Wow, I’ve been doing this a long time. The big events this year were Legion beta, Legion release, and all the new raids and guides that come with that. It’s been a big year for this site. I’m particularly proud of how far my guides have come. My raid guides have more polish, my class guides are more streamlined. I’m happy with the microblog series, giving me an opportunity to blog without the overhead of a polished opinion. Where this time last year I was feeling like I was failing the blog, now it feels like it’s thriving!
As we approach my 10 year anniversary of playing World of Warcraft, I thought I’d take a step back and do some reminiscing. Many years ago I wrote about how I started playing this game, from The Burning Crusade to the middle of Wrath. Here’s where that post ended:
Power Word Awesome was the last guild I ever felt a strong social connection with. I’m still Facebook friends with some of them. I met quite a few members at Blizzcon ’09. We went out for spaghetti and I discussed if I would race change to a troll druid when Cataclysm dropped. It was wonderful.
But sadly, real life events forced me to transfer. But that’s for another time…
Usually when I write posts on this site, it’s with a goal in mind. At least, the only posts that make it to the public eye have to have a point. It’s sort of an unconscious rule of mine, along with presenting everything constructively, even if it’s something I’m particularly peeved about, or decorating everything with meaningful pictures.
I also tend to edit obsessively. It can take me a few days to get something from “nearly done” to “actually published” because I don’t want to put something in the public light if my word choice and sentence structure isn’t polished to the best of my ability.
But there are still things I’d like to write about, things that aren’t important but that I still have some words to write. Things that don’t necessarily have big conclusions or arguments, words that aren’t guides.
I often fill text documents with little tangents. My Google documents are full of them, stuff I find years later that I’m a little sad never left the safe harbor of my private internet. Sometime someone says something on Twitter and I have thoughts about it. Usually more than 140 characters, but usually random enough that I can’t justify a full blog post.
So I’m going to try to write a couple hundred words about these random thoughts once a week (twice this week, since this post is boring by itself). Few pictures, limited editing, just short and sweet all around. I have a couple written up already on topics like talents, transmog, branding, and a few more ideas. We’ll see how long I can go.
A few month’s ago I wrote about the two major audiences I see reading WoW guides. To quote myself:
Guides generally have two different audiences: “I want to jump in and play” and “I want to understand”. The vast majority of a guide’s readers will be in the former group, what I’ll call the quick’n’dirty players. They can range from new players who want to tank a 5 man with a freshly boosted monk, to experienced players who want to try a new class, to casual players who want to spend their precious few hours of free time playing a game instead of reading about it. They are interested in getting an introduction that is easy to digest and follow. Cookie cutter builds are targeted to this type of reader, and they often get frustrated when the answer to their customization questions is presented as subjective. They build the body of a readership and are really important for establishing an audience.
The latter group, the “I want to understand” people, or what I’ll call the comprehensive players, are more interested in why these choices were suggested and how to master the spec they are already familiar with. These are a smaller group that usually starts out as the quick’n’dirty type, but eventually want to know more. They may want help solving a particular problem, or they want to customize their character to their liking, or they simply want to be better at the game. They want explanations for everything, beyond the “do this”. Cookie cutter builds can actually harm this group because cookie cutter builds don’t offer nuance. A talent row that is actually competitive might come across as inflexible because the majority of cookie cutter builds suggest a single talent. Brewmaster healing talents and resource talents often hit this wall, because each row has a popular choice (Chi Wave and Ascension, currently), but there are good reasons to change that choice when need arises.
Today I want to talk about that quick’n’dirty audience, and how to better meet their needs. Right now my Brewmaster guide is sort of in the middle of catering to quick’n’dirty players and comprehensive players, which disrupts its ability to serve either group particularly well. To focus on the larger group, I want to find out what the majority of my guide readers look at, and use that information to craft a better experience.
A few months ago there was a little movement among guide writers (you can see my contribution here) on how to discourage cookie cutter talent builds and advocate for individual experimentation. For one, swapping talents is just fun — you feel smart when you pick the right one, and it’s more rewarding when there’s an interesting choice and opportunity cost with that talent tier. Two, players will probably do better when they are encouraged to find talents that work for them and their current struggles, as opposed to the general “best in slot” talent. I mean, Blizzard knows all these things. Some devs even retweeted my arguments. But that all lies in contrast to the significant barriers that will be placed on talent swapping come Legion:
Yesterday there was an excellent post on Blizzard Watch written by Zoopercat, one of the creators of Ask Mr. Robot. In it, she shows through data (sims and surveys) that the community’s perception of a talent (or any other character combat customization) effects usage far more than the actual value of the talent would imply. The suggestions from cookie cutter builds, such as those found in guides, tend to present choices as black and white, and discourage customization, even when case-by-case choices are nearly equal or even more optimal. I highly recommend reading it.
Despite being the quintessential blog topic, I’ve never documented my beginnings in World of Warcraft. The major reason being that I’ve (rightfully) assumed it’s damn boring. But today you’re going to get it because I’m tired and had a disappointing raid week and I don’t want to have to talk about Vengeance changes.