Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Left Hand/Right Hand Scenario

This conversation has happened.

It's been mentioned a few times in the last few weeks at ALT:ernative Towers that there are days when, let's be honest, Blizzard does itself no favours. Clearly the company not only grasps but firmly embraces the use of Social Media to sell itself and its products, but that can often put it at odds with a game which sometimes does seem to move at a glacial pace, especially when the issue of bugs and fixes is presented. The last time I filed a bug ticket in game I had a THREE DAY estimated wait time. I would wager a weighty sack of in-game gold there's a world of difference between being the Guy with the Name and the Guy Coding the Game. You might both work for the same company, you might both get your pay-cheque from the same Finance Department, but you're very different socks.

As a perfect example of this I present the following conversation that happened, via Twitter, late yesterday afternoon (UK Time)

Ladies and Gentlemen, PR in Action

The key to effectively maximising Social Media (I'm told, because I'm learning about this stuff at present) is the instant reaction. Within the hour is good, on a Saturday, and this is a great example of Blizzard does best. Here's our stuff, don't forget there is other cool stuff that makes things easier too that you could mention. This is all very well if said stuff actually works. Even I knew this feature was busted (along with a ton of persistent Pet Battle achievement bugs that have not gone away) Sometimes it takes the right person to say the right thing to make sure both socks are listening:

Not the person Blizzard might want saying this, but absolutely the person that should.

When the Dev's name an NPC after you, you're clearly considered an important influence in the Community. When Breanni pops up and states that something isn't working, lots of people are going to become interested, as was the case here. So, its not just us (the community) who are experiencing problems: look, the person who everyone uses as their go-to person for pet information hasn't got that hat you said was cool for Pet XP!

I read this and imagined the above representation of what must have happened at least once in Blizzard HQ in the last eight years: one hand doesn't think Item A is broken, or assumes it's already been fixed if it is. The other hand wasn't aware it was broken because they'd assumed it was (hot)fixed to begin with. The problem in this case isn't just a communication issue, its a problem with the Beast: the game itself is very, very large and often does not act as the Dev's expect. I remember reading a Dev interview (can't find a source, if anyone can help I'd be grateful, think this is back in TBC days) that talked about this, and how certain parts of the game were so closely linked that changing one could have catastrophic effects elsewhere. If memory serves, a bug remained in game because switching it would have broken the Illidan encounter in the Black Temple, and the decision was taken to leave things as was because to fix them would negatively impact on the game experience for too many people. I get sometimes that there are more than one set of considerations at play.

Anyway, back to our story. I'm waiting for Cory's response, coz this is gonna have to be good:

How to head off a PR problem in less than 140 characters. Stay Classy! :D

This is why the Guy with the Name gets the big bucks, Game Coding guy :p That's as diplomatic an answer as you could probably manage in the word count, and it shows an understanding of the medium he's working in very well. This needed a quick response, and it doesn't implicate anyone in a 'It's Not Working' scandal. The fact remains that many, many people's games aren't working properly and however many times we clear our caches and delete our WTF folders that won't change until some fundamental issues are addressed. There is a part of me that thinks it MIGHT be a good idea to slow down a bit on the new content and perhaps address some of these albeit minor bugs to some... unless, of course, changing that part of the game will result in all Pandas turning purple.

It is a delicate balancing act, this PR game. Blizzard play things very well, and in the extremely remote chance anyone from Blizzard is reading this, please don't think I don't love you guys to bits, because I do. However, the communication needs work. How you do that isn't my place to comment, but I'd like to think you'll work on making sure that when you say something in future, you can feel confident it is true and not another issue with the socks...

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