Why it pays to be nice; or, a counterpoint to “boosting” paranoia, Goblindom and “Ape-Subroutines”

19 02 2009

  So, this one has been brewing a while for me. Sometimes, I read something out in the blogosphere that really strikes me, for better or for worse. For instance, this was a major eye-opener for a young Feral Druid in terms of frontloading threat and managing 5-man content more effectively. I remember reading it and then implementing it for the first time, and thinking “oh, wow. I look like a *pro* doing this kind of stuff! Thanks, Surabear!”

  Sometimes, though, I read thing like this or this. This too.

  Now, there’s certainly a lot of good information to be gleaned from that site. Despite the fact that it’s a game, and a virtual community, the laws of economics, herd mentalities and whatnot are very much in play in WoW. I’m not going to dispute for a moment that he’s got a handle on how to make money in this game, because he clearly does. While you may not agree with all of what is said over there, you can probably dissect any given economics post down to a few finer points that will serve you well. What I’ve got an issue with is a little deeper.

  MMORPG. Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. More than ever, that second “M” is becoming crucial. If you want to push into any kind of content, you need friends – and being mercenary about your dealings will only get you so far. Contrary to the “Spotlight” posting, people *do* remember you on a server. Servers are a far smaller community than we might believe them to be, and your actions are noticed. You might get away with something once, twice or more – but eventually, it will catch up with you.

  I know that it isn’t going to matter to the majority of people, but I know that, in the 2+ years that I’ve been on Skywall, I’ve certainly developed a list of people that I don’t like to group with, or even do business with. How do they get on that list? Several ways.

  Trade channel trolls are almost universally on it. These are the people who spend all day in /2 trying out their latest comedy material; every server has ’em. There are probably about a dozen or so, self-styled into a false sense of importance and decked out in the best BOE / 5-man loot you can get. Why? Because nobody likes them enough to keep them as members of anything approaching a serious guild. Sure, they can always get a PuG Heroic in, and probably regular groups for 25-man “Onyxia style” content like OS and VoA. When it comes to content that requires more serious coordination though, you’ll find them on the sidelines. That’s because you’re dealing with an exponentially greater degree of difficulty in compiling a competent group for content as numbers go up. 5 man is easy to fill. 10 man gets harder, due to class needs and competency / gearing. 25 man is a total crapshoot at the PuG level, and having even 60% of your raid at an appropriate gear and skill level is difficult. In other words, they might be able to get through Arachnid or Plague Wings, but see how they do versus Gluth, where you actually have to coordinate – and this is the easy content!

  While trade channel trolls are getting what they deserve, the other group is what BBB would call “the asshats”. Asshattery comes in many flavors, but this is the category that you’ll risk falling into by subscribing to thing’s like “Patchwerk’s Blessing”. The people I have on this list are more or less jerks. They’re the ones that bail in the middle of any kind of adversity, scoff at everyone in sight with gems like “l2plynub”, or pop off about how awesome they are every time that you fall into a group with them. Maybe they just like to ninja nodes after you killed the mob, then /lol at you to boot, or maybe they’re hardcore and prefer the ninja loot + Hearth + log. Don’t worry, I hate you all equally, which is to say that I have no problem dropping out of a group that includes you before the run starts.

  I’m sure that, for every one of these that I can remember, there are two or three that I don’t… but I’m taking notes. For instance, there’s a certain Priest on my realm who is a colossal tool. He’s self-important, always looking out for himself and more than happy to flame you or your guild if he sees fit. Never mind that he’s been in dozens of guilds as a result of his behavior, he’s clearly the bee’s knees in his own mind. About 2 weeks ago, said Priest – for no apparent reason – decided it would be fun to flame my guild in a conversation with one of our officers. Fine and dandy, I hope that you’re happy, and welcome to the Asshat List. Not just for me, but for our whole guild, since your interaction just came over /g. Fair ’nuff. What’s funny about this is, I remember this guy from about 12 months back, when his Priest main was about level 42 and he needed help with something. I assisted him with it (I think it was just some crafting / enchanting work), and he apparently friended me as a result.. because about 3 days after this recent flaming, he whispers me while I’m questing on my Warlock about coming to a 5 man. I was more than happy to tell him that, due to his recent actions, I had no interest in running with him or any of his alts on my Warlock, or any of my alts.

