The Daily Grind: Is MMO ‘open’ development really good for the genre?

Massively OP’s Andrew Ross and I were recently discussing how to approach an opinion piece on Chronicles of Elyria when he reminded me that the game’s forumgoers won’t take any criticism of the proposed game lightly. That provoked an impromptu discussion on the way certain vocal subcultures flock to new, in-development games and shout down even well-intentioned criticism from would-be allies. They sort of pitch their tents on the forums in an attempt to steer the game and vocally make no room for anyone who disagrees with even the most glaringly problematic, pie-in-the-sky game features — meanwhile, the vast majority of the MMORPG market has no time for camping out (or doesn’t even know it’s happening).

It happens with sandboxes, especially PvP-driven sandboxes, certainly — look at the small but distinctive and persistent PvP crowds dogging Camelot Unchained, Crowfall, and Revival, for example. And that’s not to say that PvE themeparks or formally produced, non-Kickstarter games are immune, either; we saw some of the same behavior from hardcore raiders during WildStar’s early testing periods, markedly changing the tenor of the game.

These are relatively small groups of people, but they are getting a very big say in how MMOs are being made in 2016. Are you among them? How involved are you in the new wave of “open” development for MMORPGs? And do you think it’s becoming a problem, or is it a good thing for the genre?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

camelotcrusade bardamu1999  “You want the feedback? You can’t handle the feedback! We live in a world with forums, and there are men with keyboards who guard those forums…!”
lulz

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

camelotcrusade bardamu1999  Gunna have to finish reading all of it later, got a bad sneeze and I can’t work like this.
Pretty sure that smaller teams and solo devs should stick to posting updates on a website, and skip the comments and feedback unless they have time to deal with it. Forums require ongoing effort, and will turn sour if left alone for too long.

And, again, thanks.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

camelotcrusade bardamu1999  Thanks, now I need to find coffee.

camelotcrusade
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camelotcrusade

bardamu1999  Thanks for the recommendations, I used Google Docs.
Paper: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bz3IcICy0bzbMlJuUU51LXR0cG8
Presentation: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bz3IcICy0bzbRl9INVNDbGg1dlU

Keep in mind they are13 years old and written by a young college student who hadn’t even taken a research course yet.  I myself read them with a mix of fondness and embarrassment.  It’s good to see how far you’ve come, right?

That said, I hope you enjoy them!

camelotcrusade
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camelotcrusade

bardamu1999  I might have said “developer interaction” instead.  I can’t really say where my head was in 2003, but maybe it was that both forums and game companies had a smaller presence then.  Drawing lines between developers, corporate, marketing, PR, etc. wasn’t needed.  Instead the more significant divide was gamers vs the company.

Francis courant
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Francis courant

bardamu1999 Francis courant I think it could be possible in some cases, yes. Not necessarily with Crowfall, and most certainly not in Camelot Unchained. However there are decisions that studios sometimes take in answer to complaints or suggestions coming from vocal supporters. Depending on the significance on those changes and their impact on game development, it sounds plausible that it may sway development into an unfavorable direction.

The “profit” may just be the reason why the studio listen to the vocal supporters: they could believe that it’s representative of the whole targeted audience and modify stuff accordingly.

However it’s not the only thing that I suspect could impact negatively the development: 
Being open and transparent requires a lot of time and energy: if too much time is spent on communication with backers (videos, updates, progress notes, forum interaction, etc.), maybe it hinder the development of the game
Also, no publisher means that the highest authority are the founders of the studio: in some cases being subjected to an upper hierarchical level can help to meet the schedule and be more disciplined / focused.

Developing a game silently without any other objectives than creating a quality product and respecting the timetable is very different I guess than use the open development route.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

deekay_zero It’s actually a pretty good cop show, as cop shows go.  Variations on the formula.  Netflix has it.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

bardamu1999 deekay_zero this is my sad face :*(

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

deekay_zero even whatshername the played starbuck has played a cop in Longmire! lol

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

arktourosx This is how I’ve always assumed/heard it rumored to go.  Glad to have confirmation of a sort here. :D 
I can’t honestly believe a game dev company would trust serious decisions to the forum mobs, it’s got to be of a “what color bow do you want on the present we already picked out wrapped in the paper we already picked out for you?”

