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


{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Stabs December 16, 2009 at 1:17 am

I’m going to play devil’s advocate somewhat because I do enjoy player housing and I’d like to see it happen

“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?”

I would be astonished if it was in fact promised. Usually developers are more careful and use expressions like “we hope” or “we plan”. Neither of those are promises. Do you have a link?

In any event not every idea makes it or should make it if there are other priorities. Suppose in 2006 it had been a choice between implementing Alterac Valley or implementing player housing. They had the time and resources to do one or the other. The decision should not have been made on the basis “we said in beta we’d do … so we have to pick that one”. I don’t think it’s healthy to treat everything a designer says as a legally binding contract.

So even if they did promise I think it’s ok to break promises if circumstances change and the perspective in 2009 suggests a different solution from what the 2004 perspective did.

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

Probably more evidence than you have that it is a feature that we do support and want. Both you and I would like to see it but we don’t speak for 11.5 million.

Do people want it if it’s offered alone, no strings attached? – sure they do. Do people want it more than playable goblins? – no idea.

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

RPGs originally meant a wargame where you play a unit rather than a regiment (eg Chainmail). They evolved from that for many of us into a form of improvisational drama but there have always been roleplayers who are rollplayers.

Computer RPGs started firmly as rollplaying games. No one got into character in Eye of the Beholder.

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

Player housing is not role-playing. SWG has to this day utterly amazing player houses and ship interiors but virtually no one roleplays. EQ2 also has great player housing and I’ve seen ooc flame wars start because a ratonga mentioned cheese.

Most other players’ reaction to beautifully decorated player housing is “where did you get this?”, not any in-character behaviour.

“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!”?”

Heh, even I can’t play devil’s advocate on this one. The new lfg seems to have made it a Guild Wars style chat lobby called Dalaran from whence one teleports to the dungeon du jour.

It’s possibly a world to a totally new person. The kind of player who will run through Desolace at level 9 worrying how the heck he’s going to find his way back to the starter area.

“upcoming Blizzard MMO Starcraft Universe”

they’ve said it’s a new IP. My guess would be post-apocalypse since they’ve already got Sci fi, dark fantasy and light fantasy covered.

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Wolfshead December 17, 2009 at 2:57 am

Here are a few quotes by actual Blizzard employees from WoW Wiki:

http://www.wowwiki.com/Player_housing

posted 2004-12-14

Caydiem: “Housing is a huge feature with a lot of dedicated time needed. While we definitely want to do housing, and it is something ‘on the list’, it’s not a ‘soon after release’ feature. It’s more of an ‘on the horizon’ feature. :)”
posted 2004-07-15

Katricia: “Guild Halls will most likely not be implemented before World of Warcraft is released. They are very similar to Player Housing (which also will not make the release).

Both Player Housing and Guild Halls will be implemented as soon as possible after release.

I have no information available regarding the functions of either Guild Halls or Player Housing. ~Kat :)

Katricia: Player housing will not be available until after World of Warcraft has been released. Our plan is to add player housing in a future live update or expansion. Our current idea (which could change) is to extend the cities to have player housing neighborhoods. For example, in the canal area of Stormwind players can see a blue instance portal behind a large portcullis; this is the entrance to the player housing neighborhood in Stormwind.

Source: http://www.blizzard.com/wow/fansitechat-040726.shtml

posted 2006-1-7

Tigole: ” You’ve posted some really cool ideas on Guild Halls.

Player and guild housing is something we’ve always been interested in pursuing. While we won’t be including those features in the Burning Crusade, that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned our hope to include housing in the game sometime in the future.”

posted 2006-10-02

Nethaera: “The word is that we like the idea of player housing and would like to implement it at some point in the future, however we don’t have any particular ETA of when we will. There is a laundry list of things we still would like to add to World of Warcraft and this is just one of them.”

I’ll try to reply in full soon :)

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Stabs December 17, 2009 at 3:36 am

See this is what I suspected: they’ve always said would be nice to do one day, don’t hold your breath.

Getting from there to “promised” and “let us down” is a stretch.

Paul Barnett gave an excellent interview on the No Prisoners No Mercy podcast a few months ago where he said “if we say we’d like to do X at some stage what the players hear is “we absolutely promise to do X on Thursday”".

