Sunday, September 7, 2008

Growing concerns about the Rogue.

This was originally a much more emotive, and somewhat negative post. I've since edited it fairly heavily. I want to refrain from foaming at the mouth like I have in the past, now that I've thought about it; but in all seriousness, I am genuinely concerned with what I'm seeing starting to develop with the Rogue class in this game. It's getting worse than it has ever been.

Just on Saturday morning, I was ganked again on the island, close to a dozen times by an Alliance Rogue who had literally spent the entire night there, purely for the purpose of inflicting misery on others. This particular Rogue spent almost all her time in stealth; she only decloaked to kill someone, and would very rapidly re-stealth again.

In every class forum I visit, and General as well, the picture is the same. Every other class, melee or range, hybrid or no, shares a common enemy; a common source of anguish and misery for them in the game.

The Rogue.

Were it not for this class, other classes would be a great deal more competitive with each other in the Arena, and would be able to persue quests and other PvE activities in the game, far less frequently molested than they are now.

Another example. I wonder; do many of you know of a particular new talent Blizzard are giving the Rogue in the expansion? The tooltip will be linked from WoWHead; read it carefully, and ponder the implications.


Swords and shields, gone. Daggers, staves, gone. Bows and guns, gone. If the reference to "equipment," above means what I think it does, even offhands, ammunition, and thrown weapons would be included.

Even more than the real implications within the game itself, the above is an example of the true source of the misery that the Rogue causes me; Blizzard's consistent, continual, unrelenting favouritism of it, at the expense of every other class in this game.

Vanish. Cloak of Shadows. Shadowstep. Dismantle. Fan of Knives. Four consecutive slows or stuns, more than can be used by any other class in this game that I know of. The list of largely uncounterable exploits just keeps getting longer and longer, and each new patch, there are often subtle and barely documented nerfs to the ability to counter them. Snake Trap no longer breaks stealth. Flare has already been historically nerfed, and yet a Rogue had the gall to call for more in the Hunter forum not too days ago. Trap radius has been diminished, with arming time added and then increased.

The icing on the cake, however, was when I recently found a link in the Hunter forum to this particular Armory profile. Look at the ranged weapon this Rogue has equipped. Now be aware that apparently, this Rogue was given this ranged weapon in preference to two other Hunters in the same raid. If this is not the very definition of injustice as it applies to the context of this game, then I have no idea what is.

Note also the Warglaives of Azzinoth. The Hunter was originally one of the classes that was able to equip these weapons, and in terms of stats, they are extremely well suited to us, while arguably not really being suited to a Warrior in particular at all. I would have had no objection to the Rogue being kept as one of the classes able to equip them, but I do not understand why the Hunter was removed as one of the classes that were originally able to do so.

It is true that in Bartle's treatise on the social ecosystem of MMORPGs, he mentions one specific demographic that could be described as unsparingly malefic. Bartle calls them Killers; others have called them griefers. These are individuals whose existence in a virtual environment is for no purpose other than to inflict the maximum possible amount of misery upon others, for their own enjoyment. The offline term for such behaviour is sadism.

This group, as with the other three, are actually necessary to some degree in maintaining a stable game population. I have written before about how I believe that the Rogue was specifically and consciously designed for the purpose of catering to this demographic of WoW's population. You can look at the image at the top of this post, yes; but also look at the image at the top of my blog. Contrary to how this post, and my rantings against Rogues have sounded in the past, I actually am aware that darkness, as long as it is in equal measure, is as critical to life as is light.

However, one of the things that Bartle also warns against is a state of imbalance or disequilibrium occurring, where the numbers of any one of the four demographics, Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers, or Killers, could end up exceeding the population of the other three. If this were to occur, the most likely result would eventually be the total loss of population, and the death of the game in question.

Any healthy, viable ecosystem has to be inclusive, and the social ecosystem of an online game is no exception. Spiders, snakes, scorpions, reptiles, and rats all provide vital ecological services, to the same degree as herbivores or more benevolent organisms do. However, as described above, in order for said ecosystem to survive, balance must be maintained.

Predators overcoming the other organisms eventually results in a scenario where they find themselves out of food, and faced with the prospect of starving to death, due to all of the available prey either having been eaten, or having retreated to a more distant, safe location. The way this translates in WoW terms is that if Rogues continue to be reinforced to a state of chronic imbalance, such that other classes are completely unable to defend themselves, one of two scenarios will develop. Either a) everyone will roll a Rogue, as it will be the only way in which they can defend themselves, and you will thus have a class monoculture developing within the game, or b) increasingly large numbers of players will begin to leave the game.

Neither of these scenarios are in the Rogue's long term best interests. The first scenario means that while the Rogue may still be able to grief new members of the class, it will be much more difficult to do, because they will be facing the same abilities that they themselves have. The second scenario is the worst case, because it means a gradual slide towards a total loss of potential prey; which will of course lead to the eventual demise of the Rogue itself.

Predator and prey actually exist in a symbiotic relationship. The predator needs the prey for nourishment. (In the case of predatory animals, said nourishment is physical; in the case of the Rogue, it's psychological)

The prey, on the other hand, needs the predator for several different reasons. One is population control; if the prey's numbers grow too large, that can in turn threaten the prey's own food supply. This translates in WoW terms to there being a need for different classes and roles, both for PvE and PvP. If too many members of any one class were to develop, an imbalance would then exist.

The second is genetic development. By learning to resist and survive the predator, the prey develops genetically and becomes more biologically fit. In WoW terms again, this translates to players who Rogues attempt to attack, being forced to learn and try to improve their own level of skill within the game, in order to successfully defend themselves.

Blizzard's developers would be very wise to take heed of the above, and realise that where the Rogue is concerned, the scales began tipping some time ago, and are only now truly beginning in earnest to manifest as serious social damage to the game.

Truthfully, when I really look at it, it really isn't the Rogue itself that upsets me. It's the manner in which Blizzard treats it; continually reinforcing its' dominance and near-invincibility, rather than improving the chances of other classes to survive against it, and thus maintaining a balance. I do not, contrary to how it may have sounded in the past, truly advocate the outright deletion of the Rogue class. I do, however, advocate that some of its' current abilities be toned down to an extent, and that proposed travesties like Dismantle be scrapped rather than being introduced in WoTLK.

Griefers exist; they're a fact of life, and I wouldn't actually want it any other way. Some of my most enjoyable experiences in this game involved fending off Rogues while I was levelling. However the point is that back then, while it was a legitimate challenge, I had a chance. To a large extent, that isn't really true any more.

If there's anything that really causes me pain, it is imbalance on either end of the spectrum; because I know what it has the potential to do.

No comments: