Of sledge hammers and responsibilities

Yesterday there was a long blue post in one of the forums, about Blizz’s decision to axe the use of all nameplate addons for friendly characters in raids. Basically, insofar as I can surmise, Blizz did this because they were annoyed that one of the world-first Mythic guilds used such an addon to gain an advantage defeating one of the Nighthold bosses, and Blizz thought this was No fair, no fair! (Stomp feet, pout, get angry red face.)

Up front, let me say that I really don’t give a flying fig about the specifics of this action — I don’t use friendly nameplates at all, much less in the chaotic visual salad that is raid bosses. So I doubt that this will have much if any direct effect on my game play, and I suspect it will have very little effect on 90% or more of regular players.

Still, I found Blizz’s action interesting. It struck me as a real overreaction, like using a sledge hammer to swat a fly. One top-level guild uses one specialized addon to help them defeat one boss in a Mythic instance of one raid tier, and Blizz considers the best solution is to ban the use of all similar addons for all raid teams for all bosses in all raids?

Why not tell the guild, “Sorry, we have determined that you used an exploit, and we warned everyone that use of exploits would nullify any achievements they were used for, so go back and try again.” Would this have angered the guild? Sure, and they might have rightfully claimed Blizz was being arbitrary and capricious, but hey welcome to the world the rest of us Great Unwashed live in. Blizz, of course, is loathe to annoy the top guilds because they are money-makers, so they tend to tiptoe around them asking if maybe they could get them another cup of tea or a crumpet or something. A world-first guild has to do something pretty heinous for Blizz to sanction them in any way. In this case, like the medieval use of whipping boys as stand-ins for misbehaving royalty, Blizz is punishing others for one incident of one guild’s naughtiness.

In any human endeavor, some will inevitably rise to the top, some will become leaders. As leaders they are treated differently than those they lead, they have certain privileges and are able to exercise certain powers either directly or indirectly. There are good reasons for this, and at any rate it is just the way of the world. Most people accept it.

But here’s the thing: With leadership comes responsibility. The more power you have, the more loathe you must be to exercise it. The more privileges you have, the less you must be willing to use them. The more adulation you receive, the more you must shun it. In all things, you must keep in mind the greater good of those you lead, not your own personal advancement. This is true whether you are the leader of a nation or an army general or the treasurer of your middle school student council. Or a top level guild in a computer game.

Which brings me — finally — to my point. Many players look to the achievements of top guilds, as well as to the game play of members of those guilds, as models worthy of emulation. And Blizz encourages this through their promotion of world first competitions and esports events. This makes these guilds and their members leaders in the gaming community. No, they don’t have the nuclear codes, and the world order will not collapse as a result of their decisions, but they are leaders nonetheless, whether or not they realize it.

Gaming “leaders” are a relatively new group on the world stage. The closest similar group are sports stars, both individuals and teams. As we all know, not all sports stars exercise their leadership in positive ways (well, to be honest, many world leaders do not, either), but maybe now is the time for gaming leaders to establish a pattern of high standards and excellent leadership in their games. Not just in achievements, but in the methods they use to get there.

I don’t honestly know if the nameplate addon usage was a shady exploit or not, for all I know it was perfectly legitimate to assume it was okay to use. But what I do wonder is if the guild that used it even thought about the precedent they were setting, or the possible ramifications to other players if their technique was determined to be unfair. Are these guilds setting a good example when they skirt the boundaries of normal play by using split runs and gear funneling in their pursuit of a world first achievement? Do they even consider the possibility that their actions may have an adverse effect on normal players? Again, I am not saying any of these procedures are wrong, I just think it is time for the top guilds to acknowledge their leadership position and to make decisions responsibly and in accordance with a consideration for the greater good of the game. If that means they reject certain actions as not setting a good example — even if it means they might lose an edge for the title of world first — then that is a positive sign for the future of world class gaming.

And now, let the weekend begin.

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.