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Longasc December 16, 2009 at 1:42 am

Tom Chilton was responsible for Ultima Online’s expansion “Age of Shadows” and revamped the PvP part of the game before. He mainly removed negative consequences from PvP, which unfortunately also turned it quite meaningless. Many blame him for a lot of things gone wrong, and I remember how people LOLed as he was announced as one of the three WoW lead devs.

He kept one unfortunate habit from his old days: Serious questions and pressing matters were *always* answered with a laugh, in every developer interview. It is not serious, you know. So it is better to dodge the answer with a smile…? ;)

Interestingly, Age of Shadows introduced a part of the world that was almost exclusively dedicated to housing. The area “Malas” even featured the most advanced housing ever, players could even create houses slab by slab, not only use pre-build house design. Malas became a horrible lagfest, houses were loading and loading and loading… and it became almost like East Bloc settlements, with some villas spread in between the tightly cramped housing.

Maybe he developed a hate for housing during this time? And maybe he is not even that wrong about it. LOTRO’s housing for example… nobody uses it to roleplay or invite people. Houses are storage chests and trophy exposition/store rooms.

I see no evidence that they want to bring more WORLD back to the former World of Warcraft. And I am not sure if housing would do that either.

Right now, it is D&D – Dungeons and Dailies. I just love this wordplay since I thought about it some days ago. Not so many years ago DDO, GW and all other games making more ample use of instancing and instant action were BASHED for not being proper MMOs, sucking outright, being the wrong approach and all that.

Today we have the crowd cheer at the really amazing new LFG Tool of WoW 3.3. Yep, it is good! It is amazing. Still, it starts a new trend towards instanced content and makes the world more and more meaningless than it already was. The obstacle for levelling up to max level, where the “real game begins”.

Tesh reminded me of his idea: A game that skips the whole levelling process and just offers dungeon runs. And actually, this is the direction WoW is taking at the moment. LOTRO’s skirmishes are also like that, they somewhat scale with level and party size in addition to that. The “World” of Warcraft is about redundant as the human appendix by now.

I don’t want to be the party pooper, the LFG tool is great. Yet it also highlights the fact that MMORPGs have become dungeon crawlers, which shows again that the whole genre is stagnating. It is time for an entirely new take on the genre/system, or just release games called “Dungeoncraft” or “Raidcraft”. The World itself can be released as a solo-levelling game. I have not found many people to group with after the initial WoW release during the levelling process, regardless if high or low pop server.

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Tesh December 16, 2009 at 12:49 pm

“A game that skips the whole levelling process and just offers dungeon runs.”

Indeed, and I cite as incidental evidence: Torchlight. More than one commenter has noted its distillation of the “dungeon crawling, baddie blasting, loot hoarding crack” formula. An MMO that was nothing but instanced dungeon raids (with tendons of persistence via achievements and some shared lobbies) would have an instant following and done well, would definitely be profitable.

As Tipa has noted, currently it’s “more efficient” to level via PUGging via the LFG tool in WoW than questing. (Which tends to mean solo questing is *less* efficient… for better or worse.) People are playing together in dungeons, and the “world” really doesn’t matter all that much. (Perhaps an inevitable consequence of an older game with a leveling curve?)

It’s certainly not what I want, leaning heavily to the “world” side, myself, but increasingly, it’s apparent to me that such is absolutely in demand in the market.

The question in my mind is whether or not you can shoehorn that demand into a game that actually *does* cater to the worldbuilding potential in these MMO things. I think it’s possible, and housing is a fantastic “tendon of persistence” for those who do want to invest themselves in the world.

That’s mostly just theory, though. I suspect the trouble is as Stabs alludes to; the priority of dev time and cost. Player housing would be great in WoW… but the devs seem to want to shunt everyone into dungeons (notably, instanced, highly tunable content) and investing back into the “world” runs contrary to that desire.

I tend to think more holistically in design, and think that investing dev resources on both housing and dungeoneering would behoove WoW. Not everyone plays the same way, either between players or between moments. Perhaps Cataclysm and the world revamp is an effort to balance again… but indeed, housing would be a natural fit if you’re going to revamp that much.

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Wolfshead December 16, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Great points Tesh! I actually considered using the phrase “holistic” in my article but thought it may be too outlandish. :)

But you are right. Modern game designers need to be more holistic in their approach especially when they are working on MMOs and virtual worlds.

Combat for combat’s sake will never work in WoW without some form of immersive context. There has to be a balance between the game and the world to create the kind of synergy that has characterized why MMOs are so successful and sticky. One can not exist without the other. I have to wonder if the people at Blizzard have the intellectual and philosophical depth to even appreciate this.

