“A Little Learning is a dangerous thing”: The Road to Beta

A little learning is a dangerous thing
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:

When I was a student I had a crush on Alexander Pope*. The fact that he died in 1744 didn’t matter one iota. I loved his twisted tongue made bitterer still by the ill health which plagued his life and whilst hunting for a book my Mother lent me weeks ago (which I still haven’t found or read), I discovered a slightly battered copy of his complete works hiding on my book shelves. The above and often misquoted lines got me thinking about Warcraft in general but more specifically the upcoming expansion. At the moment we’re being drip fed bits and bobs of information about Draenor but I can’t help wondering if that’s a mistake on Blizzard’s part. It’s human nature to examine every last scrap of data, to pour over it and taking each piece as a separate item, subject it to the kind of criticism which made Pope so “popular” amongst his peers.

I remember when Naxxramas version 1 was about to be released and my then guild had a discussion on whether or not we should learn everything we could about the fights prior to the patch being released. We were the top guild on the server, a position we had held through three tiers of content (with a small hiccup on Razorgore… nerf Shamans!) and we knew that our greatest rivals, a Horde guild were hoping to learn as much as possible before setting foot into the dungeon, including checking out the PTR. In the end our GM prevailed with his policy of “We learn by dying repeatedly” and yes, we got lot more server firsts but looking back, I think it was an excellent policy. We had no preconceptions, we didn’t know that we had to kite Anub’rekhan until it dawned on us that standing still really wasn’t working and maybe that his creepy taunts weren’t just there to scare us but to give handy hints on how to kill him, we just jumped in fresh. Looking back, especially to when I first started playing, it was that constant sense of discovery and exploration which make the game seem so alive and compelling.

All these little details from Blizzard without any real meat wet the appetite sure but is that a negative thing? Take this for example:

Wish they’d stop biting each other and help me kill this thing

Muffinus certainly implying that come the expansion, Hunters will be able to tame Hydras. My first reaction was a squee of glee. I’ve wanted this little fellow as a Hunter pet ever since I got to Netherstorm in the Burning Crusade’s first week.

WoWScrnShot_032914_231705

Those seconds of excitement were then tempered with a slight grumpiness. Why do I have to wait for some as yet unspecified date in the Fall, approximately six months away for that. However my toy throwing from pram moment highlights a bigger issue. Each fragment of information Blizzard “leak” becomes a mirror for the game as it exists right this second. It reflects the lack of content, it reflects the fact that people are barely logging right now and instead are choosing to play other games, whether they’re Blizzard made or Goat Simulators. It reflects the annoyance that change often brings, an irritation where it doesn’t matter how many “dealing with change courses”your employer sends you on, never seems to abate, especially when you aren’t given all the information behind the decision. We’ve had the Flying debacle (my personal jury is still out) and the whole Proving Grounds conversation (talking of the latter, I’ve just watched Mr Harpy get Gold tanking on a brand new warrior and if he ever tanks a heroic for me like that……… ). We’ve seen people threaten to quit over the healing blog even though it doesn’t really go into enough details to illustrate anything other than the fact that there will be changes ahead, just as there have been with every expansion. Would it have made more sense to do Blizzcon, release what they could and then stay silent until there is a Beta ready to be released? Should we learn about the changes purely from playing them or do we as fee playing customers deserve more interaction in the design of the game that we love so dearly? It’s a fine line between feedback and criticism and one that’s even harder to walk when passion plays a role.

As for me, I’m not going to stop analyzing things I think worth discussing even though I only have ten pieces out fifty. Doing Jigsaws properly was never my forte and I was allegedly born opinionated. As for Pope, would he approve? Well given that he also wrote:

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

I can  only imagine he’d understand.

*My teenage crush list comprised mostly of dead people. Richard III, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick otherwise known as the King Maker, Lord Byron and Boudicca all featured on it.

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4 Responses

  1. My personal stance has been, for a long time now, to look at as little as possible before release.

    I want the new expansion to be as shiny for me as the box it comes in. I avoid looking at or knowing too much. This time around is probably the most I’ve looked at anything – I’ve sneaked a look at all the new character models and taken a couple of peeks at Shaman talent trees and stuff.

    While everyone is running and racing to get end level cap, I’m usually found wandering around a bit hopelessly, exploring things and marvelling over all the new stuff because I just had no idea of all this crazy stuff that was coming, whoa! :)

    Of course I’m a super relaxed player nowadays, I don’t raid anymore and there’s no guild pressuring me to get kills or realm firsts.

    I’m also a member of the silent part of a community that is still happy with the game. I still log in multiple times a week and enjoy the time I play. But I like collecting achievements, grinding rep, farming for stuff – and there is just endless lists of things I haven’t gotten yet, so there’s endless things for me to do.

    I did hear about the healing announcements, and they did make me a little nervous. I remember healing early Cata. It was… Interesting.

    But for now I think the community at large needs to just take a big step back and remember everything they might announce now could still change or be completely gone by the time launch rolls around.

    I like constructive feedback and criticism. What I don’t like is the venom that fills the forums every announcement – big or small. That doesn’t help us as players and it doesn’t help Blizzard, either.

    • I think you sum it up perfectly in the last paragraph. I try and refrain from posting my knee jerk reactions to things until I’ve had chance to unpick my thoughts and consider the situation but even so, occasionally I have my “toys out of pram” moments.

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