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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Blizzard and unintended consequences

Arena smurf

Relmstein has an interesting post about Blizzard and all the "unintended consequences" they seem to run into. He talks mainly about Alterac Valley and Blizzard's recent AFKer battles, as well as the fight against smurfing and selling Arena ratings. Both times, Blizzard implemented fixes that were meant to, well, fix things, but both times, the "fixes" were either completely dodged, or simply lead to more problems.

Now, Relmstein is just thinking critically about Blizzard's actions, and we always encourage that. But at the same time, you can't really blame them for having unintended consequences to their ingame actions-- the law says everyone does. And to go the other way, the mere fact that Blizzard is confronting this stuff (honor exploits and rating sales) while other games are just trying to get PvP or a good Arena system down says that they're way ahead of the game already. They're dealing with specific problems in implementation, while other developers are still just trying to get people to play.

But at the same time, Relmstein is exactly right to call both of these examples Blizzard attacking the symptoms rather than the underlying problem. Why do people sell Arena ratings or AFK in Alterac Valley? Because Blizzard's honor rewards system makes it easier for them to do that rather than actually be good at PvP. If Blizzard attacked the problem (a mixed-up rewards system) rather than the symptoms (AFKers and smurfs), then there would be no dodging their fixes.