WoW Dev Outlines The Challenges of Catering to a Diverse Community

WoW Dev Outlines The Challenges of Catering to a Diverse Community

legion 11

World of Warcraft is a massive game made up of dozens of "minority" players, which makes it really hard to cater to all of them.

"Why would Blizzard do this? Can't they see that everyone hates it?" If you head over to the official World of Warcraft forums, you will find this is a fairly common sentiment. The latest such post regards to an "absurdly" high gold cost on new cosmetic items introduced in the game's upcoming Legion expansion. However, rather than just brush over the issue, Blizzard poster "Watcher" has offered up an explanation of why so many fans feel that their complaints fall on deaf ears. In short, there are a lot of different types of World of Warcraft players, and its almost impossible to cater to all of them at once.

"Almost every facet of WoW is an activity that caters to a minority of the playerbase. That may sound odd at first blush, but it's true. In a sense, that's part of the magic of WoW. It is not a narrow game, but rather one that can be enjoyed in numerous different ways, by people with hugely diverse playstyles," he explained. "A minority of players raid. A minority of players participate in PvP. A tiny minority touch Mythic raiding. A tiny minority of players do rated PvP. A minority of players have several max-level alts. A minority of players do pet battles, roleplay, list things for sale on the auction house, do Challenge Mode dungeons, and the list goes on."

He said that these groups of minorities tend to clump together, and only really associate with the other players in their minority. Hardcore raiders, for example, aren't too likely to converse with hardcore PvPers, and a casual guild of friends is unlikely to talk with either group. Because of this, players get into the mindset that "everyone" hates/loves something, when in reality it is just within their "minority".

"If we have some special reward (be it a unique mount, a powerful item, a title, etc.) and we choose to associate it with a particular playstyle, almost by definition a majority of player feedback will be against that decision. For example, if an awesome mount comes exclusively from PvP, the majority of players who don't participate in PvP yet desire the mount would prefer that it were otherwise."

It's a really interesting read if you've got the time.

Permalink

Yeah. And it became a jack of all trades and master of none in comparison to before.

I think they've still got 7 million people subscribed. But it was almost double. Why I quit back then is pretty much described here. Since they started to diversify their gameplay, they lost their focus. Sure, I didn't want to do the same thing all over again and again, but this "should" have been solved through evolution. Yes, the raids became more cinematic. But that's pretty much the only positive evolution I'd count. The social aspects have been reduced to death, imo. Sure, I like dungeon finders and maybe even raid finders. But this solution, especially the raid part, has almost killed the purpouse for guilds for rather casual players. Did it work? Did it draw in more customers than having it lose customers? I don't know. It sure helped losing me, since it got harder and harder to get guilds together.

Even just the amount of content important to me has been reduced.

The hows and whats and speculations have been talked about to death by now. But this is a valuable insight into something that is obvious on one hand but on the other also a good definition of what has driven probably a lot of players out.

To be honest, this burns me as a whole for all of future Blizzard games. I still enjoy Diablo 3 if I'd still play it, they've pulled it around pretty good. But all this increasing ingame transaction stuff frightens me really bad, including Diablo 3 previously (which I only purchased in combination with RoS on its release date). Sure, you're a company and you need money to squeeze out everywhere. But then let me speak with my wallet. I simply don't like it.

And I still don't get why Blizzard hasn't banked on WoW so much as to improve it in every way with more spent resources, more frequent raids and more dungeons as well as all the other clutter on top. It should be possible with more and more man power in theory.

Nah, too expensive. Well Blizzard, it's now at the latest half time. Half of the people have gone, absolutely coinciding with your complete shift towards this agenda. I wonder.

TL;DR: I for one, and seemingly for a lot of people, would rather have had an evolution for what concepts were in rather than almost only diversification. I don't want to use/play anything with content I won't enjoy for a longer period of time and having at the same time my bread and butter being reduced. And at the latest with Cataclysm I don't give a shit about the lore anymore, either.

