A good start, now just a couple more requests

With today’s official post of rogue class changes for Legion, Blizz has made good on its Blizzcon promise of communicating in-depth class information to the players. I am very happy about this, but now the hard part starts: Blizz has to keep up a running dialogue with players on each of these blogs. I don’t mean they have to answer every comment or engage in whiny debates over each class change. I mean there has to be someone for each class whose job it is to sift through all of the various related Twitter feeds, forums, — and yes regular blogger comments — identify concerns that are trending, and address those concerns in a regular feedback session. I would prefer once a week but could handle every two weeks.

The devs will likely claim — justifiably so, I am sure — that they are swamped with other duties and simply do not have time to write web columns or put together videos. This is where corporate support needs to kick in, in the form of hiring some dev-savvy people to deal strictly with interactive dialogue. (Maybe they have already done this, if so I apologize for stating the obvious, but even Blizz has to admit they have been severely deficient for quite a while in the area of public relations.) These people need to be part of the class dev team, have their desks in the same area, attend all the meetings, get all the memos, participate in the section parties, etc. They need to be able to credibly talk dev talk and have the resume to show they have also walked the walk. But — and here is the key — they also have to be able to translate player concerns into dev speak, and technical obstacles and goals into explanations for players. Of course, this is a fairly specialized skill set — tech competence in game development, with the ability to effectively communicate tech matters to any audience from the geekiest code writer to your Great Aunt Bessie. But surely Blizz HR can find and hire such people.

Blizz clearly understands that the dark days of WoD, when company reps responded to player concerns with condescension and disdain, that is if they responded at all, put a stain on the company’s image. Certainly the recent series of class change posts is at least a partial attempt to get past that. And they must have anticipated the huge interest the change announcements would generate. From my vantage point, player response to this series has been overwhelmingly positive in terms of satisfaction that Blizz is letting players know details of planned changes. Of course responses for individual changes range from furious to gleeful, that is to be expected, but my quick perusal of some of the player comments turned up very few of the spittle-flecked vileness we saw for example during the awful flying debate. I am hopeful this means we have moved on from name-calling and pure anger on both sides, to a more productive dialogue.

The other thing I would like to see Blizz do — in addition to keeping the communication going — is give us an overview of their class development goals in general. I am not talking about the “class fantasies” (btw, I am already really sick of that term) — in my opinion those are some fluff pseudo-lore stories hastily contrived to justify new class mechanics that had already been decided upon. I suppose I am glad they finally exist, but honestly if these were really the guiding principles of every class how did the class mechanics get to such an out-of-whack state in the first place?

But I digress. What I would like to see is an explanation of the larger principles Blizz follows for WoW class development. For example:

  • What is the main difference between hybrid and “pure” classes? Originally, I thought hybrid classes were created for their versatility, and the tradeoff was that they would not be quite as good as a pure class in the same role. Over the years this distinction has been erased, so the follow-up question would be, why keep pure classes now, since they enjoy no versatility advantage. Why not give each pure damage class a tanking or healing spec?
  • Somewhat related to the question above, is the game officially moving towards considering spec switches to be the exception for most players? That is, is the class development process purposely encouraging a model of one character one spec? If so, why? And what implications from this do you see for raid teams?
  • There seems to be conflicting official communication about “homogeneous” versus “unique” class and spec characteristics — in various venues, both are touted as desirable, yet they seem to be opposites. What do you mean by each term, and how do you plan to reflect these principles in classes in Legion?
  • Is “Bring the player, not the class” still a guiding principle for class development? If so, what if any checks and balances do you employ to ensure this principle remains viable? It seems not to have been followed in WoD. For example, Watcher in one Q&A stated that if you were not including a disc priest in your raid, you were doing it wrong. Another example is SV hunters — by the third raid tier, very few if any raid teams would invite an SV hunter to HFC, no matter how capable the player might be, the spec itself was virtually unplayable.

I am sure I could come up with many more questions, but that is the idea. If players had some idea of guiding principles of overall class development, it might help us to anticipate changes and to see them in a broader context of the game.

Anyway, Blizz has made a good start at responsible dialogue with players, but now they need to continue it and help us to understand how our classes each fit into the big picture.

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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