DPS Meters, Parsing, Toxicity, and The MMO Culture Around Self-Improvement and Shaming

One of my favorite and also least-favorite topics has cropped up again over the last few weeks, on blogs I follow and in the broader communities of games I follow and/or play, like FFXIV and WoW. That topic is the eternal debate starter of DPS meters and parsing.

To start with, I think this topic fascinates me for a few reasons. Firstly, I absolutely talk out of both sides of my mouth on these things – I use them, I like them, I generally find them to be helpful from both a group composition perspective in a leadership role and from a self-improvement perspective as an individual player, but I also find that they enable some awful behavior in others and sometimes in myself – name and shames, a sense of hopelessness about clearing content in a given group, and the like. I find the spread of opinions on the topic interesting but also sometimes tedious – it’s fine if you personally don’t like them and I find arguments against them interesting, but I also think there’s a point to which the argument becomes specious – that such tools “ruin” the games they are present in, said not at a personal level, but at a global level, speaking for everyone ever.

After reading excellent and interesting posts on the matter from both Shintar and Bhagpuss and letting it simmer for a minute (most of the week really, since the last week here in the US has been a real drain), I think I want to add my voice to the discussion, starting with a statement I will work from for most of this post:

Damage Meters are Value-Neutral

A lot of discussion around DPS meters and parse-culture in general starts from what is, I believe, a fundamentally-flawed premise – that DPS meters are inherently toxic tools that can only bring about negative outcomes. And, to be fair, if you are in a group where that data is used less to coach and inform and more to ostracize and shame, I can understand having that perspective. I disagree with it, having been on the receiving end of both praise and prodding, but I can understand why someone might build a worldview around that idea.

My thing is this – no one that actually makes such tools sets out on a course to shame the underperformers or to create an objectively-worse atmosphere for players. These tools are intended to help a growing PvE content scene in most cases – if you hit an enrage timer, it can be helpful to a group or leader to understand why that is happening. Likewise, as a player, learning how you are doing and focusing on that data to drive self-improvement is a value-add, and it has the bonus of showing the improvement you get from new gear or changes to your playstyle and rotation.

However, I would say these tools are value-neutral because they themselves do nothing more than expose this data to you in an easily-readable format. They don’t tell you that you can do better, or that a teammate is doing worse – they simply give you a number representative of the average amount of something you are doing per second, whether that something is damage output, damage intake for tanks, or healing output. The tools themselves do not drive the improvements nor do they themselves create the toxicity – they merely show the data in a way that can be easily read and acted upon, for better or for worse.

Thus, I think my first major conclusion is that chasing after damage meters isn’t really addressing the issues most players discuss. The tools themselves just open up the data – it is what is done with that data that creates the stigma and polarized responses.

Damage Meters Can Be Helpful

I personally use damage meters or real-time parsers for the sake of self-improvement, mostly. At a certain point of content, especially in modern MMOs, you bear a responsibility to yourself and to the groups you play with to meet performance guidelines of some sort. I know that statement alone will ruffle feathers, but it is pretty universally true across the genre – high-end content is made around the assumption of a baseline of performance that each player must meet for the content to be beaten, and if you cannot meet those guidelines for yourself, that is a point that can cause painful progress not just for you but everyone you play with. A lack of performance can even cause a group to be incapable of clearing a given encounter or piece of content, and while the process of getting better at a piece of content is iterative and requires a group sometimes putting forth hours of effort on a single fight, that process can be upended in frustration if individual players are not meeting their end of the deal.

All of this sounds severe, so let me say that I understand that we are ultimately talking about boss fights in a video game and not something life-changingly important here, but I’ve also seen people burn out on a game they genuinely love because hitting the wall a lot changes their interactions with it. Hell, it happens to me, and there is a handful of games I’ve put down and walked away from because I couldn’t get past certain obstacles or challenges. Being able to review my own performance in real time and to see the variations pull-to-pull in boss fights from changes to rotation, playstyle, aggressiveness, and the like is a good thing for me.

The other side of this is, of course, the group leader’s POV. In most MMO scenarios where DPS meters are called into question, a full group of players is involved and there is a question to be asked – what can the group do to ensure content completion? I think the reality is that a part of that process is asking if individual players can bring more to the table – if you have a player that is underperforming relative to their gear, then it bears asking if that player can do better at their class/spec/job to shrink the discrepancy between theoretical performance and actual. A good group leader can do this in a way that is not minimizing or shaming, but instead collaborative and worthwhile. If you have the means to stop yourself from hitting the wall over and over again in growing frustration, would you take it? I believe that most people would, and a part of that in a collaborative team-play setting is acknowledging that everyone has to be able to bring enough to the table to meet the checks of a given piece of content. I can call out a failed mechanic visually, but a failure to meet a DPS check might be something that hides under the surface until nearing the completion of a 10 minute raid fight, and while it is more opaque than a movement check being failed, not meeting DPS requirements is still a problem with execution.

I guess to distill this down simply, my stance for the good of DPS meters is this: knowing how I am doing helps me improve and see improvement in myself, and knowing how my group is doing in a leadership role lets me make adjustments and coach where possible to bring up the group to pass difficult checks without endlessly smashing the wall in frustration or having to make multiple 10+ minute pulls to get to the same outcome with growing frustration.

Damage Meters Can Be Harmful

I’m not idealistic enough to pretend that damage meters and such tools are not also vectors for community awfulness, however. A big part of the reason that so many people distrust them as tools is because of what they enable – the worst elements of the community to be assholes to other players.

