Sunday, November 27, 2016

No one wants to see that

There was an interesting letter to Blizzard and WOW players in general written recently by a top raiding guild called Exorsus.  They have been banned because they used an exploit to beat Mythic Helya and they wanted to explain the exploit and make some complaints about the game otherwise.  This is one of those exploits that you can totally understand a top guild using, because they had a strat that was reasonable and not an exploit in phase 1, but when they tried to do it in phase 3 of the fight it broke the fight.  Programming error, for sure, but they used it to get a kill and Blizzard punished them for it.

I am not here to argue about that exploit today though.  What I wanted to address was some of the other stuff in the letter, particularly the bits where the author asked for more support for the PVE dragonslaying part of WOW, namely big cash prizes for beating bosses first.  Along with that they want Blizzard to actually show off those races and make it more of a prestige thing.

This is an example of a person who has no clue about how entertainment works.

Imagine a tennis program on TV.  Roger Federer hits the ball, and gets an ace.  Then he hits it again, and gets an ace.  Then he hits it a third time, and does not get an ace.  But there is no opponent, just a computer and a camera checking to see if it is an ace.  When Federer misses he starts again, and he keeps restarting until he hits 20 aces in a row.  So hour after hour Federer hits the ball, checks to see if it is an ace, and his count gets higher and higher, but doesn't quite hit 20 for the victory.

Eventually Federer goes off to sleep, and then eight hours later he is back at it.  At some point within a three day span he will hit his 20 aces, celebrate like mad, and walk off the court.  Compelling TV, right?

That is what some PVE WOW players think people should want to watch.  It is fun to practice and get better at raid encounters but it is absolute shit as entertainment for the masses.  We want to watch Federer play against Nadal because we know someone will win within a few hours and the activity is varied and unpredictable, in as far as tennis can be such a thing.  Federer hitting aces and the computer verifying them is awful.  In just the same way watching a guild die to an encounter making incremental progress for 14 hours a day until they win is not entertainment.  PVP WOW actually has some followers, though not a great number by any means, because it is a far better viewer experience.

Which is why nobody is going to put up big prize money for it.  Nobody wants to see it.  What possible reason could Blizzard have for throwing enormous wads of cash at hardcore players?

They have a great reason not to though, and I don't mean "We want to keep all the money".

If you think players cheating, exploiting, and doing outrageous things to try to get world first kills is bad now, imagine how it would be if they were playing for a million dollars.  The pressure to break the rules becomes absurd when someone's rent depends on killing the boss, and the problem is that with a lot of these exploits you actually have no idea if pursuing them will get you banned or get you victory and accolades.  Sometimes people know they are cheating, but it would end up being a constant issue where players would get a kill and then Blizzard employees would have to decide if a thing was legal or not and who to give the million dollars to.

That can't end well.

In most sports they get the rules down pat pretty well because they do the same thing over and over again.  In WOW things constantly change.  Raids are new, classes shift, and the preparation part of the game is ever changing.  Coming up with a really robust set of rules under those circumstances isn't practical.

Thing is, WOW makes money off of casual players.  Blizzard wants some hardcore players out there so the casuals have something to check out on websites and addons to put into the game but trying to keep every hardcore player working their asses off has no payoff at all.  You play WOW PVE hardcore for the love of the game or you don't play.  I am not saying that is how it *ought* to be, just saying that this is how it is, like it or not.

Nobody wants to watch you slay dragons.

So slay the dragons, or not.  Cheat, or not.  But let us not fool ourselves into thinking that us doing this is entertainment for the masses, or that we are going to make big money doing it.


  1. Disagree entirely that nobody wants to watch you slay dragons. I'm currently in a stream with 750 viewers watching someone play a PvE game over and over again hoping to get good luck from a random number generator in order to set a fast time for beating the game.

    Maybe that's not enough people to justify millions of dollars in prizes at the moment, but if there already was millions in prizes there'd be more people trying, a bigger gap between the best and the rest, and plenty of viewers.

    There's a 1.5million pound prize pool for a darts tournament, for crying out loud. People will find entertainment in anything!

    1. Darts is the opposite of PVE though. It has a defined time limit and is PVP. Darts isn't much different from other single player PVP games like tennis, bowling, etc. in that regard.

      A lot of the entertainment in many shows is just the people though, rather than the picture. I am entertained by John Oliver, and he is just a talking head with a few random stills. If there were a few raiders who were mostly dedicated to providing anecdotes and entertainment over the raiding it would help, but it still wouldn't help the product itself so much as provide an alternate draw.

      And yes, you are right in that a few people will watch. But not enough that it would make *any* sense for a big company to put on a production and advertise and sink cash into it. That is really what I am saying - not that there are zero people to watch, because as you say, people will watch anything, but rather that the number of people who want to watch is low enough that making a commercial endeavour of it is impossible.