GearScore, minus the “Score” (part 1)

GearScore – The Addon.

You probably either hate it, or love it.  For those that have been dwelling under a rock for the past year, GearScore is an addon that calculates the item level of all pieces of gear you’re wearing and converts it to a common number – the credit score of addons if you will.  The addon has received increased visibility lately, mostly from players that do not like that they were denied a spot in a PUG raid due to their gear score.

Players blame the addon for trying to summarize their abilities and capabilities into a singular non-granular number.  Although the addon highlights the problem, I do not think it lies within the addon itself, but rather with common (mis)perceptions.

Way Back When

Way back when Molten Core and Blackwing Lair were the end-all-be-all of raiding, it was easy to spot those that had raided.  If you had gear with purple text, you had done at least Molten Core – as that was the only instance that dropped it (aside from one-off craftables and ultra-rare drops).  If you had BWL gear, it was assumed you had also done MC, as BWL required MC level gear – and the only way to get MC level gear was to do MC.  There were no badge vendors because there were no badges.  You went into an instance, helped kill a boss, and hope he dropped loot that you wanted.  Epic gear came only from doing 40 man raids (aside from the one-offs above).

Back then, gear did equate to experience.  If you had 5 piece Tier 1, any player would assume you knew at least about 1/2 of Molten Core and the various mechanics and challenges related.  If you had a few pieces of Tier 2 gear, one would assume you knew all of MC + most of BWL.  There were probably players that were “carried” to their gear but that had to have been few and far between. (I’ll probably go over “carried” in another post)   If you had the experience of killing Baron Gedon, then you also had the skill set required to help kill him.  Since gear pretty much equaled experience, gear also equaled skill.

Now

But we’re not level 60 anymore are we?  Badge vendors allow players to farm 5 man heroics and buy gear that’s equal to – or better than – gear that drops in raid instances.  How quickly (or slowly) you acquire this gear is irrelevant.  The fact that it can be done is the only thing that matters.  Gear no longer equates to experience, and therefore, does not equate to skill.  It’s no longer accurate to glance at a player’s gear and determine what (if any) experience they have in a raid environment.  Well, at least when referencing the item level of the gear – which is more or less the only thing the GearScore addon uses.

You can still look at a player’s gear and make some assumptions if you’re smart.  Does any of the gear say “Heroic” on it in green text?  Then that player has done at least a hard mode encounter ranging from Ulduar to ICC (depending on the piece).  Does a specific piece only drop from a boss and not available from a badge vendor?  Then they likely have experience (and skill) from that boss.

Evaluations

I think that’s one of the failures of the GearScore addon – it does not value items that can only drop in a raid (heroic/hard mode especially) higher than items that can be bought via doing 20 or so heroic 5 man instances.  Killing a boss gives a player invaluable experience that they can use for any other encounter they come across in the future.  One of the ways to prove that you’ve killed a boss is the gear that you acquired from the kill.  When you are able to acquire gear that’s equal to the gear that drops off a boss via a much easier means – and then try to judge players on that gear – the system no longer has integrity.  It’s not so much that one method is “harder” than the other, it’s that there are multiple methods to acquire the gear that do not share similar requirements nor obstacles. When this happens you can no longer say, “Joebob has this piece of gear.  Therefore, he must know how to do <insert random boss mechanic here>.”  All you can ascertain is that he has ample time on his hands to run X number of dungeons to get the currency to buy the gear – which require little to no skill.

And that’s why the GearScore addon is starting to lose its value toward the end of this WotLK expansion.  It’s not that the addon was poorly coded, or uses improper means to come to its actual “gear score”.  It’s just that using gear as a basis for player experience (and therefore expected knowledge and performance in future raids)  is now flawed, as a player no longer has to experience anything of significance to get gear.  To put it another way, you’re using an arbitrary number to build a group with certain expectations.

In that, you’ll always fail.

I’ll go over this more in part 2.

raid on

~Ande

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~ by Andenthal on June 18, 2010.

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