Tobold's Blog
Friday, February 01, 2008
Why are the WoW forums such a horrible place?

I had an interesting mail exchange with a reader who suggested that I post my proposals on how to improve grouping on the official WoW suggestion forums. I replied that I'd never do that, because the official WoW forums are such a horrible place, where no intelligent discussion takes place. No reasonable person even visits them without wearing an asbestos suit. Any suggestion to change anything in World of Warcraft is shouted down by whatever small vocal minority is currently profiting from the existing imbalances, or by the religious types who think that any change to the sacrosanct entity that is WoW is a blasphemy. And the other forum posters are just trying to derail any thread to become a discussion of their pet peeve instead, or just plain post without wanting to say anything, just to increase their post count.

So that reader wrote me back and asked me *why* the WoW forums where that way, and how they had become such a horrible place. And I don't really know. I assume it has to do with the small chance to get attention from developers or an official "blue name" response. As these are rare, forum posters fight for attention the way a pack of hungry wolves would fight if they were given just a single rabbit. They verbally kick other posters to hold them down, so they can get to the top themselves.

What is your opinion about the official World of Warcraft forums? Are they a good place to discuss ideas, and if not, why, and how did they become that way?
I think the official forums are in a situation like this, because they are maintained by a big company having a big marketing team and a democratic "rules" towards their customers. There is no place for Moderator subectivity. Yes, the forum users are their customers and thats the bigges difference between the official Blizzard forums and the forums maintained by a bunch of entusiasts.
This plus the fact that most WoW players don't have any other MMO community experience is I think the most influential factors for WoW forums been like this.
Most of the WoW players are coming from FPS games like CS for example where this kind of "flaming" behaviour is normal.
Also previous MMO's were kinda "difficult" and not so "shiny" for the younger players. We know puberty was a hard time for any of us. :)
Dear mr hornblower

i believe in every forum theres good ppl (who really want to discuss someting) and there is bad ppl (who want to troll, mock / making fun of ppl's post, trying to be funny/sarcastic etc). in WOW forum, because of their large subscriber number, the bad ppl post is magnified to the limit.

If you read Thread Title / Topic title in WOW forum you can discern easily that some ppl use WOW FORUM just for kicks. ditto their reply to other ppl, some just sneer / lookdown on ppl's ideas.

I agree that posting in WOW FORUM is almost like a lost cause, because your post will be drowned by useless post, by mockery and by ppl who kick you while hiding behind internet anonimity. however, there is a minute percentage that BLizzard representative will read your suggestion and there is even a small chance that they listen to you.

So its no harm to post suggestion in blizzard forum, as long as you are willing to ignore the uncouth masses there :)

Thats my view sir

Good day

PS: for some reason i believe a few blizzard dev already got your BLOG address on their favorite bookmark :)
I think it's mostly due to overwhelming volume. WoW has around 10 million players. If even 1% of them use the forums, that's 100000 players. And some of them are several orders of magnitude more vocal than others. Blizzard probably has a hundred or so CMs at most, so they simply can't oversee all of the forums. And in the absence of authority, the forums have turned into a re-enactment of Lord of the Flies.
I call it the "official forum syndrome". It happens all the time - an example I see in action right now is Epic's Unreal Tournament 3, where I'm somewhat active in the community now, visiting forums all over the place - including the official ones.

On the official ones you indeed have a chance to be heard by developers, although they're much more probable to ignore whines and flames than to listen to them. Still, that small chance is enough to attract idiots all over the place. Now the WoW community managers have the approach of letting many things run their way, only occasionally closing or deleting topics - on the UT3 forums, admins are much more active and ban flamers and whiners regularly. That leads to way more flaming and whining on unofficial forums, because all the idiots are banned on the official forums. But it also leads to way less flaming and whining overall, because many people don't care to flame once they're denied their "prime developer access channel".

It's really a very fortunate situation, because - the official forums are actually a pretty nice place to be meanwhile!

So yes, enough authority and the anarchy is kept at bay. Not having official forums, as Tabula Rasa practices it, is another very successful approach. I guess there had to be a behemoth of a game doing it all wrong first before the other game companies noticed that there can't be such a thing as merely moderately moderated official forums.
Agree it's volume. Take a typical small country or city at 10 Million. Then walk into an "average" pub/bar/social place and try to figure out if you enjoy the type and style of discussion.

