Thursday, September 25, 2008

Caution: Don’t Blog Angry

I have had a day to cool off about the honor situation and thought I would follow-up my emotion filled rant yesterday with a more intelligent explanation of my cancellation. If I have been consistent with one thing on this blog, then it is this idea:

Game devs should try to use foresight and planning to avoid pitfalls that invalidate the efforts of their players.

As to why I canceled my WoW account... The honor thing made me angry, but that’s not exactly why I quit. No – I quit because it’s become increasingly clear that there is a disconnect between Blizzard and its customers. I’ll stop short of saying that they don’t care about the customers, because I think all companies care about customers. However, I do think that they don’t RESPECT their customers.

I get no respect
I can certainly understand why they wouldn’t respect their customers. You just need to spend 30 minutes reading the official forums and you won’t respect them either. I think it would be hard to have a “pulse” on the real WoW community if your only real insight into it is through the official forums. It’s hard to know what is REALLY important to your consumer when everything appears to be the end of the world. Only the most vocal objectors are ever really heard, not the most sensible ones.

Instead, Blizzard devs have to try to make sense of what is important or not important on their own. Ultimately, this either leads to the arrogance that they “know better” or worse – they have absolutely no clue. The result is that Blizzard devs unintentionally end up abusing the player base by making mistakes that could have been prevented.

Cry more, nub
The worst part is that because they have this disconnect with players, they don’t understand how players will receive the changes. They believe it’s perfectly OK to change the rules of the game. “Oh sure, people will whine,” they think to themselves, “but players always whine. We know what is best.”

This is the lie that they tell themselves when they make dramatic changes.

It strikes me that Blizzard doesn’t bother planning to avoid pitfalls that invalidate content because they don’t care if they invalidate content. They either believe they “know better” or have no clue about how players will feel about changes, so they just do what they think is best. The issue is that “best” is not really “best” unless it takes into consideration the sum of all parts. One of those parts (perhaps the most important) is player expectations.

To re-use an already overused example, this is exactly the type of trouble that Sony got into when they introduced the NGE to Star Wars Galaxies. NGE was obviously on a much much larger scale, but the player complaint is similar to the one that I am leveling at Blizzard. It didn’t really matter that NGE might have been a better game, it changed the rules without considering how players would feel about such changes.

I’m done
I simply can’t get myself excited about playing a game in which I know that the devs feel this way. Why bother putting forth any effort towards anything if it changes on a mere developer whim? This really is no different than it ever was with Blizzard, I just think the illusion that they might have cared has been shattered for me.

Perhaps I was OK with the way things were because I believed in the necessity of it being that way. I no longer have that belief nor do I care to delude myself into thinking such player abuse is acceptable for some greater good.

It may be that WAR devs will be no different in this respect, but at least as-of-now that doesn’t feel like it is the case. Credits to Mark and the other WAR rockstars for at least keeping up the illusion that players matter in the grand scheme of things.


Hudson said...

Gridning honor sucks. The whole system to me is a joke. Which has been fixed, I think, in WAR.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've blogged angry. And then out of honesty - If I published, it stayed. I learned some time back to wait a bit before I hit that button, just like for emails.

For what it's worth, I actually think there's a good idea and intent in the middle of it all. It's just it was poorly executed. I think it's quite possible that you're right regarding the separation issues, but that's going to happen anyway.

Two cent opinion, I think WoW's peaked. Just like several other MMOs it'll hang on, and given that its current size is so large even at nostalgia levels it'll still be a major player in the industry. But I think it passed its largest size, and we'll see a fairly steep decline about a month or two after WoTLK is out when people.

SolidState said...

One of the people commenting on the WoW forums put it nicely (from my PvE perspective):

"The same logic would argue that we should wipe all gear so no one has a leveling advantage. Since I put in the time to earn T6 I will level faster than 70s in blues and greens, which is an unfair advantage by the same reasoning."

So yeah, this PvP-honor reset really sucks for PvP-ers. It's as if Blizzard wants to push them in to the hands of Mythic...

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