Friday, March 12, 2010

Developers from a Player Perspective (or at least mine)

The developers that I trust, the one's that seem to "get it", are the ones that approach MMO development the way that a scientist would. They say things like, "we have been analyzing player behavior, and concluded that we really need to do X to our game because of Y." They make observations and draw conclusions from data rather than guessing. For example, a few weeks or months ago Turbine noticed that something like 60% of all three man skirmishes started in LoTRO were being attempted by two players. Based on this observation, they sagely concluded that putting in skirmishes balanced for two players should be a priority. Mike Darga has a good post about this approach to development.

The ones I don't trust are the ones that do a poor job of managing my expectations. If a studio manages my expectations poorly enough, I may very well rage quit. However, at the very least they will turn me from a potentially loyal customer into a "living in the MMOment" customer (a post by Green Armadillo I recommend btw). The moment I'm not having fun, I'm off to another product. I may keep an eye on such a product and see if changes that sound fun to me get patched in. However, if I do ever sub up again I surely won't get invested in any communities in-game. After all, in a game where systems I find fun may be destroyed at a moment's notice, I need to be able to quit at moment's notice and not look back.

I don't mean to imply that these are mutually exclusive or all inclusive categories. For example, Turbine, has certainly fallen in both categories over the years (see above, then see AC II or the radiance system in LoTRO). However, these are the thoughts on player perception that have floated to the top of my head in the last few days. Given the recent flurry of posts on managing player perceptions in the blogosphere, I thought the time was ripe to add my two coppers.


  1. Whenever managing expectations comes up, I think of Peter Molyneux and his off-the-cuff remarks about his games. Bill Roper is right when he says that thinking out loud quickly becomes design promises in the mind of the community. As much as people want more interaction with game developers, there are good reasons why that isn't always a great idea.

  2. @Anjin: in some ways I think developers are in a tough spot. They know a lot about subjects that many of us are curious they will get asked questions. However, they have no training in how to communicate with the public. And when speaking on behalf of a product that has millions of dollars invested in it, they will feel a lot of the same pressures a politician does.

    But yea, totally agree. Developers often get into trouble by seeming to promise more then they ever intended too.