from a player who either feels insulted/embarrassed by being singled out or they simply dont have the drive to try and since they pay a fee are insulted that you would dare tell them how to have fun.

The "You are holding us all back" faction: Conversely however an MMORPG is by nature a collaborative, team based experience. You work together or grind alone. You do your best as part of the team or everyone else suffers due to your inabilities. Fights take longer, Instances timeout, Wipes happen that did not need to. These lean more to the hardcore crowd. They care about the destination, not the journey and are conscious of the group effort with other players existing as part of the team rather than a carry to facilitate personal gains. Some of which can be impatient and this leads to arguments over parsers and the idea of what is 'good enough'.

 So parsers in general are a big part of the issue. I play on PS4 exclusively nowadays so it doesn't mean anything to me but there are people that sim on the Sky, Stone Sea dummies for hours trying to get down THE rotation they need for peak performance and should someone not be doing the same numbers or similar they call them out leading to one of the two above reactions. A defensive, offended solo player or a hardcore minmaxer making everyone else awkward.

These are the extremes of course with varying levels of people inbetween but the long and short of this is that as time goes on the more extreme, abrasive and hard to ignore these camps become. On one side there are people that dont try to give it their all and don't see why they should when its their time and money. On the other its people that put in an obsessive amount of time and demand everyone else do the same.
 Personally i can empathise with both. I dont do savage much because i dont want to. I pay my sub for a good time and i get it doing what i want. At the same time if i see a RDM not doing the melee half of their toolset then i will mention it in case they simply dont know, but if they are intentionally phoning it in so to speak i can understand the distain too because at the end of the day i have to try harder to compensate for them in the group content.

 The issue here is essentially 'does this harm the longrun "player economy" for raiding and recruitment?' and on some level i think it is, or its starting to at least.

The players who don't want to try make anyone who screws up look bad and many of them are afraid of trying because they see the reactions they get from others. Conversely the hardcore players parsing people and shaming them before they learn the basics can put them off trying at all and i think its starting to look like there are less people getting into raiding to replace the ones stopping because they are getting tired and would rather settle in the 'average' camp instead.
The devs themselves have said in the past they never expected raiding to be the draw it is to so many and compared to other games you can ignore raiding and still have plenty to do rather than be funnelled to the treadmill so to speak. So in a game where there are so few incentives to do so surely these debates, shamings and fueds are only serving to push people away before they really try in a game that was once known for its welcoming, patient userbase.

I think in the long run you should be able to play how you want but this isn't a game with millions of people so you never run into the same assholes twice. This is a somewhat set userbase where grudges and issues can linger, festering for months as you keep running into each other. I dont think theres some big answer to give at the end of this post to magically solve this but more to highlight that the 'we are all in this together' sentiment remains the key to my own opinion and no matter your playstyle and opinion if you act like a dickhead and teach new players grouped up with you that its okay then it spreads like a goddamn plague.

 Sometimes to avoid burnout you gotta ask yourself 'what am i playing for', the thing asked far less often is the equally important question for looking at the people around you 'what are THEY playing for?'

 I think far more people could do with asking that nowadays.

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