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Scattered Shots: Grandpappy Frostheim on Ghostcrawler

Brian Wood

Scattered Shots is brought to you by Grandpappy Frostheim, who spends his evenings in an Ironforge tavern telling young hunters how much harder things were in his day, when they had to kite mobs uphill, both ways ... back when men were men, and women were men too, and pets were next to useless -- but they were also men. You can ask him questions on Google+.

All right, sit down lassies -- aye, and you lads, too -- and get yerself something warm to drink. Or maybe do that the other way around. It's time you had some more learning about what life was like back in my day.

I've been hearing a lot of talk about Ghostcrawler lately. For those who don't know who Ghostcrawler is -- or the big GC, as we call him -- he's the man behind every blue post that you care about. He's one of nine grand masters in a secret cabal of masterminds exerting global influence over developed populations in an attempt to uncover ancient artifacts that could lead to the apotheosis of mankind. But for his day job, he's the lead systems designer for WoW; it's kind of like being God, but without the good press.

Now back in my day, we didn't have any Ghostcrawler. Oh sure, we knew in a vague sort of way that there was someone behind the curtain, pulling the strings, dishing out the nerfs and continually striving to make us hunters so darned good-looking; that much was obvious. But for us, it was just a vague faceless form, shadowy and ominous. We didn't have any GC chatting us up with blue posts, explaining the process and cracking jokes.

You hunters today, you don't know how good you got it. Let me tell you exactly what patches used to be like, back in my day.

The class patches

Now back in the old days, we didn't have none of these fancy little patches fixin' this and that and those other things within a month of the bugs cropping up. We had what they called class patches. The developers would make note of every little bug and overpowered ability and underpowered ability and things they'd like to change and they'd shove it in a drawer in the big development desk.

Then the developers would get together and work on one drawer at a time. Each patch was focused on just one single class -- with a handful of other tidbits thrown in. And you know what else? Those drawers were so stuffed full by the time they got to them that they didn't have time to hit everything in it.

Nowadays, I've literally heard youngsters complaining about how it took an entire week for something obviously broken to get fixed. A week! And they say this with such heartfelt disbelief and disgust, too, as if this terrible strain on their patience brought them right to edge of quitting the game forever.

Well in my day, those bugs would get written on a little Post-it and tossed in the hunter drawer of the development desk and just sit there for months and sometimes even years. You didn't hear us complaining! That's just the way it was -- and frankly, we all had our fingers crossed not to be in the next class patch, 'cause that's when the big nerfs were handed out. Better to have a few buggy abilities and sacrifice a murloc to the development gods to look over the rogues again.

Let me give you an example: It used to be that when the timer ran out while you were feigning death, you'd actually die. You'd FD in an out-of-the-way spot, go get a drink, and come back to find your corpse. It was as if the art of FD involved holding your breath -- and at the end of it, rather than inhaling, you headed toward the white light. We all thought this was just the way the ability was supposed to work until it showed up under the bug section of patch notes two years later in patch 2.0.1.

Heck, if you really want a laugh, ask a rogue from back then about fixing the Vanish bug.

Communication between developers and fans back then was nothing like it is now; for two years, a known bug sat in the bottom of the hunter drawer, and we never even knew it was a bug. Kids these days all act as if this level of communication is how things always were, as if it was their right to get all the in-development info they do now. Well, keep listening and keep learning, young ones!

PT what?

We also didn't have the kind of PTR access then that the spoiled kids have now. Oh, there was a PTR and sometimes stuff would go up on there, but mostly not. Instead, we got a class change preview on the forums in which the developers listed what they were thinking of changing.

We had no way to go play around with this stuff, mind you. Just a list of changes -- and if they were big ones, it was almost impossible to grasp the full impact without testing them ... and we couldn't test them.

Then, as now, a thousand frothing fans would post their opinions of the change. The developers, we assumed, read these comments with grave consideration, discussed and debated them before making their final decisions. But there weren't anything like the responses we get now. Certainly not the explanations. Instead, it was a great wall of silence. We'd have to wait for the patch to actually be deployed to find out what was being changed, and we could only speculate as to why they were being changed.

Ghostcrawler may be many things ...

Nowadays, you kids got the big GC stepping in and letting you know what's going on behind the scenes in ways that we didn't even dare dream of when I was young. You get to learn all the stuff that we never knew in my day: the logic behind changes, what Blizzard is trying to accomplish with a change -- not just what the developers are doing, but why they're doing it.

But here's the thing -- and I can see some of you thinking this right now: For many kids these days, even all this is not enough.

I hear complaints that Ghostcrawler is answering the mage questions but not your hunter questions. Or he answered a question, but didn't answer the QQ storm of followup questions. Or the outraged cries -- and I'm not kidding about this, as if getting mad at what he does say isn't enough -- of not getting a response and how this is somehow offensive to the point of driving the complainer to seriously consider quitting the game. As if each player is owed a public response from the game designers.

Well I'll let you in on a little secret here, and you listen close: Ghostcrawler is not your personal servant.

Now, I happen to know for a fact that all of you whippersnappers are huge fans of WoW. I know it because you're sitting here listening to me right now. And this evident, shining truth tells more clearly than words that the development team are doing a darned good job. They've made a game so great, so engrossing, so enthralling that you're sitting here in your free time listening to me talk about what the game used to be like.

This is exactly what Ghostcrawler's job is: making a game so great that you want to sit around discussing and debating it. He's not a complaint department or community relations person or some kind of DJ who's paid to take requests. In fact, here's one of my personal favorite GC comments, and the kind I'd like to see more of:


Hope you enjoyed your contribution to the beta, because it has come to an end.

Remember, kids, this is the wielder of the nerf bat. Every time some nutter goes off on a rant about how Ghostcrawler isn't posting enough on his personal issue on the forums, I want to smack him upside the head.

Now, I'm not saying that you can't be critical; we certainly were back in my day. But it's one thing to question and criticize, and it's something else entirely to toss out personal insults, rage-filled hyperbole, and to complain just because you aren't getting a response -- or enough responses.

We only wish we had this kind of information flow back in our day. In fact, what this really reminds me of is this elf I knew ...

The parable of the mad elf

I knew this crazy elf once who found this little puppy out in the woods. It had adorable big brown puppy eyes and awkward, oversized puppy feet, and big, floppy puppy ears. Well, this elf brought the puppy home to love and cuddle and name something elfy like Happyglitterhugs.

So one night around sunset, the elf was sitting down to read a book of butterfly poems, and Happyglitterhugs came over and brought him his slippers. Well, the elf took that book of poetry and smashed it in Happyglitterhugs' face, sending blood and broken teeth everywhere.

You see what I'm saying, right? Ghostcrawler is Happyglitterhugs, and those ranting kids these days are the horrible, mad elf, and the slippers are the blue posts. And eventually Happyglitterhugs isn't going to bring the slippers over anymore.

Would you?

Scattered Shots is dedicated to helping you learn everything it takes to be a hunter. Our Scattered Shots Resource Guide takes aim at everything from improving your heroic DPS, understanding the impact of skill vs. gear, and getting started with Beast Mastery 101 and Marksman 101.

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