  Which brings me to another point – you never know who you might be talking to. Most of us who have been around a year or more are recognized or familiar on the server with one or two characters. Some of us, like myself, have far more. Whether the alt that you’re playing is level 14 or level 73, though, there is player attached to the other end of it – and that player may well be the GM of the #1 progression guild on the server for all you know, spending a little bit of lowbie time in anonymity. Beyond that, on the subject of guilds, any serious guild will have an application process – and that application is going to be screened by the officer community of the entire guild. Consider that you can expect 5-10 officers on average that might be privy to that process, each of which might have 4-7 characters, and you’re looking at anywhere between 20-70 characters that you’d better hope don’t remember your transgressions, or you’re getting denied.

  The flip side to this equation is playing the nice guy. Of course, there are extremes to this side that are ultimately unproductive for you as a player. I don’t assist people asking “pls run me WC/SM/BRD/etc”, nor do I cater to the “can u giv 10g pls lol” crowd. That’s a waste of time for anyone. What does pay is networking.

  I play a lot of latenights, and have for a while. Part of this is because of my work schedule, which causes me to miss what most would call “prime time”. Part of it is just that I’m a night owl. Still, it means that I PuG a fair amount of stuff out of necessity. In the course of doing those PuGs, and not behaving badly, bailing on the group, ninja looting, or otherwise acting like a selfish ass, I’ve managed to make a few friends, and those friends have helped me out TREMENDOUSLY.

  I’m going to break from my usual routine of not naming names here, because these are good people and they deserve the accolades.

   One of the first that I met was a Paladin Healer, Smoothnrich. I first met him during Burning Crusade, well before he or I had hit 70 on any of our characters. We’d link up every now and then for content, or he’d whisper me for crafting assistance, fairly typical stuff. Typical, except that he belongs to one of the best progression guilds on the server. As he levelled alts, or wanted to run something for badges or gear, he’d frequently whisper me to come along. Not just any group, but frequently groups full of players with a lot of skill and the equipment to make it work. When you have as many alts as I do, finding solid PuGs for Kara and such was a great luxury – and I got tabbed frequently to round out some of his groups. Because of the fact that I had helped him out when we were both still “on the way up”, I’ve seen a lot of long term dividends. The “Goblinish wisdom” of it all might have suggested otherwise, that going out of my way to perform profession related services, or even giving away cooldowns for things like Primal Might, is foolish and unprofitable; yet I’ve reaped 10 times what I sowed.

  Another good friend on the server is Deceit, a Warlock. I met her, like so many others, in a latenight PuG heroic – Slave Pens, if memory serves. I would get home from work well after midnight server time at the time (proving that life is cyclical, I do now, again) and usually look for a heroic PuG to tank before I’d go to bed. One night, I got the idea of phrasing my /2 LFG request as something along the lines of “LF 3x DPS for H SP that can follow a kill order and have a key, no other requirements.” You know, pseudo-witty enough to grab someones attention, yet at least put a (very) mild condition on the whole thing. She was one of the first to whisper me, we ran it together and had a good time. I started to notice on later nights that, when I’d log on and start LFG, she was frequently on – so we would group again. Each time, we enjoyed our runs – and each of us could see that the other was both a competent player and a quality individual.

  Well, time wore on, shifts changed for me, and I played less at night. I still talked to her from time to time, and once WotLK dropped we were more or less still focused on leveling our own toons – but that old friendship returned and paid me back in spades again. You see, Deceit is the GM of Skywall’s most prominent Horde-side Australian guild – and that means that they’re actually on and playing when I am. It is because of this connection that I have been able to get into Naxx-25 groups for the last 5 weeks – and not PuG crap, but consistent players, with organized and coordinated strategies, loot rules and standards. Given my latenight situation, this should be damn near impossible – but here I am, thriving because of one simple reason – I was nice to someone, and that person just happens to be kindhearted as well. It’s called symbiosis.

  Now, again, I’m not saying that there isn’t a need to look out for yourself as well. Believe me, I was running those latenight heroics for badges too, not charity. As much as I enjoy Naxx-25, I’m hoping for my drops as much as the next person is hoping for theirs. But the difference is, it’s not outright, Machiavellian greed. You’ve got to give a little bit to get yours – which segues into another subject – “boosting”.

