Archive for the “Broken promises and shattered dreams” Category
When I was created, there was a certain look we were going for. A kind of not-quite-pissed-off-at-everyone-but-I-might-start-with-you mien, if you will. It seemed that would be a good fit for a warlock, as opposed to the so-happy-to-be-burning-you-to-cinders look cultivated by Hydra.
True, there was the regrettable incident of the ten thousand yard stare that happened waaaay back in 2.4, and the not really successful foray into Neverwinter, but overall we had a look and demeanor we were shooting for.
A Warlock at work
So there’s this fine representation from the current content. Note that a sensible warlock dresses sensibly when roaming the countryside. I’d lose the pauldrons if I could, but that’s the shakes right now.
As you probably know, WoD is revamping all the character models, which, apparently, includes me. WoWHead has a way to view your characters by loading them off the Armory. You can probably see where that’s headed.
Not my home planet
Now, if you were I, which I am, you might recoil in shock at the changed visage. And possibly be a bit angry, for a good reason. No, it isn’t because I hate change, but because Blizzard made a promise – we would not need a free character modification token, they said, because they were going to make the new models true to the old ones, and thus our new models would be entirely satisfactory. As you can see, this is not true, and thus a LOT of people are upset.
However, it turns out that the work on the new models is not yet complete, and in most cases we are limited to the default faces.
I’m a little annoyed because this just means we’ll get fewer opportunities to see what’s what before it goes live, and I know how eager these people can be to grab at any excuse to do a half-assed job and then shrug. Call me a cynic if you must, but therein is where my withered heart lies.
And then there’s this.
Wildstar chicks be like
Due to the incredible inanity of Blizzard’s senior staff’s behavior, I’ve actually taken to looking elsewhere for a new home, starting with a promising new game called Wildstar. I don’t think this is going to be home for a number of reasons, but I haven’t given up on it yet. Here is Flora the Spellslinger, and she looks pissed. Perfect. That’s the Flora we all know and loathe.
In this case, I think, we’re pissed about the incredibly tiny booty shorts. Because, omigawd. Have they forgotten how to make Levis in the distant future?
As with warlocks, leveling with a Spellslinger is hella fast, and it’s been a real joy blowing the bejeebus out of everything that comes near. I do miss my minions, but having gone the Science path, at least I have a little Scanbot.
I shall name him Impy.
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From the novel and film of the same name, an impossibly difficult choice, especially when forced onto someone. The choice is between two unbearable options, and it’s essentially a no-win situation.
WoW culture received a shock this week in the form of a scathingly critical article on Polygon that pointed out what we had all seen and chose to ignore: Rob Pardo, one of the senior seniors at Blizzard, stating in a talk at MIT that Blizz just didn’t see that it was Blizz’ place to be all that much of an exemplar to people with regards to socially progressive topics.
I wouldn’t say that’s really a value for us. It’s not something that we’re against either, but it’s just not something that’s … something we’re trying to actively do.
– Rob Pardo
In the an article on Rock Paper Shotgun, Harper points out Dustin Browder arguing that Blizzard is "[...] not running for President. We’re not sending a message. No one should look to our game for that."
RPS countered, "let people have fun in an environment where they can feel awesome without being weirded out or even objectified." to which Browder countered,
"Uh-huh. Cool. Totally."
– Dustin Browder, master of artful dodges
All this plays eerily like Nintendo’s earlier comments regarding their game Tomodachi Life, in which relationships are possible, but not if you’re gay. They apologize for this, but state
The relationship options in the game represent a playful alternate world rather than a real-life simulation. We hope that all of our fans will see that Tomodachi Life was intended to be a whimsical and quirky game, and that we were absolutely not trying to provide social commentary.
Eerie, because it seems like Blizz is responding to some sort of game developer culture dog whistle here.
All about framing
In an earlier tech scandal this year, Mozilla Corp., better known for browsers than politics, hired a vocally anti-gay CEO, who stepped down a few days later after talk of boycotts, protests, and other general discontent. At the time, Mozilla announced his departure along side a statement that it was "hard to balance free speech and equality".
