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Reader Comments (14)

Posted: Nov 15th 2009 11:00PM Marked said

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A good developer is going to play somewhere in the middle. On one hand, if you don't communicate anything, you'll alienate your customers who think you don't care. On the other hand, if you reveal too much, you have non-stop complaints in the "but you said..." variety regarding stuff that was still in development when the comment was made and tends to change before it goes live.

Posted: Nov 15th 2009 11:29PM esarphie said

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Way back when, when I actually worked on a game, I discovered how difficult managing open communications with players can be. The problem is who you end up communicating with. Too many times the loudest voices are not indicative of the game population as a whole, and you can get a seriously skewed opinion of your own game by listening too closely.

Or to put it another way, in most cases, the players you really want to keep satisfied, those that make up the bulk of your game population, are not the ones posting thousands of times to the forums. Listening exclusively to the squeaky wheels often leads to that endless cycle of class balancing which we've all come to dread.

As far as Aion goes... are they simply not listening to foster an appearance of polish as this article suggests, or are they, like the Linneage II team before them, listening to their local player-base to the exclusion of all others?

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 12:33AM Tizmah said

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That's true, sometimes it does feel that the developers in some games only listen to the guy who post a 2 page essay on a certain problem in the game on a forum.
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Posted: Nov 16th 2009 12:48AM (Unverified) said

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Yeah, I agree that a balanced approach is best. Aion is the first NCSoft game I've really gotten into, and I have to say that overall I don't think they are nearly as lacking in communication as people tend to accuse them of being but I would like to see a bit more from then in certain areas of communication.

There was a major lag problem that sprouted up seemingly out of nowhere a couple of weekends ago that made the game unplayable for me and countless others. Within hours of it occuring, people were all over the forums saying they're quitting the game because NCSoft "still" hasn't responded to the issue. They not only responded to it, but resolved it within a couple of days.

They've responded about botting multiple times as well, yet I constantly hear players claiming that NCSoft hasn't yet said a word on the issue. Whether or not they ever get a handle on the bots is another issue, and I realize that a lot of Lineage players are understandably quite cynical about it. But a failure to solve a problem is by no means the same as failing to even acknowledge it.

Where I do think they are awfully quiet is in their overall vision for the game. What new features would they like to implement? How do they feel about current class balance? I would love a more open dialogue in this regard, though I also understand the pitfalls of this approach. Ghostcrawler is still trying to ship those ponies out to the millions of players he 'promised' them to ;) It could be that they talk about these things more with their Korean players, but I haven't heard any buzz on that so far.


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Posted: Nov 16th 2009 2:40AM eyeball2452 said

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I think the problem is that the development cycle can never match the time frame in which player expect changes to be made. Therefore, I don't know that communication with the player base makes a lot of sense or is really needed.

I've taken the approach that giving feedback doesn't matter if the game isn't fun to play. An MMO, imo, will never change fast enough to justify paying a subscription fee to wait for the necessary fixes. MMO revolve around subscriptions and money and that's really the only method to use when giving feedback. It's binary, but forceful. Either I like the game or I don't.
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Posted: Nov 16th 2009 10:35AM (Unverified) said

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SOE made that mistake. They believed in a two-way symmetrical form of communication between developer and player. They used focus groups and surveys to determine that the game (Star Wars Galaxies) was too difficult and too hard to become a Jedi (which everyone wanted).

They decided to take an active strategy and change the game to meet player's desires. There was the uproar in the forums but the belief was that most players did not use the forums, that they were the vocal minority.

The result was disaster. The lesson learned is that the assholes on the forums were the opinion leaders and makers in the game.

WoW's system of constant class rebalance has been a winning strategy for the company, and not one based on listening to player complaints. It's end goal is to keep the game fresh and prevent any one class from being the most powerful.

CCP should also be shown as a company with good practices when it comes to two-way communication. From player elected representatives to the EVE convention in Iceland, they should be held up as the model of open communication.
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Posted: Nov 16th 2009 2:03AM (Unverified) said

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"It could be that they talk about these things more with their Korean players, but I haven't heard any buzz on that so far"

Well that's doing nothing for the Western player base, and I like many others have left Aion due to their lack of communication - or blatant lies when they do communicate.

I hope they change, because the game has so much potential.

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 2:47AM Anatidae said

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Communication is a hard one. To have really open communication, there should be dialog about the core goals of the developer and the strategies on how to get there. Often developers are not willing to share their goal, but rather ignore or defend their design.

For instance, if the goal is to have a player driven economy, one method to that is to have an auction house. Often developers dump the auction house on us players and defend or ignore it's shortcomings (if, say, there are some). Instead, they might communicate that they really want us players to have an economy and ask something like, "What do you need first of all in an auction house?"

MMOs are rather special in that you actually have a large base of players to solicit ideas from. And you can even have a huge ego doing it. If anything, we players want developers who have a clear goal and the drive to achieve it, which takes ego. However it appears to me that most developers get too invested in their methods to achieve the goals instead of constantly evaluating them and adjusting accordingly.

Another example. If someone says an ability is over powered, the developer might ask the community for their suggestions on how it can be balanced next to a similar or opposite ability. Let the community suggest ideas. Maybe some the developer actually implements, and maybe even gives credit for the help. Moderate the discussion without defending their system, but keeping the goal in sight. Basically - lead the masses.

That, to me, would be very cool communication.

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 4:05AM (Unverified) said

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This is an interesting article for me, because I'm planning on trying Alganon partially for the dev communication. I've previously played more polished games but been frustrated by issues that the devs don't seem to acknowledge. So I'm curious to see how a less polished game with good dev communication goes.

I think that there might not be a sweet spot for dev communication like has been suggested though; different gamers want different things from devs and different games need different approaches.

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 4:17AM Faryon said

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Just got a fun idea: What if the devs randomly chose 200 (or more) players every third month or so and asked them to give their honest opinion on what needs fixing/balancing (not bugs unless gamebreaking). The players chosen would need to write something constuctive and with a bit of length, and in exchange those players would get a free week of gameplay or something fun in-game.. In theory this should give the devs a more balanced view, but I have a feeling only the most dedicated players would take advantage of such an offer.

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 8:59AM Crsh said

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NCsoft is pissing me off to no end these days, precisely because they're refusing to talk to their paying customers when it comes to anything else than carefully-crafted PR bullshit.

I can deal with issues when a game just launched, I don't care if it takes another 3 months for some things to be fixed, but come on, just say something already. Pretending the issues aren't there, aren't major and that you aren't losing customers because of them is not helping you (more like you're repeatedly shooting yourself in the foot).

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 4:18PM LaughingTarget said

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Is there a problem with having developers in Egypt?

Posted: Nov 16th 2009 4:57PM (Unverified) said

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No, as long as it's not "BF Egypt". That's just too far.
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Posted: Nov 16th 2009 6:52PM CheesecakeBandit said

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You don't want your devs in "de nile" har har.
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