Friday, 23 January 2009

Doctorate in Healing: a primer for healing research

Healing metering methods seems to be an aspect of the game that is widely debated. Advocates claim that current healing meters are a reliable method to represent the healing output of a player/team whereas adversaries claim they do not depict important information and often people end up healing for the sake of their meter bar, without using their heads.

Let me tell you one thing. I am a researcher. I worked my butt till I get a PhD in augmented reality and wearable computing. What I found out during my years of research is that any method of measuring, formulating and investigating can have pros and cons. In research there is never black and white. There are opinions, claims, data, evaluations and degrees of truth. Why would a game as complex as World of Warcraft be any different?

Measuring output in an encounter, whether its healing or dps is highly situational and dependant on various aspects. Group composition, available buffs, tactical assignments, exclusivity among abilities (e.g. only one paladin can JoL), encounter mechanics, player individual skill (whatever that is :p), situational and context awareness, means of communication, technical issues (lag etc.) and of course the methods of measuring some of the above.

Analysing the above is usually done with observation and measurement, i.e. qualitative and quantitative methods.

Observation is simply looking around who does what, when and how. Our raid leaders do a formidable job of that - they are often a bit scary on how well they see things. Players, in addition, need to look around and `decipher' the imagery and the sound, monitor their co-raiders etc. The quality of this observation, in the wow context, is dependant on ones experience.

Measurement is done with some sort of metering or reporting add-on. Bearing in mind these are pieces of software, continuously updated to be more accurate, report things better, cover more variables etc we should be aware of their deficiencies before we use them as evidence for further insight. Subsequently we need to understand what those meters mean, more often than not coupled with our observations and our `design' variables (assignments, group compositions, buffs etc)

Only then we will be able to appreciate the amount of information available to us and reach some conclusions on what works and what is broken. But still, we must always keep in our mindset that what we are doing might not be perfectly correct.

Like in research, knowing what you do and why you do it is more than half the battle. Likewise, in something as trivial as analysing Warcraft data, knowing what they mean in the grand scale of things is equally important.

That is in my opinion what makes this game so interesting. Appart from the feeling of immersion that is... :p


Ruhtra 23 January 2009 at 19:59  

This is probably the end all of comments on the validity of these measuring devices.

I agree that most people look at the overall without taking into account the assignments or group composition.

This is a well thought out post and the first time I have read it. Definitely will be keeping an eye out here.

Jong 24 January 2009 at 04:08  

i have a PhD in QQ and douche-baggery.

holy jeebus. this post is too articulate and well thought out for my tate.

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