Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The button that can make GM Zhafaarion out of work

Boubouille over at MMO Champion calls it "one of the most amazing features of Cataclysm, really". He might be exaggerating a little bit but, to be honest I think I'm not the only one to think that the incoming "Return to Graveyard" button will be handy.

This is a feature especially designed to help out confused gnomes that get have the habit of getting stuck in ghost form, after dying in a strange location.

Does it sound familiar? You've given up about getting to your body long time ago, you've accepted your defeat and will happily pay the repair bill and endure the debuff, if you only could find the goddamn sprit healer. It's just that now he's gone and you have no idea of where to find him. The map doesn't help you either, because for some unknown reason Blizzard has decided to keep the graveyards secret. It's like one of those military installations that you can encounter sometimes. It obviously exists, because you see it, but you're not allowed to capture it on a map or a picture.

But now Blizzard in their infinite wisdom has decided that enough is enough. No more restless hovering. Just pull the emergency handle and BAM you're saved.

And we are not the only ones to be saved. I suspect that this will save them a bit of GM workload as well, and I guess that's one of the reasons why they're giving it to us in the first place. Why let paid GMs spend time on this when the players can help themselves? It's not as if body-searching provides something extra or is an essential part of the gameplay. It's just plain annoying, most of the time.

A story from Maraudon
There are exceptions though. This weekend something happened that almost made me regret the incoming change. The story took place in Maraudon, one of the most feared body traps in the game. As a matter of fact I've never ever been able to find my way back into it after dying in there, so it's not the instance of my choice so to say. But now I had ended up there after using the LFD tool for my level 42 frost mage (a very long term little side project of mine in case you're wondering.)

I prayed silently that we wouldn't wipe as we aimlessly wandered around in the caves, looking for the end boss that would make the instance considered completed. Finally we found and killed they guy. So far so good. But before we had decided what to do now - break up, finish the rest of the instance or queue up again, someone pulled another pack of trash mobs and we wiped. And not surprisingly, it turned out that none of us was able to find the way back. The entire party was in ghostform for the longest, every now and then asking each other: "have YOU any idea of how to get back?" No one had. Eventually we broke up before anyone had resurrected.

I found myself completely lost in the labyrinth surrounding the instance. Sometimes I was apparently quite close to the entrance, since I got a message telling me that I had to enter the instance to resurrect. Thank you very much, but I had an inkling about that already. However I couldn't find the magic door and I got more and more frustrated. After a while I decided to give up on it and go back to the spirit healer instead. But that's when the true devilish nature of this maze would show. The entrance I came through had vanished. I was stuck.

If you think about it, it could be a possible manner to spend the rest of your time in the game. If it had been on an RP server I could have become a gnome ghost, haunting the depths of Maraudon, spreading fear into anyone daring to set their foot there.

But thinking about how people get into instances these days, teleporting themselves into them, I figured that it would be rather lonely in the long run, with not many players around to scare.

So instead I went for my last resort. I decided to write a GM ticket, pleading for mercy and help to get out of this.

An unexpected meeting
Actually I didn't expect very much to come from it. I wasn't even sure of this was the kind of problems you could get help with - after all there wasn't anything in the game that was malfunctioning apart from my sense of direction. It was self inflicted. And if they did something about it at all, they could very well let it wait a few days - or even until Cataclysm, when those issues would be solved anyway.

Can you guess how long it took me from that I wrote the ticket until a GM whispered me? I think it was about 10 seconds, if even that long. Before I knew it, fellow gnome and GM Zhafaarion came to my rescue. Not only did he have the sweetest conversation with me, bringing me out from the caves and back to life (he had some really good cables, that guy) - he also met up with me where we could have a little dance- and hug-party in this far distant place. He gave a final demonstration of his gnomish powers as he departed in an earthquake so big that I'm sure it will have some consequences for the geography of the old world. In case something will change I know where it started: right outside Maraudon.

