"Ghostcrawler Lynching" Rages On in Patch 3.3

We typically don't cover much third-party news here at ZAM, but the latest round of "Ghostcrawler"-lynching—as featured in a recent editorial at WoW.com—was a bit too newsworthy to pass up. The editorial was written in response to this 30-plus page thread at the official forums, in which many community members express their dissatisfaction with Blizzard's current forum policies, and the player/developer relationship within those forums.

As most involved WoW fans already know, Greg "Ghostcrawler" Street (lead systems designer at Blizzard) became a familiar name on the WoW forums throughout 2009. After Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard made a substantial effort to increase community interaction between players and developers in its official forums. This new strategy often seemed to feature Ghostcrawler at the helm, answering the most important questions and providing the bulk of WoW-related announcements. But now, after more than a year's worth of drama, locked threads and a messy forums landscape, the question is raised; should Blizzard have done anything differently?

Not long after patch 3.3 launched last week, players hit the official forums like a ton of bricks (as per usual, following a major patch). Many practiced restraint, and wrote non-inflammatory posts about the new patch's class mechanics, balance and various bugs. But others responded as many forum members have come to expect; with long-winded diatribes about Blizzard's incompetence, and personal attacks against the developers (many of which are directed at Ghostcrawler, due to his prominence within the forums as an "unofficial" spokesperson for the company).

The WoW.com editorial offers a decent response to the issue, suggesting that flame-inducing posts need "to either be shot down en masse, or [...] ignored," and reminding the community that it "needs to understand that it doesn't have a solid grasp on class balance and general game design." The editorial also warns of what the community stands to lose, now that players are finally getting more developer feedback and interaction than ever before.

While we at ZAM agree with much of the editorial's spirit, we also find ourselves wondering how the situation escalated to this point in the first place. Getting feedback from designers is always great, but why are Ghostcrawler and the other developers filling—to all intents and purposes—a role that would be better suited for community managers? Instead of integrating its existing community team into the forums (as a liaison between the players and developers), Blizzard threw the lambs to the wolves, so to speak. What do you think? Is a "direct line" to the developers worth all the drama we've come to see in the forums these days, or would the more-typical "community management approach" foster better relations between Blizzard's players and developers?

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Trolls will be Trolls
# Dec 15 2009 at 12:11 PM Rating: Decent
I will have to agree with Mike also. It really wouldn't matter who you put into that position, A PR individual or a Dev, you are going to have someone that doesnt like the change to the Char and or game. What any individual in that position or gamer needs to relize is that no matter what you do you can not please everyone.
o-boards = community?
# Dec 15 2009 at 11:36 AM Rating: Good
Is The WoW community self destructing? I think that the author of the article seems to believe that the WoW community consists only of people who troll the o-boards. 'Taint so. Most people just pay their $15/month and ignore the o-boards. That really isn't a community anyhow. It's a bunch of nerdless wonks who write inane posts that don't deserve any screen time whatsoever. I couldn't care less whether the o-boards self destruct or not. My WoW community is here on Alla where, thanks to the rating system, we don't have to put up with the nonsense that goes on there.
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#Whitebob, Posted: Dec 15 2009 at 7:13 AM, Rating: Sub-Default, (Expand Post) Number one do we really believe Blizz wastes the time of Dev by reading these?? No it is a marketing information gathering tool. They are looking how to make Wow hotter. It's not hard to do really. FIX FIX FIX that is the first step, CLEAN it up get rid of all outside influences YES I MEAN CURSE APPS and all other cheats, SECURITY, my account has been jacked twice in 3 months SHAME on U Blizz. If your Dev say the can't do anything about it I call BS or they are in on it. GET rid of the black market, yes the companies that for cash will deliver gold, experience, ect. Believe me when WOW started it has been a vast improvement.
Why no one thinks of it, I don't know
# Dec 15 2009 at 12:34 AM Rating: Decent
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It's odd to me, that in these situations that neither Blizzard nor any other outside sources (as far as I can tell) honestly considers the psychology behind these kinds of things. There is a tremendous amount of "power to be something else" granted to normally unassuming or even pleasant people by the veil of anonymity that the internet provides. This is ESPECIALLY true in a forum environment associated with a game like World of Warcraft.

That being said, though I'm sure the intentions were good, giving a nigh completely direct line to the development staff with little to no moderation in between is just asking for trouble. There needs to be a filter. Whether its additional staff to sort through the garbage (and there is oh so much of it) or a representative put in place for the design team is not for me to say.
You get what you get.
# Dec 14 2009 at 7:04 PM Rating: Decent
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You can please one person all the time. Some of the people some of the time. 11.5 million people? Never.
Careful what you wish for? Your healer just might be 3rd on the dps list!
Going to have to take the good with the bad.
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# Dec 14 2009 at 3:48 PM Rating: Excellent
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People are STILL raging about balance in Starcraft. It's a fact of human nature that if you get beat, you start looking for an unfair advantage your competitor must have had. The same is true of the tools on the o-boards; they get nuked in arenas by pallies, and now pallies MUST be OP. Insert your flavor of the month, and there will be people screaming for class changes.

