Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The first horde application to our alliance guild

We’ve been trying to recruit a tank for a while, using every channel we can think of. Last week we got our first application thanks to Lookingforguild. It came from a tank in one of the top 100 guilds in Europe. He said that he wanted to slow down from a 7 nights a week schedule to something lighter, possible to combine with a normal life outside of the game. Awesome.

It was very attractive in every way except for one: we’re an alliance guild and the applicant was a bloodelf! His plan was to change faction at the release day of the next patch. He seemed to be totally convinced that this feature will be available in 3.2, to be released anytime soon.

Poor guy. Or maybe not so poor; I’m totally convinced he’ll find a suitable guild on the horde side whenever he wants to. But still he symbolizes a problem I see currently: that Blizzard talks too much about things that are far, far off in the pipeline, which haven’t progressed much further than from the “what if we did like this?” idea stadium. The truth is that when this change will come this guy may not even be playing the game anymore. It could very well wait to go live until in the next expansion – or maybe even later.

Fooled players
I can’t help wondering how many players there are out there who have been fooled by the constant pre-view news leakage from Blizzard. Most people don’t read much more than the headlines or possibly the first few paragraphs in a news article. Very few will read it to the end. And who can keep up with the constant flow of information on the Blizzard home page, Wow.com, mmo-champion and all the other sources available? I can’t, and then I know I’m pretty good at superficial browsing where I get the main content without too much time and effort wasted. I’m trained for it. Most people aren’t. They will just get a fragment of the news articles and they get most of their information, not directly from the sources, but indirectly from rumors in the general chat and such channels.

When Blizzard are talking about all the cool features they’re thinking about, I’m convinced that many players take for granted that they’ll see it in the next patch.

Now, being into information myself, I don’t advocate that Blizzard should go more silent. I’m a big fan of communication and I think that it’s a great thing that they’re opening up to the community, being more active in the public forums than before (even though you could take it as a bad sign, as Hatch pointed out in an angry, well put post recently, but that’s another story).

However I think Blizzard should think twice before they send out all those rather vague signals about their future plans. I guess they hope to keep the interest from the players. But it could very easily backfire if people get disappointed when the next content patch won’t give them what they believed they had been promised. Or when changes seem to be postponed so long (anyone remember the dance classes?) until they turn into just a joke. Every time this happens they’ll lose a bit of our trust.

Maybe the vagueness partly is intentional, not to give the competitors too much information about the current development. After all it’s about business. Maybe they’re also vague just because they don’t know how long time things will take. They don’t want to make promises that they can’t fulfill at a later point.

Wanted: clearer information
Still: a little bit more of clearness should be possible, especially when a patch is incoming like now. I know it’s “all in the patch notes”, but you can’t expect everyone to read every line of it. There must be a better way to make it clear to players if a change is imminent coming or if it’s just something that is discussed.

Maybe some kind of markup system is all what it takes? They could put a green light for everything that actually is scheduled and has a release date, a yellow light for work in pipeline that will become reality within the next two years. And a clear read light for wishes from players that we actually never ever will see (if they have the guts to actually say NO to something.)

If Blizzard doesn’t become a bit clearer about the state of this change, I think that we may very well see more cross-faction applications from confused players this autumn.

17 comments:

Jormundgard said...

The Dance Studio was just asinine. Here is a genuine feature that had been promised months, if not years, in advance, and in the end it's debut is as an April Fool's Joke.

But reading this post, I can already see Ghostcrawler's response... "We would like to discuss more of plans and be mature adults, but then all you players are mean and hurt our feelings when we can't deliver :). Now where's my gin and pony? (ha ha ha)"

David said...

The dance studio, and flying vehicles in Winterspring are the two things people bring up when they want to point out Blizzard never delivers on their promises. For me, they aren't game breaking features, and it doesn't really bother me that they got pushed back, or eliminated. Personally, I think people that feel 'let down' by blizzard are getting too emotionally invested in minor matters. If they deleted your favorite class one day, I would understand, but if they revamp your talent tree for the sake of game balance or don't release your pet feature in time, it ought not be a source of stress or forum spamming.

