How should Blizzard hide — or reveal — story spoilers from the WoW PTR?
In a huge surprise earlier this week, the World of Warcraft team released a new story cinematic for Shadowlands patch 9.2 titled Shattered Legacies. According to Terran Gregory, the Lead Cinematic Narrative Designer, the reason this was done was because the latest two chapters of the 9.2 campaign became available to test, and the cinematic provides much needed context both to those chapters and the final three bosses in the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid. It begs the question, though: Should the PTR be such a wealth of story for the game? If the campaign chapters weren’t testable, the cinematic could’ve been kept encrypted and hidden until the patch goes live at some point in the future.
I’m not particularly spoiler-averse when it comes to World of Warcraft, so for me learning of the details of the central campaign months before being able to play it isn’t a huge deal. I do know, however, that there are players who want to be surprised and/or want to see the narrative unfold organically rather than through scattered datamining tidbits. Context is a very important key to understanding, and PTR data is notoriously context-free resulting in misinterpretation and outright mistakes.
It’s clear that the Shattered Legacies cinematic was released for those exact reasons — featuring such a polarizing figure as Sylvanas in the subsequent quests without establishing fully what was happening was bound to result in a lot of misplaced criticism. But why even make the quests campaign chapters available on the PTR? If the answer is that you’re trying to provide context for other datamining, you’re stuck in a line of cascading context requirements (datamining necessitates full quests necessitates cinematics). The effort towards contextualization could instead be made towards concealment, so that players don’t have to worry about spoilers two months in advance of the patch release.
Of course, it’s easy to say that from the perspective of someone not on the development team for the game — one would think that if they could compartmentalize the narrative in the testing (leaving the PTR to be purely an encounter and system test), they would’ve already done so. I also know that discrepancies between test and production systems can cause their own array of headaches when it comes time to troubleshoot. Still, I feel like as a community we suffer more from spoilers than other MMO franchises do simply because of the PTR system.
What do you think? Do you think it’s worth being spoiled to make sure that associated quests work fine? Should the dev team make an attempt to “hide” broadcast text from datamining? Or has this ship sailed and we might as well accept it’s going to be this way forever because the work to make it otherwise is too complex? Let us know in the comments below!
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