Last week our list was five things that every developer should remember, and those things all had to do with the players and customers of their games. There are two sides to every situation though, and this week it's time to take an inward look at ourselves as gamers and list five things each of us should always remember when dealing with the folks who craft our obsessions.
It's easy enough as outsiders who get to enjoy the fruits of several dozen people's hard work to nitpick and carry pitchforks all across the forums whilst spouting off about how this is wrong or that is a "slap in the face" and so forth. And really, who reading hasn't taken time to complain either to a friend or on the internet about how something in some game or another really chafes your Charlie? It is natural for us as unsatisfied customers to speak our minds and express our dissent with the studio's choices. But at the same time there are several things we should always keep in mind before we let our emotions run too wild.
#5 Developers Have Lives
This one's really hard to keep in mind. For instance when we go to a retail store and expect the employees to be there to help us when we're in need, that's a logical expectation based on the fact that said store has set open and closed hours. If you're there, the hired helpers best be there to lend you a hand. With an MMO however things are a bit hairier. Minus down time an MMO runs 24/7 and it's just not feasible to expect a developer or designer to be there at all hours of the day every day of the week to answer your question or hear your complaint. There are 24/7 Customer Service reps for a reason, and if they do their job correctly your complaints will make it to the proper people.
These guys and gals work more hours than many professionals to bring you an experience you will hopefully enjoy and believe in as much as they do. If you don't, you can always vote with your wallet. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't demand swift replies to your game-related inquiries and problems, but I am saying you shouldn't expect a complex problem within the game itself to be fixed overnight. Which brings us to number four.
#4 Making a Game Is Not a Game
We've all seen the type: the forumite or blogger who thinks that MMO developers have it easy and that they get to spend all day playing games. As it turns out, and I'm sure some of our IT working readers can attest to this, making games and software in general isn't all fun and, well... games. Software development is an arduous and tiresome process that takes a great deal of time and constant iteration to get right. And no matter how hard a studio may try to squash them all, there will be bugs. There will be problems with the design. Making a virtual world for thousands to inhabit isn't like making Mario Bros. in 1983. So while it's likely that the offices of Blizzard are very much the professional nerd heaven we'd all love to raid one day, the work done inside the cubicles there is just that: work. It may be one of the coolest and most nerdgasm inducing jobs available, just short of being Felicia Day's love-interest on The Guild, but rest assured that making a game is not a game.
#3 The World Doesn't End With Down Time
Go out. Breathe in unconditioned air. Read a book. Hell, read the forums of your favorite game. Well, maybe not that last one as it can be more aggravating than down time itself. We've all experienced the bitter disappointment of being home from work and ready to log into your favorite MMO only to find out with a solitary tear filling your eye that the servers are going to be down for maintenance for eight hours or more.
Quite a few folks were probably feeling a swell of emotion last week when Age of Conan's expansion upgrade process took a little bit longer than Funcom had expected. But the truth is that we all should remember there are plenty of other things to fill one's time with in the event of a server collapse. Yes we should get upset if the down time lasts exceedingly long, and yes we should impress upon the developers our desire for less down time in the future. But we should similarly not make threats against their unborn children and commence typing Latin curses on the official forums. Merely asking for a day or two's extra time on your account is probably payment enough for the lost play-time.
#2 You Don't Know How to Fix It
With the exception of our more industrious brethren, there are probably very few gamers out there who know enough about game design and development to make widespread claims on how to correct everything and anything that might be commonly brought up as a game's shortcoming. There should be a moratorium declared on all arm-chair designing for games that already have their own development staff being paid to do the job you feel you've gained enough levels to do yourself.
I'm not saying that we should all stop wishing and hoping for what we want to see from our games. I'm just saying that we should stop propping up our desires as golden nuggets of game design brilliance that only we have the mental fortitude to produce. As stated in number four, making an MMO is a difficult and complex task. While your idea for Game X might seem very viable to you, there are likely things behind the scenes preventing it from ever being implemented. So keep brainstorming... just don't act like you're "genius" is going unappreciated. It's annoying.
#1 There are No Sacred Cows in Game Design
We've probably all been a victim of this at some point in our lives. The crushing realization that something or someone you hold in such high esteem isn't really as grand or perfect as it may have once seemed. Like when I found out that my Uncle Ernie was neither really my uncle nor a certified rectal-thermometer tester (joke, people, joke) or that devastating day when we all crowded into the theatre for The Phantom Menace only to leave two hours later with tears streaming down our faces and an unbridled desire to erase the memory of Jar Jar from our collective consciousness. The same thing is bound to happen with every game developer we fall for. They are not gods of software development somehow exempt from errors and missteps.
They will disappoint us. They will do things that we don't agree with. So it's probably a good idea if you stop telling everyone who disagrees with you that they're mentally disabled or somehow under the influence, because there's a good chance that one day in the very near future you'll cross the picket line yourself with something to complain about.
And that's okay. We're gamers. We're fickle. But then we've already discussed that.