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

SallyBowls1 breetoplay Yeah but Cringely has the prognosticative powers of a head of cabbage.  Seriously, you could write a book about all of his awful and totally off base predictions. 
Suits have given us the endless cycle of revolving door IPs, CoD 35 and Madden 58, games have gotten shorter, less impactful (unless you count explosions and head shots) and now rely on reams of DLC which the cynical would have you believe are being cut from finished games to serve as extra revenue streams. 
Meanwhile indie devs are giving us interesting concepts, fresh ideas, and lots of fun, rather than cynical 6 hour hamster wheels.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

Francis courant You really think the community has enough clout to actually sway development into an odd and unfavorable direction?  Maybe it’s the cynic in me but I don’t honestly think any for profit company is going to let important decisions be made by some anonymous horde of forum commenters.  I just don’t.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

camelotcrusade There’s a lot of free hosting.  Every gmail account has an automatic Drive account, Dropbox, Mediafire, all free.  Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_file_hosting_services
I’d love to read this myself.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

camelotcrusade What’s “corporate interactivity” mean in this context?  It’s an odd use of corporate to my eyes.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

Craywulf It’s kind of a trend, a rush toward prosumer everything among the nerdy.  I kinda loathe it, I have to admit.  Half the fucking people I know who cook are now foodies and gourmands with $150 worth of cookbooks, sourcing exotic bat wings from Tibet for who knows what, and half the people I know who snap pictures would be aghast at my use of “snap pictures” as it somehow offends their semi-professional aspirations.  Whatever those might be, other than humble bragging on instagram about their superior aesthetic sensibilities.   It’s like nobody can just fiddle around a bit with a hobby, everything has to be taken so horribly serious, and almost be good enough to be a career unto itself.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

EO_Lonegun The only time I think this can work is if we use our previous experiences as gamers to inform decisions.  For instance if you played a shooter, what did you like and dislike about XYZ mechanic?  Especially as it compares to a similar game. 
Not a pie-in-the-sky sort of “let me pretend I make games” armchair bullshit but rather actual concrete experiences we have had.

bardamu1999
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bardamu1999

I’ve been hearing tiny bits and pieces about this game and I just now went to the site.  I have to say I enjoyed this quote: ” Many of the game mechanics in Chronicles of Elyria are designed to appeal to a slightly older audience. The problem with the older audience is they tend to be people who’ve got careers, children, spouses, responsibilities, or other similarly pesky things that take away their computer time.” 

Personally I back SC and I backed ED and those two games could not be more different in terms of transparent development.  One feeds you from the firehose so much info you go insane trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  The other gives out very little info until the time is upon you.  

I think both have their ups and downs.  Transparent development is messy and chaotic and breeds a lot of resentment from assholes who feel so entitled they want what they want when they want it the way they want it and they want it now or they will be charging back.  More closed development also breeds resentment from assholes who lose all hope in humanity after 3 days of no dev updates and assume the world has come to an end and they are the only ones left.  

I think in the end a nice mix of timely information without being too “here are the 25 pages of thoughts on mechanics we have this week, come back next week for 25 more” and taking some time to engage with the community without making them feel slighted while ignoring 75% of what they as, for as we all know, gamers cannot be trusted with mechanics decisions.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

Rheem Octuris deekay_zero carson63000 dibstaru yeah that one is also sad in my eyes. :(

Rheem Octuris
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Rheem Octuris

deekay_zero carson63000 dibstaru I really liked Castle. It was a fun show. But then I also like other cop shows. Not all of them though.

I do like NCIS: New Orleans with Scott Bakula though.

EO_Lonegun
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EO_Lonegun

No. People who don’t have a basic understanding of programming and game design should not be part of the game development conversation. I am all for developers creating quality games and surprising me with the experience.

PaganRites
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PaganRites

Given what the genre has become, and companies like Daybreak destroying coveted IP, it sure as hell can’t make it any worse.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

carson63000 deekay_zero dibstaru i don’t like cop shows so i have a clear bias here.
but it’s sad that so many sci fi actors went on to absolutely terrible cop shows (including castle, which felt like pure fanservice for people who missed firefly’s FUBARed tv run but became fans later and were willing to watch filion in anything). 

it’s like, not just him, i’ve seen others like grace park and the guy that played helo from BSG in bad cop shows too. which helo can’t act his way out of a paper bag (and was maybe one of the worst actors on BSG that eddie’s epic direction the the star writer couldn’t make good).

whatsername that played starbuck has done alot better for herself in my eyes, even if that betterness includes being in mary sue to the maxtremme vin diesel LARP movie w/e it’s called (derping on the name)

carson63000
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carson63000

SallyBowls1 breetoplay Cotic_OP I suspect that it’s easier to stick to a design when you have a well-known personality steering the ship. I don’t follow CU development but I would suspect that any groups that tried to push against the current design too hard would get a hell of a lot of pushback from a larger group that has faith in Mark Jacobs’ vision. I guess that would happen less when it was just “the company” that made the initial design.

carson63000
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carson63000

deekay_zero dibstaru It’s nice, though, that Nathan Fillion finally got to star in something popular and successful, isn’t it?