The forums aren't all bad actually. The UI forum is rather useful and other forums can be if you find a personal filter to weed through the yelling.
Nostalgica coming up. Warning! You know the best single game MMO forums? Think back around 2000. When Verant decided not to have official forums for EverQuest. A very smart decision. What followed was the rise of unofficial fan-driven class forums. Within 3 months you had dozens of forums created, filtered out, leaving one very solid forum for every class. Moderation was very strict.

When Verant realized the quality of those boards, they put out feedback. You had individual devs - back than single devs were responsible for single classes - visiting their class forum, talking to the community. Feedback was rare but that made it more valueable. Devs also took the option to visit forums of certain guilds. That's when boards like the Fires of Heavens one became popular. I mean how cool is this, when you "know" the single dev, that represents your call, when it's dicussed in the meetings? Communication was almost sureal. You had devs admiting flaws of the game. PR polishing wasn't needed.

Now that worked like a charm back then, cause the community consisted of 100% core players and in general was a small scale community.

Obviously such a system of feedback wouldn't work anymore, or would it? I see a value for offical forums. You need them to guide Jimmy Casual, when he's got technical problems, or when he is looking for a guild and such. Content and balance on the other hand, should never be discussed with every single player contributing. You need a certain level of depth for such topics, a depth very few players are able to grasp.

Strip the WoW boards down to the technical themed ones, and the server forums. Take out everything dealing with content or class design. Fixed. Opening such a platform, gives the impression that the company may actually value the feedback from every single player, wich just isn't the truth. Look at the job listing for game testers. The good ones look for very specific people, not a melting pot of millions. If you have casual topics on the WoW boards, you have the hardcore come in and crying about welfare epics. If you have hardcore topics, you have the casuals coming in crying about inaccessibility. It's a mess. It doesn't offer any kind of value.
Mythic did the same with their official DAoC forums back in the day, pulled the plug. The forums were basically on the way to becoming what the WoW forums are now. Best thing they ever did. I believe that for MMO's it's best to leave it to community driven forums, don't have any official forums, no good ever comes of that.
I'd agree with the "volume" statements above. I mean, there are good posts with intelligent discussion every day, those are the ones I try to seek out and participate in if I have anything of value to say. But, the fact that they're visited by so many people and have such a small moderation staff in comparison, usually means they are full of crap most of the time.

I don't really understand why they can't hire moderators to keep an eye on those forums almost 24/7. Just assign a moderator a certain set of forums to keep an eye on, maybe excluding the realm forums unless a post is reported or something. Logging into the forums first thing in the morning and seeing no less than 10 racist, sexist or otherwise insulting posts on the front page and being bumped by people isn't really an image I would have expected Blizzard to want to maintain.

Btw, your description of the official forums is the best I've seen. ;)
I love the WoW Forums. I make troll posts all the time. I make troll replys too. I have a good time. Readers have a good time. I'm sure the Mods have a good time removing my posts.

I honestly think a few bad apples ruined the tree. No matter what you say on the are going to get a sarcastic remark somewhere in your thread. Once a troll takes over a good thread...the thread sinks quickly.

Here is my list of the best forums to troll on:

1) General -everyone gets to see it.
2) Class forums -Nothing better then using your warlock on the mage forums...claiming mages need a nerf.
3) Your unique realm forums -Nothing beats adding that personal touch to someone you just camped for hours. Chances are that your "campee" won't read your post...but most likely someone in his guild will read it, and let him know....and thats when the fun starts.

Forums that aren't fun to troll/are good for actual conversation...

1) UI/Macro Forums...just serious bzness here.

That is all.
Human nature.

The average person is really very selfish. My theory is that being selfish is part of our genetic make-up, part of our survival instinct. Our early ancestors HAD to be selfish to survive.

That is why the features MMO game developers add in the belief that they will enhance the social aspects of the gaming community (is there such a thing?), fail in the end for most people. Selfishness is not conducive to a well run society. Doesn't work in real life, doesn't work in games. That is why most guilds in WoW, (and EQ, etc., etc.), fail in the long run.

