The problem with inspecting other players in MMOs

One thing that strikes me about TESO is how there is no inspect function. Coming from LoTRO where you can see not only what someone else is wearing, but what they choose to show they’re wearing (why on Nirn doesn’t a TES MMO have a cosmetic system?), I found this most odd.

At first, I thought ill of it. Why would the devs hide something so fundamental from us? Then I read the Grumpy Elf’s experience with the ‘if you were better geared’ syndrome. Ho ho ho. I guess it’s not so fundamental after all, nor such a bad idea.

Thus far, my PUG experiences in TESO have been pretty amicable. No one ragequits, no one disses, and only once have I seen a leader give an underperformer the silent boot. (That counts as bad conduct in my book.) Even on my Dragonknight, where I’m supposed to tank, no one throws hissy fits when I don’t block enough or exhibit non-tanky behavior. I wonder – would I still have it this easy if there was an inspect function and the team saw my plain, crafted, unenchanted digs?

Back in LoTRO before I gave up on group content, it was practically the opposite. The millstone of optimization and by-the-book builds hung heavy around my neck even in landscape groups; one time when I took my Captain into a Dol Dinen run, the leader inspected me and promptly questioned why I had standards instead of heralds equipped. Recognizing the imperious tone even across the filter of an MMO chat window, I pulled out my bannerman with a shrug and marched on. It was a tiny thing. But it still sticks with me, even years later.

I’ve heard of other cases where folks are denied a spot on PUG raids because they’re not in all-teal gear, or have ‘the wrong stats’ on their Legendaries. LoTRO makes it simple to find out, since you can inspect a player from his or her name in the chat window. Remembering these, perhaps it’s a good thing TESO keeps how well- or poorly-geared a player is hidden. The last thing we need is more ammo for elitists to fire players from group content.

In my ideal MMO, there would be both an inspect function and a cosmetic system – and the former would apply only to the latter. True, that might get the gear hounds howling. Which is why I thought of an MMO I hardly think about anymore: DC Universe Online.

Perhaps DCUO is the one doing it right. There, they use Combat Rating, a derived statistic nobody seems to have figured out the workings of, which is calculated from gear. (I heard it may even take into account gear sitting in your inventory, which, if true, is pretty screwy.) CR serves as a gate for instances and raids, like LoTRO’s old Radiance system, but nobody can see your exact number. Group leaders can’t verify your CR when you put it forward while lobbying for a PUG spot. They can only inspect you – and then only if you’re close – and draw their own conclusions from your gear.

Aren’t some job applications that way? Yes, go ahead and confirm I do know everything I say I know on my CV. But whether or not I have enough of some arbitrary skill you say you need? Sorry, my word will have to be good enough for you…

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7 Responses to “The problem with inspecting other players in MMOs”

  1. I don’t know what MMO it was that came without inspect function, maybe gw2(?), but it annoyed me to no end when I was playing. I’m kinda with you that it should apply to the cosmetic level for certain, altho there’s something to be said for gear too. It can help a nub to check what stats and gear choices the highlevel players make. So I’d like to just get both if possible (even if clearly it has a few downsides also, aka jerkbags judging your gear in pugs).

    • Yes, I imagine it’d help keep some players going as well by showing them what awaits them at the high-levels. There’s potential for abuse, but I think most would agree the benefits outweigh that.

  2. tyrannodorkus Says:

    Really interesting perspective. I haven’t considered the removal of the gear inspect system, always took it for granted. That is a pretty good point, it’s info others don’t need to judge you by.

    I’d still be curious what others are wearing only to know what is giving them a certain look. GW2 could allow something like this since all their gear can be listed as the “skin” it uses.

    • GW2 does that? It’s like DCUO then – although I don’t recall being able to inspect skins there. Had to ask people more than once what shoulders or boots or cape they were sporting – but then, that usually leads to “Where did you get it?” and then potentially a longer conversation. Which is never bad in today’s MMOscape.

      • tyrannodorkus Says:

        GW2 allows you to change armor based off skins you have in your collection, but they don’t let you inspect. Hitting it off with another player is rarely a bad thing. :)

  3. I am on the same page. The minor advantages of allowing inspections (new players can see what veterans use) are by far overshadowed by bad behaviour, like what you described.

    Too many people consider gear the absolute metric on how good and effective another player is. Up to some degree i can understand it, i think none of us is free of the experience that you wipe at a fight again and again, and only after a while inspect the healer and find out that his gear indeed is far below the required level, so he just technically can not deliver the numbers necessary. But very often ridiculous gear requirements are in place, as what generally is a crutch to get around low-skilled gameplay becomes “minimum requirement” in the mind of many people.

    This always reminds me when i met some guild mates during my Anarchy Online time, when a couple in our guild married. Late at night one of us, terribly drunk, yelled at me that he hates me, he grinds and grinds to have the very best gear so he can do the hardest content, and then i come along, in my cheap “third choice” gear and i just do the hard content anyway.

    All in all, the functionality of inspecting other players gear very often is used to discriminate against newer players, no matter of their skill, while having very limited positive functionality. I welcome its absence in any MMO i play.

    • That must have been an awful experience for you, drunk or no drunk. When the in-game rat race gets to gamers in that manner, I draw the line.

      Unfortunately, as long as vertical progression and gear-dependent systems are a thing, we can’t escape such negativity. Chalk it up as one of the things that are right for devs and wrong for players – well, other than the players that leverage it for epeen stroking, of course.

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