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

DPandaren deekay_zero breetoplay Cotic_OP yeah but talking to him and the way he talks to us adds to the sentiment i wrote about above towards him.

when i see those other guys talking to the press/ to their customers on the forums/streams, it feels like they’re taking me for a ride or are disconnected from what you’re calling them out on.

jacobs on massively i straight up called him out on warhammer and he said “you know what, you’re right, i did shit the bed, and what was my fault was 100% my fault”. and i was playing hardball with him with that question when he responded to it.

went from disliking him to respecting him near instantly over that conversation and nothing i’ve seen of him and his current work has changed that in a negative way.

that’s something that is radically different from all the other guys that would be covered by “industry vet that seems to have learned their lesson and turned a new leaf”.

and to be honest we don’t like him just becasue he comes here to hang out – we like him because when he does come here to chill he is legit chill and adds legit stuff to the conversation even when it’s not his own game we’re talking about. can’t say that about other developers that come here at all either.

Denngar
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Denngar

Veldan I have to mostly agree. I LIKE that they’re sending the mailers, since it means they didn’t just take my money and run, but I largely trust what they’re doing and will jump in when it’s closer to the finish line and can be judged more as a product rather than ideas and tech demos.

Denngar
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Denngar

deekay_zero Rheem Octuris Yeah, I think the long spotlight time on games in development is causing them to fade before they’re released. It’s why I often try not to play a beta or alpha (unless it’s for work >.< ). The way things are, by the time a game is officially labeled as “release,” players have already had to pay for the base game and maybe some add-ons, so it feels almost irrelevant as people have bought into the next “in-development” game.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

Midgetsnowman Trinco The thing with Wildstar wasn’t even so much as the act of raiding itself. It was the entire unlock process. So it’s funny to poke fun at it, since people can say, “it tired to be super hardcore.” Which it did, it still is. There’s still only a few guilds out there and actually completed the one raid it has. It was just stupid to put the process to unlock it on a bar that’s much higher then most player’s reach.

DPandaren
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DPandaren

deekay_zero breetoplay Cotic_OP We do kind of spoil the Jacobs though. Since he posts here and there in the comments.

camelotcrusade
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camelotcrusade

Ket_Viliano   Why thank you.  I dug it up and read it again (there’s a presentation too) and it holds up better than I thought (also: it’s 40 pages long!) for undergraduate work.  It certainly takes me back, and a lot of what I talked about as “recent history” was an interesting timestamp on 2003 in Gaming.  For instance, I talk about that period when PC games would release with a flyer telling you to get the patch, essentially sending unfinished, buggy games to market–and how, due to negative customer response–those days were on their way out.  Now, in the days of early access, we have come full circle.  :)
Sadly, I don’t have anywhere to host it in order to link it here.  Would be neat if someone took the idea and did a 2016 refresh!

Craywulf
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Craywulf

In general, most people don’t need or want to know. But within a select demographic of geeks, we are used to getting all the gory details. It’s the lifeblood of our geekism to know the details of popular culture pre and post production that the commoner would otherwise not have the capacity to do so.

From a company perspective, It can overwhelm the development and literally reshape the way a product enters the market. But it also can dramatically raise the profile and expectations. The greatest form of advertising is to let your customers feel like they are involved in the process of the development.

But ultimately it’s the end product that matters. No amount of geekified details or advertising is going change the end result.

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

breetoplay deekay_zero Leilonii SallyBowls1 qpla.ca is the address. it’s got links to big chunks of the non reblog content.

it’s gotten a bit nsfw ish in recentish months in terms of the reblogs but yeah.

i used to have a word press blog but it was so much hassle keeping up with bot spam and software updates and no apparent readers. tumblr i have a small but interactive audience to an extent and made some friends there so to say :)

i also find that because of the whole “following other blogs on your dash” thing it helps keep me in the habit of visiting so when i do have stuff to write about or cross post i have it on my mind to do it there.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

deekay_zero Rheem Octuris I definitely see this. The other day on Reddit someone asked for a modern UO and I suggested Project Gorgon, only to be told that it had been in development for years and therefore was obviously never going to happen. As if all good MMOs (and most of the bad ones for that matter) aren’t in dev for years because years is precisely how long they take. Definitely impatience + fatigue when people are seeing the very slow crawl from the beginning to end vs. just the middle to end.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

deekay_zero breetoplay Leilonii SallyBowls1 Oooh yeah. I never really use tumblr, so I forget to read what the people I follow there post. :/

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

sray155  If it feeds, it leads.
The perpetual news cycle is starved for noise.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

camelotcrusade  Sounds like a good paper, I would like to read it.

Ket_Viliano
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Ket_Viliano

The picnickers and festival goers do not want to know how the sausage is made.comment imagecomment imagecomment imagecomment image

deekay_zero
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deekay_zero

breetoplay deekay_zero Leilonii SallyBowls1 iirc you follow it on tumblr with your own abandoned tumblr blog.
i was only joking tho, cuz my blog is now 90% anime girl reblogs now XD

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

Lethality Leilonii breetoplay deekay_zero SallyBowls1 
What certainly didn’t turn as they expected was the player reaction.
Which, in a MMO designed to rely on grouping, is as important as the game systems themselves, if not more. Plus, predicting player reaction, and correcting the game for it, is an integral part of MMO development; many game systems are meant as much to shape player reactions towards each other as to be parts of the game.

