Gearscore, the Bane of a Casual WoW Player’s Existence
If you didn’t know, I recently started playing World of Warcraft again. “BOOOO, HISSSSS” you might say, but I enjoy my time in Azeroth quite a bit. The friends that I’ve made and kept (people from High School that have moved away) are some of the longest relationships that I’ve had online, and the bond is only made greater by this incredibly deep game.
That said, there’s something that completely baffled me the first time I logged in in over a year and a half last December: The Gearscore add-on. This nifty little interface plugin takes each of your items that you have equipped, counts up all of the stat and set piece bonuses, and puts one little number in the tooltip that shows on your screen when you mouse over you or anyone else’s character in game. It’s a neat little metric for trying to get pick-up groups together for endgame instances, but other than that, it’s the biggest measure of ego that I’ve ever experienced in any online game.
You may have seen Blizzard’s April fool’s joke clearly taking a shot at the addon and the rift in the endgame community that it creates. Billed as the Equipment Potency EquivalencE Number (If you can’t see the camel casing, it says EPEEN), the ‘” fictional ‘” system makes it so that you basically can’t interact with players if you’re not in their “Player Potency Tier”. It’s all in good fun, but it really struck home with me because I realized that that’s exactly what happens now because of Gearscore.
I had just put together a pick-up group for the 10-man version of Icecrown Citadel the previous night (I had missed my guild run because I spent the weekend at PAX and was trying to get school work done), and my message sent in trade chat calling for more people was “LFM ICC10, send achievement, spec, and 5k+ Gearscore”. I know it’s bad, because people CAN go into the instance, but their performance won’t be up to what’s required to complete the instance. So I’m torn on the issue. With gearscore, I get a fairly good estimate of where people’s performance are without actually having played with them.
At the same time though, there’s the old adage “gear != skill”. A player can be geared to the teeth in the best-in-slot items and still be awful. Especially now that most of the endgame content is so commonly done by groups of random people as opposed to guilds. People can grind heroics and get tier gear (arguably the best in the game) and have never stepped inside some of the more difficult instances.
What will solve this, hopefully, is the Guild advancement system that’s been proposed for Cataclysm. Having guild-wide talents and other various systems in place to encourage guild cooperation will be a great way to bring the ‘” what I feel ‘” shattered endgame community back together into guilds. As it stands now you can do most of the endgame content as a body to fill a spot. Most of the time people don’t even know their raid member’s names, and I don’t think that’s the best way to develop the bond that you need to be coordinated in the tougher encounters.
April Fool’s joke from the developer aside, Gearscore generates even more of an elitist attitude in the endgame community of World of Warcraft than what was already present. People don’t grasp the proper use of the metric (it’s to gauge performance, not personal worth or skill) and it needs to stop. Hopefully the proposed guild leveling and achievements will help get guilds back together and back to the popularity for getting things done that they had in the “good ol’ days”. Players won’t have to waste the memory space for the gearscore addon, because they’ll all be in a guild with people at a similar gear level and will have a raid spot in said guild.