Flameseeker Chronicles: Am I the only one who doesn’t enjoy Guild Wars 2 datamining?

    
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I know, I know: Solid information about Heart of Thorns is coming really slowly from the Guild Wars 2 PR machine, making for a bunch of very nervous potential players who have a whole list of unanswered questions. The elite specializations haven’t all been released at this stage, and we still don’t know that that “challenging group content” we’ve been promised will look like. There are so many moving parts still whirring along the road to the expansion’s release, each one hovering just out of reach for the eager playerbase. With at most four months until HoT is in our hands and pre-orders already flowing, we really want to know as much as we can about the product we’re spending our hard-earned gaming budgets on.

Having said that, I dislike how we, as a community, are spoiling the moment for ourselves and the team at ArenaNet by extensively datamining for goodies and avidly jumping on the information unearthed. I guess there’s nothing immoral or directly damaging about datamining, but I feel as if we sometimes poke, prod, and shake the shiny expansion-shaped present so much in our quest to guess at its contents that we inadvertently end up tearing the wrapping paper and spoiling the magic. We’re looking at little snippets of an unfinished product that are still largely open to interpretation, and while that’s good for speculation, it’s not so good for gleaning concrete details. For this week’s edition of Flameseeker Chronicles, I wanted to depart from my usual content to touch on why I find datamining to be more than a little bit of a buzzkill rather than the tasty teaser it’s usually presented as.

GW2 datamining 1Let’s not start hating on the miners

I must start off by saying that the actual act of datamining is only the tiniest bit of my issue, so dataminers aren’t to be seen as the big evil baddies here. While I don’t personally sift through the mountains of data in each game patch, I can definitely see why those who have the know-how and patience may be tempted to delve into them to see what can be found. Make no mistake about it: There is money to be made and internet fame to be gained for the effort, with one or two names in the circuit appearing consistently as a source for datamine leaks.

We need only look to the Guild Wars 2 Reddit to see that every that_shaman post gets a huge number of upvotes and comments: A great proportion of the playerbase wants the information provided, and that demand is met with a steady supply of new leaks. When you combine a growing demand for information with the not entirely selfless pursuit of financial gain or status as a noteworthy contributor to the GW2 community, it’s hard to see the argument for leaving the data alone and trusting ArenaNet to put out announcements when the content is ready for the grand reveal. People are hungry for information, and if they don’t get it from an official source, then we have to expect they’ll go elsewhere.

GW2 datamining 3Mining for answers only leads to more questions

My first and principal objection to datamining lies not with the dataminers but with the futility of the act in the first place. These little snapshots into the future state of Heart of Thorns do little to really solidify the product for potential consumers because of the piecemeal nature of how the information is uncovered and presented. We might be presented with some images and telling filenames, but details in the realest, most detailed sense are inherently lacking.

Datamined information is also usually provided without the all-important context that the development team would provide in an official announcement. The developers are denied the opportunity to give us their unique perspective on the content and the under-the-hood workings of the shiny stuff we are mining for. The questions we are bursting to find answers to aren’t completely answered, and what we do find out more often than not sparks even more uncertainty. In the absence of some information, players will tend to fill in the gaps, leading to worry about a favourite mechanic or profession. As leaks are unexpected and ahead of official reveals, the developers also may not be able to weigh in and correct wrong assumptions or console those who have perhaps misconstrued a chunk of information.

As a result, negative speculation can persist even when it’s founded on something that’s incorrect or now defunct. Some of the content that ends up datamined may never even see the light of day because that’s the nature of game development. Go back and watch the original expansion trailer and tell me how many little things you spot that are now inconsistent with what we know of the current iteration of Heart of Thorns. I promise that if you look hard enough, you’ll find many, and it’s the same deal for datamined content versus what we actually end up with. Sure, the devs might know enough to want to start putting together a certain aspect of a profession or mechanic, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready for all eyes to scrutinise on board the crazy public consumption wagon.

GW2 datamining 2If you have questions about datamined stuff, wait a week!

