Blizzard Battles the Ghost Town Effect

The “Ghost Town Effect” was first identified as a problem with Starcraft 2’s debut of 2.0. Its legacy has marred the platform’s reputation as many have rechristened it as “ 0.2” based on its lackluster tools for matchmaking and socialization. This sentiment was not shared by all, but it spurred movements across the internet to bring change to the interface that was perceived as a step backward rather than a step forward.

A while ago, Azzure wrote a fairly compelling article that identifies many of the problems facing the Diablo III community when we learned that SC2 chat would be utilized yet again. He posited that a game centered on co-operative play and interconnectedness would suffer without a robust socialization platform. Similarly, Flux posted a lengthy article on problems and solutions regarding the interfaces along with fan made mock-ups of how the chat could actually look.

Flux said it fairly succinctly:

I think the problem is a divergence of goals. Fans want a chat interface and channel system that’s useful for communication and socializing, which is why almost all of the complaints about the current system is how hard it is to use. The window is tiny, the text is plain white, there aren’t formatting options, the window can’t be resized or repositioned, etc. Additionally, the sins of the SC2 chat system are assumed to carry over to D3?s, so fans are assuming there will be no support for guilds, no private channel permanence or mod tools, etc.

But it seems that a couple years of fan requests have finally caused the gears to turn at Headquarters, as Blizzard is beginning to make some much-needed changes, at least for DiabloWikiStarcraft 2. In a recent game update article, DiabloWikiDustin Browder identified “Contact and Communication” as a priority for their upcoming patch 1.5. While I know this is a Starcraft 2 article, it is pertinent to the issues that have been raised by the D3 community.

Contact & Communication

We’ve heard concerns about the StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty social experience and many of these comments boil down to, “the service feels empty” and “I don’t know where to go to find people.” We have some simple fixes we’re going to put into the chat system to try to give players some additional connectivity. These aren’t huge fixes, but they may help players who want a more social experience.
First, we’ll allow players to resize their chat windows to fill a larger portion of the screen. We’ll also remember the chat channel you were in as well as the position of that chat channel on your screen for when you next return to the game. This will allow players who want to recreate something that feels a lot more like Warcraft III or the original StarCraft to build their own interface that looks a lot like those older games.

I would recommend reviewing the entire article on the update, as it covers more about game-matching options and how they will be tackling custom game creation. I find it important, as these changes can easily carry over to Diablo III – or at least prompt a reconsideration by DiabloWikiJay Wilson. The best case scenario appears to be the cross-IP adoption of the aforementioned changes to the platform, as it would waylay the concerns that have plagued 2.0 since its inception.

What is nice to know is that Blizzard is listening to their community. It may take a couple years to prompt change, but they get there in the end.

What are the community’s thoughts on the Ghost Town Effect and Blizzard’s response to the arguments? Do the changes being made to Starcraft 2 sound like an adequate response to the community requests? ANd most importantly, would these be welcome changes to the current Diablo 3 chat system?

Thanks konfeta for posting this in the forums.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Controversy, Starcraft 2


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  1. we can only hope the same for d3…. 😯

  2. I heard the ghost town effect was being cut for release of D3.

    • so if the ghost town effect is ‘cut’ to release d3 that means they made it like how they say they are doing with SC2 at the moment… lol risingred…. but i do get the purpose of your humor. ghost town effect is bad, we WANT it cut lol 8)

    • WTF cutting content to release [email protected] Must be so Bobby can buy a new solid gold yacht!1one

  3. It’s cool to hear that they’re “working on it” .

  4. You make it sound like it took them a decade or more to get the chat improvements, but SC2 got chat just last year so it’s not really THAT long 🙂

    • They originally had planned something called “groups” which never happened, and was supposed to be the new version of chat. They just didn’t bother. And then they didn’t bother putting in chat.

      Release day on the SC2 general forum was nothing but threads from new players asking where the chat was, and severe disappointment that it wasn’t there. Apparently this surprised blizzard despite the fact that we all asked for it during the beta on the forums.

      So what did they do? Half-assed it. Considering the chat is so basic that it pre-dates IRC tech, I would say yes, it is THAT long. 

  5. Blizzard has become a big company. Things move in mysterious ways through many la(w)yers. Slow but they do seem to get there at some point. Sounds a bit like experimentation to me, but sounds like great news as well. Moving in the right direction here!

  6. I don’t understand they don’t just implement the wow chat, that worked well imo.

    • It’s been proposed that Blizzard does not want to add a sophisticated social network in Diablo 3 because you do not pay monthly for it. By doing so, players from their cash cow (WoW) may transfer over and cancel their subscriptions because an equal or better social game exists. It’s honestly all about money. And because of this, Blizzard will continue to stray away from communication in games that do not require monthly payments.

    • Yeah, that guy has been spamming for days.  Good to see he’s making good use of his Beta access (and his life).

      • Kudos to the guy tho! at least hes getting attention and making his point to the Beta testers ie the people with the power to comment on the forums and be ignored by blue posters 😀

      • He’s the most benevolent spammer I’ve ever seen.

        He’s yelling at Blizz to recognize the point he’s making of “THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN BECAUSE I CAN EXIST!” 


  7. Faillard can’t do anything right, so don’t expect them to pull a miracle out of their incredibly bruised and beaten assholes now.

  8. It’s puzzling at best but there are numerous rumours going around as to why that’s the case, most of which have been touch on one way or another here.  

