Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Was it Greed or Need That Made Blizzard Kill their Darlings?

Lonomonkey made a very colorful post where he analyzed the real reason why Blizzard cut out the Path of the Titans and the Guild talents from Cataclysm. He pictures the Blizzard staff as slaves

"dressed in rags, skin taunt against their bones, eyes wild and beard gone unshaven for too long. They're bound to their desk by ball and chain to make sure no escape is possible. Behind them a taskmaster is beating the drum to set the pace.... Welcome to WoW Cataclysm development!"
Lonomonkey estimates from figures from Warcraft realm census that WoW is down to 6 million players, a loss of half of the playerbase. (Personally I'd dare say the loss is bigger; have you really counted on the loss of Chinese players?) He thinks that it's the pressure from the investors that has forced them to this decision. The game is losing players too quickly, so they have to ship the expansion as soon as possible. And the motto of "When it's ready" went out through the window.

Is he right? We've all seen with our own eyes how it looks on the servers and what has happened to our guilds and friends lists. Can they really be completely unaffected by this? For a couple of months over the summer - certainly. But I've got the feeling this has been going on for quite a while now. It's hard to believe they'll go unaffected through this. They're a business and they're expected to pull more than their own weight.

On the other hand: the sparkling pony surely must have given them quite a revenue. Shouldn't that be enough to keep the shareholders silenced for a little while, buying some more time and resources for further development?

Ghostcrawler's comments
Ghostcrawler sticks to the official version, saying that they're following their ideals just as they've always done. They do what they think is necessary for the game. Period.

He has commented on the official forums:

First in this post:

"Nobody wanted to see a feature that felt like it delivered on half its potential. Nobody wanted to be thinking about how we were going to "fix the flawed Paths system" in 5.0. If we can come up with a design we like, then we'll try again in the future.

A big part of game design is triage -- knowing when something is good enough, knowing when something can be good with just a little more work, and knowing when something is a lost cause... at least for now. There are very few WoW features that we kill outright. Most go into a design parking lot, and we get together every few months to review those features and consider what to work on next.

Fortunately, one of the benefits of being Blizzard is we don't have to ship a product until we think it's ready. Our marketing department works with us on the game, but they understand that when the game is ready is ultimately up to the team. We didn't
cut it because we ran out of time. We cut it because we didn't think the design
we had was fun. At the high level we still like the idea, and if we can solve some of the problems we might bring it back in the future."
And then in another one:

"If you were a game developer, perhaps you'd make different choices in our shoes. It's a subjective business and if you were super passionate about guild talents, perhaps you could have come up with a model that solved all of our concerns. Sometimes those concerns are visible early and sometimes you really have to get into the meat of the implementation before you realize the problems. We think the Blizzard development model has worked pretty well for over 15 years. Part of that model is being willing to cut something (features, or even titles) that isn't working out, no matter how much effort we've put into them. Keeping a feature that didn't work but that was clearly the pet feature of some developer has marred several potentially good games.

[...] As I mentioned in the above response, we have killed entire games and even game worlds before. If you go back and look at previous expansions of World of Warcraft, and certainly vanilla, there were features on the list that eventually were scrapped or changed into something completely different. As with much of our design, the alternative is not to share any information until we are 100% sure it is going to come to pass. That would mean you would know almost nothing about Cataclysm at this stage though, which would also be pretty frustrating. Every good game studio I know cuts features (and titles!) all the time.

It's like sculpting in stone. It's like good writing. You carve away until what you have left is the best you can make it. "

Blizzard's core values
It was easy to agree on Lonomonkeys conclusion that it was greed that made them take the decision. But then I read Ghostcrawler's passionate reassurance that they're doing this only for "need" reasons. They're just doing what they think is best for the game. Should I believe them? I don't know. I know one thing: I sure want to! I like Ghostcrawler better as a sculpter than as a slave.

I've always loved Blizzard's core values. Commit to quality. "At the end of the day, most players won’t remember whether the game was late -- only whether it was great."

