Sorry, no news this week just me ranting. So if you come here for the news and not my writing style now is the time to turn around.
Now that it’s just us, why don’t you grab a seat up here at the bar and I’ll pour you all some free drinks while I tell you about the way things used to be. More likely I’ll just complain about whipper-snappers and how they pollute my fictional game worlds.
I logged into World of Warcraft(WoW) this morning to take care of my jewelcrafting daily because at this stage of the expansion that’s about all I have left to do. It didn’t take long, maybe 5 minutes in total to run to my bank and cut the gems, but while I was taking care of the quest an interesting series of conversations were had in trade chat. I should have turned that channel off because as most WoW players know trade chat generally devolves into a series of insults and unwinnable arguments. It truly is a troll’s paradise. The first conversation I’ll talk about was in regards to game development. I legitimately know something about that and try to fight the myths associated with it that gamers still try to perpetuate. The second one was in regards to the supposed dumbing down of WoW for the masses. More on that second one later.
Now I wish I had taken a screenshot of the conversation I had in trade chat to show here but I wasn’t thinking ahead. In fact, I didn’t think it would stick with me quite the way it did but here I am an hour later and I’m still fuming. One of my fellow Hordies made mention that he wished he worked in games so he could work from home and play games all day because, apparently, that’s how games are made. I should have let it slide because feeding trolls never makes the situation any better but I just couldn’t let it stand. So I stepped forward and challenged his argument saying that a very small portion of making games is spent actually playing them, even for testers. He countered with a statement along the lines of “I’m a game development student so I know what goes into making games.” At this point I knew I had him because while I may not be a game development student yet I have worked in the industry with somewhere between 5-10 shipped titles under my belt. I asked if he had ever worked for a developer. His answer, “not yet.” I am still amazed that the myth of playing games all day at a development studio persists to this day. There have been stories about the long hours from studios around the world. The stories around the development of Homefront and LA Noire stick out the most in my mind and I remember some very long days, nights, and weeks when I was testing Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe. Designers don’t ‘play’ games, they build them. Do they, on some level, play them as part of the construction process? Of course, they want to make sure it works but their primary job is to build the game and the systems that people enjoy. Even testers don’t really play the game. I worked as a tester for two years at different studios and have taken part in several closed and open beta tests over the years. Testing a game is very different from playing a game. Game development, like all creative industries, is still a job and while people can and do have fun at their job it’s not all fun and games.
Looking at WoW in particular, the game has seen a lot of changes over the past seven and a half years. Hell, it shipped practically broken and they spent the first six months or so putting it into a more playable state. I’d argue that it was broken up until the release of The Burning Crusade when almost all of the classes and talent specs truly became viable. With the upcoming release of Mists of Pandaria, a lot of players are complaining that Blizzard is pandering to the casual players with the decrease in dungeon difficulty, the Raid Finder, and the pet battle system. To hear them tell it, it’s as if the inclusion of these features degrades their game experience. Let’s look at a couple facts here before I move on. There are roughly 10 million active and paying WoW accounts worldwide. Of that 10 million, roughly 1-2% are “hardcore” raiders or PvPers. That’s roughly one to two hundred thousand hardcore players that are drawing the bulk of Blizzard’s development muscle. Now all of those people are paying the same amount of money and playing the same game so shouldn’t all of those players be entitled to the same relative return on their investment? I’m a fairly hardcore raider, 6/8 heroic Dragon Soul, and have been back through Wrath of the Lich King and The Burning Crusade. My $15 a month isn’t worth more than that of a player who never steps into a raid. The “casual” players, the other 99%, deserve new features just as much as the 1%. When you think about it in terms of economics, the casuals are adding a significantly larger amount of money to the company than the hardcores. Economics aside, WoW has a very diverse audience. Children, teenagers, young adults, middle age adults, and seniors all play WoW and they all play for different reasons. One of the big draws for me is playing with people that I’ve met over the years and developed real friendships with.
Hell, I flew out to Blizzcon in 2010 just so I could finally meet these people face to face. In the end, we’re all paying for the same game and every dollar I spend is just as valuable as a dollar spent by another player. Regardless of the reasons we all play, we all deserve something to be developed for all our diverse interests and playstyles and the presence of these other features does not degrade those features preferred by others. In the end, it’s just a game. Maybe it’s not as hard as it used to be but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Difficulty is a voluntary thing in most western games and with the existence of hard modes and the incoming challenge modes there is still a lot to be mastered for the hardcore. So find what you like and have fun with it.
Sorry about that, it went on longer than I thought. We’ll be back to the normal schedule next week with maybe two videos, so until then keep them vorpal blades swinging but not in here. I don’t like fights in my tavern.