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Reader Comments (77)

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:10PM Swyyw said

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While I agree there's a lot of ridiculous stuff being said on the Internet (well, duh), I think it would be naive to think that these games are being developed with only fun in mind. Video games are a creative business but a business nonetheless, and sometimes fun will be sacrificed at the altar of money-making. I feel this is particularly prevalent with MMO's, where developers will stick to the "safe" game design choices to be sure to reach the widest audience possible.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 4:08PM (Unverified) said

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While it is indeed naive to assume that a company's only motive in creating a game is "for fun," you should also realize that a company will only make money off their product if the game is fun in the first place. Making money and making a game fun are not mutually exclusive goals, and I'm always surprised when people assume that the presence of one automatically precludes the other.

If your game sucks, no one will buy it. If the game is fun, tons of people will buy it. That's as simple as I can imagine it being.
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:13PM Lateris said

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I used to be a whiner until I started to make my own game with the UT III UDK tools. It changed my views entirely from a troll to someone who can actually understand that this is not an easy process. People are clueless. Not all of them. Just the majority.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:20PM (Unverified) said

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If never understood why people get so upset about games. They are meant to be fun. If you're not having fun, for whatever reason, don't play. It's as simple as that. If you have the chance to give some constructive criticism or creative feedback, then by all means, do it. But don't just sit there saying "OMGWURSTGAMEEVAR!!!11!" just because you don't like one or two design choices.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:22PM Scopique said

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I second Lateris' reply. I'm working with Unity right now to build a game, and even with the streamlined workflow that Unity provides, it's a big fking uphill battle. What you THINK will be a piece of cake, drawn on the back of a napkin, ALWAYS turns out to be a monumental undertaking. Take the UI for instance , since it's topical: people seem to know what they DON'T like, but give them some paper and ask them to design what they DO like, and it'll probably come out like crap, mine included.

And then comes the programming. I've met some people who are absolute geniuses when it comes to game server development, and even when I tried to use off the shelf solutions like SmartFox, I realized how complex these things are. We take all of this for granted by only seeing the end result, and for anyone who has never even TRIED to code or seriously design a game of any stripe -- and I mean really sit down and do it, not just fantasize about it -- to rip into professional developers who make these games is just asanine.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:25PM Nef said

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Yup, making games isn't easy and can often be a trial and error process. (I have tried it in a few different mediums.)

However, that still doesn't change the fact that there are instances where developers are told, constructively even, that systems/features/etc. are not good in their current state and the feedback goes seemingly unheard till things start going badly. While developers may be highly knowledgeable in game creation, gamers still know what is and isn't fun.

Sadly, the games industry is still an industry and driven by money (instead of the oft imagined rainbows and unicorns) so it seems many design decisions are made and changed based on that.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:55PM (Unverified) said

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I completely agree. While most gamers may not understand how hard fixing "slugish" gameplay is we can tell when a feature is simply un-fun. I think Mythic is a great example. It took a change in regime for them to start making the changes the community requested.

There is enough info out there that most communities can theorize balance just as well as any game developer. The community also realizes that small changes are best.
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Posted: Aug 20th 2010 8:57AM gallahad said

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You have to remember to look at all that from the dev's perspective. Getting comments from a forum is at best a tricky proposition, and more likely just to be bad. The reason: you don't know who's doing the commenting. A lot of people out there on forums complaining about stuff are doing it for selfish reasons: make my character better, and nerf everyone else. Many more people aren't being selfish, but they're making bad ideas. And very few people might have legitimate complaints. The problem, though, is that you don't necessarily know who is what.

Even someone who is well intentioned with a legitimate thought most likely doesn't have the whole perspective needed to really make an idea. It's easy to say "it'd be easy to chance X so that it does Y since they're not very different", but due to the mysterious ways of coding (speaking as a programmer), even slight changes can require large investments in time: you've gotta write the change, and then you've got to test it. Then you've got to test it more to make sure it doesn't break anything else. Then you've got to test it even more to make sure one change at level 10 doesn't massively screw things up at level 50. Then you've got to beta test it with large amounts of people to see how it affects the masses. And you've got to do that while stuff like bugs and other features are also clamoring for time.