An MMO is at its zenith in my eyes when it enables a collaborative, team-play experience that can’t be emulated in most other genres. I want to be in the trenches with my team, killing the hardest bosses and sharing in the rewards, and I want there to be a sense of camaraderie and shared investment that lifts each other up – the rising tide that lifts all boats. A focus on performance at an individual level can dampen that, from a little to a lot.

One of my core beefs with the current design of World of Warcraft’s raiding content is that it places a lot of pressure on obvious individual performance, both in terms of damage throughput but also in terms of mechanical execution, such that a single player messing up a mechanic or being a slow learner can create an avalanche of less-recoverable failures leading to a wipe. One of the consequences this has had on the community of the game is that players can often find themselves being ardent assholes to those in their groups who are more prone to struggle, instead of being good teammates who seek to raise up the team. In fact, this is a key reason that my FOMO from my series of WoW posts in March never materialized in me re-subscribing to that game – I saw firsthand as people I know were pushed to a different raid team because of people being dicks to them without an apology, and it put my idealized, FOMO-laden version of the game against the harsh reality of what WoW has become – a dick-waving contest where the biggest shitheads often feel the most empowered and where team cohesion and group dynamics are so often tossed to the side in favor of a glorified pissing contest where those who can’t keep up are simply left behind and scorned. It sucks (and is worthy of a post of its own at some point soon, I think), and points about DPS done are just more fuel for that same fire.

I can also sympathize with people who are kicked from or excluded from group activities because of their performance. Now, I want to walk a fine line here – to a certain point, I think that excluding an underperformer to make a fight go from impossible to possible sucks, but is understandable (1 person’s hurt feelings versus 7-29 other people) and I think that a solid group lead understands the point at which it is necessary over when it is just being a dick. An anecdote I told in my post about new raid content in FFXIV talked about Endsinger’s Aria and how the groups my FC put together for it weren’t getting the fight done, and how one week it largely boiled down to a player doing drastically less DPS than a baseline level 90 of their job should be doing – and for me, that is a case where you would ask the underperforming player to practice and get better at juggling their rotation with the mechanics of the fight in order to meet the baseline expectation of the fight itself before bringing them along for more attempts, where on the other hand, asking people doing 5k DPS against a theoretical potential of 7-8k to sit out would be more dickish (because the 5k is likely still going to be able to clear the fight and meets the minimum checks). No one wants to be excluded, and that is totally understandable, but I think if things are communicated level-headed and fairly, you can deliver that message without making it a complete shitshow.

Outside of other players and group leads using that data in ways that can be seen as negative, though, I think there is a component of self-driven insanity that some people can reach with DPS meters, where they try to drive up their own performance at all costs and it ultimately pushes them off the cliff in regards to their interest in and passion for a given game. I find this interesting because I had an element of it in raiding during Shadowlands – at a certain point, a journey of self-improvement means looking at everything you are doing and pushing to do all of it better, and the weight of that can be strengthening but can also be crushing. In WoW, rotations are built on the back of procs and resource building and can end up being priority systems more than actual rotations. Havoc Demon Hunter is very much that way, in that the core rotation is a builder and spender with very basic and minimal gameplay, but then there are cooldowns that get stuck in when available and questions about when you pool resources versus spending them as available, and the layers of intricacy this adds creates a situation where you might actually have a fundamentally good understanding of your spec only to find that your execution is still lacking (not to mention the changing impact of external bonuses like trinket procs, Shards of Domination when those were a thing, and tier set bonuses). In FFXIV, combos make rotations more rigid to a point, but you still need to be familiar with your job’s opener, how to synchronize your gameplay to 1 and 2 minute burst windows and raid cooldowns, and how to adapt your rotation and burst around the contours of a fight design to maximize performance.

Self-improvement is the name of the game, but sometimes people will react poorly and over-emphasize their own mistakes instead of course-correcting properly, and sometimes that is driven from internal pressure while other times it is external pressure pushing that response, and I think that sometimes both forms of pressure come from bad places or with ill intentions, and easy access to performance data helps drive that, whether it is the intention of tool designers or not.

So What Role Do Players Have In This?

I think if you’ve read the whole post to this point, I’ve threaded a needle about my opinion on meters as tools – that they are value-neutral and most of the response to them for or against is driven by player action based on the data they provide.

So why is that?

Well, I think that like any access to data, what people do with it determines its usefulness or lack thereof. If people are harassing, shaming, or slamming other players for low DPS/HPS or high DTPS (I’ve literally never seen someone use DTPS as a measure to insult a tank, but I bet it has happened!), that is obviously not okay or good. I think that a responsible framework for players to work within is to offer guidance to steer a player towards self-improvement in environments where that is possible – where you know the other player, have a vested interest in them getting better at the game, and where they’ve responded positively to that coaching and performance evaluation. I think in most static, guild, or team environments, that is something that should be pushing down from the leadership roles in the group and not up from other players, because players not in a leadership role doing it feels like meter-maiding and passive-aggressive more often than not. I think that in most group settings for challenging content short of random matchmade groups, that performance should be on-the-table as a valid reason that someone might be excluded, but that should most often be a last resort and not the first stop.

Why is that? Well, I think the part that a lot of people who dislike damage meters bristle at is that it can tell you and others when you’re doing really well, but also when you’re doing poorly. No one wants to be exposed as bad at the game, or even have to compute what that means for their play. Ultimately, I don’t think a single damage meter is enough to say someone is bad at the game, either, excuse my pithy one-liner. However, I think it is a misconception, often coming from a desire for self-protection, to say that damage meters are guaranteed toxicity or elitism. Because there is a middle-ground that I think most players want, which is to be in a group that is good enough to clear the content.

