My Friday post on damage meter F-Bombs sure generated a lot of discussion, some of it good, some of it from people who failed grade 2 reading comprehension. But then there came a comment this morning from Pugnacious Priest that made me sit up and take notice. I quote it here:

“… All the Pug shadow priests Ive been meeting – most of them tagged with respectable guilds seem to have it in their head that they shouldnt be dpsing adds/spikes/dispelling and the like. Maybe the chips on our shoulders from being a poor mans Dps has bruised our egos so much that doing a job right is less important then beating the non hybrids …”

I’m sure some of you have seen Bladerunner, one of my favorite movies of all time. It deals with replicants, man made robots who look exactly human, who are better, smarter, faster, stronger, etc. As a result they’re banned on earth and if they show up they get hunted down by someone who looks like Han Solo.

Hybrids are also replicants, although they didn’t start out that way. Hybrids started out as classes for players who essentially just couldn’t make up their mind what they wanted to do, or players who couldn’t commit to doing something, a lot like my ex-girlfriend. In the beginning the trade-off was that in order to have the freedom to do two or three roles you had to accept that you didn’t do the roles just as well as the pure classes, whether that be healing, dps or tanking. As a kind of make-up for this, hybrids got given lots of groovy buffs that would hopefully ensure them being invited to raids even when we knew their dps sucked.

Inevitably and non surprisingly, hybrid players slowly but surely used a long campaign of endless complaining and nagging to get Blizzard to buff them up to be on par with the pure classes. Do you remember which was the best dps class in Burning Crusade? I do. They were called elemental shamans. And when one deemed himself desperate enough to join our crummy raid guild I remember us being a happy bunch indeed, (even if he was a closest sex offender to go by his guild chat).

Blizzard tried to balance things a bit better in WotLK but all their hard work in that direction was completely wiped out by a little class called Death Knights, who were labelled “Hero Class” which reminded me of game killing potential, ala Star Wars Galaxies jedi knights. These were so powerful they could kill a game designer at 20 paces, and thus they received a slow but steady nerfing into the ground until today where they can still top the damage meters if they so desire.

So where has all of this left us, the common people who must play day by day with the present reality? Well, we must remember that the present reality has all of this historical baggage tagged along with it, and it would be foolish not to keep this in consideration. As Pugancious Priest points out so clearly, hybrid dps now have a chip on their shoulder. They have been belittled and teased and demonised so often by us naughty “pure” dps that now they really want to show us that they can do the job. Unfortuately for everyone concerned the only way to effectively measure how the job is done is by looking at recount. Which would go some way to explaining the shadow priests temper tantrum in VoA the other day, (even, and I repeat, even if he was 4th overall on the damage meters and had also done damage to the orbs as instructed and was in no danger of not getting loots).

Ironically, in their push to gain acceptance as classes worthy of being invited to a raid for their dps, hybrids are digging themselves further into a hole by not doing their job properly. And it doesn’t help when they get grouped with players who proudly flash recount numbers in chat every chance they have. But in the end, what hybrid players have to understand is that all dps players are playing with the same yoke hanging around their necks. We are all slaves to the recount charts. As a rogue, I too will have my dps drastically lowered by running away and hitting the bone spikes. Our challenge is both to be able to keep up good dps while still doing the tasks necessary for completing the boss, and to be able to suck up the ignornace from the recount quoting crowd.

The doomed replicants in Bladerunner are afraid of humans while at the same time wanting to be more like them, and this goes for the humans as well. As long as there is a hybrid vs pure class competition there will always be these underlying problems that inhibit us getting a job done correctly. Our past differences are causing us to work against each other, even when we are on the same team. And at the end of the day we are much more similar than our differences would have us believe.

When I teach people to whitewater kayak or raft I always have to do a little bit of brain massaging to help them learn some basic concepts. The brain is such a powerful tool, (apart from for a lot of players on my server), but if you don’t direct it properly it can work against you in unforseen ways. Case in point: once a new kayaker has learned the basics; how to paddle properly, extract themselves from the kayak if it’s upside down, etc; we move on to running a river. There is a nice rapid that I take them on and it’s very simple – some moving water that flows around a bend. The river is about 30 meters wide at this point. Just one little obstacle to negotiate – in the middle-right of the river sits a large rock. My instructions to them are simple: don’t hit the rock. 90% of my students however, do just that. They hit the rock. Time after time. I always try and let them figure it out for themselves, as you retain knowledge better that way. But there comes a point where you have to spell it out for them.

