As Wrath of the Lich King slowly approaches, every beta build change brings a new wave of beta testers flooding the internet with info about the latest tiny tweaks.
I see various different opinions around the blogosphere about how good or bad this is, and I wanted to share with you my own personal outlook on the subject. I thought some of you might be interested, since if you know where I stand on it, then you will know what to expect from my blog over the next few months.
Wrath of the Lich King is not released. The version of the expansion people are playing now is not complete. Some people may not realise this.
In many betas I have played in the past, the alpha build was for internal testing only. During the alpha phase, content was developed, incorporated, and playtested.
Once all bugs and content and balancing were complete through internal playtesting and analysis, a beta phase would begin. During a beta, if people outside the company were recruited to help, it was normally to try and catch the more obscure, itsy bitsy little bugs that the internal testing did not catch.
Things like driver or hardware related issues in the real world, a result of people using computer platforms with massively varied technical specs.
Or things like data communication code streamlining or server load stress when a large number of people are all playing at once.
So people used to be able to expect that, if they were invited to ‘beta test’ an application, they were seeing a very nearly final and complete version of the software, including all content, that only required a last polish and fine tune before going into release.
Do you remember those days?
Welcome to the real world, buddy. Those days are long gone.
In the Wrath of the Lich King beta, and in most other beta testing for MMOs these days, content is NOT complete. In many cases, what you are seeing is just the faintest first idea of a developer, who is trying out new ideas to see what community reaction will be.
Many things done to classes, while part of an overall plan, may be implemented in various phases of the build process.
‘Build process’? Yes, that’s right. See, they are making the game AS YOU ARE PLAYING IT.
So those things that make the Warlock class so OP’ed compared to everyone else, that the beta testers are imploding over? Well, while it may look like, if they let that go unchanged as is, the Warlock will be the new king of whatever, the designers may have a similar level of capability intended to be added to the other classes to balance it out… but they just haven’t coded that yet.
So what you are playing is not complete. The things incorporated in the build you are playing may not only be wildly different from what will finally be released, but may also only represent a small portion of what will someday come out, and the other classes that have no counter may have them planned, you just haven’t seem them release it yet.
Please understand, I’m not making a judgment call on this. For a single player game I think the full internal testing is the way to go, but for a game with a massive community, having feedback on content and balance, if listened to, might (or might not) vastly improve the final release.
No, my point with recapping this, is to point out that, in my opinion, seriously analyzing class changes, new abilities, new talents, class mechanics or anything else related to how a class will play, especially when compared to other classes, is worthless effort on blogs at the moment.
A week or two before the suspected release? When people are playing in what is believed to be the final build? Okay, now there is information that will be of great value. But not before.
The place for such early discussion is in the official WoW Beta forums, where playtesters are asked to give feedback concerning what they are playing directly to Blizzard. And they really don’t need my opinions on the stuff… since I’m not the one playing it.
There is a place for speculation, sure. I enjoy looking at stuff and speculating on where it may end up as much as the next person. But I’m not going to make the mistake of thinking that what is seen NOW is in any way something to get all worked up over. And I’m not going to analyze what the stuff we see now means for our gaming experience.
Beta is beta, live is live.
So, what is my opinion on posting beta stuff?
I think posting about where a current classes’ abilities are in the beta, and then speculating on where they might be headed with it, what their design philosophy seems to be, the WHY of where they seem to be headed with the changes they are making, is appropriate to talk about. A lot of good ideas and fun can come out of such idle speculation. Making assumptions on balance or fairness or usefulness, or comparing those abilities to what another class is getting and whining about it, however, ain’t.
I think that talking about items that we have seen released into the beta so far, whether from drops or from crafting professions, and then speculating about what those items may indicate about the neat stuff we will get, or what we could do with them, is appropriate. We can imagine those items in our current game and get excited, or bored.
And I think that discussing instances and areas, zones and story-based information is completely bullshit without a massive spoiler warning at the top of the post, followed by a ‘read after this for more, warning, may reduce your enjoyment of the final game’.
I do not want to know about the zones. I do not want to read a walkthrough of the new areas, the new cities, and most especially I do not give a flying f*&^ about how much fun YOU had discovering these areas for the first time, as you describe the areas and things you have discovered in such detail that you seem to be trying to take that joy from ME.
