Tobold's Blog
Thursday, September 11, 2008
 
Free speech for people who work on MMOs

So Mark Jacobs has a blog. And some people are unhappy about that. I think we can all agree that Mythic's way to communicate with their players is substantially different than those of other MMO companies. SOE and Blizzard are so tight-lipped, letting out only carefully screened statements, that they make the KGB look chatty. But is Mythic's way better or worse than the old way? Part of the problem is certainly that humans are creatures of habit, and blanket statements like "devs shouldn't blog about their current games" are often accepted just because it has always been that way. But if we changed our expectations, why shouldn't they be free to communicate their thoughts however they like?

Everybody has an opinion. So game company CEOs, developers, and customer service representatives have opinions too. The only possible problem there is how readers are able to tell if somebody is making an official statement, or whether he is just voicing an opinion. As the private opinion of Iain Compton I'd have to agree that death threats to GOA because their account site isn't working are "borderline sociopath". As the official statement of Iain Compton, English Community Manager, WAR Europe, I'd have to say that calling your customers "borderline sociopath" is bad PR. As the private opinion of Mark Jacobs, helpfully labeled with "in my opinion", I have to agree with him that Iain's remarks were "way out of line". But to other bloggers Mark appeared to be "throwing GOA under the bus" or "cock-blocking your community managers".

Me, I like Mark's blog (but then of course I've been bribed by him). I find statements like "I think I’d rather shoot myself in the head than do another ToA" very helpful is judging into what direction WAR will head in future expansions (Hint: Don't expect a PvE raiding dungeon expansion with epics.). But I do see the danger of everyone reading too much into every single remark. Even Mark jokes about it when he says "I personally favor destro (Suddenly the Net lit up, Mythic Devs favor Destro, Order become red-haired stepchildren, news at 11!) but I’ll play both I’m sure." Can you imagine Mike Morhaime saying which his favorite class or side in World of Warcraft is? That would be a headline in every single game blog and game site covering WoW!

Why can't we accept that people working on MMORPGs have personal opinions and favorites too, like the rest of us, and that this doesn't necessarily influence game design? These games are created by large groups of people, there are lots of checks and balances. Even Paul Barnett cannot necessarily get his favorite bears, bears, bears feature implemented for launch, even if there is a video of him promising it on the official website. Do you really believe that all 300 Warhammer Online developers suddenly say "lets favor Destruction in the realm balance, because Mark likes that side more"?

If we would learn to accept a more open communication from various game developers, in the end it would be us who would gain from it, by being better informed. I personally would prefer if there was one unique place where official statements were posted, like the WAR Herald, because you can't expect your customers searching every blog and game site for your official statements. But putting a copy of that statement on the Warhammeralliance forums for discussion, why not? Why should I be upset that Paul has a video blog and logs his live on Twitter? Wouldn't it be great if we could openly discuss game design with developers on their blogs? Wouldn't the genre be better off with more rockstars in full public view, instead of the omerta of other companies? We just need to learn that, just like rockstars, the devs are fallible. They might not be snorting coke and trashing hotel rooms, but they *will* say stupid things, and they *will* promise features that are never going to be implemented. But as long as we take what they say with a grain of salt, that is okay.
Comments:
I dont mind him having a blog, it's just that there is a very fine line, between voicing his private opinion and official company statements.

They have to be in line with each other I think :). Also he just shouldn't comment too much on his game preferences regarding WAR, it'll just piss people off. Thats the price you pay for being CEO of a gamecompany !
 
I dont mind him having a blog, it's just that there is a very fine line, between voicing his private opinion and official company statements.

That's the whole point of this topic. There isn't such a fine line. The internets will read things into your sayings. That's how the medium works. People can't call Marc Jacobs and ask him "did you really mean it that way?".

It's delusional to expect a healthy and working communication via blogs. I even think it's wrong to put faces onto such products. The hardcore don't give a crap who the person is, that nerfs their godmode. And the average Joe can't even spell the developer's name right.

If you want to speak to your customers there are a gazillion ways, every single one of them more appropriate than a personal blog. Developers keep developing. Don't blog. Let your PR and community people do, what they are paid for.
 
'it's just that there is a very fine line, between voicing his private opinion and official company statements. They have to be in line with each other I think :)'

Why? He makes it clear that it's his blog, his About page states: 'Oh, and here’s a disclaimer, what I say here are my own opinions, thoughts and nothing more.' ... so if anybody thinks that his statements have or should have anything to do with the official company statements, they're clearly entirely wrong.

'People can't call Marc Jacobs and ask him "did you really mean it that way?".'

They can freely comment and ask him there, and he'll respond when he sees it and has time. What's your point? What's new about this whole blog and web 2.0 thing is that there is interaction between the writer and his readers.
 
And the average Joe can't even spell the developer's name right.

That one made me laugh, because in the preceding paragraph you misspelled Mark Jacobs' name as Marc. Guess you're the average Joe.

