In reference to Adam Holisky’s recent WoW Insider’s post The Ghostcrawler Experiment, where the questions are:
- Is the GE (Ghostcrawler era) of WoW better than the BGE?
- Does Ghostcrawler do a good job?
I just wanted to post something quick in response. I’ve written about Ghostcrawler before, although I perhaps wasn’t as blunt as I could have been. So, I will speak more plainly now: Yes, and I can’t believe that we’re even talking about this.
Upsides of Ghostcrawler:
- The game itself is better since he joined. There are fewer broken talent trees. I don’t remember exactly when he came on, but are there any broken builds left? I mean, for the most part you can find a good build for your chosen tree, learn how to play it, and not completely suck, right? Is this all his doing? No. Is he the lead of systems design and are those basic systems are better? Yes.
- He communicates with a noticeable lack of bullshit. When people point out that some part of the game seems out of balance, the answer is anything from “Yes, we’re hotfixing that” to “Sorry, working as intended” to “I’ll go check that out”, with everything in between.
Point me at another game company whose lead designer posts such open and thoughtful discussion about the goal of its game design, including frank admissions of shortcomings and parts that need improvement! I’ve never seen it. He’s not spending his limited time for customer communication bragging about his top-tier arena team. Does anyone really look back on those days with misted eyes?
- He’s putting on a game design clinic. The subject of my previous post regarding him. To review, here’s a recent example from today’s mmo-champion blue tracker, responding to a question about how talents and spells are designed (source):
We have budgets for the power of individual spells and talents. We do not budget based on the total number of abilities available — some classes just have more than others.
I would also call the budgets a guideline. You have to know when to change the numbers on something even if the budget suggests that will be overpowered or underpowered.
To be metaphysical for a minute, you can’t define the universe with one gigantic equation. There are just too many variables. You can use simpler equations to attempt to describe small parts of things as long as you understand their limitations. A great deal of your success in WoW, perhaps even more in PvP than PvE, is your skill in using your abilities and that is a hard thing to model.
By reading what he writes, you better understand not just WoW, but all large games. Is this groundbreaking, revelatory stuff? No. But it’s honest, and if you’re trying to figure out how this one piece fits into the system, then he has taken the time to explain it.
- He obviously cares deeply about the systemic improvement of the game system of WoW, the entire game, whether it’s leveling or questing or instancing or raiding or arena or battlegrounds. He posts a lot on every subject. He is in the details.
- He weathers a continuous torrent of unbelievable whining, and continues to do his job with good humor. I cannot emphasize this enough. The whiners of WoW are numerous and prolific. Some of my favorite bloggers and players are chronic whiners regarding their class. We all, I suspect, tune such noise out while looking for the useful signal, but it’s his job to actually sift through all that noise, every class, everywhere. And for the most part, he succeeds. I have no idea how he manages to do that without going the road of the other hands-on community managers who have been worn down in the past.
- I know this is a personal thing, but: he writes well.
Downsides to Ghostcrawler:
- Pardon me, there is this: Because he posts open game design, including admitting errors when they arise, the whiners now have more fodder with which to ply their trade. “Blizzard hates my favorite class!” Even this is useful, because I read that as “I don’t understand or don’t care about game design! I only care about my character!” and put that person into my skim-or-skip queue.
I’ll close with a rant.
When someone admits imperfection, a certain type of person will feebly scream with the goal of getting people behind their plight–via personal attacks, exaggerated despair, and so on–all of which is summed up in these gaming circles as QQ. The natural response to QQ is to be less forthcoming, and fill that space where honest talk used to be with something else. Because fighting through the QQ is not worth the effort, most of the time.
This tendency, when expanded beyond this little circle of game design, ultimately leads to the current and persistent sea of unbelievable bullshit that we wade through in all walks of life: media, politics, business, careers, and yes, even game design. If you enjoy consuming bullshit, continue with the QQ! However, if you do not, stop whining! Someone who speaks honestly isn’t a bad thing. Someone who speaks truth about the flaws in his work, and has the ability to solve the problem, and actually works to do so?
That person is awesome. In WoW, that person is Ghostcrawler. Haters, please stop whining.