I’ve done a lot of messy-ass boss fights in my time in both WoW and FFXIV, where people have died to simple avoidable mechanics, done damage far below their potential based on gear and current design/balance, and yet we still squeak over the finish line in the end. My FFLogs average of best Savage parses this tier is just under 31st percentile, and my SoD average in WoW was 61st percentile – not amazing, but not awful there as I have a literal decade more WoW experience! When I use damage meters, it is mostly for self-improvement – I drove my parses in WoW way up over the course of Shadowlands and I am proud of the work I put in there, even if it now comes with a twinge of sunken cost fallacy to look at, and I’ve been doing the same in FFXIV, pushing my parses higher with each week of reclears, mostly. At the same time, do I hate grey parsing but getting kills? Not really, no – it means that there is some sanctity to the goal as personal. I’ve had grey parses while being the highest or nearly highest DPS in a given group, and in casual content in FFXIV, my parses are far higher, because against the playerbase as a whole, my 12 parse in Savage becomes an 80 parse in normal content. I’ve been endeavoring to improve my DPS performance for myself, not because it has led to me being excluded from groups (because it hasn’t), but just for the sake of seeing how much better I can personally get at the game.

I don’t mind a clear with some mess and some mistakes, because the word is right there near the start of the sentence – clear. If you kill the boss and that’s the goal the group set out to accomplish, then really, who cares? If you’re trying to parse or focused on a speedkill, then it matters more, but for most groups in most forms of content, if the boss falls over it doesn’t bother me if half the raid also falls over. In the moment it might be more stressful or challenging, but a good recovery is a story all the same. Hell, just last night I did some Endsinger’s Aria pulls in FFXIV where 6 out of 8 players died on a single pull and we failed the tower mechanic giving everyone a vulnerability stack, and we still killed the fight! Stuff like that becomes fun stories, and so who cares that my parse was probably bad for that pull (I haven’t even put it on FFLogs to see!).

However, and this is where I risk a controversial opinion, at a certain point of content in most MMOs, you do have a responsibility to the other players in a group to play to a certain level of competency. I would never say you have to purple-parse, beat everyone on DPS, or be an absolute mechanical wunderkind, just that you need to be able to adapt, to perform while adapting, and to learn from mistakes. It is perfectly reasonable to ask you as an individual player to do better – whether that means improving your mechanical execution against a fight or yes, improving your DPS, those are things that you as a player owe to a group giving their time to the team, and that they also owe to you. You could argue that a DPS meter is the only way that players can assess performance in the moment, but it really isn’t – veteran MMO players, especially with hundreds of hours into a single title, can often tell if you’re doing well or not by watching you. I don’t say that to scare you into thinking that the Eye of Sauron is constantly gazing upon you, but to state that a lot of players (I see this most commonly among your average FFXIV player) who say the only way you can see how someone is doing is through parsing are wrong and missing the point.

And in certain settings and teams, needing to improve is a thing that has to happen on your time, not on the group’s time. I’ve been raiding in FFXIV for almost 6 months now through the Party Finder in-game, and while the group disbanding to reform without a player not meeting expectations is not very common, it does happen, and to be honest, it is fair in many cases. As someone who has raid led, it sucks to make that call, but the question is one of scale – how many players are you willing to frustrate, 1 or 8? That’s never going to make being booted sting less, I know, but at the same time, when you are doing hard content that is gated by performance checks, you need to be willing to improve to meet the standard, as does anyone else in the group. The trick here is that a base level of competency can be relatively easy to come by – running a few dungeons at the current level cap to play with the openers, running the normal versions of raids to rotation check and run through a scaled-down version of the encounter to see the speedbumps thrown in your way – in FFXIV, it is actually pretty easy to get the practice since so little is locked behind a once-a-week limit or needing a raid lockout saved. But I think it is unfair for a single player not performing to expect the group to bend to their will and needs -at that point of progression, everyone needs to bring something to the table, and it never really needs to be a fully-optimized 99th percentile playstyle, but instead a willingness to learn and adapt to the encounter coupled with a baseline understanding of the rotation, opener options, and how your job/spec/class interact with the group as a whole.

But trapped in that thought is an important qualifier – at that point of progression. An MSQ dungeon, normal raid, even Alliance Raid, or in WoW things like Heroic dungeons, Normal raids, and low-level keys don’t require players to be optimized and running at their best, and in that content, DPS meters as group measures just don’t make much sense. For individual performance or improvement, sure, but I’ve cleared current Expert roulette dungeons in FFXIV with a player forced to do an AoE rotation in order to not crash another player, with a zero DPS healer, with other DPS that are vastly underperforming, tanks undermitigating (or not mitigating incoming damage at all) and with weird issues and deaths all around. Is it always fun? Maybe not, but I’m also not there with randoms to push the limits of performance – I’m just there to get a roulette bonus and have a little fun, and sometimes the weird things that happen are more amusing than a smooth run anyways. If you’re a performance snob in matchmade content or simple stuff, you are just being a dick most of the time, especially because doing so means going out of your way to publicize that you notice a player’s weird missteps. Even if you run a roulette with FC members or people you know, it’s easy to cross a line between helpful or fun banter and just being an asshole.

Lastly, there’s an important cultural effect that the game developer has on the culture around parsing, DPS meters, and the behavior that emerges from that data. WoW is basically the wild west of this kind of thing, where discussing underperformance in blunt and unhelpful terms is not typically a TOS violation or the kind of thing that gets a suspension or ban, so players pop off way more there. I think it is a failure of leadership on Blizzard’s part that players feel safe to be assholes, and in a guild/raid group environment, it represents a similar failure of leadership if you allow people to be shitheads to others over performance with no repercussions. Square Enix’s approach to such things (don’t ask/don’t tell in-game) is better to a point, because it means toxicity over damage numbers is punishable with whatever measures are seen as fit, but then it also leads to a grey area where people misunderstand what tools are capable of (and leads to blown out reports and exaggerations of “cheating”) and also interpret any feedback over performance as crossing some TOS line, when a lot of skilled players can tell you’re not doing well without a tool. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or cutting-edge parser to tell you that a boss fight taking forever might be because the healer is standing still waiting for damage instead of filling the empty time with damage spells, and the whole point of the (admittedly otherwise busted) Mentor program in the game is that people can help course-correct gently when they see such things in the course of their gameplay.

