Player Advocates

February 5, 2008 at 10:53 am (Warcraft, World of Warcraft)

I just posted this on the suggestions forum.

I’m a frequent reader of the blue posts in the forums (I tend to ignore everything else), and the latest round of “CMs don’t listen” and “CMs don’t tell us anything” is definitely in full swing as 2.4 approaches. Just to lay out the actual discussion, the CM’s are contending that they read our feedback even if it’s not acknowledged, and actively post in some threads to stimulate discussion. Their goal is a conversation with the players. The players are saying that there is no actual conversation with CMs, just posts that say ‘tell us more.’ They cannot discuss the developers solution until it has already been implemented because they do not know what it is.

In my opinion, the problem is 2 fold. First, the actual conversation between Devs and Players takes place over patches not threads. Players demand something or point out an error, the players find out what the solution is when the dev’s include it in the next patch, players begin complaining about fixes and the cycle continues. So the conversation actually takes place over the course of many months months, allowing good ideas and some large issues to go unnoticed.

The second is transparency. Now, I understand not stating possible fixes as they’re developed. A CM posting on a thread “what about this solution?” can easily be taken as “we’re fixing it this way” do to the weight a CM post carries. However, the reason for that weight is that a CM post with actual information don’t happen unless the fix is already going into the patch. The way it feels is that the very people bringing our ideas to the Devs are the same people that remain silent when important issues are being discussed, but freely talk when players are goofing off. Players have no way of knowing that what ideas are actually reaching the devs, and therefore it appears that none of it is. In fact, I’d go so far as to say most players feel like Bliz does not even know what concerns we actually have, nor are they listening to our opinion on possible solutions.

Conversations with CMs are conversations with a marketing team. Bad changes are spun as good ones. They nod their heads like they’re listening, when a decision against the idea has already been made. Ideas go into a black box vending machine and what comes out may not seem to have any relation to the input.

I propose to change that.

I think it would be a good idea to separate the CMs into 2 teams: Player advocates (PA) and Development feedback (DF). DFs would basically do the jobs the same way CMs do now. They will stimulate discussions, provide feedback about the devs’ concerns, post feedback threads (the current class forum feedback threads were a great idea) and post implemented changes and official statements back to the community. Their job is to be Blizzard’s voice on the forums and their motto will continue to be “More information soon(TM).”

PAs on the other hand will have the job is to be the players’ voice at Blizzard with the motto “Info now, everything is subject to change.” Their role is transparently bringing player ideas to the devs and immediate (as possible) feedback to the community. Though they work for Bliz their post are not official blue ones. I’d even go so far as to make their posting text light blue (They’re blues, but less so). They would transparently bring the concerns of the community to devs by posting a list weekly on the forums with player solutions that they will discuss with the devs and a second weekly post with the developer response to the previous weeks concerns. They will actively respond to player threads with the current internal thoughts on issues, such as mana regen is where we want it for class X, we cannot add stable slots do to memory restrictions so to do that we’d need to upgrade the hardware, or yes totems do seem a bit limiting for being the defining feature of the class how should we fix that? Or best of all “That’s a great idea, I will definitely include that in my post.” I could see focusing on one class or issue each week or the job would be overwhelming.

I say weekly, but daily would be even better. The higher the frequency the less official they would seem, and the less accurate they would need to be. Frequency also gives hope to unacknowledged ideas, and increases player morale. A monthly schedule would demoralize the community. The key is fast turnaround and transparency. They’d be the first ones to say something probably won’t make it into the next patch, and give tentative thinking.

Both groups would also moderate the forums as normal, moderating, banning, and goofing off (I enjoy this aspect).

In summary, the CM system does not appear to be working. Having CMs speak as both advocates of the player and company make them seem duplicitous, and rightly so. The official capacity of current CMs make getting feedback on possible solutions before they are implemented impossible. Players want clear acknowledgment that their ideas are being brought to the devs, and clear responses to them, even if that response is a single word: no.

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