On October 3, druids prowled, swam, and hoofed it from Gadgetzan to Moonglade
to protest a change to their ability Travel Form
. Currently, Travel Form always activates cheetah or stag form. Aquatic Form and Flight Form are separate buttons. In the Warlords
beta, Travel Form is context sensitive: it will activate Aquatic Form in water, and Flight Form in zones with flying enabled. The original Travel Form will only activate by default in zones and indoor areas without flying.
In response to druid's complaints, Blizzard added a clause to Glyph of the Stag
that gives you a separate spell for Flight Form, in order to activate Travel Form wherever you want. But glyphing the ability means you have to be a stag rather than a cheetah, and it also turns you into a mount for other players.
Druids have been posting on the forums for weeks that this was not the fix they wanted
. They finally took their protest to the mean streets of Kalimdor in a movement called Druids United. They're planning a follow-up march for this Friday, October 10.
The druid protest follows in a long -- and often sordid -- tradition that began in January 2005.Naked gnomery
The first class protest in WoW
occurred only two months after the game launched. Like Druids United, the problems stemmed from beta changes -- the original WoW
beta. Warriors received some substantial nerfs late in the beta life cycle. The beta nerfs already had warriors grumbling. Then further nerfs to the class were patched in to the live game not long after launch. The official forums exploded with complaints.
With Blizzard showing no sign that they would revert the changes, warriors planned a protest on the Argent Dawn realm for the night of Friday, January 29, 2005. All protesters were encouraged to roll a level 1 gnome on Argent Dawn and march to Ironforge. The protest had several names, but the one that stuck was the Million Gnome March.
As the event began, organizers created a guild on the Argent Dawn realm and invited protesters into it. So many attended that the guild interface couldn't handle all the invites -- the invite button stopped functioning.
Gawkers and Argent Dawn natives showed up at the event too. Some asked the protesters to leave the realm. Some taunted them. Others just wanted to see what would happen.
Blogger Foton reportedBlizzard uses Intimidating Shout
on the event live: "They are about to begin the march to Ironforge. It is a sea of naked gnomery, and I cannot adequately describe how horrifying a vision that is." (Link contains NSFW language.)
With so many players gathered in one zone, the server began to lag. Disconnects became frequent. Then GM Xanan appeared in Ironforge. Foton was shocked. "omg omg, there's an actual GM character here now in Ironforge near the bridge," he wrote. "In 50-some levels, I have never seen an actual GM character EVER in this game." (I like how he qualified this with 50-some levels. I've been playing since 2004 and I still haven't seen a GM character.)
Xanan asked the protesters to leave the area: "This is severely impacting other players' gaming experiences. Please be advised failure to disperse can result in disciplinary action."
Most players refused. Xanan continued to ask for players to leave to prevent the server from crashing and disconnecting players. Argent Dawn became more and more unstable. At one point, Blizzard shut down the server manually. Some took it as Blizzard trying to kill the protest with a technological solution. But a few minutes later, Argent Dawn came back online. The shutdown didn't discourage the crowds or help the realm to stabilize.
Then Xanan got serious:
Attention: Gathering on a realm with intent to hinder gameplay is considered griefing and will not be tolerated. If you are here for the Warrior protest, please log off and return to playing on your usual realm.
We appreciate your opinion, but protesting in game is not a valid way to give us feedback. Please post your feedback on the forums instead. If you do not comply, we will begin taking action against accounts.
Please leave this area if you are here to disrupt game play (sic) as we are suspending all accounts.
With the risk of losing access to the game, most players logged off. No one knew what would happen next, but one thing was certain: warriors had made their stance known.Sweeping suspensions
Players who remained after Xanan's warnings did indeed receive account suspensions. Blogger Abalieno, who was there merely to observe, received a three-hour suspension
. The accompanying email read,
Offense: Harassment - Zone Disruption
Details: Zone disruption for Ironforge during warrior protest, player would not disperse after many warnings.
The game master's actions sparked a debate in the blogosphere about players' right to assemble in a virtual environment. Blogger Ecastronova posted a column called Synthetic Statehood and the Right to Assemble
Running a virtual world is a service, as we are often reminded, but it is more than running a BBS or a shopping mall or an amusement. There's a nascent politics. There's policy. There's speech and assembly. There's terror and reaction. If destroying the world and banishing people are not terror and reaction, respectively, I don't know what would be. All this means that there are real issues of governance in play in the metagame.