For the faction change service, that was never announced as being released with a patch or given any time frame. There are so many questions up in the air still. What do you do about things like city reputations, faction specific mounts, faction related achievements, etc? To anyone who took a moment to consider it, its clear this is a service still in development. I don't think blizzard needs to be clearer about how they release information - it's all there for people to read. I actually think it can be obtuse sometimes - it's all just a list of facts and a little hard to sort out what the end result is(I made a post on this).

Blizzard has never said "XX feature will be released on YY day" then without any further notice, inexplicably on YY day, XX feature was nowhere to be seen. They may say "We are hoping/trying/working on getting XX out by YY", and guaranteed, if YY day rolls around and XX is not ready yet, "Blizzard lied to us" gets posted all over the forums. This is why Ghostcrawler and other Blizzard reps are so cynical about player reaction - they've seen it repeated countless times.

However, I have no sympathy for people like your applicant. All too often in /trade in-game I see crazy claims and rumors like "I heard Emblems of heroism will be converted into Emblems of conquest when the patch comes out, anyone know?". Either they are trolling or misinformed, but it's worse when people take these comments at face value and perpetuate them in their own chat channels and forums. The whole time the correct answer is in a patch note or forum post by a blizzard rep. If you really want to know, check the patch notes or forums for an official answer. I do, by the way, try to be civil and give them the correct answer.

If I was a GL, (and I'm not for many good reasons) I would be wary of that applicant even in the future if the faction service becomes available later. Just like a poor guild application, his/her actions say to me "This person has trouble understanding written information and/or does not have the initiative to look into something that their guild app depends upon". That would be more important to me than their gear score or achievements.

Magma said...

I'm convinced that people such as this are truly idiots. I can't even begin to count the number of people who believe rumors and false speculation. I got into this exact argument with someone who was convinced 3.2 would bring faction changes. I don't know what to do to stop people from taking everything someone says as fact, when 95% of the time, the person talking is just as uninformed as the person they are babbling to.

Ziboo said...

It would probably help if Bliz would preface with - 'we're thinking about this change for Spring/Fall 2010/11. People wouldn't get their 'knickers in a knot' over it not coming out. Get it done early surprise!

The way it was worded was to much of a carrot on a stick. Hopefully it will but when . . .

thedoctor said...

"Most people don’t read much more than the headlines or possibly the first few paragraphs in a news article"

Couldn't agree with you more. Alot of people are planning on this and they are going to be complaining when they don't happen as soon as they think.

But hey, maybe I am wrong and it will happen with 3.2

good read as always

Carra said...

@Jormundgard. Team Fortress 2 had "Jarate" as april fool this year. It did make it into the game a few months later and is a kickass feature! Maybe WoW will follow.

If a feature is not on the to-do list for the next patch, it's not worth waiting for. It basically means "when we have time".

Dw-redux said...

@David, I really think you are beeing very naive about this.
New dances where on the box for wrath, it was a major selling point (yea ill admit it, as a dancing dorf i was very very much looking forward to this). As so was air combat.
Part of me thinks its fair enough that they go out and say "look, the flying combat thing... It didnt work, sorry". But its -like Larisa said- eating away at our trust in this company, that they use stuff like this to sell a game to us, only not to have the things included in the end.

"hey buddy, im selling this shirt, and when you buy it, you get this cool belt too...[...] What belt? Oh please, you got the shirt for the shirts sake, who care about some belt???" See what im getting at?

Anonymous said...

a tank raiding on a 7 day a week schedule could likely re-roll alliance and be up and raiding about two to three weeks after you accepted him.

at the very least long before any faction transfer is implemented.

Hatch said...

You know how you want to add a substantive comment, but you really don't have anything to add, but you liked the post, so you just say "good post" or "good point"?

This is one of those times for me!

Fitz said...

@ latest Anonymous - I completely agree. Assuming he spends a few hours raiding per night, continuous play can get you to 80 within a month. Another week of grinding some gear and he could be the tank you need, but if the skill and personality was there, it would be worth the wait.

As to the main point of the article, I completely agree that this is a weakness of news-readers in all walks of life. So many people get misled every day by only reading headlines that aren't really truthful. I'm just happy the patch dropped today so I don't have to explain the new emblem system anymore since it was so poorly explained by most news outlets and all my friends got confused.