You are right that persistence is a fundamental underpinning of what a MMO is all about. Giving players their own small little house or flat would really help strengthen an area that has been very weak in WoW for 5 years now.

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Wolfshead December 16, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Thanks for this illuminating background information on Tom Chilton.

I find it appalling that Tom or anyone at Blizzard for that matter have never seriously amplified their reasons for not having player housing in WoW.

I found Tom’s reply completely unacceptable. The fact that he could not or would not give any reasons for his stance is shameful and tells me that he is not as smart as he should be given the fact that he is effect in charge of WoW as the “Game Director”.

WoW has been successful despite Tom Chilton’s involvement. There are many thousands of artists, programmers, producers and designers that have made WoW the success it is today. I’m really tired of this guy getting all of the media attention when the fact is he remains a poor and thoughtless spokesperson for the MMO.

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Gareth January 11, 2010 at 9:59 am

Its strange but we now seem to be seeing WoW as an RPG going from AD&D to D&D gameplay, especially with the new patch and simplification of stats (whether its needed or not).

As for the LFG tool, it is great on one hand, but the long term effects I believe still will be to destroy community. I did resubscribe for a month thanks to prodding from friends, and after a couple of weeks I can say that I cannot remember one person I grouped with. In fact it was rare to get someone on my own server, before the LFG tool every person I met was a potential new person to socialise with. In comparison in EQ2 my friends list expands, although it is much harder work to get groups together.

Longterm I’m not sure how that will work, but I do think it is very dangerous since the social ties are the biggest draws to playing the game longterm. If the new gameplay is not creating new ties then longterm they could well be killing their own userbases social interactions off.

One last thing, that Chilton seems to be responsible for a lot of bad designing, I used to like Alterac valley, but even that was reduced to a maximum of 15 minutes (from about 40 minutes, and previously it used to be hours/days maximum) to support the badge grinding playstyle, way to go guys :P

That was the final nail in the coffin for my PVP enjoyment there, its always been totally unbalanced (the addition of resilience pvp gear added too boring a grind for me and killed everything apart from Alterac Valley, and there only because it combined PVP and PVE).

Overall I think this was a really big factor in me losing interest in the game, I believe PVP was really useful there as something I could jump into to take a break from the PVE when I became bored. Without it the bordom became burnout very fast, one reason I’m hoping battlegrounds in EQ2 will be done right.

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Petter Mårtensson December 16, 2009 at 2:17 am

Expect a member of the press to come to the press’ defense.

You have to understand what we deal with when we do interviews. Most producers and PR-reps that we get to talk to are incredibly media trained. They are not there to give honest interviews in the sense that “tough” questions will get proper answers – they are there to sell a product. I’ve asked many “tough” questions over the years, but many times the answers are pointless, spinned marketingtalk or not interesting enough to actually do anything with.

Rob Pardo is a different beast entirely. He is, in many ways, an uniqum in the gaming industry. If you ever end up in the same room as the man, you will know what I mean. He is sure of himself and of his company, he knows exactly where Blizzard stands compared to the competitors. He can be open and honest in ways people below him can’t – there is a point in asking him tougher questions because you can expect to actually get good replies from him.

For example, during Gamescom this year I met up with two guys from Mythic, one guy from development and one guy from marketing. The big deal at the time was Marc Jacobs leaving and the “merger” with Bioware. I asked them about both – and got no reply. They seemed offended that I brought it up in the first place, and I can understand that – their mission, given to them from people above them, was to talk about WAR in good terms and to sell the coming Live Event. The interview was useless, even though a clip from it can be seen in the blooper show we made (“the love in this room went from here to here in just one question”).

The gaming press and the industry have a somewhat problematic relationship with each other. They rely on us to get information out, we rely on them to supply us with content – they are businesses, they are in total control of the information. It’s not only about not risking to get invited back to Blizzard (full disclaimer: I’ve been on a paid trip to Blizzard, that does not change my view of the company in any way, or stopped me from trying to ask “tougher” questions to the devs we got to interview). It’s about our readers wanting that content too, otherwise they will go somewhere else. And without readers, no money. No money, no publication.