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.
This has become a popular idiom as of late; getting ahead of the reader and trying to force the reader to make a decision that they don’t have to make. In the case of Mozilla, they try to make it so that you can only have equality or free speech. But the fact was, nobody’s free speech was at risk here. They made the decision to hire a known homophobe. But they were unprepared to accept the consequences of their actions. The REAL choice was whether or not to stand by their choice, and Eich took the choice out of their hands.
Pardo and Browder both want to do the same; present their decisions as a choice between having fun, and making a "statement" about social issues.
The problem is, of course, that nobody asked them to make that choice. They chose to force that choice.
All about Inclusion
A few years ago, Blizzard muckety and general brodawg Chris Metzen got up in front of Blizzcon and made a speech about what "Geek is". Among them:
Conan the Barbarian
G. I. Joe
Okay, more or less on track. But the thing he missed, the thing he didn’t say, that "Geek is" inclusive. Real, true geeks welcome all into the fold that live by our code. We don’t care if you’re man, woman, child, elder, Eldar, gay, trans*, country, western, Coke, or Pepsi.
If you’ve felt more at home in a library than a soccer pitch, we feel you.
If you’ve stood in line in the rain for a Harry Potter ticket, we get you.
And if you’ve ever felt excluded because what other people like makes you feel sad or weirded out or uncomfortable – we get you. We accept you.
Because GEEK IS … inclusive.
And I imagine Metzen left that out for at least two reasons.
He – and the rest of his dawgs – don’t get that. Don’t understand that.
His company would not be able to deliver on that.
This is not new. This is not sudden. This is baked in to the corporate culture. If you don’t fit their mold, it’s okay if you want to hang out, but if you don’t feel comfortable in their sandbox, they don’t care. Worse than that, they want you to shut up about it.
"Women are okay, I guess. Some of my best friends are women. But this is a boy’s trip. So if they’re not really cool with that, that’s just too bad. We’re not trying to make a social statement here."
A Crisis of Conscience
WoW is in crisis. It’s a crisis that nobody talks about.
It’s not that the alpha isn’t ready to go or that raiders are feeling shafted or that there have been x number of days since the last major content patch.
The crisis is the wave of people that are leaving because they no longer feel like they belong in this game. Every time Blizzard reaffirms this, more leave.
WoW has a unique place in this kind of conundrum.
On the one hand there is a beautiful, wonderful community of bloggers and tweeters and forum posters and such that are supportive, informative, and delightful to be around. On the other hand, there is this seemingly toxic corporate culture that sees no profit from making the game friendly to over half the people in the world. It’s hard to decide between the two.
For a long time, many of us have avoided deciding.
But more and more are deciding. Many major names in WoW blogging have departed lately, and they have stated this toxicity as the reason why. Not all of them are women or LGBT – some are simply sympathetic to the cause, and are leaving in a show of solidarity.
It’s a quiet crisis. We rarely speak of it. Surely, you will not see stalwarts in the WoW community like WoW Insider or WoWHead or MMO Champion reporting on it, because they know better than to antagonize the golden goose too much (But kudos to Matt Rossi for at least addressing the issue behind it, not something I would have expected to see from an AoL property.). Note to said stalwarts: Reporting on this sort of thing is not the same as taking sides – unless, perhaps, Blizzard have made it clear that any mention of it is antagonistic to them. Is it? I have no visibility to it. There is no transparency AT ALL.
But the crisis exists, nevertheless.
And maybe we should make it worse.
Making it an issue
People like Rob Pardo and Chris Metzen are not going to take a threat of financial loss that seriously unless their board beats them up. You can’t really get their attention that way. They hired somebody else to worry about that. Someone to "be the grown-ups" so they could go on being big overgrown kids.
No, what Rob and Chris want more than anything is for you to think they’re cool. They have that word tatoo’d on their tongues. They say it over and over again, like a mantra. Even Greg Street drank that kool-aid. Cool. Cool. CoolCoolCool Coooooooooooooooool.
