Blizzard announced yesterday that it will be forming a new player organization called the WoW Community Council. It’s aiming to help the MMORPG’s developers get more detailed feedback on all aspects of the game, from players of different backgrounds and playstyles. The move comes as the game has faced a mountain of criticism amid recent design decisions and revelations of abusive behavior by some associated with the game.
“This program will add another venue for communication between players and WoW developers,” the game’s community team wrote on its website. “These may take the form of live chats between Council members and WoW devs.”
Players who want to join the council will send in an application, sharing their areas of interest and expertise. After they’re selected, they’ll be added to a new forum that’s visible to the public, but where only WoW developers and council members will be able to post. The council will also facilitate private conversations between members and developers to “encourage direct interaction between members.” One year into the program, Blizzard says it will open applications back up to install new members from the community on the council.
Eve Online has a similar system called the Council of Stellar Management, where the only big difference is that members are elected by the player-base instead of chosen by the developers. “If the people who are selected are knowledgeable, and are able to articulate their points with clarity and the devs actually listen, it can go very well,” wrote Reddit user SGC-Alf in a recent post about the news. “In Eve, we’ve seen any number of changes over the years that have been the result of CSM discussions and suggestions.”
While still the envy of many other games, WoW’s player-base has been steadily declining over the years. This exodus came to a head earlier this year as some big streamers departed the game for rival MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV, in the face of frustrations over certain loot mechanics and monetization decisions. The initial success of Amazon’s recently released MMO New World likely added to the tension, and as with many other diehard gaming communities, segments of the WoW player-base have occasionally trended toxic rather than being constructive about their concerns.
Adding to the recent headwinds against WoW have been the allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimation across Blizzard and parent company Activision Blizzard. The allegations, first surfaced in a California lawsuit in July, included previous key developers on WoW among others, and the team currently behind the game has been hard at work scrubbing all developer references and sexualized content from the game, in an effort to rebuild trust with the community.
WoW’s latest patch, 9.1.5, for its Shadowlands expansion goes live today, bringing along a number of big changes to the game, including the much requested feature to freely switch between Covenant allegiances at will. ”The reality is, the way people play the game has evolved,” director Ion Hazzikostas said in a recent interview. “What was the right answer for the WoW player base and for the game 15 years ago may not be today.”