I see the point. WoW is made up of factions of "minority" players, but not in a social or racial sense (in real world terms). Like they said its multiple playstyles grouped together in the same game but each group has different goals and motivations to play. Casual raiders and PvE content, semi-solo players, achievement hunters, top tier raiders, top tier PvPers, casual PvPers. There's so much for every type.
This is actually how Blizz does business in its online capacity, you can see it in most of their games. Overwatch has a very diverse class system for variant playstyles. Heroes of the Storm has varying degrees of play, from vs. AI (Group PvE) to PvP, ranked/unranked. Hearthstone even allows for players to stay casual (though honestly Blizz could do more to make the game a bit less pay-to-be-competitive). Diablo 3 has range for players to play each class their own way, even though cookie cutter builds exist one still can build their own toon and still be viable. SC2 is even open for multiple types of players, much more than its predecessor ever could have been.
Arguably Blizz is more successful at keeping their games open for as many playstyles as possible. Some people are offended by this, those exclusionary gatekeepers of gaming culture. I'm usually open to allowing anyone to have their say but I do draw the line at people who believe they own a game and the devs must cater to those who play a certain way and only that way. Like it or not, Blizzard wants to reach as many people as possible and like them or not, they're the most successful at doing so.

This is a perfect example of why some people dread that their favorite franchise/series/etc. want to aim for the magical "wider audience". The thing becomes wide, sure, but also shallow.

...And he didn't address the "absurdly" high gold cost in the slightest.

He's still just using fancy wording to say "Fuck off". A company making stupid choices is still a company making stupid choices. The excuse doesn't matter.

Dango:
...And he didn't address the "absurdly" high gold cost in the slightest.

He's still just using fancy wording to say "Fuck off". A company making stupid choices is still a company making stupid choices. The excuse doesn't matter.

You've got to read a bit more between the lines. The reason he went on this rant was because he has seen the same kind of complaints all across the forums: people complaining that something designed to be a "special reward" for a minority group isn't catering to their interests.

In this case, the 2 million gold mount is a reward for players who like to amass huge swathes of gold, be it by playing the auction house, farming a lot, or even buying that gold with real money (via subscription tokens). It's a special reward for a minority group, and it's not as special for that minority if EVERYONE has access to it.

The situation is essentially mirrored in his example talking about a PVP exclusive mount.

Steven Bogos:
You've got to read a bit more between the lines. The reason he went on this rant was because he has seen the same kind of complaints all across the forums: people complaining that something designed to be a "special reward" for a minority group isn't catering to their interests.

In this case, the 2 million gold mount is a reward for players who like to amass huge swathes of gold, be it by playing the auction house, farming a lot, or even buying that gold with real money (via subscription tokens). It's a special reward for a minority group, and it's not as special for that minority if EVERYONE has access to it.

The situation is essentially mirrored in his example talking about a PVP exclusive mount.

And then I have a flashback about the girl in my guild throwing a hissy fit because we wouldn't carry her through rated battlegrounds for the mount. She was the resident mount collector, and owned almost all of them; the only ones she was missing were the high-end PvP reward mounts, since she was rich enough to outright buy any rare raid drops.

Our RBG team wasn't great to begin with, which meant we couldn't afford to carry anyone. She refused to use a PvP spec or play a different character, so we kicked her out of the RBG group.

Left the guild the next day and took one of our best healers with her. Raid progression was stymied for a MONTH because of this shit.

OT: WoW's problem is that the pool is getting too big. Back during the glory days of Wrath of the Lich King, a dedicated enough player truly could earn everything that the game had to offer.

No more. There's just too much to get.

The only people these days who are capable of earning all of the game's rewards are the people who do literally nothing but play WoW all day, every day. I had a guy like this in my guild; he was disabled and couldn't work, so WoW really was all that he did.

There's nothing wrong with catering to specific playerbases...you just can't cater to all of them. You need to find a magic number that keeps the game interesting, but accessible.

That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

...hell, that makes sense. Gold income has inflated like hell over the years (I play irregularly and don't AH farm and still have something like 700k), so having the Expense Mount being this much isn't that surprising.

Plus they've had these kinds of mounts since... god, I think Wrath? I can't remember BC mount costs anymore, it's so long ago. But 5000 gold for a motorbike and 10k for a Mammoth was a shit-ton of gold back in those days just for a mount. Plus there was the Wintergrasp Mammoth (now purchasable for honor), crafting mounts... yeah, this kind of thing isn't new or shocking.

