Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Kudos to Blizzard for honesty

Via MMO-Champion I saw this Blizzard "blue post" on pugging in 3.3:
Just a couple of observations from our point of view:

1) Players who don't pug dramatically underestimate the number of people who do.
2) Players often assume every realm has the same dynamics that their realm has.

Pugging is something an awful lot of players do and our (frankly inadequate) tool didn't facilitate that experience very well. The new tool is pretty fast and simple. If you enjoy pugging (or don't enjoy it but do it anyway) the new tool should let you spend less time organizing and more time killing (or wiping).

If pugging isn't your thing, that's cool. We're not trying to push you into it... unless you really like pugs (by which I mean the pooch). The tool will also benefit premades.
Emphasis is mine. It is refreshing to see that Blizzard is well aware that their LFG tools, in spite of several iterations, are still "frankly inadequate". And I do believe that the patch 3.3 approach of making pickup groups more common by A) making them easier to find, and B) rewarding people for pugging is the right one.

It is said that Blizzard's "A team" moved away from World of Warcraft to create the next-gen MMO, and left the "B team" behind to take care of WoW. Usually people use these designations to indicate that the people now working on WoW are less qualified than the people who built WoW originally. But to me it appears that at least in the field of social competencies the "B team" is way ahead of the "A team". It would be ironic if patch 3.3 made WoW blossom into a far more cooperative game, and the next-gen Blizzard MMO would turn out to be another massively soloplayer online RPG.
It looks to me like the B-team is the one that isn't so attached to ideas that don't work, so they're willing to fix things.
Or it's simply easier to realize and admit that something was a mistake when it wasn't you who made it.

Of course, the flipside of that benefit is organizational amnesia, where the original team did make the right choice, but didn't properly communicate their reasoning to the maintenance team. Then the maintenance team comes along, sees the obvious "problem" and fixes it, creating larger problems in the process.
I've made that comment about the B-Team a few times over Wrath about how much better the game has gotten. Makes me worried about their next MMO that the A-Team is working on, will it be as user friendly as WoW has become, or will it have flaws they have moved pass? Hopefully there is still good communication going on.
I'd have to agree with Klepsacovic here and say that the "B" team is going to fix things because they don't care what has been done to the game already.

They want to make the game fun for everyone and maybe even show Blizzard that they shouldn't have been the "B" team in the first place.

That classification is likely to make them work harder. When I was playing football when I was a kid we were the "B" team as well. They had to split us up into two teams and our team ended up being the one that went Undefeated and crushed the "A" team.

Just a little motivation goes a long way, let's hope they keep it up.
To me, the A-team (if we are to use
these terms), was more about long term goals and the b-team about the quick fixes (look at class changes as an example of this).
This change to the lfg-tool, is the first long term positive fix to a problem coming from the b-team. To me it also says that they are getting better at running wow.

And personally I whole-heartedly agree that this change is a change for the better for the cooperative play of wow.
I know im going to use this a lot, and im the type of player who has been more and more seclusive when it comes to dungeon crawls, ie guild-runs only.
Actually, Eric Heimburg (the same person who wrote the "B-Team" explanation) wrote another post today that explains the shift from "we can do no wrong" to "yeah, that sucks." He points out that WoW specifically has changed once the new team took over.

He doesn't go into detail, but I think Klepsacovic is on the right track. I was all too happy to gore some sacred cows when I took over working on Meridian 59, and some fanatics will say I made my own fuckups that I (publicly) refuse to admit went wrong. Gordon Walton calls game design "knifing your babies" for a reason.
Is this not a revolutionary comment about the importance of pugging!

Pre World of Warcraft forced grouping was the thing and organised groups were essential.

Early WoW offered two gameplay styles - solo play for low end and forced organised grouping for high end.

This comment seems to finally recognise that there are a whole lot of people who like to play in groups but who couldn't be bothered with the heavy social organisation that pre-made grouping involves.
This is maybe not strictly on topic, but what exactly do people find wrong with the current lfg system ?

The only flaw, as far as I can see from my server, is that simply not enough people use the tool, not the tool itself....

