Giving Good Feedback

Earlier this week Blizzard gave us the first their Dev Watercoolers regarding Warlords of Draenor. There will be more, and then hopefully we’ll get to see these changes in action with the beta.

The goal of the watercoolers is to provide some transparency into the thinking that went behind the changes, and to solicit our feedback on those changes.

That’s what I wanted to discuss today. Not everyone is going to like each and every change. Your goal to should be to provide quality feedback.

Before you take to the forums, twitter, blogs and youtube to discuss the changes it’s important to understand the relationship and dynamic between us and Blizzard, and we must first answer one fundamental question.

Who is in Control?

Blizzard is in control. Let me restate, Blizzard is in control. We do not design the game. We do not have access to the code. We do not make the decisions on what features get implemented or removed. We do not design quests, or write the story. Blizzard is in control of World of Warcraft.

Probably the most poignant thing Frostheim ever wrote was that Blizzard’s job isn’t to make the game you want, it’s to make the game you’ll play. The game we’ll play and the one we want aren’t always the same.

We, as players, are not powerless, and we have influence. We can quit the game. That’s about as harsh and strong a feedback as we can give. Hey Blizzard, “Your game is no longer worth spending my hard earned money on, and I’m taking my ball and going home.”

If you’ve decided to quit, then there is little reason to hang around. Grab a Coke and a smile, and leave the rest of us alone.

You’ve Decided to Stay

So you’ve evaluated things and wish to continue throwing your wallet at the screen and playing World of Warcraft. You still don’t have control, but you do have influence.

Let’s talk about giving feedback; good feedback. Spoiler alert – it does not involve hitting the caps lock key and going all Incredible Hulk on everyone.

Feedback does not have to be all sunshine and rainbows either. Feedback can, and should at times, be negative. Yes, folks, that’s allowed.

Now in the corporate world feedback is most often talked about in the Managers/employee relationship, and often assume two people sitting in a room together. We don’t have that dynamic here, so things like body language don’t apply. That said, some of the basic tenants of giving good feedback include,

  • Be specific when describing the situation
  • Be specific when describing the behavior
  • Acknowledge the impact on you
  • Judge the behavior and not the individual, or in this case company
  • Focus on a single message

Some of the things you should avoid when giving feedback are,

  • Don’t assume
  • Don’t be vague
  • Don’t accuse
  • Don’t pass along vague feedback from others
  • Don’t generalize and use worlds like always and never.
  • Avoid the praise sandwich. You did great with PvE, but PvP sucks. I also like Pet Battles.

Exempli Gratia

Let’s take a look at some types of feedback, both good and bad. It was revealed that as part of the Crowd Control changes Hunters are losing Scatter Shot.

Now one my be tempted to take to the forums and provide the following feedback.

“YOU NO TAKE SCATTER SHOT!”

Funny, yes, but it’s a little lacking in detail. If I knew something about PvP, and was concerned about this change, I might frame my response a little differently.

I’m concerned about the removal of Scatter Shot. In PvP I use it on the following ways… and explain how you use it. Talk about what you like about it. Talk about what your losing, and explain how the remaining toolset won’t be able to combat other classes in PvP.

State your case, and do it intelligently. Blizzard may not act on your suggestions, and they may not even reply. They’re likely to read your post though. Remember, you do not have control.

One more example here.

I hate Survival’s rotation. It’s not fun to play. It’s just whack-o-mole button smashing and I hate it. It always does the best DPS so you force me to play it in raids. You need to change it.

If I’m a developer reading that, all I know is that you don’t like Survival’s rotation. What I don’t know is why I should care, or even consider making a change. A better approach would be this.

I hate Survival’s rotation. A big part of the problem is Lock and Load. It causes the rotation to feel too random and reactive. I like the synergy that it has, and don’t want to see that removed. In fact, I’d like it if there was more synergy built into the rotation.

Maybe instead of Black Arrow triggering Lock and Load, it could be triggered by casting two Cobra Shots in a row. Maybe even make it so Explosive Shot can only be fired when Lock and Load is activated. Give Explosive Shot a longer CD, and maybe make that ability refresh Serpent Sting instead of Cobra Shot.

Black Arrow could be given a shorter CD, do a bunch of damage when fired, and still have the DoT. Maybe Explosive Shot could do more damage if Black Arrow’s DoT was present on the target.

Hey, I think I might be onto something here.

You see how much better that is?

Does that mean Blizzard is going to implement those changes? Who knows. Remember, there are no assurances here. You do not have control.

One thing I tell my employees all the time is this, if you’re going to come to me with a problem, you better have a potential solution to go along with it. I’m not here to solve problems, you are. My job is to give you what you need to solve problems.

These watercoolers are designed to provide insight into Blizzard’s philosophy for WoD. They want our feedback. It doesn’t always have to be positive, but it should be useful. Focus on facts. What is it that you don’t like, and why. How is it negatively impacting your gameplay? Offer a solution. Have some fun. If you were king for a day tell them what you would do.

And remember, just because we don’t have control, doesn’t mean we don’t need to stay in control.

One comment

  1. “…It always does the best DPS so you force me to play it in raids.”

    Wow, it’s weird reading that, even just as a hypothetical. I mean how many times did you guys say on the podcast that just because one spec has the theoretical highest dps it doesn’t mean that any particular player is going to score their best using that spec. Truer words never podcasted.

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