Monday, November 15, 2010

To Parse, or not to Parse.

That is the question.

I was playing EQ2 last night and was using the Advanced Combat Tracker parse software. I linked my Brother a few parses as I was genuinely surprised at my numbers in a group setup as it’s been a while since Volt grouped SF content and even then probably not since he has upgraded a lot of his kit. However, I linked it to him without really thinking that he wouldn’t understand it not having used one before (I think), as way back when he used to play parses were used, but it seemed perhaps only by those who raid seriously. Now the parse software is so useful, many seem to use it all the time and not generally solely for its original intended purpose.

This got me to thinking about why people use them and the point of view expressed by some that they are kind of cheating. It’s a tricky argument really. There is no doubt with all the different aspects of the parse software that it ‘decodes’ the more difficult technical stuff in the game that makes you perform better. From letting you know when detrimentals cast by the mob are going to go off, to using the timer to analysing the data after a group or raid to see what you’re strong points were, what buffs were up and running and the effect they had on your dps (damage per second) or hps (heals per second), to checking your hit rate, or even if your group / raid members were on top of their game too, or indeed what loot was collected and by who.

Its uses are many, but put simply it enables you to play the game easier and to develop your toon so it is the best that it can possibly be. One may state that a truly good player will do this independently of parse software and any help beyond what the game offers could be construed as cheating. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Cheating’ as “to act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage”. Well by that definition I do not think it is cheating. For one using ACT parse is not dishonest. You are not exactly hiding the fact you are using it when you post a parse. Secondly, it is not acting unfairly, as the software is there for all to download and utilise. It cannot be unfair if all players have access to it. Yes, it does give you an advantage, simply because it offers so many tools one’s game is sure to improve and at the very least become easier once you have used it. Finally, if using a parse is cheating, then so is using the quest helpers provided in Zam and EQ2Wiki.

What using the parse does do though in my opinion, is it removes most of the mystery and soul from the game when you use it. It turns what could be a game that assists you to detach yourself from real life and effectively ‘become’ your toon for the period you play in to the controller of a technical maths game. It turns it from being fun, in to almost being like work. I mean I do that during my day job, looking at stats, assessing patterns, studying excel sheets. By the same token though, if you wish to raid effectively and are not ‘lucky’ or a genius then you will need to use a parse. It’s as simple as that. How else can you break down the technicalities of a fight to see who did what when and assessing the effect that has? How else could you properly work out what your Virtuous Concerto hit for? How else could you ascertain who in your raid force is not curing or healing? Basically it’s required as an effective raid Management tool for both raid leaders and members.

Nowadays though, a lot use them for grouping too. The same benefits are there, to basically help you improve how to play your toon to the best of its ability. And because grouping is so different to raiding (try getting just 5 other peoples buffs instead of 23..the difference is noticeable) there is a different set of stats you need to evaluate to be good in groups AND and raids.

There are of course ‘bad’ things in using a parse. One is due to the fact that it kind of makes me feel like I’m in Mathlympics and not playing a soulful game where I can BE Voltaan. Another is sometimes folks will ‘overuse’ it and post a parse for every fight just to make the point that they are ruining you in all areas and wish to gloat. I personally have never been an advocate of that, but I would be lying if I said I hadn’t used it to show off on the odd occasion when I feel my hard work should be noticed. The other is that by using just the surface tools of a parse you may only get half a picture. For example, it is no good judging a healer on just the HPS. You need to dig deeper to check the have been doing their job fully and correctly, using all their debuffs at the right time, the cures etc too. For you to use ACT or any other parse it is important to learn to use it fully so you don’t get a distorted ‘half a picture’.

So, in my opinion there is no doubt, the ACT tool will help you improve your game if you utilise it correctly. But beware, it’ll likely remove the games soul too.

Be well.


  1. That parse you showed me clearly showed that you have a "soul", it was everyone else's parse in that group & "soul" as well that I was skeptical of! :P

  2. Pretty much agree with all you've said. I don't think parsers are cheating at all, but personally I don't think I'll ever use one as I am not really interested in the numbers behind the game. If the game requires you to use a parser to complete the harder content then that suggests there is something wrong with the game rather than the player, but that doesn't sound like the case here anyway.

  3. LMAO!! Thanks mate *preens feathers* I was rather pleased with it ;)

  4. Aye Mere...sadly if you play end game like I do, it's a necessary evil..well if you wish to shine that is. I do make a point of not having it running unless I am evaluating new kit or raiding for that very reason.