Iterative development is the cornerstone of the games industry, particularly in MMOs. Map zonation and natural content divisions such as PvP modes and PvE content types lend themselves naturally to throwing separate chunks of content at each mini-team to develop and continually polish. It’s really very scary to do that openly because fans who have put time and money behind a project will undoubtedly have strong opinions on where the game should be headed and how development should roll. When we see something that disagrees with our initial vision for Heart of Thorns, we panic. It’s much better to be exposed to those realities with the full context and information available rather than jump to conclusions that can’t possibly be confirmed by the development team.

What really gets my goat is the fact that we know at this point that ArenaNet is very keen to get this information player-ready and out into the public realm. It makes absolutely no sense to hold anything back that’s not story-spoiling or crazily groundbreaking. Story spoiling isn’t a usual tactic of ArenaNet’s since the game sells heavily on its lore, and the crazy stuff is held back only if there’s a big event such as E3 or PAX around the corner. Releasing big news early or in an unfinished state would only grind the hype train to a stuttering halt, and the team is only too aware of our gripes about how long we’re waiting for the juiciest stuff.

GW2 datamining 4Leaks wear us out before everything is even canon

I’m sure ArenaNet follows the leaks, of course, if only to know how much the playerbase knows about the upcoming content. Reveals follow swiftly after assets are popped into the build, so we really don’t have long to wait after that content becomes minable until ANet will have an official reveal with so much more information than we could hope to glean on our own. I’m happy to wait for this, especially since I know how much work goes into iterative content creation and content reveals even in my own tiny indie project.

The PR teams at ArenaNet and NCsoft must become very disheartened when they spend so much time drafting a great reveal piece about the most exciting content with all sorts of fantastic new information, only to find that the core of the message has already been heard and people already feel as though it’s old news before their pieces air. The development team that put months upon months of coffee-fueled late nights into the content at hand must feel equally deflated when the official news is greeted with more of a squeaky pop than an almighty bang.

Inaccuracies are also often carried forward even after official announcements are made that contradict them and are notoriously difficult to stamp out because the initial attention span of the game’s audience is already tapped out. Just look at any Reddit thread discussing the specializations and you’ll see people arguing over what’s been made official and what’s still only mined supposition. As the impact of the official marketing wanes, I worry too that marketing budgets could decrease and we’ll then burn out the real stars behind the Guild Wars 2 community that strive to be so engaging and informative.

Over to you!

Every time we make up our mind about a new gameplay aspect based on the details that could be mined, we bypass the community managers and dampen the sound of their informed, passionate voices. I really hate to think of that becoming the norm when we gain so much more from full reveals than from the TL;DR heads-up provided by datamining.

I know that you’re burning up with the urge to either back me up or shoot me down right about now: Datamining is one of those issues that deserves more thought and airtime than it currently gets, which is why I decided to put my case to you. What do you think? Do you leap for every scrap you can get while we wait the long wait for Heart of Thorns, or are you happier to wait for official sources to spill the beans? How much information do you think we really get from datamining, and is it enough to justify our obsession with it? Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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DPandaren
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DPandaren

You can say this about all kinds of Data Miners. Like CyborgMat, who data mined the shit out of Dota 2 (which really isn’t that difficult of a task to do since anyone with enough moxie and CFGScape can do) and gets the same status as that_shaman. Then there’s places like MMOChamp who do the same thing with WoW and crafty individuals on Warframe and ESO.
I don’t really care for it, it spoils things and it’s completely unnecessary. Some people think it’s mandatory that a game needs to get dumped around when a new patch comes out, but looking at FFXIV, it’s totally not. Remember when Wrath of the Lich King got it’s final cinematic released before the wing was even unlocked? Yeah, it’s the little stuff like that, that kind of ruins it. Then there’s stuff that’s getting mined that’s probably not even going to be relevant, yet people hype it up because it’s “in the game.”