It's delusional to expect a healthy and working communication via blogs.

I thought we had a healthy and working communication on this blog. Why disqualify somebody trying the same, just because he is a dev? Your argument is that this won't work because the audience isn't mature enough for that. Well, I found that you can get a pretty mature audience together if you set up some rules, and aren't afraid to use the banstick on the trolls. The audience is better than they are given credit for, it's usual just a vocal minority who spoils things, and there are ways to deal with them.
 
Defending your new employer already eh? Sell out.

I actually love his blog, and also found his constant 'Sorry for ToA' to be very interesting. How often do you see a company admitting they 100% screwed up?

Also curious to see if he blogs about WAR patches and such, giving us insight into why something was patched. Makes for good reading regardless.
 
It's just a different way of communicating. Just compare them to Google - how do they (mainly) communicate? Matt Cutts. And he's not even the CEO.
 
As usual, great post Tobold.

I think that, from the shareholders point of view, allowing people from your company to publish unfiltered comments about business are a bad idea. Unless you trust the guy a lot, that is.

However, from a customer point of view, I think it's great. I got the feeling that I'm getting true opinions from a guy, not made up "we are the best" statements from a company. And, you know what, I have felt deceived by PR messages quite a few times in the past, so for me the (maybe apparent) honesty in personal opinions is worth twenty corporative statements.
 
I have always enjoyed how accessible the WAR devs have made themselves throughout the entire development process. It is interesting to think what % of WoW players even know the forum handles for the WoW dev team when they make their yearly appearances let alone know their actual names and positions within the company.


Turn that around and go to any WAR forum and you can talk about Paul, Jeff, Josh, and Mark and most everyone that has been following the game will know who you are talking about. It is refreshing to see this much open communication.
 
Why can't we accept that people working on MMORPGs have personal opinions and favorites too, like the rest of us, and that this doesn't necessarily influence game design?

The audience is better than they are given credit for, it's usual just a vocal minority who spoils things, and there are ways to deal with them.

The second seems to answer the first in a way, it seems that there are a smaller group of people who are either easily upset, or get kicks from the attention of acting upset, so take things out of proportion, wildly misinterperet statements, and otherwise cause trouble.

As for how effective Warhammer style of communication is vs. others, I don't pay enough attention to really say. Any form of communication that gets information out about how game development is going or going ot go is useful for me.
 
I and 'we' (normal people) can handle these guys blogging and I would love to see more of it.

It is the Internet morons who take every little line and run with it in some crazy direction and/or make death threats over a VIDEO GAME that can't handle it. No need to cater to that group, best to ignore them and move on.
 
I blame Blizzard. I know that's pattern behavior for me, but consider this:

A very large majority of people playing WoW did not play any MMO before. Everything they've learned about MMO's came from Blizzard. Specifically, they learned that the developers speak extremely infrequently, which adds a great deal of weight to everything said.

Now a bunch of these people are looking at Warhammer. The developer speaks all the time, so there should be a lot less weight attached to it. But instead of the developer's words coming out as commentary, they come out as commandments, like Blizzard's developers.

And when you got guys firing out a dozen commandments in a week, the faithful get mighty riled up. There's too much acclimation to silence.
 
The more I get into Warhammer, the more I love this open way of communication. The one point that really drove me off from Age of Conan was the way Funcom handled the communication with their player base.
 
Guido:

He makes it clear that it's his blog ... so if anybody thinks that his statements have or should have anything to do with the official company statements, they're clearly entirely wrong.

when it comes to media and public relations, it doesn't matter what is right or wrong -- only what the audience perceives is right or wrong. This is not an internet-only phenomenon, either, as politicians, marketng executives, etc. have to choose very carefully what they say and how they say it in order to craft a proper image. Even non-professionals tend to censor what they say. How many people who keep diaries/journals don't somewhat censor what they say in case someone happens to read it? It doesn't matter that the thoughts are someone's innermost feelings, and that someone intentionally viewing such private materials is doing something wrong -- once a statement is out there, the intended context completely melts away.

If posession in 9/10 of the law, then perception is 9/10 of reality.
 
I really wished I liked the game totally based on Mark (Paul, not so much...too dorky)
If I could, I would support the Dev.
But, I cannot support the DIKU anymore.
So, I will sit out this final round of Slow Mo Kill 10 x fun for now.
Hope for some innovation later I guess.
Mark as a developer though should be a lesson for all developers.
Openness and honesty wins...

(supposedly lots of apologies work also, as so many people who seem newly enamored with McCain for president will tell you...sorry, US based AND political humor to boot...yuck)
 
Maybe it’s something we’re not used to. We have learned that the inet is a place where anonymity rules. You can do and say what you wan’t and it rarely has any consequences.
And that is very comforting, ‘cause in RL we seldom have that luxus.

And now someone comes up, has the courage to step down in the moshpit and speak right up his opinion an maybe we roll our eyes and mutter “God, why is he doing this to himself, constantly putting his pants down in the public”. But for me its very refreshing to
see someone stick to his principles, its rarely seen in media today. PR in this times is polished like WOW.
 
