Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Time for a Happy Dance?

Ghostcrawler is leaving blizzard, you can read about it here, and it makes me wonder if it is time to do the happy dance or not?

My response to that question might come as a surprise to everyone that reads here, but does not read between the lines.  No, it is not a reason to do a happy dance.  The loss of ghostcrawler could set the game off in the wrong direction.

For as much as I complain about him, call him out of touch with the player base, and basically crap on most of his ideas, I have always agreed with his "steady and strong" approach and have even often said that I do not envy his job because it has to be one of the hardest jobs in gaming, the face of warcraft.

Ghostcrawler had a vision and it was long term and he stuck with it through thick and thin and that means something, that says something.  I am not the only one that bashed him, I am not even the most vocal about bashing him.  If anything I am kind of subdued with my complaints about him compared to the vast majority of the players that have publicly, in one way or another, lashed out against him.

Many of the problems the game has now we can trace back to when he took over and it is easy for us as armchair quarterbacks to associate the problems with him.  In truth, it probably was his fault.  He is the reason stat inflation went all haywire.  I've said it before and I will say it again, he never quite grasped the concept of an upgrade is an upgrade and we would be happy to get 20 extra of a main stat, we did not need it to be 800 between tiers like it is now for us to want it.  It was his desire to make upgrades feel powerful that let things get out of hand.  But it was also his decision to fix his own mistake, even at the risk of losing customers, for the long term betterment of the game.  We all make mistakes but it takes a big man to push the go button on a fix like that knowing that there will be a lot of back lash because of it.  You have to give credit where credit is due, that had to be the hardest decision he ever made.

He made a lot of wrong calls, I can go on all day about it, but he always stuck by them and attempted to do his best to rectify the problems they caused, not always to great effect, but he tried.

Why do I think the game losing someone that was at the root of all these problems is a bad thing?  Because he is also the person that knows the problems and is in the best position to fix those problems. 

If I broke my dishwasher I would know what I did to break it, so it makes the most sense I call the repair man to come fix it because I can tell him how I broke it.  If the little lady calls him she will just tell the repair man it is broken and it would make fixing it that much harder.

The person that breaks something is usually the best person to fix it.  So I think he would be the best person to finish cleaning up the mess he left behind.

The one good thing is that he is basically doing just that.  The stat crunch is coming, reversing his biggest mistake ever, and a new expansion is coming with new things and those things will become someone elses problem from the start so maybe they would be in a better position to fix them as they will see it from its inception.

I still do not look forward to life without ghostcrawler because he was very approachable.  He was not only a face of the game but a main focus of the interaction between us and the company even if his comments often got him heat.

So it is time for the happy dance? 

That is for you to decide but I can guess one type of player will not happy.  Mages are going to be really pissed now.  They have been #1 since GC took over and it was always joked at that they stayed #1 because he played one.  Lets see what happens with him gone now.  I can see a lot of mages being really pissed having to sit in the middle of the pack or the bottom for the first time in, well, forever.

Do you think him leaving will be a good thing for the game or a bad thing for the game?

I think it will be a really rough transition unless he had been grooming someone already because there is currently so much going on.  As much as I might have complained about him, he was good for the game over all and will be missed.  Good luck whatever you end up doing Greg, you are going to need it because your track record in the gaming industry is not looking very good right now.

As a friend said to me when we talked about GC leaving last night (yes, yesterday, just a complete coincidence), "Maybe that is exactly what the game needs, someone to breath new life into it."

I guess we will find out.


  1. :(

    I've admired the guy a lot over the years and don't envy him one bit... although if he was able to turn off his "you've got to be KIDDING" reaction trigger and just react to trolls straight and get paid for it, I think he's probably had a pretty good time of it. And yeah, I know the forums and twitter are just part of his responsibilities but they're definitely the most obviously visible ones, even if perhaps not the most imoprtant ones.

    Or maybe they are. Wonder what's going to happen without him manning the Twitter account, he managed to both carry on a discussion while feeding the trolls. That's a pretty rare skillset, I'd imagine.

    What he managed to do was to allow a larger percentage of the user base to raid. Since the overall skill level of a "raider" naturally went down in the process, something had to be done to complement skill as a reason why new bosses would eventually die.

    Gear inflation. It was inevitable, really. I don't think he caused gear inflation, I think he caused accessible raids and gear inflation was a necessary part of making raiding accessible, not a thing of its own.

