Friday, October 30, 2009

Bane of anonymity in WoW

The player in an MMO is in fact anonymous being, hiding behind the mask of the avatar name. This leads to the fact that a huge MMO suffers from the same problem with anonymity as the internet: the decent, nice Average Joe turns into a virtual troll and sociopath goblin due to anonymity and wide audience. In an MMO, however, the name the player gives to the avatar is a kind of personality to the character and is a bit slowing down this approach: you are worth your name and your name is all you have in the game.

But still, like Azariel wrote yesterday, the anonymity and not knowing the people you group with leads to similar conduct: if you are not satisfied with the performance of someone in a PUG, you can kick them out without a word (provided you're the group leader). This doesn't help the person to improve their performance due to the problem in the system: you do not get any kind of response or evaluation on how well you are performing unless you are doing so good that people are thanking you for that. In a case of 'poorer' performance, you are called names and told you're either noob or crap player, without telling what to do or how to improve.

No constructive criticism or capability to give such exists in the majority of the PUG's, anyhow.

Now add to this the possibility to group over server boundaries: the audience grows wildly, your anonymity increases immensely and -like Spinks posted- 
You don’t need to talk to the other people in your group if you don’t want to – you won’t ever meet them again.
In the future cross-server PUG system Blizzard claims that they have thought about the jerk factor and tried to find ways to prevent the excessive ninja behaviour this system gives a great thumbs up. However, even though I can see the benefits of being able to PUG fast I cannot see a way to make this viable and reasonable way to improve the game experience. The initial issue is with the Interned Dickwad Theory and the implications it has over the amount of players submitted to the cross-PUG community. The secondary issue is with the lack of criticism and advice you -as a player- will face even more strongly in this system.

But it all comes down to the fact that anonymity brings up the beast within. I can see the conduct which Azariel reported in his post escalating to the point that you get invited into a group, get kicked due to factor or another, get immediately replaced and you never know what hit you, why you were kicked and who you were grouping with, whom to avoid in the later groups. Sure, Blizz instigated that they are expanding the ignore list and that you will not be grouped with the people in the list, but you can already have a name change in the game? Hello?

Or then you get into a group in which there are two friends who are working together: they decide the loot and effectively ninja the instance. You get out, get in again only to group with guildies or friends of theirs... Guess how that will work out?

I suppose that WoW Jackass took a head start to help people avoiding situations like this... but then again, if this kind of system is needed, there should be something to be done on the game mechanics' side.

We are having problems with jerks, ninjas and antisocial PUG groupers already in the smaller, server size scale: the problems are there within the 'confined space' of one server. What preventive approaches can be taken to avoid these problems from escalating in the cross server PUG system?

And will the cross server PUGging be the saviour Blizzard thinks it is?