Does it really matter if what he says is misinterpreted?

There's the segment of the population that will be outraged, OUTRAGED, I tell ya, every time something happens. Or when it doesn't. Or when it might. Or when it might not.

Who gives a flying fuck at this point? The devs should say what they want to say, and if all the crazy perma-pissed portion of the game population goes away, it's probably for the best.

But they won't actually quit. We learned that on WoW. They'll bitch and moan, maybe even unsubscribe, but they'll be back within a few days. After all, to get so pissed they must really care, right? If you read the WoW official forums seriously, it would look like the entire game was just SO bad and they are bleeding customers by the truckload.

It's the internet--- it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

Fuck the trolls, don't let them control what people say for fear of their frothing idiocy.
 
I think a big part of the publicly expressed stupidity that you rail against, Tobold, is simply that people have a forum on which to express their stupidity: blogs.

Nothing has really changed in western civilization, except that public free speech is a lot more accessible to a much wider audience. Well thank god for that, I dont want to live in China. But why waste your time railing against the idiots with a keyboard and a webbrowser? Take it to a higher level for christsake!
 
But, I cannot support the DIKU anymore.

Why do I always think of ninjas anytime someone mentions DIKU? Either that or some perverted way of saying screw you (DIK-U)...
 
I like the way WAR staff members use blogs to state their opinions. It shows you they are human and very down to Earth.

Blizzard give the impression of a large Robot with no feelings and the only response you get from them seems to be a copy and paste reply from a GM (though they are generally polite and well mannered) or you hear of the Keylogger stories where their customer service treat you like criminals for not understanding the ever changing world of Internet security.

However it can be very dangerous for a company to have representatives posting on personal blogs about the game as people WILL take it as fact and spread terrible rumours.

I agree WAR needs a central location where official discussions are held, like a forum; but think its a nice touch to see the human side of the WAR staff, through their blogs.
 
I think the entire point of the arguement borders on ridiculous. A review, by anyone, is by it's very nature biased. IT'S THEIR OPINION OF THE GAME. If you're reading this blog, it means you enjoy reading Tobold's opinion. Whatever does or does not influence that should be completely immaterial. If he hadn't disclosed the free account, no one would have known. I think the review is informational, and I'm glad I read it. I don't think I would have thought any different before I knew he got a free account.
 
It's an amusing duality.



As far as the words of WoW devs having weight.... I trust them as far as I can throw them.



And since I don't live in Irvine, CA, I can't throw them.
 
Long time reader, first time poster but this line got me.

If we would learn to accept a more open communication from various game developers, in the end it would be us who would gain from it, by being better informed.

I am tired as hell of people jumping over every little thing that people say and not keeping an open mind. This has always been a problem in politics.. can we at least keep it out of our games?
 
I'm all for open communication from developers. Especially since most PR communication is crap and meaningless.

As a customer, I like game devs who will share honestly what they like, what they're thinking with their design, etc.

City of Heroes and WAR are doing fine with this, and it builds a relationship of trust that can only stand them in good stead with their customers.

Of course, it makes it harder on developers in that some of them do not know how to word things for positive spin. They should know themselves enough to shut up and not make matters worse then. (Even Community Service Managers are not immune to this with the recent GOA debacle.)

But in the end, I think it's self-regulating. Customers will hate on the devs who show that they are clueless in some fashion and move their support away. Good. They weren't doing a swell job to begin with. Opening their mouth only let everyone know it more quickly.

People, yes, even irrational Internet people, are able to accept differences of opinion. The majority just find it very hard to accept sheer stupidity, lies, obnoxiousness, stuck-up superiority, and other such disrespect of the other party.
 
Didn't take too much time to read all the responses... lazy bugger me.

But the topic is pretty relevant and I can see the duality in it. Then again, if I compare the publicity and Mark's public presentations on the game, it reminds me remarkably of the way Games Workshop has worked with the IP when Warhammer game was promoted and especially when the RPG was launched (aye, I was in the games business back then, retail, but anyhow). THe developers were 'names' and they presented their ideas and thoughts very, very freely in the White Dwarf magazine. And they even changed their minds from an issue to another based on the fan base reaction.

Which was great to the extreme, because even the response from far here was addressed to and given thought to!

I can see the same trend in here: Mark puts his butt in to the fire and states his opinion instead of the corporate mantra. I can respect that way more than the overall whining and finger pointing of the majority of the people commenting Tobold's honesty on the free US account. Really, that takes some guts to make it or brake it.

Great writing again, Tobold, and on an issue that will become a hot topic in other venues later on.

Copra
 
Tobold,

great post! For an example, Dead Space had regular dev blogs. Although there was less "IMO" type posts, they were interesting none the less.

On a personal side, I'd love to be able to post my opinions of the games I work on!
 
Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

  Powered by Blogger   Free Page Rank Tool