The Case Against Damage Meters
The more time that elapses between me and my hardcore raiding days, the more of an MMO luddite I become. I mean, I am an internet nerd who loves working with information streams and optimizing processes, and one of the things I liked about WoW in the first place was the openness of data. How much threat do I have? How much dps was I doing in this particular five seconds of the fight? How much damage does my bubble mitigate on average?
As with a cross-server LFD system, though, while I like the idea of a detailed combat log and damage meters I rarely like the implementation. I had a somewhat heated discussion about this on another site and the argument in favor essentially came down to: “But how will I know when other people are being terrible without damage meters?”. What I didn’t see is a good reason why we all need to be policing each other for poor video game performance.
I mean yes, if you are one of the top ten World of Warcraft progression raiding guilds in the world, then statistics and numbers and performance evalutations are definitely tools of your trade. However, the reason why there are fights with such tightly tuned enrage timers, for example, is BECAUSE players have so much information and are able to min-max to such a minute degree. If a group is able to determine the exact DPS per person needed to kill a boss and enforce it by only bringing players who meet that standard, game developers feel obligated to punish groups that are 1% off that mark.
An end-game without damage meters could not have that degree of finesse, and while it’s not very hardcore of me to say it.. I would be okay with that. Maybe I’m getting old and soft, but I would be interested to see large group content where the keys to success are teamwork, practice, and people who enjoy playing their class and know what they’re doing even if they’re wearing a slightly suboptimal hat because it looks pretty. Not that there should be no place for ultimate min-max raiding, it just doesn’t have to be the overwhelming design ethos.
That all being said while I think hardcore raiding has made damage meters seem like a game requirement, I don’t think these folks and their hobby are actually the problem. The problem is that while it’s reasonable in context for a top 5 world raid leader to examine logs and assist/berate people who are 1% off their target numbers, this attitude trickles down to the pug dictator who starts spamming slurs when someone is performing below maximum expectation in a Baradin Hold random. We, the players, generally don’t seem to know when to stop using game data to beat each other over the head.
Fortunately, I think there are plenty of options for a compromise on this issue. I would like to see personal damage meters, and Bioware has expressed some interest recently in adding that exact thing to SWTOR. I like optimizing my characters and improving how I play them, and my data nerd side would enjoy having access to numbers for this purpose. I also like the idea of a scoreboard shown perhaps at the end of a flashpoint, much like that seen at the end of a warzone. Give me aggregate totals at the end of the session, and not just damage output but healing and damage taken and interrupts and dispels. (Heck, give medals when certain goals are reached, like SWTOR PvP.) Finally, I do think SWTOR needs to add some kind of “cause of death” report to indicate to a player why they died, as some of the fights can get pretty chaotic.
I’m not saying that everyone should be forced to play with Willy The Window-Licking Melee Hunter, but there are certainly ways to tell when someone is doing nothing (no movement or casting, or extremely delayed response times) or perhaps is not sure what to do (running the wrong direction, standing in the ranged pack shooting as a melee class). To go back to the original question, without damage meters will you know when someone is doing 15% less DPS than they optimally could be? Nope! Probably not even a little bit.
And I am perfectly comfortable with that in SWTOR.