I want to believe and I can't help once again wishing I could see Ghostcrawler and his friends in person. Polished corporate clichés is one thing. But his eyes would reveal the truth.

34 comments:

Shannara said...

Well, the guy is right. Right now, Blizzard have yet to release the rest of the WotLK expansion. And of that, they refuse to release, and rest, they decided to remain silent on ...

Now, given that is now how they handle expansions, it is not surprising that they nerfed/removed 1/2 of the cataclysm expansion. The only thing that is new (not rehashed) are 5 levels, a few new zones, and a few new raids.

That Is All, the rest is just regular patch material, not new expansion.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

The truth is somewhere between. I get the feeling that while Blizzard has been given a lot of latitude in the past, it's not just business as usual over there. Let's not forget what Activision, Blizzard's owners, did to Infinity Ward.

That said, I can definitely agree that sometimes you need to make painful cuts to your design to make it fit within schedule and budget. Given that Blizzard's never been one to worry about schedules or budgets in the past, I suspect this means there's a bit more pressure on the team now than there has been in the past.

My thoughts.

techdeft said...

You always say you aren't very good with the english language, but I disagree. You spelled reveal incorrectly, but it made me realize, I don't recall seeing another mistake before this!

Pumpkin_King said...

I think saying they've gotten rid of half of Cataclysm is a little (a lot) harsh. Don't forget we're still seeing a major, MAJOR overhaul of the stat system, hunter resources, how moves work, how we'll level up, professions, etc. What got scrapped? What, two things? Path and guild talents.

Most of the Path stuff is being moved to Archaeology, (I still contend Path of the Titans still would've been a nuisance more than anything) and a couple of the guild things are being rolled into guild leveling.

The world isn't ending, and this *is* still a full expansion.

Anonymous said...

I'm not convinced there were any significant scheduling or budget constraints involved in the decision to cut PotT or guild talents. If nothing else, of all the things that Blizzard lacks, money is probably the lowest thing on that list. In addition, we don't know when they decided to cut PotT for good, and the reason they give seems eminently plausible to me.

Grimmtooth said...

Well, a nice bit of fantasy and wishful thinking.

"Then you add in the fact that they are loosing a lot of subscribers since mid-march"

A fact? Based off of what? Maybe "fact" means something different in the fantasy world he inhabits, but in my world I need, well, actual statistics to back it up. Where are these "facts" he speaks of?

"A lot of features dropped". ORLY? How do we define "a lot" here? Two? Three? Really, what has been dropped from the original plan?

I'm sorry, but when I see talk like that my bullshit meter pegs.

There are grains of truth embedded in the wild conjecture, but grains of truth do not a conclusion make.

For example, it is LIKELY true that the China thing is making a dent in the revenue stream, but it's hard to say how much considering that the billing structure is COMPLETELY different. But LIKELY doesn't equal FACT.

And while the boss of Activision/Blizzard makes Carly Fiorina look like Mother Teresa in comparison, it says nothing as to the actual pressures that might be coming to bear on the WoW development staff at this point.

To your point over there, of course there's time pressure to get something done right on a timeline. People seem to think that software development is easy. It's not. If it were, you'd be doing it too, I'm sure. Truth is, it's a complex thing, and I don't envy them the task of unwinding the knot they made when they first assumed it was a 2-3 year project.

I will leave with this one point: all the naysayers out there start with the proposition that Blizz staffers are totally lying to us. That's pretty sad.

Redbeard said...

I'll be honest in that I haven't seen a lot of people dropping off. A-52 is still getting locked on Tuesdays, and it's still painful to walk through Dal in the evening. The wait times for a 5-man haven't shrunk a bit, and I still run into people in The Ghostlands who tell me that this is their first character.

Perhaps the people who are leaving are those who finished the ICC raid line, but my guild hasn't finished it yet. I still see "the Patient" moniker far more often than "Kingslayer" whenever I queue up for a 5-man, so I don't think enough people have reached the end yet.

Edyion said...