In the end, what I find true is this – damage meters themselves are not a problem in the purest sense of the word, but the attitudes and behaviors that emerge around them and the data provided can be. Likewise, I think there is a vast gulf between toxic use of said data and valid usage of it to help a group clear content and improve, and it is not immediately negative if someone points out that you can do better – the approach and tact matter too. That means that sometimes, you or I might get left out of a group or left unconsidered for some high-end content in the MMOs of our choosing, and that sucks, but at a certain point, when the content difficulty increases, players do need to be capable of closer to 100% of what their class/job/spec can do, never truly 100%, but if you want to Savage raid an end-tier boss while not knowing the basic opener for your job, or you want to run Mythic Plus keys around 15 or higher without knowing how to properly play for trash versus a boss and get more usage of your big cooldowns, it is something you have to learn, and it is reasonable when done properly to ask you to learn on lower content or outside the main group until you can bring that skill level up to a baseline.

Even more simply, the problem is a social one with social solutions. MMOs, am I right?

(Also I think the option to limit the ability for randoms to see your performance is maybe a good option and something that should work okay thanks bye)

29 thoughts on “DPS Meters, Parsing, Toxicity, and The MMO Culture Around Self-Improvement and Shaming

  1. Damage meters are tools. Full stop. Nope. Don’t do it. I see that “but” forming on your lips. Don’t say it. Take it out back. Bury it in the compost heap. It’s dead, Jim.

    To go along with that, people are responsible for their own actions. Again, full stop. It isn’t about data, it isn’t about damage meters or logs. People are responsible for their own actions.

    Now, there are a thousand situations in between those two paragraphs, but the cold, hard, solid facts of the matter are indisputable. If someone decides to be a dick to someone else over DPS, that’s on them. If someone decides to sleaze into a raid for which they are not qualified to participate in, that’s on them, too. If a raid leader lets the toxic people slide because that’s the cost of doing business, well, that’s a whole cluster of dicks, but it’s still dicks all the way down.

    Now, I understand, from what I’ve read, that you feel that somehow WoW is composed of nothing but walking dick factories at this point, but I would say to that that you have your own responsibility to choose the company you keep as well. I don’t see these people that you do, mostly because I stick to what I enjoy and have no hesitancy to block people that start showing signs. So for me, the game’s “fine”. Not “great”, and maybe even “frittering away its last chance for my time” but it isn’t a toxic wasteland overflowing with douchebags and fuckwaffles, from my perspective. You present a certain perspective. I don’t think it’s a mainstream perspective, but it’s your blog so you get to have those opinions if you want. I do think the environment you work within is more likely to have “that sort of person” and the kind of raid leaders that let them get by because of that race to world’s 20th. It’s fine, anytime you get to a competitive level of play that happens – just ask William Byron and Joey Logano.

    Bottom line for me: metrics are good if you want to improve. And if you’re a regular raider that is probably the mindset you need to have. And if you are a RL with a group of people with that mindset, you need to set boundaries. And if you are one of those participants, you need to treat those tools as tools, not personal attacks.

    There was a time I did raid on the regular, and I wasn’t very good at it. I had a great GM and a great guild and they gave me some basic tips that got me going the right way. I might not have been top DPS ever, but mid-pack with decent utility means you stay in the game, and sometimes that is all you need – not to stick out. I was sat out a couple of times so we as a guild could get past a wall, and I was happy for my guildmates when they succeeded. You get out of this what you put in.

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    1. There’s no “but” forming for me, as you basically just restated the premise of my post back, haha.

      Data is data and I don’t disagree that what people choose to do with it rests with them and not with the data – informed decisions and all that. I think the tools are often blamed for it, however, and I agree that the tools are not the proper target of action or distaste.

      I will say, however, that I don’t disagree that my experience (or anyone else’s) is theirs to cultivate, but I do think that WoW is *not* unilaterally dickheads in the playerbase. I do think that at the higher levels of play, the rate of that type of person goes way up to a pretty sharp point, but I had plenty of good experiences in PUGs up to Mythic + 15s and plenty of bad ones too. There are plenty of experiences you can read from others that mirror a lot of that sentiment, and I do think that the game helps that happen at least a bit – through gameplay design and the enforcement (or lack of) community policies, and communities in-game can have the same issues and foster the same environment. I’ve fought the latter battle a few different times over my run in WoW and often lost or gotten minor reform that was not long-lasting, so a part of my own process for community engagement is choosing when not to engage, which is the choice I’ve made on that front and I’m pretty satisfied with it, all told. It opened my eyes a lot to go from WoW to FFXIV – the experience between the two games could not be more different in terms of the experience at high levels of play, but FFXIV has a more unique set of social issues all unto itself, heh.

      I’m curious to see how Blizzard’s new player contract thing that is on PTR will affect the scene, because it is a step closer to what I would like to see more of – an active enforcement of a set of rules that reduce the outlier cases and improve the general state of the scene at the high-end of content, especially for pugging. If they follow through on the stance with actual action, I think that could be quite positive. I’m glad to see them admit over the last year that they do have an issue and are trying to address it, at least in some ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well okay what I guess I felt is that you started out with a good premise – tools are tools – and then followed up with a lot of what I felt like was the “but …” I am of the mind that we spend far too much time overlooking the toxicity that finds a foothold whenever data is presented in this fashion. Damage meters are a red herring, IMO.

