Sunday, May 8, 2011

Optimization Discussion

There's been a lot of discussion around the blogosphere over the past week about optimization, and how crowd sourcing of it has changed the game.

Honestly, I think players fall into two categories: Character Builders and Dragon Slayers. Let me explain.

Character Builders
Character Builders enjoy the aspect of the game where they increase their character's power. Power can manifest in different terms - perhaps the best dps, the most utility, a good RP story, whatever. The important aspect here is that the player is invested in personally making decisions to make their character have the most power (however the person defines power) that they can.

This is the type of person who likes running optimizations themselves, and who will balk when criticized for trying out something that has been crowd sourced as "suboptimal" but which the player hasn't proven to themselves is suboptimal (yet). The point of the game to these people is figuring out how best to create character power, and crowd sourcing that solution is taking a shortcut, or cheating.

Dragon Slayer
The Dragon Slayer enjoys aspects of the game where they are given a task and are able to complete it. These tasks can take different forms - quests, achievements, and dungeon/raid bosses. The important aspect here is task completion.

This type of person is more likely to accept a crowd sourced solution for optimization without thinking twice about it. What's important to them is that they go into a given task with the best preparation that they can (and in today's environment, that means researching out of game). Then, the game becomes execution (knowing the boss strategies, and employing the correct tactics at the correct time).

Both groups can play happily along side each other, as long as some understandings are present. Character Builders can quite happily participate in end game content, since getting higher gear increases character power. A Dragon Slayer can work on optimizing his/her gear themselves, if no other solutions are present, or if he/she knows that their personal playstyle or situation is different than the norm. Having the optimum setup means that the task is completed faster/easier.

Presumably, the Character Builder will eventually reach the same conclusions as the crowd sourced optimization - the problem is when the Dragon Slayers criticize the Character Builder in progress (since it's known that the gear/spec/rotation/etc is suboptimal, but the Character Builder doesn't Know it yet - he's still experimenting).

To be honest, I'm a Dragon Slayer. I don't have any problem with Character Builders experimenting in my raids, so long as the boss still dies. I prefer for folks to experiment with new specs and such between raids, or at least keep the previous spec/gear/etc so that if the new experiment doesn't work, they can go back to it. I think it's important to note that my raid group is pretty much a normal mode only group. I suspect that groups pushing progression generally prefer that members be completely optimized before stepping foot in the raid.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with either viewpoint. They are different ways to look at the game and to enjoy different aspects. The problem, as always, is how we as people deal with folks who don't share our view.

For the record, here are a list of posts that I've seen in this discussion (so you can read other viewpoints). They're roughly ordered by date.

Tobald's MMORPG Blog - Fear of Suboptimal (May 3)
Nil's MMO Blog - Phobia of Inefficiency (May 3)
Blessing of Kings - Optimality (May 3)

Blessing of Kings - More Thoughts on Optimality (May 4)
Nil's MMO Blog - Enemy is Not Optimization (May 4)

Blessing of Kings - Optimizing and Fun (May 5)
Spinksville - Optimisation Doesn't Belong in My MMOs (May 5)

Tobald's MMORPG Blog - Extrapolating Optimization (May 6)
The Greedy Goblin - The Choice (May 6)
For The Bubbles - Your Optimal Isn't Mine (May 6)

Srs Business - Optimally Yours (May 8)

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