Stat Synonym Overload

I am not entirely sure whether it is due to my age, experience with MMOs, or perhaps a combination of the two, but the naming conventions in these games are becoming increasingly obtuse.

In the beginning, or near abouts anyway, there was HP. Then there was Constitution, which affected HP. Or perhaps Endurance, circa the Fallout series. Then it seemed to be Stamina for a long while. Now it is Vitality, or straight-up Health, or even Grit, or whatever. Strength seems to be pretty consistent over the years, but Dexterity can be all over the place – Nimbleness, Precision, or split into Perception and Agility. I was browsing this fan page for Wildstar and slowly blinked at the attribute names. Here are the main six:

  • Brutality
  • Finesse
  • Moxie
  • Tech
  • Insight
  • Grit

Pop-quiz hotshots: what do any of those mean in-game without looking it up?

Personally, I know what somebody means when they refer to someone “having a lot of moxie,” but I wouldn’t be able to define it off-hand, let alone venture a guess as to what it would do in-game. Hell, the only time I’ve ever heard the term used for anything in a game was during the brief period I played Kingdom of Loathing (which has a Moxie stat). In Wildstar, it will apparently depend on what class you’re playing as to what the stat does: it’s Critical Chance and Critical Severity Rating for everyone aside from ESPers, for whom it increases Assault Power. Meanwhile, Insight raises Deflect and Deflect Critical Rating for most, and Support Power for the heal-y types. And good luck with figuring out Tech, which can be Assault, Support, or Deflect increases depending on class.

I mean, I get it. Maybe the designers want to thematically set their gaming world apart from what came before. Perhaps there is a concern that theorycrafting from one game will carry over too easily to the next. Who knows, maybe game companies have actually trademarked attribute terms and it’s actually illegal to use them.

All that I know is that, to me, stats in these games have become unmoored to any ready understanding of them. Dungeons of Dredmor made a tongue-in-cheek point by including 29 different stats on the character sheet, but I’m no longer going to be surprised if Savvy or Caddishness shows up unironically. I mean, Moxie for god’s sake.

I find this entire scenario a problem for game companies because my ability to care – let’s call it Tolerance Rating – is approaching zero. I enjoy numbers, theorycrafting, and so on. I do not enjoy translating foreign languages, or having to otherwise refer to some sort of cheat sheet just to see if what item I picked up is an upgrade. But maybe attribute names were always goofy and arbitrary, and that I specifically have simply accumulated too much game-lore detritus.

In which case… I’m apparently in for a bad time.

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Posted on February 7, 2014, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I agree. I took one look at WildStar’s stats and instantly had a headache. “I don’t want to relearn this shit again.”

    I think I am at a point where stats should be very specific: +1 physical attack, +1 resource, +1 health, etc. I don’t think there is any roleplaying value left in stats when they are all so highly role and/or class specific now.

    I’d rather know exactly what things do without having to look up a tooltip or alt-tab for a guide.

  2. I assumed English speakers had no such problems because as far as I recall, I had problems remembering what the differences between dexterity and agility (in Ragnarok) were at first.

    I agree with C. T. Murphy, it would be nice if a single stat did a single thing. I’m ok with stats such as mastery in WoW, which do a single thing, even though it’s different for each class/build, if there is not too much of them (I’m not an alt person though – I guess altoholics may hate those too); on the other hand, stats that do many different things is something I would rather not see again.

  3. Brutality
    Finesse
    Moxie
    Tech
    Insight
    Grit

    My guess was:

    Strength
    Agility
    Personality
    Intelligence
    Wisdom
    Endurance

    Apparently I was wrong, at least as regards moxie, tech, and insight.

    It looks like Wildstar is trying to do a “all stats are useful for all roles” approach, as opposed to WoW where you only have one useful stat.

    Perhaps there is a concern that theorycrafting from one game will carry over too easily to the next.

