The State of the Game

A continuation of the discussion between @Randyflagg and myself, re:

@Randyflagg feels the state of the game can’t be blamed on Blizzard, but rather, is a result them providing accessibility to antisocial base.

I feel that is exactly why they are to be blamed.


I think you’re mixing me up with my brother, Randyflagg, chief!

I’m so good at being a Rogue that the minute I cast vanish, Shawn thought I was the big dopey Warrior, Jungard, standing nearby.

1 Like

Ah yeah, that figures. I always get you two mixed up.

So…explain yourself!

My initial Tweet to you read “Much of what they wrote is true but I wouldn’t place the blame on Blizzard for the current state of the game…” and I’m now realizing that I must amend this with "I wouldn’t place all of the blame on Blizzard. I see MANY areas where one can point and say that Blizzard really dropped the ball on the whole MMORPG aspect of the game (LFR, Garrisons, Phasing etc.) but much of what we loved oh so much about the “good ol’ days” is still very much in play within the current game. The thing is: folks just aren’t embracing it the way they used to. Perhaps its a societal issue similar to how we get lost in our smartphone world while the real thing passes us by or maybe even a fatigue or lack of interest toward the old way of playing after years in the trenches. Whatever the case, it just seems to me that Blizzard evolved the game with the player and thus shouldn’t have to take all of the responsibility. Players speak (usually loudly on the forums & social media) and Blizzard takes it from there. For better or for worse.

Anyway, I’m curious to hear a bit more from where you sit. I’m not looking at this as a debate or anything but instead two old Guildies who have different perspectives. The initial topic certainly piqued my interest so I’d welcome you to elaborate on your stance.

This is perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of all – and not just of the WoW community, but of many game communities in general. They think they have a voice and are being heard. At the end of the day, the game co. decides which way to steer the ship.

Consider Riot, by comparison. They know they have a game that is minimally accessible; they’re fine with that. They’re content knowing that their game caters to a hardcore gamer demographic and thus aren’t burdened with the need to aggressively tweak the game until it is playable by everyone. To the contrary, by freeing themselves to focus on that hardcore audience, they can pursue improving the balance / functionality / features that that core audience will appreciate.

Since it’s wildly inappropriate to speak negatively about a former employer (game industry or otherwise), we lack any tangible examples of a former employee going on-the-record about their misgivings. All we can do is extrapolate from various quotes and attempt to piece it together.

Example 1. Ghostcrawler, freshly hired at Riot, contrasting design choices at his new co.

  1. I’m not super interested in compromising LoL design in the name of accessibility. Yes, League is obnoxiously hard to learn if you don’t have a friend showing you the ropes. That sucks, but it’s not worth stripping away the depth or potential for mastery for our core audience – you guys – in order to attract new players. That’s not an approach every game can or should take, but it’s the right call for League.

Extrapolation: Ghostcrawler himself increasingly felt pressure to design for a casual and a hardcore audience, knew the ramifications, and (more or less) grew dissatisfied with this approach as it applied to something he formerly worked on.

Example 2: Paul Sams (former COO of Blizzard) opining on lessons learned:

First and foremost, I learned that you must put game quality and player experience first in everything that you do. Gamers are not driven to buy games because they have a clever business model, they buy games that are fun and immersive that deliver on what was promised. I also learned that being a trend chaser or first mover is not a key to victory. Our team here at Ready At Dawn needs to make games that they love and that they want to play so that we can get the very best and most creative work out of our developers. Force feeding a development team to chase a business model or game type trend when the team doesn’t love it is a likely losing proposition. A happy and motivated team that is making a game that they absolutely love with a leadership team that doesn’t force them to ship their game before it is ready is part of that formula for success.

Extrapolation: Paul observed (and perhaps disagreed with) Blizzard’s ongoing attempts to implement gimmicks in order to attract a wider audience, rather that dedicate those development resources to expand the depth/breath of the game for the core audience.

Without saying something that would completely damage their career in game development, you can pick up hints in these variance of opinion that paint a bigger picture about what was (is?) going on at Blizzard.

I’ll expand on a lot of this stuff in one of my last blog posts, tentatively titled “Greed Before Need”

I feel like there are a lot of factors at play in World of Warcraft, especially its age and how its player base has grown up with the game, so to speak. One factor in particular that interests me is how Blizzard is essentially designing a game around two opposite and conflicting ideologies. On one hand, you have a player base that tends to eat up content faster than ever (WoD drought withstanding) mainly due to familiarity with the game and habitual dedication. These players demand meaningful and rewarding content so they can continue to feel engaged. On the other hand, when Blizzard has produced meaningful content, another crowd complains that it feels mandatory and there should be more optional content. However, since the optional content is by nature not as rewarding, the first crowd is no longer appeased and the cycle goes on.

Is there any solution apart from designing the game around its core audience? I think the missing piece here is that the core audience does not necessarily only consist of raiders. I’ve known a lot of dedicated players throughout the years who just didn’t raid a lot or at all. Not just PvPers but not filthy casuals either. Those who really just enjoyed being immersed in Azeroth. These players don’t necessarily care for the mind-numbing experience that is LFR or the accessibility era as a whole. That is the core audience, along with the raiders and PvPers. Not the roller coaster player base that subscribes for a couple of months when a new expansion drops and cancels until the next. That latter group is whom Blizzard has been trying to woo for the past few years and it doesn’t seem like that has worked out to me.

WoW is not everyone’s cup of tea and changing the game into something else to try and make it more peoples’ cups of tea has probably been a mistake. That’s not to say that the raiding scene has declined at all. I think the raids are as good as ever but it’s the rest of the game world that has been lacking in other respects that has caused players to move on. All the game needs to continue on strong enough is good, plentiful content that’s fun to play. Given the age of the game, massive long-term growth and player retaining is probably a bit of a stretch. Just make the game something that the core WoW audience wants to play and continue improving on those core ideologies.

