Immigration, Democracy, and Your Game

Moving along from that last post, you are now a game developer. MMOs are never completely done, and you are looking for ideas and feedback in making changes. You had cast a wider net during initial development, but now you mostly listen to your current players. These are the people who are willing to pay to play your game (or something very like it), rather than the great many who say they want something but never buy it.

You have a good game! You are successful! You are the next EVE Online, growing from a niche game into something of international note! Can you still get useful input from your playerbase?

Again, people go in search of something better and try to make it more like they are what used to. People will put ketchup on a steak and salt on everything. Americans want to know why they won’t speak English in France or even serve French fries.

So your players came over from Everquest because “EQ suxxorz!” and your boards are filled with requests to make the game more like Everquest. Few people come right out and say it that way, but OrcKnight27 wants his class’s role to be more like EQ, xXxMagelordxXx thinks the raids could be more EQ-like, and Legalahs differs from the pack by asking for a feature from Dark Age of Camelot.

Is that so unreasonable? All those older games did have some good features, and maybe we can use some of them. Is there a perfect balance in exactly how solo- vs. group-friendly a game should be, or PvE vs. PvP, or how much raid-content there should be, or… Yes, obviously there is a perfect balance, because every poster seems to know it.

Six months down the line, the posts start to spread about how this game is making the same mistakes that EQ made and we’re all leaving for the New New Thing. There are competing with posts saying that the game has tried and failed to reinvent the wheel by gradually getting rid of everything that worked well in EQ. You might take the two together to mean you have finally reached the right balance, but subscription numbers are falling.

Can you tell the players to shut up because you are following The Vision? No, that does not sound like EQ at all.

One of the most important things we learn from market research is that people have no idea what they want, or if they do they lie about it. They want you to make changes to your game that will cause them to quit in a few months. They want you to focus your resources on every possible option at zero cost. They want you to make it better without changing anything. They complain about problems, adapt in the time it takes you to fix them, then complain about your having fixed the problems.

And most of them join and quit without ever telling you why, so you don’t know if the constant stream of complaints is representative until you see how subscriber numbers react to changes.

I started this post wondering how we could fix the game development process, but now I am wondering how we can fix the players.

: Zubon

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