My Dps Is Bad and I Can't Look Away

Last autumn I wrote a post on my WoW blog called "The Toxicity of Damage Meters", in which I laid out why the general WoW community's obsession with measuring everything, all the time, is very off-putting to me. In that post, I cited SWTOR as an example of how to do damage meters right, since SWTOR's more restrictive personal logging gave you access to all the (in my opinion) legitimate uses for meters such as wanting to increase your personal performance or having a shared log in a progression team to better understand damage patterns in difficult content, without any of the downsides such as other players constantly judging everyone around them by their numbers - because you couldn't know anyone's else's numbers unless that person explicitly joined a shared group log with you.

Naturally, not long after I wrote that post, I found out that with the Legacy of the Sith expansion, SWTOR was going to get rid of the personal logging system it had used for a decade, and was instead going to replace it with a system where everyone can see everything, just like in WoW.


My first reaction to this news was very negative, and I was low-key kind of hoping against all reason that Bioware might end up changing their mind at the last minute, but they didn't. Legacy of the Sith is here, and now you can see everyone and anyone's numbers, whether they want you to or not.

Now, the good news is that SWTOR hasn't changed into WoW overnight. Some of that might simply be lack of general awareness about the change to combat logging, considering that it's still early days, but I think that even as this knowledge becomes more widespread, the SWTOR community as a whole isn't really in danger of changing into a bunch of people obsessed with parses. There have always been many similarities between the two games, but there are also important differences that continue to affect the way people behave.

For example group finding and PvP are not cross-server, so if you're a jerk to someone, there might be consequences. Or how about the fact that SWTOR doesn't allow addons? StarParse, the tool most commonly used to turn the combat log into a more readable format, is more of a "companion app", so it's not automatically there every time you log in - I'm sure I'm not the only person who uses it but doesn't actually think about firing it up unless I'm about to enter an operation... which makes it harder for the average person to think about numbers all the time. Not to mention that I think most SWTOR players just aren't as fussed about numbers as players of other MMOs, what with the game's heavy focus on story. I have seen some negative comments about low dps on the forums and in general chat though - places that are rarely friendly at the best of times, mind you, but at least they didn't have that particular stick to wield against their fellow players in the past.

Anyway, this post isn't about anyone behaving badly towards anyone else over what they saw on a damage meter. It's about the impact this change has had on me personally and the way I see myself in the game.

My focus in SWTOR has been on playing healers from day one. I levelled my very first character with my boyfriend at the time, so I specced into Combat Medic as soon as I unlocked my first talent point and never looked back. While I also played and levelled other roles later, healer has always remained my identity, and the only role I played in progression content. I looked at healing meters there to see how well me and my co-healers were sharing the burden, because I didn't want to feel like I was making things difficult for anyone else, but I was always quite content with what I saw.

On the rare occasion when I took a damage dealer to a casual ops run, I usually left StarParse off, even if others were trying to coax people into joining the group log for the "fun" of competition. I knew perfectly well that my dps wasn't great, but I didn't really need to know the details, and I didn't want to opt into serving as a prop for other people to feel better about themselves, or be made to feel like I was making the experience worse for others with my low numbers.

(As an aside, a long time ago, during the early days of the game, I did log myself on the training dummy and tried to improve my performance as a Gunslinger and dps Guardian at one point. When the numbers on the Guardian weren't great, I asked some guildies for advice who enjoyed parsing, and got a response along the lines of "wow, those numbers really are bad, lol" but no actual tips for how to improve. That forever put me off letting others see my dps numbers ever again.)

However, with the combat log change, it was time to face the music. I mean, sure, I technically could've continued to not look at my numbers, but now others would be able to see them anyway, and I figured if that was the case I'd at least like to know what they were seeing, so that I'd know the appropriate amount of shame to feel (or whether I was secretly not so bad after all... who knows?!)

Since healers are always in demand, I still ended up in the healer role for most of our casual ops runs, until we suddenly had too many healers for an Eternity Vault the other week and someone asked me whether I was okay to go dps. I said sure, since I had actually set up a Telekinetics loadout for my Sage healer anyway that I used for questing.