    One i’ve been toying with is what ever happened to that product road map and blizzards/actvi implementation of steam? Wasn’t that due out around 2012/13. Would they try and integrate that into their games heavily?  If it had most of steams features such as inviting people to games from it, form and join clans which have guild like chats etc then link that system into the game so it’s one chat system where people are permanently connected to whether in a game or not.  That could explain the currently disgraceful chat implementation.

    Of course its all speculation and conjecture at best. 

    EDIT: Found the road map

    BNET 3rd parties was what i was referring too which was slated as 2012.

  9. The Diablo 3 beta chat channel is fine as it is. The major fail is way you connect to public games. It’s totally random based on you unlocked quest. Basically for me it is almost stupid to use the public games function, only joinning games with friends (could be IRL or ingame buddies) makes sence. I perfectly feel the Bnet 2 “ghost town” effect in Diablo 3 but its not entirely the Bnet’s fault. The game is desined that way with the stupid quest system. However, I belive that Diablo will not have any problems with this system because the game itself is not based on competing against each other, but cooperating with others. That greatly reduces the need for finding more players, as you can start playing alone and then someone can join you.

  10. I love how it only took Blizzard TWO YEARS to listen to their CUSTOMERS.  Really, Blizz?

  11. u mean to fully implement it.. im sure they heard you, ever been ignored before then someone answers way later? cmon man use common sense

  12. Just a caveat; matchmaking is one of the things that BNet 2.0 does well. Starcraft 2’s “Find Match” button is one of the only things that really does its job; you almost always find a player within a minute and you get a good mix of skill levels to play against.

    What Starcraft 2 does not do well right now is provide any reason to stay logged on when you need some downtime from playing ladder games. You have to join a custom “observer” map to watch other people play, you can’t watch streams within the client, the custom game finder is awful and it’s nearly impossible to get a game going unless it’s on the first page, and the chat functionality is very limited. There are no clans to join and in over a year of playing the game, I haven’t added any buddies by playing the game; only my Real ID friends and a handful of people I got in contact with on other forums. I don’t think allowing users to change the size of the chat window will change much, if at all. Interface customization is always nice, but it won’t make it any more fun to hang around in-game. Not everyone cares about chat channels, either; I hardly used them in Brood War, I only really bothered chatting to friends. However, I do think that taking steps to make the custom game scene more interesting will make a huge impact on the quality of the game. You need something to keep players busy and interested. It doesn’t have to be chat channels and clan support if Blizzard really thinks that the moderation and support required isn’t worth it, but that would certainly help, too.

    Also, the things that apply to Starcraft don’t necessarily apply directly to Diablo. In D3, you might kill time with PvP or exploring or making challenges for yourself, whereas Starcraft is more about custom games and there isn’t as much you can do to simply dick around while killing time. Comparisons to SC2 are bound to pop up, but I wouldn’t assume that D3 will be the same as SC2 just by looking at the chat support.

  13. Too little, too late. If they did it properly when SC2 had millions of new players they could count on people forming friendships and thanks to longer attachment, recruiting new players (from RL friends). Now most people just don’t play/care anymore. Whats worse this patch actually does very little to help the situation, we won’t be logged into full blown chat by default (country dependent ofc) like in the olden days (sc/d2), it will be hidden in that awkward “chat channels” button that 99% players don’t even know exists. Thus there still won’t be a sense of “community” that’s lacking now.

    Bad design is bad, there is no running from it and Blizzard clearly messed up on really badly this time. D3 won’t be an exception, so many compromises and features are created with $$$ in mind they left out “unimportant” features like clans/guilds, watching replays together and tournament support. Their No-LAN decision is felt at almost every tournament with lags, interruptions and delays, all in the name of the holy $. 

  14. My main issue with SC2’s chat is after a certain amount it opens a new channel. If I’m in the LFG channel and there are already 30 people in a room it puts me in a new one with 2 people. Yeah, great, limit the amount of people for LFG, that makes no god damn sense.

  15. I personally don’t care. I don’t think I’m going to be spending any time online chatting with strangers in a lobby. I’ll play with friends, or join a HC clan, but I’m not going to really use the chat channels. However, I realize this means a lot to some people, so might as well make them happy.

  16. Thank you Blizzard

  17. It’s taking them years of iteration to figure out basic attack, you think they can handle chat channels or clan features? There’s nothing wrong with the old b.nets from the SC/D2/Warcraft era. Just copying those with a new coat of paint would be fine. Which means either they’re incompetent or it’s to protect people bleeding away from WoW.

  18. My God, video games are like music bands.
    Yesterday they where legends, today they are Bieber.

    How many patches will D3s Chat need to make it just like D2? … after all the answer was there all along! 

  19. These updates looks cool, but would be even better with cross game Clan support. Have all your friends in the same clan, seperat clan chat that can be seen inside all 3 games. D3/WoW/SC2.


  20. So they’re letting us re-size chat windows and some kind of “feature” where we can chat to people that are physically near us anyway. Big deal… like lobo said, too little, too late.

  21. I like how they say they aren’t huge fixes, yet it took years to roll out. Do they even have people who can solve the simplest problems? What do the people whose job is to create a viable battlenet even get paid to do?

  22. Amazing.. They just won’t listen. This is the second time they try to fix bnet with some extreme stupid features, that won’t help at all. How does resizing the screen help me get new friends? I just don’t get it.  

  23. Well, that’s a real shame.

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