Sunday, October 14, 2018

My Life As A Gamer: How To Piss Off Your Audience (World of Warcraft Edition)

Late last week, the World of Warcraft team's leader (Ion Hazziikotas) joined Blizzard Community Manager Josh Allen (aka Lore) for another Q&A livestream. The questions answered were already selected, meaning that answers were also likely prepared beforehand. Of course this community engagement went over with the usual grace and dignity, which means that it was a shitshow- obviously. (h/t to Taliesin & Evitel for the catchphrase)

Asmongold (pictured) and McConnell (offscreen) express common sentiments in the playerbase, which is why I'm using this long clip from the former's livestream of the Q&A as it happened. (For something closer to, say, The Alt-Right DM's takedowns of D&D5 and its terrible take on RPGs, HeelsvsBabyface will scratch your itch.)

This is how you piss off the audience that pays your bills and justifies your existence. There is a pattern expressed here that I need to spell out, and this is the pattern:

  • Game Dev makes a thing.
  • Players meet challenges in the thing in a manner wholly unintended or undesired by devs.
  • Devs condescend to Players instead of taking the hint and changing course to cater to clearly expressed Revealed Preferences.
  • Players say "Fuck This" and disengage increasingly until they go play something else that does cater to their preferences.

The key tell here is all about this Azerite Armor issue. (WOWHead's guide on Azerite Armor is here.) Because the devs screwed up the rollout, the intended process--farm up multiple sets, one for every Specialization your man will play--got junked by the Players in favor of going to the Reforging NPC and just re-selecting armor powers as necessary. Due to the escalating costs per Reforge, this got into the hundreds of thousands of gold for the most frequent users very fast; these users were also hardcore top-end raiders.

The Dev response, as seen here and in the Reddit AMA, is tone deaf; the correct response was to accept the players' preference as valid and tank the reforge costs down to trivial levels of expense. (Otherwise known as "Turning into the skid".) Look, when you make a widget and it turns out to be a better hammer than a wrench, you're a fucking retard to refuse to accept the reality that your widget is a hammer, but that's exactly what the WOW Team's doing here- and they wonder why there is so much acrimony over Battle For Azeroth.

The Devs are not fixing the problems because they refuse to admit that they are problems, or that the problems are what the players correctly identify as the actual problems, and this is very similar to tabletop RPG devs being tone deaf to what their audience actually wants (assuming that they're not out to replace the real audience with fakes like themselves).

The game isn't fun when the systems do not work. The error is compounded when those responsible for fixing it refuse to solve the problem properly, which is the case here, and until the circumstances allowing this cancer to persist change then the negative feedback loop will continue- and that means watching the biggest MMORPG ever collapse in real time. The possession by their own egos is the fault here, and until humility returns the problems cannot be solved properly, and if they won't seek it (and they won't) Nemesis will force it upon them.

And when I get to Island Expeditions, you'll see how this is not just about one key feature.

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