Ghostcrawler vs the trolls

September 29, 2009 § Leave a comment

The first time I visited the forums was during one of Blizzard’s April Fools’ jokes.  Every forum post had been changed to include the most awful, ridiculous, painful to read, internet speak I’ve ever encountered.  I would give you an example, but I’m a firm believer that things like that lower the collective IQ of the human race, so I refuse to take part in it.  But I digress.  Having heard about how awful the forums were, I actually didn’t realize that a joke was being played.  I really believed that everyone who posted on the forums was just that stupid.  And because of that, it was a long time before I came back.  The sad thing is that the joke isn’t that far off; there are so many posts on the forums that are just as bad, or worse.

From what I have seen during the time I have played, the developers of World of Warcraft have always taken a very active and involved role in interacting with the player community.  Sure some of the posts here and there are from just a random gm, but what is impressive is how involved the department heads are.  Take for example, Mr. Greg Street (aka Ghostcrawler).  One of the things his department handles is class mechanics; arguably the single most prominent source of moaning and complaining (legitimate or not) on behalf of the player base.  All you need to do is visit one of the class forums to see post after post of “[my class] is broken!” “[my class] doesn’t do enough dps!” “why won’t they nerf [this other class I keep getting ganked by]?”  It’s amazing that anyone from Blizzard is willing to sift through those forums and provide responses, let alone the Lead Systems Designer.  Don’t you think he has more important things to do like, oh, I don’t know, working on the actual game, and the class that you are so fond of whining about?  And yet, he has found the time to give carefully worded, well thought out responses to many posts that basically amount to nothing more than crying; sometimes almost daily.  And yet it seems like the trolls have finally won.  But I’ll get back to that.

Now I understand the frustration that can come when you feel that your class is suffering from a serious flaw.  I’m a prot warrior with the rage mechanic.  And I’m an engineer.  ’nuff said.  Anyway, I understand how people feel.  And when you present the developers with fully formed, logical arguments with tables and graphs and screenshots with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one ‘splainin what each one is–they still don’t seem to listen.  Patch after patch nothing seems happen that fixes your problem (perceived or real).  It’s only natural to get upset.  It’s at this point that people tend to lash out and arguments loose their logical intellectual basis and turn into personal attacks.

Over the past few months there has been a dramatic increase in attacks directly on Ghostcrawler as a person.  People are no longer debating the merits of a class and its flaws, rather they are crying out that they hate GC and that he promised this or that and because he hasn’t delivered that he, as a person, is an awful human being.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but even if Ghostcrawler did promise you a pony, that does not give you the right to be an asshole.  Actually, I don’t hate to break it to you.  I am happy to inform you that it’s high time that you stop acting like a whiny five-year old.  Go have a nap and when you wake up, eat something because for heavens sake, you are acting like a twit.

There a few quotes that I would like to address from Ghostcrawler.  These can be found here.  Just so you have some context, he’s responding to complaints about shadow priest dps and that people feel there is a disconnect between the development team and the community (specifically the shadow priest community, but generally all wow players).  I’ve only included the forum post he’s replying to if I thought it was particularly relevant.

GC:

“Nah, you’re people. I talk to players all the time… as people. The only problem is that there are an awful lot of you and not many of us.

We try to answer questions as much as we can. Often answering questions causes even more controversy because players then want to challenge assertions or numbers or otherwise try and find a loose thread they can unravel in hopes of it turning it into a buff for their class. That isn’t to say we just won’t answer questions. But it does mean that answering those requires very careful word smithing so it takes a lot of time. We also run a big risk of “You answered 3.5 shaman questions today but no warrior questions.” Mostly, though, we’re just pretty busy actually working on the game.”

This one response is very telling.  First the obvious, that the developers are paying attention and that they do try and answer questions.  But it also points out how much thought GC and the other developers put into their posts.  They think hard about what they are going to say, but also how it might be interpreted–and misinterpreted.  It also speaks to how much implied respect GC tries to give people.  He seems to try and look past the characters to the people behind the keyboards.  And it seems like he approaches each post with the assumption that the person he is talking to is not a complete idiot, and that an intelligent dialogue can be held.  I also like that he reminds people that while he spends time responding to forum posts, most of his (and the other developers) time is spent developing the actual game.