It turned out that I had been chosen to answer to a survey about what I thought about the service I just had gotten. I don't know if it was a coincidence or not that I got it, but I gave him the best superlatives I could think of. I hope he'll get a pay raise.

Cutting down costs
We've reached the end of my story and it brings me back to the topic - the introduction of Return to Graveyard. Is it only for good? It's a very useful feature, no doubt about that! I'm all with Bouibouille in his enthusiasm. If you've ever been stuck as a ghost, you know why.

Still I hear this tiny little voice inside me that actually regrets it. It's just a little bit and not for any logical reason. But the thing is: if that button had been in the game already, I wouldn't have gotten the chance to have that lovely dance with Zhafaarion.

WoW is getting better and better. We thought it was polished as it was, but they keep on smoothening out whatever little bump that still is in it. The better the game becomes, the more of the customer support that is done automatically, the less opportunities will we get to interact with the GMs. Eventually they won't have any reason at all to come and have a happy dance for a minute with a pink pigtailed gnome to celebrate that she's been brought back to life or to shake up the world as they depart.

I wish you could say that: oh well, but the GMs can come and dance with you anyway, and now they'll have even more time to do that if the players can help themselves with the emergency button!

To be a realist though I don't think that's what will happen. If they find a way to cut down on the number of GMs they have on their payroll, I'm sure they will. And it will make the game a little more dull.


Pangoria Fallstar said...

Considering the turn around time on some problems, I think this is being done to keep from hiring more GMs rather than getting rid of what they have. I could be wrong.... but I hope they can keep their jobs (except the ones that suck, they know who they are).

Shintar said...

I've never seen a GM in game and on my server the average response time to tickets seems to be about 24 hours(!). I do hope they won't reduce the number of available GMs there, I'm hoping that if anything I'll actually be able to get a response within the same day if they can save time not having to manually rescue stuck players anymore.

Bobii said...

I'm not 100% sure if it's still there but back in TBC or early wrath there was a way to port back to graveyard.

Click the ?
Click stuck option
Click auto unstuck

I know I have used it before

Anonymous said...

I always had that irrational fear of wasting GM's time, that their big bad boss will yell at them "you didn't reply enough tickets today! you spent too much time loitering and chatting instead of working!" and also seeing in my imagination the huge queue of people behind me tapping their feet "when, oh when my turn will come", so if I can solve things myself, I try to do it, and if not, just give me my thing and "next please".

Some people are outraged with the "automated replies" in the mail about their issues, I don't mind as long as its relevant to my issue, what I found strange, I thought talk to GM button = self-explanatory; report issue = no talk to GM just mail "we received your report, thanks", but usually they talk to me nonetheless. I feel a bit... embarrassed. Wasting their precious time, especially on tiny issues like offensive names or bugged quests where all I needed was sending me some item to solve it.

Frostys said...

To be honest Larissa, I think you mostly got lucky. My average response time on ticket is something over 2 days. I hope they will give better service but cutting some of the GM work instead of cutting staff. The only interaction I ever had with GM is the across the mail system and it was item restoration. I ended up with a request for a GM jokes fulfilled when they restored my full account.

(Yeah really brillant here Blizz giving the same icon to a gray staff and the last enchanting rod...)

Jen said...

I also think it's a brilliant idea :) (Bobii, the unstuck button does send you to the graveyard... sometimes. It worked recently on my baby hunter who managed to jump off Teldrassil, but it didn't on my priest who was lost in Mara/ST/BRD.)

I like to look at this as a chance for better customer service. Less GMs teleporting bodies around = more GMs to solve other problems = more time for GM dances! (Even though I've never seen a GM in person.) I think it's just a matter of chance honestly - GMs probably interact with you if they don't have tickets, so the exact matter of your ticket probably doesn't matter.

Nils said...

Firstly, I always thought that such a function was missing in WoW. Even in Vanilla WoW.

Secondly, I am keenly aware of the fact that I only think so, because I feel entitled to be freed from the labyrinth. Not to be able to get out of ghost form feels like an annoyance in WoW, because the ghost form is not to be taken seriously. And that is what we players feel. "You're not really a ghost. It is just some fluff to get you back to the 'fun' parts of the game".
This feeling is the reason that we consider being lost as ghost annoying instead of an interesting experience.

