If you’ve played a Battleground, you’ve seen the Scoreboard. There, posted for all players to see, is the recount of a few key statistics of every player present when the BG ends. It pops up as the match is won, letting the combatants know who won and that it’s time to move on. You have to click “Leave Battleground” on the scoreboard to exit the BG, or stare at it for 2 minutes. I feel like I should capitalize it or something, because there’s no avoiding The Scoreboard.
It’s big. It’s bold. It’s in your face.
And it’s a problem.
MEASURING BATTLEGROUND SUCCESS
The problem with The Scoreboard is psychological: if you present numbers about an item to people, they will use them to judge that thing and compare it to other, similar things. There’s nothing wrong with this — quantifying things is what numbers are for.
But what if you’re measuring the wrong things?
Let’s say I have two Mekgineer’s Choppers. One has the equivalent power of 30 horses, the other 60. If I’m choosing between the two, and that’s the only measurement I have, I’m going to pick the 60 horsepower Chopper every time.
But what if the 60 HP Chopper smells like old Yeti fur? Or it will go twice as fast but require four times as much fuel? Or it blows up occasionally? Or the 30 HP one comes with an in-dash navigation system with automatic quest turnin and XP bonus? Now which one should I get?
Numbers are great at quantifying elements. But we, as people, have a tendency to give them too much weight when presented with numbers.
Let’s take the example scoreboard up above. What are the two most important conclusions that you can draw from it?
I’ll give you some hints.
- It’s not that Sidni-Medivh led the Damage Done column, though she did. (Warlocks represent!)
- It’s not that the Horde had the top 2 healers, though they did that, too.
- It’s not that Dukko, the only Rogue in the battleground, topped Honorable Kills and tied for first with Killing Blows.
No, the most important thing the scoreboard displays? The Alliance won.
The other important thing to notice is that the Horde was running a premade.
The Scoreboard does tell you these two key pieces of information. But the numbers presented on it are irrelevant to the story of that battleground. Two teams of twinks faced off, and the PuG beat the premade. Every single person contributed in this battleground.
Even now, after hundreds of battles, I find The Scoreboard puzzling. It presents the most important piece of data — who won or lost — in the smallest space possible, while the bulk of the report is given over to individual metrics. For something that is a team activity, this is mystifying. It would be like reading the sports page and having to hunt for the actual results of the matches among the individual player stats. At a high level, I don’t care if one team gained more yards than the other, or who got the most fouls; my primary concern is if they won or lost.
The problem with this presentation isn’t semantic, though. If, in your final summary of the game, you stress the performance of individuals over the performance of the team, the players of that game will start thinking that their individual numbers are more important than the team’s performance.
But topping the meters while losing means that you were highly effective at doing the wrong thing.
THE RECOUNT MENTALITY
When I first started playing battlegrounds, I often looked at my damage in comparison to everyone else, and since I was usually pretty high, life was good. When I played my DK it was even better, because I’d often lead damage, HKs, and killing blows, because Pestilence used to be even more awesome than it is today, and Howling Blast was within reach of a level 59 Death Knight.
Every time I lost while topping the meters, though, I got pissed. How could we lose if I’m out there dominating? Look at my numbers, people, I owned midfield! Sure, I ignored the EFC, but someone else should have gotten him!
In Heroics and Raids, I’d call this The Recount Mentality, when you start improving your individual performance at the expense of the group. Here’s a shot from ICC-25, where I finally broke the 10k DPS barrier on a single boss (Lord Marrowgar.)
I did a lot of things right in that fight. I had good cooldown management, I popped potions in the right spot, I stayed out of the fire. But once I saw that I was doing well on the meter, I started doing stupid things that I don’t normally do. Once Decimation hit, I ignored everyone who was spiked and focused solely upon the boss — despite what our raid leader asked, and what I know my job is to do — all in the name of more damage. That meant other people had to stop to take out the bonespikes, lowering their individual DPS, because I was focusing on the boss.
And I only did that because I had Skada open, so I could see that I was already near the top of the charts, and had a shot at breaking 10k.
The psychology of measurement is really fascinating. And by fascinating, I mean sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. Instead of focusing on the main goal – is the boss dead? – we’ll sit there and compare ourselves, based on a number which may or may not reflect our real performance.
