What's with the frequent name changes!
I just checked the forums, and it looks like quotes are still broken. The last time I tested it, first-level quotes would not correctly link to the previous author's post unless it included a valid, second-level quote in the quoted text. If the first-level quote does make a valid reference to a previous post, the first-level quote will correctly link (with #URL and character name) but the (valid) second-level quote will show up without a #URL or name; this means that if the post is edited, the first-level quote will no longer show up since the forum software returns the formatted post when editing which does not include the second-level reference. On the other hand, if the first-level quote does not include a reference, the second-level quote(s) will show up with #URL and name. This was likely the result of an intended fix to the problem of third-level quotes and clean conversations, but it seems that the problem has somehow still not been identified. It's possible that the double-space bug also exists, where the forum software attempts to match to a post with double spaces (such as many people will enter after a full stop) but a browser will only display, and therefore paste for quoting a highlighted section of text, a single space.
That was just a FYI.
Now, then. I feel sorry for other regions, because while there might be some degree of communication with the developers with the Q&A format, probably only the US-EN blog comments are being read by them. Expect this comment to be complicated.
The most prominent short-term danger to the health of WoW is likely "a lack of challenge". This can be seen, for example, in comments to the news item announcing a reduction in difficulty for normal and Heroic modes of current raid content.
The most prominent long-term danger to the health of WoW has been, and will continue to be, a lack of "broad awareness of the varying reliability of primary signals", in the sense of a quality that communicates information, in the playerbase that prevents WoW's developers from anticipating which changes are likely to lead to a game that people will want to continue to subscribe to. To be more specific, while there are plenty of people who anticipate what they would or would not enjoy in a game, there is substantial correlation between an accurate prediction of what would improve the game and a lack of action to do anything about it.
This is due both to the predominance of inaccurate predictions in the overall subscription base, but also competing goals outside of WoW that prevent people from being able to decisively state that effort spend on improving WoW will lead to positive changes in the world as a whole, due to both the opportunity cost of these efforts and also of the game itself. This manifests as a lack of desire to contradict the expressed wishes of the rest of the playerbase, no matter how inaccurate those predictions of enjoyment might be; meaning that while constructive efforts to improve the game might be made, the particular incidence of doing so drops sharply when it leads to conflict with any part of the playerbase leading to a significant divergence in the aggregate opinion that the developers will find themselves exposed to.
This bias can be understood, allowing the developers to accurately evolve the game in a positive direction, but the underlying causes that contribute to this problem in the game's community have their basis in the rest of society. In other words, there are two situations that will result in WoW's developers obtaining a more accurate signal in the community's feedback. The first is for WoW's developers to improve the overall incidence of accurate judgements in the game's playerbase through game changes that would encourage this critical approach. The second is through the resolution of problems in broader society that prevent higher competence individuals from feeling justified in contributing to improvements to WoW, removing the inherent bias in the accuracy of the community's feedback as a result of conflict.
To provide a bit more explanation on said bias and correlation, more intelligent individuals are more likely to attempt to anticipate future changes in their own situation and direct their own actions and thoughts in an active way. The most common strategy that results is to maintain the capability to anticipate conflicts and cause them to resolve in one's own favour. However, once someone has sufficient confidence in their ability to do this, they may begin to avoid conflicts and allow the ones that do occur to resolve in favour of other entities, due to the significantly different options this leads to in voluntary interactions with other individuals; the ability to complete goals without conflict is in some sense even more difficult than winning a battle, and this is part of the reason for the correlation with accurate judgement even as it leads to increased difficulty in the verification of capabilities and demand for situations which provide this confirmation.
As one of the issues in society that lead to the correlation in feedback incidence and skewing of WoW's developers' perception of player desires (note that the conflict in this case is not actually between an intelligent player and the player that does not accurately predict what changes would be good for the game, but rather between the desires of the intelligent player and the demands society places on them due to their capabilities and their own knowledge of the existence of system failures), the reason global economic problems such as unemployment and economic inequality have not previously been addressed, and what people can do to contribute to a solution, is described here:
(it may or may not be worth pointing out that the reason prices do not somehow stabilize to reduce unemployment can also be analyzed by looking at the demand curve for a single firm, as distinctly opposed to aggregate demand or demand for a specific product type, as shown here:
Failure to understand this is part of why traditional economics did not correctly identify the problems with previous modeling of recessions and unemployment or the solution.)