I think its more Blizzard was aiming to high with all the things they wanted to do with the expansion to begin with. Developers are paid to come up with grand day dreams and all but sadly they don't always fit into the greater whole. The things they cut might simply be because the just don't fit right now or are just too big an undertaking for the staff to handle along with all the things that can be done in a timely manor. It probably would have been better if they kept most of the things to themselves before the game was close to done but with the Blizzcon three ring circus they have to have something shiny to show the people even if it doesn't make it into the game at the time, or for that matter, at all.

Stabs said...

I think they're paying the price of an increasingly open policy.

Back before WoW first released they mentioned player housing, have never managed to implement and have never stopped being criticised.

They learned their lesson and stopped mentioning features unless they were very sure.

They've become increasingly open however over the last couple of years due to Ghostcrawler's interaction with the community.

Due to their increased openness they've mentioned things that under previous teams would not have been publicised at such an early stage.

Expect a new phase of Blizzard being a LOT more careful about what they promise.

Carina said...

That might be the writer in me, but I've always found that killing one's darling's a GOOD thing.

Afterall, it wouldn't be the darling if there wouldn't be too much emotional attachment, which means it's true worth is overstated on creator side. Now if problems arise too much time is spent on fixing the darling (which often even isn't possible), time that's better spent at making other stuff better.

Killing darlings makes a book/game better.

Ngita said...

Redbeard your looking in the wrong place. Kingslayers tend to not need many emblems. I would say about 1/4 of the ICC 25 Pug i ran last sunday had kingslayer. 9/12 and could have gone 10 but we started to lose people.

Blizzard likes to ship when they are ready, the beancounters like Black friday in november. Revenue? Their was a blog post with numbers recently unfortunately I can not remember the source but blizzard has the highest profit margins in the business.

I would go with Ghostcrawler official version here, but their problem is regardless of when they ship Cata, they can't leave their users without new content for too long. Ruby sanctum is allready filler but its pretty much impossible to give a single boss that more then a bump in the road for good guilds and puggable by the masses.

Aurik said...

Larísa, I get the feeling you're getting a wee bit disenchanted with the game of late - many of your recent posts have tended along the negative or, perhaps, wistful lines.

I don't think there's much reason to second-guess Blizzard when they say why they're doing a thing. You can't know and they won't say different. Sure everyone has to say the company line but, as someone said, to assume that they're lying as a base is a bit off. It makes me think of all of the forum trolls who believe that Blizzard specifically hate particular classes...

I'm also, like Grimm, a little sceptical of the idea that Blizzard is losing a 'lot' of subscribers - we're hitting the pre-expansion lull, and some people you know might be heading off into the real life world for a bit, but every day I am still meeting people who're new to the game! That is what seems important to me - that after this many years the company is *still* bringing in new players =)

There's also the fact that whilst they have scrapped guild *talent trees* they are not removing the rest of what was there - all guilds will still be able to earn the perks which should have been associated with those trees, without the need to choose particular ones, from what I understand - which is hardly 'dropping' that feature - just changing the nature of it.

Taking out PotA and making archaeology non-mandatory in terms of character development is fine by me - especially if it means less repetitiveness in levelling characters (I really hate having to do the same rep quests over and again as it is, with my altitis ;) )

/hug

Holly said...

I'm also not sure I agree, I think maybe -some- of this decision could be due to the playerbase 'leaving' in some way, I think it's more likely just them realizing how long they can slack on content, with ICC quickly burning out players these days and ruby sanctum not going to give them much longer.

Blizzard has occasionally responded to the demands by the playerbase, when wrath was steamrolled they gave us ulduar, when ulduar was 'too hard' they gave us the ToC disaster, when raiders wanted a real raid, they gave us ICC, now we want an expansion.

Also this is certainly by no means features like this have been scrapped only to come back later. Heck that's 99.9% of what cataclysm's about!

