Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Penalty Systems and Entitlement in WoW

This week’s Blog Azeroth Shared Topic is brought to you by Relevart of Druid Reliquary.

Relevart starts the topic off with posing this:

“I know a few other bloggers have shown interest in the idea of player motivation and I absolutely love the idea of examining the concept of what makes us want to/need to/desire to play.

I thought a neat springboard for such a discussion would be that of the penalty system (or lack thereof, as you might see it) in WoW as well as the recent claims that Blizzard is caving to the casual players’ feeling of entitlement to see and subsequently conquer any and all content, regardless of capability or time.”

I’m not really saying anything for or against, but would like to put forth some different things to consider regarding this topic.

Penalty Systems

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of many penalty systems in place within World of Warcraft.  The only ones that came to mind as I read the shared topic were: durability damage, resurrection sickness, and non-rested experience.

Durability damage and resurrection sickness seem to be appropriate penalties when you think about it… you die (or take on damage), something should be lost, right?  In some MMOs, this can result in the loss of experience points, money, and items in your inventory.  In some single player games, dying can result in needing to start over unless you have an appropriate save game to load back to.

But how much of a penalty is durability damage really? Some people, especially if they are wiping constantly in a dungeon, find it to be a considerable penalty.  This can be the deciding factor for some people to call a run or leave a group.

They don’t want to be penalized by having to pay a high repair bill because the group cannot complete the task at hand.

For other people, gold is not anything to be concerned about and repair costs are merely chump change.  Or maybe the guild bank will cover the costs.  For those people, they are more inclined to keep on fighting until everything they are wearing is broken.

What about resurrection sickness? Why are players penalized for asking the friendly spirit at the graveyard to bring them back to life right there?  Again, you are losing something -becoming more vulnerable for a set amount of time- because your character has died.  Then, on top of that, you have chosen not to run back to your corpse, reunite, heal up and continue what you were doing.

Then there are things I wonder why they aren’t penalized, such as dishonorable kills.  I mean, players are rewarded with honor for honorable kills… Granted, players are not rewarded for dishonorable kills, but they aren’t punished either.  The developers seem to have opted for few penalty systems within the game.  Mainly, to penalize players for things they participate in that are PvE based, but they don’t penalize players for actions against each other in PvP.

Entitlement

Is really a double-edged sword.  Both ends of the spectrum tend to feel entitlement about certain areas of the game whether it be content accessiblity, gear, achievements, titles, etc.

Some say that the hardcore players feel a sense of entitlement to have the game tuned to their liking, to have exclusive rewards for beating the toughest content, and to be looked up to as skillful players.

Some say that the casual players feel a sense of entitlement to have the game be accessible, to be able to achieve everything at some point in time, and to have fun and options throughout the game.

One of the key points that is often brought up in this debate is money.  We all pay the same amount of money to play the game.  But, while we all pay the same, we don’t all have the same amount of time available to play.  Or the same level of skill.

One side says “why should you get ___ or to do ___ just because you can play more than me?”

The other side says “why should you get ___ or to do ___ just because you have limited play time?”

Although I stated at the beginning of this post that I’m not really taking one side or another… but honestly, I have mixed feelings about anyone having a sense of entitlement in this game.  In any game.  What I see is that the sense of entitlement is not strictly about the gear, titles, or achievement, but about the significance people have come to place upon those things.

There seems to be something about us as a society that makes us want to seek out ways to feel superior to others.  That’s usually what entitlement is about: “I deserve X because I’m better/smarter/faster/cooler/richer/prettier/etc. than So&So.”

If my character wears more purple items than yours, does that mean I’m better than you?

If your character wears more purple items than mine, does that mean you’re better than me?

If I’ve played the game longer than you, does that mean I deserve more things in the game than you?

Why am I lucky if I win the roll while someone else was deserving when they won the roll?

I never really experienced the entitlement in my gaming until playing MMOs.  Then again, when you are playing a single person game, it’s a lot harder to be constantly comparing yourself to what hundreds, thousands, or millions of other people have completed or gotten.

Let’s think about this – in terms of money paid again – you and I buy the same console game for the same price.  We play it on different difficulty levels and put in different amounts of time before we both beat it.  (Let’s say, I play it on easy and it takes me 3 weeks to beat it, but you beat it in a week and a half on hard.)

