Another step in the right direction

A few days ago, writing about my reaction to the June 13 Q&A, I said that reinstating flying was a step in the right direction for Blizz, but that they have a lot of ground to cover to build back the trust they have lost over the past year. Much of that broken trust occurred because of their pathological aversion to meaningful communication with the player base. I said I would like to see a lot more Q&A type sessions as we go forward, on a regular basis.

Yesterday I saw a very positive step in communication. Ion Hazzikostas did a written follow-up to the Q&A, addressing some questions that were not covered in the original session and clearing up some of the answers he already gave. I urge you to take a few minutes and read it if you have not already done so.

You may not agree with everything he said — I certainly didn’t — but here’s the thing: It was the first time I can remember when he has treated players like interested, thinking humans. He actually explained the reasons behind some recent dev decisions, and he explained them thoroughly and, I thought, honestly. No condescension, no snark, no lawyer mumbo-jumbo. As some of you may have noticed, I am a pretty harsh critic of Blizz, and I have lately been especially critical of Hazzikostas, but I like to think I can also give praise when it is due. In this case, it is due.

Nice job, Ion. Really.

Here’s what I mean. In the original Q&A, he made what some people thought was a dismissive statement about demonology warlocks, basically that they were being nerfed because it is time they are on the bottom of the damage charts. That is not a direct quote, but it is pretty close. A lot of people who are passionate about their demo locks were upset by this. So in yesterday’s blue post, he went into some very great detail about that comment, not retracting it or retroactively weasel-wording it, but explaining why demo locks are being so drastically nerfed. The explanation boiled down to there being some fundamental problems with demo lock mechanics that are just too complicated to fix right now. So Blizz’s temporary solution was to avoid forcing locks into the demo spec by, let’s face it, making it as lousy or even lousier to play than the other specs. As I said, you or I may not agree with this decision, but I am satisfied that we got an honest answer. This is a huge step in the right direction, in my opinion.

There was a similar explanation of the comment he had made about disc priests. Recall that he had originally said something to the effect that raid teams that don’t have a disc priest are “probably doing it wrong.” He got a lot of feedback on this, basically accusing him of a double standard because he was willing to nerf demo locks to keep them from being required in raids, but he was not doing anything about disc priests. Again, he gave what I thought was a very honest answer: absorbs right now are so basic to the entire disc spell set that it will require a complete rework of the spec, and unfortunately in this case just nerfing some numbers will not work as a temporary fix. So the reality is, until Blizz can fix the absorb calculus, disc priests will remain a raid “must-have.” It is not a good solution, but it is the best of several bad ones for the time being.

I am not going to rehash all of the blue post, but I will mention one other point he made. There was a question about the upcoming removal of hunter and mage raid utilities (Aspect of the Fox and Amplify Magic). He gave what I think is clear and sound logic behind this decision, and it convinced me –finally — that it was not arrived at capriciously. I saw that the devs are in fact taking into account the big picture of their vision for raid mechanics, in this case the relative roles of melee versus ranged dps. Again, I am not sure I agree with the decision, but I see why they made it, and I accept it.

Even more importantly, this part of the explanation was refreshingly enlightening:

Even without Fox, Hunters are unique in that they are the only ranged DPS that can do nearly everything while on the move, which naturally makes them well-suited to specialized roles on a number of encounters, aside from naturally thriving in high-movement environments. On top of that, Deterrence, Feign Death, Misdirection, and Disengage all allow them to assist with handling mechanics in ways that many other classes cannot.

This told me that, at least for now, hunter mobility — what I consider to be the very essence of hunter play — is not in danger. This was a real revelation to me, because I had come to suspect that no one there any longer understood or cared about the central “feel” of playing a hunter. It gives me great pleasure to say I might have been wrong.

This is what happens when Blizz takes the time to communicate meaningfully and honestly with players. We come to see the bigger picture and hopefully focus on what individual decisions mean for our enjoyment of the whole game, not just one little corner of it. Whether Hazzikostas meant to or not, his blue post revealed a lot about the “vision” he has referred to so vaguely the last few weeks. And it was good.

I hope we can expect to see a lot more of these posts. I see no reason why Blizz can’t keep a Q&A forum open so people can submit questions continuously, and no reason why Watcher can’t select and answer a few of the more important questions regularly in a blue post. He doesn’t have to write the answers himself — certainly he has subject matter experts and minions for that — but it’s important that he put his name on the responses, because for better or for worse, he is the face of WoW development. I know he is extremely busy, but I hope he is beginning to understand that honest and forthright player communication is one of the most important things he can do.

It is still too early to call, but I am starting to think maybe Blizz is turning over a new leaf, that maybe they actually did learn from their spectacular failures over the last year. Fingers crossed.

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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