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Question Box Thingy: ArenaNet & Communication

By on Feb 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm, in Article, Column, GW2  |  Comments: 1 comment

We all have things we love about Guild Wars 2, places that make us cheer out and say “yes, this is my ultra-mega place!” We all have classes, abilities, and features we’re passionate about, either negatively or positively. This is a place to share all that. Once a week I’ll be raising a Guild Wars 2 question to the community– hopefully an interesting one– and we’ll share our opinions. I’ll start off with my opinion just to get the ball rolling, but these questions will not have any right or wrong answers, so feel free to argue with me to your heart’s content!

Despite the fact that we’re in the middle of ArenaNet’s latest adventure in bringing us different styles of world events and corresponding updates every other month or so, there was one update that didn’t make February’s cut, and well… let’s just say it’s a bit of an elephant in the room for many dedicated GW2 players. Yep, I’m talking about the big, exciting, promised WvW update. I don’t think the update being pushed back was nearly as drastic a matter as many folks on the official forums made it out to be, but it still was a disappointment for many.

The trouble with disappointments in an MMORPG is that they’re never good for the game. With as varied of a playerbase ArenaNet is hoping to entice into sticking around, there is bound to be a little bit of disappointment, and that’s kind of the problem that many MMO developers are currently running into. Developers attempt to do too much. They try and create updates for every single feature of the game at the same time in order to please everyone at the same time. This simply isn’t possible without a ginormous staff and/or plenty of features planned years in advance. The bottom line is that when MMO developers take this “gotta please ‘em all!” mindset, someone’s probably going to end up disappointed at the end of the day.

Part of the issue, of course, is that MMO developers also need to communicate with their playerbase about what updates wait around the next bend. Anticipation is one of the largest draws when it comes to MMOs these days, and when a developer talks excitedly about a big update and everything it will feature, players anticipate that update and expect it to take place. This type of developer-player communication is vital to a healthy game. Without anticipation, MMOs just kind of die off pitifully. But what happens when that big update fails to come through? That’s right– disappointment. What happens after that? Developers then usually turn inward and ask the team two questions: “Should we have even told the playerbase about that update? Should we keep update information internalized until we know for sure we’re on target?”

What usually happens after those questions are asked is resounding silence on most developer-player communication fronts. Developer chatter on the forums dies down. Update announcements come a little later than most players are accustomed to. Guess what happens then? Yep. The risk of the more disappointment. In some cases, the risk of greater disappointment.

And what about ArenaNet? How is the Guild Wars 2 development team doing so far as far as communication is concerned? Many players on the official forums feel that ArenaNet has cut back drastically on the amount of communication they give their playerbase. So much, in fact, that just last night an ArenaNet staff member took the time to post the following message:

Originally posted by Tyler Bearce (Source)

The trick with our communication, is to find a good balance, on multiple levels.

First, we have to be conscious of the balance between how much time we have to be posting on the forums and writing blog posts, with how much time we have to be working on actual development: bug fixes, profession balance, designing new features, implementing new content, etc.

Next it’s important for us to be conscious of the balance between saying too little, leaving people pessimistic about when things are coming out and guessing about how those things will work, and saying too much, harming our ability to later change, postpone or abandon something that we’ve already publicly committed to.

Finally we need to consider the balance between relying on community feedback too heavily, where it’s super time consuming for us to process and leaves us feeling unable to make a change without first asking for a community vote, and relying on community feedback too little, where we might miss some key information that could impact the success of our future releases.

Hopefully we are getting this balance pretty close most of the time, and if not, it’s always something we are working towards improving.

Balance is definitely key, I think, when it comes to communication. Could ArenaNet be communicating things a little better? I think so, yes. Disappointing players by pushing updates back isn’t healthy for a game in the long run, but the knowing is sometimes better than the not knowing, as they say.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? How well is ArenaNet doing on the communication front? What improvements could the team make? Feel free to state your opinion in the comments section below!

Laura Hardgrave

Laura Hardgrave

Laura is the Editor-in-Chief for Junkies Nation. When she's not writing long editorials or fighting apostrophe errors, she enjoys exploring multiple MMORPGs, getting inspiration for more long editorials, distracting big snarly things for her friends, and writing LGBT science fiction/fantasy.
  • azdave

    ArenaNet’s communication with its WvW player base on their official forum is horrible and there are several entire threads devoted to that issue alone. Major problems that have existed since launch have not even been acknowledged, much less explained or given any projections for being fixed. The worst thing that any enterprise can do is leave their customers feeling ignored, and Tyler Bearce saying that they don’t want to over commit is a lame cop out. Players will readily accept candid explanations of problems, even ongoing ones that take more time to fix, but they won’t accept being told nothing at all. It’s both a cause and a symptom that ArenaNet does not understand this.