They had Hyjal half finished, Uldum half finished, Deathwing instance was in the idea stages. I've heard promises of the Emerald Dream zone/instance in the whispers since sometime in Vanilla WoW, even remember seeing a completed zone with a partially completed instance. Power Word: Barrier was supposed to sneak into priests spellbooks at wrath launch, now it's sneaking in at cataclysm's launch.

So yes, in my vote it's some pressure, Blizzard's reduced design team (as it has been proven that's shrunk), and them wanting to 'finish' the expansion first before adding bells and whistles that is influencing this design, over whether it's hurting for money, I doubt it, while WoW may be hitting an all time low in subscriptions, when the pet store and new features I'm sure that's helping the low end of their bump, let's also not forget Starcraft 2 (which is even getting a tv show apparently? O.o) Is in it's pre-order and almost order stage, a source of income they basically haven't seen in a decade, with Diablo 3 around the corner (I -think- it's even possible to pre-order this some places.) Another source of income they haven't seen in a few years.

Perdissa said...

These announcements kinda made me go "oh, okay". Didn't care too much about either anyway. I think these days I’m continuing to play through sheer force of habit. I’ve currently completed loremaster for eastern kingdoms, working at kalimdor now. Am I enjoying it? Well, rather a bit more than I thought I would, to be honest.

Completely off topic, happened to be in Stockholm on Saturday. I was at a Burger King waiting to use the washroom, when a guy walked out and he had torn clothes, a grey complexion and was bleeding from a dozen places. He walked out of the fast food restaurant and prompted joined a small group of zombies outside. I followed along and realized that they were having their annual zombie parade. What a craaazy place. Wish I lived here.

Larísa said...

@Shannara: Well, to be fair I think there’s a ton of work put into the expansion. Just this thing to make it possible to fly over the entire old world must have been a nightmare to work through. And if you love to level alts you’ve got a LOT of new content. But yeah, for a main hugger it looks a little bit less, although I’d definitely call it an expansion rather than a patch.

@Brian Pshychochild Green: yeah I would also say so. It’s a little bit of both. I think Ghostcrawler believes in what he’s saying, but he’s conclusion still might have been influenced subconsciously by the underlying pressure.

@Techdeft: oh, what a sweet way to point out a spelling error! Big thanks! Corrected. That word is a blind spot to me. I would have spotted it though if I hadn’t finished the post at 2 AM. (Note to myself: don’t blog at that time of the night.)

@Pumpkin King: Yeah, I would say so too until proved the opposite.

@Anonymous: no, I guess we’ll never quite know, all we can do is speculate a bit… Like I’m doing now. It’s fun to do but you have to take it for what it is: guesses.

@Grimmtooth: I hope you’re right. As I said: I want to believe they’re not lying.

@Redbeard: That’s very different to what I’ve seen. But maybe it varies between the servers.

@Edvion: Maybe looking back it was a mistake to talk so much in detail about this at Blizzcon, giving the impression that this really would happen. After all; they didn’t lack other news to talk about. I think the players would have become as impressed and interested in the expansion anyway.

@Stabs: It’s a double edged sword, really. In one way I DO want to see them talk about work in procedure. But maybe it’s good if they can be very clear over that it’s just ideas and nothing decided. I’m sure they say this kind of disclaimers already as it is, but this kind of messages can be pretty hard to get through.

@Carina: Oh, killing your darlings is definitely an important part of the art of writing. I’m a fan of it myself, and that’s why I used the term in the heading in the first place.

@Ngita: Yeah…. I’m with you there. They’re a bit in a hurry. It’s not as much about losing money as about losing people to other hobbies, not necessary gaming ones. Once they’re not under the spell of WoW anymore, won’t it be harder to get them back, the longer time passes?

@Aurik: as a long time reader I think you should know that I’ve always had a stroke of melancholy in my posts ever since start. It comes and goes and yeah, maybe there have been a few slightly disillusioned posts recently. I think they spring from the fact that my guild has been struggling, and that our GM has left it, which will make it tough to keep it going. Nevertheless I HAVE written a couple of fairly cheerful posts recently, about my two-man pugging in Maraudon, about the joy of seeing Karazhan again and about our wonderful anniversary. But I hear you. It’s not the first time and probably not the last either that someone remarks that I sound a bit sad. So be it.. Isn’t that what you have pubs for?

