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Blizzard Battles the Ghost Town Effect

Posted 12 Mar 2012 by

The “Ghost Town Effect” was first identified as a problem with Starcraft 2’s debut of Battle.net 2.0. Its legacy has marred the platform’s reputation as many have rechristened it as “Battle.net 0.2″ based on its lackluster tools for matchmaking and socialization. This sentiment was not shared by all, but it spurred movements across the internet to bring change to the interface that was perceived as a step backward rather than a step forward.

A while ago, Azzure wrote a fairly compelling article that identifies many of the problems facing the Diablo III community when we learned that SC2 chat would be utilized yet again. He posited that a game centered on co-operative play and interconnectedness would suffer without a robust socialization platform. Similarly, Flux posted a lengthy article on problems and solutions regarding the interfaces along with fan made mock-ups of how the chat could actually look.

Flux said it fairly succinctly:

I think the problem is a divergence of goals. Fans want a chat interface and channel system that’s useful for communication and socializing, which is why almost all of the complaints about the current system is how hard it is to use. The window is tiny, the text is plain white, there aren’t formatting options, the window can’t be resized or repositioned, etc. Additionally, the sins of the SC2 chat system are assumed to carry over to D3?s, so fans are assuming there will be no support for guilds, no private channel permanence or mod tools, etc.

But it seems that a couple years of fan requests have finally caused the gears to turn at Headquarters, as Blizzard is beginning to make some much-needed changes, at least for DiabloWikiStarcraft 2. In a recent game update article, DiabloWikiDustin Browder identified “Contact and Communication” as a priority for their upcoming patch 1.5. While I know this is a Starcraft 2 article, it is pertinent to the issues that have been raised by the D3 community.

Contact & Communication

We’ve heard concerns about the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty social experience and many of these comments boil down to, “the service feels empty” and “I don’t know where to go to find people.” We have some simple fixes we’re going to put into the chat system to try to give players some additional connectivity. These aren’t huge fixes, but they may help players who want a more social experience.
First, we’ll allow players to resize their chat windows to fill a larger portion of the screen. We’ll also remember the chat channel you were in as well as the position of that chat channel on your screen for when you next return to the game. This will allow players who want to recreate something that feels a lot more like Warcraft III or the original StarCraft to build their own interface that looks a lot like those older games.

I would recommend reviewing the entire article on the update, as it covers more about game-matching options and how they will be tackling custom game creation. I find it important, as these changes can easily carry over to Diablo III – or at least prompt a reconsideration by DiabloWikiJay Wilson. The best case scenario appears to be the cross-IP adoption of the aforementioned changes to the platform, as it would waylay the concerns that have plagued Battle.net 2.0 since its inception.

What is nice to know is that Blizzard is listening to their community. It may take a couple years to prompt change, but they get there in the end.

What are the community’s thoughts on the Ghost Town Effect and Blizzard’s response to the arguments? Do the changes being made to Starcraft 2 sound like an adequate response to the community requests? ANd most importantly, would these be welcome changes to the current Diablo 3 chat system?

Thanks konfeta for posting this in the forums.


Tagged As: | Categories: Blue Posts, Controversy, Dustin Browder, Starcraft 2