For the minority of players that read the patch notes, there is an even smaller minority. Let’s call them nicely the Caretakers. The Caretakers are players that love the game to a degree that emphasizes the definition of a love/hate relationship. They read the patch notes for your favorite MMO, and whereas more casual players just nod that things are getting better, the Caretakers see holes.
The bear skill is still overpowered. Those fire wizards are still overpowered. The combo-class is still weak and still not wanted in parties. The Cap of Pulcritude (sic) is still (sic). And, what are all these needless things that the developers wasted their time on. Who gives a rodent turd about the stuff they actually did? Except for that one thing, that was pretty good. A light salve for the godhanded slap in the Caretakers’ faces.
The Caretakers then unite in their public council for all casual forumgoers to see, and they pontificate on how the developers clearly do not understand the problems in their own game. Which makes me wonder… Should developers put some defensive, non-patch notes in their patch notes? I don’t just mean the “we understand the issues with [a most reviled feature], and are looking in to it” (which rarely makes it into the patch notes anyway). I mean something that a game designer would query another game designer on.
At the end of the day the Caretakers truly care about the game. Sane community managers and developers know this. Caretakers are also some of the most expert of people on the game. They know the game better than many of the developers. Sane community managers and developers also know this. So could the Caretakers be used manipulatively as an unknowing think tank?
Instead of “we are looking in to the Iddgd stance,” the patch notes could read “we are looking into the invincibility issues with the Iddgd stance, and we are trying to maintain the unique flavor the stance gives to the Marine class while balancing the power of the skill with the other classes. We are currently exploring duration changes as well as a debuff after the use of the skill.” The focus now will lie not in to the fact that the skill still has not been changed, but the problems surrounding the design.
If the designers choose to leave something widely criticized as is, let the Caretakers know why this decision was made. “While the Iddgd stance is powerful in key situations, it does not have the wide-ranging usability that the other classes’ stances have. Data shows that players are rarely using the Iddgd stance in comparison to the Idkfa stance, which might not be as powerful but has greater utility.” Get a few Caretakers to believe the logic behind the decision, even if they have to take it a few steps further, and the stone of progress will start to roll.
Now, it would be wholly naive of me to think that most of the issues are so simple, but gaming companies pay developers to decide on design issues. The “answer” the community creates does not have to be the right one, but think tanks are like BASF, they don’t make the answers they just make them better. Throw the Caretakers a design problem to deconstruct once in awhile, and their whole purpose might shift to a constructive one. Letting them fester in their own Wizard of Oz logic trying to figure out what’s behind the curtain or even worse, stonewalling them with “working as intended” will never be constructive.
Community management and careful patch note creation is an art, and all I have is a paint-by-numbers. Still, I can’t help but notice the influx of Caretaker discussions I read every time there is a patch notes. Maybe there is no good cure, and their negativity will always be. Still, I am hopeful for constructive change where ever it may be.
a very mediocre commodity
In other news, Aljasha at Guru found USK – the German ratings board – has certified a Guild Wars 2 (gamescom – Trailer) for viewers over 6 years of age (if our collective translation worked). Gamescom is August 19-23, and ArenaNet’s Martin Kerstein will be there. Hmmmm…… (just as I am posting this, Tr0nc3k posted it here. Thanks, Tr0nc3k!)