The other situation which would lead to more accurate feedback from the game's community, as mentioned above, is to deliberately introduce more ambiguity in the measures of progress used by the community to make judgements, leading to a more critical evaluation both of one's own accomplishments and the capabilities of other participants in the game. Shallow, inaccurate judgements are at the core of the biased player feedback that influences WoW's developers' perceptions of player desires, leading to an inaccurate model of motivation and development work that does not produce the expected reception when it is released.
The basic antagonistic principles which can lead to an improvement of this situation are described at the end of the following text, although it does not pertain directly to WoW:
Adopting counterbalancing arrangements of achievement measurements in this fashion has a direct influence on their use as estimations of competence or as goals, and can therefore prevent inaccurate feedback on changes to these measurements that leads to inefficient allocation of development resources or the perception by parts of the playerbase of nonconstructive change as described in this blog post.
However, as mentioned previously, the greatest short-term danger to the health of WoW is likely to be the lack of challenge for much of the content available to most players. While this is a sensitive topic in the WoW community, the implications of insufficient challenge at the individual level, and consequently the importance of providing opportunities to test one's capabilities in a constructive direction, are described here:
It's worth mentioning that there is a distinct difference between reacting to problems that appear in the game, such as balancing issues in the viability of different character classes in a particular content area, and designing a game such that these problems avoid arising in the first place. I think it would be fair to say that WoW's developers do not have a precise theoretical understanding of how to minimize the number of balance changes that are necessary in character classes; low-level character performance could probably be seen as a great example of this deficiency, with no consistency over time in the difficulty a character is expected to face in leveling up. WoW's developers have mentioned that it was originally estimated during the early design process that combat with an equal-level NPC would take about one minute to complete; it is unlikely that the current developers have any particular goal of what this time frame should be.
[exceeding the 'post this today' length... oh well]
*yes finally remembered after 5 minutes... WoW wasn't originally intended to have lots of quests. They were only added in from feedback from testers who really enjoyed the questing aspect. The reason WoW became popular was not collecting magic items, or the optimization of character performance to complete content before it is reduced in difficulty, and if WoW's developers do not understand why quests made WoW popular they should consider how accurate their understanding is of player motivations in the game's current state. 'Travel' quests, in particular, did not lead to complaints even if they took a large amount of time to complete if done as the sole purpose of a journey, and were often deferred for a significant amount of time if the character had no other reason to visit the area of the quest's destination. The complexity of interacting goals, with reaching the level cap often actually having a low priority, did not lend itself to a single-variable evaluation of a character's progress, and consequently there was no community pressure on development to make a given progression baseline easier to attain. A return to the social environment of early WoW—which some might say was more refined—is possible, but it depends on the ability for WoW's developers to understand the basis for community evaluation of metrics and the reasons that people subscribe to the game.
[it's so fun watching undo history repeat itself... then realizing that the last four minutes since saving were spent on a single sentence]
>On the other extreme, too much change can produce what we often call the “roller coaster effect,” where the game design feels unstable and players, particularly those who play the game more sporadically, can’t keep up.
If the developers make a game change because a certain spec's numbers are not the right size, does this mean players should feel obligated to respec if it will improve their character's numerical performance? If the numbers of one of several possible primary specialties were not important enough to base changes to one's character on, would the game's developers still react to a perceived or theoretical imbalance? The playerbase takes cues from the changes to the game, and this forms one component of the community expectations for character customization. Or as one the above links states,
"[A situation] which involve[s] conflicting goals, where progress in one direction causes a reduction of expected progress in another direction, promotes the self-measurement of a hidden competence metric and is therefore more useful than a single variable measurement for individuals who are not accustomed to attempting to keep track of progress outside of what is measured by the previously developed system, even if a single variable can accurately measure competence within a constrained set of assumptions"
If players feel they need to change specs to justify their participation in group content, perhaps WoW's developers should look at increasing the 'fun' of that group content and the potential to test individual player competence instead of merely treating it as a goal to be completed, as described in another of the above links. I have been told that WoW's raiding has never really been hard at the individual level, only in the difficulty of gathering enough competent players with stable connections that can meet at the same time.
>We call these server changes hotfixes, because often times we are able to deploy them even while you are playing. If we hotfixed Mortal Strike’s damage, you might suddenly do more or less damage in the middle of a fight.
If Mortal Strike's damage were not fixed, most players would not care. The need to change its damage at all is not immediately apparent in the situation leading to an analysis of class imbalance.
>I mention all of that just to explain that one reason you see so many hotfixes these days is because we have the technical ability to do so. That doesn’t mean that the game has more bugs, more boneheaded design decisions, or more class balance problems than previously.