And what he's saying makes sense. Something to appeal to everyone. It's... really nothing new, since they've had so many different classes, professions, leveling zones, quest types, boss fights, PvP arenas, battlegrounds, methods of mount collection, achievements... they've been around since vanilla. Different players like different things, WoW's always catered to these various groups.

If you want the Spider mount but don't like gold farming then... *shrug*. There's a reason I don't have the PvP mounts despite thinking they're cool.

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No it isn't. They used the word exactly right, it covers the content of the article perfectly. There are lots of different kinds players in the WoW playerbase and it's hard to keep them all happy.

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No, it's quite possibly one of the most accurate titles.

OT: There are times when I feel the Devs were just trying to widen their scope in order to not have to put up with the cesspool that is the WoW and MMO Champion Forums anymore, which didn't work. Frankly, a lot of players don't actually know what they want, or think they do, only to have it implemented and realise having all you ever wanted isn't particularly exciting in game terms. Plus the WoW fanbase is fucking atrocious, they are never happy with anything, ever. People will complain venomously about the smallest things, actively applaud fuck ups, and have people that stuck around for fucking years like creepy stalkers just to gloat about the lowering sub count. The community is seriously spiteful towards Blizzard.

It feels rather like the WoW dev team has lost its spine at times, obviously listening to player feedback and sticking to your creative vision is a delicate line, but I feel that they became /too/ subservient and any attempts to wrench back power are met with so much teeth gnashing rather than proper responses that they don't even try anymore. Reading the comments for anything on WoW on the forums or large WOW related sites is soul crushing.

It doesn't help that the community is fucking horrible. Noone respects each others playstyles, and actively cheer when things harm other groups. Or covetous angry people, who detest those that have better things than them. Which nicely leads me on to...

Dango:
...And he didn't address the "absurdly" high gold cost in the slightest.

He's still just using fancy wording to say "Fuck off". A company making stupid choices is still a company making stupid choices. The excuse doesn't matter.

You're totally missing the point of the article/post. The absurdly high gold cost is addressed, just not directly.

If we have some special reward (be it a unique mount, a powerful item, a title, etc.) and we choose to associate it with a particular playstyle, almost by definition a majority of player feedback will be against that decision. For example, if an awesome mount comes exclusively from PvP, the majority of players who don't participate in PvP yet desire the mount would prefer that it were otherwise."

Just replace pvp with "auction house". I can't afford that mount, I will NEVER be able to afford that mount most likely, because I am fucking awful at hording gold. I am totally okay with that, it's a reward for people who like to amass gold. It's just a mount, and if they want to put it behind a massive gold wall to reward those who spent time making gold? Then they are well within their rights to say "fuck off" in fanciful language.

Floppertje:

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No it isn't. They used the word exactly right, it covers the content of the article perfectly. There are lots of different kinds players in the WoW playerbase and it's hard to keep them all happy.

elvor0:

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No, it's quite possibly one of the most accurate titles.

I think everyone here thought of a very specific kind of diversity when they first read the title, only to see that the article talks about something else entirely. In that sense, yes, it was misleading since the word has certain connotations that can't be avoided, even if it is technically correct.

Damir Halilovic:

Floppertje:

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No it isn't. They used the word exactly right, it covers the content of the article perfectly. There are lots of different kinds players in the WoW playerbase and it's hard to keep them all happy.

elvor0:

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No, it's quite possibly one of the most accurate titles.

I think everyone here thought of a very specific kind of diversity when they first read the title, only to see that the article talks about something else entirely. In that sense, yes, it was misleading since the word has certain connotations that can't be avoided, even if it is technically correct.

And the only way to change that and get over this whole stupid culture war is to stop acting like everything is about it and we definitely shouldn't change the bloody dictionary.

I will agree that the game's focus has been lost, admitting to playing on the late Nostalrius server myself, The change has been very obvious.