The biggest long-term sticking point on the bad that Blizzard has done is probably LFR and how it makes killing end bosses no longer feel all that special. More recently, Garrisons have taken players out of the game world and made most professions feel the same as one another. I think those things have done the most damage, but I don’t think it’s all bad throughout the years. Dungeon finder and cross realm zones have (mostly) been wins, along with the new grouping tool that gives leadership a role once more beyond an automatic queuing algorithm. It is great for world bosses and Mythic dungeons, and has a lot of potential that could be adapted into future systems if they choose to use the game world more and/or push non-LFR flex raids a bit more. The potential is there with such additions to the game if they so choose to use them.

Hell, those flex raids could even stay low-difficulty. It’s just the automatic queue and lack of leadership/accountability that makes the current casual experience so bad for the game. Easier with some accessibility is absolutely fine as long as it doesn’t destroy the core MMO experience that a WoW player should be having. Having some social barriers such as leadership was great for the game. If you wanted to take part in a certain activity or better your character in a certain way, the community had expectations for what you needed to do as a player to accomplish that. Sometimes it didn’t work out or people were dicks, but sometimes you started something great or got into a group that you were able to play with for years to come.

That’s the core experience and that’s what has been missing. In a perfect world, Blizzard would need to focus on that and continue to iterate on the good things for the health of the game. Will they? As long-time fans, we could only hope that they could see things the same way. I’m personally looking forward to some of the systems in Legion and playing it, but this is probably do-or-die if they want World of Warcraft to live on to its namesake.

They meant well when they wanted to broaden the base and increase WoW’s interest with gamers who wouldn’t otherwise find the game appealing. Unfortunately, their approach was entirely wrong. The correct strategy should have been (and continues to be)

  1. Retain what defines the genre of MMO: massive amounts of players, reliant upon one another to achieve common goals,
  2. Instead of increasing accessibility by diminishing the risk/reward for high frequency players, increase it by streamlining the paths to expert play, let those uninterested drop off naturally along the way.

I continue to see gradual advances in this direction – we saw some in WoD, such as the “death report”, which is a sure fire way to let you know definitively how you fucked up.

The next step, which should have been for Legion (but I’ve really not heard anything about this area being updated) is guild management and tools. Focus needs to return to “uh…why is it again that I have to be in a guild? Why can I not just go off and do my own thing?” The more education built into the game around that, the better off the game will be.

…of course, guilds have to not suck. That’s not something Blizzard can control…but is certainly something they can advocate.

Step 1 of positive guild advocacy? Featuring guilds on the WoW blog that aren’t led by douchebags.

I’ve semi-recently (in the past year or 2) became friends with some folks who never had a solid raiding guild and it was interesting to hear their perspective. We mostly all agree that the LFR environment is shit, but for outsider players, there’s this perception that joining a good enough guild has too many roadblocks. First of all, there’s the misconception that you have to be at it 4-5 nights a week to be successful which is just not true. Also, as you said, encounters with douchebags are definitely a factor. When you have a somewhat elitist group or bad leadership not giving people any opportunities, it definitely can discourage people from raiding guilds in general. People like that gave my friends a very bad taste of what it was like to be in a guild, which of course I tried to correct by sharing my experiences.

There’s also the feeling among these players that many groups are only looking for people who already have the gear and experience, but they question how you even get the gear and experience in the first place without being given an opportunity. Perhaps we take for granted the fact that we ran a damn good guild, where new players could work their way in and integrate into the team with a clear path on how to move forward. The same can’t be said about a lot of guilds, who spend far less time allowing new players to grow into their roster. Higher turnover that way but they’d rather just plug and play someone already experienced/geared into their roster than build up another player with potential, despite the fact that such a player might end up far more loyal in the long run.

I think previous iterations of WoW made that work out of necessity for needing a group of players to continue moving forward. Players wanted to see the content and complete more difficult challenges, but the only way to do so was to get a group. Add in the social factors of being a team player and not being a dick in order to stay in the group and you got yourselves a game where you have to work together. Alternative ways to play the game are a positive concept in general, but when there are alternative ways to do the same group-oriented activities, I think that’s where you run into problems. Are you a toxic player? Well, good thing raid finder has little to no accountability. Don’t want to work with anybody? Well, you can still queue up solo with strangers!

At least with PUGs or the new group finder (dubbed LFX recently), leadership and social accountability are back on the table. Automatic queues strip away all that accountability and damages the MMO part of the game, which leads to the antisocial community that we’re all discussing here. Not that I don’t think solo play is important, but solo play shouldn’t consist of the same activities as group play to not diminish the importance of grouping in the first place.

So I agree that it would be important to educate players on the importance of being in a guild. The alternatives shouldn’t actively diminish that importance by fostering an environment where you could just as easily not work with other players for the same goals. I still think raid finder is the heart of this issue. Sure, make an easier version of the raid, but make players form their own groups for it, even cross-realm (like with LFX). it stays social that way with added player accountability. No automatic queues.

I really feel like that’s all we need. Want to see the raid but you’re more casual? You still can on normal mode but not as a lone wolf. Get talking and get into someone’s group. Even PUGs are more social than raid finder. There were some strong recurring ones like what @Mangetsu used to run in Naxx before joining up with us. An easy normal-mode “flex” raid as the baseline casual raiding experience would be a far better solution than raid finder ever was. Let the experts start in Heroic and progress through Mythic, but the one similarity that stays intact is the need to work with other players to see the content. That’s what we need.

1 Like