The Underfoot - Silence Isn't Golden
The Underfoot - Silence Isn't Golden
Submitted by Lewis B on Wednesday September 25, 2013 - 16:20
Interaction between developer and gamer isn't something that I believe should be kept at arms length. Where in the past arms length relationships have been as a result of technological limitations and the lack of social networking (though forums have been around forever), the existence of Reddit, Facebook and Twitter offer an unrivalled platform (or platforms) for interaction with the audiences developers sell their wares to.
The massively multiplayer community is notorious for its insatiable need for information and thirst for insights. I find it odd then that so few developers continue to keep their communities in the dark with sporadic interaction or the predictable silence time between patches.
What I find even more surprising is that in this modern age, it even remains an issue; there are so many platforms available for developers to remove the barrier of creator versus user.
In the grand scheme of things, players just want questions answered. They want to know their issues are being looked into, that they are on the radar and that there is a chance in the foreseeable future that theyll be fixed.
While this is demanding and all issues noted by developers have an internal ranking of priority, players still want to be kept in the loop. Its that simple. Silence only stirs anxiety and annoyance at the fact that nothing is known about the status of X, Y or Z.
Of course many players have their own internal ranking of what is or isn't a priority but it doesn't mean these issues are trivialised or ignored. which for the most part, seems the order of the day in a genre where issues and game functions are commonly broken or bugged for over 12 months after launch.
Currently up to my eyes in Guild Wars 2 over on our sister site (awaiting EQNext I might add), ArenaNet are pretty good when it comes to communication. They hit their forums, Reddit and Twitter but there are still gulfs of time where questions, for critical issues, go unanswered for months with no responses. Why then, is it there such reluctance?
Part of the reluctance I suspect stems from a developer being held to account, for fear of promising something and then having to revert or change that promise throughout the development process, to only be beaten by it. I doubt is a tempting offer. What frustrates me though is the fact that MMOG communities aren't asking for promises or concrete answers, they are seeking insight, thought processes and design ideas so that they too can add their opinions and in turn, hopefully steer the developers down a path they might not have considered. Instead and all too often, players are met with a wall of silence irrespective of whether they've written a brilliant forum post that plots a perfect approach to a problem. Were this an exercise in customer relations, anyone would think the massively multiplayer industry had been taking lessons from Apple.
There's a part of me that suggests disgruntled users continue as they are by making their voices heard and shouting as loudly as possible. While it doesn't always work, it puts the need for an issue to be fixed at the forefront of other players minds that often creates a snowball effect (which eventually culminates in a developer response). It shouldn't however have to come to that way of working to receive an answer - after all, if a car you recently purchased stopped working, would the dealership really expect you to drop it through the roof by a crane just to acknowledge it needed fixing? I wouldn't think so.
With Everquest Next, Sony Online Entertainment have a real chance to create something new when it comes to social interaction and to breakdown the wall that blocks communication between their customers and themselves. Perhaps I can only hope that they undertake the following, so that open communication to stem the flow of issues, becomes a rarity:
Take part in a monthly Ask Me Anything.
Have a "sticky" on the official forums of the top 15 issues currently being addressed in the game.
Have a "sticky" To Do List of items due to be addressed in the next 6 and 12 months.
Encourage staff to respond to posts in "general" and "class" forums at least twice a month, on the most pressing issues (being seen and responding to feedback works wonders for a communities faith).
Have a presence in game by adding public calendar times when you'll appear on X, Y or Z server to interact with the community.
Manage a community team that actively communicates on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit and not one which simply regurgitates existing news.
Give the freedom and time to your development team to write on any medium of their choosing (though official blogs are best) about what they're working on.
Ensure that glaring issues raised repeatedly by the community are acknowledged, responded to and absorbed into 2 or 3 (above.)
As always I'm keen to here your thoughts on developer/player interaction. Do you think developers are too open or too closed? Should they communicate more or is the risk to their reputation too great? Do players even have a right to ask anything of developers after they've paid their money? Let me know!