If you are in the beta, and you are exploring and discovering new things, and it is exciting you and you are having an awesome time experiencing all this cool stuff for the very first time… seeing the story unfold and the areas brought to life before your very eyes, and you feel wonder and the joy of being an explorer…
Why in the hell do you think I want you to steal that joy from me? Are you somehow more special than anyone else, and only you should get to enjoy seeing it for the first time in the actual game?
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I am watching a movie, a TV show, or reading a book, I don’t mind knowing a little about the characters, what skills or background they start the story with. I don’t mind knowing enough of the start of the story to whet my desire for more, and I don’t mind someone telling me ‘oh, you’re gonna love that, the way they did some of the fights are awesome’, or ‘oh, you’re going to see Highlander for the first time? God, the scenes from Scotland are just gorgeously lush and beautiful, and the fights kick ass’.
However, I do not need you to tell me, seconds before I go out the door to watch ‘The Matrix’ in the theater, that boy you really loved the movie, the movie was great, the rush you felt the first time you realized that in the movie people who live in our ‘reality’ are really living in a virtual reality and are just living batteries plugged into a system controlled by artificial intelligence machine gods, and the story revolves around a young computer hacker living inside the system that gets cut out by revolutionaries living outside the machine controlled matrix, who are looking for a living hacker god. Wow, you loved that movie, it was great, the suspense of what would happen when Neo took that pill and was jacked out of the virtual reality into the gritty real world… boy, you’re gonna love that movie.
You know what? Some things I’d like to find out for myself. And while I can understand your enthusiasm, your desire to share with someone else the joy and wonder you felt when the truth was revealed to you… if you TELL me ahead of time every single little thing, it reduces the impact of the real thing. In some cases, by a LOT.
So on this blog, you will find me occasionally talk about neat things I’ve seen posted somewhere, cool new gadgets from professions, interesting sounding talents or abilities and what they might mean…
But you ain’t gonna get a single damn story spoiler. No zone discussion. No questline discussion.
I’ll tell you gladly about bear mounts and engineering motorcycles. I’ll proclaim my glee that we will get Glyphs that change how we look.
Those things, I think, aren’t spoiling anything for anyone. I could be wrong.
When the time comes, I will begin to look at how the class seems to have finalyzed, what our talents and spells are loking like, what talent specs look interesting for actual use, what Glyphs seem to look the most beneficial from what is available, and what gear or reputations look like the most advantageous.
And after release, I am sure I will talk about neat stuff I have seen, as I see it, in the live build. I’ll talk about fun in instances, and about getting lost in Northrend and getting eaten by a grue.
I’ll talk about it… once everyone has at least had the opportunity to do it for themselves.
It’s like Magisters Terrace. I tralked about some of the stuff that could drop in there before the release of teh content, but I didn’t really talk about the fights or my experiences until I figured most folks that wanted to would have had the chance to go in.
I hope that other bloggers don’t take this as an attack on how they post. It’s really not. No, not even you, whoever you are, that posted about WotLK class changes. Seriously. I know what I’m thinking of, and it ain’t you. Chances are good I really like your blog. No, really. Relax.
It is, however, written while thinking about how some large news sites I read regularly seem to have dropped talking about the current game entirely, and seem to think that what everyone wants is to know everything, and I mean everything, to the smallest detail, about WotLK well in advance, even going so far as to speculate on how imbalanced certain builds or talents are.
And that’s fine, I think that most readers DO want that. A ton of people want to go in knowing everything they can, and I can appreciate that. I certainly like to know as much as possible about my class, my gear, my talents and where I can go romp around and have fun.
But it’s not what I want to read right now, not until I can be going and doing those things for myself. Once the game is live, and anything you show me or talk about is something I too can be enjoying, well, then I will be fine with it. Until then, I’ve stopped going to those sites. I just don’t need to have my fun spoiled for me. I still play the game for fun, after all.
And hopefully now you folks have some idea of what you will, or will nto be seeing here.
Expect me to gush about new Engineering gun recipes, or the motorcycle with sidecar, etc, but don’t expect me to compare how feral Catform DPS is scaling in comparison to sword-specced Combat Rogues in the latest build.