Last night I was scrolling through Twitter and somebody mentioned that WoW fans should just shut up about Ravenholdt and let the WoW devs do what they want. While my last post wasn’t exactly criticism of the Ravenholdt vs. Sewers decision, I wanted to take a moment to address the role that criticism plays in our gaming, the way that we as fans interact with the developers of the games that we love so much, and how communication from developers can actually improve the situation.
At the risk of being one of “those people”, I’m going to state this up front because I want you to understand where I’m coming from (not that it elevates my status above any other player AT ALL). I’ve played WoW off-and-on since beta, mostly constantly during Vanilla/TBC/Wrath, and in spurts through Cata/MoP/Warlords. I love Warcraft. I love the lore, I love the world, I love the stylized graphics and crazy colors juxtaposed over dark and gritty stories and quests. I had never played the original Warcraft RTS games before starting WoW, and I’m not really a RTS player, but if they released a Warcraft 4 RTS I’d play it just to see where the story goes. I have all the books, the old WoW magazines, some plushies, t-shirts, etc. Basically, I’m a FAN. I love this franchise, even if I take breaks to play other games. I think the cinematics teams and music teams are #1 in the industry, and the developers over the years have done an amazing job of creating fun game experiences for millions of people.
All of that said, I will not back down from criticism when I deem it necessary. Here’s the thing: criticism doesn’t necessarily mean that you hate whatever it is that you’re criticizing. On the contrary, it shows that you care for it so much that you don’t want it to suck. The real danger in the gaming world is apathy. I’m not a Call of Duty player, so if you come to me and tell me that Call of Duty is implementing rainbow guns and playable purple manatees, I’ll probably just shrug my shoulders and say “okay”. It’s not my thing, so I don’t really care what they do. But if I were a fan, I’d probably be VERY upset about rainbow guns and purple manatees, because I don’t want the game to suck.
So if the developers make a decision that I don’t like, yes, I will criticize that. It’s important to note here that criticism doesn’t mean NERDRAGE. Nerdrage does nothing but get your opinion thrown out the window immediately. You have to be able to communicate your criticism in a way that is calm, doesn’t insult other players or the developers, and preferably includes other better options. That’s the kind of feedback that helps developers in the long run. If you don’t like something, what don’t you like about it? Why don’t you like it? What are other viable alternatives that would accomplish the same goals that the developers are going for?
It goes both ways though. Just as fans need to be respectful to the developers, they should be respectful to us, and part of that is in how they communicate. After this past weekend’s Dev “Q&A”/Chat/whatever that was on Sunday, players were steamed (and rightly so)because it wasn’t exactly as advertised. After reading the comments from the devs and CMs afterwards, it sounds like there was confusion in what it was actually to be – basically the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. If you’ve ever worked for a big corporation, you know that this isn’t all that unusual. It happens, and it’s an honest mistake. Blizzard apologized for the confusion and said they would try to do better in the future (yay! thank you!), but they also said that they are trying to avoid confusion and that in the future they will be tighter-lipped about their plans.
No. That’s not how you do it. Guys, if you want to establish good will among your customer base, this is all you need to do:
“So we think we have some really cool locations for these class halls. Lights Hope Chapel for paladins, a fel planet for warlocks, and the Dalaran sewers for rogues are all options that we are looking at, but we’re still investigating the options.”
“What we have planned for Legion is the launch raid tier followed by an additional raid tier with the first content patch. We’d also like to add flying into Legion with the first content patch if possible, but we’ll have to see how much time it takes to finish up the raiding and other content.”
“We are planning on revamping professions to implement new UIs, new craftable items, specializations for each craft, and recipes for cosmetics and artifact enhancements for each profession. We think it might be really cool for mini-pets to have a miniature artifact that they use during pet battles. It’s still a work in progress so things may change, but we hope to show more once we have that locked down.”
“No promises, but we will take a look at a moose mount.”
A little transparency and humility would make a MAJOR difference in how the Blizzard devs are perceived and treated by the WoW community. Back before SoE became Daybreak, the communication from Dave Georgeson to the Landmark beta community was astounding. Every single day, and multiple times a day, he would post updates on what bugs were being fixed and what the team was working on. I’m not saying that Blizzard should do daily updates, but quick Producer’s Letters every couple of months wouldn’t hurt. The community managers shouldn’t be afraid to respond to player questions either, even if it’s a “I don’t yet have an answer, but I’ll see what I can find out.”
Increase the communication about the development process without making “promises”, and you’ll build player trust. Build player trust, and the tone of player communication will change over time to something far less toxic than it is currently.