Dark or Light

A Note to the Vocal Minority

Sanya Weathers Posted:
Columns Developer Perspectives 0

All community weenies are aware of the vocal minority. If you do anything in a public space, you will attract one.  This is both good and bad.

Good because the vocal minority cares. They know their stuff. They evangelize, and link, and talk, and share. You cannot stop them from sharing. They come to the cons, they test, they wear the t-shirts, they are more fun at bars than any other population ever.

Bad, because by definition they are not the majority. If you do something that pleases the vocal minority (VM), the majority of your customers may never notice or care.  If you do something that enrages the VM, the majority of your customers will be attracted by all the noise and come over to see what the deal is. (Sometimes they'll snicker and wander away. Sometimes they'll decide they should be equally pissed off.) If you do something to punish the VM, you will almost certainly end up punishing your majority as well.

For example, right now, somewhere in an MMO, there is a combination of abilities that normally are not used together. That's because it requires split second timing, the reflexes of a 22 year old ninja, and a very specific set of circumstances. The VM is screaming about this, because one of them can pull off this combo and insta-kill a giant or whatever, and he posts screenshots every day with "Fix This Now, Game Company." The "You Suck" is implied. Usually.

Are you a game company? Stop. Do not act. Go to your metrics and find out how often this is happening.

Is it happening once a month? Leave it alone and leave it to your community weenie. (Do not go out and jinx it by saying "this is happening once a month." Your community weenie knows to phrase it as "our data shows this is a rare occurrence. Can you define the frequency with which you see the problem?" If you say anything but that, it'll turn out your metric gathering tool was broken.)

Is it happening a couple times a week? Fine. Fix it before it gets worse... as long as you don't touch the actual abilities. Don't punish the thousands of players without the agility of a caffeinated ferret who use the abilities to just play the freaking game.

But I digress. If you think you may be part of a vocal minority, please refer to this list of motivations.

"I know the game better than anyone else, therefore I must speak up." Well, let's face it; you do know it really, really well. The thing you occasionally lose sight of, though? With a virtual world, there are multiple definitions of/routes to "really well." Yours is not the one true way. I want and need to hear from you as an expert in your way. Be respectful of the other ways, please.

"This thing is very important and no one else seems to realize how important it is, therefore I must ring the alarm." As someone who spends a really inordinate amount of time trying to avert problems, I sympathize with you. I really do. You and I have a lot in common. I'm also not going to stop you, necessarily, because the one time I blow you off is going to be the time you were totally right.

Just allow me to share one thing. I once went to a producer and said, look, this thing is like a broken elbow, it's painful and awkward and the more we wait to fix it the more likely the damage is going to be permanent. He gave me a bleary look and said, "That's great. Could you hold on to your broken elbow while I finish dealing with this sucking chest wound?"

You and I may not have the perspective to set priorities. Don't stop mentioning the problem, but please stop assuming that no one realizes its importance.

"This game that is about small groups of people solving riddles would be perfect if you just put in massive PVP battles. Don't forget the catapults. Fetapults, even." I could just have easily said "This nekojin game would be perfect without all the cat people." It doesn't matter. This is one of those things that just happens on the internet. People see a new thing, they want to make it into the thing that is perfect for them, and sometimes they go a little insane.

New developers, and even some experienced ones, react with, well, "what is this I don't even."

Community and CS people pat them reassuringly on the shoulder and exchange meaningful looks. The thought of "newb" may be silently exchanged.

But if you're doing the posting in this way, please stop. It doesn't make any sense. (And if you're a developer, man UP already. Just say no when this happens! Really, people don't explode when you say no, and if they do, CS was going to have to ban 'em eventually, so save everyone the trouble and say no.)

"This game that is about apples is about apples! I am the biggest fan of this apple game! Go away, people with pears! We hate you and you are dirty pear perverts! *snarl* *tears head off squirrel*" So, those of you that do this... you know you're not helping, right?

On one hand, I was just talking about people coming in and trying to change the fundamental game. On the other hand, you're talking it waaaaay too far. Total purity does not allow for the game to grow and evolve. If I am a purveyor of apples, I reserve the right to expand into other fruit flavors. Also, you might find that friendly and mature discussion will convert pear people to the cause of apples.

Okay, okay, it's the internet; I know that probably won't happen. But here's the thing community people know, and it's germane to the whole point of this column. We're not just talking for the benefit of the people who are talking back. We're talking to the whole lurking silent majority. When you go full metal squirrel on the pear people, the lurkers are watching, and deciding if they want to be part of a virtual society with you in it.

That's why I shut you down when you go over the edge, even if it hurts me to do it because I know from your perspective you're our biggest fan and you think you're defending the game. Don't stop feeling passion. Do make sure you've had all your shots.

"I do not do/like/approve of this thing, therefore no one else should." Uh... go away.


Sanya Weathers