Tuesday, April 08, 2014

ALPHA :: Information Overload

All of the datas!

You would be entirely forgiven, after the last five days or so, if (like me) you are suffering from a severe case of Data Fatigue.

Let's look at the facts, shall we?

For WHATEVER REASON *cough* ESO *cough* the Alpha 'Client' was made public last week, there's still no sign of anyone outside Blizzard actually playing it. The data has now been effectively disassembled and laid out for those of us without the ability to mine to make what we wish of it now, more or less. This has proven that it isn't simply that you have access to a shedload of raw information to begin with, it is as much about how that is subsequently presented to the general public that matters. MMO's done pretty pictures and Wowhead's dealt with things with far more intelligent and reasoned consideration, particularly in  the manner in which that has been presented. I said this on Twitter and I'll now say it again publicly: MMO's coverage hasn't been a patch on Wowhead's because, purely and simply, it looks like someone actually thought about what they were presenting rather than simply dropping it in our laps. You would have thought by now that MMO's learnt the lesson about it not mattering being first, or whether you know something ahead of anyone else. People will respect you more for HOW you deal with your data, not that you have it to begin with.

People like me are now picking and choosing our moments to examine, and as there are so many it is at present quite easy to find a space and stake a claim. Let's hope this isn't like Landmark where (as I discovered yesterday) if you don't log in after four days all your hard work effectively vanishes :( As an aside I won't be playing that again for a while if I need to be logged in and manually 'pay' for my Claim. There's too much to do here now, so it's largely moot. I've decided to try and keep up with a legitimate Garrisons Guide this time around: I picked Pet Battles in Pandaria and, in hindsight, it was just too big a task to undertake because I didn't plan nearly well enough. This time around, having all the data early is likely to be an advantage, because it should be relatively straightforward to keep up with everything. I'm already planning ahead for holidays and breaks too, which is worryingly organised. That's one of the advantages of an information overload early on, you have a chance to get a pretty big picture from the word go. There are those however who will say this is a disadvantage, and they'll be absolutely right.

Asleep at the Back.

I've lost count of the number of people who don't consider Alpha/Beta as 'content' and are deliberately divorcing themselves from the process because (quite understandably) they have no desire to live the game twice. That's the problem with this process: you do all the work in an environment where, like it or not, it matters not one jot to you character or their actual progression. There are no discernible gains, rewards are effectively pointless and frankly, you run the risk of getting bored with a game BEFORE IT IS EVEN ACTUAL CURRENT CONTENT. However, this is the ONLY way to see if the game will work before the general public get their sweaty mitts on it, so the process of testing serves a very significant and particular purpose. Blizzard themselves have already admitted that the process of testing in Pandaria was sub-optimal, and they fully intend to learn from this by deliberately gating access and controlling information as a result. Having everyone help you may seem brilliant in principle, but the practicalities are clearly far from ideal. Picking the people who will hang around for the long haul is far more sensible.

Making sure those people keep the game in the public eye is probably even more sensible, which is why I suspect Blizzard won't be too upset that MMO's splashed a ton of datamined screenshots of zones across it's front page this morning. However, I find myself thinking that actually, this is a fine line to tread. By their own admission the screenshots aren't the finished product, the sky's all wrong and the lighting will be iffy because actually, these areas just aren't fully done. Apparently there is an 'insane demand for screenshots': I'd rather get my screenies when the thing's actually finished, but that's an art perspective and personal preference. What worries me now is that the longer we wait for people to gain access to the client for real, the more this data's going to be diluted and devolved and actually it might not paint the game in as great a light as would be the case were everything done and dusted. In that case, I have to frown rather disapprovingly at MMO's decision this morning and not actually click on any pictures. Because frankly, I can wait.


This is not a contest. There is no first place for being clever and providing incorrect information just because you happen to have the means to do so. I think most people would far rather get the BEST information they can, however frustrating it might be to have to wait for it, rather than a version of the truth that actually will bear very little resemblance to the finished product. You can put your architecture in place, of course you can, and seed it with the data you have, but making your own 'pictures' based on the minimum of artwork you have... I think that's taking things a little too far. It is time to learn some patience.

Waiting, contrary to what you might think, will not kill you.

[EDIT April 9th: It would appear that Blizzard don't like people interpreting entire zones worth of artwork in this fashion after all. All the relevant screenshots have been removed, plus Twitch has reiterated that anyone streaming content from Alpha at this time will be subject to a transmission suspension. There you go :D]


El said...

I agree the MMO-Champion shots are not well done. But then Wowhead's initial data dumps turned up with rafts of detail missing. From a rationalist data-hacker perspective, both are comparable in their limitations. I find it fascinating that you are prepared to accept, even enjoy, incomplete data, but not incomplete artwork. That should cause pause for thought about what is actually important in WoW: The theory goes that while players apparently obsess over data, what they actually can't bare is a substandard game world.

dobablo said...

There are two theard about of people.
1. Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

From what I've heard Landmark each time you renew your plot it lasts slightly longer. Also expired sites should be archived and waiting for you in your mail.

sprowt said...

I can understand the point of view that diving into all the alpha/beta stuff can remove any excitement of actually seeing it live. However, I just don't have the time to trawl through all of the datamined information - and I don't want to look at the pretty pictures on MMO because there were just too many. I have faith that, when it arrives, it's going to look good.

I did take part in the Beta last time and really enjoyed it .. primarily I enjoyed feeling part of the testing process, of seeing and reporting problems, of seeing zones change based on feedback. However, the one thing that really annoyed me and eventually stopped me taking part in the Beta, was the actual process of reporting.

We had to report via the blizzard forums (which were split between US and EU, so basically the same stuff was getting reported in two places); gradually the forums got really full and it was a nightmare trying to find out if the problem you'd seen had already been reported; the EU forums seemed to get very little feedback from blues - I felt that basically they were using the US as the test bed, and the EU Beta invites were there just to even up the numbers and keep us occupied.

I just hope they improve the process this time around .. it is basically begging for an in-game reporting system (not least because it would be much easier to mark where you were when you reported).

Jeppy ElJeppy said...

They delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of WoDAlpha? Shadow and Flame!