Some people do say that they don’t care if a review is a bit late, because it is better to wait and know the publication paid for the game or info itself. Those people are sadly in minority, at least for larger gaming sites. But getting trips and games are not, despite some people’s claim to the contrary, not the same as being “bought” – as I’ve said before, I have gone on paid trips and come home to write about the actual game, not the trip.

Just to point it out again – the companies are businesses. They control their information, because information is money. Everything that comes out of a dev’s mouth is controlled by marketing. It’s the way things work and it’s not like the gaming press doesn’t try to ask tough questions. Actually, it does happen a bit more often than some would give credit for – you just need to know which sites to look at. :P

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Wolfshead December 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Thanks for this thoughtful insight into gaming journalism and reportage Petter! It’s good to be reminded of how the industry actually works.

From my point of view, I would like to see more of an adversarial relationship between the video game companies and gaming journalists. We need this because the average player really has no one to speak for them.

I’m just afraid that often it seems that the gaming media are nothing more then useful idiots for the video game industry in that they are essentially giving them free advertising. I suppose the issue of how the gaming press monetizes itself is also worth looking into as well with regard to advertising.

Ultimately we all want to see better games. Asking tough questions and creating an atmosphere where video game companies should be more responsive to the concerns of their subscribers should not be a bad thing.

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Brian 'Psychochild' Green December 17, 2009 at 4:57 am

Want to see adversarial journalists? Go to a big site and tell them you have an indie MMO you want to talk about. ;) You’ll see adversarial.

When we were working on the massive upgrade to Meridian 59‘s rendering engine (from software rendering to hardware rendering), some of the developers drove two states away to visit the offices of one magazine on an invitation from an editor. (Sadly, I was not there.) When they got there, the editor wasn’t there and the assistant editor sat with them. After a demo, he said practically nothing and they left. When the magazine’s big MMO issue came out, it was dominated by EverQuest 2 stories (and 5 full pages of EQ2 ads) and our game got a tiny blurb like many other games. It called us a “throwback” with no mention of the new rendering engine.

There are sites that try to do honest reviews, but it’s a tough row for them to hoe. They live or die by getting free product, and too many honest reviews on poor products gets you off the free product list. As Petter says, no money = no publication.

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Winged Nazgul December 16, 2009 at 6:50 am

It disturbs me a bit to see player housing so casually dismissed by a Blizzard dev. They have a chance to tie this in with their existing achievement and future guild achievement systems to totally blow any previous attempts at housing away.

I realize players play MMORPG’s for many diverse reasons but housing appeals to achievers, explorers, and socializers equally. Maybe killers not so much but you can’t please them all.

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Gareth January 11, 2010 at 10:06 am

The direction of WoW as a game is towards being a pure MMOG (their own site refers to themselves like this in the patch notes), role playing features really do not interest the current design team as they are focussed on game play and gimmicks.

The new expansion underlines this, take for example the new class combinations they are allowing, Night elves will get mages even though lore wise that makes no sense at all, the reason was because they thought it would be “pretty cool”.

If they cared about role playing I’d expect at least a lame reason for this in lore.

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Stabs December 17, 2009 at 3:48 am

A couple more random thoughts:

1) It’s an Ace in their sleeve. Either player housing is a key feature to Secret Blizzard MMO and they don’t want to spoil it by making it part of WoW. Or it’s a key feature in the expansion after Cataclysm and it’s too early to hype it.

2) They feel it’s more trouble than it’s worth for some reason. Player housing worked in SWG because items were droppable. It works in EQ2 because certain items are droppable in houses. There are a lot of items in WoW and going through their entire database flagging certain things as droppable would be a huge enough project in itself – on top of that they need new art assets for each droppable item.

This really is the Scrooge McDuck position – they’re too busy rolling in their mountains of gold to give some back to the players. I hope this isn’t the case.

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Brian 'Psychochild' Green December 17, 2009 at 5:29 am

A few thoughts.

1. I’m always wary of calling one person out in a game, especially a huge project like an MMO. Perhaps Mr. Chilton sacrifices kittens to make sure player housing stays out of WoW, but I doubt its that simplistic. Just because he’s “the face” of development doesn’t mean he calls the shots. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a pretty strict system in place to evaluate new features, where there has to be some demonstration that a feature will accomplish a specific goal (attract new players, retain current players, bring back old players) before it gets the green light. Perhaps WoW has done the research and it just doesn’t show as being a valuable feature.

