Developer Gymnastics

I know I haven’t been engaged in mmo’s long compared to some and have seen considerably less forum flaming then the seasoned veterans but this has to be some of the most prolongued forum rage I have ever seen. From Halloween madness regarding the excessive gambling over black lion boxes and the frustrating clock tower, to the ascended gear grind drama and now we have the Lost Shore one time event debacle. I don’t exactly know if it deserves kudos or not but Arenanet…

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Now this wouldn’t be forum drama without someone bringing up a previous quote which seems a complete backflip to implemented practices.

We feel that everyone should have the ability to contribute no matter what time of the day it is. How we’ve came to this conclusion is that no player’s time is more valuable than another. Everyone has different off peak hours for whatever reason. Players should not be punished or unable to experience and view the same content as everyone else because they play at a different time. They too are paying customers.

This is their official response regarding night capping, Let it sink in for a little bit. Now while this sentiment is in reply to WvW concerns we can see that it is explained as a reflection of Arenanets guiding philosophy. We are all equally valued customers that are entitled to the same content as everyone else yet what has been implemented and the design approach behind these special events seems to completely contradict the previous statement.

I think the reason why so many people are rather worked up lately about this new event and recent decisions is because based on the knowledge provided we build up certain expectations regarding the product. For instance going by this previous statement I would have expected Arenanet to bring content that everyone playing would be able to enjoy, and that the enjoyment of said content is within the boundaries of peoples playstyle and time constraints. Or that we would not be seeing vertical progression, or going by their previous “when it’s ready mantra” I and I think many expected a rather decent quality and polish of any content. This has not been the case lately.

Expectations pretty much guide our play at times and definitely hold a big part in what games we are looking forward too and what to purchase, it is the foundation of decision making in many ways. We believe and I think rightfully so that the expectations we have are rather valid (excepting of course the unrealistic expectations of those based on wishful thinking) and that companies should be held accountable for these. In a way breaking and fulfilling expectations is the way companies and games build a reputation and in this digital age of ours reputations can make or break a game. It seems though that these expectations are not being thought of as meaningful and this is a rather large mistake on Anets part, positive expectations can keep people people engaged with long term goals and aspirations, negative expectations make gamers more focused on the short term. Now mmo’s often take a large chunk of your time and as such to keep the long term sustainability players need to feel committed and connected to the gaming but with the dissonance created between expectations and a conflicting design this is a lot harder to achieve and can even degrade the positive.

I can understand why developers stay so tightlipped now considering how much damage a few offhand comments can make when they come around to bite you but this should not mean closed channels of communication between players and developers. Communication should always be occuring regardless of how you feel the playerbase will react, we need developers ideas, philosophies, and just general inane ramblings in order to gain expectations and to feel invested. In times like this it should never come down to stock standard replies by forum moderators, in fact the more the better in this case. Explain your approach, the reasoning behind it, what you’ve learnt and ideas for the future as understanding the problem helps people to relieve the dissonance that occurs as a result of conflicting information and broken expectations.

Another issue I think people have with the lost shores event is that it completely goes against our notions of fairness, rewarding one group over another is definitely going to make people feel like they are not as valued as customers and consumers. Rewarding others, and with considerable large rewards because of a certain factor just doesn’t seem to be right and many whom where left were obviously a little distressed by the fact and wondering if in the future Arenanet will continue to be oblivious to them and favouring others. I’m guessing right now that that one question will be prominent in a few peoples minds now and over next weeks or months people will make the decision of whether or not they want to continue playing.

Gaming from Australia I have become kind of used being disregarded in regards to certain events and just the general design approach, I am not happy about it but it is just a fact of life… Deal with it or don’t play. While this worked for the games of old it really isn’t appropriate to do now considering the international nature of the market and how many options gamers have now to fill their needs. The world wide market is massive now and companies are reaching a playerbase that is far more diverse in terms of their geographical location then ever before, just with GW2′s launch there were many people from around the world purchasing and being redirected to Servers far outside of their own.. and then being told since your on that server you must abide by events running in this time zone. It just seems off… to disregard many of your paying customers in favor of a model of bringing new content that is rather outdated. I really don’t understand it.

Now I am not against One time event as I think they are an amazing way to get players involved and to add some excitement into the mix, seeing things for the first time, having that rush of excitement and then only memories left after the content goes away are things I treasure about gaming. But I can’t help but thinking in this age where server technologies, computing power, complex programs, and development teams bigger then ever before that there is not a better way to provide such content to an international audience. Now Arenanet really hasn’t had such huge exposure before and are still probably unsure about how to handle certain aspects of multinational gaming and delivering content but hopefully like they showed with the new dungeon designs they can learn from these past mistakes and I hope they do as there will certainly be a few other big releases vieing for my attention in the coming weeks.

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