Blizz’s new standard: Good enough

We have had a week now with the Legion pre-expansion patch, and people are either beginning to come to grips with what life will be like for their specs come Legion, or they have decided to move on to another spec or another class or another game. As to technical issues, I have said that the initial rollout of the patch seemed less chaotic than previous ones, but after a week I continue to experience random and sudden disconnects  on the order of every 20-30 minutes on average. It is extremely annoying, and it effectively precludes any sort of group participation. In this, the patch seems even less stable than the beta did when I first started playing it a couple of months ago. Why can’t they fix this? Why do they seem to not even be trying?

Thus, I return today to one of my recurring topics: Has Blizz failed to grow its development resources to meet the demands of the game’s exploding complexity?

Consider a few scattered observations from Legion development comments and actions.

Item: Armor clipping. Now, this is a very minor thing in my view, but I was fascinated by a Blue response to some reported “bugs” on the subject. The CM responding said definitely they were looking into the reports and they were working on fixing the major ones. But then the CM concluded with this:

Things that aren’t bugs:
– A tiny bit of clipping may be necessary on some race/class combinations; try to limit your reports to things that are obviously bad.
– Some waist items with 3D buckles will turn off tabard bottoms
– The size of your head may grow or shrink slightly with certain helms to ensure a better fit.

(Honestly, the first thing that occurred to me was that I wished the real world would work like this — jeans don’t fit? No worries, your hips will shrink “to ensure a better fit”.) But back to WoW — doesn’t this strike you as Blizz just kind of giving up on excellence? Basically, if it’s not “obviously bad” — however that is defined — Blizz cannot be bothered with it. And, it’s just too hard to make all the armor fit all classes races/genders, it’s apparently easier to make the character fit the armor rather than the other way around. Who cares if it makes your character look like a bobble-head, it’s a quick and easy fix.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a half-assed solution. Now, as I said, this is an extremely minor problem, but you see it’s not about the armor bugs, it’s about the attitude.  Too hard to do? Slap a bandaid on it and move on, screw it, it’ll have to do.

See, this is the kind of attitude we all have when we are trying to accomplish far too many things on far too short a deadline.

Item: Warcraft Movie in-game items. Another insignificant action in the big picture, but recall that Blizz generously gave everyone some in-game cosmetic items for being in the game at the time the movie was released. The items, at least for Alliance, were a sword and a shield with some movie design tie-in. I can’t use them on any of my characters, at most maybe just the sword on one or two. They are completely useless to my hunters, of course. Still, as I said at the time, what the hell they are free and you should always express gratitude for a gift even if it is not something you want or can use.

But here is the thing. This, like the response to the armor clipping bugs, smacked of a hurry-up-just-get-it-done attitude. To design cool cosmetic weapons appropriate to each class would clearly have involved a significant chunk of time and development resources. Which apparently Blizz did not have.

Item: Flying in Legion. We now know that this is at least a year out, that — according to Ion Hazzikostas — it will not be available until vaguely around the middle of the expansion. As the shortest this expansion will be is two years, that puts it at minimum a year out. I am betting we will not see it until sometime around the end of 2017, because I am convinced Legion will be at least a 3-year expansion.

But no matter. My point here is that developing zones for flying requires a lot more resources than does developing for ground-bound travel and taxi service. We saw this in WoD when, in spite of assurances that the expansion was designed from the start for flying, once Blizz bowed to the player revolt over the decision to not allow it, it took months to make it feasible.

What the perfectly-parsed words from Hazzikostas say to me about flying in Legion is that they really do not have the resources to even consider doing it at the start, or indeed at any time until they have nothing else left to do for the expansion. They will devote the resources to it only when it becomes “a thing” and a way to retain players who might otherwise leave. I think the dirty little secret is that they just do not have the development staff to take it on before then.

Item: Ill-advised CRZ changes. With the pre-patch, Blizz expanded CRZ to include faction capital cities. This caused the RP community to howl, because it was done so ham-fistedly that basically people wanting to RP could no longer count on their regular group — whether it was a server group or a guild — being on the same sever at the same time. Thus, no RP between them.

I don’t do RP, and I do not even pretend to understand the technical reasons that Blizz is compelled to increase CRZ in spite of it being pretty widely disliked by players, but here is the point: Shouldn’t a company anticipate major problems like this before they go ahead and make the changes? Maybe we should be just a tad bit worried when we find out that Blizz’s response to this has been “Oops, hehe, we didn’t think of that.”

Item: Camera changes. This is currently a huge flap in the community. Alternative Chat has even weighed in on it today, making the point that for months now Blizz has had a significant number of player reports that camera and other visual changes — exacerbated by the inexplicable decision to make max camera distance no longer available — actually make some players ill. Blizz’s words on this  have been rather unctuously faux-sympathetic, but their actions have done nothing to help.

Again, should we not be a teensy bit concerned that Blizz apparently revamped the entire visual and camera technology for the game, failed to fully explore its effects, and further failed to have a “revert” plan in case it turned out badly? This is not how professional software developers do business. This is how a couple guys in a garage do it. This is how you carry out a project when you know you are under the gun, when you know you don’t have the resources to meet an unrealistic deadline — you cut corners, you skimp on the tech testing, you throw Hail Mary passes on major changes and hope in doing so you don’t screw something else up because you will not have time to fix it and rework the change.