In the same vein, Blizzard could nip a lot of this in the bud by better segregating the PVP and PVE worlds. There is a lot of rage regarding how nerfs/buffs for PVE cause doom or glee in PVE, and very little understanding of how difficult it is to balance those worlds evenly. How do you build a class to handle a semi-intelligent boss the same way it handles a sentient and creative human being? O-board posters expect this to be perfect, and for their opinion (or their guild's, or their father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate) to be more correct than the professional playtesters who know the game better than anyone. That's silly.

As for GC, yes - the forums rejects are starting to get him frustrated. I give him credit though - he has to deal with more crap than a septic tank cleaner on a daily basis. Might be time for Blizz to let a few others wade through the **** for a while.
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# Dec 14 2009 at 3:14 PM Rating: Decent
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As much as I have to admit that GC maybe isn't fit for the job of PR-guy, I seriously doubt that putting a people-skilled person in that position is going to change things for the better on the forums. Nerdraging fanboys will always be nerdraging fanboys. And as far as I know (I don't read a lot of blue posts), GC is right most of the time, when he talks about that which he knows best: how to design a game, although he often says it the "wrong" way.
well
# Dec 14 2009 at 12:32 PM Rating: Excellent
5 posts
"Well-well look. I already told you: I deal with the god **** customers so the engineers don't have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that?! What the **** is wrong with you people?!"
PR
# Dec 14 2009 at 10:49 AM Rating: Good
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As I've said all a long this role should have been filled by a skilled and experienced PR person. GC has said stuff that from a company PR perspective is just plain stupid. Not to say GC is stupid, but he is by no means a PR person. This has opened the Blizzard Development team to quite a lot of beatings.

You don't expect PR guys to develop video games, don't expect video game developers to be PR guys.
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brought it on themselves
# Dec 14 2009 at 10:19 AM Rating: Default
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I don't often go to the blizz forums, primarily because of the drama. And it honestly sounds like both sides ( players and developers ) are sharing in equal blame. But what are you going to do to players? There's not a whole lot ( other then make common sense decisions on things that are implemented into the game, like tauren paladin, really, what the **** ) that blizz can do about players, other then lock the threads, and politely remind players to not be retards. On the other hand, they can do something about the developers who are posting officially and unofficially in threads, and that is to tell them to be more polite if their causing problems, and comments like 'L2play' is often seen as a direct challenge to the intelligence of the player/s who feel like they spend more time on any one single class then developers who seem to have the air of 'throwing darts at a board' when it times to buff/nerf. I say seem, because thats how it feels sometimes.
The thing is though, is that over the years the game has been out, the developement teams have done so much to the game, and have implemented things that don't make any sense honestly, have based their decisions off the wrong type of content to be doing so ( like, arena having more to do with class 'fixes' then anything else, which in turn adversely affects the other half the game, pve ), its little wonder why they catch so much flak when they do post on the forums for -any- reason. More or less, I'd have to conclude that they brought it on themselves for agreeing to post publicly on the forumns. They asked for it, using the same delusions that they use in game, to think that all players would be nice to them and fall over at their feet in worship. This is not to say that the devs only make bad decisions, but really, when people rage over the things that bork over their class, justifiably or unjustifiably, they're going to look at the guys who did it to their class.
Training
# Dec 14 2009 at 9:55 AM Rating: Excellent
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I like the idea behind more developer involvement but the problem occurs when you have developers with poor people skills trying to deal with the condensed nerdrage of over a hundred servers.

I know I've found myself becoming outraged at the way Ghostcrawler says things. He tends to come off as more condescending and trollish than someone I want to trust the nerfing and buffing of my preferred class to. He still catches flack for his paladin comments from 3.0 and I find myself with no sympathy for him.

The only way I can see this getting better is if the CM's step in and reign in both player and developer. Otherwise we'll have another Tigole/shaman forum meltdown. Because right now there's a lot of bad feelings brewing on both sides of the fence.
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Blizz Devs need PR Training
# Dec 14 2009 at 8:41 AM Rating: Excellent
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If we got beter responses than, ":-P your class is fine, you all just need to research and L2Play" there would likely be less flaming. There will still be thoes who go to each class forum and flame them for each buff/nerf they get, or just for the heck of it because they are mad/upset/bored though.
CM
# Dec 14 2009 at 7:08 AM Rating: Good
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Both sides kinda suck in their own way.