The message boards are filled with the same selfish people that fill the average guild. The average guild has no real chance of success - just look at the WoWJutsu numbers. Likewise, the message boards have no chance of NOT being horrible.

It's simply the way people are. Look at your average country. Why would you think the gaming community would be any different?
Good post get buried too quickly - limit the number of post per day and much of the idiocy would go away.
All of the reasons posters have have stated, such as volume of users, large company, new mmo players, are all true. But the real reason the WOW boards are such a dung heap, is because Blizzards sits back and lets it happen. It really is that simple.

They make is very easy to troll, by letting you make numerous alts, and letting you post on all of them.

I don't think "official" boards are bad in themselves, look at City of Heroes and EQ2 boards. Yea you get your complaining, but you don't see anywhere near the crap on those boards as you do WOW's. That's because they MODERATE them, Blizzard has never done this to a very bid degree. I mean look at the battlenet boards. The last time I was there, they made the WOW boards look good.
Well there is some of the stuff that people have already said. Troll, bad apples intentionally being stupid.

But having "trolled" the forums for almost 3 years now, my opinion is it's 75% blizzards fault. they allow thier community managers to make promises that almost never come true. Then the developers. Tigole being the worst will come along and make damned stupid statements and start 100 page flame wars.

For instance I remember long ago when my main was a druid. There was a long running complaint by Plainswander one of the most reasonable well thought out posters in the druid forums. He kept posting and posting the same stuff so they banned him. When BC came out most of his complaint was addressed. But his reasonable voice was no longer on the forums but all the moron's posting inflamatory junk were still there stirring the pot. I've seen personal attacks on the devs left up while LFG complaints were deleted.
When Coriel Pre feral fix told the druids lobbying for fixes that "If they found a hybrid class too much of a challenge there were several Pure classes available", I was banned for 3 days for pointing out her post was no better than the trolls.

It boils down to one thing. Early on Blizzard adopted the US VS THEM mentality. And the forums have been downhill ever since. There is no real moderation and the blues have just put out so much wrong information that no one trusts or believes them anymore.
I can't stand the WoW boards. A year before BC came out, my brother and I were talking about what they might do with it. He suggested that they might cross shamans to alliance and pallies to horde, citing blood knights and draenic shaman qualities from WCIII. I thought this was brilliant and posted it on the general forum. It got two pages of "STFU n00b" and "that's retarded" before getting buried. Then guess what happened when it came out?

I don't post there anymore.
You know what... my response to this would be longer than your original post, so I'll write my own article and send you a ping-back! :-P
You forgot to mention all the asshat keyloggers praying on the navie first time posters.
I've dealt very little on the WoW forums, mostly for the lolz. The problem I see is that there is not enough moderation, There are too many people posting, and those that do post don't think what what they are post and/or not researching to see if it has been posted before.

Let take a look at the Newbie and Suggestion Forums. ON a good day you will see a post fall to the 2nd page in less than an hour if no one posts a reply. Most of these things are very basic and have been posted before, but no one does a search for them. I can understand that though, when you have over 200 pages of topics with 50 posts on each page, too much work.

The suggestion forum is the most useless one I've found yet. Half of the post are nerf this guy or "My mage was owned by a warrior, mages need to be stronger in melee". The the other half are unreasonable request that are a mere cosmetic change (green fire for warlock fire spells, I've seen that one a few times) or something that would completely unbalance the game, aka make every class be able to run faster, give players more gold/remove repair cost, allow free spec changes.

On a side note, I wish people would stop crying about having to switch back and forth between specs. I lvl'ed a holy priest all the way to 70 without changing specs and I did great. It's completely doable to level tank and healing classes at the same rate as any other role.

Back to what I was saying, The forums are useless because there is too many new posts and Blizz doesn't invest enough into moderating them (or their realms for that matter). The best example is the Suggestion Forum. There is a new post each week about cleaning up the RP realms, often getting 5 to 10 pages of replies before being forested off the board and yet nothing is ever done.
It's just the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, with a reinforcing feedback structure.

As pointed out above, it takes a very low % of trolls to make a profound presence, which chases constructive posters away.

