To Parse or Not to Parse?

In MMOs, should you use a DPS parser?

Anyone who has ever played an MMO semi-seriously will have heard of parsing in some shape or form. Some games and communities encourage it, such as World of Warcraft where nearly everyone will use an add-on to monitor the damage per second (DPS) of their party during a particular fight; some will frown upon or even potentially threaten to ban for the use of them, for example Final Fantasy XIV where their use is strongly discouraged.

One question that often comes up, particularly in the latter group, is should people parse the damage of others? Technically speaking, it’s often not difficult to find an application or add-on that will take the contents of the combat log, translate it into a more readable list of numbers assigned to each person representing just how much damage they’re doing, on average, throughout the fight. With this in mind, most of those applications or add-ons will show everyone’s DPS, not just the player using it. Which raises the question as to whether or not it’s “morally” (using the word loosely) right to do.

Personally, I’ve used a DPS parser in many games I’ve played, be it through add-ons in WoW and Rift, or now in Final Fantasy XIV. I’ve always used it as a way to monitor my own performance, and I’ve found that it’s been a hugely positive influence on my raiding gameplay in FFXIV. Firstly, it’s helped me identify weak points in my rotation, as I noticed that I was doing slightly less DPS than the recorded “averages” I’d found online for my class. After reading and experimenting a lot, I’ve now pushed my DPS significantly higher, and know that I’d be able to do even better with more practice. It’s also helped to reassure me when I noticed that I was dropping down in the enmity list (think agro) — I was using an ability to reduce my enmity, but only at the beginning of the fight and still seemed to be consistently low. I was worried my DPS was lacking, so up popped the DPS parser and I saw that I was in fact pushing DPS that I was pretty proud of, and was fighting for top spot with one of our other DPS in the party. And finally, it’s helping me to understand the fights and how to optimise my singing (as a career Bard), as well as movement and downtime.

However, I often see people complaining about elitism in MMOs, and I worry that parsing is a tool that might contribute. Raiding guilds are one thing, where you’re expected to perform to your very best at all times without exception, and I can see parsers being used to identify who can make the cut. But I’d be uncomfortable if I knew that someone was parsing me without at least letting me know. Unless I’m putting myself in a situation where it’s warranted, it just feels like a pre-judgement on my performance which I might already be working on myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people shouldn’t suggest improvements if they see them, but I worry that someone judges just a number without knowing the context behind it.

Of course, there are good sides to parsing beyond my own personal experiences. Some people will use them as a way to educate and help improve the performance of those in their raid groups, which is great! Taking the numbers and translating them into something tangible is where I think parsers will really start to shine. If we take the numbers at face value, that’s when they start to become more dangerous.

What do you think? Are parsers good or bad?
Let me know in the comments below!

  • There’s definitely a fine line. On one hand, you get instances where a person can take advantage of theorycrafting and parsing to take their personal gameplay to the next level. For min-maxers (myself included), that’s a huge plus – there’s a sincere drive to be the best you can at your role and that runs equal with playing the game at all.

    On the other hand, it can quickly become a toxic element in any community, leading to players prescribing how to play to others with no regard for their pride, dignity, or personal journey. Not every powergamer wants to be told exactly how to play, they’d rather learn on their own. Others don’t mind the leg up, but don’t want to be treated like an inferior player for not already knowing the optimal strategies.

    Personally, I think I prefer my MMORPGs to have as little as possible. I think a game like World of Warcraft makes it too easy and theorycrafting has become too important to the community and the overall direction of the game. I wouldn’t leave all the blame at the feet of parsing, but that’s certainly a start as to explain WoW’s famously toxic community among all MMOs.

    To me, almost anything is fine in moderation, including parsing, but there’s too much of the casual elitism in gaming as is. I don’t need every League of Legends match to devolve into an argument over what I or some other play should’ve built instead. I don’t need random dungeons with strangers to end up being a pissing contest over rotations. Until these behaviors are the exception to the rule, I don’t think gamers are mature enough to parse and explore the deeper mathematical rules of games.

    At least not any game where online socialization and competition are primary activities.

    • Yeah, I totally agree. I’m not even a min-maxer but I feel like it’s important that I’m always doing the best that I can, so learning what works and what doesn’t is very valuable, especially when you have the numbers to back it up.

      But the toxicity is what really worries me. I’ve been really lucky not to encounter too much in FFXIV, but I’ve heard of people being shamed for underperforming. By all means, if you’re a serious group and someone just isn’t making the cut, try to work through it with them or privately tell them their DPS is low (assuming they know they’re in that kind of group!), but shaming them in front of the group for being bad and being rude to them is just so unfair and really antisocial.

