Yesterday I made what seems to have been a fairly controversial post, but also one that seems to be misconstrued to be more than it really was. The key complaint of the post was the method in which Blizzard occasionally conveys information to the fans through a dose of condescension. That isn’t good for the brand and isn’t good for the game as a whole. The rest of the points that I used as examples… well they were just me pointing out ways I felt the person delivering the message was doing so in a less than friendly manner. Yesterday I had a bunch of valuable conversation with different folks on both the main point and the sub points, and also some not so valuable discussion. I feel like any discussion line that follows something along the lines of “you don’t have to play the game” isn’t really valuable. Sure there are folks who just want to throw stones, burn the crops and salt the earth after they have left. I am not one of those people… I genuinely care about this game because it is like an old friend. However it is a friend that keeps going through really strange phases that are maybe not so good for their health. Ultimately I am just the sort of person who has to say something eventually, and when I do… I can more or less move on knowing that I said my peace.
Every year at work when it comes time for the performance review… there is always a question that boils down to following orders. My boss always feels the need to make a point about how I will “eventually” follow orders, but that I have to explain my point of view first. There have been a number of times throughout my career where I have had to implement bad solutions that I knew would eventually bite us in the ass six months to a year later. I don’t do this cheerfully, and not without first explaining all of the reasons why this is a bad idea. However if after making my case… it is still decided that we have to do whatever this thing is… I do so to the best of my ability knowing that I made my point known. When I leave the work world I am this same person… I have to speak my peace in order to move on. So when I see a game making decisions that I don’t agree with… well I stand up and say something and do so in my own private vehicle for communicating that. This is my blog ultimately, and if you are coming here you are going to keep getting me talking about whatever happens to be important on my mind. I enjoy your visit, and I appreciate feedback… but at the end of the day this is my blog filled with my opinions and that isn’t really something you can judge “right” or “wrong”.
Ultimately the truth is I am not deluded enough to believe for even a second that anything I say here is going to change anything outside of the confines of the limited things I have control of. I can make my point, and inscribe it on the pages of this virtual tome. However that doesn’t mean my point is actually going to influence anyone as a result. You have to understand most mornings when I sit down to start writing… I largely forget that I actually have readers. That is not to say that I don’t value each and every reader… it is just that I end up sitting here talking to myself. Often times the points I make, are a way of me dealing with the thoughts and feelings that I am having at the time. It is a way of me processing the complex melange of reactions that I have boiling up inside of me, and there is something about putting it down onto paper that seems to bring forth the truest version of whatever it was that I was thinking. Ultimately we can disagree on whatever it is that I am talking about, and that is going to be okay. We don’t have to agree to exist within the same space, and often times it is better if we don’t. The internet and its ease of creating echo chambers is actually a really horrible thing, and so long as a view point isn’t one that I consider toxic… I welcome it into my mind to swirl around with the thoughts that are already there. My thoughts on any matter are a constantly evolving and shifting mess.
When it comes to World of Warcraft, I do question if I am compatible with the view the developers have for this game. There was an interesting side note yesterday in a conversation with Nyn about social consequences of game changes. I brought on a sequence of ramifications related to not having various aspects of the game be “bind on account” or at least collected at an account level. Namely talking about the number of times I have wanted to play this or that alt, but my friends really needed me to be playing my main. When that happens you are left with a choice… do you do the socially beneficial thing and play the character that is needed to help out your friends, or do you be selfish and spend your night working on the character you really want to be progressing. The more things that are pushed to an account basis, the more these problems just go away. If I can be running around on my main and collecting stuff that benefits my army of alts… then that reinforces me playing the character that is needed at any given moment. I think in the grand scheme of things this would also go a long way towards getting tanks and healers queuing for content… because they know that ultimately there is some benefit that can trickle down to my other classes. To which she raised the point… that these aren’t really game mechanic problems but instead social problems.
I guess my stance is that the two are irrevocably connected. Every game change has social ramifications, and every social change effects the way players view game mechanics. Largely I judge World of Warcraft against the actions that other companies are taking in other MMOs. Some of them do a phenomenal job of social engineering the player base to make shifts in behavior that ultimately benefit the health of the game. A prime example is the way that Final Fantasy XIV keeps coming up with reasons that end game characters, want to be running lower level content by making end game rewards hinge upon the collection of items from lower level content. This reinforces the cycle of constantly having a fresh supply of high level and geared players queuing for content, and the introduction of a first time bonus mechanic makes it so that high level players actually get excited knowing that their rewards from running the content are going to be multiplied by the presence of a new player. This is absolutely bribery, but it is bribery that works extremely well… and shows a high level of understanding for the psychology of players. So ultimately I think the more things that can be pushed back to the account level, the more willing players will be to bring what is needed instead of what they want to keep moving forward.
This also spawned a discussion about the design philosophy of “bring the player not the class” which in truth… doesn’t really work that well. Sure it works great in cases of Paladins and Druids… that can field a dps, tank and healer but ultimately breaks down when it comes to pretty much any other class. Now I will agree that any tank is swappable for any other tank, and for the most part healers are also equally interchangeable. However when it comes to DPS, it doesn’t feel quite so much the case with so many fights punishing players for bringing too much ranged dps or too much melee dps. If anything I think more things bound at the account level helps to get closer to the “bring the player” aspect of that equation because it rewards alting in a manner that isn’t really the case yet. Alts are the thing that keep players engaged with the game during those slow spots where progression has either topped out, or is going much slower than expected. Bolstering the reasons for players to roll that army of alts is I think a huge part of keeping players active and subscribed to the game. There are still some sore spots with things that have gone to account based, like the upcoming transmog changes not really working 100% cross character… but it was a step in the right direction. Similarly account wide mounts, pets and achievements were extremely awesome and have increased the value of each of those things for me at least. However it feels like we just haven’t gone far enough yet. There are so many things like currencies and factions… that just don’t seem to make sense at a character by character basis when it would be significantly more rewarding to have those things on any character you happen to be playing. Anyways…. this ramble has gone on long enough and gotten way out of control. Additionally I am out of time this morning and needing to head to work. Thanks for reading if you actually made it to this point.