Lunchtime Musings: Being Part of a Vocal Minority

Many of us have at one point in our lives been part of a vocal minority in one form or another. You may have found yourself put out by something that affected you strongly enough to speak up but the majority of your peers were unaffected. While this is a fairly common occurrence, no where is it more prevalent than the internet. Given the nature of internet communication and the ease at which information can be spread, you have an avenue for the extremely vocal to be heard be it by the company or group they are lobbying with or by peers who may be interested in the cause. The problem with being a vocal minority is that you are just that – a minority. When within your group of peers your voice feels strong, vindicated, and one of common sense however outside of that group you don’t hold nearly the same amount of water.

Often times, in the circles that we run, the vocal minorities are fans (players) of some level of dedication who would prefer a movie/series/game/etc to be a certain way that would appeal to them. I can’t fault anyone for that honestly as we like what we like and we would prefer to see those thing we love treated a certain way. It was recently when reading an article on Operation Rainfall that I had an idea to discuss this topic. For those who are unaware, Project Rainfall is a grass roots fan campaign that is pushing for Nintendo of America to localize three role playing games for the Wii console: Xenoblade: Chronicles; The Last Story; and Pandora’s Tower. All three of these games received praise and good to high marks in their Famitsu reviews (given its loyalty take that with a grain of salt) and were highly anticipated by American Wii owners looking for new compelling RPG experiences on their systems.

Despite the high marks and feverish outcry of American fans from Operation Rainfall these games are not slated for release in North America. Nintendo is currently localizing them for Europe where it does plan to sell them. Nintendo is a corporation and their goal has always been to make money while at the same time keeping its fanbase happy. They clearly have in their mind an idea of what types of games sell better in different regions and I’m certain it is backed up by financial data. With that in mind and Rainfall’s message out there Nintendo posted a response on their Facebook page:

“Thank you for your enthusiasm. We promised an update, so here it is. We never say “never,” but we can confirm that there are no plans to bring these three games to the Americas at this time. Thanks so much for your passion, and for being such great fans!”

While it is not enough to completely discourage the Operation Rainfall folk as they clearly say “never say never” it still speaks volumes. Companies have a responsibility to their fanbase however they also have a responsibility to their bottom line that cannot be avoided (Don’t get me wrong though, I am a huge fan of monolith’s work (Xenogears, Xenosaga) and would love to see this game come to north America). At the end of the day the vocal group speaks with its wallet. If all of the demands and outcry don’t translate to a respectable sales figure at the end of the day, It is a loss for Nintendo regardless of how happy that small group might be.

Similar to the Nintendo situation, many larger companies are shying away from, or at the very least being extremely wary of, ComicCon and other major conventions of similar ilk as far debuting movies or games. Comic book, anime, and video game fans (possibly “geeks” or “nerds” to you) are EXTREMELY vocal on the internet as well as live at these conventions. So much so that it actually creates a hugely misleading opinion of an upcoming project. There is now a long list of studios that have left ComicCon thinking “Wow…man those guys LOVED our movie we are going to do amazing” only to have the movie bomb horrendously in the box office. These geeks (and I use that word to denote those extremely vocal, fervent, and possibly less social aclimiatized as myself) can often be overexcited and overbearing in their messages in defense or against that which they care about. This adds up and makes their vocal minority seem much, much louder than it really is. At the end of the day you vote with your wallet and if you make up a small portion of the “voting” community then your value is going to be representative of that. Some comic book fans may dislike that their opinion of a comic book movie is of the same value as Joe Shmoe but that’s how it is.

So what does this mean?

A raider’s feelings on the game and its direction is worth the same as a casual (not derogative way) non-raider or altaholic. I know this is not a popular statement to make but fairness is something we have to strive for.  It goes beyond just that statement though…whenever we talk about wow we need to understand that all the following statements are true:

A raider is worth the same as a casual 5-man dungeon player

A casual 5-man dungeon player is worth the same as a hardcore PvP player

A raider is worth the same as a hardcore PvP player.

A hardcore raider (ensidia, vodka, method etc.) may appear to be worth more for playtesting purposes but at the end of the day are worth the same as everyone else.

A players worth, at the most fundamental level, is their monthly subscription fee. We show our dedication and fan-dom with our wallets. I’m sure in reality there are much more complicated business models and projections at Blizzard based on the shelf life of each type of player and the likelihood of each type to purchase additional store content but we can’t necessarily dwell on that for the moment. As a WoW player it is very easy to be in a vocal minority and not even know it simply due to the sheer number of players who partake in the game.

I remember when they announced the removal of Tree of Life as an always-on shapeshift and the addition of the cooldown ability. Their logic was quite sound when it was first announced: blizzard wanted to balance druids with other healers in a form that can cast all of the spells in their arsenal, as other healers can. This allowed Tree of Life to be a temporary gain above and beyond our standard form/balance. I’ll admit I strongly disliked the change and was quite vocal about it. I liked being in tree form, didn’t care about seeing my armor, and thought they could just allow all spells to be cast in tree form and give us another cooldown to use. All the druids I knew felt this way and most druid forums I visited echoed this sentiment. What I didn’t do though was look outside of my sphere of the game to see the other million+ druids out there and find out what they thought. Once I branched out and started reading and talking to players I learned that my take on things really wasn’t the pulse of the community. Tons and tons of druids really disliked tree form with a passion and the thought of running around in caster form was much more appealing to them.