Random forum person:
“I mean, all people are asking for is a little explanation as to why the devs feel the way they do about shadow priests and why it is so at odds with what the evidence seems to say.”

GC:

“Sadly, it rarely works that way. I suspect a few Shadow priests would take us at our word. But from my experience, most would say we were using bad data, or they would want us to show our math, or try and pick apart some of our assumptions or whatever. Many players want to hear the explanation because it gives them a larger playing field upon which to construct their arguments. (That was a bit of a mixed metaphor, but you get the idea I hope). It just turns the entire relationship from one where we get to make the changes we think the game needs to one in which we have to get community buy-off before we can make a move.”

In the wrong hands, a little knowledge can be dangerous thing.  Forgive the stretch, but it reminds me of conspiracy theorists.  Even when presented with pantoptic data that answers and/or refutes every single point, these folks will twist it and turn it to fit their own designs.  They will either deny the data, or accuse the presenter of being part of the conspiracy themselves.  The only thing they will settle for is confirmation that they were right all along.  So while there are some players that will absorb the information, updating and changing their opinions as necessary, there are many who would just take the information and use it as a weapon.

GC makes an excellent point in his last sentence.  If the developers had to get approval from the community before they changed or implemented anything, nothing would get done.

I want to point out that up to this point Ghostcrawler has done a remarkable job being respectful and intelligent, and doing a thorough job of responding to people.  However, the community is not as kind.  But things continue.

Random forum person:
“I get the different time scale [. . .] but at what point does it simply become unfair to the community as a whole because a fix has to be a long way off for the greater good?”

GC:

“Often, we have made a fix and players just haven’t seen it yet because the next build isn’t out. It is very telling right now that there are a lot of “I logged into the game, tried hitting something for 5 seconds and didn’t notice a dps increase” threads. What we deal with a lot are trends, and trends can take a lot of time to emerge.

Sometimes we even agree something is a problem, but A) aren’t sure how we want to fix it yet, B) think that an upcoming change will fix the problem, or C) are just focused on other problems at the moment. You can ask why we won’t at least acknowledge a problem even if we have no immediate plans to fix it. But ask yourself if you would be one of those people who would post “Why won’t you fix it if you know it’s a problem?” :)”

Don’t get me wrong, I think the question asked here by the random forum person is a valid one, but don’t you think that’s a question that the developers ask themselves when dealing with problems?  I mean honestly.  Do you really think that they have no common sense?  Forum person, “Hey have you considered this completely obvious thing?”  Developers, “Oh! Man! Thank you soooo much random forum person!  We had never before considered that totally obvious thing!  Without your guidance and direction, we wouldn’t have made such great strides!”  *insert sarcastic cricket noises*

Nobody is ever satisfied.  If the developers acknowledge there is a problem, the community will complain they won’t fix it.  If the developers won’t acknowledge there is a problem, the community will complain that the developers aren’t paying attention.  If the developers offer a solution, the community will say it’s a bad solution and that the developers don’t actually know what they are doing.  And, if heaven forbid, they actually implement a solution, the forums will explode in “QQ” as it were.  The class that had the ‘problem’ will complain that it didn’t actually fix anything.  The other classes will complain that it threw everything out of whack and that a nerf is in order.  Some people just won’t ever be satisfied.  It makes me think that some people actually feed off complaining; they don’t need to eat or drink.  They just complain.

Random forum person:
“How do you expect us to take it at your word when we have REAL LIVE experiences every single day that go against that? I mean experiences that actually AFFECT our real raiding experience, our community, our guild, our $15 a month. You guys may say one thing and want us to trust you, but the fact is that shadow priests are frustrated.”

GC:

“You’re proving my point here though. There is no answer that you are going to accept except for “here is how we’re going to buff you.” So any post of mine that attempts to explain our thoughts in’t going to accomplish much to many of you (though it will for some) without that “here is how we’re going to buff you” part.”

