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World Versus World - Polls and the Illusion of Choice

By Alexander Wilkie on November 28, 2016 | Columns | Comments

World Versus World - Polls and the Illusion of Choice

Some of you might remember back to the start of this year, during a time where Guild Wars 2 was implementing a quarterly update approach to the game with big changes to all areas included in each patch.

One of the big things that was to come late in 2016, either Q3 or Q4, was a large scale World Versus World Overhaul, something the majority of WvW players were thrilled about. This was to address scoring, matchmaking, rewards, population, balance and maps, along with other changes to the game mode. This was then cancelled, and has since been replaced by polls to ask players what they would like Arenanet to focus their attention on.

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Scrapping the overhaul was not an unexpected move, especially considering the manpower a move like that would take away from development on the next expansion. The popular WvW developer Tyler Bearce was re assigned to the living world team, which really hurt many of the player’s hopes for meaningful change in the foreseeable future. What was even more disappointing was the let down the polling system resulted in, promising to be an oasis of player feedback, but becoming a very narrow focused and directed line of questioning.

Players were asked on the 28th of April whether Scoring or Quality of Life would be their priority, which was a leap forward for Arenanet and sparked the hopes of many that the player’s voices would be able to lead the development of the game mode. Since then we have seen 11 polls, with just over half of these being two-parters and follow up polls. Scoring changes proved the first victor by a 3% margin- and has since led to the implementation of Skirmishes, Points on Capture and an improved Point Per Kill and by extent Bloodlust system. Skirmishes was a reaction to the May 13th Poll which listed some potential scoring changes in response to the April 28th results.

This May 13th poll questions seemed very much to guide players towards the intended result, with each answer marked as either ‘Small’, ‘Medium’ or ‘Large’. Only one answer was marked ‘Large’, which was “Adjust scoring to be relative to current activity and population (Large)”, and was also the only answer that players had already received an overview of exactly what that system would look like in a thread titled “Let’s Talk Scoring…” on the official forums.

Another example, one that probably sticks out to a lot of players, is the repair hammers. Just under 60% of players voted to trial these hammers, and at the next poll were asked whether or not to keep them. 51% of players who voted were happy to keep the hammers, but it did not reach the 75% mark that was needed to keep them in the game. What we learnt from discussion by Arenenat on their forums was that the hammers were already in place, ready to be shipped when the first poll was launched, meaning that the resources had already been committed to them, and players were just being asked whether to waste this time or to trial it. This lead lots of players to vote for a trial, and even to keep hammers, just to stop this development from going to waste.

Such was also the case with the Desert Borderlands, which many players voted to keep on in a reduced capacity in order to not let this attractive, yet dysfunctional, map go to waste. A huge factor in deciding the 14th and 27th of June polls on this topic also came from information from Tyler Bearce, who claimed that keeping the Desert Borderlands and making it part of the regular maps as one of the home borderlands would lead to development of a third, new map, which would replace a second borderland and give us 4 unique maps to play on. Between wanting to stop this massive feature of the expansion from going to waste and wanting to see even more work on a new map, this poll was almost certain to succeed, even with the 75% requirement.

If Arenanet are already going to implement and work on big changes like new maps and siege weaponry, but poll players after the fact then the point of the polls becomes much less meaningful. As it is, the regular game mode is constantly in Beta, whether it be world linking beta, repair hammer beta, cannon blueprint beta, skirmishes beta or reward track beta, giving the entire game mode a distinctly unrefined and unorganised feeling. Now, we simply decide on what betas we want to keep, and what to discard.

Our latest poll has again been a priority poll, whether to scoring- including improve skirmish rewards and UI- or to improve matchmaking. Both areas are going to see changes, but this means the players have chosen scoring as the priority. Time will tell if this means a follow up poll on priorities for the scoring agenda or whether we just see an update hit with rewards and UI changes. Along with this, we can definitely expect to see a poll on keeping the cannon blueprints, and a poll on whether or not to add Deployable Mortars which was listed as an upcoming poll some time ago on the forums.

A system like this definitely spoils us players, many companies don’t give even close to this kind of attention to their customers. But it’s seeming more and more like a scapegoat to be able to say they take on player feedback, rather than making meaningful player driven change.

To me, these polls have been fantastic in many ways, and I genuinely hope to see more that offer us meaningful choice and an impact on the actual development and resource investment of the team rather than pre-determined topics and already developed work. Topics like skill lag, balance issues and lack of guild supported combat which have plagued the official forums, reddit and in game discussion since launch are still not being talked about, even with this more player inclusive model, and that for me has been the true failure of the polling system. 

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