Thursday, July 16, 2015

About Making "Reasonable" Suggestions

Articles I write on this blog generally consist of a few things, such as analysis, postings of videos I uploaded to my channel, and suggestions. While this is probably a consequence of variance, I find I've been making a lot of suggestions as of late and, furthermore, found myself perusing numerous suggestions, mostly for games I play. When looking back upon some of my own suggestions (or just old stuff I wrote in general), I cringe at the kind of person I was back then. This sort of introspection resulted in my latest list of suggestions specifically mentioning that I tried to make them as reasonable as possible and the strength of the suggestions themselves may have been weak as a result. As I mentioned in my previous article, I will be analyzing these suggestions and comparing them against what Blizzard implemented in 6.2 in World of Warcraft, but in this article, I thought it might be worth trying something different and addressing what a "reasonable" suggestion is.

Before going into the instructions themselves, I would like to make a few points. Firstly, while these instructions are made in the context of suggestions made for World of Warcraft due to my browsing of suggestions often involving it, they can probably apply in other situations, possibly ones not related to game design and development, which will be discussed heavily due to their relation to suggestions to improve World of Warcraft (and other games). Secondly, I am not a game designer or a developer and while I have some programming experience, I am basing all these instructions on a mix of knowledge gleaned from playing numerous games, doing some general research on the process of creating and maintaining a game, following the development of specific games (such as this one), and an attempt to apply various logical concepts such as deductive reasoning and common sense. Based on all of these factors, I would like to think I am providing reasonable advice. Finally, the instructions are more of a guideline and not something one should feel forced to adhere to. To put it another way, these instructions are at least partially opinion-based.

With that said, here's my process for making a "reasonable" suggestion:

The Instructions

Make the initial suggestion. It doesn't matter at this point if it sounds unreasonable or dumb in some sort of way. The point of this step is to speak your mind.
While it's possible to "skip" this step, I find that it's probably implicitly made without the person realizing it. The reasoning behind this is subconsciously one wants some feature to be implemented or the like and they automatically extract the refine the suggestion to contain some points that shared with the initial suggestion. Also, suggestions made on an impulse like this tend to lack specificity, so it's easier to refine the point made down to something the person wants and build on that. Another benefit of making impulsive suggestions like this serves as practice to help determine what a reasonable suggestion is.
Determine if the suggestion has been made before in some form. If you can find something related to your suggestion, consider citing it as a source.
Despite what some might say on making the same or similar suggestions, it's not necessarily a bad thing to repeat the suggestion since by determining that a suggestion is frequently made, adding your voice may increase the chance of it getting noticed by people who can do something about it (this does not apply all the time, so be careful). For similar reasons, citing other instances of your suggestion is beneficial.
Analyze your suggestion. Ask yourself questions such as "How long will it take for this suggestion to be implemented" "Am I okay with how long this suggestion will take to implement?" "Can this actually be done (from a development standpoint)?" "Will this cost us a raid tier?" and so on.
This instruction is a bit general, so I'll try to explain using the following example:

A while ago I suggested a form of player housing that included terrain that can be terraformed and access to a wide array of assets such as a pool of water, various buildings, and numerous other modular features. The suggestion sounds nice and the base concept of player housing could be implemented at some point, but suggesting that players effectively have access to a map editor with various limitations (as in unlike what developers probably have access to) is asking for quite a bit of time. In addition, the area would have to be phased for every player (which takes a bit more work and resources than a Runescape equivalent, which is where I drew the idea from). There's also likely to be a number of other factors that make a concept impractical or time-consuming to develop, especially considering I made the suggestion in Cataclysm when phasing was finnicky and had a tendency to cause bugs.

Roughly an expansion later, Blizzard implemented the Tillers faction, which had a phased ranch that players could slightly customize. In the current expansion, Garrisons were implemented and have a bit more customization but not at the level of my suggestion. Based on these two additions, it's safe to say my suggestion may have been asking a bit too much. This is due to factors such as the aforementioned features taking an expansion's worth of time. This doesn't necessarily Blizzard only has the resources to implement one player housing-like feature each expansion, but it could mean that they wish to prioritize other features as well and focusing on player housing-like features too much may take away from the development of other features (including raid tiers) if done over a shorter period of time.

While I didn't put any sort of "deadline" on when the suggestion could be implemented, my post strongly implied that sooner rather than later is better (since the title of the thread suggested the game wasn't fun enough and the suggestions made would make the game more fun, though that isn't necessarily true either). This observation along with suggesting a type of content that is probably better to implement and maintain over longer periods of time indicates my suggestion may be unreasonable.

It is worth mentioning that you may want to do a lot of research to develop further insight on relevant information, such as specific subjects related game development (graphical design, statistics, etc), for a more thorough analysis.
Once you've made an analysis, refine the suggestion if necessary.
What you do here depends on the results of your analysis from the step above. For example, if you discovered your suggestion may take too much time to implement for reasons such as the concept requiring a large amount of new coding, you may want to downsize it or break it into multiple parts that accomplish the previous suggestion but implement them in separate installments. In my example above, accomplishing what I desire in my player housing suggestion could start with making a two-way portal between the Garrison and a capital city, followed by recreating the Garrison at a new (remote) location, and so on.

This is also the step where you may want to add detail to the suggestion if needed.
Repeat the last two or three steps until you think the suggestion seems reasonable enough.
Suggestions, like aspects of the game itself (among other things), can be quite iterative and you may need to analyze and refine your suggestion multiple times to accomplish your goal of making a "reasonable" suggestion. You may not necessarily need to "do" this step at all, much like with the first one.

Final Statements

I hope these steps have helped to provide some insight into making "reasonable" suggestions. It is more or less the process I try to use when making mine. I would like to point out that what I implicitly defined as an "unreasonable" suggestion does have some use since it can at least serve as a data point for what a player might want in the most general sense. For instance, a player asking for a massive rework of his class indicates, at the very least, that the player is not happy with the current state of their class in some respect. While these pieces of information may not be too useful on their own, many such pieces can be helpful for driving development and, in a way, are suggestions in themselves. I would urge, as I often find myself doing, to at least be respectful in making the suggestions and be detailed enough to differentiate from your remarks being interpreted as petty complaints.

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