Designers have a much stronger grasp to the game, so they have a potential to respond to posts that Community Managers couldn't.

But, Community are trained to handle situations like this, to diffuse the aggression.

Designers have a direct impact on the game. That means our words don't have to go through a middleman.

Community managers, as a middle man, can sort out the crap designers don't need to see and reduce a whole 100 pages of threads on the Lock forums to "They feel their damage is too low."

Designers don't really have a good grasp of how to handle "press releases." They tend to announce changes they are thinking about, but don't get why we are ***** when they don't go through.

A community manager knows not to mention something (and there is no chance of a "slip") until it is almost certainly going to be offered. It just results in fewer angry people.

It's hard to have a CM when designers are taking a front role.

When you have a CM, designers can still peruse and respond on the forums, where they see fit.

I think I'd prefer the CM, to be honest.
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CM
# Dec 14 2009 at 8:47 AM Rating: Good
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Quote:
Both sides kinda suck in their own way.

Designers have a much stronger grasp to the game, so they have a potential to respond to posts that Community Managers couldn't.

But, Community are trained to handle situations like this, to diffuse the aggression.

Designers have a direct impact on the game. That means our words don't have to go through a middleman.

Community managers, as a middle man, can sort out the crap designers don't need to see and reduce a whole 100 pages of threads on the Lock forums to "They feel their damage is too low."

Designers don't really have a good grasp of how to handle "press releases." They tend to announce changes they are thinking about, but don't get why we are ***** when they don't go through.

A community manager knows not to mention something (and there is no chance of a "slip") until it is almost certainly going to be offered. It just results in fewer angry people.

It's hard to have a CM when designers are taking a front role.

When you have a CM, designers can still peruse and respond on the forums, where they see fit.

I think I'd prefer the CM, to be honest.


Great post, perhaps you should be a CM. Very well done.
Trolls will be trolls
# Dec 14 2009 at 4:08 AM Rating: Decent
19 posts
Quote:
Is a "direct line" to the developers worth all the drama we've come to see in the forums these days, or would the more-typical "community management approach" foster better relations between Blizzard's players and developers?


To me, that question isn't even worth asking. It doesn't matter who the forum users think they're yelling at, they will still incite flame wars and troll the **** out of threads just because they think their main can't kill rogues in pvp or whatever. You just can't explain the intricacies of class balancing and game development to a wow addict in the mist of epic nerd rage.
Trolls will be trolls
# Dec 14 2009 at 1:48 PM Rating: Good
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I'll third that. The whole idea of "giving the job to a PR manager" is ********* What exactly sets a PR manager away from good 'ol GC? The fact that he's "trained to talk to the audience"? So how is he trained? In that he "chooses his words more carefully"? To be honest, if there's one thing players of any Blizzard game should realize by now it is that nothing brought out it solid and that content may change at any time. GC *does* choose his words carefully, and he mentions time after time again that everything he says might be subject to change. It's not his fault people turn that into "BUT YOU PROMISED WEH WEH". And even though most people don't even realize it, this constant change is a good thing. We do not need some shiny guy with a suit, tie and abnormally white teeth to charm us with promised nerfs/buffs. I'll take GC over that anytime.
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Trolls will be trolls
# Dec 14 2009 at 9:28 AM Rating: Good
45 posts
I'll second that. Having a direct link to developers is fantastic, but it doesn't appear that the community can handle it. It's unfortunately a flow-down - if the flamers aren't the original source, it's because some aspect of their class / spec is viewed as inferior, and all their rage at being benched gets redirected to the source of the "problem".

Speaking as a solo-inclined player (I'm right there with you, swingingbeast), things would work a lot better if people would be polite and considerate. Generally after brief attempts at the forums or PuG raids, I return to my quiet little guild, where I can rest assured that people are going to be friendly and share camaraderie, and any abuse will be responded to with a swift /gkick. ;)
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Trolls will be trolls
# Dec 14 2009 at 8:46 AM Rating: Good
I whole heartedly agree Mike. People like this are the reason I dont normally group up in game and spend most of my time playing solo. They just suck all the fun out of the game, because after all, (wow addict disclaimer: I spend 6+ hours a day 5 days a week playing), it is just a game.
Trolls will be trolls
# Dec 16 2009 at 10:04 PM Rating: Decent
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I don't have enough free time to hang on the WoW boards, but I do participate regularly on an equally huge set of forums in a completely different subject area. A year ago, the company president started fielding questions on the feedback forum, and the response was probably a bit more mature than that of WoW players, but the poor guy did become the focus of a lot of angst from many, many forum members who expected him to immediately solve their perceived problems there. And this is *not* a nerdy website! The president bravely powered through the exercise for several weeks and the feedback forums haven't been the same since.

Put a target up, and people will shoot at it until it's nothing but holes.
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