User:Tennessee Ernie Ford/Rants/Exclusive benefits
This isn’t just a change that we’re making for the Dragon Festival, but also for other hat-related festivals going forward. What it comes down to is simply that, moving forward, we aren’t going to have art resources to make new hats for festivals anymore. At some point, we had to consider a break with tradition and put out the first festival that doesn’t include something new.
The easy way to handle it would have been to release with last year’s hats, and essentially have the festival go untouched. This would have generated confusion along the way—was it a bug that the new hats weren’t added? etc. So we weighed our options, and decided that being able to offer this was better than offering nothing. That’s why players will be able to get hats from years prior, at the rate of one per year during each respective festival.
Those items have been exclusive for years. If you haven’t gotten enjoyment out of your pumpkin head by now, then it isn’t really the item that you love – it’s the fact that someone else doesn’t have it. A hat is an item that is bound to your character, and the prestige associated relies on standing in an outpost and hoping that someone notices your character. I feel more comfortable offering up items like these than I do offering exclusives that convey tangible benefits, or undermine the spirit in which they were given. Festivals are a reason for players to get together and have fun in the game, and the hat is a nice bonus/reason for being there. With some of our holidays (Halloween, Wintersday), being there for those finales isn’t always possible, and we’ve made a few changes to make some of them more accessible. But there’s been no shortage of people asking to have a way to get hats from years prior.
I didn’t want to make a decision like this unless it was the best one available to us, and the good of it outweighed the bad. I’m not sure that there’s really a right answer when it comes to having to present players a ramp down in the game – the best that we can do is try to be as graceful and considerate in it as we can be.
— John Stumme (emphasis added)
I have long predicted that ANet would reduce its resources for GW1 and that the first thing to go would be new festival hats (along with new miniatures). But while I understand the need to adapt to changed circumstances, I don't understand why ANet decided not to communicate the situation to players until after the game was changed. Even worse, I don't understand why ANet chose to explain the changes in a way that disparaged both the loyalty and intelligence of the fans.
Lack of Resources → No New Hats
Obviously, the lack of GW1 resources means cutbacks in the size of the GW1 development team and, therefore, in its ability to do more than general maintenance (e.g. bug fixes). Artwork is an expensive luxury; it requires a concept artist, render artists, and testing. So, no surprise that ANet decided to drop them. That means the question is, "what should we do instead?" The choices include: no hats, make former hats available to everyone on a limited basis, make them available on an unlimited basis, or replace the hats with some other useful benefit (e.g. title points or items useful for improving one's HoM score).
- Other considerations
So this is an ugly choice: there are no excellent options. Do you favor newer fans (who otherwise wouldn't have access to old hats)? Do you help out veterans who couldn't attend during family holidays? Or do you honor the loyalty of longstanding fans by leaving them with the only items in the game that demonstrate participation at a given point in time? Whatever ANet decided was going to cause people to react strongly.
- Legit decision, but poor communication
ANet chose to go with making hats available to everyone. That's a perfectly legitimate choice. (Mind you, I don't think it's the right one, but it's as fair as any of the others.)
But ANet decided not to communicate this to the players until after fans reacted with anger and confusion. And then, the person responsible for the changes decided to let someone else post his response.
However, the worst thing is that the published reasons are phrased in a way that dismissed the loyalty and enthusiasm of long-time players, that is at odds with ANet's other actions, and in a way that insults the intelligence of fans.
- At odds with ANet on Exclusivity
It's especially hard to understand why the Live Team sees anything wrong with offering exclusive cosmetic options — there are many in Guild Wars: town clothes in GW2 will only be available for gems (requiring RL cash or an in-game sacrifice of effort), GW1 vets in GW2 will get exclusive HoM skins, and GW1 sells costumes that (a) require RL cash (so are never available to low-income players) and (b) were only on sale for a limited period.
- Hats are special because they are unique
What's special about festival hats is that they are the only item in the game that demonstrates a fan's participation at a certain point in time. Every other item in the game can be acquired through trade, luck, or grind. This equally legitimate viewpoint was dismissed as, "it isn’t really the item that you love – it’s the fact that someone else doesn’t have it". Once the team decided that offering old hats was the least-bad option available, I think it was wrong of them to dismiss the sentimental attachment to hats held by participants in festivals from 2005-2011. Suggesting there there's something bad about wanting to demonstrate one's participation in past events wasn't a very community-spirited message.
- Confusion avoidance
The right way to avoid confusing people is to let them know in advance what is changing (and, ideally, why). Regardless of the choice made to deal with the loss of new artwork, players were bound to be confused (and some elated, some upset). So it's not the least bit credible to say that part of the reason for offering old hats was to avoid confusion.
We really shouldn't be surprised at the choice or the manner in which it was communicated or rolled out. There are no new miniatures for those with characters turning 84 months, but there was no early announcement about this. Worse, items that were exclusively provided to fans for specific reasons (contest winners, those who owned special editions, ...) were suddenly — and without warning — made available to everyone (with a sufficiently aged-character). Sure, these items were always available for trade (and many have been lost due to duping or player attrition), but they were special to those who still owned their original. I suppose one should be thankful that the 7th-year minis didn't include Miniature Mad King's Guard (otherwise only available to Halloween Art Contest winners), Zippy (otherwise only available to Rollerbeetle Racing winners), or a Miniature Frog (otherwise only available to Gaile Gray).