02 June 2015

Apodeixis Galore

Tobold and Azuriel are at it again, presenting their personal opinions as facts. For only they are aware of the truth and everybody who holds a different view is blind or delusional. This sort of apodictic thinking is as widespread as it is counterproductive. There’s no point in discussing anything when one side always assumes that their position and their position alone is the only one that matters. “I’m right, you’re wrong. End of story. Bye Bye.” Now, to be fair, I don’t think anybody is like that all the time and even Tobold and Azuriel have their moments. Nonetheless, based solely on my personal observations, both of them seem to step into this particular pitfall quite frequently. The approach of projecting one’s own preferences onto others is very common and, at best, it can be interpreted as a stylistic device that some people employ to give more credit to their opinions.

Towards the end of an otherwise decent post Azuriel make the following statement:

For the longest time I have sought to moderate the absurd histrionics I’ve encountered regarding WoW. Things like the removal of atunements, introduction of LFD/LFR, hybrid taxes, Old Blizzard vs New Blizzard, and so on. Not to defend Blizzard for the sake of Blizzard, but to defend rational design decisions in their own contexts.

The way I understand it, is that Azuriel considers the removal of attunements or the introduction of LFD/LFR rational design decisions and those who disagree are simply not clever enough to understand why that’s the case (“absurd histrionics”). For me the key word here is “rational” and looking back at my last post I want to explore what is meant by that word. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as being “able to think sensibly or logically” and to be “based on or in accordance with reason or logic”. Following this path one arrives at a dichotomy between rational and emotional thinking or behaviour. This dichotomy can be described as a continuum with reason on the one end and emotion on the other end. Any person is more or less free to move along in either direction. This model, however, does not appreciate the fact that emotions are a primary aspect of the human condition and personal experiences will always influence one’s judgement. It’s very hard – if not impossible – to imagine a person who thinks or acts devoid of any feelings whatsoever. Human beings are not machines. For some reason, however, rational” is attributed a positive connotation while emotional” is often attributed a negative connotation. This could be endlessly debated in a philosophical discussion of its own.

Returning back into the realm of MMOs, the main question for me is how the rational part of (design) decisions is defined in a non-arbitrary way. In fact, if one cares to read Blizzard’s own statements one frequently finds them using phrases like “we feel” or generally referring to how players feel about something. That doesn’t sound too rational to me. Question: why is e.g. the removal of attunements a rational design decision? Answer: because people don’t want to jump through hoops before doing the content they’re interested in. Conclusion: desires are more emotional than rational. This thought process can be repeated for every design decision. Maybe there’s a different answer to that question though; one from the viewpoint of the developer, the one who actually made the rational design decision. Assuming that the developer’s primary motivation is to increase revenue, any decision that results in more money is certainly better for them. The establishment of causation, however, is again debatable. Who decides what is rational (in a specific context)? Is the removal of flight in WoW another rational design decision? Or is the situation different this time because Azuriel disagrees?

Somehow, I have the distinct impression that people like Azuriel and Tobold simply do not like attunements or hybrids taxes or several other mechanisms that WoW used to have, and are therefore glad that those were changed. I can fully accept that. If someone does not enjoy a feature but is contend with a modified version or its outright removal, good for them. What I do object to, however, is the depiction that those who did like the older version are somehow deluding themselves. In this sense, Tobold is a very strange fellow. He has mentioned before that he more or less only plays WoW for a few weeks/months at the beginning of an expansion and then leaves again. Yet somehow he argues against other people behaving similarly.

So for me the most likely scenario is that people will start playing on this Ragefire server out of nostalgia, and then relatively quickly discover that their selective memory made them remember all the good things and forget about all the bad stuff. [...] Most players will give up after only a few levels

How he knows this is beyond me, especially the last part. But fear not, Bhagpuss has the perfect reply once more in the comments. The first part is another prime example of Tobold simply dismissing other people’s perceptions as nostalgia. I’m currently playing WoW on the private vanilla server Nostalrius and I do admit that I had forgotten many annoying things. However, I can live with all of the “bad stuff” (e.g. looting quest items in groups) as long as the good stuff remains the way I like it (e.g. player stratification or the difficulty of dungeons). I think it’s safe to assume that at least some of the people who choose to play on such a server feel the same way. As any regular reader of Tobold’s blog should have realized by now, he is a man of the masses, i.e. he is only interested in what the masses do and fails to realize that the exact number of people who participate or who enjoy something is irrelevant as long as there are enough people around (to play with or) to keep the lights on.


  1. I just wanted to say that it's nice to have these well thought-out and well worded posts back...

    1. Sarcasm? If that’s the case, then we may need a “sarcasm sign” ;)
      If not, then thank you for your appreciative comment :)

      I don’t think my post can be considered (too) offensive. It’s just that plenty of times Tobold and Azuriel just rub me the wrong way, like e.g. Azuriel’s comment on this post of yours. I have the feeling that both of them don’t really know what they want and/or that they change their opinions too easily and too frequently. I care for neither.

    2. No sarcasm here, I'm just not very eloquent when I'm commenting on blog posts in the evening!

      You do kind of have a go at Tobold and Azuriel, but knowing them, I'm sure they are used to much worse.

      I particularly liked your contrasting of rational and emotional decisions, as well as pointing out that a nostalgia server being a "three-monther" or whatever people want to call it would hardly be worse than most MMO launches these days...

  2. Ditto to what Shintar said. I recently read a bloggers review of a game that mentioned some social dynamic that he disagreed with, and it was a total of 1 sentence and clearly got his point across, without being preachy or self righteous. This blog post of yours reminded of that and why I cant even follow Tobold links or equally mental zen of designs blog. Thank you for your dose of sensibleness.