7 Responses to Of sledge hammers and responsibilities

  1. Marathal says:

    I recall reading about one of the Worlds first guilds using a Weak Aura so complex you needed to be a high level programmer to write it, to gain an advantage on one fight. There are so many highly skilled programmers out there that can easily create an add on to make even just one thing easier, that give them an advantage over other players. I use to live with Carbonite, for questing and finding that one tiny item that the game map would show located in a 40 acre farm someplace, but the add on pin pointed to within 2 feet. When you play on an older computer with graphics turned down to minimum, you cannot see a small pebble that is sparkling. Is it a cheat giving me an advantage? Probably, it is not game changing, just quality of life. I cannot imagine how disabling something that showed Friendly player nameplates could be that game breaking, compared to Iskar assist, or others like it.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, some people like and use addons, others do not. Many of the addons, as you point out, are for quality of life enhancements, and honestly if Blizz were interested in how it feels for a wide variety of people with a wide variety of computers to play this game, they would do a much better job on their own UI. The fact is, they do not, because they know addon authors will do the heavy lifting for them on this.

      Like you, I don’t think disabling name plate addons for friendly players in raids is game breaking. However, it strikes me that when Blizz allows clever addon authors to cover their own UI inadequacies — and by the way also make it possible for the devs to go crazy designing insane raid mechanics — they should not act surprised and indignant when these same addon authors push the addon API to the limits.

  2. I think you have highlighted a fundamental flaw in the almost haphazard nature of issue identification within Blizzard.

    I cannot see any kind of consistency with which issues getting responses and within the magnitude of the response itself. This suggests to me that they either don’t have a framework to rate the significance of an issue or that the methods currently in place are wholly inadequate.

    For instance, in Legion, they’ve seized on spec fantasy as the core identifying element beyond the revamping of nearly every specilization. There were questions about having each of the specs performing to certain standards, because Legion asked them to commit to a specialization. As a result, there were multiple assurances from Blizzard that they understood they had to have each spec functional and effective to be successful. They were willing to make that commitment to each spec.

    In WoD they simply gut Survival because they weren’t prepared to invest the resources to better manage the interaction between multistrike and survival’s toolkit. So it was alright to shank Survival and leave it in a ditch in Wod, but in Legion it’s not? Inconsistent resource management. Lets give them benefit of the doubt and say, Blizzard recognized the error of shanking Survival, and that is part of the motivation for those assurances for “No Spec Left Behind” policy.

    Have they succeeded in doing that this expansion. Since I haven’t played Legion, I cannot speak to their success with direct exp, but I doubt they have succeeded in all the classes, and have they treated them as minimally as the gameplay of hunters?

    It strikes me that any deliberate process would result in some sort of reasoned consistency. What it feels more like is that various levels of the middle and upper management see a particular issue that strikes them, for whatever reason. Offense that you out tricked my tricky raid encounter, or sense of abusive mechanics (alts supporting mains anyone?), or some honest belief that this particular issue is really significant. These specific issues spark some internal fire within the leaders who require a solution. I think this is the Occam’s Razor answer to why Blizzard shows strong inconsistency throughout its resource investment and issue addressment.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, I have long held the theory that there really is no good, comprehensive project management at Blizz. I think they know how to do long term planning, like structuring the big pieces of the next several expansions quite far in advance. Similarly, I know they can do very detailed development. What I find regularly missing are good “mid-range” project management policies on things like customer communications, consistent and clear lines between a project’s big picture and the details that are supposed to support it, and — as you point out — consistent problem evaluation, resource management, and prioritization.

  3. Aren’t healing addons basically friendly name plates?

    • Fiannor says:

      You know, I had not considered that, but I think maybe they are. In that case, I have to say I do use them, because I use HealBot on my healers. And also in that case, I wonder if they will be similarly affected — if they are, many many raid teams will constantly wipe. I suspect Blizz will end up making some kind of distinction between the “good” friendly name plate apps and the “evil” ones.

  4. Pingback: Cheats and chiselers and lines not to be crossed | Misdirections

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