        I can’t overlook it, and I am tired unto tears of that being the central narrative of tools like this.

        What matters is what you do in your own situation, which, IMO, I think you did the right thing and fought the good fight once you decided to ante up, BTW. I’ve been in a situation where toxic players are overlooked “because they’re good” as well, and it went about as well as one might expect when it was called out (angst, ennui, and the complete destruction of the guild as a going concern) (Also, it was the same guild I spoke so highly of earlier. Funny ol world).

        With Blizz pushing the competitive aspect of the game pretty hard, there will always be this kind of situation. Good guys don’t get world firsts. And that leads to the alarming conclusion that world firsts … are not achieved by good guys. That’s distressing, but largely backed by the plethora of non-anecdotal stories we get about these people, even if we don’t get the full story, ever.

        I’ll believe Blizz’ shock and horror are for real when I see some evidence of sincerity (we’ve been here before), but right now they’re full of “things we want to do” (then DO them) and light on actual deeds. I mean, it could be another Dance Studio. (no, Blizz, I will not let that go, thanks for asking)

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    2. Just stating something is a tool doesn’t absolve it. A chainsaw without a hand guard is a tool. A poor tool, badly made. A tool needs to be well-made for its purpose. Damage meters are partially technical tools and partially social tools. If developers ignore the human factors then they are making a bad tool. Saying people are responsible for their own actions leaves too many half-hands laying on the ground. ^_^ Sometimes you do need to expect more of the manufacturer.

      (Yes, I know the chainsaw example can be seen as over the top, but it is an analogy that tries to, ahem, cut through to the heart of the issue.)

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Let me remix this, because what I often here is a variation of “I chose to play with assholes and they’re being assholes about my Recount numbers and therefore it’s all Recount’s fault”. That’s insane. Ditch the assholes.

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    3. I’ve been thinking about the tools are tools discussion. I’d say both yes and no. Yes when it comes to handling things within your own groups, No when it comes to their use in the general community and in publicly accessible PF or DF content. YoshiPs oft-quoted comments about the use of these tools, aside from being a clever way to handle a gray area that SE does not want to/cannot police, also openly address the connection between add ons and toxicity – use them to bully, harass, or coerce and we can ban you.
      In my experience, the generalization that FFXIV’s random match-made content is less toxic than WoW’s is true. And I believe the lack of meters and/or the inability to refer to them publicly is a part of that. The solution for toxicity offered in WoW was usually “make your own group”, whereas FFXIV has tried to be more aggressive about preserving civility in the public space and in Party and Duty Finder groups.
      Anecdotally, the recent influx of add on dependent WoW players has had a negative effect on PF, with encoded parser references appearing more often in PF and a deterioration in atmosphere compared to the past.

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      1. Here’s a slightly different take I thought about in another discussion on tools.

        Tools that can measure group performance have an implied social contract. If your group is just you, the contract isn’t an issue as the only person being effected is you. If you are in a static group, then the social contract is, well should be, known to everyone in that
        static group. There aren’t surprises in how the tool gets used.

        The problematic area is with pickup groups (pugs). The problem begins with someone who views being in any sort of a group as a license to use the tool to bolster their personal views. That person is at odds with the person in the group who didn’t want, nor agreed to be judged by another group member. Obviously, no group is going to take the time.

        While it is easy to say to avoid assholes, that’s not a viable option when you’re at the mercy of automated matchmaking. Each side is equally right and wrong. Both queued for random group content wanting a run. Telling one to drop to avoid the assholes isn’t useful. Both are being an asshole in the view of the other. This is where only the game devs can ‘lay down the law’. When they don’t, as is the case in Wow, they create a situation where both sides are equally wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This is a great point that mirrors something I will be discussing in a follow-up post – I think there’s a solution that would appease both sides of the argument around meters and most people in-between, which is to integrate granular security and privacy controls for combat log data and open up to either an official first-party DPS meter or allow third-party tools only if they hook into that and respect the settings, and then couple that with community policy and TOS that is meaningfully enforced on players who use that data for asshole-ery when it is available to them. Taking them out or leaving them as-is keeps the problems that emerge, but there’s room for a middle-ground, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is sad that when game developers give us tools to go with their game they often end up causing social issues, not technical ones. Then people either want the original tool removed or try to build more tools to stop the original tool. All because the social issues are beyond the power of the players to fix and the game developers don’t want to take responsibility for fixing the unintended consequences of their tools.