So kick ‘em in the cool gland. If you have a voice, make it heard. If you decided to unsubscribe, make it clear when you do that you feel that Chris and Rob and Samwise are really uncool people with uncool attitudes towards women and LGBTs and the like. Explain to them that you abhor their attitudes. Tell ‘em to get sensitivity training or something. Tell ‘em to grow up a little (but not too much).
And maybe if enough people iterate on that, they’ll Get It.
I’m not holding my breath. Because entitled schmucks never really Get It until the world crashes down around them, and then they’re more likely to blame everyone else.
Making it Personal
Which brings me to me.
I haven’t played the game in days, ever since this came to light. This incident has poisoned the well, soured the taste to the point where I just can’t ignore this issue any more.
I said in the past that if they showed no progress on this issue, I’d drop my subscription. The fact that I’ve written on this topic before, multiple times, is evidence enough that the problem is baked in to their culture. Last time, in the MoP lead-up, Metzen at least made noises like they were going to try to improve. This time, they’re actually regressing, trying to disavow any responsibility for the effects their culture has on the product. I see little hope of improvement.
I have a couple of weeks left on my subscription, so I have some time to ponder this. And that’s my difficult choice – whether to implicitly underwrite a developer’s toxic culture which chooses to ignore or alienate a bunch of my friends, or to turn my back on a number of friends that are still doggedly sticking around – though far fewer than there used to be – and cast myself into the void, to land I know not where.
While nowhere near the eponymous choice’s difficulty, it’s still a poser.
Well, Wildstar opens in a week. Maybe that’ll tide me over until Elite.
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Summary: Flying was a mistake. It was a design flaw in TBC. Blizzard lacked the vision to realize the game would last beyond one expansion and so they painted themselves into a corner at the end of TBC by giving everyone the ability to fly, and it went from neat end of game feature to automatic entitlement in the next.
When WotLK came along, the "reason" we couldn’t fly in Northrend at first was so thin, so lame, that we actually mocked them, and for good reason. And thus has it ever been for the following expansions, as they continue to come up with lame, stupid "reasoning" to "justify" keeping us on the ground until we’ve narfled the Garthok, just because they don’t want us ignoring all that beautiful artwork and masterful questlining they’ve done.
A further unintended side-effect is that they’ve never learned how to create a zone with flying in it. You may have noticed, Blizz uses the landscape to push you where it wants you to go. Impassable mountain ranges, big tree trunks, bloodthirsty troll guards, etc. You avoid that which is impassable or inconvenient, and end up in an area that they want you to be. Flying mounts negate all that, you violate every control they put in place, children are left unattended, dogs and cats cohabitate, and other terrible things happen as an effect.
I don’t know if they’ve even tried, but I have yet to see a zone where flying was properly factored in to the flow of the zone’s "experience", and, as such, it looks to anyone that’s looking as if they don’t have a clue how to design a zone, period. Twilight Highlands – who remembers how unpleasant it was to slog through the first time versus the second time, when you got flying for the whole tribe and your alts just skidded around in the sky without a care in the world? That’s the difference in how the zone comes across with and without flying.
So flying’s broken the game, and they won’t or can’t adjust the game to make flying work out as a part of the game, therefore all we get is "U No Fly Heer" zones and collective years of wasted effort on their parts as entire zones turn into flat, two-dimensional tabletop adventures that have a scattering of completely avoidable mobs.
Clearly, flying must die.
There are three possible paths, as I see it.
- They can remove flying from the game completely, admit it was a mistake, soak up the abuse, and move on.
- They can remove flying from the current content, allowing it in all previous expansion areas, but controlling it in the current.
- They can bloody well learn how to put together a zone with flying taken fully into account.
As a gaming purist, I am in favor of the "nuke it from orbit" approach, mostly (a) because I have seen no evidence that option #3 is even possible. I’d rather they spent scarce resources on something that they have a reasonable chance to accomplish, meaning (b) I also have my doubts as to whether they can pick up all the loose ends in the case of option 2.
