Player Skill in WoW

Player skill is mostly irrelevant in a gear-centric game. SynCaine makes this point with respect to why players obsess about eking out the last percent of benefit from builds. I think we are mostly familiar with this argument, and it is 90+% true, but this comment from Sean Boocock is a well formulated statement of the counter-argument: some people are so ridiculously good that they break the curve, we dismiss them as aberrations, and forget that they are examples that demonstrate how sufficient skill can overcome most anything short of a hard gear check. (Most of the other comments are “WoW sucks,” “Darkfall sucks,” and “you suck,” so skip them; poor signal-noise ratio.)

: Zubon

24 thoughts on “Player Skill in WoW”

  1. According to WoWProgress, 562 guilds have defeated 25-man Heroic Lich King and 54384 have killed the first boss of 25-man Icecrown Citadel. If skill is irrelevant, why only 1% of 25-man raiding guilds have completed the current raid instance?

    1. well blimp, you must be misinformed, because according to syncaine:
      “even ‘heroic’ things like the LK are easily doable by any random group of 10 WoW-kiddies.”

  2. Following that logic gear progression is the crutch for the mass of players.

    They do not have to improve that much. They can gear up and in the mean time the dungeons auto-nerf themselves or often get massively nerfed when devs throw new content at the playerbase.

    Of course some player skill gives you an edge, but it is entirely *optional*.

    Sadly Guild Wars followed the trend with the introduction of Hard Mode. Normal Mode got easy peasy lemon squeezy, and Hard Mode was tuned down quite quickly to the state of being somewhat harder than the previous content.
    War in Kryta however was done nicely. Normal Mode and Hard Mode were very well balanced, I was very pleased by that.

    There is no real “gear” game in Guild Wars, but unfortunately Guild Wars 2 apparently is going to feature a “get better gear if you suck” approach instead of making it clear that Joe Casual gamer simply has to try harder… and maybe improve and enhance his gaming experience.

  3. 99% of WoW (or most other MMOs for that matter) is about skill. To chose the right enemy for your level/gear, to find this enemy, to have the right strategy for the monsters with your skills/gear, to know how to avoid enemies which are too strong, to know your way around in zones/dungeons, memorizing zones and enemies, to find the best hunting spots, to lead a team or be a valuable member of it, to find the right quests, to minmax your gear and stats, to learn the right character skills, to learn when to use which skill, to learn how to best set up and use the hotkeys, to learn how boss monsters act, even to make friends and be welcome in chat and of course how to roleplay…

    It’s all about skill, what else would it be?

    The only thing in the whole game which doesn’t require skill is the random number generator.

    1. /rant on

      Don’t forget to add to the list: Spend every waking hour you have obsessing over every little instance of every little encounter…

      Look. I am a skilled gamer. With lesser gear I would easily take down multiple PvP opponents in WoW. When WoW first came out, on the original servers, I was a lot of groups de facto tank because I knew how to get the job done where others of higher level would fail. This is where the game was fun. This was a LONG time before people in the game were even worrying about gear. Taking down Onyxia was a LONG way away. Do I worry about gear, “minmaxing” my character out, reasearching somebody else’s build so I could be just like them? Of course not. I just don’t have the time and energy. If I did have no life and could spend every waking hour based on obsessing over whether my thief should have the “Flaming Sword of Rediculousness” or the “Sword of Flaming Rediculousness” because the later gives a .1% increase to exuberance, then sure, I’d be up there with the best. But I’m not, and I’m proud that I’m not. I succeed in life where most “hardcore” gamers utterly fail, and they end up giving video games a bad rap as their lives are in utter ruin. If even a fraction of those doing all the above things you just said put that effort into their own lives, they’d all be millionaires.

      To me, if a game gets to that point, where I’m worrying about the smallest minutia, then thats when I know I have a serious problem. But hey, if I get beaten by a guy that puts in 10 hours to every 1 hour I put in, then maybe his win is more deserved. But I am certainly not impressed by it. However, even with that time discrepancy, there should still always be ways for those that play less, through skill alone, to beat down their opponent. Always. When the amount of time you put over what is socially acceptable is purely equavalent to the level of your success over others, thats when a game has turned sour, and the good players see it for the OCDfest that it is.

      I played WoW until I started to hit this barrier: “Oh. Your GS isn’t high enough. We won’t let you in our group.” Where most groups won’t even let you in unless your gear was such that they were guaranteed. No risk, no fun, no skill. That, to me, is what WoW has become, and thats why it isn’t even worth my time. I’d have to spend hours… HOURS… taking down basic level bosses for that 5% drop rate on that armband I need (so, I’d get the smallest upgrade after… 20 runs, or 20 hours or so) just so my GS would raise by a fraction so some little brat who is OCD will accept me into their cabal to just do the same thing over again?

      THAT is NOT SKILL, and ANYONE who says WoW is skill is fooling themselves, or has no skill themselves, so they see its childish difficulty as a challenge.

      I’m always happy to read about those that make it to the tops first, LONG before anybody else has even come close. Those people have a dedicated skill, and I salute them. Those that get it, after months of grinding up and nerfing down and finally achieve it. Thats not skill… thats just time.

      I don’t have a ton of time, so I appreciate those that don’t need to spend it to win. And THATS why I truly believe in giving the casual gamer an equal footing with those that spend the hours in game. Their skill will eventually win out. And skill > gear. Period.

      /rant off

      Sorry folks.