    :sigh:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That is great context for the DBM wars of WoW, which I think is something I am about to revisit with an FFXIV post, ironically! DBM came about because players wanted it to help them with tough raid fights, so it became accepted, and then Blizzard couldn’t “beat” the addon for the whole playerbase, so they instead made fights more convoluted and strange until now you basically need DBM past a certain level of play and the players who originally wanted DBM give it side-eye and blame it for the arms’ race and now it is also the boogeyman cautionary tale for similar tools in other games. There are probably plenty of examples out there just like it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The original Decursive which did everything, including downranking spells, with a click of a single button. Blizzard had to nuke that one. Healbot might be another, where the addon inspired a boss name (Loatheb) and his main fight mechanics.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I just remembered a hood one. Iskar assist, because throwing a football was hard. Lol. Could we have done the fight without? Probably eventually, but it stopped us until we started using the add on. But I have to wonder, was the fight designed to need one, or is the thinking, let’s make it fairly difficult to do, if they can’t get it, someone will write a program for it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. haha I remember Iskar assist. I have no idea if the guild I was running with at the time could or could not have done that fight without it, since they needed add-ons to do anything. All I remember is that the overlay was stupid and if it overlapped your raid frames it wouldn’t click lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny in general how many bosses in WoW have inspired single-use addons that only address one specific thing. In the current tier, there is an addon/WeakAura setup one can use on Lords of Dread to deal with the Among Us inspired mechanic! I almost want to roam the Curseforge archives and just see how many single-use addons are out there, because I have a feeling it would be low double-digits.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. DBM, Tell Me When, endless Weak Auras, and on and on, there are so many borderline must haves to do end game content. SimCraft was the OG tool. You ran hundreds of thousands of sims to figure out what your best in slot choice was, what stat you needed to stack. For me, all of the tools are too overwhelming and distract from playing the game, so aside from DBM which I haven’t updated in a long time, the most I have is recount. But I question even having that anymore. For me, if it’s a stand and nuke fight where I can ramp up and get into a flow I can do well, if I constantly have to move and need to skip and casts longer than 2 seconds? My numbers are in the tank. I see routinely people being sat out for a boss because numbers aren’t there. I got a late start in this expansion, no computer for 3 weeks. By the time I leveled the guild was already mostly through normal. I got in for 3 nights, got the last 3 bosses, and was messaged the next day to tell me that they were moving to heroic, and my numbers weren’t that great, so thanks for joining in.

    I listened to to taunting and prodding, come on, you’re the GM, you should raid with us. We will help you. All leading up to Shadowlands. And that was all forgotten because I could never catch up with those playing 7 days a week, 5-6 hours a day. I tried doing a couple Mythic +2’s. I was always at the bottom by a lot. There are only so many times you can hear don’t worry we’ll carry you before you just give up. It’s demeaning. Being whispered to asking what weak auras you’re using, why aren’t you doing this more, people looking over the fight reports. It feels like an invasion of privacy. I knew my gear sucked, wasn’t the best stats and did the best I could without getting killed. So I just don’t do content with anyone other than my wife. Anyway, yes the meters may be a tool, but the have allowed so many tools to permeate the game unchecked, that it pushed me out. And I don’t think I will ever venture into organized ever again. I may run the guild, but I don’t have any friends anymore. Over 10 years those that just wanted to play to have fun, that joked when you made a mistake that wiped the raid but were honestly to let you know it was ok, stuff happened, we’re replaced with people focused on parses and rankings, playing most of the day. When I log in, no one says hello, no one asks if I’m around to help, when I’ve offered it’s usually answered with sorry, so and so got me already. With the way I have the guild set up I could log out for a year and no one would miss me unless it was to change repair levels. It’s impossible to remove me, and I’m sure there are one or two that want me gone so they can clean house. Sorry, it’s late and I’m rambling

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marathal, have you and your wife considered FF14? I don’t like to sidetrack this conversation to shill for a game, but let me shill for this game. 3 weeks behind in WoW and you can never catch up. 5 or 6 hours a day of boring grinding, or you are forever a carry. Life is too short. You’d be better off learning to speak Tibetan with that time. If you want to raid in 14 and you arrive late to the party (3 weeks, 3 months, whatever) you pick up some crafted gear off the market board and hop into Normal. It’s that simple. If you don’t want to raid at all there is plenty of other stuff to do. There are a ton of FCs (guilds) out there with the kind of things going on you’d never see in WoW. All of the normal content up to endgame is easily clearable by the most casual of players whose main skill is staying upright at least 50% of the time :). I think you and your wife might have some fun there. One of my friends there is a Fishing main. People don’t even laugh when they introduce themselves that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I look at meters as a gateway drug.

    It’s a tool to be certain, and used the right way it can be a powerful tool and a force for cohesiveness, but DPS Meters and DBM also are enablers that bring out the worst in people. They demonstrate the sheer power of addons in MMOs that allow them, and after a few iterations those MMOs can’t be played effectively without them.

    I am quite a bit of a minimalist, having leveled back in the day in Wrath without any addons at all, and only added DBM and a few others once they truly became needed in Heroics. Likewise, in Classic I did the same thing, just learning the fights by feel, until they were required for raids.

    While I know people who love to code and love to write Weakauras to solve their problems, I also know people who go so far down the addon and UI path that they’re not effectively playing the same game as I am anymore. And that’s coming from someone who finally had to embrace a lot of addons in order to try to up their DPS to the point of (barely) remaining relevant in progression raiding.

    All those addons and UI changes and Weakauras serve to mask a very basic premise: that there’s a person on the other side, and the deeper we dig into the numbers the easier it is to forget that. Just like a manager who manages by spreadsheet, the data acquired by addons is not a substitute for being a real leader, but too frequently a real manager is what raid teams truly need.

