We've all been told at one point or another that you can't please everyone, a saying both tried and true. Yet, increasingly in the world of #VideoGames development, it seems you can't please anyone, which is becoming a surprisingly common fear for developers.
It doesn't help that the internet helps breed our animosity, a safe space where we can air our opinions free from persecution. However, that's the exact thing felt by developers who have death threats sent to themselves or their family. And it's something #Hearthstone developer Ben Brode feels becomes more common when you step into the limelight.
Worrying Communication Trend: Whether Too Much Or Too Little, It's All Vitriol
A little context, Brode's the Game Director for Hearthstone. Despite being part of Blizzard, Team 5 has a different mandate to other Blizzard studios—unlike the 50 personnel+ teams that work on games like Overwatch—they were tasked to develop a game that would be non-traditional for Blizzard and required the small team to "wear a lot of different hats".
The team has grown since then—which isn't surprising considering the success of Hearthstone—but the versatility required from staff hasn't. Which is why Ben handles a fair share of the work on the designer insight series, something the community enjoys.
Yong Woo also appears as a representative of Team 5 in videos, but his main role is as the Lead Producer for Hearthstone. Like Brode, he's a family man, but loves his work and is eager to discuss it with players, who you'd assume would be happy to know there are more videos in the pipeline.
Apparently that's not the case. Personally I felt the tone of Woo's post was positive, a sentiment not echoed by some members of the community.
Brode went onto Reddit where this tweet was posted to give a little context into developing these episodes.
Whilst it certainly sounds like there are ways to make this process a lot smoother, Brode does point out they're getting closer to that state of affairs and "working on getting space that is permanently wired for making these types of videos at work."
However, he also points out a caveat in trying to communicate more openly, stating, "there is a lot of harassment that comes with being more public".
That last point is the indicator of a bigger problem. It's tough for businesses to justify investing in content creation facilities if your team are so worried about the backlash involved if they take part in them.
I can agree that Team 5 deserve the space for meetings and recording, everything they need to continue their work. That said, I've worked for games companies in the past and understand that expansion—like the rather rapid expansion experienced by Team 5—can put a strain on resources.
Community reaction to his statement is mixed; some believe Brode should have video creation integrated into his work hours, others think that communications could be aligned better by hiring a capable community manager. Without knowing how things work at Team 5, I don't really feel I can comment on their state of affairs.
Regardless, a recurring theme throughout is the desire for players to have more regular communication from the team.
That doesn't seem too much to ask, considering the long periods of radio silence we endured from No Man's Sky creator Hello Games or from Pokemon GO and Niantic.
Yet if we take Riot Games as an example, we see that increased communication doesn't make players happy.
Increased Communication Doesn't Make The Community Better
Season 7 resulted in a massive upheaval in League of Legends—the pre-season brought numerous changes and players began to adapt to a new life on the rift. A new mastery, Courage of the Colossus made tank champions a lot tankier and itemization changes made a core role in the competitive meta feel obsolete.
This boiled over during the Christmas break when Shiphtur—a former professional player—took Ziggs, a mage traditionally played in the mid lane to the bot lane with a high level of success.
Apologies if that's too technical, the easiest way for me to explain it would be to say that too much changed in too short a period of time and all these issues came to a head when everyone was on holiday for Christmas.
Sadly things only continued to spiral out of control. Ziggs became the highest win rate in the Marksman position—a list he wasn't even on days before. Marksman players felt threatened since other champions were outperforming in their role.
As we trickled into the new year, the community waited with baited breath for riots response. Some wanted to know how they felt about Ziggs breaking the meta, others wanted an update on where the Marksman class currently stood in the game.
Ghostcrawler, the Design Director working on League of Legends, returned with a myriad of complaints. So he created a relatively broad post addressing some of the issues players were experiencing.
Perhaps it was a little too broad, since players latched onto certain points and ripped into him. He then made an edit to the post that went into more detail, but Ghostcrawler is no stranger to a frenzied online mob—he previously worked on World of Warcraft—but one day he might decide that enough is enough.
It's ironic, the Hearthstone subreddit praises Riot Games for their communication, but the LoL community at times falter to appreciate it. Throughout the day, numerous Ghostcrawler threads have risen to the frontpage, the latest is this simple reminder.
Shortly before BioWare closed their own forums, David Gaider the writer of Dragon Age discussed the toxicity on their forums and how it discouraged them to interact with their fans.
If we want to keep talking and communicating with developers, then we need to adopt a more constructive mindset. It's okay for us to levy our criticism, it's not okay to verbally torch a man at the stake for trying to address two weeks worth of complaints in one post.
Are we too hard on developers? Which devs are the best at communicating?