#1 - Sept. 23, 2016, 6:48 p.m.
These forums can be a pretty nasty place. You've got groups of people angry about pretty much everything here. Camera settings. Class Order "garrisons". Flying. Alts. PVP in the Dalaran sewers. Time gates on rep. Class balance. Important things. Petty things. Everything else.
It's really not surprising that Blizzard employees keep their official forum presence to a minimum, even most of the Community Managers; Making any kind of blue post, especially in direct response to a player on a controversial issue, is an invitation for personal abuse on a pretty large scale. It's hard to even take the potential for positive player/CM interaction seriously because of the sheer volume of negativity and vitriol that we players spew in every direction. Why poke the bear, right?
On the other hand, I think that the current state of developer/player communication is making this problem much worse than it needs to be. While some people here are "shouting" because the anonymity of the internet affords them a consequence-free way to be awful to others for sport, many others are shouting because they believe that's the only way their voices will be heard. Every day we can see posts on multiple forums begging for a blue to pay attention to their issue (like, uh, this one).
To some extent, there's just nothing to be done about it. There are always going to be squeaky wheels begging for grease. We have an insatiable appetite for attention here on the forums, like a hundred thousand baby birds all stretching our necks out, beaks wide open, desperately pleading for sustenance (whether we actually need it or not). There's no way that everyone's getting fed. This problem will always exist, but there is a lot more that can be done to mitigate the damage it causes to our community.
Let's look at a recent example of that damage: This whole debacle with Lore's twitter post yesterday.
https://twitter.com/devolore/status/779018301246550016This guy takes off his CM hat for one second and posts something innocent and funny to his personal social media account. Everyone immediately loses their minds. Lore - I was listening to your Twitch stream last night and you seemed to be confused about where all of this hate was coming from, like you really didn't understand why people were reacting so negatively. My own knee-jerk negativity may help to explain: http://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20749415359?page=2#post-26
It's because we're totally in the dark here, pretty much all of the time. As stupid as it may seem, that playful post on social media is the closest thing the folks on the class forums (ALL of the class forums - not just warlocks ffs) have gotten to an update on the upcoming class balance changes. There's always going to be somebody pitching a fit about whatever Blizzard employees post unofficially, but the fact that those threads gain any traction at all ( http://us.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/20749205438 ) instead of being downvoted into oblivion should tell us something is actually wrong here. Sure, this is the internet and everybody sucks, but I swear it doesn't have to be this bad.
Okay... So everyone overreacted. So what? This is where that damage that I mentioned comes in. What we all walked away with from this is pretty exclusively negative on both sides. Lore sees that players will absolutely freak out and say horrible things about him over pretty much nothing at all, and learns to trust and entertain community reactions a little bit less. Players see that Lore thinks class balance is a joke, doesn't care about the various groups of players that feel disenfranchised, and they learn that their own extensive constructive feedback is only going to be met with mocking and sarcasm. These are terrible misconceptions that are being perpetuated here, and they affect everyone in the community.
So what can be done about it? I'm not a community manager for a big gaming company. I'm not even in customer service, or marketing, or the gaming industry, or any even remotely relevant field, so it's entirely possible that my thinking is flawed here, but I'm going to give this a shot anyway: Blizzard can communicate more with players. If there were other meaningful conversations going on in the forums, then a post to social media would be far less likely to be thrust into the spotlight and inflated to such ridiculous proportions. There's more on that below, but first I want to acknowledge a write-up that Lore made yesterday that seemed to be at least partially in response to the community's comments:
https://twitter.com/devolore/status/779174150090797056From my own experience, I can understand having a position that isn't easily defined. I am completely okay with not really understanding what it is that the currently existing CMs do at Blizzard; I have a feeling that a thorough explanation would be profoundly boring to me. And so, by extension, I can accept that it may really be in the community's best interests that Lore and so many other CMs don't really interact with players on the forums because they're doing something else that is important. That's fine. ...But really, there's a catch to that.
Someone should be doing that. Community interaction is an important aspect of community management (it... it is, right?), even if it is so hard to quantify and to put a dollar value on. On his livestream last night Lore made a comment that interacting with people on the forums is kind of a "junior" responsibility for a CM (I am really not trying to twist words or set up a strawman here, someone correct me if I've misunderstood what he was saying) and that of the ten people on his team, only one really engages with the forums regularly. Hi Ornyx!
We want more CMs like Ornyx. Now, wait a minute, I'm not getting weird here and I'm not in love (sorry bb), but the role that Ornyx is filling here on the forums is not a one goat job. I realize that part of (maybe most of, I have no idea) what he does is gather community feedback, try to make some kind of sense of that jumbled up emotional mess of ideas, and relay some useful form of that to the developers. That's fantastic, and I'm glad that happens. That is not what we actually need more of, however. He posts. He acknowledges the reoccurring topics and successful threads. His (still very limited) presence here does so much to lower the overall temperature of any conversation he pops up in (let's forget about that one time on the warlock forums - we were having a bad day), and I really think that the positive impact he has on the Warcraft community overall by just talking with us is greatly underestimated.
It seems to be that a lot of players (myself included) tend to walk in to the whole guess-about-who-does-what-at-Blizzard situation with the assumption that every class has a dedicated dev or team of devs that focus on it exclusively and understand all of its ins and outs. While I think sure, that would be great (right? or maybe it would be horrible, who knows), I really believe that challenges faced by the dev team and their actual effect on the game itself is secondary to how Blizzard chooses to handle communication with players. Currently the most common response to player issues is to remain completely silent on them until the moment that they are resolved. This has got to be costing subscriptions. I know that it has nearly cost mine, at the very least.
Hire like two people to engage with us. They don't even have to have any real information to give us in return; we just want to feel like we're being heard. If I could post in blue, I promise that I could vastly improve player attitudes on the forums toward the game, the company, and the developers without ever saying anything at all. When I say "I could do this", what I really mean is that anyone could do this with a little bit of effort and a little bit of love for this game and its community of players.
Posted by Hypotheticalblue:There's zero substance there, but posts like this always cool people down and give them hope - hope that keeps them subscribed. People get invested in your game. You can use that to an actual monetary advantage by fostering a better relationship with your players and keeping them around. By and large we love the lore, we love the gameplay, and we love giving you $15/month for it - But we don't feel loved in return, and that leads to feelings of hopelessness and cynicism and eventually rage, which you can see everywhere right now despite all of the good that has been introduced with this major expansion.
Hey guys. I've seen a lot of the same feedback about [insert class and spec here], and some of you have come up with unique and interesting ideas (as well as some that are way out there!). I just want to let you know that we're listening, and I've had a lot of fun reading some of the more creative suggestions. I'll keep you posted about anything I hear back from the dev team. Keep up the discussion!
I think it's fair to say that most of us who come here to the forums are either looking for an answer or looking to vent their frustrations. Imagine if we could actually come here and get an answer, or have our frustrations acknowledged by someone other than just other frustrated players. I obviously can't speak for the entirety of the internet, but I for one will promise to be as constructive and useful to the community as I possibly can if Blizzard will just meet us halfway by bringing in CMs that will focus on community interaction.
TL;DR: Blizz, please talk to your players more.