Of course, doing dailies and fighting an operations boss are very different things. I was suddenly very aware of the fact that my legendary implants were both for healing, that I didn't have a dps Tactical, and not even enough accuracy to be effective at fighting an ops boss. I also wasn't entirely sure what my rotation was supposed to be and basically just had a quick glimpse at a guide on my second monitor hoping to reassure myself of the very, very basics, but knowing full well that I wasn't going to suddenly execute a 24-button rotation perfectly.

In the end, the EV run went perfectly fine, but seeing my numbers was pretty painful. We ran with five damage dealers and I was in last place by quite a margin. And while I knew that I had a number of factors working against me, I had really been trying to do the rotation right, so I still felt quite bad.

Which then left me wondering what to do about it, with two basic paths open to me: either don't join ops as dps anymore, or get better at it. The second would normally be more appealing to me, as I do like a bit of a challenge like that, but the thing is... reading dps guides for any class in SWTOR makes me feel so old.

You see, I actually started my raiding career back in WoW as a damage dealer - but that was fifteen years ago during the original Burning Crusade, when many classes could literally do their max dps rotation by simply pressing a single button over and over again, and my shadow priest was considered very sophisticated with her priority system that involved no less than five (!) different abilities. I remember practising the hell out of even that.

Yet when I look at many dps guides for SWTOR, the rotations never seem to involve less than several dozen steps. I'd have to practice for weeks to get good at any of them, and that's assuming I'd be able to get the hang of them at all. I just don't think I have the will or energy for that kind of stuff anymore, especially when it's just to make myself feel better about my numbers on the rare occasion when someone asks me to dps in EV.

Maybe I just need to learn to be more Zen about the knowledge of just how bad I am at dps, but let's just say that this is easier said than done.


  1. One of the most irritating types of MMO players I've found are the judgy critics who promptly fail at successfully teaching others how to do something they feel is so easy.

    I could say the same thing about their lack of teaching ability, eh? If you can't explain your knowledge to another, can you truly call yourself an expert on the subject?

    I feel you on the age thing. It's like the hardcore people playing games now are at least two decades younger, and still schooling to the point where they're so ready to do homework for hours to be competitive. Meanwhile, one has tons of other competing priorities where one has to seriously question if it's worth the time to "git gud" enough to satisfy some other random stranger's yardstick.

    One thing I'd say though is that everything falls on a spectrum. If you feel that where you are at presently isn't good enough for yourself and your needs/wants in game, consider if 20% of the work can get you 50% of the way or more.

    For myself, I'd prefer not to be dead last in dps in group content (unless all are performing at roughly equivalent levels, in which case I'm slower, I know and am fine with that). If I can sneak by at 2th-4th position, that makes me averagely invisible and is good enough for my needs.

    It depends on the game, but that's usually a mix of the correct types of gear, the right cookie cutter build to sneak into group content with, and knowing which buttons to press quickly that give the most bang for buck.

    As for spending hours of my time wailing away on a practice golem to get from 80% satisfactory to 95% satisfactory, and still hours more going from 95% to 97%... well, there's a definite hard line drawn somewhere and I have butted heads with others on the subject before. Some people are never satisfied without incremental improvement. Unfortunately, some are maximizers and some are satisficers and both have a fundamental difference in how they view the world.

    1. I'll probably try to work on it at least a little, because as you say it's not a matter of all or nothing. I do wish class guides accommodated that more, because as it is, if you struggle with the optimised 24-button rotation, it's basically up to you to figure out how to simplify it.

      A guildie of mine once wrote a guide for Gunslingers which actually started with a simple rotation of three abilities or so to do "OK" dps and then asked you to gradually insert extra abilities to increase it, which I thought was genius. Too bad I haven't seen any other guide writers ever follow his example.

    2. hehe, I can relate so much to this.
      Just last night I was wondering how our big-deeps-supposedly-good players were dying to mechanics all the time and I, as a melee, took the extra step away to not hit anyone with my explosion. Worse DPS, who would've thought?

