BioWare Discusses Community Engagement on The Old Republic

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If you’ve ever wondered why developers are reluctant to talk about the new games they’re working on, a recent message posted by Star Wars: The Old Republic Community Manager Stephen Reid will go a long way toward giving you the answer.

Most of us like to know what’s going on with the games we’re most looking forward to, and the more details we get, the happier we are. It’s natural, then, that when a developer won’t give us the information we crave, we get cranky; it’s good PR, after all, and we’re going to buy it anyway, so why not just tell us what we want to know, right now?

As Reid explained, there are actually a few good reasons. Readiness is an obvious one, not just of features but of presentation; art assets are an important part of any big announcement and if the art’s not ready, then in most cases BioWare won’t talk. Art is an ongoing process and what’s shown isn’t always a perfect, final product, but while some gamers don’t care about graphics (or at least claim not to) “we don’t get that latitude with, oooh, pretty much 90 percent of the rest of the world,” he said.

Interdependent systems are also an issue. “Sometimes talking about System ‘A’ leads directly to talking about System ‘B’, and if System ‘B’ isn’t ready, then guess what? We can’t talk about System ‘A’ for now,” he continued. “The good news is, we can bundle both together for a big ol’ bundle of info – bad news is, you have to wait a little longer.” Marketing and PR schedules come into play as well, as magazines, websites and television shows which cater to the non-hardcore audience must be accommodated.

But the biggest reason for BioWare’s reticence is the die-hard Old Republic community itself. He pointed out that if the studio talked about a feature planned for the game and then had to remove it at some point prior to launch, a lot of people would be angry regardless of the reason. “Every single thing we do is scrutinized, speculated on and often completely turned around,” he wrote. “Combine that with a very large community and frankly, we can only be ‘so’ open, because things can be (and are) misinterpreted. We’d rather be as straight as we can, when we can.”

Different projects obviously need to be handled in different ways; two-man indie developers can typically afford to be, and need to be, far more directly engaged with their audiences than a well-established studio working on one of the most anticipated MMOs ever, and whose every move is being eyeballed by millions. Reid’s message is an interesting read, not just for Old Republic fans but for anyone who’s ever felt that a developer was being unfairly stingy with information about its latest and greatest creation. Check out the whole thing at

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