Jacob said...

I think faction change was announced so far ahead of time because it's a huge change, and they want people to become accustomed to the idea.

It undoubtedly requires a huge number of changes, and I'd be surprised to even see it with 3.3.

(Changes like: what do you do if people have old PVP titles like Marshall or Warlord? What do you do about city rep or faction rep? What about mounts and non-combat pets? How about achievements - do horde quests or horde pets count toward alliance achievements for Loremaster or Petkeeper?

Messy messy messy.)

Birdfall said...

I think Blizz would like to do a lot of things but just don't have the time or gameplan. If you think about it, WoW players can be a pretty jump-to-conclusions panicky bunch. I don't know the percentage, but I've seen rumors spread and cause mass panic more than once.

Blizz has so much balancing and fixing and tweaking to do, and so much new content to create to keep the game fresh, that I bet they're saving quite a few requests for their next MMO. (I did a post on my speculation of their next MMO recently.)

A lot of confusion can be avoided by players reading Blizz notes carefully for expected timeframes. Critical thinking skills help, like "We would like to do this" means they like the idea but don't have time, or "We're working on this" means they've started tinkering with it but it may or may not work out in the long run.

I've learned not to expect anything until Blizz says it's ready for PTR testing.

@David: The dance studio has been the biggest let-down for me, as things like that are my favorite part of the game and the Wrath game box led us to believe that it would be an initial part of the expansion (I read somewhere the classic WoW had a similar promise about player housing or something?). I haven't complained about it even in private, but do feel a pang of sad when I think about it.

David said...

@Dw-redux and Birdfall

I'm at work at the moment, but from what I can find online, there is no mention of a dance studio on the WotLK box. Maybe it said 'new dances'...I'll have to check when I get home. My point is it was never a focus of the game, and not something to get worked up about. I still stand by my opinion that this is not the feature to make or break a massively multiplayer, dungeon exploring, hack and slash fantasy adventure role-playing game. If it was "World of War and Dancing Craft" missing dance features would be a glaring omission. For me, /dancing is something to do when waiting for an afk party member in a raid or dungeon. It is maybe .01% of the total game to me. So I am sorry that I cannot relate to your disappointment, and the disappointment of similar people posting on Blizzard's forums each day.

The dance studio announcement goes back right into my previous point. Blizzard says 'dance studios' at Blizzcon and then the rumor mill goes nuts and expectations totally blow away the reality of the situation. Blizzard never showed a mockup or feature list or preview or anything. There was never anything in the Beta or patch notes either. If you were so excited about the dance studio feature, it couldn't of been because of what Blizzard set out about the feature, but because of the externally generated hype surrounding the situation. Maybe you heard on a blog or fansite, "The dance studio will have so-and-so features, it will be so great!" And then when said features fail to materialize, it's understandable if you would be disappointed. But it's not the reality of the situation.

And really, who buys a game nowadays based on what is written on the back of the box? Casual gamers, maybe. Gamer's parents and non-gamers buying gifts? maybe. But players with long-term investment in the most popular MMORPG, that like the game so much they blog about it? I have trouble understanding that.

I just see a huge disconnect sometimes between what Blizzard says and players' reactions to that, and it frustrates me as a rational human being. I'm sorry if my criticisms sting but I stand by them.

Dw-redux said...

Doesn't sting at all david :)
And there is nothing wrong with disagreeing.
i never talked about a dance studio and if you remember the first trailer for wrath (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WF_1Pk_4UZk) you will remember that "new dances" where right up there with: death knight class, new profession: inscription and siege combat.
When they themselves sell the game on it, it most certainly means that a lot of people care about this. I see you don't. On the other hand if they remove arena, i wouldnt loose any sleep either. people play differently.
I'll repeat my analogy of the shirt seller and add, that yes you bought the shirt, but promised a belt too. Some people might have plenty of belts and really dont care about that. But does that mean that we should just shrug, since thats just how shirt sellers are?

Honestly?
really?
It was a major selling point for BLizzard, it was a way to create a buzz about the game for those that dont raid or pvp. It *is* blatandly lying to your customers. There is no way around it.
If you say something is there, and it isn't you are lying. And it saddens me that people -not unlike you- that didnt care about this part just go "c'mon, its not the end of the world".