    I've been reading through the Eight Years in Azeroth blog lately from the beginning and it's almost a restrospective of how raiding has changed from the original Vanilla days at least through to Wrath. You could call it the legacy of Ghostcrawler. True, for the more hardcore set, they didn't need significantly stronger gear from tier to tier... now, part of that was that gear wasn't really the limiting factor in those days, it was things like resistances and the lack of in-game tools to actually perform at an optimal level, those that were legitimately GOOD still stood out even then.

    But in an accessible raid world, to keep players from just rolling through a new instance in the first week or two after release, they had to scale the bosses up enough that it basically required more gear to kill them... and for that new gear to have an appreciable impact, it had to be significantly stronger than the previous tier. New paradigm. No better, no worse, just learning toward being inclusive rather than exclusive. If it wasn't for that change in Wrath, I pretty much guarantee I'd have stopped playing years ago and I'm sure I'm not alone in that. GC basically changed the game in a way that embraced me and encouraged me to "Come on over here and let's kill some stuff and get some lootz."

    He'll be missed.

    Also, just to be perfectly clear here (and I've seen this expressed badly elsewhere too), the item squish won't change anything regarding gear inflation, that'll still remain an "issue" in the game in the future... you'll only notice a squish of relative power when comparing current gear against much older gear. Post-squish, though, i553 gear will still be 30% more powerful than i522 gear, it'll just be 20 vs 26 Str instead of 1500 vs 1950. It won't undo the "GC effect", though, nor should it. That's here to stay.

    1. I would say him being viable was the most important thing he did.

      He made a post one time, not that long ago, saying that anything wrong with the game we could blame him for. Everyone did, myself included, and that was a hugely important role he played, the person to take the heat. Every company needs someone like that.

      I might not have liked a lot of the decisions made or agreed with most of what he said, but I respect him for taking it all on himself, so others can get the work done, and that is important.

      8 years is an awesome blog, that is why I have it on my roll. Definitely a good read.

      You are talking the "in theory" approach to item squish. We have to see how it works out. I do hope that is not the case. we do not need a 100% increase in the same tier like we have no with the difference from LFR gear to heroic gear. It should be 20% at most and even that would be an outrageous mark up of power in one tier.

    2. Unfortunately in your case, it HAS to work that way since they've already said that they intend the difficulty of content to be consistent to what it is now post-squish. They did mention that the relative amount of squish will increase for more recent items (higher iLvl) which makes sense since the starter greens can't have 0.001 Str on them but for fights that are somewhat challenging to solo right now (Dragon Soul, let's say... haven't tried it but I'm assuming that can be soloed to a degree with some gear and talent) you'd need the exact same relative power post-squish as you have now which means the gear HAS to maintain relative power as well, unless some of that will be shifted to personal toon power. Either way, though, 30% has to remain 30%.

      A couple of PS comments since posting my original response:

      1) There was a blue post at or around the time I posted that basically saying that they wanted new tier-level gear to be an absolute upgrade regardless of secondary stat allocations... this is a strong implication that there'll still be significant inflation from tier to tier.

      2) GC basically acknowledged the "whipping boy" aspect of the role in this exchange:

      Q: good luck on your future travels. But who are the forum QQers going to QQ at now? :P

      A: They'll find another name and still miss the point that Blizzard designs as a collective.

    3. I am not sure how it will work, nor is anyone else really, but someone mentioned a possible way they are going to manage that with older raids without letting new gear get too inflated. And that is by giving us a buff based on level when we do it. So while a level 90 will not be able to solo molten core after the squish based on stats alone they will get a buff for being 30 levels over the content that would allow them to do so. This would actually make the most sense. It would keep inflation in check and still allow people to solo content.

      I hope that is how they do it, it is a brilliant idea really. It would also leave people the option to turn off the debuff and face the content, while still more powerful than in 60 gear, with somewhat of a challenge still, something that would need more than one person to do it.

      It sounds like a great design, too bad blizzard has shown a track record of not thinking of the bigger picture so I doubt they would do something like that because they are not thinking what is good long term, they never do, they are only thinking what is good now.

      The whipping boy part of it is why I have respect for GC even if I really don't as a person. He was often rude, snarky, and disrespectful of the players. Often insulting them and even more often being completely ignorant of what the question was an responding like an idiot. However, the fact he will willing to be the face we get to beat on so others can do their work is commendable.

