Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Law of Unintended Consequences is Alive and Well

Steve Rogers:  How do you know about this, Beast?
Beast:  I am an agent of S.W.O.R.D.  Also.
Steve Rogers:  Anybody else here an agent of a clandestine specialized covert operation and forgot to bring it up?
Spider-man:  I'm a level 27 Rogue on World of Warcraft.  Does that count?
--From 2012 Free Comic Book Day "The Avengers:  Age of Ultron 0.1"

Sometimes I get my thinking done doing something very mundane, such as cutting the grass.

Of course, when I do cut the grass, I've got my earbuds in to muffle the noise from the mower, and that means I've either got music or a podcast on.

Not too long after I mentioned that I didn't have the time to listen to podcasts in a previous blog entry, I began to make time.  I have a small collection of regulars in the pencil-and-paper RPG and WoW areas, but I'm always looking to find a podcast with an interesting voice.  So, while I pushed the mower along late last afternoon, I listened to the 2 GMs 1 Mic podcast* and became acquainted with the term "murder hobos".

According to one of the hosts of the show, it's a put down of one aspect of old-school style RPGs:  your characters move from place to place and kill things.  I chuckled at the definition, because not only would characters from old-school RPGs qualify as murder hobos, but those of most MMOs as well.


When was the last time you walked into an instance and didn't kill just about everything?  (No, wipes don't count.)  Of course, the complexity of interactions beyond the absolute basics keep higher level actions out of the reach of most MMOs., so it isn't quite a fair comparison.  We, as players, can interact more between each other (or with a DM) than we can with computer NPCs.  And with NPCs programmed to perform only certain duties, it doesn't take very long before interacting with an NPC gets boring.

This got me to wondering whether the "biggest beta ever" for MoP is a good thing or not.

Getting all of the annual subs into the beta is a good thing from a polish and bugs standpoint, but what about from a freshness standpoint?

Some of the beta testers have been playing for over a month now, and we can expect this beta to continue for the foreseeable future.  However, how many of those beta players will find themselves burning out on MoP more quickly than if they'd not been in the beta?  Could Blizz be feeding the beast by getting everyone into beta so that they'll have seen everything (or enough of it, anyway), only to discover widespread apathy a month or two into release?

Before anyone starts telling me how awesome and cool beta is, I'll point out one thing:  I worked in software development for five years.  I've been through about six or seven development cycles on a product that took well over 300 developers worth of effort.  By the time the product went Gold, we were utterly and completely sick of working on that release and looked forward to the next release.**

If that happens to developers who (supposedly) like to code, why wouldn't it happen for beta testers?

Think about it:  people will have effectively been playing MoP since April 2012.  Those of us not in the beta won't get to try it out for several months (or later); while MoP will be fresh for us, it'll be old hat for the testers.

And how long did it take before people started complaining about things to do in Cata or Wrath?  A few months?

I'm not sure what the consequences of the beta will be (other than a polished product), but what I am sure of is that people wouldn't have thought of them beforehand.

*I've only listened to part of one episode so far, but it's pretty good; I'm willing to listen to a few more podcasts before I decide to pick it up or not.  The hosts do use colorful language, so this isn't the sort of podcast to listen where little ears might hear.

**One of the statements that would cause the most anguish in a developer were the words "I need you to work bugs on the current release for a few months."

EtA:  It's "agent", not "ancient".  Stupid auto correct.  @#$&!


  1. Thanks for the mention, Redbeard! I hope you like the show so far, and I hope you do subscribe...we're a touch quirky though.

    1. You're welcome! The quirks are fine so far, and the coverage of The Dresden Files RPG is kind of timely, as my brother-in-law's group is slowly working his way through the game at the moment on the Roo Sack Gamers podcast.