  4. That depends on what skill you are talking about – most WoW raid bosses test:

    Reaction time – i.e. move out of the fire

    Attention – i.e. see the blob on the floor that indicates fire will happen

    Builds – do you have the right mix of skills for the encounter

    Number crunching – have your players figured out the *perfect* rotation to squeeze out dps

    Gear – i.e. do you have enough HPS to survive a bad hit

    And currently the game will throw the ‘no matter what you do – this will kill you randomly’ factor at the raid.

    Gear can overcome the ‘number crunching’ ‘gear’ ‘builds’ and ‘random’ nature of the equation – which is why so many people power through encounters.

    Simply put the other factors equate into ‘can you learn this new dance routine’ and if you can you win.

    I’m interested in the new model where they indicate there will be less ‘instant death if you make a mistake’ which I hope will allow more player skill to come forward that doesn’t involve twitch tactics and death if you have lag for 5 seconds.

  5. I’m half convinced that people who play skill-based games like Darkfall and Eve rather than level-based games like WoW and EQ2 come to believe that the term skill-based refers to something more than simply an alternative numerical expression of character power.

    1. The term is ambiguous. You are referring to “skill-based” as opposed to level-based. That is just an alternative numerical expression (character skill-based). Other games are skill as opposed to luck- or stat-based (player skill-based). Games that are player skill-based will tend to be character skill-based if they have advancement (“RPG elements”), because level-based variables tend to trump skill (or else the level is not an “expression of character power”).

      1. Quite.

        But people seem to be thinking that playing a skill-based MMO makes them more skillful than other gamers even when the term skill-based quite clearly refers to the way a character progresses.

        I prefer the old Daggerfall way of calling skill based “custom class”. You could play a custom class or a standard class – it didn’t mean that all those playing standard classes were noobs.

        1. I think its just that most people who play skill based games probably do have more skill in MMOs than most MMO (read: WoW) players.

          I know in a game like DF it would be extremely difficult to max out a lot of skills and elemental magics and all that shit you need to be competitive and not know how to play your character effectively. Yet in many other games you can reach “end game” and not know how to play your class effectively. Even in EVE you probably could because you can level without even playing. Sure it is possible in DF, but the person with the mentality to not learn how to effectively play their character, in my opinion, wouldn’t make it passed the first few pvp deaths/times losing everything equipped.

  6. [Comment deleted for being an unfair ad hominem. If I tell you that the linked post’s comments have too much “you suck,” do not comment “SynCaine sucks.”]

  7. As I commented on Syncaine’s original thread, some of us still prefer it to be about the character’s skills rather than the player’s.

  8. That was the best response to a blog I’ve read in well, ever. Sean was articulate, informed and presented thoughtful counterpoints to the argument.

    GG Sean!

  9. I don’t think they are that good. The difference between server-first guilds and regular people is time. More time spent doing raids and getting gear, and running instances. Most players simply don’t sink the amount of time needed to master a tough instance.

    Most of the skill in an MMO is just knowing what to do and being the correct build/equipment.

  10. But they are excellent responses, case in point is the Finnish guild that cleared most of the “Hard” content in Icecrown with in 24 hours of it being released. They didn’t have the “proper” equipment, they just had what was available at the time. Which was (by today’s standards) gimp gear. Time had nothing to do with it as everyone in WoW had the same amount of it as Paragon did and no other guild came close to completing it as quickly. That’s not a time investment that’s a profound difference in player skills.

    1. Although it is my understanding, and correct me if I am wrong here, that they did have a significant time investment. I am told that the main raiders there have a fully geared set of same-class alt raiders, so that they can practice the raid before going “for real.” (I have made no attempt to verify that claim.) That is a significant time investment to make for the additional time investment of running the raid more often.

      Of course, that is a time investment that leads to improved skill with those encounters, not the sort that just leads to having better gear. Practice does indeed make perfect, it seems.

  11. Well, I really doubt they were the only guild using alts or had decent gear in test runs, so that’s a rather moot point. Since your hang up seems to be that time = everything in MMO’s I can’t really argue it since it is your point of view. But to use a different example to make a point. Some people are sharpshooters and some are average and no matter what gun they use and how much time they spend practicing they will remain average. Some people are just better at some things than others.

    1. Since your hang up seems to be that time = everything in MMO’s I can’t really argue it since it is your point of view.
      I have no idea where you are getting that, so I don’t see why you are arguing it at all. We’re not disagreeing here.

    2. That was me, and I still disagree. I think it really is just time: how many server firsts are done by people who play 8 hours on the weekends?

      I think that if anyone sank an equivalent level of time and energy into practice, they to could do the same. WoW is not something where natural gifts matter as much, compared to real life sports. It’s just most players are treating it like a game and recreation, and there’s little reason to make the time sacrifices required.

  12. Aww cmon but Darkfall does suck! ;)

    I think the term ‘skill’ is actually relative to the player and indeed even the class.

    My friend started playing WoW at the turn of year and rolled a Rogue as his first toon, with this he struggled due to the fact the Rogue is a cooldown based character and a lot of the moves and skill sets come down to situational use, in this regard he stuggled to learn the limitations and indeed class qualities – you would however also have to factor in he had never played an MMO ever before so it was a steep learning curve.

    Despite what people would have you believe any MMO is difficult until you know what your doing – add in stuff like auction house, professions and it can become overwhelming.

    Anyway a few months on he now has a Retribution paladin and is on his way to 80, he has learned a lot and is now familiar with rotations and gear etc….basically he only dies if he gets sloppy. Is this down to his increased ‘skill’? Its hard to say, he is certainly a better player now than he was then but then as mentioned previously the improvement of gear as you level gives you a bit more survivability.

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