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Shifting Perspectives: How to provide professional feedback in Cataclysm


Every Friday, Shifting Perspectives explores issues affecting balance druids and those who group with them. This week, we are looking at how to start up a conversation with random internet strangers. Also, I am in need of some screenshots of pro balance druids doing whatever it is that balance druids actually do. Please send them to tyler@wow.com; put something akin to "Balance screenshot" or "Moonkin screenshot" in the subject line, and don't forget to list the name you would like to have credited for the shot.

Yesterday was a very good day. Why was yesterday a very good day? A very simple reason, really: Yesterday was my birthday. That's right, get excited. I'm so excited that I got all of you guys a gift. It's the best gift that my egotistical, driven self could think of: my wall! What is my wall and why should you care? Well, you probably shouldn't care, but I like my wall. It's where I collect all of my thoughts. I use the white board and the cork for storing the random things that pop into my head so I don't forget them. It's highly useful. If you don't have something like it, I'd seriously suggest getting one.

Rambling about myself aside, I do want to talk about something that is very important in this week's column; I want to discuss a more "proper" method for giving feedback on Cataclysm. Really, this is probably something that could be said to all classes out there, considering that, you know, everything is going to be changing and Blizzard will want feedback on it. However, I don't like the other classes. Magi and warlocks just creep me out with their little personal war thing that they've got going on, plus I'm pissed at how all the hunters wanted to touch us in bad places. This information is also useful to all the feral and restoration druids out there who accidentally read Shifting Perspectives every Friday thinking that just maybe this week I'm going to be talking about them. I won't be (like, ever), but you can keep dreaming, 'cause I love you guys. Sure, I may call you ferlawl and restolol, but it's all about the love, guys.

Anyway, there's been an outpouring of Cataclysm information of late with the alpha starting up and all, and if you troll around the Blizzard forums like I do, then you've seen the myriad of posts about this or that which have already started popping up. Maybe you've even seen a few of my posts. If you have, then I'm sorry; I probably don't know what I'm talking about half the time. I just like the sound of my own voice (or the look of my own text, as the case may be). Giving feedback is an awesome thing. In fact, I encourage everyone to give as much feedback as they can, especially once we hit beta. Talking it up is a great way to help Blizzard get a feel for how the community perceives all of the new mechanics and changes. That being as it is, there's still a right way and a wrong way to discuss the changes.

Be objective

I cannot stress this enough: Before you hit the post button, reread what you just typed up and ask yourself, "Am I looking at this from an objective perspective?" Players are heavily invested in their characters, there is no denying that; getting overly emotional and flying off the handle, however, will never help your case. Take it from my own bad example. When you go into an emotional fit, all you will end up doing is distancing yourself from the development team and force them to not take what you have to say seriously. It isn't easy to follow this rule, but it is far and away the most important one.

Being objective does not mean that you cannot talk about how something makes you feel; it doesn't mean that you cannot be angry or upset about a change or the direction that Blizzard is taking either the balance spec or the druid class as a whole. Blizzard does care about those things. What it means is that you present any reasoning for why you feel as you do in a rational, reasonable manner. You aren't required to have hours worth of numbers on your side; you don't have to be an expert theorycrafter in order to have and make a solid argument about something. Just never let your emotions get the better of you.

Before posting anything, always ask yourself the following questions:
  • Why is Blizzard making this change?
  • How does this change follow the design goals of balance druids?
  • What is the balance reasoning behind this change?
In doing this, you stand a much better chance of getting your point across effectively. Most of the time, you may not know the answer, or you may not like the answer that you can think of. This is perfectly fine, and it shouldn't deter you from posting; however, it should hopefully allow you to better think out your post. I'm not saying that you need to be a robot that is completely devoid of any emotion at all. Emotions play a large role in this game. Take the Tree of Life change that was announced during the Cataclysm preview as an example of this. Blizzard has their reasoning for making this change.There is a strong balancing mechanic behind it, yet many players disagree with the change on principle, on how they think or feel the game should be developed. It's an understandable stance for any player to take and one that Blizzard expected.

Just to show you an example of what I mean by being objective, here are two different ways that you could write a post.
Bad way I can't believe that Blizzard is making this change. They don't have any clue what they are doing. The mechanic will completely destroy my class and I will refuse to use it. If this change goes through, then I am quitting this game.