2. As much as I pesonally love good player housing, I think you may be overstating the importance here. The simplistic argument is that EQ2 had great housing, WoW had no housing, but let’s compare subscriber numbers…. A more complex argument can be found in one of your links talking about housing in EQ2 and LotRO. Housing in EQ2 is really great and offers a lot of creativity. Housing in LotRO… not so much. The restrictions on what you can place are really strict, and don’t allow for much real customization, in my opinion. Logging on to my EQ2 account on occasion, I still go visit my apartment and appreciate it. Playing LotRO daily, I don’t visit my house unless I really need to store some crap or see how hideous a new housing decoration is. It’s not easy to do housing “right”.

3. There may be a really good reason why player housing isn’t in WoW and that isn’t a good idea to explain to the audience. As Longasc points out above, Mr. Chilton was involved in a large upgrade to housing in UO. That probably left an impression on him that detailed housing may not be possible without a lot of overhead. Wow may not want to simply rip off another game wholesale, and their big ideas just won’t fit. Or, let’s be brutally honest here, sometimes the servers aren’t very stable after a routine update, so there may be limitations in the infrastructure people on the outside aren’t aware of. As Petter explained above, interviews are there to give a positive impression of the game. Saying that the biggest and possibly most profitable game can’t hack housing isn’t a positive impression. I suspect a lot of detractors would use that as fuel for explaining why WoW is failing, etc. Even the perception of WoW having a problem can cause real problems for them.

4. The slams on PvP gameplay seem a bit misplaced. Keep in mind that WoW had about as many open PvP servers as normal PvE servers when they launched. (I think the numbers of servers are still roughly even, but my account is lapsed so I can’t check.) A lot of people were hoping this might open up wider acceptance of PvP gameplay to a wider audience. Now, personally, I enjoy PvP but loathe level and class-based PvP as found in WoW. But, there’s obviously a group of dedicated people who do enjoy that type of gameplay in WoW.

Interesting article, but I think you might be off-base in several areas. Sadly, there’s little chance we’ll get to figure out where the truth is.

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Wolfshead December 17, 2009 at 8:17 pm

I’m calling out Tom Chilton because I think it’s very clear that he has a personal bias for the kind of gameplay that he likes which is PVP. A good game designer needs to learn to temper his/her biases and think of what is good for the game/MMO. PVP is not what made WoW into the success it is today, it’s PVE.

I’m also calling him out because his reply was unsatisfactory and as someone who is the Game Director of a MMO that earns $600 million in profit a year and controls the leisure experience of 11 million people should be more articulate and thoughtful in his responses.

As to your second point, yes I agree that housing should be done right. That still does not excuse Blizzard for not developing it. They have more resources and talent at their disposal than any other company in video game history. There is no excuse that they have not “taken WoW to the next level” as Jeff Kaplan noted.

Again Tom Chilton needs to rise above his own personal biases and experiences which may be housing in Ultima Online which apparently was not done right.

As to your comment about ripping off game features…where do I start? Almost every component facet of WoW has been lock, stock and barrel been stolen, copied or swiped from another game or MMO.

Look at the WoW Achievement system. It was shamelessly ripped of from XBox Live and done so with very little finesse. Therefore I do not buy this argument at all.

Clearly, Blizzard which is the most profitable video game in history has the resources to investigate and implement player housing. I suspect it’s a question of will.

Every time they come up with a new expansion somehow player housing keeps getting put on the back burner.

The reason I brought up PVP is because it’s a prime example that Blizzard is ready and willing to “experiment” and spend millions of dollars in resources on dubious game mechanics only when it suits their personal preferences. The connection between Tom Chilton who is the prime architect of PVP and PVP in WoW is indisputable.

And for the record, I’m getting a little sick and tired of developers that are largely unaccountable to their millions of customers. As evidenced by Tom Chilton, they can’t even answer a simple question and provide some semblance of intelligent elaboration.

Even at BlizzCon the arrogance and pomposity exhibited by some members of the Blizzard panel was frankly outrageous as they would continually dismiss player questions out of hand.

I agree the real truth as to why player housing has not been implemented in WoW may never be known as all we get our platitudes and corporate-speak from Blizzard.

My prediction and analysis have been more right then wrong in the 5 years that I’ve run this blog. I’m just calling them as I see ‘em.

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Stabs December 17, 2009 at 11:16 am

Another random thought that ties in with what Brian has said.

WoW has tended to have problems with its instance servers. It also has problems with its economy.