All politics aside, however, it's hard to blame Blizzard for trying to stop player-run events when those events are ruining the in-game experience of other paying customers.
Blizzard's only public acknowledgment of the protest was to warn players that similar planned events would result in permanent bans. In an "unrelated" announcement, lead game designer Tom Chilton wrote a post on the official forums arguing that warriors have "unique" and "useful" abilities. He didn't rule out future changes, but the statement was essentially a tacit acknowledgment that the nerfs would stand.
Not everyone sympathized with the warriors' plight. I found this 2005 comment
on Allakhazam's boards particularly interesting given the time frame of the event:
If warriors truly suck so bad (and the warrior in my group seems to have ZERO problems) then start over with a new character. The game is barely more than 60 days old, you can't possibly be so attached to your character that you can't start over. It's not like you've been grooming him/her for 2 years and they suddenly nerfed you.
Looking back, warriors probably had the best experience in classic WoW
, at least in PvE. For most of vanilla, they were the only class with both a viable DPS spec and a viable non-DPS spec, and they had the only viable tank spec.
That didn't stop warriors from trying to organize another protest in December 2006 when they discovered that the class would be hit with further nerfs
in The Burning Crusade
. Myxilydian on Burning Blade-H posted on the official forums to call for a new gnome march on Ironforge on the Thunderlord realm. Blizzard preemptively put the kibosh
on this plan. They announced that "anyone caught participating in this event or any event with the sole purpose of disrupting the game play for others will be punished."Class action
The Million Gnome March has inspired several other class protests. The most similar was another naked gnome march -- this time to protest priest nerfs
-- in February 2007.
In the wake of the warrior protest, hunters threatened to hold their own march
. Hunters had a longstanding bug that lowered their DPS. When Blizzard revealed that the bug wasn't going to be fixed in an upcoming patch, hunters stampeded to the official forums. However, timely intervention from community manager Caydiem calmed hunters down before the event kicked off.
In May 2006 paladins organized a "Pally Rally
" on Lightbringer. They called for buffs to their class so they could become more than just "buffbots" in raids. Level 1 dwarf paladins marched from Ironforge to Stormwind.
The "Dot Shock" protest of November 2007 was a forum-only protest, but it was a clever and memorable one. Upset over changes to interrupts and diminishing returns in patch 2.3, shamans began spamming the forums
with posts and post titles consisting of a single period. They called it "dot shock." The implicit message was that Blizzard never listened to shamans anyway, so posting actual feedback was a waste of time. In the wake of the protest, many players had their forum access suspended and some were permanently banned.
In early 2008, warlocks staged a protest over a Life Tap nerf
by kiting demons to Shattrath
, fel reavers, pit lords from Hellfire's portal battle, and other powerful Legion foes made an appearance in the Dwelling of Light. In terms of gameplay, this protest definitely had the most to offer.Do class protests work?
No. At least, historically speaking, they have not. They certainly draw attention to an issue, but typically in the most negative possible light. Blizzard isn't going to change course on their class design based on a protest.
I think the instigators of such things like to imagine a harried GM bursting into a meeting, disheveled and covered with soot, yelling, "The warriors are revolting! It's madness out there! We have to revert these nerfs before Argent Dawn is destroyed!" But that's pure fantasy.
A disruptive protest doesn't panic or frighten Blizzard. It earns no favors from the devs. If anything, the opposite is more likely.
A benign protest like the druids held last week can be a fun event. As long as you're not interfering with the ability for others to enjoy the game, Blizzard will take no action against you.
In the long run, however, the best way to be heard is to engage in the discussion. Although it may not always seem like it, Blizzard does read our feedback on the forums. They do look at our tweets, read our blogs, and watch our videos. Not all of them, of course -- but whenever there is a great deal of complaining about an issue, that message is received. That doesn't mean Blizzard will immediately act on that message, but rest assured, they know how we feel.
If any protest has ever seemed
to work, it wasn't the protest that convinced Blizzard. It was the players who took the time to provide well-reasoned, informed, and mature feedback on the issue.
Although many players are unhappy with their class in the Warlords
beta, we have to remember that Blizzard is far from done. This is an enormous transition for both class design and itemization -- the biggest in WoW
so far, I would argue. Blizzard is likely to make changes throughout the expansion to ensure every spec is viable and feels good to play. In the meantime, we have to keep providing feedback to help them reach that point.
After months of surveying, WoW Archivist has been dug back up! Discover lore and artifacts of
WoW's past, including the Corrupted Blood plague, the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, and the mysterious Emerald Dream.