If I didn’t make the effort to look, I would have continued to think “man blizzard really has no idea what druids really want and this is a completely ludicrous and stupid change”. I would have been wrong.

Whenever there is a change to the game that offers a quality of life improvement for what raiders, often in a cruel way, call casual players or item rewards there is an outcry. Raiders, who often think themselves possibly more hardcore than they are, feel that blizzard is dumbing down the game, catering to casuals, ruining everything, stealing from babies, and chopping down the rainforest. While yes they do give the more casually inclined players access to some very nice items through dailies, valor points, and Bind on Equip they still continue to make some very challenging raid content to keep people busy. Their responsibility is to cater to everyone at the same time. For every one raider that speaks up, or whines uncontrollably on the mmo-champion forums, there are probably two, three, maybe even four other players who are happy with whatever change has been implemented. We as a raiding play base need to realize the sheer scope of WoW as a whole and what percentage of it the non-raiding or casual raiding communities make up. People speak with their wallets and just because we are a very vocal community and generally only hear the shouts of those that echo our sentiments, we are not the majority.

Before you find the need to flame me please understand that I’m not advocating the dumbing down of WoW. I am one of those players who would like to see things still stay a bit harder for everyone to keep the thrill and challenge intact for all players. I just came to the realization that I can’t actually fault blzzard for everything they do that I don’t agree with. Without having access to the massive amount of data and feedback they have I’ll never really know just what the pulse of the community as a whole really is.

Two different schools of thought

The inspiration for this article came from a PUG that I was in last night on my alt healer. I am not going to mention names in order to put anyone down as it is the experience that I cared to remember not the players involved.

In trade chat an individual was advertising a PuG he was putting together for Nefarian as his lockout was cleared 5/6 in Blackwing Descent. The PuG was to be for people who have completed the kill already and are familiar enough with the fight to make it relatively easy. Wipes surely could happen but if anything it was implied that people would know what to do regardless. Once in the dungeon I became aware that the advertisement I had gotten in trade chat was completely different than what was actually going on. Two members of the raid had NO gear enchanted except for their weapons. Half the raid didn’t know the actual mechanics of the fight and required explanations. When questioned about the players missing enchantments the raid leader simply responded that “I’ve never found DPS to be a problem, just execution”. While I do understand his logic, un-enchanted blues rub me the wrong way.

Well we wiped a few times fairly quickly on basic mechanics. Someone who didn’t understand the encounter mass rezzed us on the lower level with Onyxia forcing us to wipe a second time. After some more wipes we get to phase two and people didn’t know to interrupt the adds. At this point a few of the better geared players in the group decide to hop out of the raid. They were polite enough saying they were sorry but this wasn’t exactly the experience that they signed on for and didn’t have time to learn the encounter with the newer folks. I got what they were saying and while I didn’t drop group at that moment I was certainly leaning in that direction.

This was where it went off the rails. All of a sudden the “entitled raider” talk started coming from the pick up players complaining that the standards for PuG’ing shouldn’t go up as content becomes nerfed. I cringed a bit as the guy with no enchanted gear piped up (with some expletives mind you) on this topic. I understand people don’t want a repeat of Wrath Heroics where you got kicked if you weren’t very well geared in order to keep the speed of the run up to par. That being said it is Nefarian…he’s still a challenging boss if you don’t understand the mechanics (or are wearing lots of blue gear). I had a fairly civil conversation on the topic with one of the players who remained, and eventually cooled off a bit. He thought our wipes were progressive and promising and couldn’t understand why these raiders (whiny, elitist, entitled etc.) would jump ship after only a few wipes.

I explained to him there was clearly two separate interpretations of how this PuG was going to go down. Seeing it advertised as 5/6 BWD going to kill Nefarian with achievement linking required, gave the players with very well geared alts (or mains who are running Firelands and can pug BWD) the impression that people would be going in and popping off a nerfed Nefarian. The other PuG players clearly saw this as a chance to learn the fight, or get carried seeing as they are poorly geared and equipped. These two interpretations are so far from each other that there is no way they could ever come together in any worthwhile way. The amount of time required to teach these more casual players Nefarian was simply not part of the other players schedules.

While I don’t think either side handled themselves in a entirely positive way I could see each other’s point of view. It really hit home though and the expression “finding out how the other half live” was applicable. These casual players wore their heart on their sleeve and weren’t shy about saying how they feel about elitist raiders. How many more players out there are like these people I need to ask myself. What percentage of the community do they make up? Am I, as a raider, actually in the minority? It was something to think about and as such I was compelled to write this today.

