Five days ago, Game Director, Jeff Kaplan, wrote a very personal post on the Overwatch forums that went into a lot of detail over how scary it can be for developers to be candid with players. It was posted in a thread titled Do you think [the] Overwatch team simply [does] not have enough people? Essentially, the user who created the thread believes that the Blizzard team is short staffed since they don’t communicate with the player-base very often.
As a gamer, and a journalist, I really appreciate when developers talk openly about their game. Whether they are discussing the mechanics, behind-the-scenes production, their favorite levels or characters, how well they feel their game is progressing or plans for the future, this kind of communication shows me the developers care about their jobs and the project they’re working on.
For Jeff, who just spoke openly about “toxic” behavior in his massively successful online arena shooter, being able to openly communicate with the community is not a simple matter. According to his post:
It’s scary. Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there. All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it’s extremely intimidating and/or time consuming. It’s very easy to post the wrong thing and make a “promise” to the community that no one intended to make. Once we say we’re working on something, we’re not allowed to “take it back”. It’s set in stone.
Kaplan’s last sentiment is very reminiscent of the situation with No Man’s Sky. It wasn’t too long ago that the developer, Hello Games, of No Man’s Sky were hit with a storm of negative feedback, when all the pre-launch marketing hype and information from developer interviews about their game didn’t accurately portray the actual experience. The reactions from the community were so powerful that it’s effected the way development teams think about hyping and talking about their games.
This is why, according to Kaplan, that many developers are extremely careful with what they say. If there is some mistype or misinterpretation or something taken out of context, developers run the risk of negative feedback, personal attacks or sometimes even threats, “We often times get personally attacked and threatened. Most great developers I know just love being head’s down making or playing games. The “public speaking/posting” part of the job is downright scary and intimidating.”
On the 25th of last month, another game designer and programmer, Charles Randall, went on record, through a lineage of Tweets, expressing very similar thoughts on why game developers are not 100% candid during development.
The caveat is that we're only candid with other industry people. Because gamer culture is so toxic that being candid in public is dangerous.
— Charles Randall (@charlesrandall) September 24, 2017
From Kaplan’s post to Randall’s Tweets, this is a lot to take in. I’m curious as to what you think. Do you think game developers should be more candid? If so, or if not, let me know in the comments below.