This week’s Overthinking question comes to us from longtime Patron Roger.
“If you guys could magically open a connection to any dev team, which team would it be? I’ll assume this power includes their answering you as well.”
Sometimes we have this power already! More often than not, however, the devs are piloted by well-intentioned PR machines, and if there’s a question they don’t want to answer, they pretty much don’t have to, which is why so many MMO interviews are a waste of air and time and pixels.
I posed Roger’s question to our staff. Let’s say you have carte blanche to interrogate anyone or any team in the industry. Whom would you want to talk to, and what would you ask if you knew you could get a true and straight answer?
Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): It may be unexpected from this site, but since I play a lot of console games in Japan, I’m going to go with Nintendo. The company obviously has a lot of power, but even as a fan, I often feel ignored by them. One of my biggest regrets about becoming a part-time games writer is finding out how closed off the company is at a press level as well. Perhaps it’s because they’re as big as they are, or maybe it’s because it’s an old Japanese company, but Nintendo is an old fortress that lets very few people in.
It may seem natural to some people, but during interviews, questions or comments have come up that made developers change their game (I won’t name names, but it’s happened a few times while doing work for this site). Outside feedback is important, but I feel like Nintendo only listens when there is massive backlash, such as with Mario Maker’s original content being released on a daily timer, rather than by the effort put into building.
Even getting translation questions answered is rough, let alone discussing online game play (or the lack of it!). While I’ve gotten review copies for Nintendo games in the past, interviews have always been shot down. I love the company’s games still, but man, I know I’m not the only adult that wants to enjoy their games online with friends spread all over the world. I grew up with Nintendo, but feel like Nintendo’s online growth has only started to kick in. Everyone talks about a Pokemon MMO, and Animal Crossing is just dying to get the same treatment. Being able to ask the right people about this (and why they feel certain models might not work) would make me feel better as a fan. Oh, and I’m sure some people might want to read about it too.
Brendan Drain (@nyphur): Interesting question! Most MMO dev teams are actually quite open to press contact and the challenge they face is often getting the press to pay attention to them in the first place. That’s becoming increasingly true as more independent studios enter the MMO space and struggle to get noticed. I’d be more interested in getting a behind-the-scenes from some of the more closed-off developers or the teams working on new games that haven’t been revealed yet. I’d bet a big sack with a dollar sign on it that Riot Games has been working on a second game for the past few years, for example, and it’d be pretty epic to find out how that’s going. It’d also be pretty awesome to find out what the day-to-day work is like for all the normal developers we don’t normally hear from.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): This is hard because theoretically, we can talk to most devs without much effort. The real trouble is getting them to give good answers, and then secondarily, to get those answers on the record. The pool of off-the-record stuff swirling around in my head is enough to drown in, and it’s quite frustrating from our perspective when we know something and can’t tell you and have to tiptoe around it and keep it all sorted. I sometimes have to stop myself and ask myself whether I am even supposed to know something. But hmm. If I have to pick generally, I’d love to get straight answers out of Blizzard that aren’t dodges or smiling obfuscations. The WoW team specifically, here; most of Blizzard plays pretty straight otherwise. If I have to pick historically, maybe the NCsoft execs who axed City of Heroes. I’d love to see into those minds. If I have to pick right now, I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Daybreak’s new building in whatever room they are planning EverQuest Next PR. Not the game. The PR. I’ll bring the popcorn.
Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Honestly, I would love to be able to talk with Blizzard’s World of Warcraft development team because the decisions and contradictory statements that have been coming out over the past few years are simply baffling. There’s a real wall of silence when it comes to asking what’s going on with the team and the game, and I think that may well be part of the problem. There’s a lot to be written about that, some of which I have written and some of which I will write in time, and all in all it just makes me wish that I could actually open that dialogue with the developers.
If that wouldn’t work for whatever reason? I’d be happy enough to talk turkey with the Final Fantasy XIV developers. Preferably by being able to actually speak the same language as they do; either they all magically know English or I magically know Japanese. I’m not picky.
Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I think it’d be pretty awesome if Blizzard got down off its high-and-mighty-and-secretive horse and talked with us (the community and press) more often. It’s hard to see that studio as anything but a faceless corporate blob because of the walls it puts up. It’d be cool to just chat with them and get honest responses to questions.
Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): I think my answer is rather simple and obvious: I want to see what’s happening at Daybreak. I would like to know honestly what’s happening with EverQuest Next. There seems to be a lot of speculation, and understandably, not a lot of actual talk about what’s happening at that studio. I have pinned a lot of hope on EQN doing a lot of things that modern MMOs should be doing to push the boundaries of online gaming, but it’s all been talk so far. I’d like to know if what the producers have talked about in the past are still happening and if it’s really going to be something great. I’m starting to lose hope; a trip inside the magical truth of what’s happening would do a lot to raise my hopes back up.
MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): I honestly think that most developers I interact with have been really pretty open — a number of them even having to catch themselves on various occasions to remark that something has to be off the record for now! However, right now I would definitely want to plant myself smack dab n the middle of the Daybreak offices and find out just what is going on over there with EverQuest Next. I know there is some news, and I want to know what it is!