Sure, I know that cross server, and rewards systems are incoming in 3.3, which are improvements I agree...

I'm not trying to be argumentative, just genuintely interested in what the problem is at the moment...
I think it's great to see Blizzard being a bit more innovative and trying new - and even controversial - ideas. I know some people think instant PUG dungeons will kill the immersion but I think it will do wonders for the gaming community.
First step to absolution is admitting you did wrong.

Finally nice to see them smoothing over cracks in the wall instead of building a new house!

I really can't wait for that tool, because even though I am in a high end raiding guild, I still love to pug on my alt and I like meeting people (although, I admit, you get the occasional idiot but you get that in all factors of life).

B-Team ftw
It's Blizzard.

They have a team working on Diablo 3, one on Starcraft 2, one on the next WoW expansion & patch and one on their next mmorpg. Maybe even on an unknown game.

*None* of these teams are B-teams and I'm looking forward to all of these products.
I agree with Cara! There are so many dev teams working for Blizzard right now, and their projects are amazing. I understand what Tobold's getting at, but the A and B designation does have a certain deregatory tang to it. The overall point is very vaild - it pays to bring in new folks and let them work with a fresh outlook. They're not as attached to what has been previously done and they're willing to change stuff that's broken. Great!
To me it looks like blizzard is doing the exact same thing as they have been doing for the last 5 years improving ingame tools and mechanics.

All you are doing is guessing at what A- and B-team stands for. I see the change in blizzards attitude from "we can do no wrong" to "let's fix it" but I do not think that has anything to do with A- or B-team.
They are admitting something was less than perfect because in the next patch they are (again) trying to fix it, how much credit can you give for that? Of course it's inadequate, why else would they be changing it?

Admit WG failed as a world PvP stimulant, admit non-casual raiders got the shaft in WotLK, admit the graphics engine is a dinosaur and a sad excuse given Blizzard's resources, admit that you add content slower than most MMOs.

Admit to something you won't be changing the next day and it might be praise-worth, but this, come on.
It is indeed refreshing to see designers who care about the rest of us. Just one more example of why Kaplan leaving was the best thing to happen to WoW.
Tobold - another interesting topic. There are so many different facets to this discussion.

One is the implication that the LFG tool was part of the problem with PUGs. However, in my circle, the root problem with a PUG was never the LFG tool.

Second, it remains to be seen if this tool will live up to the hype. It seems to me not to be a new idea, but rather an extension of the old cross-server BG implementation. One would tend to think that enlarging the pool of players might tend to smooth out chronic server shortages of tanks or healers.

I could easily list off many A-Team implementations on the social side of the game (whether original or ‘borrowed’ from other games). So IMO it’s very hard to already credit the B-Team as better at supporting the social side of the game -- Are they implementing old A-Team ideas, or even conducting testing of ‘NextGen’ ideas in WoW? And tools to help the social side of the game (no matter how good) are, in the end, only tools -- the success of the social side of the game ultimately rests with the players.

Finally, though, no matter how good the group and guild tools, IMO WoW will have to step up and provide better group content if it is to blossom into a more cooperative game. Heroics can only be recycled so many times, and in Wrath there has arguably been only one raid (Ulduar) comparable to pre-Wrath content and not ‘updated’. That’s not cutting it.
I have to apologize for the long rant in advance, but..

I think the kind of honesty displayed in Ghostcrawler's post is redundant, at best. Is there any reason to overhaul LFG, other than it being outdated and not fun? Why play Captain Obvious? Why attempt to persuade non-pugging players that they should care about players who pug? Why advocate the feature that's already on the test realms?

What irks me most, though, is that GC implicitly states that the previous version of LFG was terribad. Like, inherently. In truth, it worked fine in vanilla WoW where there weren't as many instances around and pugging for endgame raids was considered insanity anyway. It took two expansions and a few years to make LFG in its current form obsolete; the developers were able to identify its shortcomings and design the new system, because their vision and understanding of the game had evolved over these years.
The B-team didn't just stumble over it one day and was aghast at how frankly inadequate it was.

