Blizzard’s Scrooge: Tom Chilton Dismisses Player Housing for WoW

by Wolfshead on December 15, 2009

Lately my faith in the MMO media and sadly the media in general has been waning due to the problem of advocacy journalism. Otherwise known in gamerspeak as fanboyism.Very rarely do gaming magazines and websites ever bother to ask tough questions. Even more rarely do they ask follow up questions lest they lose their precious access to devs and all expense paid junkets out to Blizzard headquarters in Irvine California.

So it is with surprise that via an article in WoW.com, we learned that during an interview with the German fan site WorldofWar that a member of the gaming press actually asked Blizzard WoW Game Director Tom Chilton a tough question.  Unfortunately that question produced an answer that Ebenzer Scrooge of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol would have been proud of.

Here’s the exchange:

WorldofWar.de: The most important question first: When will player housing be integrated?

Tom Chilton: (laughs) Haha, no, there are no plans for player housing.

Unfortunately despite Tom’s laughter and dismissive answer, the interviewer failed to ask Tom a follow-up question.

Here’s what I would have asked:

Tom, why after 5 years of WoW have you failed to implement player housing despite the fact that it was promised by Blizzard before the release of WoW in 2004?

Tom, what evidence do you have that this is a feature that the WoW community would not support and want?

Tom, can you explain what the RPG means in MMORPG?

Tom, why aren’t you supporting and promoting role-playing in WoW?

Tom, do you agree with the slogan that Blizzard uses to promote WoW in various ads: “It’s Not a Game, It’s a World!”?

It's a game, not a world

Player Housing Redux

Earlier this year I crafted a comprehensive look at Blizzard’s failure to implement player housing in WoW. I don’t want to rehash all of those arguments right now but this kind of outright dismissal of one of the fundamental concepts that helps support the notion of virtual worlds and immersion infuriates me. Someone like Tom Chilton who is essentially now in charge of WoW should have a more elevated understanding and appreciation of community, role-playing and immersion.

Even Jeff Kaplan who was previously a hardcore raider and  the lead designer of WoW before leaving the project made the following surprising statement back in 2007 to MTV:

Jeff Kaplan: I think housing can take World of Warcraft to the next level.

Perhaps Jeff will include player housing in the upcoming  Blizzard MMO Starcraft Universe (note: this is pure speculation on my part). He’d be smart if he did.

A History of Dubious Achievement

When you take a closer look at Tom Chilton you soon understand that his background in game design is solely focused on PVP. He was in fact Evocare, a game designer for Ultima Online a PVP based MMO. Therefore it is no surprise that Mr. Chilton has shown no interest whatsoever in promoting anything other then his own personal bias which is hardcore PVP.

From my point of view, Tom Chilton is a game designer that really can’t point to any successful accomplishments during his tenure at Blizzard. Every single one of his experiments with PVP has been a costly flop and failure. Battlegrounds, Arenas, e-sports and welfare epics have been the butt of constant jokes in the WoW community.

PVP was far better when it was left on its own as emergent gameplay between the Alliance and the Horde instead of the incentivized farce it has become.

Tom’s PVP baby has been in a constant state of flux and not only that it has created negative side effects for the more successful parts of WoW which are PVE. Even Blizzard VP Rob Pardo has admitted in a recent interview that PVP has been a failure.

How Long Must PVEers and Role-Players Subsidize PVP?

How many millions of dollars in manpower and resources are spent taking care of the problems that PVP creates for the rest of WoW? These resources could have been utilized to create more cohesive community building mechanics like player housing but instead they were wasted. Yet somehow Tom keeps getting promoted at Blizzard.

Anyone who’s ever worked in the corporate world knows that there are always people that never seem to let a lack of talent and surplus of incompetence ever stand in the way of their personal advancement.

I can’t think of one thing that this man has accomplished that I as a game designer would be proud to put on my resume. The truth is that if Tom Chilton had never worked at Blizzard WoW would probably be in better shape than it is today.

Conclusion

At the last BlizzCon many of the devs such as Rob Pardo seemed to talk a lot about community. It’s too bad that they don’t walk the walk and create those kinds of community building mechanics within their own MMO as others such as EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online and Runes of Magic have done quite successfully.

The lack of player housing in WoW suggests that there is a deeply entrenched aversion to any kind of feature that is not directly tied to combat within the currently male dominated Blizzard Star Chamber. It suggests that Blizzard is blissfully ignorant and unappreciative of female gamers that would enthusiastically embrace player housing. Anyone interested at all in bringing more female gamers to the MMO demographic should read Morninglark’s excellent article on player housing titled Why Have Player Housing?

At least Blizzard devs like Jeff Kaplan and Alex Afrasiabi have evolved and matured from their previous hardcore raiding proclivities and embraced a broader and more cohesive view of virtual worlds. Regrettably, Tom Chilton remains frozen in a state of perpetual adolescence as his obsession with PVP to the exclusion of all else continues unchecked. I’m afraid as long as he is in charge of WoW, player housing will only be a pipe dream for 11 million virtually homeless players.

-Wolfshead


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