  Boosting – the process whereby a perceived “greater” equipped / skilled player is enlisted/used to assist a perceived “lesser” equipped / skilled player to improve their quality of gear – is a frequent topic of Goblinish thoughts. My take? There’s boosting, and then there’s elitism. To hear it explained in some of the posts referenced earlier in the post, just about anyone that wants to group with you is looking for a free ride – unless they’re “doing 2.5k plus DPS”, or whatever. Well, here’s a point with regards to that – if you’re going to use the “Patchwerk’s Blessing” standards, then it’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself in the mirror before you go and boot a responsible raider who is “only” churning 2.2k – because it just might be you who’s seeking that “boost”. If that doesn’t show you enough, there’s always this to consider too. Look at the 25-man Heroic section and I’ll tell you what that says to me: PuG couldn’t get Gluth. It’s one thing if you’re a skilled progression guild, raiding Naxx-25 and looking for 1-2 people to make numbers (even though you may not need them, but I digress). It’s another to be ridiculously critical of your raid at large when you’re showing up in the best BOEs money can buy (including that craptastic, overpriced ring) with both spellpower and a mana pool that is at the low end of acceptable for the content. Quite simply, there is a time to be humble and accept that you need the help there as much as anyone else. We aren’t all born into full epics, and we all have to experience growing pains. I don’t mind when there are people in the raid who have inferior gear to mine because they’re at a transition point, such as the heroics -> Naxx 10 cusp, or the 10 -> 25. They’ll get better, and we’ll all prosper as a result. I was that guy at some point, and people had the patience to help me get to where I am now. Pay it forward.

  Lastly, there is this concept of “Ape subroutines”. Google it, it doesn’t show up in too many places (especially with the quotes). What it’s getting at is simple, primal psychology – that we as a species are kind of hardwired to do and follow certain actions, patterns or habits (“herd mentality” may be a better representation, in the common lexicon). While there is certainly an element of truth to this as pertains to any element of human interaction, I have trouble seeing the extensive usage of it as little more than another indicator of elitism. “I’m smart, I pull the strings around here, you just go about your same drone routine everyday, lol.” Well, like a famous quote states, “You can fool some of the people all of the time,” and there is an element of truth to it all. Make this your mantra, your code of beliefs, and you are setting yourself up for failure, however as it means that you’re going to be walking the knife’s edge between privateering and asshattery. Despite our habits and how easy or not they may be to exploit and prey upon, we’re all people – and each of us has a certain amount of intrinsic pride that you’re going to offend if and when we find out we’ve been snookered. My point is, if you’re going to practice the Puppetmaster belief systems, you’d damn well better be a professional, or you’re going to be the King of Animal Farm and probably spend an inordinate amount of time wondering when people with torches might come marching up the hill to your little domicile.

  The long and short of this all: making a crapload of gold in WoW is great fun, and can allow you the freedom to do an awful lot of things – but it won’t buy you the reputation or allies that you need to succeed in a game that’s moving more towards 25-man content, and at the end of the day you’re nothing but a mercenary in search of a country. I said it before, and I’ll say it again – the amount of good ideas over there are legion – but there is a great amount of danger in blindly buying into everything posted lock, stock and barrel. Make money in your spare time, don’t sweat the repair bills and consumable costs of being a responsible raider and see where a little kindness gets you – you might be surprised what happens when you grease the wheels of progress and open a few doors for yourself by sacrificing a little, instead of closing them through avarice.




2 responses

19 02 2009

Well said. I imagine that pursuing that level of self-interest with such commitment would be pretty isolating. I prefer my less-optimised but more friendly world.

21 02 2009

As a follow up to this, lol.


I find it ironic that this happens in such close proximity to this post. I can’t help but think, though – was it an entire Raid that performed poorly, or was it the influence of the Raid Leader, who was not able to effectively lead his men? Or perhaps, it is just one of the consequences of playing with mercenaries who don’t have a proper guild run to use their ID on. PuG Life, it’s a peach… and once again, all of the gold in Azeroth leaves you short.

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