Good Grief

Like many fans of World of Warcraft, back in 2006 after the Burning Crusades expansion had been released, I created a Draenei character to experience the new content designed for this race. At the time I had been playing WoW for only a couple of months, so I was still relatively new to the game.

As I adventured my way through the Draenei starter area, I came to a small village called Azure Watch, which was home to several quest-giving NPCs. When playing any MMO I prefer to complete as many quests as possible en masse, as this saves on the tedium of running back and forth; kill the 10 boars, collect the 6 wildflowers, find the murlock with the umbrella, kill 10 more boars, give the pipe wrench to the owlkin, then return to the village for my rewards.

During one of my return trips in which I had at least a half a dozen quests to turn in, I was met by an entire village of dead NPCs – and one Orc Warrior with a lot of blood on his blade. Helplessly I stood there and watched as he killed every NPC in the village, then waited until they respawned just to kill them again. Unaware that killing quest-givers is permissible in the game, I spent several minutes being completely, utterly confused.

And what does a new player do when she is confused and needs help? Contact customer support, of course!

To Blizzard’s credit, my support ticket was answered very quickly. Certain that the orc player was somehow cheating by killing the NPCs, thus preventing me from completing my quests, I was more than a little surprised by the customer service representative’s response:

I’m sorry, but GMs are not allowed to interfere with this type of player behavior.

This type of player behavior? He’s killing every NPC in sight! I can’t complete any of my quests.

It’s Blizzard policy that players have to police each other in these situations.

But I’m level 5! I can’t do anything!

We recommend that you ask for help from your guild, or solicit for help in the general chat channel.

You can’t stop them?

Sorry. It’s against game policy. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Realizing that the situation was hopeless, I thanked the GM and logged out of the game. At the time, I wasn’t a member of a guild, and being so late at night I doubted than anyone would respond to my pleas for help in chat.

This entire episode led me to wonder just why Blizzard allows this type of player griefing. Do they think this encourages community interaction and cooperation? Is this somehow an adjunct to the PvP portion of the game? And are they completely unaware of how off-putting and alienating this is to new players?

I have since asked members of my guild (Pig & Whistle Society) their thoughts on this issue. Although many agreed with me that it’s a form of player griefing that shouldn’t be allowed, one member stated that he approved of the killing. In his words, it would “break immersion” if there were NPCs that were immortal.

I guess having players stand around for 10 minutes waiting for the NPCs to respawn is not immersion-breaking? Why not just have the NPCs kill each other off?

By their twin brothers.

Who wear pink dresses.

(Yes, I know it’s absurd. That’s the point.)

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10 Responses to “Good Grief”

  1. It always amazes me the range of “fun” that people have with games… I’m totally with you, Leslee – this is the sort of “fun” that sends me screaming for the hills too. I wonder if this is either in line with, or is some kind of response to, earlier PVP-centered games like Ultimate Online, and the required level of developer / moderator intervention that seemed to be a regular occurrence (for more info on the GMs, see this article (and others like it – click under author name) on Destructoid.

    Anyhow, I can’t imagine this activity as being anything other than terrible for the game, but then again, with 11M players (or 5, after China hung up the phone), I guess Blizz has to accommodate all sorts of conceptions of fun with little regulation.

    I guess i’m just glad it’s not *all* PVP – then the NPCs would *stay* dead :)

  2. MintSkittle says:

    I always felt that the starter areas should be inaccessible from the rest of the world. You start there, do your quests, and when you are done, hop a one way teleport to the rest of the game world. It’s especially frustrating no pay-for-play games, cause I feel my money being wasted by someone else who takes joy in my misery.

  3. Jeff says:

    While unfortunate it is rare. Especially since this was the first town you were in where it *could* happen: the very first town you were in did have immortal NPCs. And, at least in the realms I’ve played, if the attacker hangs around for more than 15 minutes, which is even more rare, then some high levels will likely show up to defend.

    After level 10 a player has a few different areas to quest, so there’s always somewhere else to go. You just got caught in a rare sweet spot.

