Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blizzard, Forum Angst, and the Confluence of Events

So my previous post on the implications of Theramore's destruction with regards to the narrative path of World of Warcraft took off. I'd meant to follow up on it sooner, but NaNoWriMo's deadline was bearing down on me. So I put things off so that I could hit my mark on my Novel. But it's no longer National Novel Writing Month, so I'm back at the blog.

Since Blizzcon, the forums have been absolutely on fire with disgruntled Alliance players. Accusations of Horde Favoritism abound, and speculation into the future storyline of Mists of Pandaria have been prevalent. CMs have been summoned, and it's drawn the attention of at least the Lead Quest Designer in the developer's camp.

This is essentially "Occupy Azeroth". It's a disgruntled and disenfranchised mass of players attempting to make their concerns known. There's one problem. Like the Occupy Wall Street movements, they're complaining about a host of concerns, many of them legitimate, some of them not so legitimate, and it comes out in a dissonant cacophony that, while great for snaring attention, does a poor job of actually conveying what they're upset about. So I'm going to attempt to enumerate some of the more significant issues that people are taking up arms about., at a later date I'll explain each issue in a more in depth post for that issue.

1) Content for Alliance players is not as compelling as it is for Horde players.: Horde players get far more face time with their leaders in the new leveling experiences. Garrosh and Sylvannas in particular are all over the place, and their characterization is pushed along by the content. Baine is decently involved in the Tauren starting zone, and Vol'jin got a heavy spot with both sides in 4.1. The Alliance, not so much. Varian never leaves his throne room, the Council of Three Hammers takes one quest, Velen shows up for 12 seconds in Swamp of Sorrows, Geblin never never leaves the starting area, and Tyrande got a cameo in one instance which is designed to show people how badass she used to be. Alliance players spend more time questing for Vol'jin and Thrall in Cataclysm than they do questing for their own faction leaders.

2) Content for Alliance players was unfinished at launch: This was most evident in the Twilight Highlands intro and Worgen experience. There were a lot of things that were planned in beta that got cut. I don't think Blizzard realized how important what they were planning to communicate in the Twilight Highlands intro really was. It was the keystone for the entirety of the Cataclysm leveling experience for Alliance, and they abandoned it for a wacky ride with a drunk dwarf.

3) The current story line in not sustainable, and has already been pushed beyond what the writers can control: I already covered this in the previous post. Blizzard isn't going to destroy either side. So portraying total war is very amateurish storytelling, because they can't end it in a logical manner.

4) Too much Thrall: Fargo touched upon this in his dev blog. Thrall was particularly poorly written during this expansion, and it made it very difficult for Alliance players to relate, or care, about his end of the storyline.

5) Extremely unprofessional corporate communications on the part of Blizzard: I'm astounded by how bad Blizzard is at communicating with their player base at times. All too often they make unprofessional, and often counterproductive press releases. I'm not sure if it's because they don't know any better, or if they just don't care, but it's a serious problem. This came to a head with the Corpsegrinder fiasco at the 2011 Blizzcon. That video managed to offend all but a rather small subset of their client base.

6) Excessive Reliance on out of game mediums for story progression: Blizzard has taken the books and comics and manga from being a supplemental means of story development, that is to say that they would advance side plots too small to be given fair treatment in game, to a seat of primary story development, which is to say that they are now covering aspects of story development that should be covered in the game, and it is diminishing the game's immersive quality in the process.

All of this has come to a head, and combined into a firestorm that's burning the forums to the ground. I find it interesting because it's not about numbers this time. It's not about content being too hard or too easy, or something being unbalanced in PvP. This is the first time that players are outright unhappy with the product being put out by Blizzard, rather than harping on minor tweaks to numbers within the game. This has been the biggest conflagration on the Forums since the RealID Fiasco, and it would behoove Blizzard to take a hard look at the product they're releasing, and the manner in which they're communicating with their player base.


  1. All true, all true. The only question that remains is will Blizzard be able to pull themselves out of this tailspin by the next expanssion or will this mark the beginning of the end for Wow's title of top MMORPG?

  2. 1) Velen shows up for 12 seconds in Swamp of Sorrows? Blood elf leader, whatever his name is, never shows up for any quest, ever. And the goblin's faction leader vanishes from the face of Azeroth when the goblin storyline is over, while Mr. "my people have suffered so much" gets to hangout in Stormwind for all to see.

    4) Too much Thrall? Too much Malfurion! Horde had to deal with that night elf for months while working on Hyjal dailies every single day, meanwhile alliance only have to see Thrall during a stand-alone quest or two.

  3. 1) Lor'themar had just as much face time in the Quel'delar quest chain as Velen had in Swamp of Sorrows, and I'm sure the Worgen players would gladly give up Genn if it meant that they got a questing experience that was anything close to what the goblins got in Azshara.

    As for Malfurion, Malfurion was written as a believably, if somewhat blandly, neutral character. Up to he point where he idly stands by as the Horde murder his wife in Darnassus. He never flies an Alliance standard, he never takes up arms against the Horde, and he never threatens Horde characters. Thrall does all three in Cataclysm content. That's one of the major complaints, is that they're trying to pass Thrall off as a neutral character, when he acts in an explicitly pro-horde manner. It would have actually been a much more interesting storyline if they made Thrall the Horde's face for Cata, and Malfurion the Alliance's, rather than them being all buddy-buddy. Much like the Alliance had Jaina and the Horde had Sylvannas in Wrath.