    Probably. I mean, the str/agi/int system has been pretty much “cracked” and mined for all it’s worth, so I can’t blame them for trying to shake things up. But I actually like stat complexity in single player games, as it seems to give more depth and options (compare diablo 2 and diablo 3). I was sad when Skyrim just got rid of stats entirely. For MMOs there will usually be One True Configuration so all complexity does is confuse newbies.

  4. This is one of those places where I wonder if the “ugly” side of WildStar is peeking out. As much as I want to buy into the idea that the game is going to be a seriously stronk themepark that blasts back to some of the good experiences of earlier themepark games, stuff like this bothers me. I can’t help but wonder if the “cutesy playful” theme is going to corrupt the tone of the game to the point where its a bit too childish.

    I really want to get into it, and I love a bit of hyperbolic romping in my MMOs, but I can’t help but worry that the presentation is going to turn off the demograohic they seem most keen to court (i.e. ye olde hardcore crowd).

    • For what it’s worth, they might have a shot at said demographic. The combat certainly (hypothetically) feels a lot like WoW, except you have to be more mindful about aiming/positioning since your attacks are shaped. Plus, the little things like being able to sprint when you hold down Shift (which depletes a meter) could do interesting things to raid encounters.

      We’ll see.

  5. There’s some use in the stats being appropriate for the game. The Wildstar stats give a glimpse into what kind of game it is. “Brutality” leaves a much more visceral image than “Strength”. I might not know what each Wildstar stat does, but I understand the setting a bit more if I understand my warrior will be “brutal” rather than “strong”.

    Another issue is actually quite the opposite of developers worrying that theorycrafting goes from one game to the other. There’s probably some worry that players will make false assumptions about what a stat does if it’s too similar to what other games call their stats. So, someone comes into Wildstar and plays a ranged DPS and stacks “Agility” like they did in WoW, then wonders why they don’t get any critical hits and complains the game is “broken”.

    Personally, I do prefer not having stats derived from attributes (http://psychochild.org/?p=374). If you’re going to have critical hit chance and critical hit severity and want gear to modify these stats, don’t have a bunch of stats that indirectly change these stats. I think it’s better to have gear adjust critical hit chance directly and make that relationship direct and clear to the player, specially the one in a group trying to decide of that drop is a need or a greed item while the rest of the party is running to the next pull.

    • The flavor part is probably a valid concern. The trade-off is sort of what I described though: it becomes increasingly difficult to re-train all the MMO vets you presumably want to migrate and gush about your new game.

      I’m actually fine with stats being derived from attributes, but where things break down for me is when they rely on “ratings.” I mean, is there anything more arcane and arbitrary than ratings? Getting +50 Crit Rating tells me nothing about anything, especially when the formula changes behind the scenes based on level, diminishing returns, and so on.

      • Eh, I think that the true MMO vets will adapt and deal. People who don’t want to bother learning something about a new game probably aren’t willing to invest enough into the game.

        As for “ratings”, etc, you get exactly the same problem with attributes and derived stats. The difference is that you at least know what “Crit Rating” affects, but what does “Agility” affect? In WoW it affected your crit chance, and depending on your class and the expansion it could also be defense, attack power and a host of other things. And, you still had issues with diminishing returns and all the other problems you mentioned, especially as stat inflation became an issue.

        I think you’re also overstating the problem. I’ve played a ton of computer and tabletop RPGs with wildly different stats, and I pick up as much as I need to play the game and I do fine. In Wildstar, is it really going to matter if you took +20 Moxie instead of +20 Brutality on a character? Probably not as you’re playing through the game. But, it probably will become important when you get to places where you need peak performance such as for raiding. Then it doesn’t matter what you name the stats because people who raid (or do some other high-performance activity) are going to have to spend time tearing apart the system in order to maximize their characters effectively in those situations. The math becomes all-consuming, and the names are just mnemonics to help you remember what value you need to look for on your gear.