Thing is, the old WoW played very much like a DnD campaign, despite the glorification of the 40 man raids, it's the levelling that took the great bulk of the game's actual content, you progressed in levels and reputation for more power, which you needed to go into dungeons for awesome loot, which you used to level up some more, get into new dungeons, get more loot, etc etc.
The progression of this was quite slow, but gave you breathing space to pay attention to your professions and class quests, or quests that quite interest you but left behind, getting a level 40 mount was a long term plan you considered at level 25, you had to read the quest's text to find out where you were going and get an idea of what's actually going on, Garrisons weren't a thing yet, so any specific craft item you needed was to be bought from another player, you were not self-sufficient as a character, no matter what class and professions you picked.

People that like this kinda gameplay played this game, and Blizzard catered to them as a result, at least in the beginning, but then decided to "broaden the demographic" to draw in more players, things became more accessible so more players could see all the content, which is nice except for people who wanted the challenge, group finder and raid finder became a thing which made guilds largely obsolete, which lost the people who actually enjoy interacting and managing large guilds, small extra's like critter battles didn't really draw any new players in nor kept a lot of people around for that reason so it's kinda THERE, all in all it's kind of a mess.

What I mean by lack of focus is that it doesn't seem clear what Blizzard wants to do with their game themselves, they listen to the demands of their player base but end up pleasing nobody since the game doesn't have a clear vision of what it wants to accomplish, and ultimately can't commit because of the fractured playerbase.

TLDR: Blizzard has broadened their audience too much to commit to a clear design philosophy and make up a solution that will please everyone.

Dango:
...And he didn't address the "absurdly" high gold cost in the slightest.

To be fair, Blizzard is notorious for not addressing issues, unless the issue is Tracer's butt.

They're so scared of pissing people off, that they compromise everything instead of just some things.
If no one is happy, everyone is happy enough.

Let's take raiding as an example - Generally not a lot of people raid, but raiding is specific enough that you need people with skill to handle a lot of mandatory roles, one of which is healing. There is and has always been a lack of competent healers.
Solution? Make healing easier and you get a lot more healers for raiding guilds.
Why won't they do it? Because a vocal minority wants healing to be a challenge and trivializing it ruins the game for them.

Bottom line is that it sucks, no matter what you do, but the obvious route to go is to make sure that people raid, not to cater to everyones wishes. Blizzard is too scared to do this, because that would be an obvious flaw to complain about, but even though the gain is greater, people would be hard pressed to praise it, because it's not obvious.

They have to make hard choices, all game developers do, but Blizzard thinks every choice is one that will cost them millions of subscribers. As long as you have a reason for that choice, if you can back it up with conviction, then people will generally respect it, the rest can go fuck themselves.

This is what happens when you try to make inclusive games, for people with all sorts of different tastes, you end up with a formless goo that barely passes as mediocre.

Naldan:

I think they've still got 7 million people subscribed.

Likely fewer than that, actually. The last time they reported being above 7 million was Q1 2015. It was down to 5.5 million by Q3 2015, and that was when Blizzard announced that they'd stop publicly reporting the number. Perhaps I'm cynical about the whole thing, but I highly doubt that they'd be silent about their numbers if they started rising again. More likely they've been consistently dropping with the apparent drought of content with Warlords. I stopped playing around February 2015 (I'd had an active account since the week the game originally launched), and as far as I'm aware, they haven't really added a whole lot to the game since then - and they expect that to hold people's interest until Legion. I'd assume that by this point they might actually be around the 4-million mark, especially after all the negative PR they got over the whole Nostalrius thing and all of the negativity from Legion's beta testers with regard to recycled Warlords content.

/shrug.

At this point, I think I'm pretty much done with the game. A good chunk of the remaining community is pretty toxic, and the changes made with Warlords (and by extension Legion) just don't interest me. I'd be interested if Blizzard offered official legacy servers, but with the talk of those crappy "Pristine Realms" - I'm not even convinced that Blizzard could adequately release content that they've already made.

It's a shame. I used to LOVE Blizzard, but with all the changes made to WoW, the WoW-ification of Diablo, and pretty much everything they've done with Starcraft post-Wings of Liberty... I think I'm just not their primary demographic anymore.

Schadrach:

Dango:
...And he didn't address the "absurdly" high gold cost in the slightest.