  4. silver says:

    I don’t get the “immersion” argument. As Leslee points out: the rest of the artificial mechanics are immersion breaking, anyway.

    If they really must “keep immersion”, then the town should have NPC guards that aren’t immortal, but ARE level 1,000,000 and will kick the offending player into the dirt. And after he’s kicked into the dirt, no other NPC in the game will trust him enough to talk to him for months, especially not quest givers and shop keepers at his own level.

  5. I dunno. The most fun I ever had in WoW was the massive Alliance group I joined that went into Ogrimmar and killed the king of the orcs. It wasn’t a quest. It wasn’t prepackaged and handed to us on a platter. It was an interesting challenge that we defined for ourselves and accomplished on our own terms.

    The problem most MMOs have is that they’re static, non-interactive, grind-factories of pre-determined, inflexible, repetitive content. Making the game world even more plastic and boring doesn’t seem like the solution to me: What you need is to give players even more ability to faff about on their own terms.

  6. Daf says:

    We often had fun as Horde defending XR from the Alliance. It -was- kind of annoying when they rode into town and wtfpwned our FP (back when XR was our only real FP in The Barrens) and since we had nothing else to do we took a break from questing, trying to kite them into town so Sergra Darkthorn could take care of them, or waiting until the 60s flew in from Org and our FP respawned.
    It -was- a PvE server so it wasn’t a constant event, maybe only once a week or two, and therefore not too overwhelming; if it was a daily raid it would have gotten old real fast but as it was it was just something different to break to monotony. :)

  7. I agree with you. And I disagree with you.

    From a solo player’s PoV, that’s the dumbest thing EVER. I can’t play the game because some dumbass decided to come mess with me for no reason other than to piss me off.

    From a World PoV, it’s about the only reason that could actually get World PVP going. People don’t care if other factions are wandering around. They’ll gank, maybe, but that’s it. But if someone is killing off quest givers, and it’s pissing off players, and they’re asking for help in /WorldDefense, then people are actually gonna do something about it.

    So it’s kinda down to what you want out of your game.

  8. Galenor says:

    “From a World PoV, it’s about the only reason that could actually get World PVP going.”

    What about in PvE servers, which people select due to lack of interest of World PVP? As far as I know, the NPCs are still fair game there. I reckon there should be more restraint on PvE servers, and a free-for-all on PvP.

    Talking of PvP, there was a similar situation I had when I tried the PvP servers – the same players that enjoyed slaughtering NPCs started to take it out on ME. Being a level 20, a level 80 Warrior would easily kill me with no beneficial gain for him. The solution to avoiding this kind of behaviour? Depends on who you ask. Nice people would suggest that you used the paid play time to log out of the game until the ganker gets bored (AKA until bedtime). If you got the angry angry WoW player answer, it would consist of “PvE ——->”. Which was what occured after many experiences of being thrown into unfair fights.

  9. Jarenth says:

    To be fair, this is probably one of those things that are only fun to give, not to get.

    One of the best times I ever had in WoW was more or less this — me and a group of friends got our (then) 70′s together and more or less rampaged through the Dwarven starting area, murdering every killable NPC we could find. We didn’t do it specifically to piss off Alliance players; I guess we did it because we could. I mean, after we killed every NPC in every small town (once) we went on to climb Old Ironforge and the walls of Stormwind.

    I know if I was in the position of the low-level players who walked into that Dwarven inn-turned-slaughterhouse that day, I’d be pissed off — but from our perspective, it was just harmless fun.

  10. camazotz says:

    I’ve always thought a good medium of compromise would be for Blizzard to add in some sort of “alarm bell” in a town, that becomes useable after an attack, and any character could activate to summon a horde of level 85 elite guards to come to the town’s defense. This would let little places like Azure Watch receive some much-needed defense when a bored 80 decides to wander in and cause some mischief, without forcing the local new players to rely on the chance some friendly 80′s are around to help. It also actually gives the new players something they can do…summoning the watch….which empowers them in an indirect way against the bully.

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