Friday, November 09, 2012

The Guild of Calamitous Intent

What Brawler’s Guild Is
  • A fun, but small diversion that could grow in time
  • A venue for a realm’s community to come together
  • A unique way to earn some solo PvE bragging rights
  • A cool place to hang out

What Brawler’s Guild Isn’t
  • A means of solo progression
  • A major patch feature accessible to everyone (at first)
  • A way to earn lots of in-game rewards
  • Proving Grounds where you can develop class skills (that’s a different feature arriving later on)

I'm hearing a lot of muttering about this new feature for 5.1. When news of it first reached me I have to say I was intrigued, and when I heard that it was being placed inside the Deeprun Tram I immediately assumed it would be instanced. What is becoming abundantly apparent in recent days is that this 'experiment' (not my word, Blizzard's) is not about sticking stuff away for individual consumption, but more along the lines of the Jousting Tournament we saw in Icecrown, married with Arena-style ranks which you can watch being attained, even if you can't take part.

There are, as a result, some fairly major concerns on how it will work in practice, especially on high population realms. Add to that the revelation this week that to gain entry you'll need an invitation, that (initially) will only be purchasable on the Black Market Auction House. Blizzard have since qualified that additional invites will be saleable by players on the normal AH to boot. Now call me a cynic, but giving something (potentially) that valuable to people is going to raise some eyebrows to begin with, especially as this entire venture is, in Blizzard's own words, a way to earn Solo PvE bragging rights. I think sometimes Blizzard deliberately decide to overlook the 'how much I sold this for on my server' bragging rights: foolishly gifting a very small proportion the opportunity to monopolise on something is never a wise move...

While that's something we're going to be keeping an eye on, it will be quite difficult to monopolize the invitations. The current plan is to furnish 10 new Bind on Pickup invites on the Black Market Auction House each day, so anyone trying to control all the invitations on a realm would have to have quite a fortune, and be willing to spend it all on nothing more than simply delaying, not stopping, other players from joining the Guild.

You remember the conversation we had back in Beta, Blizzard? About how if you let people be able to cage Wild Pets it would allow those individuals a massively unfair advantage if they had enough cash to buy their way to a top team? I hate to break it to you, but there are people with enough money and clout on servers to make exactly what you're saying a reality. I'm also betting these people won't simply capitalise on this, they'll exploit it to the absolute max. When you use the expression 'bragging rights' in YOUR OWN PREAMBLE it is abundantly clear what kind of event you're going for. Absolutely THE LAST THING you want to be doing as a result is allowing people to buy themselves into the idea. This is completely not what Warcraft is about.

You would have thought that after eight years of 'experiments' someone in the Dev Team would have grasped some fundamental truths concerning wealth and power. The bigger problem comes with the stark reality that this game has not found a way of adequately metering content in a way that can bring an entire server together... actually, hang on...

The AQ Gates 'Event' was, quite frankly, a stroke of genius. It mobilised THE ENTIRE SERVER to gather a certain amount of mats, but it was down to just one Guild to get to the Scepter first. They all had an equal chance to succeed, it was simply down to who completed the questline before the other... so everyone was in a race, but no-one knew the outcome.

Why couldn't we do this with the Brawler's Guild? More importantly, why couldn't Blizzard implement a quest chain for Guilds to complete to win the rights to be in the Arena first? It would mean that the only limiting factor could not be bought outright, it would come down to those prepared to put in the hours. It would allow 'casual' guilds to have the chance to take part on an even footing as well if Blizzard din't make it just about beating boss X or being first into instance Y: if it was about the number of daily quests a guild did, for instance, or maybe the number of a special dish they cooked, or even the number of pet battles they won... oh yeah, that's what casuals do. That's a currency too you know, all those numbers could finally have a value...

One of the reasons I suspect there is a reticence to allow Brawler's Guild invites a wider audience is exactly the same problem that plagued ever server the day they opened the AQ Gates: server meltdown. The harsh reality of this plan, as it stands, is REALLY simple: at some point the numbers of people will make it break. There is a very real potential for massive queues, there could well be latency and server stability issues INSIDE THE TWO MAIN FACTION CAPITALS. What would be far more sensible, it does at least seem to me, is to go with the following:

  1. Instance the Brawlers Guild, with a 40 man limit. Guilds can then watch their own fights, without crashing servers and causing inconvenience. Rankings are still available on a server-wide basis (similar to Challenge Mode scores) and if you want to invite people or organise special Server/Cross server Tournaments, you can do it without inconveniencing anyone else.
  2. Win your invite, don't buy it. Give us a quest line, in the World, to show us how the Guild works. Fight monsters 'in the wild' to EARN YOUR RIGHT.
  3. Make it so you need a certain number of invites and then your ENTIRE GUILD gets an invite to the Brawler's Guild by default. This then gives people the 'bragging rights' to be the first Guild sanctioned as Brawler's Guild Affiliates or some such title, and anyone in the Guild has an invite. Don't make them saleable, tie them to a Battle Net account, and make sure ALL the achievements are account wide.

Although the principle of the Brawler's Guild is sound, and I applaud Blizzard's attempts to bring back some community spirit to servers, I don't think certain people programming this really grasp the way things work best 'out here' You tie ANYTHING to cash and you're on a hiding to nothing. There are other ways, and you've used them in the past. Perhaps its time to give Guilds some love, and not simply the people within them with the most gold.

[Footnote: I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person with these concerns. Olivia Grace echoes many of these sentiments in her post on WoW Insider (that I managed to completely miss) Needless to say, I really hope someone up the ladder at Blizzard is listening...]


TheGrumpyElf said...

I made a post like this the other day as well. Brawlers guild seems great in theory but as they plan to implement it is horrible beyond words. It seems like they will never learn. They completely disregard history when it can teach them lessons and ignore human nature, and the internet jerk theory, by trying to put something in like this and expecting people will act differently than human nature and the internet jerk theory better predict they will.

dobablo said...

Shock news! Blizzard reverses proposal of putting limited quantities of Brawlers invite on the Black Market. They is now an unlimited supply available from the store (€5 each).

My trolling is now complete. :D