Block Party

Block Party
"You're Wrong"

Dana Massey | 21 Nov 2006 11:02
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You're wrong and should be ignored, but don't worry, you're loved.

If you're reading this article, you're likely a hardcore videogame fan. You read message boards, and you're not afraid to tell developers what they're screwing up. I'm here to tell you that if you're a member of a specific videogame's community, your opinion should be ignored. Your thoughts must be digested - it's hard to ignore loud screaming - but discarded.

It sounds harsh and definitely won't be a popular opinion, but the most dangerous thing a developer can do is listen to his hardcore community.

The hardcore can and have led developers astray. Before a game undergoes production, developers write what's called a design document. Detailing various technical and operational aspects of a game, it functions as the team's battle plan, but it's hardly a static document. It is fluid, evolving as development progresses. It is on the strength or weakness of these documents that good or bad games are born.

Too often, though, perfectly good games get confused, turned around and bashed over the head by those who claim to love them most. It's tragic, really. They enter beta, with all their bright ideas and shiny new toys and then some 14-year-old screams, "This sucks!" At a company with strong leadership and vision, this is read, digested and considered, but rarely do they succumb to the mighty weight of one 14-year-old and a few of his buddies. At a not-so-steady company, a post or 10 like that can be fatal.

Welcome to a world of reactionary development. Every time the community screams, the developers shift focus and try to put out that fire. Suddenly, the game is no longer in development, but rather in commercial service, and this is wrong. Testing phases are for testing and there is no way to say with any idea of accuracy that something truly does suck until all the spices are in the pot.

Games are huge undertakings. Clever designers, like good cooks, need all the different ingredients to work together for the final result to be appetizing. Like cooking, you cannot just go "voila" and have the whole friggen game there. It takes time, it takes massaging, it takes patience.

You, my hardcore friends, lack patience.

The hardcore, for the most part, play games in beta the way they'd play any old game they got from Best Buy. They try to get better, they try to win. When they find something boring, they scream and yell. Yet, for some reason, those egocentric screams are fatal.

It is extremely hard to build a work of art while people piss and moan about how much they hate it. Imagine Leonardo da Vinci with a group of art critics in his studio as he painted the Mona Lisa. He'd end up with a brown canvas. When too many people are yelling contradictory opinions, and developers try to accommodate them all, they get a brown canvas; something that is entirely innocuous, but completely pointless. These are also known as unremarkable or - dare I say - bad games.

Yet it happens every day, and I blame the increased importance of online communities for the current dilution and sameness of so many games, especially in the MMOG genre.

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