      On the other hand I really wonder what happened with the game, or with me (WoW in this case), I used to actually top the meters most of the time in WotLK/Cata and now I'm the lower third. But it's a different class and different people. Also maybe it's just this tier, I wasn't SO bad in the first 2 raids of this expansion... on the other hand I kinda stopped raiding in FFXIV because of the DPS problem...

  2. I still have not "bought" the expansion. So, no active subscriber. No Operations for me. Not even Master Mode Flashpoints. So, no content where DPS matters.

    But i do heard, that you can see all of your groupmembers numbers now. Since i do only Veteran Flashpoints now, i can confirm, that nobody is yelling at a lvl 60 and laughing at his numbers. That is a good sign.

    But i do recognized, that a lot of requests in the "lfg"-channel on Tulak Hord are suddenly asking for minimum required DPS stats. Some of them half joking, others not. I don't talk about "you should have at least 32x gear for Nefra NiM" at the start of a new gearing cycle. It's more like "lf 1 DPS that can pull off 15k. dumb people stay away pls".

    So there is indeed an immediate respond to this change, and the DPS numbaz boyz are having fun.

    I was always the guy, that as soon as StarParse showed less than 90% on the very right column, that i was back on the dummy puppet. For healers everything below 95% was a shock.

    But never have i turned on the Parser during anything less than the harder Veteran Operations, where DPS actually might matters.

    But you will ever find the one guy, who is not only parsing in Veteran Mode Flashpoints, but also will inform the group on how good his numbers are. I have seen this during 6.x, and it still cracks me up, that a max level player feels the need to compare himself to a bunch of lvl 20s in Hammer Station.

    Your shown example on Golu shows two things. And they are not bad imo.

    First, gear matters. You can't do the big numbers without optimized gear and stats. If you don't have set bonus and/or accuracy, you will not do good. And this is reassuring to know.

    Second, skill matters. You just can't show up with a class you barely practised/played or only casually play, and expect to do good numbers.

    What you do with that information, is yours to decide. Train, or just accept the fact, that you are a casual on this specific specc.

    But, that you have this information, that you are "bad", is not wrong in itself.

    At least the majority of our population is not affected by this, the solo player, the story player.

    1. I forgot to add. Public parsing numbers are like public legacy, no?! You can debunk some liars, who don't know about this feature.

      I think, most people will find a healthy way to deal with this feature. As soon as something goes wrong, you will take a peek and will find out, what the heck is going on.

      If everything is going smoothly, there is no need to use this feature or say something.

    2. The "LF 1 damage dealer doing x dps" thing is interesting, because while it can be abused to exclude people needlessly, I think it has a higher chance of being reasonable. For example if you currently want to kill Dash'roode on master mode, you need your damage dealers to be able to average around 20k dps or you won't be able to get him down before you run out of shields.

      So I think that's a reasonable request, and more likely to show that the person asking actually knows what they're doing. The more "traditional" way of vetting people by item level is a lot less reliable and more likely to get silly - e.g. a guildie got kicked out of an EV pug the other day for not having full 326 gear, which made us all roll our eyes.

    3. Ja, i agree. But in this specific case it was indeed meant to be to belittle players, and was followed up with some insults.

      Nonetheless, during 6.x you never saw any advertisement, looking for a dps doing x damage. This just did not happen the last two years on this server.

    4. I mean, yes, you may have certain dps needs HOWEVER, really, I would opt for asking for cheevo marker rather than dps numbers as knowing what they're walking into is half the issue - and if they know what they're going for, they're likely to be self-critical enough to know when they're not doing what is required.
      Also, no need to be offensive.

  3. I haven't run a damage meter in a group since about 2004. I haven't seen anyone else run one much, either, but when I group these days it's never in circumstances where it would be relevant. I guess you have to want to do the content where people use them to care and I don't. Either care or want to do the content, that is.

