Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Using the Right Tools

It seems to me to be increasingly clear that the success of an MMO is not dictated by innovative gameplay, pretty graphics, or clever lore. It is not in how much you market the game, or to whom you cater the end game. It is not even how good your service is or your industry reputation. All those things contribute, of course, but it's impossible to hit all those nails on the head with one hammer.

No, what I believe to be the secret of WoW's success in the face of so many other failures (or mediocre successes) is that Blizzard knows very well how to use the right tool for the job.  And make no mistake, there is a right tool for every job.  Sometimes have a more specialized tool than others.  Some could be done with multiple different tools.  A screwdriver, however, will never substitute for a hacksaw if you need to cut through some pipe.  Similarly, that hacksaw would have a tough time tightening that screw.

As a player base, I think we're pretty forgiving of things like "not getting the balancing right" or "having holes in the content".  We'll hang around for months on the off chance that it might get fixed.  What we cannot abide by, however, are poor executive decisions.  When a company blatantly uses the wrong tool to respond to criticism, it just drives us further away.

Blizzard is not a perfect company.  In fact, they have made quite a number of mistakes over the years.  I think what sets them apart, though, is that they not only spend the time fixing the problem, they make sure to pick the best tool for the job.

That RealID announcement?  I think we could agree it was pretty much a mistake.  In that case, backing off and re-envisioning the addition was the proper tool.  Backing off is not always the proper tool, and I think Blizzard has stuck to their guns in the right places too.

Some of it may be pure luck.  Maybe Blizzard is just the luckiest company in the world when it comes to game design.  However, I have to believe a large part of it stems from active decision making.  They don't use duct tape for everything.  They don't have one trusty multi-tool that they always turn to.  They simply spend a small amount of time to choose which is best, and then get to work.

It's a simple philosophy when you think about it.  Sure, use the correct tool.  But how many other companies have failed in this department?  How many MMO's have been killed not because they weren't good ideas, good games, or strong contenders, but because the parent company simply didn't dig deep enough in the tool box and took the easy road out? 

Maybe I'm just being a fanboy and am totally out of touch with reality here.  It's possible; I have been burning the candles at both ends recently (gets wax everywhere).  It seems to me, as WoW continues to surpass expectations on longevity, to be a recurring theme.  That is, I don't always agree with Blizzard's decisions or their visions, but I can rarely argue with their methods.  They make a decision, and then implemented it with best and most applicable tools available to them.  The end result may not please everyone, but at least it's of solid construction.

1 comment:

  1. Its seems to me that Blizzard has a higher standard than other companies. As proof, you can still buy Warcraft 3 and Starcraft at walmart. The very fact that they are still selling blows my mind. Starcraft is 13 years old. Blizzard won't settle for mediocrity when creating games. You might not always agree with them, but you have to admit, they are good at what they do.

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