We both had fun playing it and feel a sense of accomplishment for beating it.

Was your completion of the game diminished at all because I finished it eventually, but on an easier level?

Should I not have been able to complete the last 10% of the game simply because I was on the easy level?

Comments

  1. What’s funny is that the console thing is entirely viable: I’ve run into games, though it’s fallen out of disfavor and therefore I can’t think of an example, where playing on Easy Mode denied you (the last portion of the game/a better ending/something else good).

    In regards to the previous parts, I think in a lot of people’s heads, yes, more epics + more time /played means, in their head, they’re “better” than me or you and are therefore special unique snowflakes who deserve more. What no one seems to get is that the actual “deserve” list in this game is very, very short, in my opinion.

    Did you down a boss or bosses, be it in an instance or a raid? Then you deserve a chance at some loot from said boss. That’s it. Having said loot, or downing said bosses, does not automatically mean you (the hypothetical you, not literally you) deserve something special and new that no one else gets access to – you already have something, and if later a group of 10 of Those Damned Casuals Who Are Ruining The Game waltzes in and kills the boss later, so what? It doesn’t diminish your accomplishment in any way.

  2. The problem comes when we start re-imagining what we did as work, especially when the devs do make some thing seem like work. At that point it’s not so ridiculous to feel that it is unfair that someone who did less ‘work’ is getting a similar reward.

  3. Great post! As a VERY casual WoW player, I for one am glad there aren’t many penalties in-game. Basically I just love exploring the world & killing things. If there were too many penalties, I would stop playing.

    I don’t mind people having uber gear I will never see or get because they are better at the game. That’s fine. I just don’t want the “coolest” areas/dungeons barred from me cuz I basically ‘suck’ at the game. I want to be able to see/explore it all. I’ve only seen Kara about 2 times cuz I’m not ‘geared’ but it was amazingly beautiful in there and I felt punished being basically locked out of content.

  4. Syrana
    Twitter: Syrana
    says:

    Yeah, it’s definitely interesting the way we place value on things or, as Klepsacovic said, starting thinking of it in terms of work.

    Personally, I don’t want to ‘work’ in a game. I want to have fun. Sideshow and I both are of the mindset that once something starts to feel like work or a job or we ‘have’ to do such and such, then it’s time to stop whatever that is. (Probably why I’m such an altaholic – I hit a point I don’t want to grind on Syrana so I take a break from that until it doesn’t feel like a grind anymore, then return to it.)

    I certainly don’t propose that everything should be an easy walk in the park, but even as gear etc. becomes more attainable – those things still require time. There is content I want to see, but I know I’ll never see it on hardmode or get the very difficult achievements or titles… so who cares if I have the same tier gear as someone with The Undying title… months after they got it (for example)?

    And then there’s the whole other topic of people being boosted and carried through content – and that happens at all levels because “casuals” aren’t the only ones that get a helping hand from better geared players.

    I think I’ve said enough now lol Thank you for your comments and discussion! :)

  5. For me, one of the biggest issues in this game is that it is competitive at its very core. You compete against other players for gear, raiding time, guild invites, etc. Comparing WoW to a console game seems erroneous because with a console game, I’m left with a set amount of content and an indefinite amount of time. With WoW I find myself with the exact opposite. Time IS crucial because new content will be coming and some people will be better prepared for that new content than others.

    I think it is also important to make a distinction between time and effort invested vs. “work”. I consider my accomplishments in WoW to be a result of the work that I put into the game. I dedicated myself to raiding as some other individuals dedicate themselves to model cars or collecting baseball cards. In every hobby there are limiting factors, be they physical, monetary, or otherwise. Do I feel slighted that with the release of WotLK my hard work became largely irrelevant? Most certainly. Do I think that its fair to exclude players from content much like AQ40 and the original Naxx did? I’m not sure.

    I am digging the multiple levels of dungeons based on both raid size (10 or 25) and skill (normal or heroic) and the idea that you have to attune (beat the normal first) to earn the right to attempt the heroic. In my mind this opens the content to those players that lack the large guild or the best gear, but still presents a challenge to those who seek that “elitist” feel.

    All in all, I thought you made several good points and my mental cud is being chewed as I type. Excellent response and great comments! Thanks for supporting this shared topic!

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