If they bring in housing and it’s cheap enough that anyone can get it (and just about anyone can get money in WoW, it’s inertia not challenge that stops us all sitting at the gold cap) then they have a lot of extra instances. Instead of 500 people sitting in Dalaran you have 500 people in their own private instances.

“You cannot create new instances at this time.” Ever seen that message, I might not have got the wording quite right. You would see a lot of it with all the extra instances that housing would entail.

If this is the problem there may be a solution which is rather elegant. Obviously to implement player housing there would be a hardware cost. But if you have queueing priority so that instances and raids take priority over player housing on the instance servers you would practically eliminate the problem WoW has with being unable at times to start raids and dungeons. Sure, at peak times you might lose access to your house but that’s not as bad as 25 people having their night’s entertainment cancelled because the dungeon won’t start.

So a justification for player housing might be all that extra capacity solves a long-standing annoyance.

Of course they could just give a couple of new 5 mans instead which wouldn’t cost them anything in additional hardware.

(I’ve not addressed non-instanced housing but I’m sure a system where 5000 people want to put their mansion 100 yards from Orgrimmar gates does not need an explanation of its flaws).

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Tesh December 18, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Then we run into the AT&T iPhone issue. Don’t complain that there is demand on your servers and try to throttle the players back. You’re lucky enough to *have* demand. Cater to it and make money doing so. Capitalism 101, not rocket science.

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Stabs December 21, 2009 at 12:46 am

Ah but Tesh it’s not as simple as player housing = more players and more revenue.

Let’s suppose they decided to add a content patch before Cataclysm. Asking around for a feature one designer suggests player housing, one suggests a pretty cool idea for a new 5 man or complex of 5 mans.

Player housing would be a complex system that in addition to requiring extra hardware would probably cause quite a lot of bugs. It might also need some retro-fitting, eg going through texts of quests and changing some text and/or items to make them support the new game mechanic.

A new 5 man would put no extra load on the instance servers (other than the “oo, it’s new!” rush) and be unlikely to cause bugs.

On the other hand Blizzard has a history of taking customer-oriented generous decisions.

The decision to offer free battlenet support for ever for its RTS games.

The decision not to charge for content patches when the dominant models (EQ, EQ2 and UO) required purchase of about 2 packs per year. (This worked out great for them and was a factor in beating EQ2 which dropped its Adventure Packs system once it realised how disastrous they were).

So Wolfshead is, in the final analysis, right. Blizzard should do the generous thing. Not because its Capitalism 101, in fact most businesses are not especially generous to their customers.

They should do it because they are Blizzard and past generosity is a large part of how Blizzard won the MMO Game.

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Tesh December 21, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Your last statement there underlines exactly why this *is* Capitalism 101. Make people happy, they give you money. Maybe not directly (though that’s certainly an option), but positive reputation is worth its weight in gold. Positive reviews (especially from early adopters) can literally make a company.

This sort of thing might not sort out in a simplistic Excel spreadsheet on Chilton’s desk, but ultimately, when you do right by people, they have a tendency to reciprocate. Piss people off, though, and you have to work even harder to get them back than you would have needed to work to retain them or keep them on a reputation plateau.

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John December 20, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I once jotted down some ideas about player/guild housing implemented as a guild airship that I’d like to see:

http://johnliu.net/games/2009/7/6/wow-wtb-a-guild-airship.html

There is plenty of air-space.
Hence I’m not particularly keen about approaching player housing with instance-server.

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Gx1080 February 18, 2010 at 6:44 am

A little misunderstanding:

PvP in WoW wasn’t a failure until Arenas, and the consequent balancing based on them started. Arenas are a failure, World PvP and BGs aren’t.

With the introduction of rated BGs, I hope that they kill Arenas as a whole as they killed the most broken bracket, 2v2, by eliminating the PvP rewards from it.

To the subject:

Player housing is just a thing that is too much hassle for what is worth. They typical WoW server just cannot handle thousands of different player houses without a significant -and costly- upgrade. They are doing fine without it, so why bother?

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Noel June 4, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I think this article is brilliant. You’ve tied a lot of great ideas together, and exposed how Tom Chilton’s bias is making WoW a game that is only a shadow of what it could be. I think, however, your personal distaste for Tom Chilton really bleeds through a lot in this article. Even if he is the incompetent buffoon you paint him to be, I think this article would have been a lot stronger if you had tried to be a little more objective in your presentation. Even so, I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you for writing it!

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