Larísa said...

@Jormundgard: ... or maybe an answer in the line that they considering to become clearer about the timeschedule for upcoming changes, but that they haven't yet decided when this new policy will go live?

@David: I think you're mixing up things a bit in your arguing. I agree that there's a lot of whining going on in the community and that players sometimes go berserk about minor tweaks. I've even written posts myself about the astounding conservatism there is out there. But on the other hand I seriously think that Blizzard could benefit from looking over their communications, seeing if they couldn't become a little bit clearer and give the players a better overview of the state of planned changes. "Read the patch notes", yeah.... for a hardore player and blogger it's basic, but if you look at it in reality, most players are far more casual than that. Like it or not, rumours will start when the information is too hard to interpret for the majority. And I think that is harmful and causes a lot of unnecessary misunderstandings and disappointment.
I think one start would be to look at their website and see how they could improve it. I'm certain it can be made clearer. But they seem to focus on other stuff, that frankly is less important. Like recently, when they proudly informed that they hade made some more info pages about Sunwell Island. Sunwell Island, for crying out loud! While players still can get the idea that faction changes are coming NOW. Something is not working as it should.

@Magma: I don't agree that they're necessarily idiots. Some people are less good at sorting out written information. And there's surely a flood of it. I get lost in it myself from time to time, missing important stuff. And then I'm pretty good at this, having studied at uni etc.

@Ziboo: yeah, that kind of time information would help a long way.

@Thedoctor: hm... don't think it's happening now. But even I was uncertain for a while when I first read the app...


@Carra: the question is: what's the point of displaying "when we have time" things? Maybe keep it in your drawer would be a better idea...

@Dw-redux: oh I agree. Even though it isn't game breaking when they don't deliver stuff they've said they would do, it nags a little bit of our trust. Piece by piece.

@Anonymous: yeah, you're probably right.

@Hatch: thanks!

@Fitz: oh yeah. I don't know how much complaints I've had to take from readers when I was a writing journalist - people were angry about the headlines, which I didn't set. You would be surprised how little people actually read of the articles. (that's a good reason why you should put the not-so-important-stuff in the back, since they're not likely to read it anyway).
Maybe Blizzard should focus on better headlines and better first few lines in their informative posts.

@Jakob: maybe they're announcing it so early not only to get acceptance for it, but also to get ideas about how to solve those issues?

@Birdfall: but surely players shouldn't have to read the notes very very carefully, figuring out exactly what Blizzard means by "we'd like to" or "we're working on". They could very well be clearer about it from the beginning. If they were careful and cared enough about it.

Birdfall said...

This is really late for a reply, but I thought I'd address the false assumption that I don't have my facts straight or jumped to conclusions based on rumor (ouch, btw):

Blizzard advertised the dance studio on their official Wrath announcement website, before they even put screenshots up of the Wrath world (trust me, I checked every day to see if they showed new hair yet). I didn't look for it on the Wrath box itself once I got it (space there is saved for specs and stuff, plus I was too busy installing) but it was definitely an official promise on an official site, in a list, along with new hair and skin. Official in the way that I clicked it from my game launcher, not official in that someone just said it was.

I always keep up with this sort of thing as much as hardcores keep up with new raid gear, and I always verify my sources. That's kind of what my blog is about. The fun stuff of the game.

"I am sorry that I cannot relate to your disappointment"
You don't need to feel what we feel. You just need to respect that we feel it and maybe even realize that our feelings are important too.

I don't check back here for replies, but I did go after my last post and examine why your first comment here bothered me:
http://birdfall.blogspot.com/2009/08/pang-of-sad-or-your-priorities-are-not.html

Too many people who play WoW have an overwhelming want of sympathy for anyone who doesn't play the way they play. We'd have less clashes if people just learned to respect different playstyles and interests, if we had fewer uses of "casual" or "hardcore" as a bad word.

Bleh. The whole thing makes me sick.

Birdfall said...

P.S. They're still working on dance studios, confirmed at BlizzCon. In case anyone missed it.

http://birdfall.blogspot.com/2009/08/q-update-or-dance-studios-wut.html