I’m not in favor of removing flying simply because I have the blackest of evil hearts and enjoy seeing others suffer, I’m in favor of it because it makes for a better game.
- They spend less time trying to account for people flying around whatever feature they’re working on.
- They spend less time trying to negotiate the precise moment in the expansion or player’s life that the ban gets lifted.
- They spend less time tracking down bugs that might crop up because someone found a niche where they CAN fly in.
- Players play the game, rather than ignore it on the way to whatever corner-cased endgame feature they need to twink on.
- The designers put more thought and interest into game features because they realize that there are far fewer ways for players to blow them off.
- You actually "accomplish" something yourself.
It amazes me that people can’t keep things civil on this. A friend of mine has been getting abuse over her opinion on this. Listen here, cheeto-breath. When all you have to fall back to is abuse, you lose. You’ve already lost. Everyone can see it, you have added nothing relevant to the argument. You’re nothing but a hater, and we all know about haters.
That’s right, J. D.
You’d know better than most.
And the only way to deal with the haters is to let them go hate on the only person that loves them – themselves. So, any person they unfollow is, really, better off for it – though blocking the haters is better, since that whey they can’t sleaze back into your life later without your permission.
I’ve not said much about this before, because others have done a much better job of getting the point across. But it seems as if some people don’t do "points."
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Today, while I was up to my neck in the gubbins of an uncooperative database server, the pre-purchase program for WoD went live. A few things of note:
- The cost of the pre-purchase will be $70.00.
- We have context for a release date, and this is unprecedented this far out from the actual release – Blizz tends to play close to the vest. To wit: "Before 12/20/2014", or, "Fall 2012", which frames it as Sep-Dec 2014.
- The cost of a level 90 boost is, indeed, $60.00. I am not surprise.
I am also not surprised at the release date itself – somebody once asked me if I expected everyone to wait several months for new content, and my answer was that basically I’m just saying that that’s when I think it’s going to be. New expansions have traditionally been released in the 4Q time frame, with one exception .
I realize that Blizz have said that they "want" to iterate more frequently, but "want" isn’t "can do", and they have a lousy record for being able to accomplish what they "want" to do unless it brings money to the table. Hiss invective at me all you want, but it’s an observation that’s pretty well bankable at this point. It just is.
I’m sure that Blizz knows that this will probably mark a pretty drastic bleed-off of subs for the summer months. Too many people are bored with with SoO content already, and even more are fed up with Timeless Isle. There are too many opportunities for enjoyment out there that do NOT require endless grinding on old content. I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure they’re about to take a hit, and I’m pretty sure they’re not deluded enough to not expect it.
(I also have a very strong suspicion that they weren’t planning on it being this long when they announced WoD, but they’ve revised deadlines.)
I know a lot of people that are going to be very disheartened by this announcement’s implications. I’m not too happy about it myself, but at least I have the familiar embrace of low expectations to fall back on. Sadly, I think I have to fall back into that a bit too much. A premier software company can afford the resources to eliminate this kind of recurring disappointment. But it has to have the will to do so.
"Want" isn’t will.
This quote from Ion "Watcher" Hazzikostas infuriates me.
"In terms of the pricing, honestly a big part of that is not wanting to devalue the accomplishment of levelling."
I hate to take one line out of a conversation like this, but this highlights the disingenuous approach that Blizz has taken on the topic of "leveling" zones since they started nerfing everything that wasn’t current content with gay abandon.
Somewhere near the end of Wrath, they started doing this; reducing the amount of XP required to level; boosting the amount of XP you get from each kill, each quest, each turnin. Giving huge amounts of XP for digging up ore or picking flowers or skinning beasties. Granting bonus XP from certain holiday items and buffs. Offering items that you could use to bypass entire swathes of leveling zones. Making zones provide so much XP and requiring so little XP to get to the next level that you routinely ran out of green-or-better quests and leave huge bits of the lore untold unless you deliberately chose to stop leveling for a while. You can’t even level in current content and see all the zones without loitering.
