The ‘gold standard’ I guess is Asmongold, who fits in a very specific niche of streamers of WoW. There’s no real scripting here, or much of a plan. More like the ramblings of a madman. He’d be at one end of the spectrum, Preach in the middle, and Bellular at the other. They all say the same thing, but take much different approaches to it. Evitel & Taliesin are a different group.
Point of clarity here – all of these people get paid to generate reactions from their viewers. They need to make a big deal of something in order to get eyeballs. There’s a (very) large difference between a concept and execution. They are not developers, simply focused lenses on the zeitgeist.
Anyhow, back to Asmongold for a bit. He posted an interesting rant today on Twitlonger that I think deserves some comment. At least in the broad strokes and then in relation to gaming dev as a whole. The larger thought is summed into two buckets.
Here’s why. It’s because instead of innovating the game, Blizzard has mired themselves down into micromanaging expansion-specific systems. Imagine how hard it is to balance all of that, I don’t envy the life of a WoW dev at all! However, it was not my decision to make character balance in WoW have more unnecessary complexities than a Rube Goldberg machine.
Which, if we take a seat in the armchair, is a fairly bang-on assessment of Blizzard’s mantra over recent years. The steadfast thought process that complexity == engagement. That they will spend months building complex system that are absolutely not wanted, only to patch them 6 months later so that they are in a workable state. That they’ll focus on building micro-systems that suck out all your time in minutiae.
Monthly (or daily) average users seems to be the only metric that matters to Blizzard, and as per previous post, that thing has been on an amazing nosedive for some time. If the players aren’t happy, the bigwigs aren’t happy, then it sucks something fierce to be a dev!
The developers lack the humility to give the playerbase what they want, and when they do, they lack the insight to give them what they need.
This quote really nails it fierce in terms of the friction between the playerbase and the developers. There was a time where the players had patience and understanding that the devs have a hard job. Things take time, but they will be good in the end. That’s been eroded for some time now, in the space where it just appears that the devs (or leads) don’t actually play the game. The alpha feedback for BfA was crystal clear in terms of how Azerite Power was broken. The devs ignored it all, deleted the forum, and then did a near complete 180 after almost a year of production.
I don’t recall anyone saying ‘hey, Torghast could really use talent trees and longer play sessions that are timed’. Is that not just Horrific Visions 2.0 but entirely focused on RNG? I don’t see anything to address the anima drought, which has been consistent since the start.
The point here isn’t that the client is right. I have enough experience to know that much. The point is that the client isn’t wrong. The client isn’t irrational. They may not understand the complexity of what’s required to deliver, and they may be absolutely horrible at explaining their needs, but that’s not their problem to solve – it’s the developers. I want to be paid, and I only get paid when my client gets what they asked for. So I’ve invested a LOT into business intake and analysis, with clear scope documents with signatures from all parties.
Blizzard is either unwilling or incapable (or both) of listening to feedback and integrating that into their dev cycles.
Larger Dev Work
I’m picking on Blizz here given the source material, but this really goes into the larger discussion of managing expectations. Look at the games over recent years that are up for GOTY. How does something like Hades even come along if not for engagement with the playerbase and open communication? How many successful launches exist where the penny pinchers are the ones making the final call? We get Alien: Colonial Marines, Anthem, or Cyberpunk instead. Things that either destroy what was left of those shops, or puts them so far back that it’s a mountain to climb back to where they once were.
Yes, games are a business. The largest business on the planet. But they are entertainment first, things were people interact and find joy. There’s a balance to be had between something being profitable, and something being created solely for profit. Passionate developers can keep things going (Ultima Online is still kicking!) if they have a dedicated playerbase.
I don’t know what the final answer is here. I have a backlog of amazing games from amazing developers to work through, and don’t really need the headache of making sense from non-sensical developers. But that’s just me. If the almighty dollar is what’s driving development, then I don’t see a happy ending. I guess there’s some wisp of hope that if other groups can do it, and succeed from it, perhaps the larger studios can learn something from it. Maybe.