@Holly: Well, I don’t think they’re running out of money. Far from. But they might feel some pressure on getting Cataclysm done. Still I want to believe that the main reason is the one they stated.

@Perdissa. Zombie parade! That must have been some sight. Would have been even more fun if they had scheduled it for Saturday this week, when the entire city will be absolutely crowded with people there to watch the Royal Wedding.

Redbeard said...

@ngita: You're right in that the greatest chance of seeing Kingslayer is in raid runs, but I'm going on what I'm able to see. I don't raid, so I observe around Dal and the several 5-mans I run per day. There's been a gradual uptick in the title around A-52, but for now it seems to have leveled off. By contrast, I still see far more Twilight Vanquisher titles walking around Dal than Kingslayer. (Yes, I do my share of Dal observing while in guild chat.)

iapetes said...

I would say it has more to do with what a stupid and awful idea path of the titans was. Not the part about it being linked to archeology, that was kinda cool. But the fact that all it'd offer were these lame generic abilities that we'd tie into macros for other abilities. Medium glyphs is a much more interesting system.

Their reasoning for getting rid of guild talents is also perfectly sound. And it's not like there's a loss of features from the talents, we'll still get those just by leveling up.

Everyone's making a big deal out of nothing. This isn't stuff that was cut because they're on a strict time schedule. These things were cut because they're bad ideas.

2nd Nin said...

If anything I think these deaths were a good thing. Guilds will still retain ranks, what they lose is the customisation of talents. Gc said it correctly that having choices in pvp, pve, crafting and levelling perks would make a guild make choices, and thus you pick your guild in part for the bonuses it gives you as a player.

I am actually against the guild levelling and reputation anyway since it acts as an artificial barrier to players outwith the system. Currently guilds are only meta enhancements to the game, you can do and see everything with out a guild if you desire to. With guilds offering perks it is no longer sane and sensible to be guildless even if you do not wish to be guildless.

Path of the titans was another complete mess, utilising a secondary skill to force progression slowing on characters. As the game stands our primary professions, talent and gear affect our ability to raid, fishing and cooking do not. This tertiary system felt like a cludge anyway, what was it actually addressing? It was a mandatory side system to achieve your potential, yet locked. If they want us to gain abilities you can do so through the regular mechanics of the game using a reputation and drop system.

Both of what we lost seem like good things to me, asides to the game that punish players rather than support their choices.

Hugmenot said...

The problem from my perspective is not whether Path of the Titan, Guold Talents, and (it now looks like) Reforging were good or bad additions of the game, the problem is the reasons stated from dropping these featires.

I find very hard to believe such features would have gone past the conception phase if the reasons for their cancellation were in fact true.

It does not take months of development to determine how the Guild Talent Points will be spent according to the whim of the Guild Master. This was known as soon as the idea is first evaluated.

I don't believe there is any way around this one unless Blizzard redesign guilds, and that would have been much bigger news in my opinion.

It does not take months of development to determine sites such Elitist Jerks will find which paths are best for various roles and thus turn the path into just another grind. This was known as soon as the idea was first evaluated.

While it may possible Blizzard wanted to offer several "equivalent rewards" at the end, that can be tested independently of the path itself.

The reasons stated today on mmo-champion for dropping Reforging sounds out the same vein. I expected to hear Blizzard dropped Reforging because the technical challenges are too great for the benefits Reforging provides.

From my perspective, it looks like either Blizzard is lying or they have a very bad concept evaluation decision maker (or process).

2nd Nin said...

@Hugmenot,
It can take a lot of time to get the framework and system working and then to eventually want to set it aside after it has become something you have worked on can be hard. The other issue is that the technical side was likely done and dusted, and then they looked at the content to go into that side and discovered that to make the bonuses even moderately appealing they would be too powerful an incentive to simply guild swap to get the right set.

