Friday, July 1, 2011

Stars' "World First"

If you haven't seen it already, MMO-Champion is reporting that the Taiwanese guild Stars has gotten the world first kill on Heroic mode Shannox yesterday. This is quite surprising. Not because Stars isn't a good guild. They are a very good guild, proven by their world first Yogg +0 kill back in WotLK. This is surprising because Firelands heroic modes shouldn't be available until next week. Apparently Stars had their raid ID reset by having the raid team faction transferring after they killed Ragnaros on normal mode.

After reading the post I had a lot of thoughts right away, but after reading some of the comments on the post I felt the need to address the idiocy that followed.

World First (*):

I haven't seen any indications that they did anything to exploit the actual fight. So yes, by most definitions this is a world first, but that doesn't mean it's significant. Finishing first in a race when you are the only one running isn't all that impressive. I am sure that Heroic Shannox is a difficult fight, but I am also sure that we will see several heroic mode kills next week when many more guilds have access to them. At the very least this is a kill with an asterisk, and no one is saying "awe shucks, Stars beat us to that one."

I also question how much do early heroic kills really matter? I am by no means saying that the early heroic modes are easy, but no one is measuring the T11 progression race by who got the first kill on Halfus. In fact, I bet that a lot of you couldn't tell me who got the first Heroic Halfus kill without looking at WoW Progress or guessing one of the five obvious names and getting lucky. At the same time, I think that a lot more of you would be able to tell me who got the world first Sinestra kill without looking or guessing. The fact of the matter is that the progression race isn't measured by how you start, but by how you finish. So, even if this kill of Shannox wasn't controversial, it still probably wouldn't be all that important in the long run because this tier is going to be measure by who kills Ragnaros first.

However, while I don't think a lot of the elite guilds are all that upset about being beaten to a world first Shannox kill, I guarantee you that they are upset that Stars has gotten access to heroic gear a week earlier then everyone else. It's true that player skill is more important than gear in general, but at these elite levels of play the differences in skill are very small, so little advantages like having slightly better gear could have a significant impact on who gets that world first Ragnaros kill.

After considering all of this, I don't understand why Stars would change factions to get a new raid ID. The best case scenario is that Blizzard takes no action against them, and they get to keep the gear they gained as a result. However, the primary reward for winning the progression race is respect, but by winning the race this way they would ultimately lose the respect of their peers. Worst case scenario, is that Blizzard bans them for some period of time and takes away their gear and achievements. If this is the case then they are out the money they spent to transfer and possibly lose a raid week depending on how long the ban is for. To me it looks like they had very little to gain, but a lot to lose.

Exploit vs "Clever Use of Game Mechanics"

In my opinion, this will probably go down as an exploit. Some people are arguing that this isn't an exploit because Stars was just using the processes that Blizzard put in place. However, I have a hard time seeing how this would fall under the "Clever use of Game Mechanics" category.

It's important to note that "Clever use of Game Mechanics" doesn't mean that if it's possible it's allowed. There are a plenty of examples of players being banned for things that were possible. The most prominent example is Ensidia being banned for their World First kill of Normal Lich King, when they used Saronite Bombs to cause the platform to reform and trivialize phase 2 of the encounter. So, how is this different then Paragon stacking their raid with 13 feral druids to kill heroic Nafarian?

In my opinion, "Clever use of Game Mechanics" is best defined as using game, class, and encounter mechanics in an intended way, but producing unintended results. The Ensidia LK example violates this definition because the outer platforms were not intended to reform during that phase, and the Saronite bombs caused the encounter to behave in an unintended way.

The Paragon/Nefarian example is different, because all of the mechanics were used as intended. The Stolen Power buff is intended to increase the player’s damage output. Players are expected to use this increased damage to complete the encounter. Feral Druids are expected to use Rip as a part of their DPS rotation. Rip is intended to be a very efficient ability that does a lot of damage over an extended period of time, and the damage Rip did with the Stolen Power buff was mathematically and mechanically consistent with how Rip interacts with other buffs and debuffs. They used game mechanics as intended which when combined produced unintended results. What's interesting is that Stars did something very similar to this where their world first Yogg +0 kill by stacking Warlocks

Finally, while we can debate the line between exploit and "Clever use of Game Mechanics," history gives us a good example of how Blizzard will likely view Stars' actions. Back in ToC Ensidia, transferred servers mid lockout to reset their ID and get an additional 50 attempts. I don't think Ensidia got punished in that situation, but Blizzard did take steps to prevent it from happening again in the future. That sent a clear message to all guilds that Blizzard doesn't view this type of action acceptable. Don't be surprised if Blizzard reacts more harshly this time to discourage this activity from happening again in the future.

Crazy Theories and Rationalizations:

These are just suggestions that I wanted to address that didn't really fit somewhere above.

Greedy Blizzard: One of the crazier suggestions in the MMO thread is that Blizzard allowed this to happen because they are greedy and want the faction transfer fees. Lets do some quick math.

It costs 30 dollars to change factions and lets assume that Stars transferred 30 players and plan to change back to their original faction next week. That means it would cost Stars $1,800 to faction change their entire raid team twice. Now lets assume that the top 100 25man guilds would do the same thing to complete for world firsts, and that there are three major content patches a year. In this scenario Blizzard would earn an extra 540k dollars a year in revenue. On it's own that sounds like a lot, but lets think about it another way.

World of Warcraft has over 11 million accounts. Each of those accounts pay a monthly fee of at least 13 dollars. This means that over a year Blizzard has over 1.7 billion dollars in revenue a year in subscription fees alone. I know that every little bit counts, but do you think Blizzard is going to risk taking bad press and a negative player reaction for just 540k dollars? If you do, your crazy.