And that doesn't even factor in the issue of "does the idea fit in to the vision of the project".

This doesn't excuse devs from making blatantly bad decisions. But when you're down in the trenches and taking fire, you don't always have the luxury of perfect information.
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 3:29PM jimr9999us said

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In rl I manage a produce department for a large grocery chain. It is a challenging job that requires a specific skill set learned over many years. My responsibility is simple though: generate revenue for the company by providing good enough produce to entice people to shop at my store rather than a competitor. If the produce I sell is rotten, customers will complain to myself or my staff. They are rarely polite, nor do I expect them to be. Perhaps if I spent ten minutes with a dissatisfied shopper and explained to them all of the subtle nuances, the unseen challenges of my job they'd feel differently about that peach they paid for but threw out?

The gaming community exists to provide feedback. If I pay money to a company to entertain me, I expect to be entertained. I cannot return time or money spent in an mmorpg at a service desk. Of course their job is hard. All jobs are hard. And all jobs come with a set of expectations.

I appreciate any comment I receive from a shopper, no matter how brittle. It's by listening to feedback I get better at my job. The gaming industry in general would do well to listen to what their customers say more, instead of leaning so hard on reports and metrics. I don't care about mechanics...I want my game to be less stressful than the work that preceded it.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 4:01PM maty said

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First off, let me start by saying 'thank for' for such a great article!

I am a games developer myself working as a content dev on an up-coming MMO and everything said in this article rings so true. I love games and I love making them, I have the greatest job in the world, I create experiences.

At the comment above, I have no idea where your "reports and metrics" thought came from but that simply isn't true, at least for the vast majority of developers. It may be true for publishers, but please don't tar us with the same brush. All that is in our mind throughout the day is 'how can we make this fun?", "how can we make this the best experience?", "how can we improve this feature?"... etc etc. We strive to create emotions, environments and experiences you've never had before and that's the great thing about developing games.

My entire workforce at my company regularly spend time on websites, socialising on other games (even here on massively) reading player's and the community's ideas and feedback, and we take it on board. We're not saying 'don't give us feedback' - its our job to listen, and we wouldn't be very good at it if we couldn't take criticism. All this article asks for, and all we ask for, is for everyone to see the passion we put into things and that we have a lot to consider when making design choices. I work with two excellent balancing guys, even I miss things sometimes that they point out. There's a lot to weigh up, especially with an MMO.

Accusing us of not loving or not playing games is tantamount to someone walking into your store and saying "I bet you've never shopped in a grocery store in your life". Its a pretty ridiculous statement.
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 4:59PM Seraphina Brennan said

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What Maty said is exactly right. I'm not trying to say, "The community doesn't know the game and shouldn't comment." I'm not saying that at all. The community catches errors, can provide great feedback, and can lend another set to eyes to things you might overlook. All of the reports the community can generate can fix things in rapid fire succession, as their collective notes can shed light on something you never noticed.

What I am talking about are the comments that flip out on developers because "change X wasn't implemented in the last patch and it's obviously the best idea since sliced bread and it's obvious that I'm right and you're wrong and why are you so dumb."

It's the thought that every single suggestion is obviously better than anything a developer can come up with, and if the proposed solution isn't used, then the solution given isn't right. It's that haughty, "I'm right and you're wrong and I'm right because I'm the customer or because I see something you don't" tone that people adopt.

People forget how hard making a game can be, because we're use to them being so much fun. Sometimes there isn't time for all of those fixes, sometimes the problem being referenced can't be solved in the way the community is proposing, and sometimes the community is making an issue out of something that isn't there at all. And when a developer doesn't step in immediately and fix something, the community will go all up-in-arms because it wasn't fixed RIGHT NOW. (But, they'll see fit to completely overlook all of their suggestions that you did fix in the patch.)

This article is to remind us that games are hard to make, that everyone makes mistakes (even in making games), and sometimes the only way to find fun is to keep trying things that aren't fun until we can iterate it just right to make it fun. As I said above, fun is an elusive little slimebucket.

~Sera
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 5:15PM Distaste said

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@Maty

Whether you see it or not, the games development companies are a business. People need experience and jobs and who usually hires the most people? MMO's. For most positions this isn't an issue, but for others it is a stone cold detriment. Why? While most games developers might be gamers they aren't MMO gamers. Others suffer from tunnel vision and refuse to see anything outside of their ideas as good or usable.

