Calvinball WoW

Other kids’ games are all such a bore!
They’ve gotta have rules and they gotta keep score!
Calvinball is better by far!
It’s never the same! It’s always bizarre!
You don’t need a team or a referee!
You know that it’s great, ’cause it’s named after me!

Excerpt from the Calvinball theme song

I am a big believer in transparency, for government and politics, for large corporations, for family deliberations, whatever. I just think that when people who make decisions that affect other people get to make those decisions in secret, there is way too much temptation to let the darker sides of human nature take over, to let your personal preferences or interests trump the higher good. If you do not have to explain your process — or if you can paper over it with some vague reference to, oh for example, “player feedback” — you can pretty much make any changes you want to, for whatever reasons, at any time.

Yes, this is another rant against Blizzard. What set me off this time is noticing their recent reliance on hotfixes to implement fairly significant changes in the game. Changes that, honestly, should have been made back in beta. They already apologized for using a no-notice hotfix to drastically alter the play style of destruction warlocks. When most people apologize for screwing up, there is an implicit resolve to not do it again. Not Blizz. When Blizz apologizes, the implicit message is more along the lines of  “We would really like to get past this shitstorm so we can go back to business as usual, OK?” (Talkin’ about you, “DDoS attacks” and “server problems”.)

So after the destro lock hotfix and apology, yesterday there was an announcement of a hotfix with some pretty sweeping changes in the alchemy and JC professions. You can see the details of the changes here, but the interesting part to me was (emphasis mine):

Alchemy

Based on player feedback, a number of adjustments have been made to Alchemy recipes. Combat potion recipes no longer requires Crescent Oil and meat/fish, and will require herbs instead. Flask recipes now use more herbs, increasing the number of herbs needed from one type of herb to two.

. . .

Jewelcrafting

Based on player feedback, a number of adjustments have been made to Jewelcrafting recipes. Tier 1 gem recipes now requires more ore and less herbs. Tier 2 gem recipes will no longer requires herbs and instead require a tier 1 gem.

Forget for a moment that many alchemists are stuck with stacks of now worthless Crescent Oil and things like Raw Talbuk Meat, forget for a moment the hours and hours some spent to gather said meat and raw mats for the worthless Crescent Oil, forget that JCs have been selling off (for almost nothing I grant you, but still) their now-no-longer-excess-ore for a couple of weeks. Forget those annoyances, as they are likely just another award winning idea from the staff of the “Screw With the Players” department at Blizz. (‘Fess up, Blizz, these are the rules you are playing by, right?)

What I want to know is, what and where exactly is this “player feedback”? How does one register official “player feedback”? Which of the dozens of forums or twitter accounts are the ones that actually count as official feedback? What actually constitutes “feedback” — for example does it count to post a comment like “doodz i am a jc and u suck”? What weights does Blizz give to certain well accepted public opinion precepts such as unhappy people tend to be much more vocal than satisfied people? Is there some WoW version of the old Nielson Ratings, such that some players have secret feedback loops to Bizz HQ? Who at Blizz tallies and counts the feedback? Do they hire actual public opinion experts, or do they go by the gut feeling of some sub-department head (which changes based on how big a lunch burrito he had)? What relative numbers of players have to give feedback before it becomes a thing that has to be fixed? Is it a percentage, a simple majority, or just a single comment that reinforces some dev’s opinion of how the game should be structured? (Because apparently Blizz thinks they can afford to ignore as many as 1/3 of their player base in the matter of flying in Draenor, so did they have a poll where 2/3 of the alchemists said please make all our stacks of Crescent Oil worthless as fast as you can?)

Transparency. I am not saying that profession changes and many other changes are not needed. I am saying that the changes appear random, knee-jerk and quixotic. What really was the reason for doing these things? And why now and why such a huge rush all of a sudden when there was ample time to recognize and make such changes in the beta? Let’s hear it, Blizz, what really is going on with the planning for this expansion, and why does it look like you are just winging it? Try some real communication with your customers.

Look, I enjoy this game. If I hated it I would not play it. But it is long past time when Blizzard needs to realize they are a HUGE international company, with 10 million customers for WoW alone. Reputable large companies think before they act, do actual professional market research, and explain and advertise major product changes to their customers in a timely fashion. Disreputable companies try to bury their mistakes, cover up the real reasons they are changing their product, and refuse to recognize they have any responsibility to their customer base.

Which way are you heading, Blizz?

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

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