How do you feel about being in a vocal minority?

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4 responses to “Lunchtime Musings: Being Part of a Vocal Minority

  1. chunky fuzzles

    Number 1 preorder on amazon disagrees with you. Stop trying to sound smart and be the “rare, misunderstood voice of reason” You’re not.

    • I appreciate your witty comment I do but I’m not entirely sure what your point is. I am in no way belittling the plight or validity of Operation Rainfall if fact I completely support it. I am simply commenting on the concept of voting with ones wallet as ultimately the decision of releasing a game is in the corporations hands. Would I like to see Xenoblade come to the US? Hell yes I would, do I think it will take some more pressure? Probably.

      If you are claiming one of the games from Operation Rainfall is currently topping the pre-order sales charts could you kindly back that up with a link. I tried to find the information myself but could not do so expeditiously. If it is a legit link and the pre-order sales numbers you are quoting are legit and at a reasonable number to get a companies attention then I’ll cite that link in the post.

      Pre-order sales created by a very specific campaign however *could* be quite flawed. If not that many people in the country are familiar with a JRPG, and 50,000 pre-order it on Amazon it still doesn’t translate to 750,000 copies sold nation wide. The passion is legit and the people REALLY want the game but that still doesn’t guarantee retail sales figures. I know the game will be in English due to its european localization…i just wish i knew the cost of printing and distributing North american copies in sufficient quantities in order to balance that against expected revenue.

      Also in the future there’s no need to be snarky. I do not try to be pretentious nor do I claim to be any great sage or source of enlightening wisdom. I’m a gamer like anyone else who will babble on about topics I find interesting from time to time.

  2. Except not all players’ opinions are logically sound. The underlying problem is that players have equated item levels with winning…which means a lack of item levels is “losing.” Thus, players whose preferred style of gameplay omits top tier content still demand top tier rewards…for fear of “losing” without them.

    “Tons and tons of druids really disliked tree form with a passion and the thought of running around in caster form was much more appealing to them.”

    And they could have. The vast majority of players that focused on how their character looked, rather than the mechanics of the game, would not have been affected by just not using the form. More importantly, the vast majority of such players should have recognized that maybe they’re not the best ones to make mechanics decisions–if they’d sat down and shut up, maybe we’d have a viable, interesting, toggled form, rather than a (relatively powerful) mana cooldown. As a simple example, the form could have granted a bonus to HoTs, at the cost of putting WG, rejuv, lifebloom, and possibly regrowth on a shared 3-6 second cooldown, thereby forcing the use of direct heals despite the benefit.

    For my preferred style of gameplay, what my gear looks like doesn’t matter. Do I have some preferences about it? Sure. But since it doesn’t affect me as much as others, I don’t whine to blizzard about it. I let the people for whom it makes a significant difference in their enjoyment of the game give the feedback. Is it so unreasonable that I ask them to do the same?

    • I understand where you are coming from but there’s a few issues I think with what you’re saying.

      Saying that some people aren’t qualified to make certain decisions or make comments about how they’d like the game to be is unfortunately false. You are right when it comes to balance of the game though, Blizzard has stated that it is selective about what logs it pulls for damage data and pvp feedback. In that sense it is selective whose opinions they take seriously to some degree. As far as quality of life goes everyone pays equal money and everyone’s general preference is taken into account. Saying the people who were anti-tree should have just ran around outside of tree form and heal if they didn’t like it is a bit harsh. Clearly we were not balanced to heal outside of tree form and telling people to take a performance hit because they preferred it differently doesn’t really help. Gear is a means to an end not the end itself, you and I clearly agree on that statement. The general populace though does covet items over progression and that may be why they preferred to see their character as opposed to a tree. That isn’t necessarily everyone though, a lot of people probably just thought the tree form was ugly as sin.

      It does beg the question why were we so attached to tree form. Most liked it is because it was signature of the druid class as each other druid spec spends all of their time in a shifted form. I do miss being a tree all of the time but regardless of how I look, if the current model makes me more powerful than an always on ability that only makes me as good as other healers then so be it. I’ve always said I’d wear a potato sack as armor if it made me heal better and I stand by it.

      Long story short quality of life situations in WoW affect everyone regardless of play level. Even if 30% of the wow druid population (maybe much higher percentage of the higher end raiding population) liked the toggle on and off tree form of old, it still means 70% of the population didn’t like it. Regardless of how casual or not that 70% may be, they pay money and deserve to have their voice listened to as well. It’s all part of being in a vocal minority. I was writing this article more as a commentary of how loud vocal minorities can be on the internet not necessarily all about the tree of life though it is a good example.

      Edit: Blizzard did admit balance was a major concern for Tree Form. All druid forms come with a benefit and a penalty. The penalty is almost always preventing the use of spells and abilities that are not tied to that spec. If they made Tree of Life an exception where all spells usable and it provided all of those benefits then all it would be doing is make us even with all of the other healers. There would be no gain with a cost model that other forms had. While I miss Tree form I think their decision was necessary.

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