Still not over it

My grandma, an eminent Western philosopher, used to admonish me to count to ten before I said or did anything when I was angry. You probably had a mom or grandma or someone who told you the same thing, it is a traditional way to wean children away from lizard brain reaction in favor of more rational neo-cortical actions.

So I have been counting since Watcher’s Friday afternoon bombshell about no flying ever again in World if Warcraft. Mostly, my counting has been in the form of staying away from the game, the forums, the blogs for most of the weekend.

Unfortunately, I am still counting. I should be over my initial anger, but I am still furious at Blizz over this and I have been trying to work out why. What I have decided is that Friday’s announcement was a perfect storm of hot-button issues for me.

Trust. Everyone who knows me IRL — whether they like me or not — will tell you that I am always true to my word. If I say I will do something, you can be confident that I will do it. This is because first of all I never say I will do anything unless I am certain that I can, and second of all if I have said I will do something then it becomes an absolute “must” for me. This is true whether it is a Big Life Event like wedding vows or a small favor like giving you a ride to the mall. There are plenty of times that I have regretted saying I will do something, because it has become inconvenient or difficult or costly to carry out, but I do it anyway because I have said I will.

I do everything I can to keep people’s trust in me, and I expect others to do the same.

When Watcher made his Friday announcement, it was a huge breach of trust. I realized this when I read a comment to The Grumpy Elf’s post yesterday. The person making the comment perfectly summed it up, so I will quote it for you:

There are many ways a company can screw up using the accountants guidance on how to be more profitable. Perhaps the single one thing most precious that is being spent, liberally like a fire hose pouring out water, is trust. Once trust is killed, trust that the developers are willing to make a good game with the fans in mind; once spent, it is extremely hard to get it back. That was the point I saw made time and again by the folks posting in the forum “Watcher says…” topic. The utterance of the words, by many and perhaps most, for the first time is a psychological effect that represents a breaking point. Sort of like the A.D. and B.C. timeline shift, there is a point before and a point after Trust is Broken. Life before the broken trust, if not rosy, was at least a bit optimistic that ultimately the game developers wanted the best for the game. Life after trust is broken, nothing said will re-establish it and every word will be parsed for duplicity. Blizzard is going to rue this Memorial weekend in my opinion for the loss of that trust.

(The “accountants guidance” referred to is an economic outlook opinion piece about Activision Blizzard. It is interesting reading, even if it is not mainstream economic thought on the company.)

Flawed logic. I was educated by Jesuits, and the elements of logic were pounded into me from a young age. I was taught to distinguish opinion from fact, and to detect logical flaws in arguments. In the process, I will admit, I became kind of a snob, quickly labeling anyone with sloppy arguments as an ignorant rube unworthy of further attention. I expect professionals to have a logical approach to their profession, and this expectation extends to companies when they discuss their products.

The idea that the game is more engaging or even more fun without flying is an opinion, as is the idea that flying in and of itself is fun. I happen to hold the latter opinion, but I recognize that it is just an opinion. Blizz apparently holds the former opinion, but they insist on presenting it as fact, by stating over and over again that no flying results in more fun because we are more “immersed.” So not only do they mistake opinion for fact, but they use their mistake as a club to beat down any player attempt to state contrary opinions.

The facts are that some part of the player base finds flying to be fun and integral to their game experience, and another part of the player base is happier when no one can fly. However, neither I nor Blizz has any idea how many players fall into each of those categories, because Blizz has never done any kind of meaningful poll or other action to determine this. The most anyone can infer is that there are significant numbers of customers in each category. To deliberately enrage either group by glorifying one opinion as fact seems to violate any standard of good solid business practice.

The idea that players will spend more time in the game “world” by removing the option of flying is not empirically supported — there is no flying in Draenor, and Blizz cannot show us any real evidence that proves players spend more time interacting with the world than we did in expansions that permitted flying. In fact, a huge body of anecdotal evidence points to the exact opposite. Yet they insist on using this “fact” to justify removing flying for the current and all future game expansions.

I am insulted and angered when anyone uses their position of power to shut down logical debates with opinion and false facts.

