I've been seeing WoW players in terms of quintiles recently. A quintile is a posh mathematical word for fifth and so what I'm talking about is simply splitting the players up into five statistical groups.
Here are the quintiles I am seeing:
1. Excellent. Outstanding self-motivated players who are very effective.
2. Good. Solid players who understand their class and perform above average.
3. Average. Decent players (the mean standard of play in WoW is actually pretty high, WoW players are on the whole rather competent) whose performance won't usually cause any comment in groups.
4. Mediocre. Erratic or laid back players who perform a little below the normal (rather high) expectations. Not absolutely terrible they maybe have other things on their mind or haven't quite figured out their class and other aspects of the game yet.
5. Bad. The fire-standers, the people who consistently fail, the people who pick their rotation based on mashing the prettiest abilities and so on.
There's some migration from one quintile to another. People move up as they practice and play, people move down if they switch to another alt or get burned out and stop trying so hard.
In dialogue about WoW people often talk at cross-purposes about many aspects of the game. There's a perception that dps are bad. That's not true, what is true is that dps can be of any quintile. You don't on the other hand get genuinely bad tanks. In fact even a quintile 3 tank, an average player, is likely to get stick from his group because people in WoW are heavily adjusted to being somewhat boosted by their tank. So many tanks are quintile 1 and 2 that getting a quintile 3 tank in your heroic is seen as annoying, even by quintile 5 players. But of course a quintile 1 dpser is going to be very annoyed by the "dpsers are bad" meme.
Now what is interesting is that only one of these quintiles contains any self-starters. When I blogged about the consumer-producer paradigm I argued that most WoW players expect self-starting players to provide content for them. You see this in raids - even a raid guild of quite mediocre level will be lead by one or more quintile one players.
The value of the quintile approach is that you can, I think, identify traits that characterise each quintile and use them to assess players. This could be useful in recruiting for a guild.
For example leaving after a wipe when it would be more logical to stay is very much a quintile 2 behaviour. Really good players can handle wiping. People who are good enough to feel they are being let down by scrubs but not so confident as to take failure in their stride will bail if shown the slightest adversity.
I am not, currently, interested in starting a WoW raid guild. If I were I think I'd try to identify quintile 1 behaviours and recruit for them. Tenacity is important, a certain stubbornness. Self-motivation is important top players don't need to be poked to drink a flask, they've already drunk one - they want the buff because they want to be the best. Interest in theory which may correlate to mathematical ability is very important in a game which is all about numbers. Communication is another indicator - it's a team game and communicating shows you're involved with the other players. One of the best duelists on our server is a dreadful trade channel spammer - his desire to communicate (even in an annoying way) is indicative of a top quintile player.