I can get it why people go digging through files like Warframe, but even then, DE has been pretty transparent on what they’re doing with the changes that they make. So why bother doing it at that point?

mosselyn
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mosselyn

I choose not to look at most of it, for precisely the reasons listed in the article, but it doesn’t bother me that it is out there and people are swooning, raging, or hyperventilating over it. I used to follow curse’s datamining for WoW, but I’ve learned I prefer to wait and get my content when intended by the devs.
I liken it to a lesson about presents that I learned the hard way when I was a child: We had a tiny house, so my parents’ options for hiding Christmas presents were limited. One year, I put some serious effort into ferreting out most of my Christmas presents, and the ones I didn’t find, I snuck a peek at after they were under the tree. Then Christmas day arrived and it was, of course, a total bust because I already knew what was in the packages. :(
For me, the pleasure is all in the anticipation and the initial wonder. As with presents, so with game additions. It’s why I rarely participate in betas, either. YMMV

Valkyrie Noel
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Valkyrie Noel

I don’t really get this article. It isn’t like Anet doesn’t put that data in the files, they know that it goes into dataminers hands and they have direct control over the content going in. Every single WoW patch since Vanilla has been data mined and it certainly doesn’t hurt the game in any shape, way, or form. It was happening long before that game as well, and will continue to happen afterwards. 

On top of that, Anet even leaves cool and interesting tidbit for data miners (as does many companies). If anything, Anet needs to work on their communication skills and then most people wouldn’t be so starved for information for a game that has launched pre-purchase but hasn’t put out a launch date or feature list.

paragonlostinspace
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paragonlostinspace

Sinaptic paragonlostinspace SallyBowls1 breetoplay   LOL! How you reached the conclusion that I am rah-rah-ing because I simply stated that …

“I truly think it requires a certain personality type to handle it successfully. Kudos to Bree for being much more patient than I ever could be.”

 Is beyond me. Seriously. Btw I’m pretty unhappy with ArenaNet, I’ve run into nothing but problems with their billing dept. Actually my wife just ran into problems recently as well. Makes us not play and we play other mmo’s.

 Seriously we’re “trying” to throw money at them and repeatedly their billing people are jackwits. They run you around, won’t answer your questions. They want your money they just want you to buy Gems via other methods than there website apparently. Do so Google’s on it and you’ll find repeated issues with players trying to buy GEMs from them directly.

 Utterly baffles my wife and I and frustrates us to the point that as I said we don’t play often. What really frustrates us is the utter run around we get from their billing people directly when we try to get the problem fixed. We’re what many players would call “whale players” we’ll throw cash at stuff that interests us in a mmo-rpg at the drop of a dime. Ask Trion and Bioware or Funcom, they do well by us, though since the bullshit with ArcheAge Trion hasn’t seen anything. Heh.

 So yeah I’m not a blanket supporter of ArenaNet, I just simply stated that it takes a certain personality type to handle interacting with posters who can be a bit overbearing, overly entitled and over reactive, prone to hyperbole. You wouldn’t happen to see any of that around here would you? (glances around  slowly)

digi_owl
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digi_owl

I see it as a want for hard data in a sea of vapid hype.

Nordavind
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Nordavind

Not a fan of datamining. Information will come when it’s ready. Some things are meant to be experienced through the game.
“I want to know it all and I want to know it now”
Meh.

Sinaptic
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Sinaptic

paragonlostinspace SallyBowls1 breetoplay Sinaptic 
what that anet gets a pass here on massively? I dont get it. keep cheerleading you will get the media you deserve.

Sinaptic
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Sinaptic

breetoplay Sinaptic 
I ask the same of you bree. You happily trash other devs but when it comes arena net they almost always get positive light and rarely get bad press from you.
I simply see a bias toward anet and a couple of other studios. I would hope you treat them all equal.

KirkSteadman
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KirkSteadman

I personally really enjoy data mined info, I always check youtube when I wake up to see if that_shamn or wooden potatoes put up a video on some new stuff. What I really hate is going into the forums and seeing people bitch about how terrible “their” elite spec is based off of the data mined info.

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

Lethality schmidtcapela
As long as the data has been sent to the player’s computer, and the player is supposed to be able to actually play the game, no, it’s not doable. There is no sure way of protecting it even if the dev could do anything they wanted, and they can’t; for example, in some places they could be sued over privacy issues if their game even attempts to list which other programs are also open at the same time — say, to see if any of those programs is a known debugger or cheat engine.

They can make it harder, sure. They can stop the script kiddies. But stopping a knowledgeable and determined player is another matter entirely. It would be far easier to eradicate cheating than to prevent datamining, and most devs didn’t even manage to tackle the cheating issue yet.