    I’ve seen enough raiding –and done enough raid leading– to get a feel for what qualities are needed in a raid leader. And I’ve been surprised at how often we reward people who are the sweatiest among us with the job of raid leading, when simply being good at button mashing and managing your addons does not qualify a person to manage people. It doesn’t disqualify them either, but it doesn’t take leadership skills to play your class.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I would like to play devil’s advocate about the role of meters in raiding and improving performance. I think meters and their friends warcraft and fflogs often impede clearing content, weaken raid awareness and cause many of the groups we run with to be worse. I don’t mean to criticize those people who do parse runs with their static every week – that’s a mini-game and not what most people use meters for.
    We’ve all likely been in try-hard groups where people were logging and meter whoring and who invariably take twice as long to clear as anyone else. And have to re-clear every week because they never did learn the mechanics to begin with, and nobody wants to kill those adds upstairs because it cuts their parse by 10%. In my experience these groups were becoming more and more common in WoW, and the attention to meters was making average player skill decline. Dps is only a fraction of what you need to clear a fight even in Savage or Mythic, and players with their eyes glued to the meters never have the luxury or pleasure of learning the fight. They also know their raid spot is on the line and that the RL is cutting on the basis of numbers whatever lip service is being paid to mechanics.The better groups I knew barely paid attention to the meters and they cleared easier and played so much better. The sense of immersion in the fight alone was worth it.
    I use meters, always have, probably always will until they nuke them out of the game. But I question their value as a pervasive measure of ability.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Back in the day when I use to help people on Shadowpriest dot com, we would see people asking all the time, can you gear check me, my numbers are bad. A few times it was as obvious as you put a skill point in the wrong spot. When it got more into looking at reports you could see the obvious, uptime on dots under 90%, not casting the big hitter spell on cooldown. You could math it easy enough. 5 minute fight, 10 second cooldowns should have close to 30 casts. 25 or more meant you were doing pretty good. We never looked at what the bottom line DPS number was. We checked to see if a persons haste was real low, did they have too much Crit. Sometimes people were a percent low on making a haste breakpoint where things would line up better. Telling someone, just swap out that Crit gem for a haste was all they needed. When you had people come back a week later to thank you because that one suggestion meant a world of difference you felt good about helping someone. Mostly it was telling people to hit the practice dummies to get a better feel for refreshing dots, learning the fights so they would know to refresh early because there was a movement phase coming. When you had people with 99% uptime, had everything enchanted and gemmed correctly, and they still thought they needed help, it came down to just needing higher level gear. People would see huge parses, and wonder, why can’t I do that, I’m in practically the same gear. Then you had to really dig into why. It wasn’t the person asking how to get better, it was why is this other person off the charts. Then you saw it. All the specific buffs put on them for a fight so they could get a high number. All the unnecessary damage they took so they could stand and nuke. Numbers can be gamed. It doesn’t mean you suck because in the same gear you are doing worse, it just means outside influences gave the other guy a boost.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Like I said in my WoW post on the matter, I don’t think meters are evil, but at the same time claiming that tools are completely value-neutral misses a point too. You will behave differently, and people will have different expectations of you, when you show up with a spoon vs. a hammer vs. a rake. Plus as the saying goes, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    When people have meters open all the time, every trash pull becomes about numbers per second. And it doesn’t really matter if you’re mean or nice about it, a lot of people just aren’t into MMOs to play World of Numbercraft, so you can’t really fault them for bristling against other players trying to impose that world view onto them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t necessarily disagree (I will say that the value-neutral framing does miss the mark as you’ve pointed out), but I will also say that the problems here are social ones that can be solved in other ways.

      I’m about to write a follow-up to this, because I think there’s room for a solution not unlike what SWTOR seems to have had from your post on meters in that game – some measure of personal control over your performance data. If you don’t want to share that, I think that is a good thing to enable and find a way to implement, where I think if people want that data, they should also have a way to get it for themselves.

      I think the actual issue is a social one that can have course-corrections made in the games themselves to participate/not participate in parsing and DPS logging, coupled with community policy/TOS around performance discussions in-game to address the behavior when it strays from respectful. It’s certainly not in a good place now and other comments here are right to point out that “just don’t play with assholes” is both valid but also not always possible (and thus not a fully valid solution) in matchmade queue situations or when you want to tackle certain content with a group of strangers.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Well said Shintar. Everything looks like a nail. First to the players, then to the designers.

      From where I sit things in 14 are good.I don’t see what problem needs to be solved or why one would argue things “aren’t in a good place now”. I can continue to run my insecurity gauge (dps meter) since old habits die hard. I can go to FFXIV Analyser or FFlogs and look at the data and pretend it makes some kind of difference or that half the people reading those sites even understand what they are looking at. I can use the logs as the weekly report card (weekly spelling test?) it became for my guild in WoW. What I can’t do is talk about it in public inside the game. I see no problem.

      We Raiders (Me, my guild, my friends) helped corrupt WoW with our nonsense.Why bring it here to the game that gave us a refuge and more freedom and creativity than I thought possible in an MMO. In the last 6 months I have seen the WoW community go from “but WoW is still the best at creating raids” to “omg these FF14 raids are so much more fun”. Why then are some of us acknowledging that while lobbying for SE to let us bring just a “few” of our toxic toys over so we can make things “better”?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Okay, that brings up a question I have concerning FFXIV raids and the DPS rotations I’ve seen out and about. The rotation sizes look really daunting, which has me asking the question whether those rotations truly are that rigid or whether there’s a lot of space for creativity. Do you have to sneak interrupts in there, or manage mana, or do other little things that can make a fight go well? Or is it a “here’s your rotation, go have fun practicing” sort of thing? The reason why I ask is because the fights I enjoy the most are the ones where you can be totally on your scramble game when things go sideways, and you’re able to eke out a victory because of the small things –the ones that don’t show up as being good to the meters or to your rotation– that people do to make the fight successful.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I typed a very long answer, so TL;DR – rotations are generally more locked in and rigid, as are boss ability timelines, but unless you miss a burst window entirely, you can often still save yourself to meet minimum checks on hard fights, and there is room to fiddle in that as long as you are still hitting buttons, you can get back on track. Most non-rotation gameplay comes from movement mechanics or damage mitigation, which everyone in the group has tools for to help shoulder the burden, with a particular emphasis on knockbacks across a raid boss arena, resource management exists for some jobs more than others but all have a form of it, and most content prior to EX trials or Savage raids is far more forgiving and often has no real DPS check to meet, so as long as the group meets mechanics, you’ll get there.

