Expectations are very difficult to manage. Rant.

I was reading about the Blood Elf models not making the WoW – Warlords release, and through the comments people are extrapolating from that (a) Blizzard are rushing, (b) release might be around the corner, (c) the community deserve a little more information, (d) Blizzard have had plenty of time already and they are lazy, (e) the expansion will be terrible.

The variety and breadth of perspectives on the next expansion is telling of two things. The fan-base isn’t sure of many details they consider important, and that Blizzard isn’t actually served (in the short term) by being honest with their fans.

The company who is infamous for releasing when they are ready, and who has already said that the game will be released closer to December than July – I just don’t get it. A feature set was broad brushed a long time ago, and details are being released to keep the fans interested and also to keep WoW’s long tail of blogs, news, etc alive. The release dates cycle is very long (basically impossible to argue against) but it is not significantly longer than other expansions.

I do not think the studio deserve to be derided for communicating about status, delays, and where their thinking is, because the alternative is that they just go silent and do press releases for the blogs to recycle. For pity’s sake fan-base, start being fans.

If the long view is taken, a fan can look back at the 10 years of discussion and banter between the vendor and customer, it demonstrates that talking to fans is a good thing. Many other game devs do not discuss their products in this way, and I think they suffer less bad comments pre-release.

Comments such as this is superficially reasonable, until you start to ponder what answer would actually be satisfactory…

The only thing that worries me is this;  what has to be scrapped to allow extra time to get this in at a later date now?  Meaning, if this was supposed to be done at launch, that allowed for room for other content to be released later on.  Since this is being pushed, what content may get pushed even further or now scrapped because of this?

There is no useful answer to this question. Speaking as a manager of software projects, I see questions similar to this all the time, and the answers cannot be specific without creating another set of clarifying questions. It becomes an endless cycle of q&a…but what if…why can’t we just…why wasn’t I consulted?

As much as it might be hurtful to say the end consumers of the expansion are not stakeholders who should be involved in the timing and planning stages, so releasing information to them is done for customer engagement purposes, not to actually ask which feature should be in or out to meet a flexible deadline. Yes, they are the end paying customer, but your needs and views have been analysed and incorporated into the product strategy already. I’m certain that Blizzard are taking every feature seriously as they’ve released so many good quality products in the past. A flippant approach to features, quality, or deadlines doesn’t match their history.

Express your frustration or opinion without the dramatic rhetoric, and you might even find the vendor listening. Attack the vendor with no constructive feedback and you’ll be muted. We all know that an attack creates more clicks, but at this stage the whining is just tiresome. If you don’t like waiting, then go do something else because you’ll be waiting regardless.

The fact that one of the racial character models won’t be updated isn’t a show stopper. This announcement proves that, and tells us that they are willing to drop some non-core features to meet their target dates. Heck, drop more character models for all I care. The content (worlds, raids, quests, etc) being finished to a high quality and without defects is a showstopper, the upgrade process for the game is critical, the distribution method is critical. Even the comms plan for marketing and the planning a round their own other products and the products of their competitors is important. New character models? Sit down (imho*).

Keep in mind too that the models are not being shelved, but being delayed. This isn’t the dance studio. That is a box feature that is wonderful to drop into a discussion like this to demonstrate why something which was all but pointless to a wide range of players can also create a blather of negative feedback from a loud minority. It should never be anything except a silly nice-to-have feature. By comparison I think the new models are more important, but trivial compared to the actual story and event content for the expansion.

We need to deal with what we get at launch. Not what you wanted? Then don’t buy it.

If the lack of a particular widget ruins the game for you, then wait till it is present and join the game again during that content patch. I’ve unsubscribed during the downtime period and cannot understand the parts of the fan-base who are angry that they don’t have new content in the period where it was well communicated that there would be no new content. Too long between expansions is only true if you’re choosing to not play or not enjoying what you have now.

I’ve previously blogged about the time to expansion release being long, but it was an observation targeting the idea of doings something else with my time and money. If you are choosing to pay for something you don’t like, or sitting in front of a game which we know won’t be changing for months and expecting something new; then I think there are other issues. PEBKAC.

Happy gaming, TyphoonAndrew.

* ok, not humble.

Thoughts through the quiet time

Now that it’s gone a bit quiet around my house, and I’ve been out of game for a while I feel like sharing some short thoughts on gaming, which touch on MMORPGS and WoW.

Gaming wise, a few odd sessions of D3 and Sir, You are Being Hunted is all I’m fitting in, and that was/is mostly months ago. I finally finished the basic story of D3 and watched the lovely cut-scene/movie. Those Blizzard folks still know how to make a reasonable ending. Playing on with D3 without the expansion feels like running on a hamster wheel because the story is over. So now I either pay for the next story segment or do something else. Fair choice too, the game had enough content to make the initial purchase worth while, and its not like I finished it early.

