One aspect of World of Warcraft hasn’t changed in all it’s many years. Despite all the developments that Blizzard have wrought in the game through numerous expansions there is one problem they have been unable to remove: the gear stealing ninja.

Does it matter? Yes I think it does. World of Warcraft is a gear based MMO, to develop your RPG character you need to improve your gear set. To access all of the available content you need better gear. Indeed some content is actually gated and if your average ilevel is too low you cannot enter. Is it worth getting annoyed about? Well, I’ve had people, who’ve stolen gear from me, accuse me or being immature for caring about the trivial virtual rewards in an online game. The only way I can really respond to this obtuse claim is that if it was worth stealing it’s worth being irritated about. If I’m immature for whining about the theft how immature are you for stealing trivial, virtual rewards? I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, but I am going to call you out.

What are the results of this kind of behaviour? Most gamers have accepted ninja-ing as a part of the game. It’s like RNG: when the gear you’ve run a dungeon numerous times for finally drops it’s entirely likely that someone, who cannot actually equip the item, will ninja it. What’s worse is that the ninja will often point blank refuse to hand the loot over and then blithely continue with the game. Worse still the other party members in your PUG will all too often tell you to shut up and just get on with the instance. Ninja-ing is expected and now the prevailing culture in PUGs is to tacitly condone this behaviour. Green gear is not worth complaining about, ‘levelling blues’ are trivial and quickly replaced anyway, heroic blues are often the lowest level of gear that will elicit even a flicker of disapprobation from group members if people ninja. LFR elevated this bad sample of humanity to a province once restricted to individuals who had proved they could work cooperatively and not be ruled by selfish motives: raids.

With LFR, epic gear was ninja-ed in raids with the regularity most people had accepted in 5 man instance dungeons. I had been saying for sometime to third parties who were more interested in getting to the end of dungeons, with or without ninjas, that one day it would be their loot getting ninja-ed in raids. Yesterday they ninja-ed all the greens, Needing them in a 5 man: they needed the money! Trollolol. Today they’ll steal your tanking trinket when they’re DPS-ing the dungeon and tell you it’s for their off spec like it makes any difference. Tomorrow they’ll be in your raid stealing your best in slot item and damaging the progression of your whole raid. I hate to say I told you so, but…

Blizzard agreed so much they created a brand new loot system for LFR. We all hate it without exception and it leads to wasteful anomalies. However, I won’t complain as we’ve been given the loot system we deserve. Our behaviour was almost universally so bad that Blizzard took away our right to role on gear. Let that sink in for a moment. They took away our ability to decide if the gear was appropriate for us and an upgrade and just handed us a Soulbound reward every time we downed a boss. Blizzard has no motivation to punish paying customers because the way they choose to play the game: selfishly; childishly; uncooperatively; dishonestly; is offensive to others and damages other people’s enjoyment and access to content. Blizzard will simply approach the problem from another direction. What can we do to prevent people spoiling other people’s enjoyment without applying punishments or restrictions to individuals or trying to mediate arguments about gear? We’ll just change how people receive gear so there can be no stealing and no disputes about rolls and who should get gear that has a free for all looting roll on it.

Once upon a time the community dealt quite savagely with ninjas. You could only form groups with people from your realm and raiding was out of the question unless you were in a guild. If someone ninja-ed raid loot the only way to escape the wrath of the community was to name change and move to another realm. Ninja-ing in 5 mans would get you reported to your Guild. Guilds didn’t like the reputation that would come from having a ninja in your midst. If repeated ninja-ing was proved, guild kicks followed. Guilds would look at new applicants and their guild history and ask previous GMs/Officers for an assessment of guild applicants. Now LFD and LFR have made forming 5 mans and raids a relatively quick and simple matter. The community is unable to exert any influence in controlling the behaviour and etiquette of it’s members. This is not the game that it was, it has become more anonymous and disrespectful and a less social and pleasant place. We have done this and the anonymity of cross realm instances has allowed us to.

When I was tanking in Mogu’shan Palace yesterday and a reasonably good tanking trinket dropped I was gutted that two DPS rolled on it. Westfield and Bigglez of AeriePeak both needed and Westfield won the item. Then rather than do the right thing and hand over the item they abused me and call me immature (and a virgin). I refused to continue under the circumstances or leave the instance. After they had struggled, 4 man, through the last boss Westfield said “youve been trolled” but I told him “What goes around comes around.” They told me that they were posting the incident on youtubes [sic] I can only hope it reaches a wider audience than my lil blog. People will see exactly who they are and maybe, hopeful they’ll get what they deserve.

My guild isn’t getting what they deserve: another reasonably geared tank to bolster our progression team. That’s nine other people injured by Westfield’s selfish arrogance. We have two tanks at the moment which means we depend on them completely. If they cannot attend a raid one night we often can’t raid. We also have three healers, so we struggle on nights when one of them cannot attend. Our top DPS slots into a healing role and that, as it sounds, is far from ideal. This is the lot of the small, tightly knit, social raiding guild. Westfield and Bigglez are no doubt part of a large, elite, progression raiding guild with multiple backups in every slot and a few server firsts under their belts. Whateva.

Like I always say being a skilled Warcraft player doesn’t make you a better person. Not being real doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Since it isn’t real you have an opportunity to actually give someone the shirt off your back and your last gold coin. In World of Warcraft you can be the better person, the person you’d like to be in real life, but can’t be because the cost of doing so can, and often is, too high. Many of us have people who depend on us in ways no char in WoW can possibly have. Ninja-ing is not the end of the world, but if you didn’t like Blizzard’s solution to ninja-ing in LFR you may find their solution to the ninja-ing problem as a whole even less palatable. That could be the end of our online world. Remember as you leave Azeroth for the last time, after the new loot allocation system finally ruins the game for you, that Fleety told you so.