The problem is their focus. They are trying so hard to avoid the rock, that they are focusing 100% on the rock. So that’s where they go. The brain does not diferentiate between positives and negatives. If you’re repeating over and over in your head, “Don’t go near the rock, don’t go near the rock, don’t go near the rock,” all the brain is hearing is the word, rock. And that’s where you end up going. I simply get them to change their focus to where they want to go. And for them it’s like magic, the very first time they glide effortlessly past the rock. And then I make them buy me some beers.

I was reminded of this process last night in the Ice Cream Citadel. The weekly raid was Marrowgar, so in we dutifully went. Not geared that well, and a pvp guild at that, but we one shotted both Marrogar and Lady D. As usual, no drops for rogues. Gotta get me some plate! But I digress. We moved on to the big gunship battle where we decided to do it on heroic becuase it drops lots of loots. It was the first time on this fight for many of us and we wiped twice. I lasted about 10 seconds in the first fight as I jumped straight across, not realising that we had to wait for the mage to come out, and finding myself alone on the other ship. The second time I lasted longer but got stupidly bladestormed down on my own ship. I hate those whirly warriors. That was when we decided to go back to normal mode. This time we executed the fight perfectly, didn’t lose a single person, and the loot chest was ours. So we opened the chest to find …

Heroic drops. It turned out that we hadn’t switched heroic mode off at all. But we thought we had. Our brains had switched from ‘this is hard’ to ‘this is easy’ mode. And it was, it was easy. Now, a good deal of this can be put down to us understanding the fight on the third attempt as opposed to the first attempt. But there is still an element of the brain tricking you here, only in this example for the better. We were focusing on the fight, but relaxed in the knowledge that we would surely prevail after getting close on the hard mode. We weren’t thinking, ‘Oh no hard mode.’ We were thinking, ‘oh cool easy mode.’ Except it wasn’t. Stìll, no loot drops for rogues even on this mode … sigh.

We moved onto the next boss and got him down to 16% but then had to call it due to people having to leave. Still, a fairly good effort for a quick Sunday night run with a couple of PuGs in the group, and an excellent lesson on where to keep your focus.

I was in Dalaran standing around waiting for a guildie to give me some enchanting mats when I suddenly got invited to a group by a stranger. Almost as quickly the invite disappeared and then I got a whisper of apology. It was another rogue. I whispered back;

“Those damn invite and inspect buttons are just too close for comfort, eh?”
“Indeed,” was his reply.

Truth be told, I myself had inspected him only a few moments before, checking out his impressive ilvl 264 weapons which I would do naughty things to an elephant in order to be able to get my hands on. The rest of his gear was all top level PvE stuff as well, nicely gemmed and enchanted. A wonderous thing to look apon. Some of his gear had the little heroic label on it and some of it was obviously from 25 man ICC. The best gear I ever saw on a rogue was back in BC when I saw a rogue decked out with all the top gear and the legendary twinblades. Man that dude looked cool.

Blizzard has announced that they will be giving the same gear and achievements to 10 and 25 man raids in the next expansion. There has been a lot of wailing and crying and happy people about this announcement in the time since, though things have quietened down somewhat in the last few days. I myself am happy with the change but I do think that it will be the death of 25 man raids for the simple fact that there will be no way to demonstrate to somebody inspecting you in Dalaran that you have run it. In short, running 25 mans with all the extra hassle and difficulty will garner you no prestige. You will have no special gear or achievements. There will be no way for you to show off with it. And this prestige goes a long way to getting players to put up with all the hassle of 25 man runs. Oh sure, maybe you’ll be able to find 10 or 15 players who still want to run 25 mans. But you won’t be able to flesh out the rest of the raid with the players who were doing it for epeen glory.

The question then is, where will the prestige be found? Arena gear will no longer have ratings either. Will the prestige be found in mounts? The common player needs the pull of potential prestige, even if they don’t have a realistic chance to get it. I hope Blizzard keeps this in mind for the next expansion, because otherwise we may see a decline in WoW.