To be fair, Blizzard is notorious for not addressing issues, unless the issue is Tracer's butt.

Then the answer is clear. Someone needs to create a talking animation for Tracer's butt :D. Then all we have to do is get someone to voice it and we can turn it into the players mouth piece ;)

Isn't the gold thing obvious? It's a gold sink. Inflation is high, people are hoarding a ton of gold so they create something expensive for people to buy so they can get rid of some of that excess gold.

Tuesday Night Fever:

Naldan:

I think they've still got 7 million people subscribed.

Likely fewer than that, actually. The last time they reported being above 7 million was Q1 2015. It was down to 5.5 million by Q3 2015, and that was when Blizzard announced that they'd stop publicly reporting the number.

5.5 million? Damn. So FF14 will very likely be the biggest sub based MMO by the end of the year. They were at 5 million last August and were only growing from there.

While FF14 does have some of the same issues that Vanilla WoW players don't like, its still the only other MMO to remain sub based in a longer damn time so kudos to Square Enix. Especially with cross platform play and the large amount of free expansions helps too.

FF

AzrealMaximillion:

5.5 million? Damn. So FF14 will very likely be the biggest sub based MMO by the end of the year. They were at 5 million last August and were only growing from there.

While FF14 does have some of the same issues that Vanilla WoW players don't like, its still the only other MMO to remain sub based in a longer damn time so kudos to Square Enix. Especially with cross platform play and the large amount of free expansions helps too.

You know the funny thing? FF actually releases significantly less content than Blizzard, but they do it in a way that feels better. If you look at the top end raiding scene, FF releases 4 bosses every 6 months. Blizzard has more bosses in single raids than the entire expansion's top end in FF. But because of FF's schedule, where they release a top end raid tier, then a more casual catchup raid, then another top end, with a few other small boosts in between the major releases, it always /feels/ like there is something in the pipes that you can look forward to.

Blizzard objectively has tons and tons of content, but the huge end-of-expansion droughts in particular feel pretty terrible.

Honestly they really do not get it. About the high price of items.. THEY made that problem, not the players. What is currently happening is that they made the expansion player hub "Garrisons" an easy way to make money. Now every player who maybe sat this expansion out or didn't take advantage of it will be seriously behind in terms of gold. As an example me sitting at about 50k gold. I sat out of it and people are complaining that the gold cap (999,999g) is too low (although it is changing to 9,999,999g in the next expansion). To top it all off they will be removing much of the gold making from the Garrisons. So 2 million gold priced items will be beyond reach for new players and most of the playerbase.

They can say cant please anyone but they have ruined almost every aspect of the game. PvP is a stunlock and crowd control nightmare. I refuse to PvP anymore, and I know a lot of people have complained. They also have removed any uniqueness in each class. Professions have all but become useless and locked behind a daily routine. Reputations have turned into an only terrible grinding experience with some factions having no alternatives. They gave us flying mounts but are reluctant to let us use them in new expansions. The story and lore have turned into cringe worthy garbage, with the occasional death of an important character for shock value alone. Also much of the story is in the books not the game now. Leaving people not knowing why we are doing any of the things we do.. Raid quality has gone up but that's the only plus I see.

If they're trying to please someone, I can hardly tell who.

AzrealMaximillion:
5.5 million? Damn. So FF14 will very likely be the biggest sub based MMO by the end of the year. They were at 5 million last August and were only growing from there.

I'm not entirely sure about that. The numbers for WoW have been dropping, but there's also a major expansion coming out at the end of August. That's going to sharply boost the subscription numbers before the end of the year. When Warlords of Draenor launched the subscription numbers jumped from 7.4 million players (Q3 2014) to 10 million players (Q4 2014). We may not know, though. It'll depend on whether Blizzard remains committed to keeping subscription numbers private, or if they decide to brag about their short-term gains for the sake of a cheap PR opportunity.

