According to Twitter user @MagdalenaKDuser, since 2013, Blizzard Entertainment has maintained secret and private forums for elite World of Warcraft volunteer theorycrafter testers to share their insights into class builds with the WoW developers.
By all accounts, it seems that former WoW developer Greg Street allegedly spearheaded this program.
I have long maintained that the quality of Blizzard’s devs drastically detioriated when the WoW “A” Team of devs (that created vanilla WoW and the Burning Crusade) were transferred to work on Project Titan sometime after the release of the 3rd WoW expansion: Wrath of the Lich King. With the absence of the competent “A” Team, the lesser talented “B” team stepped in and gave us horrible expansions like Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor.
Magdalena pulls no punches and paints a picture of an arrogant and childish WoW dev team that disrespects, mocks, insults and ignores the feedback and advice of this select group of elite theorycrafters who are giving hours of their free time testing WoW classes and writing extensive analysis and feedback for the devs to consider.
From my own personal experience as a player, volunteer guide for EverQuest, game designer and games journalist, I find Magdalena’s account extremely credible. MMORPG GMs, developers, and management are notorious for their hubris and immaturity. Of course, there are some great devs but many of these devs are just downright nasty people that should have been fired years ago.
When I was a Senior Guide for SOE’s EverQuest, I saw first-hand a bad attitude from some SOE employees. These individuals were power-hungry bullies long on stupidity and short on talent, but they knew the right people at SOE who protected them from disciplinary action. Some of them abused their power and even sexually harassed female Senior Guides. Nothing ever happened to these miscreants and to make matters worse they got promoted.
Something changes when people become MMORPG devs. Drunk on power and fame, when someone gives them criticism, they develop a bunker mentality, circle the wagons, and lash out against the people who are trying to help them — people who are unpaid volunteers.
The most shocking quote from this Twitter thread speaks for itself:
It is the state of a game whose system developers have proven themselves to be a bunch of manchildren with egos the size of mountains.
Here’s @MagdalenaDK’s thread if you would like to review it for yourself and the replies:
Just in case she gets banned by Twitter or the thread gets deleted, I have decided to reprint the entire thread below for posterity.
I will no longer be silent. If you’re curious about why I (and others) are cynical about the WoW team’s feedback process, here’s a thread about private avenues of feedback that some theorycrafters were/are offered — and why they haven’t made an ounce of difference in a long time.
Around early/mid 2013, just before the release of the Throne of Thunder raid, I was invited to a private feedback forum for WoW theorycrafters. This was the first incarnation of the “private forums”, which many have speculated about ever since.
In its initial stages, this forum was wonderful. Many of the most positive developments in both MoP and even the developmental stages of WoD were the result of the careful, thoughtful feedback that players on this forum provided.
It was also reciprocated with actual, candid discussion on the part of developers, the results of which were probably some of the strongest system and general game design that the game has seen.
Around the end of 2013, a key figure in WoW development (who also happened to be the brainchild behind the forums) left Blizzard. Slowly, but surely, everything began to change. Developer tones became more condescending. The obvious effort put in by players went ignored.
The majority of WoD was miserable for forum dwellers, but it was nothing compared to Legion. If there was ever a true “death” suffered by them, it occurred when the WoW dev team’s line of communication during the Legion Beta became nothing but insults, rudeness, and ignoring us.
It was a horrible experience. I alluded to what was going on somewhat in my final blogpost, but never went into full detail — largely out of respect for the person who had founded them, despite that person being long-gone for Blizzard. However, enough is enough.
The first incarnation of the private forums was deleted during Legion. It was then resurrected (and still exists) with a new crew of feedback givers with some overlap from the old, but continued in the same trend of developers essentially treating feedback givers like trash.
In addition, I’m told that there is also an influencers Discord, largely compromising of YouTube content creators and other “prominent” figures in the WoW community. In other words, the current forums are not the only semi-private line of communication the team has.
So when you read Twitter threads complaining about “the masses”, please understand that this team does have all the access they need to theorycrafters and players with a key stake in the game’s development. They simply choose to either ignore, insult, or belittle them.
Complaining about “the masses” is facetious. “The masses” have consisted of loud yelling by ignorant, uninformed players since Day 1 of Vanilla. That is the entire reason behind the genesis of the private forums and the influencer Discord.
Yet surprisingly “the masses” weren’t an issue in the past — probably because the team at the time actually understood that the best way to obtain good feedback was not by alienating and marginalising the actual rational voices of folks willing to put in the time/effort.
It took me a long time to take a step back and realise how incredibly f**ked up it was that the WoW community consists of so many players (especially theorycrafters) that put in so much time and effort into improving the game with zero compensation. And many were happy to do so.
The truth is that it isn’t feedback that has suffered or changed. It is design. It is the state of a game whose system developers have proven themselves to be a bunch of manchildren with egos the size of mountains. Gaslighting your theorycrafter core won’t change that.