Again, no-one is ever happy.  Ever.  And when people don’t hear what they want they tend to stick their fingers in their ears and go ‘la-la-la-la’.

Random forum person:
“He’ll never post any beneficial posts in any shadow thread, because he’s totally ignorant of the class. Its 100% obvious him and the dev team doesn’t play 1. Nor do the[y] scale raid dungeons with shadow priest in mind. I’m really wanting to know how can I improve my dmg to the level he thinks we’re capable of, but he won’t because he can’t.

I just wish he would just admit it to player-base, he’s ignorant of the class, and really doesn’t want to do anything more with Shadow. Just go spec disc/holy, cause we don’t tune raids with the spec in mind. Then players can either 1. Quit or 2. re-roll to a raid needed spec.”

GC:
“I’m not a huge fan of the head on a pike thing, but there still seem to be enough players who don’t get it, so allow me to point out that posts like this are QQ at best and will earn you a ban. If you think your class has problems, that is fine to post. If you can’t state those problems without insulting the developers, please don’t waste our time. Please don’t waste the time of other players by making them read your posts or lame responses like mine that have nothing to do with WoW itself.”

At this point he comes down hard on the forum.  I would have lost my cool waaaaay before this.  But he took the time to talk to the people in the forums, and explain what was going on, and give them real explinations.  But then some ass comes along and 1) ignores all the previously beneficial posts that Ghostcrawler has already given, and 2) devolves the discussion into a petty argument with personal attacks.  It just amazes me that this person believes that not only GC but the entire development team is completely ignorant of shadow priests and don’t play them at all.  Now, it may be true that Ghostcrawler doesn’t play a shadow priest.  I have no idea what class he plays.  But I bet he plays something.  And even though I don’t have any direct evidence, my common sense and the fact that I’m not an idiot tells me that a) someone on the development team plays a shadow priest and b) GC isn’t completely ignorant of the class.  He’s the Lead Systems Designer.  Don’t you think he’d at least have a working knowledge of every class/spec?  Sure, he may not know the infinite minutia of every class, but if anyone has access to detailed class info, it’s him.  This poster is understandably frustrated with what he perceives is a problem, but he lets his emotions get the better of him.  He dismisses everything GC has said even though his posts are full of insight and helpful information, because he didn’t give any specific/overt details on how they are going to buff the class.  And then he ends up sounding like an idiot by accusing the development team of being liars and morons.

And now Ghostcrawler has decided to take a break from the forums, because it seems, he feels that at this point his posts are doing more harm than good.  What aggravates me is that it’s not really his posts that are doing the harm.  It’s the jerks and fools that read what he says and pulls it apart and twists it into something completely different.  It’s sad because we’ve lost arguably the best direct source of information from Blizzard.  I’m hoping that he will return someday, but I don’t blame him for backing off a bit. (click here for the official forums post) (click here for a discusison of this topic on wow.com)

I know I had a point in here somewhere, but all I feel like doing now is slapping someone.  Hang on a minute while I collect my thoughts and quell my emotional uprising.

It’s not that hard to act like a civilized human being.  But it seems like it’s so much easier just to devolve into a bile-spewing jackass.  Come on people!  Look, I’m not saying GC is a saint or that Blizzard never makes mistakes.  There are plenty of things about the game that if I were personally charge of I would change in a heart beat.  But I have learned that just because I play the game, it doesn’t mean I am entitled to every change I want.  And furthermore, whining and complaining and resorting to personal attacks is certainly not the way to elicit change.  If you really honestly feel that something is wrong about the game (and no I’m talking about, “oh no this patch made it so that I can’t be at the top of the dps meters anymore!), then by all means, keep posting on the forums with your data and your examples and your intelligent conversations.  But for the love of pete please stop acting like a damn five year old.  Seriously.  Just stop it. Stop. EH! *gives dirty look* stop it. *slaps your hand away from the keyboard* Don’t make me hurt you.

Because I will.

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]”

~FIzz

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