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After a short break yesterday (because the weekend’s revelations were tough on the brain) I’m back to request a game change I have suggested in the past, which has been in part implemented but is nowhere near as comprehensive as is needed. However, I am all too aware that my request might be a step too far when there’s still money to be made from the continuous Warcraft bandwagon, which rumbles on with no obvious sign of ever stopping. The cottage industry that has grown up around the game almost relies now on players not having the information they require to succeed provided in-game. In fact, in many cases, if you’re not prepared to go outside the UI for answers, you’ll be summarily considered a failure.

The problem in providing data to players, ultimately, is compounded by the understanding that people play this game in so many ways. When the Adventure Guide was introduced, the potential that it presented was huge, yet what this has now become is a simple method of using basic API data to tell players what they should be doing, without any help as to how or why. It pays purely lip service to the amount of potential information that could be presented, because it appears impossible to tailor that service any more than this. I know that’s not true, and I suspect ActiBlizz do too, but now the cottage industry of websites and video guides are as important to the company as they are to players? What can you do?

How do you give players the means to enjoy their content without ever needing to leave a game to do so?

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I think at least some of the desire to remove reforging and excessive gemming was in part to divorce players from having to ‘amateur theorycraft’on third party sites. Why therefore is there not a desire to provide guides for content in the same way? Well, that’s pretty simple: it costs too much. The time and effort expended by people (more often than not for free) to produce this kind of content has been, for many years, the ultimate compliment for the designers, and to reproduce this in-house will simply be prohibitively expensive. You certainly couldn’t employ someone full-time to do the task, and you don’t need to when someone else will do it for their own attention-providing ends. This is the symbiotic relationship that exists inside so many gaming communities, and if those making the guides can now make a bit of cash by doing so and nobody gets hurt, really, what is the problem?

For me, it is very simple. Warcraft’s a vast, sprawling machine that I love using, but more and more to operate certain portions of the structure it references things I don’t understand, and now to use the technology correctly I need the Companion Guide that explains the bits that the makers didn’t actually place in the machine to begin with, because they’re too busy doing the maths that keeps this beast functional. It’s not just that one Guide either, there are dozens of supplements and addendum and firmware updates and suddenly I’m looking at a completely different beast to the one I first learnt from and frankly, it is becoming impossible to keep up. The assumption that to be competitive requires you to memorise countless different and separate ‘guides’ is all well and good, but if that is going to be the case why can we not see more of that offered inside the Game?

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There will be those who argue that if you provide this data, it will ultimately trivialise the process of gameplay. However, I have to say in response that when so much of this game has so little to do with problem or puzzle solving to reward ANYTHING of real, tangible value when fighting the AI, where is there a problem in providing more knowledge? I think the biggest issue in this is wrapped up in the issues that occurred pre-Warlords, when we were being constantly communicated with and it became that everything that was said became truth. If ActiBlizz produced a Guide and it was wrong, the abuse that would result would be immeasurable. Far easier therefore to allow a third party to take the heat and fuck it up than spend time and effort producing Guides that might never be read to begin with. Far simpler, of course, to just build the machine and allow other people to figure out the operational parameters for themselves.

Except, as has been the case in at least the last Expansion, there’s a desire to simplify processes by removing spells and abilities, but to what end? If I still need a Best in Slot list and an optimal rotation and the best PC to play… honestly, there is no point at all in reducing my workload at interface level. You could bring the game down to pressing 4 buttons, but if I need to find a set of armour to wear that increases my damage? Without THAT information accessible somewhere in game, what is the point, exactly? THAT is what should be on the Heroes Call board in game, that I access in the exact same way as the Adventure Guide. There’s where I could see a list of not just the Legendaries I can obtain, but an in-game calculator that tells me which is the best. It’s okay if that link takes me out of the game, to a ActiBlizz website, that I’ll cope with, because then I can guarantee that if the data’s incorrect, I can petition for a change and the company’s got a responsibility to honour it.

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The problem is, whenever I bring this problem up in my head, that someone will read this and decide all I’m doing is dissing the people who are making the cash for completing the work. I have absolutely no axe to grind with anyone who does this, and if they can make cash from it then good luck to them. The fact remains, THIS IS NOT THEIR JOB, IT SHOULD BE THE COMPANY’S TO UNDERTAKE. Things have definitely improved since the early days of no data at all, and having a Q&A tomorrow on 7.1.5 is most definitely a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that there should be at least one or two people being employed full-time by ActiBlizz after all this time whose SOLE TASK is to be paid by the company to write Guides. With the amount of money this company turns over, they could not only afford the change, but the benefits to the Community would be significant. You keep employing notable players at Irvine, why not do the same with Guide writers too?

It’s not like this stuff wouldn’t be either useful or unused, after all.

[PS: No, don’t want the job, not even interested, give it to someone capable. Lots of them out there. Just go look.]

7 thoughts on “Information Overload

  1. In this we are 100% in agreement. I have fished to 800, I have even fished up one rare fish lure thing that I clicked on without knowing and got a short buff that was wasted because I did not know what it allowed me to do. To date, the only reason I know there is an artifact fishing pole? Is because someone in guild wrote the WoWhead guide for it. I have not run across a fishing quest in Dalaran, like we use to have, that would prompt me. Have not caught a rare fish that started a quest. I shouldn’t need to read 3rd party sites everyday to play.

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    • Very interesting point you have there too. What if they opened up submissions to guide writers. There are some very talented people that probably could write a well formatted informative guide. Let them submit, have Irvine narrow it down to 2 or 3 for a final review, pay the best $250, $150, $100. Be the best $500 the company spent. Plus would allow them to fine tune any minor mistakes. Heck. May even shed some light on possible problems in game before it goes live.

      Beyond money, I’m sure some people would be thrilled with some offbeat crazy title that would be unique for them.

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      • Wasn’t sure when to suggest. But if you’re looking for material that is somewhat related to this topic.

        Overpwn? I think that’s what the site was, is shutting down. Imagine if you will, what would happen if WoWhead decided to close its doors.

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    • Not in the austere Priest Hall. It’s a big ole chest right next to the mission table. It looks completely out of place and like someone just dropped some artwork there.

      I’ve seen the Shaman Hall, and had to go to the Paladin Hall for a quest. There is so much flavor in those. I can only imagine the Hunters Hall looks meaningful. The Priest Hall? Just a big open room. Very sterile.

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  2. Pingback: My Life | Alternative Chat :: Warcraft Edition

  3. “I think at least some of the desire to remove reforging and excessive gemming was in part to divorce players from having to ‘amateur theorycraft’on third party sites.”

    I can confirm this (or at least, I can confirm that this is what they said a lot at the time).

    “Why therefore is there not a desire to provide guides for content in the same way?”

    I’m kind of mystified by this though, the dungeon/raid guides in the dungeon guide are really good I think – both for giving you an exhaustive list of what’s going to happen on every difficulty, and for boiling it down to “Here’s what the tanks / healers / DPS need to worry about”.

    [i]If I still need a Best in Slot list and an optimal rotation and the best PC to play[/i]

    I’m.. not sure that you do? You might need a better PC, fair enough, but muddling along with “this is an ilvl increase” and “I should keep my buffs/debuffs up and hit things when they come off cooldown” will keep you from being kicked from anything.

    One thing Blizzard have been very good at is making a visual vocabulary – I haven’t done a Mythic+ yet, but when I do I know to expect that the chest will be a little chest icon on my map, and if I have to take 30 seconds to run around my Order Hall to find it the first time, that’s fine.

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