All these things have been done to the leveling game, but Blizzard "doesn’t want to devalue the accomplishment of leveling".
Forgive me for being vulgar, but how does a company that has spent the better part of a decade devaluing the accomplishment of leveling get off saying things like this? The devaluation has already occurred. Leveling, in our current state of affairs, serves one purpose: it gets you to max level. Only people that deliberately want to soak in the lore, or get Achievements, will spend any more time leveling than they have to – and most of those throwbacks aren’t actually leveling per se, but going back and picking up the remaining quests they need for the achievement, completely over-leveling it.
There is no value left to lose.
The only way this gets less annoying for me is if we hear in later press events that what they meant to say was that they were re-valuing the leveling game and didn’t want to cheapen it with cheap L90s. But somehow, I get the strong feeling that that is not what they meant and that they’re going to blithely continue on as if they have no responsibility for the state of the leveling game now, and that anything that they do with the Boost feature in any way changes that (it doesn’t).
The other little disingenuous nugget of fail in that interview was the assertion that they didn’t want people to have to buy a second game just to get that second boost. But they’re quite happy to charge you as much as buying the second game would cost you! More, if WoD isn’t a requirement for the boost – in which case five bucks will get a second game and another free boost. AND it gets worse when you realize that even WoD will deflate in value after the first quarter of release. Aside from the aisles of Wal-Mart, you’ll be able to get the game for probably $40 or less after the first quarter, and that’s a $20 saving on every boost.
Maybe Ghostcrawler left because he saw the writing on the wall.
Or maybe I’m reading too much into this. But I’m not liking what I’m seeing.
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If you were awake this past weekend, you probably saw the news that in WoD, there are a few design changes that will ultimately culminate in the requirement of a silver medal in the Proving Grounds before you can randomly queue for a Heroic 5-man instance.
That is an outstanding solution for a problem that we don’t actually have.
Let me quantify this with a pie chart.
I think I’m turning Japanese
Let’s let the blue part of that chart represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was incapable of playing his or her class. Let the red part represent the number of times I have had difficulty in a random Heroic5 because somebody in the group was an asshole.
I think you’re starting to get the picture.
Now, I immediately point out that data is not the plural of anecdote, so my personal experience is not by definition the experience others have. But I will also point out that no man is an island, and we all share an experience here, so what I hear from other players can be used as a guide to help determine if I’m whistling in the dark here.
Well, the majority of what I see people complaining about online – other than the forums is assholes. Or, rather, if they’re complaining about the person not performing, it’s because that person is being an asshole. Or otherwise coupled with the person being an asshole, in some way.
Well, assume Blizz is starting small. Let’s have a look at how the poor performers break down.
The red part is people that are complaining about poor performers as an excuse for their groups’ failures. The blue part is those people which would see improvement in their Heroic5 experience if only a silver medal was required for entry into a random Heroic5.
Okay, I’m full of shit and making those numbers up out of whole cloth, because I really don’t need a formal survey of the forums to form an opinion on this.
Of all the people having problems with randoms of any sort now, performance is rarely given as the cause of the failure. More times than not I’m reading about the seven healers that are left after all the DPS prima donnas left because they felt like effort was something they would like to avoid, and the tanks left out of disgust at that, and the healers are busy discussing who gets to be the biggest martyr this time. It wasn’t performance. It was personality.
I really don’t care at the meta level. I’m not running random Heroic 5s, not because I don’t think people know how to play, but because I’m fed up with assholes. And nothing Blizz is doing here is going to change an asshole’s opportunity to make LFD an unholy shithole of gaming society.
When Blizz comes up with social controls on trollish behavior, I’ll be more interested.
Meanwhile, Blizz is wasting time and resources on something that won’t make any difference. They could have done that on the dance studio and at least made people genuinely happy.
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An article on WoW Insider takes one of my points about the character boost to 90 issue and expands it way the hells out to a mathematically precise word count of "large". Anne states far more effectively than I have about one of the unpleasant side effects of the leveling "squish" – the way that the "story" of the game loses its cohesiveness due to the way that people are rushed through levels most expeditiously.