  2. Looks like he played a holy priest LOL

    1. I will take him for his word saying he played a holy priest, but that just supports my opinion of him having no clue what he was talking about even more. He has been brutal on healers and even worse to priests.

  3. GC was arrogant and dodgy and trollish many times. His communication style leaved a lot to be desired, he was unprofessional more than once. But he was smart and he was a machine in that he did a hell of a lot of things and he was enjoying doing these things. I wish him luck. As to whether or not this is bad for WoW, I don't know, it could turn either way I think.

    1. He was the master of being a jackass, that is for sure. Most of the time his comments were insulting or completely off base. But as I mentioned in another reply here, the fact he was there to take all those questions and let others just do their job, was a very important roll he played.

    2. Garbage in, garbage out. Any time I saw him respond poorly it was being done in kind, when someone asked a reasonable question he gave a reasonable response. He responded to trolls reasonably a hell of a lot more often than I would have, if he had to give into an urge occasionally to keep his sanity, I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

    3. I think you are reading more into it then there is, or reading what you want into it. He made many jackass comments that did not deserve it.

      I do not recall exactly what it was about but someone asked a question and he gave his basic "because it is not fun answer" and someone followed up by saying "but I really enjoy that part of the game" to which he went off basically saying, "who cares what you like, you are an idiot". The person was not rude, the person was pointing out that GC was issuing a blanket statement that was obviously untrue and GC had to be a jerk because someone pointed out the fact he was wrong. He was ultimately extremely rude to everyone that pointed out he was wrong. That was his biggest weakness, he could not be wrong, he always had to be right, and when he was wrong (which was often) and it was pointed out, he went instantly into jackass mode to the person even if they said nothing to deserve it.

  4. I think I might be alone in the opinion that Ghostcrawler leaving will make no difference whatsoever. I'm sure that he had his influence but he is just one man and blizzard is a big company. There lots of development people that work behind the scenes, Ghostcrawler was just the public face.

    I'm sure that he had his opinions and maybe sometimes he got his way, but really we don't know for sure what he personally thought, as whatever he said in public would have been the company line. Oh I'm sure that he did sometimes say what he thought, he responded in ways over the years and said things that he shouldn't but he's human and he made mistakes, which were unfortunately highly visible given his high profile role.

    I just don't think that the game direction will change markedly with him gone. Someone else will step up to fill his shoes and be the public face of the dev team. They'll say things in a different way as they are a different person, but the tune will be the same.

    Maybe I'm wrong as I don't know how blizzard operates. Maybe Ghostcrawler did make lots of decisions on his own and pushed his own agenda. I doubt it but it could be the case. Personally I think people just blame him for it because he's the public face of the dev team. When they say Ghostcrawler is responsible, it would perhaps be more accurate to say blizz development is responsible.

    Anyway I wish him well. I wonder where he's moving onto. I'd certainly be interested to see what he works on next. It might be a way of settling the debate about how much influence he personally had. If his new game suffers the same flaws that people blame him for in Warcraft, then we'd have more proof that he was actually to blame.

    1. Whatever he is moving on to I can tell you I won't be playing it. lol

      His public face was his most important role in my opinion. Like you I am not completely sure how much of "his" ideas were put into the game, but I feel there will be some chances, maybe small and not sweeping, that we will be able to see early on with the release of warlords, which is seems he had little to do with at all.


      That's the only transition commentary I've seen to Ghostcrawler from the previous regime, it'll be interesting to compare and contrast that to what we'll see going foward. I suspect that GC coming in was just coincidental with a general change in the focus of the game at the time, he just became the public face of accessible raiding and all the pros/cons that came along with it.

      GC has also been very clear that nothing was "his" decision, everything was groupthinked/groupthunk/er, decided by a group. :)

      We'll see!

    3. It is very possible that everything was coincidental, but I doubt it. And he had more pull that you think, even if he says otherwise.

      Have you ever been part of the leadership in any organization? Even if it is a group effort there is one strong personality that usually rules them all and will get things the way they want. Usually by using a mix of being a good speaker, an intelligent person, an excellent debater, and an active part of both the leadership and underling community.