Does a class balance problem that no one notices exist? Time between patch 1.2 and 1.3, 11 weeks. Class balance changes intended to address performance issues in raids: 0.
>If your hunter is topping meters by a small fraction, you might ask: what’s the rush? And many players do. But you have to consider that other players are miffed that their raid leader might sit a warlock in the interest of bringing a third hunter (since their damage is so awesome) or might be really frustrated that they are so likely to lose to your hunter in PvP.
Why does the warlock have no other groups to raid with? Is this not the fault of WoW's developers, regardless of balance issues, for not providing the tools and mechanics necessary to be able to expect the warlock can join another group? What is the timescale over which the hunter has gained this advantage in performance? It is unrealistic to expect that no raid group can gain an advantage by selective substitution based on content unless all classes have the exact same mechanics and identical abilities in their specialization roles. Designing a game that is resilient to adverse effects on player choice from leadership whims or raid group optimization should be seen as superior to the discontent that arises from the endless attempt to improve balance without really accomplishing anything at all.
>We have to balance the goal of providing fixes when we think they are warranted with the whiplash or fatigue that can come from players feeling like they constantly have to relearn how the game works. We debate constantly whether a change needs to be made immediately or whether we can sit on a problem for an extended period of time.
There are many analogies that could apply to this situation. One might be a leaky boat.
>Ideally, we want players who like Fire to be able to play Fire without feeling like they are holding back their friends.
Are their friends having fun?
Oh and is this before or after the content is reduced in difficulty? The reason for this rhetorical question should be obvious...
...but in case it isn't, if content is not fun to do, then it would likely improve WoW's subscription numbers to improve game mechanics to make content more challenging for the individual player instead of making it trivial to complete. The reason there is no coordinated feedback that content should be made more challenging is described in the above links, but also due to the concern that WoW's developers will add mechanics that are challenging but have no social relevance. WoW once had 'login challenge' and 'avoid death from loot lag challenge' but overcoming these personal challenges had no positive effects on other players, and therefore limited relevance once competence in those areas was reached.
>A lot of the fun of World of Warcraft is problem solving.
Then a lot of gameplay in World of Warcraft must not be very fun due to the lack of problems requiring solving.
>It’s time for us to step in when the lines flatten out and no new players are beating the content.
Are the ones who haven't beaten it having fun?
>It’s a bit easier for the five-player dungeons because we want players to prevail almost all the time. Nobody wants to go back to Throne of the Tides week after week until they finally beat Lady Naz’jar.
Has it always been this way..?
Is the desire for players in the most talented guilds to have content that challenges the competence of their guild and competing guilds at odds with the desire of casual players to have fun playing the game? If content is intended to be reduced in difficulty, does it benefit the game to offer it at a higher difficulty at all? At either difficulty for the group, does it challenge the individual player enough for them to enjoy the game?
>Players would typically rather we buff everyone but their spec rather than nerf their spec, even if the outcome is the same.
Are they having fun? This is getting repetitive.
>It’s fun for you to top meters. It’s not fun for when you feel like you have no hope of competing with the guy topping meters.
Is it fun to top meters on an encounter that is not difficult?
> (Remember, that if we buffed everyone up to the DPS of the outlier, that we might very well have to buff creatures as well to keep you from trivializing content, which adds a lot more overhead to the change.)
The content is already destined to be trivialized if it isn't challenging for the individual player. The player feedback that asks for increases in character performance is the same feedback that leads to content nerfs. Instead of conceding defeat when players say content isn't fun, understand why they feel that way and how to change game mechanics to make content more difficult for the individual, not how to make it easier for the group with class buffs and content nerfs.
>We hear from players who say “My dude hasn’t fundamentally changed in years,” and they want something, anything, that makes them look at their character in a new light.
It's been a while since people treated WoW as a roleplaying game..
>Stuff like this is why I say game design is an art and not a science.
Art is a science. Sadly, Aion has not delivered as a good PvP game either... the inability of the playerbase to anticipate their benefit due to poor signal evaluation, and the ignorance of the developers on how to address flawed character interactions based on these signals, are common elements of both games. The changes made to a game and their frequency are not as important as the motivations for and goals of those changes.
WoW's developers should have enough ideas on how to progress the game in a positive direction and improve the community and its quality of feedback. If they do not act to improve the attractiveness of the product for potential users, there would seem to be nothing anyone can do to remedy this situation.