Monday, September 28, 2009

Morning in Vana'diel: I Can't Wait for You to Shut Me Up.

Morning in Vana'diel is your daily dose of FFXI and all things Vana'diel. Give us your thoughts on the interesting topics of the day! I really, really, really want more developer contact... or do I?

Hmmm, so I guess I should explain my disappearance during one of the busiest weeks for FFXI news. The only problem is that there isn't much of an explanation besides the fact that I was busy which in turn made me lazy. There is much to cover from the week that has passed and I plan to try to handle that today if I can. If I can't I will die trying. Or at least sprain my pinky or something.

There might be quite a few posts today because of this, so if it's too much too read... well fucking deal. :)

Speaking about talking too much, I wanted to bring something up from a different game that has nothing to do with FFXI... or does it? I know, by now anyone that plays FFXI has at least a bit of a problem with WoW in some form or another. But I don't want to focus on that, I wanted to talk about the cautionary tale that can be learned from events that have happened on the WoW forums.

You might or might not know this but WoW has official forums and in those forums the lead developer (Ghostcrawler is his name on the forums, his real name is Greg Street) is known for posting about the design concepts and the direction of the development team. To a FFXI player this might seem like the promised land, a game that actually has direct contact with the developers? But as they say, the grass is always greener on the other side of the street.

While FFXI players often beg for more developer contact, this might be a place where we should reconsider what we are wishing for because we just might get it. While more developer contact seems like it could have no bad outcome, there may be a reason that SE doesn't do it more often. And that reason is us, the players.

Ghostcrawler recently posted on the WoW forums that he is going to be cutting back on how much he posts because two things happens whenever he posts explanations of in-game content. The first is that while some people understand what he is saying, a lot of people (and usually the most vocal) break down what he is saying taking things out of context or not keeping perspective about the post. The second thing that happens is that the criticism of the post turns personal, questioning his understanding of the game or knowledge of a class. Yes, the players actually believe they understand the game better from their incredibly limited personal anecdotes than the guy that has access to the data from everyone in the game and the knowledge of the entire game.

You might notice that this sounds familiar. That is because it is. You can see that happen on any FFXI forum. "The developers don't understand the game!" "Why are they nerfing/Why aren't they buffing my class?" "The developers want us to quit!" The similarities between the complaints that people make on FFXI forums compared to the ones made on the WoW forums would be funny if it wasn't so striking. I have literally seen the same exact wordings in the "threats" made by the players of both games.

What does that tell me about the benefit of developer contact? That it doesn't make one lick of difference to player's enjoyment of the game. The whiners will always whine, threaten to quit, scream at the developers whether they are listening or not, and will blame everyone else for their problems. Hey, sounds like life really, doesn't it? In the end, does developer contact change anything at all? While it feels like we may be disconnected from the developers is that because we feel like they are not "listening to us" when they aren't going to listen to us anyway? Even if FFXI's developers were listening and posting and talking to us, would it change anything at all? They know where the game is going months out, they know how they want things balanced, and as much as we critique would it really change anything? Should it change anything?

I know I don't want FFXI run by some of the forum posters I have seen. The term "Monty Hall" comes to mind.


Qtipus said...

WoW from the getgo listened to what players wanted and essentially cherry-picked everything that was good about the current MMOs on the market at the time. This was one of the main things they touted before it's release. Microsoft and Sony (and to an extent, a young SE) had already drawn tons of criticism. Great games to most, not a lot of variety in MMOs at the time, so they didn't have to listen much.

SE took their mentality as a console game designer and applied it to the MMO world, then took years to come around to the idea that people don't want to spend 66% of their game time simply running from zone to zone.

While I don't really want direct contact with developers and whatnot, the differences in how SE handled player demands vs how Blizzard handled them were starkly different. SE's been a lot better lately (re: past 2-3 years) by abandoning the "Play it our way or no way" mentality, but there are still examples of their disconnect with the player-base. AV being the shining example. AV is essentially like the turbo-tunnel in Battletoads where you have to be absolutely perfect to get through it. Just when you think you're about to make it, a fkn triple jump shows up and wrecks your speed sledder.

Yet AV is working as intended...

I say this because some of the gripes people have in discussing SE Developers do have some truth to them, whereas Blizzard Developer gripes do not.

Anonymous said...

Agreed: this "players > developers" mentality does seem to be popping up a whole lot. It's always easy to believe you can do a better job than the other person until you actually do it yourself. Plus, see the same person *coughs* being pointedly vocal about how "FFXI is dying" gets old.

BTW, Qtipus, I'm glad to see that someone else has noticed Square-Enix's whole "console game as an MMORPG" mentality.