        It depends a lot on the job you play, but there are some things that are mostly true across the board. FFXIV does have more rigid rotations, in that the combo system punishes mistakes in execution order with lower potency, but it’s often a single moment of loss you can recover from. It has some proc-based gameplay (Dancer as a job is the most like a WoW spec in terms of random chance dictating actual gameplay flow), but not a lot, and a part of learning and tackling the hardest content leans on you learning the actual rotation and flow of things.

        At the same time, though, most jobs are built around their burst windows, so you have big windows at even-minutes of the fights (on pull and every two minutes after) and smaller individualized burst windows every minute. The two-minute window is group responsibility, as most of the burst comes from partywide buffs put up by some jobs. If you meet the burst windows appropriately, there is room to deviate slightly depending on what job you’re playing, but you’ll often only hit your full maximum DPS if you really lock in the rotation and learn how to build and pool things around the fight design. A lot of jobs have the most flexibility in movement planning – Black Mage is a huge learning curve because you want to stay perfectly still as long as possible, but then you also have a lot of room in the current level 90 design to plan and pool resources to move through instant casts, buffs to make spells instant, and movement tools to allow you to instantly dart and weave around the arena.

        A lot of the Endwalker changes have been to make the rigidity less punishing, so fewer things break combo bonuses, more damage is tucked into burst windows that come more consistently, and more jobs have ways to deal with breaks in their rotation or dropping certain vital buffs. It also kind of doesn’t matter at all until you start doing EX trials or Savage raiding, because the majority of the content in the game is built to a much lower skill floor requirement, especially on DPS requirements.

        It also has very different extra-curriculars for players during fights. Interrupts are only things that tanks and physical ranged DPS jobs can do, and almost no raid fights require them at all. MP management is a thing for healers, Black Mages, and sometimes the other caster DPS when they can cast rezes mid-fight, and also Dark Knight tanks, who use it as a limiter for a high-damage ability and a shield. Most jobs have job-specific bars like modern WoW, with builder/spender gameplay baked in through that. Instead of interrupts, most FFXIV fights make use of knockbacks and movement mechanics and everyone gets a knockback-resistance ability. Both melee and magical DPS also can help a group by mitigating incoming damage through debuffs they can put on a boss, and Savage raid fights often require a mix of tank, healer, and DPS mitigation to avoid an AoE eating the team alive.

        The raid fights themselves are much more locked in than in WoW, because everything is on pretty strict timers (you can know literally to the second when a thing will be cast, although often boss abilities are a pick from a pool, like at x:xx into the fight, the boss will make the group move out in a specific way picked from two possible choices), which helps with the rigidity of most rotations.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. FF14 suffers from button-bloat in some jobs, but don’t let those long-ass rotations put you off. You have some options, like easier jobs like Summoner and Reaper whose rotations are quite simple. Those really complex Balance Discord openers with 6 variations are for people who enjoy that kind of thing. Most players get by with something a lot more basic. The game is in this sort of middle aged state with a lot of old things co-existing with new things, some jobs still meant to be higher skill, others meant to be beginner/casual friendly.

        FF14 does like its openers and burst windows as discussed already. But there is a lot else going on besides your rotation, and mixing all that with your rotation is where the fun is. Compared to WoW, FF14 rewards handling things and stepping up. My jaw dropped when I first saw the full extent of this in random queued content, and in all my years of playing I’ve never once heard that old phrase “we wiped because nobody swapped to adds”. Aside from my dps rotation, my Bard for instance has utility like group damage reduction, debuff removers and group speed bursts. Those aren’t as essential as my Red Mage and Summoner rezzes, but they help and people do notice. The almost endless rezzes FF14 allows are a game-changer, since chaotic situations are something to be fought through rather than always meaning a wipe.

        Whether a game feels scripted or rigid I think is very subjective. You have to try and see. But if you enjoy scrambling through fights with multiple deaths and maximum chaos, then Alliance Raids and Ex Trials, especially on week one when they first release might be your kind of Paradise. There are groups dedicated to blind runs only in this game but that’s something you’d have to search for at endgame.

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  7. Great post.

    One perspective that you might be missing, as you are a bit entrenched in the MMO world and probably struggle to wrap your mind around the true ‘casual’…

    DPS meters and other ‘tools’ which present data, such as warcraftlogs, simulationcraft, and even guides like wowhead or icyveins, transform a game which has a certain amount of ‘fuzziness’ to it (to take words from Ion H), where you could describe the way one interacts with the game as intuitive, into a solvable math problem with a component of motor skill development. Sort of like mastering a piece on the piano while doing a math problem; in any case, the steps are prescriptive to the point where one can clearly envision their path forward to success before they set on it.

    This lack of fuzziness which makes the game less interesting, to be vague, is a problem that has grown over the years, and a lot of people have caught onto this. (See: any discussion on classic wow). However, not many people point out that even DPS meters are a contributing factor.

    So, not all people who dislike DPS meters in some way do so because of being subject to or witnessing toxicity, or anticipating it. Rather, many people (the true ‘casuals’) enjoy playing games blindfolded, in essence, and wish others would too so that they could maximize their sense of wonder in gameplay whilst not getting excluded from content.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment! It’s a great point, and one that I think is interesting because it is a perspective I haven’t had in either main MMO I play for years. There’s some interesting stuff to unpack there about how content structure and design plays into player desire to “unfuzz” aspects of the game, or how certain aspects of a game are more resilient to it. There’s definitely a question of mindset in general on information – I boosted a character in Guild Wars 2 this weekend to play the game more and I find myself bristling at how little the game is telling me – wanting to “unfuzz” it a lot more than the game itself does (not a DPS meter, but looking at builds, how to get a mount, etc).

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