Time Zone Disadvantage: Another common response is that the US and European guilds have had a day or two advantage due to the servers they play on. Therefore this is just turnabout is fair play that the Taiwanese get an advantage for once.

It's very true that in the short term US guild definitely have an advantage in these early kills, but how does that justify breaking the rules? As I said above these short term milestones aren't all that significant. The really significant world firsts generally take at least a month to complete, and in that time frame that extra day or two isn't all that significant.

The time zone situation is what it is and has been this way for years. Claiming that this is just turnabout is fair play is a little like an embezzler claiming that what they were doing is ok because they've been underpaid for years. In the end this argument is just an attempt to rationalize their actions that were clearly against the spirit of the rules if not a blatant violation of the rules.

13 comments:

Sketch said...

I think the one thing everyone's not considering is that maybe they just wanted to play some more.

They'd already cleared the content on Normal ... and expecting it to take longer than it did, they faction-swapped to play some more this week.

Glass half-full. :)

Ted said...

The 11millon players includes Far East. These players pay under a different model, and most pay far less than 13 dollars a month.

Graylo said...

@Sketch

That is a very optimistic view of the situation, but not likely.

If it is the case that they just wanted to play more they could have easily used alts. While I don't know for sure if this is the case with Stars, these elite raiders are notorious for having multiple raiding capable toons. This is because they clear content very quickly and do additional raids with other toons. So they likely didn't need to pay for a faction change just to play more.

The only reason to faction change was to reset the raid ID, and the only reason to reset the raid id was to work on the hard modes.

Graylo said...

@Ted

I don't know all the pay models, but I guarentee you blizzard still makes over a billion a year from subscription fees and such. My point was that 540k is really a drop in the bucket when looked at from the bigger picture, and blizzard isn't going to risk the bigger picture for just 540k.

GamingLifer said...

Is this something I think is against the rules, bannable, exploit, etc? No. Is it a douchebag move? Absolutely.

There are no laws against being a dickwad, but this isn't something I would do, or would I be proud to be in a guild that did it. I'd be embarrassed if LoE did something like this, and might even gquit out of shame.

The question Stars has to ask themselves, is this REALLY that satisfying of a kill?

They also now run the risk of ridicule if other guilds pass them in progression next week.

Anonymous said...

Graylo, I really enjoy your blog, and I know you admit to not being the best with grammar (its and it's, you're and your), but even my butcher knows the difference between cleaver and clever ;)

I agree with your sentiment. It seems pointless for Stars to do what they did. Who is it going to impress? Even if they finish T12 as world first on every fight, anyone who knows enough to care about their achievement will always put an asterisk next to it.

Graylo said...

@GamingLifer/Myraxa

Yes, there are no laws against being a dickwad, and I'm not advocating that they should be banned.

However, we are not talking about the legal system here. This is Blizzard and they have banned people for less. So it seems silly to me to risk a ban for a short term gain that will likely cause more ridicule then progression.

If I was Blizzard, I would roll back their achievement and take away the gear they got for the kill, but wouldn’t ban them.

@anon1

Thanks. Spellcheckers can’t catch everything. It’s vs Its and your vs you’re are there just because I’m lazy.

ironyca said...

It's an interesting case, as you raise yourself, would you consider a faction change a type of mechanic, i.e. is that service part of the game as a whole and thus fair play?

Also I've seen it SO many times, this perception that game code = law and moral leeway. What the code allows is understood as a design intention, although as we all know, code is highly liable to bugs and glitches, something which constantly needs fixing.
This way of looking at it also completely ignores the community layer of the game, which as you also point out, is not likely to just condone a world first just because it CAN be done (at any cost).

It's an excellent example of pure powergaming though.

BC said...

They closed down heroics until next week for everyone. I think they did this because they didn't expect so many guilds to kill Rag already. I mean how many killed him so far this week? Heroics are supposed to be a step up but I bet the top guilds will clear it next week.

Then what... wait 5-6 more months for 4.3 to come out? They will lose too many subscriptions if they did that.

I think they are making some key changes to heroics as I type this in order for no one to clear heroics at least until they put in a patch saying they are making it easier.

The Bitter Fig said...

As I see it, the common sense understanding of raids is that you get one a week per toon. Using faction transfers to raid on the same toon extra times? You have to know that's not the way things were intended.

Punishment? Not a ban or anything, bliz ought to just tweak the raid ID stuff, then manually extend the ID of every toon in Stars who did this by a week for each extra kill.

Graylo said...

@ironyca

First off, it's hard to think of faction transfers as a game mechanic because it doesn't happen in game. This isn't a case of going and talking to a goblin in booty bay and changing your faction. This is a service that Blizzard offers players out side of the normal game.

Second, even if you concider faction transfers a game mechanic they still didn't use in the intended way. The intent of the faction transfer service isn't to reset raid ids, and that was the entire reason they faction transfered. Therefore, it wouldn't fall under the Clever use of game mechanics clause in my opinion.

iurie tarus said...

Since there's a game called "wow ptr", there isn't any "legit" first kills. I mean, all this top guilds spend more time playing on ptr then in live servers, and that doesnt make any sense. And even if all people start from the same line, the diference between kills would be by minutes. So how someone can be proud...if they killed the boss 10 minutes faster (for example). When this guilds move from ptr too live servers, they get 1 shot on normal mode..."same" as heroic. So remove ptr and there would be more credit for 1st kills.

Azzur said...

They are a top guild and they obviously know the implications of an extra week and faster access to heroic gear.

A dick move and very stupid as well. It's obvious that their heroic kill not be recognised by the community. In addition, if they managed a world first on ragnaros heroic, their kill would be tainted by their cheating. If they failed to do it, then the community will say that they cheated but lost. Lose-lose either way.