Or, in other words, a player reaction that is different from what the devs expected is not an issue with the players; it’s an issue with the devs lacking the required competence and expertise to work with the players they got.

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

Then I type up a lengthy example using Tree of Life’s development and how feedback/suggestions from me and others largely influenced major improvements/systems that led to less rampant griefing/exploiting/stealing/PKing only for the post to be lost after forgetting about the edit timer before hitting submit.  /cry

schmidtcapela
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schmidtcapela

SallyBowls1 breetoplay
I’m not sure about the suits. Not in the current business environment that often prioritizes short term gains (to earn bonuses and inflate share prices) to the detriment of long-term prospects and sustainable growth. Too many suits and too few gamers is why games like CoH get closed down.

But I do think those making games need to get more business-savvy, and learn more about collecting and interpreting data to boot. Forums can be very useful data-gathering venues, but only if the devs are aware of the inherent distortions of the medium and know how to de-skew the collected data.

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

It can be good and bad depending on the subcultures that are attracted to such games, imo, as well as how much the devs listen to these little vocal self-interest groups.

Samizdat
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Samizdat

I enjoy it, but I’m also familiar with what a big-budget and complicated game looks like in early production, and what rough edges are safe to overlook (and what aren’t).

Lethality
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Lethality

Leilonii breetoplay deekay_zero SallyBowls1 Who says development didn’t turn out exactly as they designed it?

RagnarTheDrunk
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RagnarTheDrunk

Leilonii breetoplay deekay_zero SallyBowls1
I have one thought on that, cupcake.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

deekay_zero Leilonii breetoplay SallyBowls1 I didn’t know you had one! Link pls.

breetoplay
Guest
breetoplay

deekay_zero SallyBowls1 breetoplay Annoying, maybe, but they actually poll the people who log into the game (vs. who just play Reddit/forum wars)!

SallyBowls1
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SallyBowls1

Trinco Kasch  I can strongly back “should” but think they rarely are.  As per Bree, especially when they are hearing what they want/expect to hear.

camelotcrusade
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camelotcrusade

It feels like a 100 years ago now, but I did an independent study in undergrad on how internet forums influenced game development.  I hesitate to even mention it, because the web back then was a different animal (2003…LOL!), but I do see some parallels.

What motivated me to do it was living through a process much like what was described in this intro, except you need to go back enough years to imagine a struggle between single player and multiplayer.  Back then a lot of single player games were adding MP components to attract more players.  But in so doing they realized it was less simple than adding connectivity options.  Sometimes it meant drastically changing the game so it would actually be fair and fun to compete.  But that meant the SP game could suffer changes that didn’t enhance the experience. So which one should be prioritized direct the  design of the game?  Old timers will remember it was a big deal back then, as single player balance was nothing like multiplayer balance and asymmetric designs were commonplace.

Anyhoodleydoodle, I was in the single player crowd and watched the multiplayer contingent steer an asymmetric game I loved into a balanced but (in my opinion) less entraining experience.   How did this happen?  I intended to find out, and so I interviewed many of the developers, made forum posts on the topic, ran some polls, and tried to find some other games where I believed something similar was going on.

After analyzing my findings I presented a model for distinct community types attached to games, all of which fell into a chart with axes pitting corporate interactivity against gamer influence.  I named the major groupings, presented attributes for each one, discussed how each type did or did not influence, and wrapped it all up with some advice for the game companies.  Though I ultimately strayed from “how did this happen” to “what just happened?” I did develop a useful way to identify the type of the community a game has, which I then put to the developers as a call to action.  If you don’t have the kind of community you want, you should a) recognize that and b) take steps to change it.   Put another way, it’s a two-way street between developers and gamers and there are signals–both conscious and unconscious–that both groups send as how to how this relationship works and what the expectations are.  Recognizing what’s going on is the first step to managing it.

Leilonii
Guest
Leilonii

I think it’s a mixed bag and not altogether bad. What I’m more concerned about honestly is capable developers. I’ve seen both really talented developers that can make their visions into an amazing reality, and more average/less talented ones who have to do a version of their game that you get less enthused about and may not want to play. The former can make great use of the open development idea. The latter I think should just find a major gaming studio they can hide in to tell them what to do and how to do it and who will hold them up to certain standards. 

Some people are just that good – in any industry – that starting their own small studio and making their dream a reality is actually an awesome idea. For the vast majority of us regular folks, that is just not the case and both developers and fans need to realize that and adjust expectations accordingly.

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