As for reforging, frankly it was a stupid idea. Taking half of a stat and redistributing it to another seems like a great plan but its not really given the way the stats would work, you would lose more ilevels than you could gain, making the item effectively a last tier drop... It also complicates item management (need to store more information on a weapon / item), and as GC said people would want to see it as a useful skill rather than an ability to create last tier items out of semi-useful items. With the homogenisation of gear and classes towards actually favouring the same stats you wouldn't really want to take much away anyway barring strange cross tier gear setups. It is another "great idea" with a lousy implementation.

If they wanted it to work the items reforged would have to be the same effective ilevel (in which case all items would get reforged to be the most effective stats - see EJ for your reforges) or the reforging makes a more powerful item in which case its the same as an enchant... Making lower tier items from stuff that is already useful makes no sense when we are penalised for wearing off set armour now, your penalty for taking a mail item and reforging it to be more useful to a plate wearer would be higher than even the ilevel cost.

All in all, we haven't lost anything but gimmicks. Good ideas but the implementations we had to date were simply badly thought out.

Anonymous said...

As a product development manager, I recognize GC's "parking lot" of good but unfinished ideas. That's exactly what happens. You don't just forget about an interesting idea because it's not practical; you put it on a list of interesting ideas to pick up later.

GC said that "a big part of game design is triage". Triage means making decisions based on time, money and quality. Cost is always a factor in development, but Blizzard is also smart enough to not intentionally release features or products that fail to meet their quality standards.

Blizzard's WoW team is working on a number of different projects for Cataclysm and they don't have endless resources so triage affects those as well. Their product group could have been faced with a decision between focusing on talent trees, new boss encounters or the path of the titans. If path of the titans looked like an uncertain project, it's entirely reasonable that they made the decision to shelve that and focus their energy on polishing a more promising part of the game.

Gronthe said...

Quoting from Activision|Blizzard's financial reports, section 1A on "Risks":

1)The future success of our business depends on our ability to release popular products in a timely manner.

AND, not necessarily contrary to #1 is

2)If our products contain defects, our business could be harmed significantly.

From a money point of view, Blizz understands the importance of delivering the product to the market in a time frame that will enable them to reach their stated revenue goals ($4.2B per GAAP for 2010). So the mantra "At the end of the day, most players won’t remember whether the game was late -- only whether it was great" is only allowed so much latitude by upper management responsible to the shareholders and the business in general.

However, according to #2 (above) they realize that when they do ship it they need to send out a quality product, free of as many defects as possible. Be that technical or asthetic or player-deemed defects. I think the devs are trying to make the best product they possibly can, and any recent changes are along those lines.

However, there are definately little whispers in their ears to release it soon, they have clearly defined financial expectations to meet.

Kotakh said...

@Hugmenot and 2nd Nil

The reforging thing isnt being dropped. Its just not gonna be a player ability. It's gonna be a NPC ability.

"Reforging will be done by NPCs in cities, it will let you reduce a secondary stat by 40% and put those points into a different stat. Secondary stats are pretty much any "rating" stats, you cannot reforge primary stats such as Strength, Stamina, Intellect, etc ... The cost of reforging will be the vendor cost of the item, it can be done on any item from green to purple."

Hugmenot said...

@2ndNin
I expected Blizzard to announce they dropped Reforging because of the technical difficulties require a lot more work than the benfits of the feature warrant.

I would have accepted that logic.

Instead, what we have is Blizzard stating three facts:
1. There are a plenty of new recipes already
2. Concern over making players feel at all dependent on reforging for income.
3. The inconvenience of going to AH or use trade chat or find a friend to reforge an item/

From my perspective:
1. This was already known. Reforging was created to add some (player controlled) variability to manufactured items, not as a substitute for recipes.
2. Blizzard could have predicted the same thing (whether it is true or not) in the conception phase without ever developing a framework to test the idea.
3. Blizzard could and should have known this without ever developing any framework to test the idea.

