Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blizzard Backs Off: Riots Die Down

The negative feedback on the priests forums increased into such epic levels that the developers at Blizzard took notice and have pulled back on some of the priest nerfs. The riots that made their way through several servers also might have had something to do with it as customers gathered in large groups of level 1 alts and attempted to crash major zones while protesting. At least three reported servers apparently had large scale protests by priests which required GM intervention. The riots themselves did little to sway Blizzard in the matter but did draw the attention of many game blogs and news sites which may have had an effect.

Druids who were the major target of the nerfs have put up considerably less negative feedback perhaps because only their tanking ability was affected. Also the druid changes are mostly seen as a necessary balance nerf by the other classes. The fact that the WoW community recognizes a needed nerf does a lot to fight the notion that MMO customers don't understand the idea of game balance. Community Managers in WoW are often influenced by the many trolls on the forums and often get in the mindset to ignore any feedback on nerfs. Unfortunately, the trolls win at causing frustration in this case because forum posters often boil over into in game shenanigans when they think they are being ignored.

The paladin nerfs which were undocumented in the patch notes have been confirmed as being dropped for the next patch. However, Eyonix has been quoted as saying that a nerf for pally burst damage is being planned in the future even though complaints about paladin burst damage are almost non-existent. Paladins are even more confused when they look at the canceled nerfs which actually increase burst damage but made their shields have some greifing utility. As one poster summed up "It seems as if they simply want to nerf the paladin class in general but haven't quite decided how they are going to do it or justify it." On a side note paladins and druids are both classes that received large increases in dps which might be the major influence on the decision to nerf them.

Despite some mishandling on the part of Blizzard it looks like the spikes of tension about the last patch have been smoothed over. The problem is of course that it just takes one misunderstood and not well documented nerf to drive the WoW community nutty again. When you have around 8 million people playing your game, news travels fast and your customers can quickly become your worst enemy. Blizzard needs to stop taking lessons in community management from SOE and learn to gently manage their customers. This means explaining the reasoning and logic behind every nerf and buff they are making. Sure it takes longer and the min/maxers will try try to disapprove you but it prevents forum meltdowns