I don't expect the launch boost for Legion to be quite as drastic as it was for Warlords of Draenor, though. I think Warlords did kind of a lot to damage the IP (at least, the MMORPG aspect of it) for a lot of people. A lot of the people I used to raid with have taken an "I'll wait for the reviews before I buy it" stance toward this one, which they've never done before with Blizzard. The boost is also unlikely to be sustained for more than a few months. Of course, that's assuming that Legion is of comparable quality to Warlords of Draenor. Who knows. Maybe Blizzard will knock it out of the park with Legion, word-of-mouth will boost sales, and the game won't bleed more subscriptions than the launch gained within a matter a months. I certainly hope Legion turns out to be great, because it'd be pigheaded to want a game to do poorly... I just wouldn't bet on it being great.

It's cool to see FFXIV doing so well, though. I've never really been a fan of the Final Fantasy franchise, but I played it for a couple months to try it out, and it seemed like a pretty solid game. I got the impression that its developers are actually pretty active with the community. It's not really my cup of tea though, but I appreciate the variety existing.

Cryselle:
You know the funny thing? FF actually releases significantly less content than Blizzard, but they do it in a way that feels better. If you look at the top end raiding scene, FF releases 4 bosses every 6 months. Blizzard has more bosses in single raids than the entire expansion's top end in FF. But because of FF's schedule, where they release a top end raid tier, then a more casual catchup raid, then another top end, with a few other small boosts in between the major releases, it always /feels/ like there is something in the pipes that you can look forward to.

(The below is not meant to be taken as a personal attack to anyone, I just quoted this as it was pertinent)

I'll just point this out as probably the dominant failing for WoW as opposed to FF14. For WoW, the only thing that matters since I would say late Lich King is the end raid. Dungeons are a push over, the world questing is the same stuff since vanilla, the characters have no real depth or development (Yrel, a recent character introduced in Warlords is really the only character since Wrath that I would say had any real effort in those areas) and the story is rehashed from prior stuff that the player feels less a part of it and more dragged along. Unless you're doing the end raid you're not really a part of anything in the game. The raid is all that matters.

By contrast, FF14 does not center around the top tier raid as being the only game in town at all. The dungeons are always interesting and varied (unlike with WoW, where a higher difficulty is just higher stats, a higher difficulty dungeon or trial in 14 is a wholly different experience) with a respectable challenge for each. New quests and chains are introduced with each major patch, the characters are interesting (remember what I said about Yrel in WoW? That is average for FF14 instead of being a stand out) and the player is a part of the story because the story centers around the player. You're not just a nameless traveler who is in the background while the NPC stars take all the credit. OF anything, top tier raiding is one of the weaker aspects of the game but the game is handled in such a manner that it's more of an asset than a drawback.

To put it simply, if end game raiding is the only thing that matters to you, then WoW is the superior game. But FF14 brings so much more than end game raiding than WoW does so while yes, WoW raids have more bosses, FF14 has more content overall coming out at a more steady pace than WoW ever had because for FF14, end raids are not he only thing that matters.

AzrealMaximillion:

Tuesday Night Fever:

Naldan:

I think they've still got 7 million people subscribed.

Likely fewer than that, actually. The last time they reported being above 7 million was Q1 2015. It was down to 5.5 million by Q3 2015, and that was when Blizzard announced that they'd stop publicly reporting the number.

5.5 million? Damn. So FF14 will very likely be the biggest sub based MMO by the end of the year. They were at 5 million last August and were only growing from there.

Actually, Square said they had 5.5 million /registered/ users. Afaik We don't know for sure how many active users they have.(although if something has occured to correct that, correct me.)

Damir Halilovic:

Floppertje:

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No it isn't. They used the word exactly right, it covers the content of the article perfectly. There are lots of different kinds players in the WoW playerbase and it's hard to keep them all happy.

elvor0:

Damir Halilovic:
That is a misleading title if I've ever seen one.

No, it's quite possibly one of the most accurate titles.

I think everyone here thought of a very specific kind of diversity when they first read the title, only to see that the article talks about something else entirely. In that sense, yes, it was misleading since the word has certain connotations that can't be avoided, even if it is technically correct.

By "everyone" you mean "I thought of a very specific kind of diversity". It's not misleading. If you thought of a specific kind of diversity that's fine, but don't call the article misleading when it clearly isn't. If you want to attach specific connotations to the word diverse before you discover the context, that's your problem, not the articles, It's not technically correct, it is correct.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here