If you want to observe this in action for yourself, try raiding for a night without any meters. No meters whatsoever. Once you let go of the idea that you need to know how well you’re doing, you’ll probably find it very relaxing.
MEASURING THE RIGHT THING
Damage seems a simple thing to measure. Unlike healing, where you have several different types of effects you need to track, damage is damage. On a tank and spank fight, at least, you sit there, you wail on the boss, the boss dies, you loot. If I do 5k DPS on Patchwerk, and you do 6.5k DPS on him, you’re doing more DPS.
But most fights are not that simple. You may need to move to avoid the floor killing you. You may need to interrupt certain abilities, or dispel certain effects. You might need to switch onto adds, or slow your damage down during certain phases to make sure the tanks aren’t overwhelmed. You have a role to play in the fight that is more than just standing there and doing damage. Those things are vitally important to the success of the raid, but don’t contribute to your DPS.
In PvP, this issue is magnified. If you aren’t fearing, counterspelling, kicking, trapping, and silencing your way through a fight, you’re going to get controlled and likely will die. If you aren’t bandaging and healing when necessary, you’re going to die. Damage Per Second is a completely meaningless metric in PvP. Every few actions will be something not damage related, or focusing on burst instead of sustained damage.
And yet, there is the metric on The Scoreboard: Damage Done.
It honestly didn’t take me long to stop getting pissed at other people when we lost but still topped the charts. Instead, I got angry at myself for having done the wrong thing, for having focused on personal glory instead of winning the match. What did I need to do differently? (You mean fighting in midfield and ignoring the EFC wasn’t the right thing to do?)
I think that’s one of my biggest frustrations with The Scoreboard: it doesn’t tell me if that was a good battle for me or not. The more I play, the less important the metrics on it become. How many HKs, okay, fine, I was on defense so I didn’t get as many of those. How much honor, okay, well that’s totally skewed because of the random BG finder. Deaths can tell me a bit about how well I did, but I usually already know if I’d had a good game or not. And battleground objectives? Did I take the right graveyard? Did I hold that tower after I assaulted it? Did I peel the healers off the EFC? Did I keep the flag away from others and then let the druid take it?
If I can’t use the data to evaluate my own performance, why would I think it would be right to evaluate others with it?
When you start looking at The Scoreboard, and using your performance on it to justify anything, you’re doing it wrong.
(In case you’re wondering, the example at the beginning of this section is what happens when you have a draw. How’s that for poor display?)
WHAT THE SCOREBOARD DOES WELL
I’m not completely down on The Scoreboard. It’s a valuable tool that lets you know some key information:
- The class composition of your opponents.
- If someone is AFKing, leeching honor by doing no damage or healing.
- The server composition of your opponents and if you’re facing a premade.
The first one, class composition of your opponents, is vital in the planning stages of a battle. If you see you’re in WSG against 5 hunters and 5 DKs, you may just want to leave, because that one’s going to hurt.
Detecting AFKers through The Scoreboard is fairly reliable, though plenty of smart bots now exist that ride out and perform simple PvP actions. (It’s unnerving to watch those in action, by the way.) One weakness is that you don’t know how long someone has been in a BG, so if a real player has just zoned in with 0 damage/healing, they’ll look just like an AFKer. You have to give folks a minute to find a fight before judging. (Adding the time spent in the match to the display would help here.)
The last point, that of detecting premades, is of dubious value. I don’t really care if I face a premade or a PuG, and you shouldn’t either. I’ve faced plenty of premades which were terrible, and plenty of PuGs which were awesome. A premade never, ever means instant win. (It does mean you have to use /bg chat, though.)
Oh yeah, one last thing:
But you probably already got that one down.
YOUR PERSONAL BEST
Different types of sports have different ways of determining success. On a team sport, you are expected to sacrifice your personal best for the good of the team. You can be the best wide receiver in the league, but if you decide not to throw a critical block because that’s not your job, well, you’re not a team player, and your team will fail because of it.