Without voicing an opinion whether Reforging is good or bad, I do not buy the reasons Blizzard stated as the real cause of the removal.

That's all.

I also don't believe the reasons Blizzard stated for removing the Path of the Titan and especially Guild Talents.

The fact Heroic Deadmines and Shadowfang Keep may not be ready for launch is just another reason for me to believe they have an internal drop-dead release date and features needed to be cut for them to meet this date.

2nd Nin said...

Moving it to an NPC seems reasonable however a little odd given how few other non-baseline-consumables are provided by NPCs.

The question is though how this rating adaptation is going to work, if it simply takes 40% of the stat and reproduces it as another stat then it will massively undervalue the new stat given how much costs scale under the current ilevel system with more of a stat.

Anonymous said...

Blizzard is exposing the process of development to an audience who has a vested interest in the outcome but virtually no understanding of how that process normally works. This is a PR mistake in my book. The team understands the process too well to see where the lay person's gaps in knowledge are and this opens the door for speculation and disappointment.

Of course they have an internal release date in mind. Saying that they'll ship when "it's done" is another way of saying that what's included will meet the quality standards they have. They'll cut out an instance instead of delaying launch for 2 years while they work out the details. The company makes revenue projections and does what it can to meet them.

Talarian said...

As I've mentioned before, I'm a developer for a large company, with a fairly lengthy release cycle. I can tell you from practice that what ideas people come up with and what ends up being in the final product can be pretty wildly different as people beging to flesh out designs, code up the feature, and then put it in front of internal testers. Many ideas that sounded cool on paper end up being infeasible for any number of reasons, and I don't see why World of Warcraft would be any different in this regard.

As a fellow developer, Ghostcrawler's reasoning sounds perfectly reasonable. I think the Anonymous above me hit the nail on the head with the comment about revealing a lot about the development process to an audience who does not understand said process. I'd add to that the audience is often actively hostile and assumes everything is a promise, rather than ideas. All this adds up to a very confused, angry, and disappointed audience when the realities of software development kicks in.

At the very least, what I've learned from the process is that software development isn't so different in the game industry, and that giving information to the general populace will end only in tears for both sides. I'd be very surprised if Blizzard doesn't cut back on community communication significantly after Cataclysm is released. And frankly, I wouldn't blame them one bit.

Grimmtooth said...

@Talarian - /nod

I know for sure that complex systems - like this - tend to turn out differently than planned, especially when several design teams contribute to the codebase. It's one reason for testing. If developers developed code that was 100% predictable, well then, I'd be out of a job.

To paraphrase BRK, "bless thier buggy little souls."

Ngita said...

@ Redbeard, the usage cycle of titles is probably a whole different topic.

Personally I achieved kingslayer from 10's a couple of months ago, used it for week then swapped back to nothing. More recently I got the 25 man acheivement and have used it since as it felt like I deserved it more. I will probably retire it again soon. On the other hand I have it on my alt from a alt(no mains) run, thats a real acheivement and I will possibly keep it for years.

@larisa yes thats a succint reply. Its not about the money, its about wanting to keep us entertained and continuing to play, that will of course in the long term result in more money.

Larísa said...

@Iapetes: I’d say we’re making a big deal out of it since Blizzard actually did that themselves in the presentations at Blizzcon. As I said in an earlier post, they’re definitely not crucial to my own decision whether to play or not.

@2ndNin: I actually think it’s good that Blizzard gives incentives for players to guild up, trying to prevent WoW to turn into a single-player game where you see other players, but basically treat them and look upon them as NPCs. The social interaction is a core feature of WoW and it’s also important from a business point of view since I’d dare say it keeps player subscribing. It’s a win-win thing to push players towards forming guilds. Of course it’s a balancing act – the game should be enjoyable also for loners. But I don’t think the step to give a few perks to guilds will ruin the game for anyone.

