The Changing Face of WoW Customer Relations

Eric@Elder Game posts a typically thoughtful look at customer relations in MMOs, and especially on how some teams are very forthcoming in admitting their faults and keeping players informed about what they are doing, where others maintain a (more professional?) silence.

It is very clear that with Warcraft, Blizzard has been moving more and more in the direction of sharing information and views with the players. The latest example of this is in an excellent interview that Rob Pardo gave to Warcry.

They ask what he thinks the biggest mistakes were with WoW, and he specifically names the arena.

If I was going to pick on a game design thing that I look back on and think was a mistake? We really never designed WoW to be a competitive e-sports game; it was something that we decided to start tackling because there was such a desire and demand to evolve it in that direction, to introduce competitive arenas. I’m not sure that that was the right thing to do with the game.

This is not something that I’d have expected to hear from anyone highly placed inside Blizzard even a year ago. But now, the mood has changed, and the style of customer relations has changed too. And it’s OK to admit what everyone already knows – balancing for PvE and PvP has been a huge hassle and will continue that way too.

Rob also discusses other recent changes in WoW, and the move to a more casual friendly game from the perspective of someone who himself used to be a hardcore raider in EQ.

We had all these suppositions, and as the years went on and we had more and more experience living with WoW as a live game, we realized that they weren’t just truths. They might affect a hardcore minority, but the people we saw weren’t really as hardcore as we thought they were. If we reduced raids from 40 to 25, we saw, it makes it more fun. You might have some hardcore players who get upset, but keeping people out of content isn’t right for the game overall. We mellowed sometimes, and realized we were wrong.

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7 thoughts on “The Changing Face of WoW Customer Relations

  1. It really makes you wonder, what would WoW have been like had they gone the approach of rated BGs rather than Arenas? Arenas feel like they saved PvP, but then maybe rated BGs would have too. Certainly, balance would be significantly easier as it’s really not the end of the world if someone is great 3v3 when it’s 15v15.

    Which begs the question, what if they removed Arenas? I know they won’t, but what if?

  2. There you have it, from the Master himself. What made WoW great: “we had directed quest gameplay from beginning to end, you could solo”.

    “The level curve actually matches the content”. Still, this leads to the “on rails” guided bus tour experience. But he is right, LOTRO especially makes it too easy to outlevel areas you have not even entered yet, but they still boost XP gain for some odd reason. I don’t know any MMO where mobs are too hard nowadays because players are under-levelled for the area.

    “As for the biggest mistake? (…) “We really never designed WoW to be a competitive e-sports game”. Amen to that. +1 Sympathy achieved. ;)

    He likes to use the words “achieve” and “competition” a lot and in many variations – still, the “world 1st” competition raid style is odd. It caters to a very tiny part of the population, nobody else cares about it. Sure, there is some envy/e-peen contest if the “rival guild” (i.e. any other big guild on the server) downs the final boss of a raid faster, but he must not forget that most won’t ever be that hardcore or share this notion to that extent. Furthermore, I think some “back to the roots” thinking would not be bad. Open World PvP is ousted and frowned upon nowadays. But to me, it was always much more fun and more dynamic than small scale arenas (Guild Wars) or even the (IMO better) Battlegrounds.

    I think the success of WoW in the end had not so much to do with “competition” and “achievements”. The initial 60 level world was really the “World” of Warcraft that enticed millions, before Raiding in big or small scale took over.

    • Heartily seconded. Oddly for a PvE carebear like me, I even agree on open world PvP, so long as it’s somehow consensual. Ganking stinks, but the “open world at war” is far more interesting PvP than going to a fight club somewhere in my mind.

      (And yes, that sentence is ambiguous on purpose…)

  3. They don’t need to remove arenas, they just need to firmly announce that arenas will no longer be a factor in class balancing decisions — and all the QQ in the world won’t change that. If rated BGs are attractive enough, arenas may die by attrition.

    On Fenris (a regular server), we see “For the Alliance/Horde” raids almost weekly. If the other side catches wind a “City Defense” raid will be organized to meet them. It’s more fun than even BGs IMO.

  4. They won’t remove arenas now.

    What I wonder is whether it’s BECAUSE the game wasn’t balanced for PvP that PvP in WoW has been so fun for people (well, among people who like it at least). I remember in WAR (even though I enjoyed it) the classes could seem a bit bland because they were designed to be balanced.

    Sometimes the unbalanced class design is actually more fun and lively to play.

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