How To Talk To MMORPG Developers

Do MMORPG developers actually listen to their players?

It’s a question I’ve seen asked dozens of times – usually by a player angry that their favourite MMORPG has changed in what they see as an awful way. I may have asked it a time or too myself.

But of course they do – and today we’ve got two bloggers looking at how, why, when and where developer feedback matters.

First up, Matthew Rossi looks at the issue of feedback in WoW, specifically, in his WoW Insider column. He addresses both why the developers don’t always agree, and why even when they do agree, features can take years to appear

“We have to be careful when offering feedback to not assume that our opinions are self-evident fact, and any dissent from said opinion or lack of immediate change to fit our opinion is malicious. Blizzard didn’t just dump CRZ not because they hate you and are stubbornly keeping a bad feature to spite you, they kept CRZ because they believe that it’s an emerging feature that they can improve with time and feedback. Look at the original implementation of the Dungeon Finder and its improvement in Wrath of the Lich King to see a feature that went from everyone refusing to use it to becoming a feature absolutely everyone uses. In fact, love them or hate them, we can’t ignore that Cross Realm Zones are themselves a response to player feedback. They were born out of a desire to address players’ issues with empty low level zones.”

Matthew does an excellent job of injecting a note of calm into the discussion without leaning entirely toward “the developers are always right”. I’ve actually been evaluating feedback from users myself today, for another project, and he does a really good job of pointing out some of the difficulties inherent in figuring out what the right direction is for a huge project.

Meanwhile, more specifically, Arielle at The Inconspicous Bear writes a guide to presenting feedback effectively in a way that will actually be noted and considered

“The most important note about this kind of feedback is that the efficiency or “math” is never in question. It’s all about how something in the game makes you feel as a player. Note that it is possible to have an objective analysis of something that then implies a subjective response. However you must remember that the reverse is never true. Just because something “feels bad” in terms of efficiency (usually in terms of “X”-per-second) does not mean that you can say so in an objective manner without performing some sort of actual data analysis.”

This is a short post, but a really useful one. Arielle’s checklist of Things To Absolutely Definitely Make Sure You’ve Done is particularly good, and I suspect I’ll be referring back to it the next time I want to persuade a developer of something that I think they’re doing wrong…

What do you think about feedback? Does it work? Do devs listen as much as they should?