Good way I really don't understand why Blizzard is making this change. I think that the current implementation of the mechanic works well within the game and is balanced. Changing the mechanic to work in this way really hurts our spec and I feel that it wouldn't be as fun for me to play the class in the new way that Blizzard wants.
Don't attack Blizzard

This rule should be obvious, but it get violated so many times it isn't even funny any more. While a majority of these posts merely represent people's trying to troll the forums and get a rise out of either Blizzard or other posters, there are times when someone who seriously wants to change an aspect of the game falls into this trap as well. Insults have become very prevalent in common discourse within our society. Everyone does it. Politicians do it all the time; so do news anchors, celebrities and other high-profile personalities. It isn't like this is new, either; attacking the character of a person has long been practice when trying to prove a point. Despite how common it is to see, that doesn't make it right. People generally don't respond well to being personally attacked, and Blizzard is no different.

It is here that a famous adage comes to mind: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. Perhaps a bit overused, the phrase really does hold a good amount of truth to it. Not everyone is going to agree with the direction that Blizzard chooses to take WoW. Not everyone is going to like whatever nerfs or buffs that their class receives. Even still, it is imperative that you keep it civil. Failing to do so will most likely result in a ban in the worst-case scenario, with Blizzard completely ignoring you as the best possible outcome.

It may seem like there is a bit of a disconnect here. Ghostcrawler (lead systems developer) has a strange habit of posting in many of the inflammatory threads that litter the WoW forums. Usually he doesn't say anything relevant to the topic at hand, just pops in to admonish/ban the offending parties, but all people see is the little blue tag for the thread, and it draws them in like a moth to a flame. Getting a direct response from Blizzard should never be your goal when posting anything. If that's all you are fishing for, then prepare to be highly disappointed.

Speaking from personal experience, I've made an extremely high number of threads over on the WoW forums about all sorts of different things. No matter how much work I put into each post that I make, no matter how much evidence that I can gather to support whatever point that I am attempting to make, there is never any guarantee that Ghostcrawler or some other Blizzard representative is going to grace the post with a pretty blue note. Even without a direct response, I know that someone at Blizzard has usually read it. How? For one, GC says that he or someone else reads them, and I trust him enough to believe him. Also, there have been plenty of times where he's referenced threads that he's never posted in on those few occasions that he does post. There are lots of threads being made all the time on the WoW forums, and there simply isn't enough time for someone at Blizzard to reply to all of them.

Don't get lost in the bubble

Ahh, the bubble. The bubble refers to that little phenomenon where people have a tendency to only view things in relation to how it affects them directly. Unfortunately for all of us, WoW does not exist within this bubble. There are loads of classes, even more specs and plenty of combinations of PvP, PvE, casual, hardcore, boss mechanics and ability combinations than any single person could ever really account for. Balancing WoW is not an easy task -- heck, balancing any video game isn't as easy as it seems. Every game in the history of video games has been fairly unbalanced to some degree or another. Honestly, it is the imperfections that make games far more interesting. If you can even find a perfectly balanced game, then I'm sure you've also found one that is fairly boring; at least in terms of RPGs/RTS games, FPS games tend to not have this problem, due to their nature.

Whenever you want to make a suggestion on how a certain mechanic or ability should work, try to keep in mind all of the various ways that it would impact the game. It may be relatively easy to say that a certain change is rather simplistic or that it wouldn't carry with it many game-breaking concerns, but that is rarely the case. Changes made for PvE balancing purposes will almost always have some effect on PvP, while PvP changes will almost always impact PvE in one way or another. There are exceptions, of course, but even minor tweaks can have long-term effects.

Never allow yourself to fall into the tunnel vision of a singular aspect of the game when discussing any changes. Open yourself to as many possibilities as you can, and be aware of how even the smallest of tweaks could impact not only the game as it stands right now, but how it might factor into the game several patches from now.

Keep these three points in mind and I promise you that you'll stand a much better chance at getting your views across to Blizzard and the community at large. You may not gain the instant notoriety that some of the forums-goers have, but continually posting thoughtful, objective reasoning will eventually get you noticed. Patience is a virtue, one that is all but required for anyone who wishes to gain more widespread attention.

Every week, Shifting Perspectives treks across Azeroth in pursuit of truth, beauty and insight concerning the druid class. Sometimes it finds the latter, or something good enough for government work. Whether you're a bear, cat, moonkin, tree or stuck in caster form, we've got the skinny on druid changes in patch 3.3, a look at the disappearance of the bear tank, and thoughts on why you should be playing the class (or why not).

Filed under: Druid, (Druid) Shifting Perspectives, Cataclysm

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