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An (In)decent Proposal

April 28, 2011

Dear Reader,

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.

More like a penalty molehill topped with a little fire.

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)

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Kialesse permalink
    April 28, 2011 3:33 pm

    Back again for more; I am really enjoying this series on WoW’s community and how we can change it for the better. I think you nailed it when you said about the best and worst players shouting that “everyone deserves everything”, but that is a wider problem than just WoW, I’m afraid. Society as a whole tends to think along the lines of “I want to have it all”, without thinking about the repercussions. In my ESL class, when we talk about Western values, I tell my students that they there are three major priorities for most people: lots of disposable time, lots of disposable income, and good personal relationships. Unfortunately, you can only pick two of the three.

    I think that anything that comes into the game that increases player choice is great. However, I also think that it would be great if at least some of those choices were absolutely permanent. I’m not talking about hairstyles, either 😀 I’m thinking especially about things like choosing a faction to ally with in Shattrath. Yes, it was a choice, and it made a difference… but if the Aldors got a shiny new ring, there wasn’t anything stopping you from changing your mind and your faction. Same thing with the puppy guys and the bouncing murloc people in Northrend; in fact, Blizz even gave you an achievement if you DID change your mind and got yourself exalted with both.

    I suppose I’m resigned to the fact, but I would love it if that kind of decision was not only permanent, but it also affected other parts of your game. I’m sure I’m probably the only person in the world who thinks that it’s ridiculous that a paladin can be exalted with Ebon Blade, but I do. I think that who you are already exalted with and what class and race you are should have an effect on what NPC factions are going to like you or not like you. I think it should be impossible for a paladin to get exalted with Ebon Blade. Don’t like that idea, pallies? You have nine other slots on your character creation screen. Roll an alt. This is a game in which we can have the opportunity to live as a bunch of different people. Want that nice sword from the Ebon Blade people? Your pally can’t have it, but your death knight… now HE’S just the kind of guy they’re looking for.

    I know I talked about diversity with the guild idea, but I really do think that one of the ways that Blizzard can help us have a better community is to give us more opportunities to be different – and as part of that, to give choices that have consequences in game, ones that you can’t overcome just by grinding out a few more dead money brains and slipping gold to the proper people.

    Oh, and I like the dungeon reputation idea, by the way. If you’re starting up a petition, I’ll sign it.

  2. Krel permalink
    April 28, 2011 11:47 pm

    Perhaps I’m too jaded (I’m sort of at the bottom of the like/hate WoW cycle at the moment) but frankly, I don’t think there is a solution. Once a jerk has deliberately spilled ink on your living room carpet, no amount of paper towels, carpet cleaner, or visits from Stanley Steemer are going to get rid of the stain. I am afraid that the WoW community is beyond repair, at least without replacing the carpet (getting rid of the elements that gave such a rise to the boorishness that exists now such as LFD) and even if you do, the jerk is still around with his bottle of ink… and Blizzard has given you no way to keep him out of your house. Plus, he’s been taught by not-very-painful experience that he can for the most part get away with all sorts of crap.

    • April 29, 2011 11:30 am

      While I’m still hopeful that something can be done, I certainly agree with the last of your sentiments. It’s much harder to unteach someone than to teach them. I run into this all the time thanks to the teachers who tell their kids to write “Hello, my name is X, and my essay is going to be about…” It will undoubtedly take time, patience, and perhaps a lot of downratings and groupkicks before things would even start to seem better. All the same, if the choice is to abandon ship or keep bailing water, for now, I’m swinging my bucket because I’m not quite ready to give up. Who knows, though; once the water’s up to my neck, maybe I’ll be ready to swim to kinder horizons (that metaphor stayed together pretty well!).

  3. Masith permalink
    April 29, 2011 2:55 am

    Isn’t the difficulty with the crafting idea that with the present wow crafting system there is no skill involved in crafting epics merely a time commitment. Personally I think I would rather play a game where the best gear for raiding comes from showing skill at raiding and the best gear for pvp comes from showing skill in pvp.

    I always liked the idea of having a crafting system where to create something involves some sort of minigame and how well the crafter plays the minigame determines how good the crafted item is.

    Gevlon made an interesting post today suggesting that “M & S” respond better when connected to their guild when called out. Whilst you may not agree with Gevlon’s method it is interesting to note. I wonder if it could be applied to the dungeon reputation idea you suggested yesterday. Build a guild’s dungeon reputation into the present guild UI and provide a guild with minor perks based on this rep. Then build into the guild UI a feed similar to the guild news showing any positive/negative rep that a guild receives. This would provide a strong social pressure from each players peer group to “play nice”.

    • April 29, 2011 11:39 am

      Some might say that there’s not much skill in raids other than the time commitment, as well. Certainly the guilds that raid the most often progress faster, simply because they have more time to learn the “skill” necessary to survive whatever mechanics are at play. Keep in mind, though, that I’m not necessarily suggesting that all the best gear come from crafting, just some pieces that are better than what’s available in raids, not unlike valor point gear (though I realize it’s the same ilevel, not better, but I think it’s still a good comparison). Additionally, certain raid-necessary things like ultra-rare enchants or gem cuts could be limited to crafting guilds. That way, the raiders are dependent on the crafters, but the crafters are also dependent on the raiders for business. It doesn’t matter if you can cut a gem that’s +5 or +10 of whatever stat better if no one wants to buy it.

      I agree with the minigame idea; if you’ve never played “Ore No Ryomi 2” (that may be misspelled), I suggest you give it a look. It’s just a silly coffee-break game, but I enjoyed it a lot. The challenge in WoW, though, could be the rarity of a new ore, or the cost of one of the crafting materials, or the sheer volume of materials (think 500 bars or the like), something that makes gathering and crafting an end-game focus instead of passtime. While it may not be a dexterous “skill” to farm for that long, it’s certainly a mental one, and like raiding, a lot of it will simply come down to time.

      I’ll check Gev’s post after I’m done responding here, but it certainly sounds interesting. The idea that guild’s reputation be tied to their member’s behavior sounds excellent to me.


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