ChangesOctober 22, 2008
If you have a couple of spare hours to wade through the damp mucus that is a wild and untamed internet forum, you might want to head over to F13, where Mark “The Groundhog” Jacobs has popped his head up and gone on a posting rampage. Many, many words were killed in this event, but it is always amusing to see him wrastle (that’s like wrestle, just more southern) with sane, logical, even-tempered gamers.
Among his many dictionary-gutting posts was this quote that intrigued me:
First, I’m glad to know that you realize how complicated changing things is. Just so you know, I’ve already had this exact same conversation with the key guys twice in the last week. And when I talk about baby steps or doing things slowly it is precisely because I know WotLK is coming. If we jump the gun (or jump the shark) now, it will be hard to get people to come back even after the ice melts. OTOH, if we take a little longer, make the right changes and don’t FIU, then people will either stay and play both or leave and then come back. But, if we FUBAR, they won’t. Ask yourself this, if you were me, would you take a long-term approach to this game’s success or a short-term? If it’s the long-term, well, you would look at everything carefully. You would take safer steps while you plan out the bigger steps. You would spend more time polishing key things and have more surprises in the wings. You would do everything you could to keep the game going nicely but expect the worst and be ready for it. If you take a short-term approach, you would immediately rush to action like the world is coming to an end. You would too quickly nerf and add just to keep players happy because you believe that they are right and you didn’t gather enough evidence because you didn’t have the tools or the time. You’d make all sorts of promises that you believe in and hope you can deliver but then reality rears its ugly head. You’d spend a ton of time trolling the forums and spending way too much time listening to what is said there and make other changes accordingly. You’d be looking for the modern equivalent of bread and circuses.
Now, which sounds like a better plan? And which sounds more like 2001?
First of all, who doesn’t like bread? Or circuses? And isn’t the game industry already like a circus, with announcers bellowing “Look at this! A modern wonder! A joy to behold!” as some dev puts their head in a lion’s mouth for the publicity?
Anyway, I like this quote because it asks us to take a hard step back and really think about what it’s like for a dev team. All gamers are backseat game developers by nature — myself included — and it’s a common theme for us to think of what we assume are brilliant, obvious ideas and then get incensed that they’re not implemented the second we utter them. We’re notorious for being a group of the most impatient, ADD-afflicted hobbyists in the world, and our nerdy wrath descends upon whatever dev or game company that isn’t pleasing us that day.
But read this quote and really understand it — it’s got a lot of truth in there. Do we really want a company that’s wildly swinging to and fro depending on the day and consumer temperament? We like fast, immediate action, to be sure, but how often does that get paired up with “horrendous mistake”?
What Mark is asking for is for us to join with them in looking at Warhammer Online as a long-term effort. Anyone who’s been through the process of a growing MMO knows just how easy it is to break one of these games and sour a vast majority of the players (NGE anyone?). Good leaders don’t just sit in an isolated room and ignore those they lead; likewise, they don’t capitulate to every little demand that is shouted their way by their followers. A good leader sees the long-term goal, listens to everyone else, and makes decisions that are wisest for everyone and for the endeavor, even if it frustrates people in the short-term.
Anyway, I thought it was a particularly good quote, and I wanted to bring it to the attention of us all.