Because, you name it: It could actually be fun. To be lost in a labyrinth in an MMORPG. Sounds great. Except that it is not - in WoW.

About Maraudon in particular: I know it is a labyrinth, but if you calm down, take your time, perhaps take a paper and try to find the way out; let me tell you from experience: It is easy.

SpiritusRex said...

I use to think Maraudon was one of the most difficult instance entrances to get back to until I ran it something like 40 straight times waiting for the rare boss to spawn. Unfortunately, now I can do it in my sleep. :(

The one I have difficulties with is getting to the instance entrance in The Deadmines. I get lost everytime I try to get to it - believe me it has been a little bit embarassing on those rare occassions when I've boosted someone through there. The entrance to the dungeouns in Zangarmarsh use to be a real problem, too, until I got a better video card and my screen no longer looked like I was drunk all the time.

I, too, have had good encounters with GMs as well - although certainly not as quickly as you. I think the fastest I've had was about 20 minutes - I was stuck in a waterfall in Nagrand after falling off a cliff - gah! And, remember, how long a minute lasts depends upon which side of the bathroom door you're on! :)

timefortincan said...

That is super fast response time - IME it is generally 12-24 hours.

Although I to try to be as polite and respectful as I can to GMs, I am always slightly surprised that they are so helpful and pleasant (compared to a lot of customer service, it's sort of amazing) - even if they do not turn up in person to help me so I can get pictures....

Larísa said...

@Pangoria Fallstar: Well, the question is of course what internal goals they have set for the waiting time to get your tickets handled. That will settle how many GMs they’re prepared to support. The thing is that they want some kind of return on their investment in for instance improvements in the UI and new features such as the graveyard button. Shorter average waiting time for service is of course desirable, but I bet the investors are even more pleased to hear that they’ve been able to slim their staff with x percent, thus boosting their profit with x dollars. Me cynical? Hell, yeah.

@Shintar: This was the second time I saw one and I was just as astonished as the first time it happened. And I didn’t even ask for it this time, which I might have done the last time.
I’ve never ever had such a super-fast service before, but I thought it was in place to tell the world about it, since I also told the world about a GM failure a couple of months ago. Sometimes they’re just brilliant; this one was.

@Bobii: now that you say so, I remember that they added something like that, even though I can’t check it right now. However that’s for if you’re actually stuck I think, not if you’re aimlessly haunting the Maraudon Labyrinth.

@Anonymous: Wasting the GM’s time, like I did you mean? It really didn’t take many extra seconds for him to have this little silly dance and I would rather think it’s supported by their policies, that it’s something you’re allowed to do if it’s a quiet night. After all, they also have a lot of very nice rp:ish standard macros they use as well. I think the intention is that GMs as much as possible not only should help you with your issue, but also do it in a pleasant manner, adding a little extra value to the gamer. At least that’s the instruction I would give them if I was their boss.

I really don’t think you should feel embarrassed about approaching a GM if you have a real problem that they could help out with. It’s also pretty clearly stated what kind of issues you can and can’t bring to them. As long as you follow those guidelines you should be fine.

@Frostys: I was probably very lucky. That was just crazy. I don’t know… maybe it helped that I put my ticket quite nicely… a bit like I write my blog posts, but way, way shorter of course. Or maybe it was just a very easy task for them to help out with. On previous occasions when I’ve written a ticket, I’ve had to wait for days as well.

@Jen: But if they make everything so polished and good that there won’t be any need of GM interventions anymore. If it’s something that happens like one in 10 000 players? How likely is it that I’ll see a GM dance then? Or will they be turned into full time entertainers? Like the “animation team” on a tourist resort?

@Nils: I’ve seen that idea tossed up before, making death more interesting and not just something to get rid of asap. However they’d definitely have to do something of those labyrinths to make them remotely enjoyable to spend time in as a ghost. The major problem with that maze, as for many other labyrinths in WoW is the level differences. I’m not sure if paper and pen would have helped me out. Maybe.