Anne provides a lot of good suggestions to address this self-inflicted wound, though the possible solution that Anne’s article leaves out is this: stop messing with the older levels. Stop messing with the XP scaling, stop messing with XP returns, stop dropping level requirements.
In short, don’t compress the leveling process at lower levels. Anyone that wants to rush through the 1-90 (or whatever) experience can go buy a boost. This is my primary reason for wanting the boost in the first place. I really don’t give two damns about anything else, I just want to see the lore of the game coupled back with the leveling experience.
Unfortunately, that’ll never happen. The first reason is that Blizz just doesn’t have the PR capacity to handle the negative feedback without making a mess of things. They can’t even announcing an expansion without offending 1/2 the population of the gaming world, so let’s assume they just won’t be able to manage the awareness and deft touch required to make an unpopular decision and then weather the storm.
The other reason is that resources would be required in order to reset the leveling experience back to that which it was in the first place. In the case of the 1-60 process, they don’t even have an "original" setting to go back to, since they were redesigned in the first place to provide an accelerated leveling experience. The old 1-60 leveling process was eliminated in toto when they were redesigned more or less completely from the ground up.
And those resources are just not going to be provided. They’re already pushing things with something as fundamental as introducing new character models with an expansion based on previously established lore (rewrit). They don’t have the bandwidth to also re-adjust and re-write all the old leveling content. There is no big red lever marked "reset to previous status", and, even so, they’d still need to test it, and they probably don’t have time or resources for that, either.
But Anne’s article truly does illustrate the folly of trying to mask a defect in design with workarounds. Eventually they pile up to the point where you can’t help but notice the flaws, no matter what your skill or perception level is. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that you can get from 1-60 without seeing but 3/4 of a single continent (rather than all of two continents).
Maybe somebody’s watching that will be implementing the next generation MMO that we all go to play, and they’ll not make the same fundamental mistakes that Blizzard has made. Maybe they’ll offer level boosts to the "threshold" at the very first expansion, rather than five in.
Or, if it’s Blizzard and "Titan", maybe they’ll make all the same mistakes all over again.
Won’t that be fun.
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As I write this, Blizzard is now claiming that they will no longer require real names in the fora. I want to make a few observations.
- As Scott Jennings pointed out, Blizzard has promised to “fix” something like this before, and then didn’t do squat, possibly under the theory that a slow bleed saps the will, or something.
[L]ook at this response from another privacy hullaballoo – Blizzard’s refusal to allow people to opt out of having their character data displayed online – for a clue.
Oh. There’s no[t] any mention of opting out at all. OK. Well, there’s that time they made fun of people who wanted to. I suppose that’s a response. Wait, here’s a post from 2007!
Can I “opt-out” of the Armory?
No; this particular option is currently unavailable. While we do not possess any present intention to allow our players to opt-out of basic Armory features (character display, talent build, arena teams, and reputation), we do plan to introduce more complex functionalities; these upcoming functionalities will be “opt-in”/”opt-out,” thus granting our players the opportunity to display or omit correlated information as desired.
Clearly, they got right on that.
- So don’t get excited until you what they actually do.
- Also, the forums are just the thin edge of the wedge. While having your private ID searchable on the web is, in fact, a bad thing, the biggest problem with this whole thing is that they told us one thing about RealID at first, then they went and did something else with it after that. So what’s to say they won’t do that again? Nothing, that’s what. Until we have a permanent way to mask our real names in RealID, it’s still broken.
I have this image of Mike Morhaime in his office, typing into his LiveJournal tonight.
This was a triumph.
I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS.
It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.
Plying the bullshit.
We do what we must
because we can.
For the good of all of us.
Except the ones who /ragequit.
But there’s no sense crying over every mistake.
You just keep on trying with the finest trollbait.
And the money comes in.
And we all wear a grin.
For the people who are still subscribed.
Remember, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
And reloads close at hand.