Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blizzard Removes Keyring from WoW

The game developers at Blizzard have decided to remove the keyring in patch 4.2. This, apparently, pisses me off.

I should begin by stating that I am not pissed off as a result of some undue affection towards my keys. I do not sit up, late at night, stroking my Jump-a-Tron 4000 key, as that would be quite odd. I understand that these are just items in a game. That being said, I do have some attachment to these items as they indicate various feats I accomplished over the years. My Heroic Key to the Focusing Iris, for example, is a rare item that few characters have. The key is something of a symbol of my past activities and represents an accomplishment made with my character.

However, as a rational entity, I can distinguish between my memories and items in a game. If the key is removed, I still have my memories, and so the actual existence of the key is not all that important. What is important, and what pisses me off, is what I think this change to the game indicates.

Back in 1.11 Blizzard added the keyring in order to free up some inventory space. Characters has to obtain keys to access various locked areas, because what better to unlock something than a key? Over the years, however, Blizzard moved away from using key items to unlock areas, and relied upon other game features to afford or deny access to zones. After Burning Crusade, very few keys were added to the game, and over time they became obsolete. In fact, the decreased use of keys resulted in The Keymaster Achievement being removed from the game. This action sparked some irritation with the player community.

The question I have, looking back on this whole narrative, concerns what this means, what this story indicates. What do we learn from these changes? In the original game keys were a...ok, I'll just say it...key component to the game. Now, seven years later, keys have been removed, key achievements have been removed, and the keyring bag slot is being removed. Numerous people will put forth various theories to explain this course of events, but I think I have it pretty well narrowed down to one sensible interpretation:

The fucking asshats who design World of Warcraft have no god damned fucking clue as to what in the name of unholy piss-soaking hell they are doing.

I mean, what the fucking shit? First we have to have keys, because oh my fucks how would we control access to zones without them. Then we had to have a bag for these keys. Then we had to add more keys. Then we had to stop using keys. Then we had to remove keys. And now we have to remove the fucking bag?! What the fuck? What in the shit is directing the design philosophy of WoW?

That's my problem; that is my grievance: Over the course of seven years numerous stances were taken with regard to keys. The fact that there are numerous stances at play, numerous interpretations at work, indicates that there is not one clear, defined, controlling, structuring mentality of game design at work. And that, to me, is a problem.

I'm not saying that change is always bad. I am suggesting that change indicates a problem with respect to foresight and planning. Now, of course, human beings are not omnipotent; we cannot predict the future. But if we fucking sit down and think for a while, we can generally surmise various consequences of action. If items are used to control access to zones, then players must have the item that corresponds to a zone. As we increase the number of zones, we shall also increase the number of items.

But wait, says Buckey the one-eyed game designer: If we keep adding zones, and keep adding items, won't this place an undue burden on players as they amass these items? As the game progresses, and older content becomes obsolete, then won't players be forced to carry around numerous items they do not actively use, but keep for the sake of allowing the possibility to return to older content? We seem to be setting ourselves up for a problem with inventory space.

Hmm, that's a great point, Buckey. But you know what? SHUT THE FUCK UP WE'RE ADDING 5 MORE KEYS THIS EXPANSION!!!!

What, I ask, the fuck?

At one point keys were required. At another point keys were not required. Alright, fine; change happens. But for what end is this change occurring? In the post, Bashiok indicated that they are removing the keyring to free up UI space for the Dungeon Journal button, which is a feature that is as dumb as it is stupid. The Dungeon Journal is a feature that explains boss fights for dungeon and raid bosses. The problem is that we do not fucking need this. Players who use tankspot shall continue to use tankspot, because tankspot is better than whatever the Dungeon Journal could be. Players who did not use tankspot shan't use the Dungeon Journal because they are illiterate, as is indicated by their not reading tankspot. So, in effect, we have to remove a bad idea to make room for a new bad idea.

But that just raises my core complaint: What the fuck design philosophy directs and controls these changes? The game did not have a Dungeon Journal for seven years, and now it needs one? We had keys for seven years, and now we don't need them? If Blizzard has an ideal game in mind, then they need to just sit the fuck down and make that game. If they have no ideal, no "best", then how can they tell their amelioration story given that "better" only makes sense with respect to a "best"?

As far as I can tell, this summarizes the story of WoW and keys over the past seven years:

Herp-a-Derp we need keys.
Herp-a-Derp we need a keyring.
Herp-a-Derp we need more keys.
Herp-a-Derp we have too many keys.
Herp-a-Derp keys are stupid.
Herp-a-Derp the keyring is stupid.

I don't mind that things change. I don't mind that modifications are made over time. What I mind is the feeling that there is no one driving, the feeling that these are all reactions rather than planned, intentional developments. I very much doubt that in the planning stages for WoW, seven years ago, they said: "Alright, so we have keys now, but in seven years we're going to take them out. And we're going to add a Dungeon Journal, because, obviously, 40-man raids don't need in-game explanations whereas 10-person content totes needs an instruction manual."

This isn't design. This isn't development. This isn't forethought. These are kneejerk, unthinking, unplanned reactions to the bitching and whining of 13 year old forum trolls.

And my polite suggestion is that maybe, maybe, “appeasement” that is not the best strategy by which to design a game.


Roscoe said...

Appeasement as game management strategy -

Isn't that the same line of argument that says Give the playerbase what they want, and print money?

I mean...it seems you're harboring an inconsistency in your crankitude. This is the reason old folk move to Lawn Based shouting. No one questions those motivations for internal consistency.

_J_ said...


Andrew said...

"I don't mind that things change."
I do not believe you

_J_ said...

It's mostly that I've come to accept that various aspects of the game change, and often change with every major patch. I've accepted that pattern of change.

I'm fine with optimal spell rotations and damage numbers changing. I'm fine with boss fights being modified. Hell, when they added flying to old world? That was tits.

But removing the keyring...ok, yeah, my issue isn't the keyring itself. It's the larger undirected seemingly haphazard changes that bother me.

Bother me because there are other changes they need to make, but refuse to make, on grounds that one could use to argue for the need for a keyring.

They can't add a tabard management system to the game because they "can't find an elegant way to do it." So, we can't fix the problem with tabards. But keys? Oh, just fucking delete 'em.

Make that make sense.