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.

Advertisements

Theramore down

My impressions for the Theramore scenario are not good. Frankly it was so underwhelming that I wasn’t sure what to think. From what I have seen in this one, the scenarios at level 90 had better have better introduction and lore aspects, and they better have a faster queue time than 20+ minutes for randoms. Fortunately there is some time for a few changes or tweaks.  I am happy to see lore than can be skipped like Arthas in Culling of Stratholme, but it should be there. The scenario did what it indicated for Alliance – Theramore gets destroyed, and we are there to help mop up the baddies, but the manner in which this is executed within the game is off.

Read more after the break for the QQ. Continue reading

Wow Blizzard Survey

Today I received one of the survey emails from Blizzard about my World of Warcraft impressions and gaming in general. They’re asking about competition with other games like SWToR and Bioshock, and also about their own products like DotA and Diablo.

I’m honestly impressed that the survey questions were so openly seeking feedback, and that the company was gutsy enough to clearly ask about their competition, and as people to rank them. Draw your own conclusions about the effect of the competition. I ranked all sorts of things I liked and disliked about the game, an the interview app has some sort of funky (meaning irritating) repeat questions that looks to validate the high low choices against each other multiple times. Many times.

It was irritating to click through 13 screens of the same features and hopefully further versions of that survey tool will offer different choices for product features or subscription options. It really felt like the survey was asking between 3 choices on a range of features which were all very similar (lfr vs lfd). Frankly it’s the same feature to me, in terms of “back of the box” features and expectations.

An odd question was how often I am playing, and how many hours. Blizzard know this if they bother to look. They could know what proportion is raiding, and how often I use the AH. The survey is clearly not linked to the back-end, and I’m wondering just how many people will fudge their answers, after all nobody ever lies on surveys.

Interesting overall none the less.

Blizzard Logo

How to comment, public service announcement

I get the odd blog comment that is nigh on inane, and mostly they get deleted without being posted. What on earth a screen-breather is thinking that the post would be put up, especially unqualified?

Good comments add or argue about the post in a way that is constructive.

Bad comments just criticise without offering any detail, or a better option.

I post this as a long time ago I grabbed several specs for the different classes I play, mucked around with them a bit to suit my choices, and then posted them. They are still the best source of hits, and best source of idiot comments I have. Recently I updated the out of date ones, and have even warned as a post edit that the spec are now out of date, and the viewer should look elsewhere.

Then you get junk like this:

Nosferatu: dude u’re a total retard that talent build for cat is a joke,try playing something that does’t require thinking so much

Now thats not clever, insightful, or offer an alternative. In fact it says that this player is looking for a really easy game, with little complexity, and I’d hazard a guess that English is his first language, but he’s yet to master it.

So don’t be like little Nosferatu here, post something useful.