    Rotations mystify me, anyway. I think I remember doing a post about "rotations" once. I have never had any kind of hard "rotation" on any character in any game. It was a long time before I even knew what they were. I have always preferred to use abilities/spells contextually, not as some kind of accretive gestalt. In a well-designed game, they all do different things and yes, some have synergies, but most are situational. I just use the ones that seem appropriate.

    It seems to me that the whole concept of "rotations" is self-defeating, anyway. If the only point of having a dozen abilities is to chain them in a specific sequence as efficiently as possible to achieve maximum damage, what is the point of having twelve abilities in the first place? Wouldn't it be far better just to have one ability that did the same damage in the same amount of time? If the rotation, perfectly performed, takes five seconds then just have a single ability with a five second cooldown. Otherwise it's just having a dog and barking yourself.

    Rift actually has that, in effect. When I played, briefly, during the first expansion, where the basic mobs in the new zones were taking minutes to kill, the only way I ended up making any progress was to use a macro I found online that chained all my character's appropriate abilities into an automated rotation. It was a fully intended and supported feature of Rift that you could create such macros.

    It certainly worked. All I had to do was engage the mob and press one button and my character performed far better than I could have done on my own. It was also extremely tedious, although nowhere near as tedious as having to practice activating all those abilities, flawlessly, by hand would have been. It certainly didn't spur me on to do better. It led directly, and quickly, to me leaving Rift for good.

    I've always found DPS roles to be extremely dull in group play, though. They're okay solo but almost any other role is far more entertaining in a group. It seems that making DPS ridiculously and unecessarily labor-intensive is the way devs try to counter that inevitable ennui. Except in the case of actual DPS tests, which I loathe, who cares if the mob takes fifteen or seventeen seconds to die, anyway? Dead is dead is how I always look at it.

    1. Is this a real opinion or a troll post?

    2. @Bhag: I like having lots of abilities for different situations, but I guess boss fights in dungeons or raids generally don't put you into varied enough situations to really utilise that to its maximum potential... there's inevitably a lot of time where you just attack one big opponent for minutes on end. I'd be very surprised if devs intentionally created rotations for such situations - it seems like something that's entirely community-driven to optimise dealing with the content we're given.

      I wouldn't want things to come down to a single button (you say yourself that this wasn't particularly engaging in Rift), but based on my past experience, three to five is plenty.

      Having a sequence of ten or more is just unnecessary busywork in my opinion, though I know plenty of people who take great pride in mastering this kind of memorisation. It does make DPS by far the hardest role in SWTOR's more demanding group content though, since you're supposed to do all that and react to fight mechanics.

      @Unknown: You clearly don't know Bhag if you think he's a troll. :P Also not really sure what set you off about this comment in particular...

  4. My main gripe currently seems to be game design. How can you actually design a class with say 10 buttons with kinda good description text so on the one hand the player manages to naturally find a rotation, level through all the content to max level, maybe even manage all the "easy" endgame dungeons and end up with a DPS of.. let's say 1000.
    And then there's the actual raid rotation of the same 10 buttons, which can do 5000 dps. Is that really the players' fault? Maybe I am actually misremembering, but in WoW 10 years ago this was better. Or did I just lack the insight and had been lucky in mostly picking the correct rotation by myself and thinking "this was natural"? I don't know. But I have the feeling that for example in FFXIV I can push the correct buttons in seemingly correct order (when their cooldown is up, not letting DoTs run out etc) but just slightly mistiming to not hit everything at once inside a tiny cooldown window makes my DPS tank by 50% or more. Maybe that's the main thing that kills the fun for me. I used to be able to structure the fight around my cooldowns and now it's mostly "blast away for 10s every 2 minutes, but in sync with the rest of the group"...

    1. I can't comment on FFXIV obviously, but yeah, I also generally long for a state of being able to figure out at least an OK rotation naturally, by simply reading the tooltips and coming to logical conclusions (e.g. this does the most damage in one hit and has a cooldown, so I should prioritise it whenever it's available). But these days there seem to be so many dots to keep up, buffs to manage and procs to watch, it can be really hard to figure out. Plus as you say, the tiniest difference in timing completely tanking your dps doesn't feel like great design in terms of gameplay.


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