An (In)decent Proposal
We’ve been talking this week about the community that surrounds the World of Warcraft. I’ve told you what I think some of the problems are, and I’ve made a suggestion about dealing with one specific problem. Today, I’ll roll out a few other suggestions, including some from commentators.
I’ve received a lot of good feedback on things I’ve said, and I suggest you take a look at some of the comments from the last few days’ posts. I have enjoyed being taken to task for some of my more general ideas, and I appreciate the time it takes to do that, so thank you, commentators. Perhaps today’s discussion will generate more.
I have two broad suggestions for improving the community within World of Warcraft. One is my own, and one is Kialesse’s, a commentator’s, that I’ve expanded on. We’ll start with that one. Kia suggests we do more to reward other types of end-game playing including different types of guilds, tangible rewards available for things other than raiding, and more diversity in end-game opportunities.
One example could be to have items that were only craftable by high-ranking (perhaps in rep) individuals in “crafting” guilds. This might lead to more politeness in trade channel and trading situations if you knew that only a few people on the server (who probably know each other) could make a particularly rare cut or epic item. I whole-heartedly agree. I have said for a long time that craftable epics should be at least as good if not better than items available in raids. The amount of time (could be on a long cooldown or have a long crafting time) and materials (both in volume, cost, and rarity) could be high enough to make it equivalent to the difficulty of raiding. Crafting guild “perks” could reduce the materials, increase the chance of lucky procs on specialties, or reduce the cooldown of crafting items.
Fallen Earth (which I loved, I really did, but the end game just wasn’t there) did this very well. I forget the actual percentage, but about 95% of items in the game were craftable. One of the three “classes” in the game (it was a skill-based progression) was a crafter, who got benefits in that area. Some of the more complicated “recipes” could take a week of time to create, but if you were logged off in a place where you could make them (like a workshop), the time you spent logged off counted. I loved that game’s crafting system and think that WoW could learn a lot from it.
Other “end-game” interests could be role-playing, as well. I admit I haven’t thought about this one nearly as much as the crafting one, but there’s no reason role-players couldn’t have dungeon interactions designed more for their tastes. Like the beginning of Trial of the Champion (the 5 man dungeon), people who were just there for loot could skip over it, but role-players could be given an opportunity to have fun and play before the event starts. Role-playing guilds could have perks like a “closet” feature, which would be more important to them than hardcore players, where you could carry around various outfits to wear. They could similarly have access to particular vanity pets, areas (like the top of the Kirin Tor Tower in Dalaran), or even “weapon skins.” To a role player, wielding a “pen” and pretending you’re an author who believe “the pen is mightier than the sword” could be a real thrill.
One major problem with this, though, is the belief of a lot of WoW players that “everyone deserves everything.” This is most loudly argued by the best and worst players, in my experience. The best don’t want to be limited by their focus, and the worst feel entitled. I disagree, though. Your focus determines who you are; it’s a choice you make, and not having access to everything should be perfectly acceptable. Creating different styles of end-game guilds would help diversify the community.
The second idea for improving the community is better communication, faster responses, and more severe penalties from the GMs. A lot of people feel disgruntled when they report someone who’s obviously breaking the ToS and don’t see anything done about it. Blizz contests that they “cannot” let the reporter know what happened to that player, but even a simple in-game mail thanking the person and letting them know that the issue was resolved and the player reprimanded would make a lot of people feel better. That message carries no personal information nor any specific details as to what the “punishment” was, but it reinforces the good behavior of reporting bad behavior by letting the reporter know that they were heard, taken seriously, and that something happened in the real world as a result.
The speed at which these things are handled, I understand, is not entirely in Blizzard’s control, but if they’re such a booming business, perhaps this department needs to be increased. The bottom line should not be profits, it should be player satisfaction; the profits will follow. However, Blizz is making a ton of money, so I won’t begin to lecture them on business since they clearly have a model that’s working.
Now let’s take a look at the “penalty volcano” that’s frequently mentioned in blue responses on posts regarding wanting to improve the community by removing offenders.
How many increments do we really need? 3 hours is honestly a joke; that should be the warning. Then we have three steps of 24 hour increment penalties. Why does Blizzard think offenders need this many chances? A warning, fine. Then a 24 hour suspension. Then a final warning with a 72 hour suspension. Then permanent ban. That’s all that’s needed. Any “misunderstanding” of the ToS will be dealt with in the first two steps. Repeat offenders don’t need an additional three chances to be jackanapes before they’re going to learn a lesson.
This system is designed to be as lenient as reasonably possible without upsetting the paying offender and losing their business. The cost is the hundred other people who have to deal with him and “police the community” themselves. If we’re going to have community law enforcement, why not community judicial branch as well? Why not let the reporters determine the penalty? Well, I know this wouldn’t (and couldn’t) happen, really, but it’s to point out the ridiculous idea that a community police force would be effective when given no other tools than to tell on someone to a higher power. We might as well pray they be smitten.
It’s really the idea of efficacy that I’m focusing on here. Efficacy (in case you don’t know, dear reader, though you probably do), is the feeling that your opinion matters, that what you do is important, and that your actions can change things. If you ask someone about their efficacy in policing general chat or in LFD, I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that they’d respond with a pretty low efficacy rating. The rep rating system and these three suggestions all work on increasing good players’ feelings of efficacy. The more we feel like we can do, the more we’ll try to do, and then we’ll see a positive change. Right now, we’re swamped with apathy and disgruntlement with the community (and perhaps the game, too, depending on your personal feelings), and that negative cocktail only adds to the problem. Let’s flip this thing on its head.
Next time, we’ll look at some of the goals of changing the community (though really perhaps we should have talked about those first; the comments I got lead me in this direction instead). If you, dear reader, have anything to add, please do so! I’d love to feature it in a post.
Stubborn (who may be banging his head against a wall, but it’s a hard head and may eventually wear the wall down)