Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Catch Me If You Can

Graphics budget BLOWN. Again ^^

There's been a bit of fuss over the Qiraji Guardling in the last week. If you don't 'do' Battle Pets it's probably time to switch off now, but for everyone else... the word 'fiasco' springs to mind. What it has proven is that the modus operandi of Blizzard in response to customer 'complaints' is perhaps not as intractable on certain items as it once was. It also shows that, even after eight years, there are lessons to be learnt for Blizzard Devs on how you compile and present your content.

Before we start our analysis, let's recap what happened on June 21st, at least from where this Collector was standing. Arriving in Silithus several hours before the pet was due to 'spawn' I was met by half a dozen people, across my CRZ. Notice this was well BEFORE the pet was even due to appear. If I didn't know it already, this wasn't going to be a done deal. Like most other people I'd assumed the following:

a) I was the only person who cared about capturing a pet the day it spawned.

b) No-one else would be bothered about doing so and I'd have an unimpeded run at the pet.

c) I was clearly delusional. (No that was just me.)

What Blizzard and I had failed to grasp, and what only became clear in the days that followed, was the number of people who wanted this pet the moment it spawned. What made the Guardling so special? For most, it was the simple fact it was the last pet that completed their World Safari achievement, and by default awarded them the title Zookeeper. After months of hunting down every other pet on the planet, this was the one that eluded just about everybody. I find it amazing that no-one looking at the numbers at Blizzard HQ anticipated this and didn't a) increase the area in which the pets spawned and b) did that before the 21st. Instead everyone arrived to find a tiny area and an even smaller number of pets, plus a great deal of grief and anger. I'm not even going to talk about the PvP servers... ^^

Again, Blizzard became a victim of their own mini-game's popularity, and failed to anticipate the consequences. Threads immediately sprang up on the forums accusing Blizzard of short-sightedness. The standard response was given, to reiterate that spawn rates were the way they were for a reason, and people would just have to be patient but yesterday, in a move that made this player respond with WTF BLIZZ Guardling Spawn Rate FTL :(  that decision was reversed. The spawn rate was deliberately increased, as a response to what was, to all intent and purpose, public pressure. Of course, there will be those who will maintain that wasn't the case, that Blizzard had just made a mistake and chose to rectify it. When CM's were making comments like this prior to the about face however I'd have to say I disagree. No other spawn rates have been changed either, including the Snowy Owl which is the Guardling's 'compatriot', spawning only in the winter months.

This is, at least from where I stand, a worrying development. However, in the larger scheme of things, it isn't actually that much of a surprise.

Battle Pets have become one of the most popular components of the Expansion, perhaps the most popular if my Twitter feed is any indicator. Blizzard have invested so much into this feature one could argue that to not react to the issue of the spawn could potentially damage player confidence and have the potential to drive people away from the game altogether. When considered in those terms, the decision to about face becomes a lot more logical. The problem however is that spawn rates of anything and everything have been points of debate since Vanilla: rare mounts, hunter pets... you name it, if it's had a contentious timer there's been little or no chance of that being altered. People have needed patience, persistence and an unbreakable sense of humour to get the items they've wanted to complete achievements. Changing that precedent could have some far-reaching consequences.

What is more significant is the fact no-one in Blizzard saw this one coming. When people started publicly hassling CM's in May for a spawn date, alarm bells should have rung.  The signs would have been there, in the data, even at that point:

  • The number of people who only needed only one pet in their Safari achievement. When there's a ton of those in my Guild, I know that number's going to be sizeable.

  • Linking this last pet to an Achievement that awarded not simply a the points, but a title, one which would have sizable 'bragging rights' to anyone who gained it as early as possible.

  • Making a big thing of reminding people the pet was about to spawn. (I'm as much to blame about this as everyone else who did, Blizzard perhaps not so much, but releasing the Blossoming Ancient the week before that had the feature of changing skins with seasons was probably too much of a clue for those previously unaware.)

  • Failing to anticipate demand in what has been one of the most popular areas of the Expansion.

Most importantly of all, did no-one consider that making two of your spawns in an achievement seasonal might lead to such an unpredictable conclusion? Really, NOBODY? After eight years of making certain things problematic (*cough* Children's Week PvP *cough*) why NOW decide to cave to public pressure and change the rules? I'm sure that's not what you want it to look like, but from here (and I know I'm not alone in this) it does seem to have panned out that way. Not sure who made the decision on this one, but I'd expect some other 'tough' spawn rates to be altered to bring other 'difficult' pets in line with the Guardling very soon, so we can see that this is a thoughtful and considered change and not a knee-jerk reaction.

This one wasn't up to the normal high standard, guys. The next one will need work.


Gorestalker said...

My guess -- Blizzard is probably acting in full-on panic mode due to the massive drops in subscriptions of late. I bet they'll make more decisions like this in the future.

One other possibility is that since this is a rather unique achievement (in that it requires so much be done with so many smaller requirements [many with their own rare spawns] that even makes Loremaster look simple and small by comparison), they decided to give folks a break.

I can actually understand them missing the issue in advance (hindsight is always 20-20), even with the signs like folks asking for spawn dates ... there are probably a billion different things going on in Blizzard's WoWOPS on a day-to-day basis so it can be tough to see which ones will be a big deal in advance.


TheGrumpyElf said...

I caught mine yesterday with the updated spawn rates and I am glad to have it done with.

I think they are not setting any trend here with changing the spawn rate. Honestly, everyone would have had one in short time anyway. At least everyone that cared too. Most would be like me, want it the first day, but willing to park a character there and wait knowing everyone would have one soon.

They just needed to adjust it for the massive influx. Like you said, I do not think they realized how popular this part of the game has become for so many.

In the end pet battles are supposed to be for fun only. Not, repeat, not for prestige. As such, things should be easier to get and maybe they realized that being this was its first appearance it needed a little boost.

I do not believe it was ever their intention to make a seasonal pet along the lines of the minfernal or valk, where you needed to camp it. Year round ones are for camping, seasonal ones are not. They just fixed their error and it will have zero impact on other parts of the game.

Now what they need to do is increase the drop of the raid ones. :P

I've run all the raids every week on at least 6 characters, some weeks more, and have received a total of 5 pets. 4 different ones and 1 duplicate. It is my bad luck hitting me hard again. :(