But I suppose it’s kind of hard to discuss if you’re on the opposite lines on this. It’s about as fruitless as to discuss 10/25 man raiding or casual/hardcore… We’re all coloured in our views by our own selfish interests. There’s no one who is truly unbiased (apart from possibly the developers themselves.)

@Hugmenot: I’d say lying is a very strong word. Thinking about it I’d rather vote for Brian’s suggestion that the truth is somewhere in between. They took away something that didn’t’ work. But there’s also a certain amount of pressure on them right now.

@Anonymous: Yeah, I think so too. It’s always about prioritizing from the resources you have available. And those features weren’t important enough to take overhand on for instance new boss encounters. Time IS a limiting factor. Even for Blizzard.

@Gronthe: The question is how you define a “defect”. I suppose they think that the game is good enough without having those two features. They don’t’ consider it “defect” without it.

@Anonymous 2: Yeah, it would be strange if they didn’t have a date in mind. And that’s why we now see ideas such as heroic DM cut out. I just wonder how long we’ll have to wait now for the announcement of the release date.

@Talarian: that’s really a sad development, but I’m afraid you may be right. As you know I’m advocating openness and communication. I think they made a mistake in this, not making it clear enough to the audience how premature those ideas were. But I hope it won’t make the pendulum go all the way out in the other direction, thus muting GC.

2nd Nin said...

Larisa, as I said guilds already offer meta-benefits to players, adding guild reputation (If I join a guild with old friends I start with 0 despite being exalted in a meta fashion and them willing to give me the perks?) and perks that are likely game unbalancing to certain people but not allowing it to all. why can't my solo Paladin put in the effort of 20 people and eventually build my castle, or become famous enough to receive a discount at even the most thrifty of goblin stores?

One of the benefits WoW has is that it does not penalise the single player beyond the requirement for a number of people to complete the content. What I suppose I would like to see is a generalised "guild" / "order" that unguilded folks can be part of and rep as though it was a guild (so the same effort is involved or more to get the same perks). Then there is no punishment, being unguilded means you revert back to being a novice in the generalised orders, being guilded gives you the meta benefits of a guild and a faster way to access all of the perks.

I know you see the social side and want to be in the guild, but alas I haven't found the group of people I want to actually play with yet that are also at the level of progression I would like to be at. Instead I have short term guild affairs (join, discover its not for me, leave) and spend a long time pugging and meeting people I do like but are spread across many guilds.

It just seems a shame to lose the no-penalty to being a single player attitude that WoW has always had for such little gain.

lonomonkey said...

@Grimtooth: You are more than welcome to comment on my blog if you want to challenge me on numbers or if you don't agree. As for the mid-march numbers I cannot find them because WoW census doesn't keep a history of them so I had to go with memory.

I am impressed by the wild conjecture you are using to attack me however.

I find it funny however that any time you say something not to the advantage of WoW you instantly get called a liar, bullshit and all other manners or fun names. If you want to play the honesty card on me please do so unbiased.

2nd Nin said...

The major issue with numbers is that Blizzard never had 11 million actual subscribers. Between secondary accounts (I accounted for 6 accounts at one point), and the chinese market which is totally differently organised I think the number was something like 6-7 million in subscription paying countries.

So how many they have lost may not be as bad, my secondary accounts are all gone now to passive sedentary, likely others letting things lapse like that as well.

Tesh said...

"A big part of game design is triage"

Truer words might not be found in those quotes. I even wrote about game design scope recently, addressing this in my own blathering way.

So I'll echo Psychochild on this, noting that even if WoW were run as a charity by a guy with a money printing press, features would still have to be cut for various reasons. That's just game design and software development.

Also, it might be worth noting that if an idea is bad or is found to have repercussions not thought of when announced (like guild talents), it's a healthy thing to cut the error before it's institutionalized, cancerous and set in stone. That's even a good reason to launch an idea into the public eye; the refiner's fire of public opinion might just show the flaws in an idea... for better or worse.

Oh, and for as open as Blizzard is of late, you can be certain they are still keeping cards close to the vest. There is a bigger picture here... probably several layers of bigger pictures.