Even if I had more time I’m not sure I would be installing a new MMO either. The banter about WildStar seems to say its pretty and interesting, but is very much the same as what has come before. That is not a bad idea for games as a moderate subscriber base can keep a company profitable for years; but after the zest and spin of the announcements – its kind of a dull outcome. I ran-up an Eve trail account and almost logged in. Almost, but then remembered that the game is slow and takes more time than I’ve got at the moment, and the account has lapsed. I thought about StarWars too as it’s free, and I could play the each of the class quests through to max level and then delete the character/account. Hmm, perhaps.

I miss logging in to something to play. I’d like to run WoW’s UP for the mount once a week, and perhaps a few other mindless farming tasks, but only to be able to say I’ve collected those pixels. Knowing that I’ll likely play WoW in the future means that the heat is drained from the desire to login to farm. I can farm later between other activities.

So now its books, pen and paper games, and catching up on TV shows.

hmm, really. A little interested now.

Staying away from news and distractions tends to mean that when I do see something from Beta news, or an upcoming game I can get a raw impression. I’ve not over invested or drained my enthusiasm. But I saw some loading screen art for Warlords today which I really liked. It reminded me of many years ago while playing Burning Crusade. I’m a little interested now.

So much so that I’m going to crawl back under my rock and not read much more till a lot more of the details are resolved. I don’t want to be part of the whine fest, and also do not want to fan the flames of fan-dom. Oh, and the T17 armor for the Death Knight looks darn interesting too (have to block MMO Champion’s updates in my rss reader).

brilliant, a game in only 265 code lines

Doing a dev job elegantly and quickly is wonderful. It is something I rarely see. So when I read that a quasi-3d environment (by PlayfulJS - try the Playfuljs demo) had been built using just 265 lines of code I was impressed. After running around in the demo I was darn impressed. It might not be true 3d at all, but it still a clever emulation. Good enough for a game hack, yup, certainly. More please.

Think for a moment about how little code that actually is. A true credit to the 6-7 folk who put this together. The geeks over at Soylent also think its interesting, which is where I found the article; mind you a few seem to have unbridled hate for javascript too.

Game130lineofJava

Gone fishing, err Hunting, but watching WoW regardless

Aside

I’m still watching the blogs and news for WoW despite not being subscribed. Interesting to see what others are still doing in game, and to reflect that it does not entice me back into a subscription yet. Later probably, but now – not at all.

One interesting set of information has been launched around the “cosmetic class items” as a way of rewarding players for participation and also allowing for character customisation. A good and interesting mini-feature. I see bags and quivers for Hunter types, and spell books for caster types (or is that a libram for Paladins?). These could be bracer on the hip, or shoulder of character models, hand from belts, attach to forearms, or even float about the character(?).

What would be great is to see them merge with the colour palette of the character gear as well. Why? Well the spell book looks fantastic as concept art, but will be way too hapy-happy-joy-joy for a soulful purple-black themed Warlock. Keeping the emo kids happy is somewhat important, and most of us MMO players are emo about something or other.

Anyway, I’m glad they’re adding these and hope vials, off-hand frills, sub-weapons, hunting kit, crosses and prayer beads, ioun stones, boot knives, random pockets, ghost-haunted crowns, and all sorts of other widget-like oddities might come. Collect them all…buy them… Happy Killing, TyphoonAndrew.

The Trial of Garrosh, idiots.

A trial for Garrosh was bloody stupid. Likewise was any attempt to make the process fair and legitimate. I’m finding it hard to want to read the new Warcraft novel because I think the end of the Mists story and setting was utter balderdash. I like the Warcraft novels and can forgive a lot when it provides more lore to consume – but in all seriousness the axe should have fallen on Garrosh as soon as it could. Too many times inaction has let to disaster in WoW lore.

Has Warcraft become so soft that the heroes can only dispatch a foe if they are corrupted by an old god? It takes pervasive corruption to allow an execution, but the “heroes” can murder hundreds of opponents in daily quests with impunity? C’mon.

I think some players like to rationalise the setting to their own morals and ethics, but I think the setting has lost it’s way when a figure like Garrosh wasn’t killed at the first opportunity. That would make the setting less PG13 than probably desired, but it is needed. This is (was) Warcraft folks, and the idea that one faction or race has more claim to judge Garrosh is missing the point.

Those factions should be arguing about the division of the trophy head, axe and body, not still trying to for a delegate sub-committee to investigate the correct division of voting rights, for the membership to the partisan review group, in order to make a recommendation to the yet to be confirmed leaders…

Garrosh didn’t ask for permission to destroy Theramore with a mana-bomb. I’ll see if somebody I know grabs the book and perhaps I can borrow it for a while in a few months. It makes me wonder if the end of the Iron Horde will see them all placed in work programs to rehabilitate them back into “normal” society.

Grumble.