I'm a Chef and there is one thing I can tell you; there are too many people in the field that couldn't come up with a creative dish to save their lives but love cooking and put in a lot of time/effort into making meals. Get my point? You might like games, you might work your ass off, you might be able to copy & paste others work flawlessly, BUT you might suck at making an original game or adapting to new market changes.

Certain things in an MMO are a given hard to do thing. Balancing is one of them and it's almost never right. I've seen games try to balance classes before they were given their balance changing mechanic. Now I might not know how long you spend staring at data and metrics to find that one value to change, BUT I do know you don't try to balance before all the weight is on the scale.

Want to talk current games? Well lets go with Mark Jacobs. He is no doubt a passionate man who loves games yet he was a major factor in the flop of Warhammer. Now whether it was from his mothers health problems and later death or maybe his managers not letting him know everything we don't know. One thing that I can tell you is that the man had tunnel vision and tuned a lot of things out.

Look at Bioware and they once again have tunnel vision. Story in an MMO is fine but you need other aspects of your game to be exciting, new, fresh, etc. They seem to be blocking out any feedback that focusing on story has major downfalls in an MMO and that you need to include new game play twists/elements. There is a reason a good portion of veteran MMO players are already losing interest in SWTOR and find it "meh". Hopefully they are changing things in house but if they are just now, and I shouldn't have to tell you this, getting the message that story will be glossed over then it is too late to get some good game play mechanics.
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 6:10PM maty said

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Wow, its great you're so passionate! Love it :).

"While most games developers might be gamers they aren't MMO gamers"

Bit of an assumption, eh?! All my colleagues are passionate MMO'ers and gamers. They play a variety of games, from browser-based, to more mainstream MMOs such as WoW, EQ and Guild Wars. Thrown in with some Starcraft, Left 4 Dead 2, even Mario Kart and FIFA.

"You might like games, you might work your ass off, you might be able to copy & paste others work flawlessly, BUT you might suck at making an original game or adapting to new market changes."

I myself have worked on award-winning games and some of the most popular modifications in my spare time, too. My current company promoted me within 2 month and I also have a first class honours degree in games design. You don't get that from copy & pasting. I pride the projects I work on in being original. I'm not boasting - just trying to show that its an unfair assumption.


"Developers have precious little time to play any games".

I managed to get 4 hours of game-time in this evening, as I do most evenings, along with all my colleagues! Had a blast :). That said, I do concede your point a little - I have contacts who work for other companies who were told once to bring sleeping bags in to work as the deadline was approaching! Doesn't happen for me, thankfully! Set hours for the win :).


As for bugs? Time is limited when building to release. Most companies aim to release with no "A" or "B" class bugs (game-breaking) and manage that. Smaller bugs may only crop up out of obscurity. And fixing the bugs falls to the developers - but with potentially many to fix, its a balance between some small bugs, but great content, or bug-free but no new content.


"not all companies tolerate having a lead telling a supervisory board head they are basically an idiot"

I guess I'm fortunate enough to work in such a company - feedback and communication are #1 priority. :) Not always true, I will agree. RTW looks to be such a case!


Finally, your comment about emplying the most people? MMOs tend to not employ any larger of a workforce than other titles. What usually happens is the "cookie cutting" is outsourced. So all the thousands of small models and textures are created outside the company. This allows the content team to worry about the game itself. The company I work for has a relatively small MMO team.


You're entitled to your opinion, and for some companies, your opinions may be entirely valid. In my experience, with the companies I've worked for, none of your opinions hold true. We're not just 'employed', and employed to copy other's content. We're employed based on our ability to create great, new things. We're trained, skilled and spent many years in this area. We want feedback, we want bug reports (I used to QA test myself), but we can't fix _every_ bug and we're not blind to what's fun and what games are.

Bed time! :)
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 6:54PM sandwiches said

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ITT: jimr9999us and disataste making us say: "Case in point."

