Raiding Research Online

Exploring and mapping the MMO raiding culture
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Winning: Is it an exploit or just working around bugs?

January 18, 2011 By: Ladan Category: boss fights, Cataclysm, progress raiding, raiding bugs

As you can imagine, when you research raiding and raiders, the idea of competition has to take centre stage. We’re a community driven by outcomes. We want to be best at something, even if it’s just a personal best DPS output or seeing our team complete a flawless boss kill. This makes us quite competitive by nature. And the competition is nowhere as contested as at our elite levels. And boy do we get passionate about it! Even if we aren’t elite raiders ourselves, we have an opinion about what “they” should be doing or should not be doing and we especially have a heightened sense of right and wrong when it comes about what type of behaviour we consider acceptable in relation to raiding progress.

If you’re following any of the discussion forums on any of our major community sites out there, the issue of fairness in play has been coming up. And we’re all drawn into the discussion. This doesn’t directly impact the vast majority of us raiders as most of us aren’t even doing heroic raids yet. By the time the rest of us get there, the playing field will probably be more level (though inevitably there are always going to be problems–lag, player-related bugs, server crashes–that never make the playing field feel perfectly level) and we just focus on our own performance problems learning a particular boss fight strategy.

But for this tiny percentage of us–the elite raiders–it’s a tumultuous time. One particular guild managed a world first kill on a boss that is now being viewed as controversial. Some have viewed their successful kill as an exploit of a bug that Blizzard hotfixed immediately after their kill, making the fight “harder” for subsequent guilds. I put harder in quotes there on purpose. Harder is up to interpretation, of course. From a post I just read by a Paragon member, his description of the fight in question still sounded quite complicated to me! So was it an exploit? Unfair? Is it their fault? Did they get there too fast? If we were in their shoes, would we do the same thing? It’s a “win or nothing” race, after all. Do we let all the other raiding guilds do things the same way? Or do we just accept that people will try to down a boss in any way possible. Being armchair raiders it’s easy for us to tell “them” what they should do…. what if it’s you vs. that boss and this is the bag of tricks you’ve been given to play with. And what if you don’t know it’s a bug? I have to quote Manni (from Paragon here) from his post from mmo-champion, where he speaks about their realisation that the Ascendent Council fight was anti-melee (which was subsequently addressed by Blizzard):

When we were closing in on the kill our retpala himself said that he was being completely useless there and that we should have a hunter spec BM instead of having him in the raid. So as much as he wanted to be there killing the boss, he had to point it out himself that having him there was pointless. So overall the options we had there were to sit around and whine about the boss imbalance, or just try to take our ranged alts and see if we could kill it with the gear they had. So we overcame this design flaw and killed the boss, managed to get the attention of Blizzard so they hotfixed it a day after, and got portrayed as “stackers.”

Riddle me this: If you had a bug in the game that let you (and only you!) do something unique and special (your horse could suddenly fly!), would you report it right away or would you enjoy the benefit? Hell, it’s not hurting anyone, is it?… although maybe it is, especially if it gives you an unfair advantage over everyone else. I think it’s hard for any of us to know what we’d do if faced with a similar issue, especially if it’s not something we tried to create or figure out on our own. And keep in mind, maybe we don’t even know we’re “exploiting” something–we’re just using the resources we have available. So when is it an exploit and when is it us being resourceful?

So there we are with these pesky, annoying, hard to eradicate things we like to call “bugs”. Or as others like to say, “bug exploits”. Bugs are interesting things–at least from the perspective of a game like WoW. They are both an excuse and reason for failure and a constant companion; maybe it’s impossible to have a living and breathing game like an MMO with no bugs at all. We don’t always know that we’ve been infested. And we don’t necessarily know how to get rid of them. Sometimes we have to do something more difficult to “work around” a bug. Does that somehow make it more acceptable? If the workaround to deal with a bug requires an almost impossible strategy (which can feel unfair) that makes the fight harder, does that make the bug “worked around’ versus “exploited”? (“Yes, if you all stand there and hop on one leg for 63 seconds EXACTLY, the adds will despawn….”)

This is all relevant to our raiding experience because it really does pervade our culture and attitudes about ourselves. A lot of times we form opinions (both negative and positive) about the game and our fellow raiders based on how we approach and respond to these unplanned problems in the game. But for better or worse, bugs are probably here to stay. No planning and design process is perfect and perhaps it’s inevitable that the first among us to encounter the bosses will encounter the bugs first–I suppose what our subculture seems to be grappling with is not so much the fact that we have bugs, but HOW we deal with the bugs. And we’re hardly on the same page about it.

1 Comments to “Winning: Is it an exploit or just working around bugs?”


  1. An excellent write-up. I wish Blizzard would use their role as a judge more. At the moment guilds are left on their own having to decide whether to use a bug, and will they get banned if they do.

    Also making less buggy encounters wouldn’t hurt. Too often we get the feeling that even one pull at the boss would have exposed a bug which could have been fixed during the beta.

    Anyway, gonna write about this race and all the details involved once we are done with the content.

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