Item: BM Hunter status. I’ve written on this a lot and am not going to rehash everything today. But it occurred to me that lack of resources is the easiest explanation for Blizz’s stubborn and rather puzzling refusal to address the consistent concerns of well-respected hunters that BM is in a bad place in terms of hunter play style, that it is not anywhere near what a hunter experience should be in this game.

If you are short on time and long on to-do’s, you prioritize. In this case, BM hunters are mechanically fine in Blizz’s view. Unlike some other specs, eveything works, nothing is obviously broken, so who has time to give a rat’s ass about “the feel”? Suck it up, hunters, there are DK issues to deal with!

I had a few more examples, but I am sure you get the idea. I am not bashing the WoW devs at Blizz, I really think they are doing everything they can to make an acceptable product within the constraints of their staff strengths and the August 30 deadline. I would not want their job right now. But I have serious reservations about corporate managers who have clearly failed to grasp the almost-incomprehensible complexity of the game as it has evolved, have failed to provide resource increases on the scale such complexity calls for, and who seem to have imposed a fantasy deadline for Legion. They are trying to squeeze every bit of cash they can from WoW, and they want to do it on the cheap. In their view, they are in the era of diminishing returns from the game. There is no benefit for them to make it excellent, their standard now is “good enough”.

“Try to limit your reports to things that are obviously bad.” Words to live by these days at 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.

5 Responses to Blizz’s new standard: Good enough

  1. @Marathal_2_0 says:

    From what I have found, at least concerning nameplates and other changes to the Interface. Some you may have to toggle to a different setting, exit, then go back in and set to what you want to see. The What’s new option has two images, where you would hope it would be more of a menu outlining the changes to the Interface and system. The class change blogs are months old, instead it has fallen to those running the major web sites to put out guides, I don’t even want to go into Shadowpriest changes. Some people are in love, it is making me consider exactly what you mentioned in your first paragraph.

    To me, it seems the game is designed now with the cream of the crop theory crafter’s and players being invited in for advance testing and to run ideas for improvements and changes. By the time it gets around to the average player to even take a peak into the Beta, the die has been cast and aside from some minor tuning changes, we get what is there, like it or not.

    I believe Alt mentioned too awhile back that there were issues pointed out in the Dreanor Beta that to this day have not been fixed. So I agree with you, there are probably dozens of ideas and thoughts on the table early on, but as the commitment day nears, get scrapped, and or taken care of if enough complain.

    • Fiannor says:

      You make a good point that is another indicator that Blizz has pretty much given up on excellence as a standard: They actually now depend on third party sites to fill in the gaps in their game by publishing up-to-date guides, and by writing addons to make the Blizz UI comprehensible. I confess I am somewhat of an addon junkie, but honestly does anyone think it would be possible to raid nowadays without DBM or Bigwigs? The existence of these widely used addons just gives Blizz the latitude to make boss encounters more and more complex, without the added responsibility of making the UI clearer and boss mechanics more easily detectable.

      I am almost to the point where I think we will look back on WoD as a well-planned rollout when we compare it to Legion ….

      • Yes, yes. Judging by how clunky Wowhead loads (and reloads), I’d guess the traffic is too much for this third-party site trying to support Blizzard.

  2. Grumsta says:

    I’m finding this pre-patch really odd. I’ve only been in one before when MoP ended. My characters then were still very powerful and the only real difference was the simplification of rotation when a load of spells were removed. We could nuke through SoO in a couple of hours, and playing solo was a doddle.

    This time it’s just plain weird. By and large I like the changes to the classes I play, but I feel utterly weak. I really feel the absence of the legendary weapon.

    I tried to help out a new Rogue gear up in Tanaan and it was a massive struggle to generate adequate dps. Once they were high enough ilevel to get into LFR we tried a few bosses. HFA, Reaver and Kormrok were pretty easy as you’d expect, but Archie was back to being a challenge (in the LFR sense of challenge, i.e. players tunnelling the boss or just being AFK). After 3 wipes we gave in, it was going nowhere. Possibly a typical EU Tuesday night group, they did happen before to be fair.

    I’m going to try HFC tonight with the guild. Not sure if we’re trying Normal or Heroic but I think the results will be “interesting”.

    My dps is between a third and half of what I was doing before. Trying to handle the upcoming invasions while hitting like a wet noodle should be character building anyway.

    • Fiannor says:

      You must have peeked into my drafts folder, my post today hits on a couple of those points. Basically, Blizz is making us play end game content with newly-handicapped gear and stats, more severe, I think, than in any previous pre-patch. It is not a great sensation, because we feel like we are at the top of our game for WoD, yet they are forcing us to play inadequately for 6 weeks. I think Blizz could have done a much better job of compensating for the class changes in the pre-patch, but I am sure that would have been far too much work. So they are once again making us suck it up because of their high school term paper approach to planning.

      My guild has not yet attempted HFC with the class changes. Last week we knocked out a few remaining guild achieves for Highmaul and will do the same for Blackrock Foundry this week. HFC might turn out to be too challenging, because we suddenly have a lot of returning guildies who have not played for over a year, and they would certainly want to be included in the weekly fun runs. The HFC mechanics even at Normal level, I suspect, will be too challenging for most of them, even given the recent nerfs, so if we don’t have enough players to carry them it will turn out to be a frustrating wipe fest.

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