Good Evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Geek Infusion.
Tonight, Matthew is going to be talking about the continued growth of Destiny as a game, and what lessons it needs to take from previous MMO’s in order to stand up to the monolith that is World of Warcraft.
It’s not every day that an exact reason for writing falls into my lap, but today is exactly one of those days. A misstep in how to handle company-player communication this week at Bungie, and it so happens to fall into the category of “how to improve the game” that I wanted to touch on.
Before we launch into that, I’d like to start this evening with a little house cleaning if I may;
I hate you,
Matthew aka Gorvhak, PS3, Destiny
With that out of the way, I’d like to talk about the growth of a fledgling game, specifically, as mentioned, Destiny.
I was drifting around the forums today on my iPhone when I got into a discussion with a gentleman who I am still going to assert is wrong.
He attempted to convince me that Destiny is not an MMO and that Bungie and Activision had said as much. It was nothing like an MMO and I was silly for even suggesting that.
I raised an eyebrow
I then proceeded to say “It has loot, it has worlds, it has dungeons, it has raids and I can see and play with a TON of people at one time.”
He then corrected me and said “Like I’ve said, and the companies have mentioned, It’s no an MMO, and I don’t care if you understand that or not. It is officially labeled a ‘Shared Player Experience Shooter'”
He also said I was also because there are only 16 people per instance of each area.
These are all true. I still proceeded to raise two eyebrows this time, and questioned how that sounded any different from WoW. A shared experience, built in layers to have an appropriate number of people in each zone all co-existing in a shared game world and working towards individual and group-based goals. Sounded like an MMO to me.
The aforementioned gentleman then stuck his fingers in his ears and went off about how I couldn’t possibly understand what he was saying due to my obviously low intellect and understanding of the games industry as whole. They were different genres blah blah blah.
So, before I launch into how to continue building Destiny as the MMO it is, allow me to say the following to the Destiny community:
You are playing an MMOFPSRPG. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck? It’s a duck. And now we’ll talk about how to continue to let your preferred method of entertainment grow.
Now, on to other things.
Always at the top of my list will be communication and, frankly, Bungie has been doing an excellent job. Deej (the seemingly main community contact) is doing an outstanding job of getting out in front of issues, sifting through the feed back and relaying design choices based on said feedback to the community.
He also apologizes upfront for any miss-communication and falls upon his sword when it does happen. He takes responsibility, this is a huge thing and the Destiny community should applaud him for it.
One thing that the company is doing that they should STOP doing is informing the player base of every thought and idea that crosses the design team’s mind. It’s inappropriate and is going to cause trouble down the line and it sets players up with false expectations.
For example, I refer you to yesterday’s release from Bungie detailing the upcoming Iron Lords event in Destiny. It’s a PvP based event, and they are going to endeavor to make several changes. These changes are immaterial, it’s the wording at the end of the release that is important
After Deej has listed the changes, he then apologizes, literally calling it a dodge by saying the following: “Some of the above changes are still undergoing internal testing, and we may encounter critical issues that force us to postpone a change. We’ll keep you posted…..Once we’re 100% sure we can meet that deadline, we’ll let know. No matter when it’s realized, this is our new and improved vision for the true meaning of war.” (quote in bold, typo is Deej’s).
If there are any ideas that are potentially going to be in that category of not being released, it is not a good idea to make that known. Better to not mention them, or you’re going to end up with the Dance Studio issue that Blizzard has been facing since the Wrath of the Lich King announcement nearly 6 years ago, and is still brought up at every expansion announcement.
A better way to bring community attention is to your proposed changes is to use the following format:
Do you have changes that are 100% going to be in the live release of the world event? If yes, mention a few of them and hold a few in reserve.
Go on to explain that this is just a taste of what is to come and over the following days or weeks you are going to be releasing new information.
Preferably, give 1 or 2 days between information bursts. This is going to allow the community a chance to digest the information, get the trolls and naysayers out of the forums and allow YOU to sift through the questions and comments, giving you more ammo for your next community communique.
This is also why we are saving several of the changes for later dates. It allows us to decide, as the release date approaches, what new systems, interfaces and balancing changes are going to make it to live servers, and which ones are either going to be discarded or put on the back burner for now.
This list should be adjusted daily, if not twice daily as the design team comes across new issues with the systems as they are being developed.
By following these few simple rules you can flesh out ideas for the community by focusing on only one aspect of the patch at a time. This lets you get out in front of problems, answer questions and build momentum and excitement when going into the next information release burst. Essentially, it allows you to be in control of the story at all times, not letting it get derailed or side-tracked by the unimportant or the negative.
It also avoids the problem of having to say “sorry” and go back on a potentially exciting part of the patch that isn’t quite ready for prime time. In all my years as a gamer and the 15 years I’ve been playing MMOs, what the community chooses to be excited about and ambivalent towards has never failed to surprise me.
Usually they get excited about that thing the developers thought was cool, but was also minor thing. Why? Because chances are a bunch of your players have wanted that thing as well, and those that haven’t wanted it just don’t know they do yet. It’s great when you find that thing, and can get that bandwagon going. Disastrous when the wheels fall off.
Again, something Blizzard is dealing with since the announcement that flying mounts will be unusable in the new content. Big backlash since that was announced at Blizzcon and I very much doubt we’ve heard the end of it.
Suffice to say, it pays to be careful and prudent when dealing with the customer and the player base. You should be open and frank, but that doesn’t mean laying all your cards on the table, especially when they fall into the hopes and dreams category.
This is something I very much hope that Bungie, and all other companies for that matter, take to heart.
Thanks again for stopping by the Geek Infusion. I’ll see you tomorrow, where I’ll be taking a look at something not PR related. Sundays are a free day where you’ll never actually know what I decide to talk about. And honestly? Neither will I.
It’s like Christmas Eve come early!
Take care, and thanks for reading.