Individual sports are honestly different. Individual sports are as much about beating your personal best effort as they are about beating the competition in a given match. Constant improvement is the goal, and if you’re beaten by someone else but you still beat your personal best? You’ve done better than you’ve ever done before, and that’s pretty damn good. (Is it nice to beat your opponent? Yes, absolutely. But it’s not the only thing.)
It’s a pity there isn’t a better way to measure personal best in Warcraft. For damage dealers like myself, it would be nice to be able to look at my previous attempts on a fight and go, have I done more damage this fight than last time? What about my DPS, was that higher?
But even with the recount addon tools we have, that kind of information isn’t available. So we instead resort to comparing ourselves with others, and with our hazy recollection of our past performance. In PvE it might be possible to store this information, but in PvP? Too many variables.
Some days I defend Stables, other days I attack all over the Basin. Those can both be very good games.
QUALITY VERSUS QUANTITY
I think what I’m fumbling towards is an objection to the influence the Scoreboard has in leading players to think that maybe this part of the game is about individual accomplishments, not team play. Gnomeaggedon touched on this in his recent post There is no “I” in “PvP”, and BBB commented on it during Children’s Week, just to start with — but every time you enter a BG and see anyone talking about topping the charts, you feel its influence.
The key to winning a battleground is individual excellence in a team setting. The people on your team have to be able to execute and get the job done and perform. Every single tired sports cliche I can think of applies here. They have to be better than their opponents individually and as a team. You can’t have one without the other.
If I were to try to encapsulate how I evaluate players in PvP, it wouldn’t be through metrics on an individual battle. They might contribute to my evaluation, but it’s pretty clear at this point that I think the Damage Done and Healing Done numbers are a load of horse-pucky. If you can do a lot of damage, or heal a lot of damage, that’s a good sign that you’re doing well.
But are you winning fights? Do you have a presence on the battleground? Is the enemy gunning for you because they think of you as a threat? Do you do the right things in a battleground? Are they cool under fire? Do they have a good attitude about losing? Are they trying to improve? These are the questions I ask myself when trying to figure out how I did, and when trying to figure out if someone else is a good player.
That’s what this is ultimately all about, isn’t it? How do you tell if someone is good? If they put up big numbers but they lose every game, are they better than someone who wins more but puts up smaller numbers? What about someone who puts up big numbers and wins?
Using numbers to determine something’s quality is fraught with peril. It’s an easy trap to fall into — the meteoric rise of GearScore’s popularity attests to this — but quantity should never be confused with actual quality. The numbers on the scoreboard may be an indicator of performance, but that’s all they are — an indication that they can put up big numbers.
And yet, at the end of every battleground match, there’s the Scoreboard. Sitting. Waiting. With your number on it.
Evaluating quality of play is more complicated than just slapping a number on people and stack ranking them.
TOWARDS A BETTER SCOREBOARD
Enough bitching. This is a solvable problem.
- First, leave the existing scoreboard in place. It has value and doesn’t need to be taken out of the game.
- Add a new field: time spent in the battleground. This will make it easier to detect AFKers.
- Add API hooks into the scoreboard data so addons can make use of it. (This would also allow you to report AFK through your raid frames.)
- Present a different summary of the battle when it completes, emphasizing the team accomplishment and your individual contributions to it.
Really, it’s not The Scoreboard that’s the problem. It’s how it’s used that is the problem, and the message that it sends that you need to compare yourself in order to succeed.
Here’s what I would rather see at the end of the match:
The result of the battleground is clearly displayed, unlike The Scoreboard’s display. More than 50% of the display is dedicated to the most important piece of data: who won. You don’t have to look up at the color of a 5 pixel bar at the top of the scoreboard to figure it out.
Only your personal performance is displayed at first. This lets you review your own performance and calls out some important information you’d actually like to know (like honor points gained) and lets you compute your honor per minute easily. Honor points are the only loot we take away from the battlegrounds, so we should bring that data front and center.
And finally, links are provided to view The Scoreboard or to leave the battleground. This allows people to still review the data they’re used to, to compare themselves to others if they like, and to see how your team fared against your opponent.
I know that redesigning The Scoreboard won’t magically make people look at Battlegrounds as a team sport. I think it will, however, help players focus on success as a team, and help reduce the Recount Effect in BGs.