I love the comments that start with something like "I agree with the article but..." The next few sentences will show you how they either did NOT agree with the article as they claim and/or they simply did not understand the article.
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 11:27PM jimr9999us said

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The point I got from Sera's excellently written (as usually, and why I visit this site as often as I do, because it sure isn't because I agree with the opinions) column is that gamers would be better served to communicate the gameplay issues they encounter in a thoughtful, intelligent matter and that by creating a more mature discourse the industry and gamers both would ultimately benefit.

My response was simply to suggest that such an expectation is unrealistic given the nature of consumer/business relationships elsewhere in our world. Developers would do well to develop thicker skin and take our passionate demands for what they are, a broad range of feedback that comes free of charge...and oftentimes comes from a paying customer.


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Posted: Aug 20th 2010 4:37AM Its Utakata stupid said

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Well let me be the first to say, I'm not sure I agree with everyones' point sandwiches, including Sera's and Matey's as wonderfully stated as they are.

There's a small thing in this industry that hasn't been pointed out. Some developers' experience comes from the fact they used to play MMO's. In fact this may be their biggest asset as to why they where hired to develop a game in the first place. I know for a fact this was very true with WoW's devs whose gaming background was running raid guilds in the EQ IP.

So this makes a very interesting case for the rest of us who are not developers, but consummers. Therefore, our time playing games makes our opinions somewhat informed. Granted we don't understand all the technical nuanses and such that go into a MMO. But we have developed a sense what we like and what we don't like. And as well as indication whether a game will do well or not. Or even if there are problems down it's road. I could go on.

Our problem is that we often uncouth and unprofessional when addressing problems with MMO, whether we play them or read about them here. And frankly we're dicks about it. I honestly don't think that helps the developers gage their products well. And is something we most certainly need to improve upon. Communicating properly in this regard is very important.

As for Sera's concerns...I'd say this; like with everygame...it has it's n00bs. And sometimes those n00b's say the darndest things. I think many of us who are experienced in playing MMO's in general are aware that dev's most likely play their games they develope for example. And are also aware, that *MMO's can't be slapped together fired out the door. They are complicated monstrosities...so this is where I appreciate and relieved when dev's say, "It will be released when it's ready." for example. Anyways...

/whew...that was my 2 cents. :)

*Note: I sometimes wonder if Cryptic Studios understand that concept though. :(
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Posted: Sep 4th 2010 9:22PM (Unverified) said

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Well said, Jim. Very well said.

At the end of the day, no matter what anyone says or what developers do, or how hard anything is:

We're paying to be entertained, if we're not entertained, we won't pay. It's not our problem to work out how to make a game we somewhat enjoy, better; the developers are there to do that.

Sounds harsh, but it's true.
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Posted: Aug 19th 2010 4:02PM (Unverified) said

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If we are talking about UI's, I think part of that comes from what is available in outside downloads, many of those are pretty amazing compared to standard game UI's. If you are talking about building a game as a Hobby ok you can show all the appreication you want for how tuff it would be to build a game. Ok so building a game is tuff, so is running a business.
If you don't offer your customers what they want and constantly measure yourself, by your competition....YOU WILL LOSE. Nothing to do with how hard it is. Do it right, rolling dice, mob mechanics, player mechanics, game design...ect... you win.
On customer comments, most business would kill to have the kinda of input that is given on gaming forums, to have customers that feel what you are giving them belongs to them.That is the goal of many businesses to have that kind of buy in from your customers that they feel compelled to tell you what they want. What is simply amazing is how VERY few developers appreciate the wealth of information offered on forums.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 4:05PM redsolar said

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I like your point on iterations. Those iterations help give me a sense of what was done well and what was done poorly. Sometimes you just have to start from scratch to get it all straightened. I've done this in graphic design stuff when brainstorming over the concepts. In the world of games, especially MMOGs, it's a huge task to take upon.

Posted: Aug 19th 2010 4:07PM Trippin Ninja said

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Great article! As a person who likes some of the less popular mmo's I often find myself wading through these kind of comments. Maybe it's because I at one time looked into the game devleopment field that even if I don't care for a title I still respect it and the hard work that created it.

I have to salute you guys and gals in the game industry. You work long hours for mediocore pay and in a very competitive field. It's a tough career path. Just remember some of us do know how tough you guys got it despite how many blathering idiots on the web say otherwise. ;-)

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