And, by the way, are you sure the A-team and the B-team really exist?
I'm kinda with Scotty. I find the current LFG perfectly adequate. The real trouble is not enough people use it* or use it badly. The latest change to include roles is a prime example. Every time I put my enhancement shaman into LFG, marked as DPS, I get asked if I can heal.

The changes proposed for 3.3 are mostly to expand it for cross-server instances. The 'port directly to instance' change, for example, is needed because if you're in a cross-server group you won't be able to use the summoning stones which are in the 'real' world.

* Typically because there simply aren't enough people on your server that want to run that instance.
GC would do better to explain the underlying motivation for the changes. Not just, it sucks, but rather something like "95% of the people in LFG are dps and they wait for hours for tanks or healers, if they get into instances at all". Or, "90% of testers on the PTR dropped Oculus like a hot potato when the random LFG tool put them there. We hadn't fully realized how reviled the place was."

The more interesting change in the new LFG system is adding tangible rewards for PuGs. This is recognition that if you want player A to do something that benefits player B, you'd be advised to reward player A for doing so.
I agree with what syncaine said above. Why do we still fawn over over every little thing that Blizz does or thinks it'll do?

Do they deserve a medal for fixing things that *should* be fixed in the first place?

Oh are you forgetting that you are paying them a monthly subscription?

Time to take off those rose-tinted glasses. :P
Good post! I think alot of players actually liked the inadequate LFG system, because then they could say "Oh, it's not a problem if you have a good guild!" which is code for "I've got a good guild, look at me!". Some people appreciate a game being inaccessable...when it's inaccessable for others but not for them.

I really do suspect there is a B team that are interested in managing human resouces/players, rather than forfilling some dream they had once.
Regardless of how I feel about their games. Blizzard has always proven to me that they have a big bunch of very competent and intelligent folk working for them.
I agree with what syncaine said above. Why do we still fawn over over every little thing that Blizz does or thinks it'll do?

Why does syncaine still fawn over every little thing that Aventurine does or thinks it'll do?

Hint: It's called blogging. In the particular case of MMORPG blogging that means you play a game, and comment BOTH about the things you don't like, and the things you do like. Changes, by definition, are "news", and thus tend to be most discussed.

I must have written a thousand posts about Blizzard, roughly 50:50 complaining about the bad stuff and praising the good stuff. If you and and syncaine hate Blizzard so much that you can't see where I criticize them but get a hissy fit when I praise them, I would say that is your problem, not mine.
they said the LFG tool sucks. that doesn't make them worthy of praise, so much as just proves they at least play WoW as well as make it.

Still, even then I reckon Blizz employees form the most solid guild on the planet, when they PUG it's because golly gee wouldn't it be cute to see how the rest of the world does it.
They have always been upfront that the LFG tool wasn't the best, so this issue really isn't much of an issue tbh.

I always hated the existing tool because it gave you too few options. It is tethered to a character you are currently logged onto, so people who are playing alts while they wait for a group are limited. If you want a group you need to remain on a toon you might not really need to be on at the time, and can't be on a toon you might have things to do on.

The instances that display are based on character level, so say you are in Brewfest and want to run Depths you have to spam trade or LFG channel until you find one.

And I always disliked the three instance limitation. Especially for raids where you might want to put yourself out for many and take whichever comes available.

And (AFAIK) of course those items are not being changed in the new tool.
I'm on a good guild, but not that big and for obvius reasons doing 25 mans are usually a problem. Also, sometimes que guild have already ran some content that i didn't had the time to go, so PUG is the way. Oh, the new LFG for old instances will be awesome.

The more chances you have to run final content, the better. PUG are not perfect, but sometimes you do find a nice group.
@ Syncaine:
The graphics engine may be old, but I appreciate that it can run on my netbook. Updating the engine to accomodate an even broader hardware range would be nice, to satisfy the performance freaks and the netbook users alike, but I for one have been happy with the graphics. I like the painted skies in the Storm Peaks, for example.
I have nostalgia on my side, though. For people new to the genre, more eye-candy might be better.
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