Hello. My name is Kendricke and I am a parser.

Posted: July 2, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts

My name is Kendricke, and I’m a parser. 

It’s been 14 hours since my last parse.  I take things day by day, but with tools like EQ2Aditu’s ACT parser, it makes it pretty hard to avoid my habit.  I’m sorry, I’m making excuses now.  It’s not his fault – it’s mine. 

I have a problem.  I need to see the numbers that mean virtual life or death to my characters.  I need to know whether that 2-hander or those dual wielders mean more to me.  I track my DPS and heal values religiously.  I simply need to know the best ways to squeeze 2 seconds off of a fight.

So, what do parses mean, anyway? 

In the case of MMO’s, the term “parse” means to analzye components of a string of characters (in this case, our Logs) to identify patterns or function.  There are dozens of programs out there that accomplish the task, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m partial to EQ2Aditu’s Advanced Combat Tracker tool. 

Now, most players will live their entire virtual lives and then some never having once cared about parsing.  Frankly, most players don’t care whether or a patch increases or reduces their DPS by roughly 2-4%, but – and trust me on this – there exists a segment of every playerbase that absolutely needs to see those parses.  For some players, the parse itself is a form of metagame, akin to tradeskilling or brokering. 

The problem I have with parses is that it always relies on client side logs and almost always opens the door to descrepency.  Ask three people in a group to log parses, and chances are that none of the numbers will equate exactly. 

There’s a ton of reasons for this, ranging from how the parsing program is set up to whether or not all three players were within range of the combat the entire fight.  It’s hard to get a perfectly accurate parse, and even when you do – you can’t really be sure it’s perfectly accurate, because it’s all based on client side data anyway.

For most purposes, this is fine – or at least, it’s accepted because there isn’t a better alternative, really.  After all, what are you going to do if you don’t like the system:  ask the developers to create an in-game parser for you?

In a word:  Exactly.

I’d love to see an in-game parser for Everquest 2.  I’m actually having a hard time coming up with reasons why this is a bad idea.  It doesn’t have to be in-your-face, but rather could be a behind the scenes system integrated into the client, but pulling information regarding the fight based on the server’s data.  After all, the game knows how much damage you’re pushing – wouldn’t you like to know?

And if you don’t – don’t look.  The interface for such a system could be kept low key and out of the way.  Like the “/weaponstats” command, if you know where to look, it’s there…but it doesn’t have to be widely advertised to new players.  What’s that?  You didn’t know about “/weaponstats”?  Well, that only proves the point further then.

There are a great many benefits to having such a system integrated into the game itself.  For one thing, it opens up the door to less confusion when dealing with issues such as the combat changes from Update 29, which introduced the diminishing returns model to such statistics as Haste or DPS.  It could provide consistent data for players.  It could aid in testing. 

Now there’s a novel idea:  more accurate testing. Imagine all those number crunchers and bean counters (like myself) out there working with the same yardsticks to measure basic functionality changes or even potential bugs.  Better data leads to more accurate test results. 

“Test” is one of those four letter words for many players.  They feel that they pay for a product, so why should they also test it.  I agree.  Frankly, if you don’t want to test anything – don’t.  It’s not like there aren’t plenty of players like me who won’t mind testing for you. 

I love finding a way to push a class I’m playing.  Someone on a forum somewhere says that so-and-so can’t be done with such-and-such class and I’m logging into Test server to try finding a way that it CAN be done.  If it’s said the class can’t do it without raid gear, I start shedding gear till I’m sitting in treasured or handcrafted just to prove the point.  Someone says I’m just making it up…I post the parse. 

At the end of the day, parsing it just a tool, really.  It’s a methodology used to help support (or debunk) theories.  Frankly, it’s one of the best tools players have to address potential bugs or issues within a game’s mechanics.  Without parsing, we’re just guessing…and developers don’t tend to listen to guesses as much as they seem to listen to fact.  For all the ways that parses aren’t perfect, it’s as close to hard fact as we can get to prove whatever case we happen to be trying to make.

Giving us a better tool only helps us to make better cases.  Giving us consistency means we’re all working from the same basic measurement.  It puts more eyes on a potential problem. 

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Comments
  1. Xeavn says:

    Ah the parser. I have to admit I would love to see a company go to the trouble of including a built in parser. I get the feeling you would see a lot of complaints from poeple that don’t like it though. It is almost easier to allow a 3rd party to create it so that they don’t have to hear the complaints about it.

    The parser can honestly be one of the best tools to analyze performence, and test how effective any number of different abilities are. The thing is that the parser doesn’t always tell the whole story, and some poeple can forget this.

    The main thing that the parser doesn’t measure is utility. The few times as a Fury where I soared on the DPS chart and posted a pretty good number usually had as much to do with what other poeple had done as much as it had to do with anything I had done.

    In a way the parser does track this utility in a way, but it adds the dps to the wrong person. It adds it to the person doing the damage instead of the person enabling them to do the damage. So now not only are your numbers lower than before, the other persons are higher.

    It can cause problems too. I have seen raids wiped because of two poeple competing to top the DPS meter. The person didn’t know when to stop, and how far was too far, pulled aggro off the tank, and it killed him and a lot of the casters with an aoe.

    And then there is healing. If anything parses are probably the worst at telling the whole story with healing. There usually isn’t a good way to track healing efficenicy, or heals that just saved someone just in time, versus heals that weren’t really needed, or topped off someone who wasn’t really taking all that much damage.

  2. Kilanna says:

    I do like the idea – it does give you some subjective data to measure your “performance” so to speak. I share Xeavns concerns though about making sure that parse information is meaningfully interpreted.

    I am not all that knowledgable on parsing so pls correct me if I am mistaken, but as I understand it some classes will inately parse higher than other classes (both heals and offensive classes). Thus care should be taken in drawing the conclusion that low parse means I have not been doing my job.

    For eg. I love my Templar girl 🙂 but I dont see how some of her most useful contributions can show up on a parser – Sanctuary, Divine Recovery, Blessings AA, cures for DoT’s. So just as long as we know how to interpret the parses meaningfully I think they are a fabulous idea.

  3. Stargrace says:

    You would be correct there Kilanna, about heal parses. 🙂 Shaman wards for example, take precedence over all other heals. They do preventative damage, and thus come before any other heal that’s slapped onto a tank. A shaman who is chaining their wards (where a tank is not getting constantly pummeled for 5k+) will parse far larger (typically, there are exceptions, such as when aoe’s are present and then your druids will parse fairly high due to their HoT’s) then the other healers. Heal parses are slightly different, they’re not an indication of who is the *best* healer, but more so of who is awake and paying attention. As an inquisitor I am typically stifled, so my heal parse will be low, but I’m providing my group with a huge dps buff at that time.

  4. kendricke says:

    That’s where the idea of a parse as a tool comes into play. Just as a nailgun can be your best friend when used correctly, it can be horrific if it’s used incorrectly.

    It’s a tool, nothing more. I just want a more accurate tool.

  5. brilig says:

    I, too, have a raiding inquis. And almost always have the same set of DPS people in G4. They understand that if I make the heal parse, they must be screwing up, but instead just top the DPS charts every time because of my buffing. Every now and then, I go all out healing on the MT and any non-green on the raid screen. Then when I outparse the blankity Defiler, and just say in /ra Pffffttt!!! and go back to buffing my group..

    I just wish Verdict’s really cool huge hammer and gong was able to be seen by everyone and that 3% of 10 trillion HP named that just got bonked showed up in parses..

  6. bigggunns says:

    how do u set up a heal parse? would like to see effects of heals

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