      I have been part of those types of things before. I have been that voice that made all the rules. In a council of 8 99% of the time what I said was done because I was the one that was the most verbal, the most versed on the topic, and the one that took the lead and was willing to take the heat if there was fall out.

      He had a lot more pull than he is saying. Trust me, I know that from experience. I would say the same thing if anyone asked. We make decisions as a group when it fact, it was me making the decisions all the time.

    4. Sure, I get that in most companies the boss has the only opinion that matters but in most companies we're dealing with dozens or hundreds of customers with similar needs, not millions with much wider range. I actually believe that the combination of an idea and a discussion and maybe a committee and alpha and beta and PTR testing does give us results that may not very closely match what GC would have come up with on his own. I'm not sure how they could, really. I'd expect a game company to have some pretty heated behind-the-scenes arguments about how things should go... it's not like we as a community have any single opinion so why assume Blizzard does internally?

      I mean, think about it, they plan for major changes how far in advance? A year or two, at least, I think I heard they were working on WoD even before MoP was released... that these major paradigm shifts happened as GC came in basically proves that it had nothing to do with him, although it might mean that he was hired specifically to BE the face and driving force toward those changes. I can't imagine he was the original source of the plan, though.

      But yes, it's entirely likely that during his time there he had significant influence on how things went. I hope he did... it was his job! But I also don't expect that one person would set the direction in isolation, I absolutely believe that they debated the CRAP out of anything they did. Most or all of them are gamers, too, I can only imagine how those meetings went.

    5. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall for some of those conversations. I wonder if the people are actually passionate about what they do, or if it is just a job. I believe the difference can be seen in our end results of what we play. I feel the game is being made by people doing their job, not people passionate about it.

    6. You're probably right about the cogs in the machine (the coders and equivalent for other groups) but I suspect the guys who provide direction, the planners, actually do feel the game (stealing your line out of context, I like that line in this context as well).

      One other interesting note, reading through the WI Archivist 2.4 discussion:

      "Tanks had so much avoidance at that point in the expansion that Blizzard had no choice but to nerf their avoidance severely while in the raid."

      That was from Sunwell, apparently gear stat inflation was an issue even back in late BC, before GC became any sort of real presence. As I figured, he didn't invent stat inflation, he just became the face for it (and a bunch of other things). Stat inflation has been in the game for a long time and that's also an indication that it'll still be a thing after the squish even with someone else taking the hits at Blizzard.

    7. It is always a balancing act with gear each expansion toward the end. That is why they nerfed fire mages this patch, because they could crit cap making them way too powerful.

      You would figure after all these years they would get a clue to gradually increase things.

  5. I hold him personally responsible for throwing me out of the game not once, but 3 times - each and every time putting in the drop that let the bucket overflow.

    He has vision - but his drive to have everyone play along HIS way of gaming: "we (pluralis majestatis) think this is the way everyone will have the most fun". That's his biggest fault - not to realize, that probably everyone in WoW finds fun in a different way. There is no need to define a single path that everyone has to thread!

    I don't know how much he was responsible, but for me WoW has been getting smaller and smaller. He should have stayed with balancing character classes.

    I'm pretty sure he was in a large part responsible for LFG, and all the anti social "improvements" that came afterwards.

    Still I'm not dancing. The WoW-past is lost forever, and I doubt someone better will follow in his steps.

    I think I'll go and put a headless rat on his doorstep....

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

    1. I agree. Like couldn't we have choices? He was so against choices, it was "this is best" and that was all we got. It had focus, but a singular vision and could not really see the bigger picture that not everyone is the same.

      I would pay to see you put that there. lol

  6. another thing - I'm working in a big corp (far bigger than Blizz) - and I can tell you: there is no such thing as a group decision!

    You'll always have one person being the lead. She might take opinions, but even if everyone on the table has a vote, the weight of certain voices is simply bigger.

    The only thing a "group based decision" does, is spreading the blame (or the fame, but as typically you have more blame than fame....). No one is suddenly accountable, because it was a group decision.

    But in reality someone will have been driving it!

    Rauxis, chosen of CAT

    1. I said that to someone else in my response as well. There is no such thing as a group decision. Group discussion, but that is as far as the group concept goes.

      GC was driving it and he said to the public, blame me for everything.

      It was an ego thing for him, he liked that he made all the decisions and had all the power and whenever someone insulted him he fed on it as food for a job well done.