      And yeah, I agree with saying that it’s not right to put all the blame on parsing, but it’s definitely a tool that is used a lot to increase toxicity and that makes me sad. MMOs should always be about playing together, preferably with people you enjoy spending time with, in my opinion. Until people learn not to use tools like DPS parsers as a stick to beat others with, I find I’m always pretty wary.

    • Clockw0rk

      I’m in the same boat with regards to parsing in moderation. I think it’s partially a result of these games being primarily group activities wherein you end up relying on people you might now know. When they’re just anonymous avatars on the internet it’s easy to forget that there’s a person playing them. So we end up with situations where you, player A, are doing everything right (close to ideal rotation, dodging broadcasts, etc) but others aren’t and thus you’re losing. So you bring up your parse, see that the healer is only doing X HPS or the other DPS are only doing sub-par DPS and suddenly you’ve figured it out (even if it is not actually the cause) so people bring it up because they don’t want to continue losing, and often in the hostile environment of the internet the first step is usually some kind of shame or attack.

      In what I consider the worst example of parsing is how World of Tanks has a mod that shows the win-rate of everyone in the game, which often leads to people complaining that they’ve lost before the match began or refusing to listen to someone b/c of their winrate.

      Anyways, digression aside, as a player I do like knowing how to maximize my performance, but I also like to learn about some of it through experience. I like bumbling around in the dark a little, but in a game with other people they often don’t want to wait for me to find my stride. I personally favor less information than games like WoW give, but not NONE altogether.

      • That’s true too. It’s the same way with crappy jobs too. They judge you by their metric and disregard everything else you may bring to the table, even if it is more than enough to balance out or explain your lacking score elsewhere.

        It’s why I hate using standardized tests as much as we did here in the states!

      • I agree, less information but not none. I feel like it’s important to give people a chance to learn things on their own without someone constantly stepping in and saying, “NO you have to do it THIS way!” because that’s just…not fun for anyone.

        I do get why people might use parsers to talk with other people about performance. I can imagine it’s frustrating to be playing the same class as someone who may even be better geared than you, but you’re out-performing them by a significant margin. It’s just down to being able to decide the right time to talk about that, if there is one, and the best way to communicate it, which I think a lot of people miss. Like you say, the first step tends to be shaming or aggression.

  • Okay before I head into my answer I have to make one thing clear: I never raid with full random groups. We “pug” some people, maximum of 2, if we really need them,

    but thats basically it. I either raid with my guild if I currently have one, or I look for a raidgroup that meets up to certain times of the week.

    What I wanna say with this is, that I can only share my views from that prospective.

    I play World of Warcraft. With that one big break I had it marks my 4th year in Azeroth, and I was always a semi-hardcore progression raider. That means

    I wanna clear as much as possible, and I am ready to step my own game up for my group. While I don’t think praser are a must have in random groups since they

    dont progress anyway and kill whats easy to kill it think it is a must have in a premade progress group.

    Its just frustraiting to see your grp wipe over and over again when dmg or heal is lacking. Its easier to track mistake when you can see rotations, dps and complete dmg in a meter. Same goes for healing.

    So yes i do think that prasers should be used. specially when you want to get better yourself.

    I also think that elitism in MMOS is just another sign for lazyness. If some1 acts to a wipe with a ‘But I did the most dmg so I am fine.’ he/she is not willing to help the raid at all,

    or look for others mistakes. Its easy to end the conversation with that ๐Ÿ™‚ I Mostly ignore those people.

    BTW: The screenshot is awesome <3

    • I agree, seeing your group repeatedly wiping, especially because of a DPS or healing check, is frustrating and it’s useful to have a tool to help you find the weaknesses to try to improve. I just wish it was a lot better…communicated, I guess.

      You know, what you’ve said about elitism is super interesting! I never thought of it that way but I think you’re totally right about it just being another sign of laziness. It’s easy to say, “I did fine so you guys must suck” but that doesn’t actually help anyone.

      Thank you, lovely! <3

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  • I don’t think it’s terrible if you’re using it for your own personal use and improvement. Like for me I love using DPS Meters. Like when I first started playing WoW I didn’t realize how terrible I was actually doing until someone posted meters and I was so embarrassed. It helps me make sure I’m pulling my weight and if I’m not I can figure out what the problem is and fix it.

    Now what I don’t like is the person that is constantly posting meters in chat and/or being an elitist about it. Now that is where it gets annoying.

    I’m far from an elitist, I just want to make sure I’m keeping up basically. Which btw can you really use that in FFXIV?! =O Not that I’ve done anything as a group yet lol.