I do remember some good stuff being on the WoW boards, but I only visited it on a referral basis.
I think there are a couple of reasons. As others have mentioned, there's way too many people who play the game; you are bound to get trolls in the boards. And because there's so much traffic, it's hard for the moderators to moderate with any speed.

But to me, the biggest reason is because we are allowed to post with a character name. This allows us to create level 1 characters with no accountability. A lot of people may disagree with me, but I think you should have to post with your ACCOUNT name, not your character name. There could be a way that people could choose to show what characters they play (so for example, if you are in the Warrior forums people could see that you have a level 70 prot war), but this should seriously cut down on trolling.
Bread and circuses. Forums are cheap and the userbase confuses them with customer service.

User comments < /dev/null


No, you can't have my stuff.
I would've agreed with you 100% about a year ago, Tobold. But now, well, I still agree about most of the official wow forums, particularly the class and suggestion forums. However, I have a much rosier view of the battlegroup forum that I frequent. While I've visited some other battlegroup forums, and several of them are definately pigsties, Bloodlust (US) has become a much nicer place in the past months. Sure you still get trolls, and flaming and crap, but you get that on a lot of forums. And I think bloodlust has less of it than other places, and most of all, some of the subcommunities in it (read: 39 and 49 twinks) are actually decent people who are entertaining to chat with.

I would still never ever go to the official wow forums for any useful information, except maybe about twinking. I mostly find it a useful place for socializing among twinks and for having fun in a different way.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to this: The primary reason the official forums suck is because you'll never see a person in there more than once, let alone in game. It's the same reason general chat channels in game suck (to a lesser degree). Everyone there is anonymous, and so has no restraints. However, at certain level brackets, there are few enough twinks that communities can form in a battlegroup not unlike the "communities" that formed among the old lvl 60 pvpers back before x-realm pvp. And once you start recognizing each other's names regularly, and chatting, suddenly people have a reason not to make total asses of themselves, and the average level of discourse in the battlegroup forum raises just a bit.

I'd suggest poking on over to Bloodlust and checking out a few of the threads if you're curious. It's nothing extraordinary (lol), but it might just be a bit more than what you'd expect from a wow forum.

-Verilazic (aka Jadyn)
Lack of moderation! Despite the realm forums... there are not that many froums to moderate. A company making that kinda money has no excuse!

Maybe I am old, but the place is full of disrespectful ass'es. Posters are pretty much allowed to do what they want and the rot has set.

If anything, the thing that pissed me of the most is the first 21 posts of many theads.

The 'First Page' posters.

They are all prats, the 21st post even more so for claiming 'first page' on the second page!

Not sure if that still happens, and I'm sure why Bliz didn't put their foot down from the beginning? Makes Bliz a prat in my eyes too.

What do these posters want for their uber efforts? A baked cookie?

You may have noticed a sudden surge in the number of little blue frogs running around recently due to the discovery of a bug that allowed players to obtain the rare Mojo pet without actually entering Zul'aman.

In order to obtain one all you had to do was locate a certain pathing NPC outside the raid dungeon and blow him a kiss. He would then grant you one of the pets.

It's hard to say how long this bug was around for, but it has since hotfixed, although anybody who manged to obtain one will get to keep theirs.

What sets Mojo apart from his fellow pets is that if you /kiss him, you get a sexy whisper and turn into a frog yourself for a period. Crafty druids who are quick with their flight form shift can actually fly around in this new and exciting "froggy flight form".

stuff like this doesn't help. Tell me this was a bug. BULL. some developer did this intentionally and now that its been hotfixed everyone that didn't get one is going to be mad at bliz. That and the fact that they hotfix little stupid stuff like this and leave big bugs unfixed for years.

Blizzard seems to go out of thier way to attack players for doing fun stuff that doesn't impact the game at all.

Add that to no real moderation on the forums and of course they suck.
They have millions of players.

Have you considered that it's more useful to them to have...

...12000 posts of negative crap, 5000 posts of positive crap, 2000 posts of neutral crap, and 500 posts of reasonable discussion...

...than 1000 posts of reasonable discussion?

Maybe non-moderation was the best choice for Blizzard.
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