The Ethics of Raid Finder Loot
What This Post Is:
When I was a student, one of my favorite subjects was Ethics. I loved stripping a question or problem down to the most fundamental parts and trying to determine who benefits, who loses, and what’s at stake.
My recent post on Raid Finder and the discussion that followed got me thinking about the questions that might arise from the way that different types of WoW players are using this new system. While I think that applying ethical principles to pixelated “loot” is probably a far stretch in the grand scheme of things, I thought it would make for an interesting discussion and might be fun to explore.
What This Post Is Not:
I am in no way writing a post that is designed to pass judgement on any people, groups, or guilds for the way that they choose to utilize the Raid Finder system. I will propose several possible ethical problems in this post, which are meant only to get us thinking about the way we use Raid Finder, and are not meant to be taken as a criticism of the way that any of us chooses to play WoW. I am not looking for one “right” answer, or really any answer at all, to the question of how Raid Finder loot “should” be distributed or used by any type of player. Using the arguments I make here to do so would be taking them out of their intended context. This is an exercise in ethical thinking, not a basis upon which anyone should be ridiculed or scrutinized.
What Is The Intent of Raid Finder?
Raid Finder was designed to give players a chance to experience raid-level content even if their play schedules or interests did not allow them the time that would traditionally be required to find a guild / research strategies / work through progression. If you don’t want to take my word for that, then see what Blizzard had to say:
Raid Finder is primarily intended for players who don’t already raid consistently. These are players who may not have had the opportunity to take part in raid content due to scheduling conflicts, playtime constraints, limited access to other raid-capable players, or a lack of experience with higher-end content. These players may want to experience World of Warcraft’s raid content and storyline without being able to commit to the additional time investment of a raiding guild. The Raid Finder is also a great way to quickly and easily gear up alternate characters without having to worry about raid lockouts.
Included in that description are non-raiders and alts (potentially of both non-raiders and raiders), but traditional raiders are not mentioned as one of the primary audiences for whom Blizzard has designed the Raid Finder. More recently, some players have pointed to Daxxarri’s post on the official forums as evidence that Blizzard “expects” traditional raiders to use the Raid Finder as a tool to supplement their chances to upgrade their gear each week. Obviously, the need for traditional raiders to use Raid Finder for upgrades will decrease as the amount of time the Dragon Soul has been available increases. Thus, this post will assume that the primary intended use of Raid Finder will be to provide a raiding experience for people who are not able to participate in traditional raids.
Possible Problems with Raid Finder Loot
At its core, the primary issue with Raid Finder is that two different groups are using it for two very different purposes. Non-raiders are using it as the sole way they will experience raid -level content. Traditional raiders are using it as a tool to help them strengthen their chances of success in normal and heroic difficulties.
So who “should” take Raid Finder loot? Let’s explore a few possibilities:
Non-raiders are unable to acquire gear from normal or heroic Dragon Soul. Raid Finder level gear is the highest gear they can achieve. Thus, non-raiders should have preference on Raid Finder gear. One of the biggest measurements of success in WoW is the acquisition of gear. Many players with level-capped characters (or even those who have chosen to lock their characters at a certain level) spend hours pouring over WoWhead to determine what pieces of their gear can be upgraded, and where those upgrades come from. If Raid Finder’s target audience is a group of players who are unlikely to enter normal Dragon Soul, and who will never go near heroic Dragon Soul, then the loot that drops from Raid Finder is “best in slot” for them.
Traditional raiders have more need for the gear that drops in Raid Finder than non-raiders do. Thus, they should have preference because they will use the gear more than non-raiders. Raid Finder provides traditional raiders with additional opportunities to acquire tier gear. Though the iLv of Raid Finder’s tier gear may be lower than that from normal difficulty, for some classes who have particularly powerful set bonuses the loss in iLv may actually be worth it. So, having more raiders in 4 pc tier means that traditional raiders will have an advantage against normal and heroic Dragon Soul. Higher DPS, greater healer throughput, and better tanking cooldowns can shorten the length of many encounters and make them significantly simpler to learn and manage. Traditional raiders will put the gear they get to “better use” because they are using that gear to defeat encounters of additional difficulty. In contrast to non-raiders, iLv 384 is not “best in slot” for traditional raiders. Anything that traditional raiders win from Raid Finder will be replaced as quickly as possible with an item from normal difficulty. To use an ethical principle completely out of context – Raid Finder loot isn’t an end, it’s the means to an end for traditional raiders.
Traditional raiders “don’t belong” in Raid Finder because it wasn’t designed for them. Therefore, they shouldn’t roll on the gear that drops from it. Based upon my assumption above that Raid Finder was designed for non-raiders, we may also posit that only normal and heroic difficulties of Dragon Soul are the intended targets for traditional raiders. Beyond this, there is a fair amount of animosity toward traditional raiders in Raid Finder for a variety of reasons – most notably, when a traditional raider attempts to tell the group how a boss is defeated on normal difficulty, only to be informed that the strategy is completely different on the Raid Finder setting. (This is most obviously the case with Yor’sahj.) Externally, there have also been a handful of posts on the official forums from non-raiders who are upset to see players mostly decked-out in iLv 397 gear or above needing on items that are side-grades or (apparent) downgrades. There is a sense (be it right or wrong) among some non-raiders that Raid Finder gear really should belong to them. After all, these pieces are their best in slot items aside from the non-tier pieces they can purchase with Valor Points. A set of Raid Finder T13 shoulders is likely to be nothing more than a shard to a traditional raider in a few months, whereas a non-raider might wear those shoulders until Mists of Pandaria.
Non-raiders do not need the gear from Raid Finder to defeat Raid Finder. It’s a simple argument: if you can defeat the Raid Finder difficulty of Dragon Soul prior to getting any upgrades from it, then you don’t need any upgrades to be able to defeat it. Raid Finder difficulty is tuned for people who have a minimum iLv of 372, which can easily be acquired with gear from the new heroic dungeons. However …
Traditional raiders do not need the gear from Raid Finder to defeat normal mode. Most traditional raid groups who are now working on normal and the early heroic fights in Dragon Soul came into the new instance with a significant amount of gear from Firelands and (probably) heroic Firelands. As a member of a raid group who, on average, had about a 375-380 iLv at the beginning of 4.3, I can confirm that every single normal encounter in Dragon Soul can be defeated with this gear level. While tier set bonuses may make for an easier process, they are not at all “necessary” for success.
Traditional raiders should only use Raid Finder with full, premade groups in order to avoid taking gear from non-raiders who would also use it. A possible (though completely impractical) solution to the problem would be for traditional raiders to only queue for Raid Finder if and when they have a full 25 people who will all go together. This ensures that any traditional raiders who roll on 384 gear are only rolling against other traditional raiders, for whom Raid Finder loot would generally be a side-grade. Ironically, by this argument Paragon and the other elite guilds who participated in exploiting the loot system of Raid Finder acted in a way that is compatible with the ethical concerns discussed here. Though these guilds broke Blizzard’s rules in exploiting the bug, they did so in a way that did not hurt non-raiding players who were also using Raid Finder. They were not depriving non-raiders of Raid Finder level gear because they queued with full groups.
Do you think that Raid Finder creates questions about fair loot distribution between non-raiders and traditional raiders? What additional issues can you think of that are at stake here? How is your guild using Raid Finder? Do you think Raid Finder will become a “necessary” part of the weekly schedule for raiding guilds?