In the "skinning" world (for those of you not familiar with skinning, it's a large community of power users and techies who enjoy customizing their PC software and operating systems in unique ways) there are occasionals complaints that there are too many Stardock "groupies" or "fanboys" who defend everything Stardock does.
Hah. Stardock may be "the Blizzard of skinning" but there is no substitute for Blizzard but Blizzard when it comes to having fanboys.
I'm friends with people at Blizzard and it amazes me how down to earth and normal these guys are because their forums are populated by fanboys of an almost unbelieveable variety. I swear, they're only a few steps away from buying shirts that say "Blizzard: Pee on me please!"
I never participate on a forum until I've gotten the "lay of the land" and so I've been very careful not to write anything remotely critical of World of Warcraft on the forum because it's useless. The fan boys are so totally in control there that it's almost cult-like.
I recall, shortly after release, when the game was having some connection problems a user making what I thought was a pretty good point: "Look, when you're down for a weekend, you should be compenating us. We are paying for a service that you're not providing. And giving us 2 extra days doesn't cut it because most of us can't play during the week. Weekends are precious."
To which he received a ton of infantile flames that included "Blizzard don't owe you a thing!" or "It's a game! Get over it!" or "Too bad, so sad. I hope you quit playing, will cut down on the queue!"
The "Blizzard don't owe you a thing" comment (and there were many of that nature) really struck me. If I'm paying for a monthl service, then actuall yea, the company does owe me a service. It's a basic part of business. To be sure, Blizzard has not taken on this attitude. They've made a really honest and good effort to make good. But their fans, oye.
Recently things have been heating up because the bulk of original players are starting to get up into the "level 50" range. This is uncovering some issues that we saw during the alpha and beta. The alpha and early betas of World of Warcraft only went up to level 30. The level 30 to 60 content was put in much later with relatively less play testing. Based on reports, things become quite problematic as you get higher with most quests being "elite" quests (quests that you have to get a bunch of people to do).
There are signs that the raw number of quests starts to really dwindle as you near the higher levels of the game. I have a level 35 Paladin, only 5 levels beyond the original beta and I'm already starting to notice this. I created a new character today and I was floored by the rememberance of how good the early level experience is - or as I call it, the pre-addiction phase. You walk into a village and it's full of quests. Half the town would be full of quests.
By level 35, as you enter Booty Bay or South Shore, the number of quests has dwinded remarkably. Still quite a few, but nothing like it was early on. As you move up and get into the Plague Lands, you're left with only a handful of non-elite quests to do. It really starts to dwindle.
But don't dare make any criticism of the game on the forums - where the developers might see it. The fan boys will attack. Check out this post made by a level 53 player (I've put in a lot of hours and had the game on day 1 and I'm only at level 35 with my main character, so you can imagine how much time this guy has put in). His post isn't totally polite but the responses are infantile.
As a professional game designer, I tend not to be critical of games since it's a bit cheesy for one game developer to critique another's work. But I do know the importance of listening to constructive criticism. And the out of control fanboyism in teh Blizzard forums creates an atmosphere where few are going to want to provide useful constructive criticism. What they'll get instead are drive by flames by people who don't really care (they get tons of nasty, unconstrucive flames in there too). But that key feedback where the player has put in some time and effort to try to improve the game? Forget it. Not worth getting attacked over.
World of Warcraft is a fantastic game..for the first 30 levels or so. It survives beyond that due to the sheer time investment one has put in and addiction. But I suspect that if the first 30 levels played anything like the last 30 levels, it would not have the following it has. And the fanboys need to get out of the way and recognize this. They need to get out of the way so that people feel comfortable putting in constructive criticism that Blizzard may read.