The Plague of Datamining

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I can’t tell where exactly was the turning point. Rather that it all went downhill before we noticed, but we’re in a really bad situation now.

The good point about datamining is that it helps to build the hype towards the new patch or expansion. It helps to bring players out of hiatus. It helps competitive players to prepare for the new systems – to come most prepared for the endgame activities and design shortcuts.

Yet we’ve reached a point where it becomes nothing else but a huge spoiler: to the extent that it may replace a game itself.

A recent post in one of WoW-related news sites is not their first spoiler one, but it somehow triggered me this time. Not the first time they did this, but the latest post is a complete layout of a new Magni questline. It is complete with text explaining the events, the complete dialogues, and gameplay videos. I’ve skipped actual reading it, but I’ve got triggered because I’ve suddenly realized you don’t even have to play the game at all – it’s all there. An episode of South Park immediately popped to mind, where Ike and his friends preferred watching Pewdiepie streaming to actual playing, and how it triggered the fab four in a similar manner.

I can’t express strongly enough how this ruins the actual game experience – the infamous sense of exploration and wonder which is a common pro-Classic argument. Of course you may close the webpage, but it requires an immense internal struggle – especially in an information hunger situation during lulls. Moreover, datamined plot points are then considered as a well-known issue and proceed to speculations and posts all over, as in “as we already know”.

It’s nobody’s fault actually. Every new thing evolves naturally to become deeper, faster, stronger until it hits the bottom and starts to ruin its purpose, therefore requiring rules and restrictions to be implemented.

For myself, I’ve made a rule now that I’m skipping datamined lore pieces wherever I meet them. I’m setting limits to Blizzard’s actual previews and announcements to keep my sense of wonder intact.

For others – well, you can’t really do anything about “news” websites (for now). I could only hope that datamined plots and questlines will be seen as they should be seen: as spoilers, and shunned and detested by the community like series and movie spoilers are shunned and detested now. I hope that one day the “news” website owners will be despised for posting spoilers and somehow realize that chasing page hits is not worth it if they really love the game they’re greedily exploiting now.

So far, I’m referring to them as “news” websites.

*sigh* We’ve got a long way to go towards civilization.

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11 thoughts on “The Plague of Datamining

  1. I’m with you on this. One has to be super selective when facing these news sites; for me it is usually looking for changes in my character’s spells or future toys but that is a challenge to do even this little bit.
    Blizz can use encryption a lot more. As you said, news can build hype and that is good — but they need to be a whole lot smarter about data dumps.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Full on agreement here.

    They generate revenue from people visiting their sites, and are out the gate as soon as possible, or even sooner dancing around NDA’s all in an effort to be the first. And I’ve started blocking them from my Twitter, started unfollowing and muting people that retweet or post leaks. Next year when I am doing the content, and if I get stuck on a part, I may go read up on what I’m missing. These full walk through are going too far. And they are making things more complex to compensate.

    Or, the conspiracy theorist in me suspects they are making things complex so you have to go to 3rd party sites, because Blizzard is too dependent on the information database.

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      • For me personally, I reached a point where the entire story, the fights, the cut scenes for every patch have been released before I could even get into see the first fight, that I stopped caring about doing it. So now I’m fighting back against those spreading the information. Maybe it will help me gain the desire to see it again.

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  3. This is one of the things I like about FFXIV. FFXIV does not have a Public Test Server. So every patch comes as a complete surprise. You can’t datamine if you don’t have the data, after all. As a result, the community is basically on the same page, and always looking forward to the next patch, rather than being split by premature speculation.

    The downside, though, is that there are often some bugs that need to be fixed. Though to be honest, WoW seems just as buggy after a new patch.

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  4. I’m of two minds on data mining. For gameplay systems, I think its sorely needed to lay bare the design so feedback to Blizzard via PTR can be targeted, direct, and accurate – backed up with actual gameplay experiences on the PTR.

    On the lore, I feel weird. I love spoilers, and it’s always been weird for me that I do, but I’m just not that bothered by them. I see watching a YouTube video from Wowhead and the actual gameplay of that content as two separate experiences- possible to enjoy both for different reasons. I do think its worthwhile to have easy story catchup for those not currently playing that want to return, and I’m not sure that there’s a huge overlap of people who aren’t playing and watching the coverage on data mining sites.

    That being said, Wowhead’s spoiler treatment this expansion has been godawful and it makes going to the site a potential minefield if you’re trying to stay pure. It’s something I try to keep in mind when writing, as well – not everyone reads or wants spoilers and speculation based on them, but they are fun to write and, anecdotally at least, some of the biggest sources of readership I get personally. Making an effort to mark spoiler posts and keep previews clear is a bare-minimum that I hope everyone does (myself included).

    I also think the 8.2.5 PTR proved Blizzard could be hiding this stuff better if they really wanted to, and it is curious that they don’t seem to be terribly interested in doing so. For all the complaining they’ve jokingly done about data mining, they seem barely interested in encrypting to solve it. I imagine the positive press they get for big new story hits being revealed is worth the spoilers to them in the end, unless they want to control the reveal (like in 8.2.5). Would be nice to see them reach a middle ground closer to the FFXIV approach, but I’m not counting on it.

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    • Gameplay features just need to be tested that’s for sure. I wonder though how hard would it be to create some generic environment to test them, without giving out the major plot?

      Lore features should and must be encrypted. It is a ridiculous argument – serving lore – in advance! – to those who actually don’t play the game :)

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      • I wouldn’t argue Blizzard should out the spoilers for the sake of non-active players, but I do know a few people who follow them and sometimes resub based on what they see. There’s obviously an audience for them and some reason Blizzard isn’t fully locking them down yet. Will be interesting to see how they handle it going forward now that we know they are capable of locking down the files!

        Liked by 1 person

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