Disrespect. I have explained before that I tend to be naive when it comes to dealing with others. I know this about myself, but I do not care to change it. However, I hate it when I feel someone has taken advantage of me. I get furious when I think someone is using me and believes me too stupid to realize it.

For the last two years, Blizz has shown growing contempt for its WoW customers. They have demonstrated this contempt both passively and actively. Passively, they have ignored widespread and reasonable criticisms of WoD, refusing even to admit that there are significant problems with the basic implementations of it. Instead, they give us play pretties like selfie cameras and jukeboxes, as if we were children easily distracted by checkout counter toys. When they do admit a problem — as with the idea that garrisons are far too time consuming — they provide minuscule tweaks like the submit-all-workorder button and a new speed potion to “fix” the problem.

They assume that we will believe them when they tell us not to worry our dear little heads, they will fix the annoyance of convoluted taxi flights. Then they make a couple of very small changes and assure us now it is all better, when it clearly is not. But they have so little respect for us that they assume we will believe them, especially if they say it sternly and often.

They have actively shown disrespect multiple times by giving snide, snarky comments in response to legitimate customer concerns. They have shown active contempt for us by lying to us in big ways, for example by insisting for two years that garrisons are optional play, then suddenly making full garrison development a prereq for Patch 6.2. They have outright lied to us and deliberately led us to believe flying in Draenor would be reinstated at some point, apparently thinking no one would notice when they suddenly “announce” — in the most obscure way they could — no more flying.

In the face of an overwhelming outcry of protest, they show contempt for us by refusing to discuss anything on a holiday weekend (even though they deliberately chose this timing). They taunt us by featuring a new flying mount — flying over Draenor! — on their web page, and have the unmitigated gall to promote it as something we should spend real money on. (The ad is gone now, but it was there for at least 3 full days after the Friday announcement.)

Knowing what a major issue they have caused, they insult us further by telling us they probably will discuss it in two weeks, by responding to canned questions. Which by the way they will not even deign to say how we may submit questions for consideration for another week. In other words, “Yeah, yeah we hear you. Take a number. We’ll get back to you.”

No one likes to be thought of as a fool, and no one likes to be taken advantage of. But Blizz routinely and openly does both to its customers.

These three issues — breach of trust, insistence on flawed logic, and obvious disrespect — have all come together since Friday. They are possibly the three most hot button issues I have. And when they are all pressed at the same time, counting to ten will not even come close to making me cool off.

They add up to a pattern of odious business practices far greater than no flying ever again.

This is why I am still angry. I want Blizz to prove me wrong, and I will wait for awhile to see if they do. But not for long. I can only count so high.

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.

4 Responses to Still not over it

  1. Thank you, I lose my words when I’m angry and you’ve written how I feel perfectly.

  2. Well written!
    I think, partially, that it is our own fault for looking behind the curtain. We feel like we can give advice to the artist on which color to use and then are offended when they do not.
    Blizzard is handling it’s customers very poorly in that the wrong people are dealing with us — and yet we want access to the designers who are not smooth and often blunt.
    Having read your excellent article, I think I’ll try to take a step away from WoW politics; I had no business getting involved in the first place. Involvement in the “behind the game” stuff has only pissed me off and made me angry.

    • Anonymous says:

      It may be true that we should not look behind the curtain, but their actions have seemed so bizarre that we have no other choice. I normally don’t care who Toyota uses for their parts suppliers, for example, all I care about is does my new car meet my needs, is it safe, is it fun to drive, etc. But when their air bags start exploding and driving shrapnel through people’s faces, you better believe I start “looking behind the curtain.”

      Ever since the personnel turnover at Blizz about the time Ghostcrawler left, I feel like Blizz has been firing shrapnel at me, in the form of terrible game design decisions as well as casual dismissal of legitimate customer concerns. This is not the same Blizz that created this awesome game, so my reaction is to try and understand why and do what I can to change it. I like this game too much to just walk away from it without a bit of a fight.

      But then, my response to hitting a brick wall is usually to back up, lower my head, and run into it faster, LOL. I think your response — just go around it! — makes much more sense. I am just genetically unable to do it.

      Meanwhile, step aside, lemme have another shot at that brick wall! 😉