The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Best Developer Friend!

Scott Jennings, aka Lum the Mad, has posted a fun blog entry over at MMORPG.com, with the oh so controversial title How PvP Can Break Your Game. Scott is a great writer and it’s always fun to read his insights into MMO-making. Syncaine, of course, took offense because Scott mentioned Darkfall, and made some stuff up and Tobold took offense that Syncaine took offense and dug up some old arguments that he probably doesn’t believe himself so he could bash Darkfall (again). All very funny, and quite sad at the same time.

No matter, that’s not really the point here – the point is the description of the forum warriors in Scott’s post. For many forum posters on MMO forums, it seems like the developers are the great enemy. They are the evil that plagues their game, shifting game balance and nerfing classes left to right. We see it all over the place, visit any MMO’s official forums and you’ll find them. Often, the subject line is in caps, so you don’t have to look very hard for the posts I’m talking about.

Nerfed!

Arena is doing what now? Where did my class go?

I agree that the developer can be the great enemy, especially when they bring a huge change to a game that you’ve played for ages. When World of Warcraft introduced the arena, and Blizzard tried to make an e-sport of a game where PvP was an afterthought, well…for me, and many like me, the developers were the enemy. They were ruining our home, our world, because of a small, small fraction of their player base.

But sometimes, especially if you’re a player in a smaller MMO, the developers are not your enemy. Usually, they are trying their best to fix a game in order for the game to stay afloat. Sometimes, they should be seen as your buddy, you should try to work with them instead of against them. Sometimes, you should just play nice, thank them for the stuff they are actually able to deliver, and either thank them for their time and leave or hang around and see what happens.

It’s pretty rampant in the Star Wars Galaxies forums, where a thread about the upcoming (and pretty major and cool) Galactic Civil War-update turns into a flamewar about how relevant Light Side Jedis are in PvP. Instead of understanding that the game is actually struggling, with the executives (that don’t care about your petty abilities or PvP survivability) breathing down the devs’ all too exposed necks, and trying to keep the criticism valid and creative, the forums warriors’ arguments tend all to degenerate into “yur idiots lol”. Seriously, it has to stop.

Attack!

Proud Vanguard forum warriors stand united against this horrible...oh, they are only trying to help? What?

What got my blood flowing this time was this thread on the Vanguard forums, as pointed my way by (the always amazing) Dusty. In it, Silius tries to explain to the players that the dev team is low on resources and that they are trying to do as much as possible with the little they have – which includes scrapping some stuff in order to create a better game in the long run. It’s one of the most honest dev posts I’ve seen on a forum in a long time and it’s not every day a dev comes out and says “look, we’re short on cash, please have patience”.

The bitching starts with the first comment. Already on the first page, people start talking about SOE shutting the game down.

This is really not the time to paint the developer, who actually comes out and says more or less exactly what is going on behind the scenes (something many players ask for in most MMOs), as the enemy. It’s the time to pat him on the back, tell him how much you appreciate the game and that you understand that you don’t have all the data, all the numbers, all the logs, all the knowledge. It’s the time to either come up with some creative criticism, enjoy what is on offer or leave the game behind.

It is not a good time for insults. That developer, who probably had to go head to head with the PR-apartment for evening mentioning stuff like having “tried to do more with what [they] have and it has not always panned out”, has just done you a huge favor. But as a forum warrior and a pro-complainer, I suppose it is hard to see it that way.

It makes me sad, to be honest. I feel for the Vanguard devs. They are working on a gem of a game with one of the coolest crafting systems in the industry and an alternative advancement system that at least tried to do something new (diplomacy). They are probably under a lot of pressure, knowing full and well that if they don’t turn the game around, it will go the way of Matrix Online.

And that means that perhaps that special feature that you were looking forward to will get scrapped. Sorry, the new AA system won’t be available soon. Sorry, no new 24 man raids (any idea how hard raids are to design, not to mention code?) until enough bugs have been fixed and new content is in. Sorry.

I feel with you, Silius. A lot of us do. We’re your buddies! A lot of people that are only playing the game and not complaining on the forums love Vanguard. Keep up the good work, keep making hard decisions for the good of the game’s future. We love you for it.

Sometimes, the best thing to do is to hug people.

/hug

Update: Beau, of Spouse Aggro, places the blame for Vanguard’s struggle on the community.

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5 comments

  1. Stargrace says:

    I agree with you on this one. SO many times people think it’s the developers fault – when in all actuality they answer to suits – they get to make up the general game (ie: stories, lore etc) but they’re still told what to do. They can only do so much especially with a tiny little team like Vanguard has.

    Let me tell you, the team is some of the most amazing and hardworking people I’ve ever met, and they LOVE their game. They’re only human, and can only do so much with money and resources available. They try, and they give 110% every day.

    Hugs.

    • Petter says:

      I very much belive you on that, I am sure the current devs are working their asses of trying to improve the game. I really hope that it will pay off in the end. SOE is, after all, still keeping it alive – it could very well stay online for a long, long time. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that.

  2. Longasc says:

    Reminds me of the unofficial Guild Wars forums. You would be in danger to get stuffed into the camp of the PRO-DEV FANBOIS and start forum wars with the COMPLAINERS who supposedly complain for the sake of complaining.

    You also know that honesty never saved the messenger of bad news. Just ask the Spartans what they do. This is more a general forum thing. Just like the usual debate about Micro-Transactions in Guild Wars, it is always a hot topic.

    Real “dev-hate” is what Tom “Evocare” Chilton and to some extent “Tigole” Kaplan generated over the years. Dunno how they managed to get into this position, but Ghostcrawler usually gets better press, even from those who criticize him. While Tom Chilton apparently is reponsible for the sinking of Atlantis, climate change, Trammel, e-Sports, failed balance, no housing and everything else that does not meet the players fancy. Regardless if he was involved or not, he is always a suspect.

    • Petter says:

      Oh, it’s like that everywhere – on every MMO forum, more or less. It’s what you usually get, and the mob can easily dissuade the more eloquent members of the community from ever setting their feet there again. Perfectly understandable.

      In some ways, I think that when it comes to Blizzard, it is all a by-product of being such a famous company and the certain amount of personality cults which easily springs up around famous game designers. I’ve met Kaplan, he’s a nice guy an all, but his view on what a game should be can be very different from mine – add some forum warrior-ness to that, having a clear target…and that’s what you get.

  3. [...] for computers to run, and saddled with scandal and heavy player criticism.  By all accounts, the game’s improved substantially, and I’ve heard several people even praise how the new dev team has performed superhuman [...]

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