The importance of community involvement

Tol Barad.

If I had to pick one thing I love about Riot, it wouldn’t be the frequent champion releases, the skin sales, the contests, the fact that they provide a free game, the commitment to not sell power, or the long overdue Garen nerf (I am really happy about that last one, though). Out of all the things Riot does to give us a great game, the thing I love above all else is community involvement.

Of all the developers I’ve seen, I can comfortably say that Riot does the best job of staying involved with the community and using the forums to quickly and consistently address player concerns as soon as they’re on the radar. Sure, there are a few places the Riot staff has dropped the ball, and the occasional trolling still upsets me, but by and large, Riot’s pretty great about keeping the player base informed about the design that goes into a game.

The reason I decided to write this post today is actually because of Cataclysm. I know not many of you are playing, so I’ll try to cover the issue as briefly as possible. Blizzard made some major adjustments to the PvP system, most notably the way that you progress and earn gear. The honor system still exists but, unlike every other number system in the game, there has been point deflation. Items that used to cost tens of thousands of honor now cost 2200, max. A five-piece set of PvP gear now runs a total of 9900 honor. Obviously, battleground rewards have been scaled back, so players are earning less total honor, but about the same percentage related to gear as was the case in Wrath.

Cataclysm also introduced another world PvP zone named Tol Barad. Like Wintergrasp before it, Tol Barad offers raid access to the faction that controls it, a fight for which is waged every two and a half hours. When it launched, the defending team had a massive advantage and was able to win nearly 100 percent of the battles. To counteract the issue, Blizzard increased the reward for successfully attacking Tol Barad by a factor of 10, literally. The assaulting faction now receives 1800 honor (more than the cost of several of the pieces of gear) for a victory instead of 180. It’s a big problem because it has artificially inflated the gear level for a lot of PvP players and made running battlegrounds seem paltry by comparison.

The design issues this change raises belong to another post. The interesting part for the purposes of this post is that Blizzard hasn’t responded to the change at all, despite the fact that it just went live this past Tuesday. The latest blue posts are a full two and a half days old, one of which says we should look for a blog post after the new year discussing the design direction for Tol Barad. I realize two and half days isn’t that long, but this is prime playing time for a lot of people with the holidays in full swing and this change has already had major impact on the game, an impact that might be compounded if the fix is to re-nerf the rewards. It basically nullifies the gear reset for anyone who makes it to 85 after the change gets reverted.

I have never wished Phreak was a Blizzard employee until now.


Riot encourages employee interaction with the community, admits training may be necessary

Forum TrollIn all the recent activity on the forums (I won’t get into it here – head over there and read, or dig your way through the dev tracker), one post stuck out to me today, and got the attention of Riot president, Marc Merrill. The post points to an obvious trend – that every several weeks or so, a Riot employee mishandles a community issue and then has to publicly apologize for the action. It’s a frustrating thing to watch, because I really do believe in Riot’s ability to create and manage a community.

The reason Merrill stepped in was to admit that the community interaction is encouraged, but that maybe there isn’t enough training around employee/consumer relations. Here’s what he said:

I think it’s fair feedback.

We have a goal of wanting everyone at the company to directly interact with the community to continue to foster relationships, but we probably need to improve our training in this area.

We’re OK with taking our lumps when we’re out of line, it’s the only way we can improve!

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve often been shocked by the things some Riot posters are willing to jump on and say. I wrote a while back that trolling is among the worst things you could do to your community, and I’m glad to see Marc looking for solutions to the problem. I’ve noticed it most from the recent community hires. If you read the forums much, you’ll see certain community members go from black or purple names to red, but still try to maintain the same identity in the public realm. While it’s fine for the people who know those members well, the responses can be jarring and off-putting to new members of the community.

I hope Riot and its leadership continues to think on ways to improve the community experience. After all, this is a team game, and without the community around it, the game would wouldn’t be nearly as good.


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