@SpiritusRex: 40 times! Ewww. I wouldn’t run that instance 40 times for any rare spawn in the world. For some reason I’ve managed to learn my way fairly well in the caves before the instance entrance in DM. I just kept right all the time and it usually worked, if I remember it correctly. Oh and the pipe down in Zangar… I used to drown there if I didn’t take a breathing pot. I’ve written about it on several occasions before. Everything just blurred out.

@Timefortincan: It was quick indeed. And no, I don’t meet them in person normally either. Since it’s fairly unusual as far as I’ve heard of, I took a screenshot to show it really happened.

Syl said...

I never actually thought about this, maybe because I never got so lost in the past I had this problem - but it sure sounds like a good way to resolve it, why not. I sure liked the spirit gryphons in WotLK, it's nasty if your corpse lies somewhere totally unreachable! =/

Redbeard said...

It's possible that Zhafaarion wanted to meet a net-celebrity, Larisa. ;-)

I like the idea of the graveyard button, because I've had issues trying to find my way back to some instances that I'd never been to before (::cough:: Deadmines ::cough::). Maura is pretty bad, too, but for me the all time location is Shattered Halls. I had to have spent 20 minutes or more trying to find that place during a corpse run, and I was more than willing to take a Spirit Healer's hit just to get it over with.

I'm sure that with this freed up, our Gnomish GM will have plenty of opportunities elsewhere.

Tesh said...

I choose to be optimistic. If the GMs have to spend less time tinkering with fixes like this that could be self-directed, they have more time to just have fun and dance with the occasional player, maybe even run events.

Jen said...

@Larisa: That won't ever happen. There's players involved, so there will always be "random" problems that can't be predicted by computers. Personally, I'd rather hit a button and go back to the spirit healer than talk to a GM, because odds are I'll wait an hour and then I won't get a dance :) I'd rather continue playing instantly. (By the way, I was told by a GM that adding "stuck" in your ticket bumps it to the top of the queue; I don't know if that's valid today, but it's worth trying.)

I'm a bit like Anonymous here - I try to help myself before I ticket. It's partly because I know someone who is a GM and they really do work hard, and partly because I know how much I get annoyed by people asking me stupid questions at work. "Hai hoa do i use misdrect???" is a waste of a GM's time. "I lost my item!! ...oh wait, it was in my bag" is a waste of time. I'd rather bug them with legitimate issues or things I can't solve by myself (like "My priest has been swimming in the lava in BRD for the past 10 minutes, please save her...")

Come to think of it, I've been playing for 2 years and a half and I've made maybe 10 tickets... I think it's a good thing for both me and the GMs - they don't have to work too much, I have a nice record and I'm more likely to get help than someone who constantly loses his gear, emblems, spells etc.

mat said...

Another option would be to have a "corpse string" that acted like a route finder that you could follow back to your corpse.
I'm pretty sure that at least one other mmo has used this.
The only problem with places like Maraudon would be solving pathing problems in the entrance caves.

Larísa said...

@Syl: Gryphons are great, but won’t help you find your way out from a cave. I think both solutions are needed.

@Redbeard: hehe, I doubt that the rumour of my inn has reached the ears of the GMs. Maybe I should have taken the opportunity to invite him though. I was pretty sure I’d write something about our encounter as we met, so ofc I should have informed him about the upcoming post. Oh well… You always come to think of those clever things too late.

Shattered Halls, oh, don’t talk about it. I know. There are a number of ramps and stairs around there and I always managed to pick the wrong one.

@Tesh: I hope you’re right and they’re not just rationalized away.

@Jen: 10 tickets in 2 years? Then I think you call for their attention more often than I do. I think I’ve done it 5 or 6 times perhaps. As far as I can recall of.

@Mat: that’s a good idea. Actually Maraudon is a very good place to have this. Just like the Greek old story about Ariadne I think it was.