All of this (and more) were things I wish I’d included in my final blogpost, but that I refrained from doing out of respect for one person. If you’re reading this: I’m sorry if this damages our personal relationship. But, I can no longer be silent in the face of what’s happening.
Judging by the 7 DMs I’ve already received thanking me for this thread, I guess it resonates. My suggestion? Please join me in speaking up, assuming it doesn’t put your safety or wellbeing in jeopardy. Many of you were right there with me, and saw most of what I did.
Here’s Exhibit 2. Same developer by the way, in case the tone didn’t make it abundantly clear.
Let me restate this again, just to point out how absurd the situation is: This is how WoW system developers continue to speak to and treat players that spent hundreds of hours of their free time trying to help them develop the game, based purely on passion. Let that sink in.
Going to be rounding off this thread and then switching off notifications. First, since multiple people have asked, this was the post I wrote about why I was done with the game in Legion. Consider this thread to be a belated, harsher addendum to :
Second, I’ve retweeted a few acquaintances were on the forums with me — go and give their threads a read too. I never took screenshots (perhaps naively so) while present for the first generation of the forums, so I’m afraid I can’t provide any more.
Finally, thank you to everyone for the kind DMs and messages of support — I sincerely appreciate it. FWIW, all that this has really left me feeling is hollow. Glad I got it off my chest, but it’s sad to consider how a four tweet thread was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But the designers being manchildren and rude, well… nothing new, sad but true? Some of the most successful game designers are unfortunately not very mature persons, to put it politely.
Kaplan + Pardo, Tom Chilton, Afrasiabi come to mind, just to pick a few involved in WoW. Some of them even in the same EQ guild at one point and being exactly what is being described a toxic, but also quite brilliant.
Rockstar’s Housers twins apparently had quite a bad attitude before success and even more so after being extremely successful with GTA.
Some of these designers grew up, others didn’t, quite the opposite.
The two blue quotes are quite dismissive of the feedback indeed, but not disrespectful or insulting. They just show that the feedback is not being given that much thought anymore. But I can also imagine how Tigole Bitties and Co. would have answered. Kaplan in particular seems to have grown up while being a dev and one would assume as professional you will have to use another vocabulary and conduct when dealing with coworkers and players/volunteers.
Greg Street was/is a communicator. Probably even better as Community Manager and Team Leader than as designer. “Bring the player, not the class” was a nice slogan, but the design result of making classes interchangeable and either very much damning or on the other end favoring hybrid classes in the end didn’t quite convince me many years ago.
His successors apparently are not quite the listeners and communicators. Warlords of Draenor was quite a mess, but it made me return to WoW when they handed out free come-back-to-WoW offers for a while. I liked late Warlords and Legion more than Cataclysm and Pandaria or later Battle for Azeroth.
Warlords was trying new things with the garrison and had lots of issues, but it also had a return to one of the main WoW narratives about the Burning Legion and the Orcs. While Greg Street and Metzen himself made Pandaria, which is hailed as brilliant mechanics wise, but didn’t resonate with me one bit. I even needed a whole expansion to embrace this pet battle stuff, I liked it in the end as extra collection and quite some fun.
You did one of these “hello” and that was it rush, rush, rush dungeon runs in Warlords yourself. Do you think Mythic+ runs are much different? They are gear and build checks and then there are websites that give you participation and having this or that gearscore and build ratings, and people follow them, believing this to be the guarantee that the group will work out easily.
This is why I find the second blue comment quite spot on. Theorycrafting is bent on breaking the system in general. One can derive insights from that, what is flawed and what could be abused in this or that way. Figuring out a fun design itself is the job of the designer, that’s something that some theorycrafters can influence positively, but most will focus on this or that one aspect and could become more a chore to read than an asset and inspiration for game design after a while.
I have seen worse in various alpha forums and less interaction or worse behavior than what she posted. Where people were simply ignored or insulted. This might be due to crunch and having to finish a game and working conditions, but I have experienced way worse than what Magdalena is complaining about. Another MMO company comes to my mind, due to NDAs etc. I won’t be more precise.
In general, I am against the idea of theory crafting. It reduces virtual words to an orgy of number crunching to see who can get the most damage per second so that guilds can take down a uber boss faster than the next guild. It’s the Bartle achiever archetype on steroids.
There has to be more to MMORPGs than looking at everything in terms of what gear you can use will do the most damage. Theory crafting has become a religion.
Developers have revealed far too much about the inner mechanics of MMORPGs and players have developed a dangerous sense of curiosity about how things work.
Raph Koster in his book rightly pointed out that that paradoxically the human brain via the process of learning and demystification, works to eliminate all of the things that produce the sensation of fun. I think players who theory craft are their own worst enemies.
There has to be fun and meaning in virtual worlds just beyond crunching numbers.