“The Dev Team” Footprint

Sanya Weathers at Eating Bees posted last month about “Things That Make Me /Facepalm When I See Them From Moderators“.

You should read and embrace the post in its entirely. But I wanted to expand on one of her points. Sanya posted:

The community does not, on an emotional level, differentiate between your red name and say, the creative director’s red name. So, even if your actual role at the company is mailboy or cube warrior or producer’s bitch, you still have the footprint of the most senior producer.

This is something that I have been struggling with – and trying to educate my teams about – for a decade.

We’re All the Same

It’s not just that a post from the intern has the same importance as a post from the producer, but that from the viewpoint of most players they are the same entity.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the way a company might want to maintain some sort of global corporate persona. I’m talking about how players see us.

Example: Your live MMO team  just put out a content update. Half the team hates the new content, some because it’s too easy and some because it’s too hard. A third of the team thinks it ruins PvP; a quarter thinks it overbalances PvE. And the entire team is pissed about the stupid guild thing the CEO forced them to do.

None of this matters to your players. They don’t see a fractious group of individuals who fight over every nuance of every update (and yet, to be fair, still manage boatloads of quality content on time way more often than not).

No, what your players see is “the dev team” – a single monolithic entity that includes everyone from the CEO to the forum moderator. Their impression of “the dev team” comes from two places: the game itself and what “the dev team” says.

Hopefully you’ve got a decent handle on your game. But you also need a handle on what “the dev team” says. Because what any one of those people says – from an interview with the CEO to a throw-away opinion post by an intern designer – represents the opinion and knowledge level of the whole team. Worse, it represents the official intentions for the game as a whole.

Yes, the CEO’s interview in Business Weekly represents your level of raid knowledge. And yes, the design intern’s post on the quest forum about how he hates PvP represents your intentions for the future.

(I’ll give you a moment to shudder.)

Players aren’t stupid. They have some notion of the relative hierarchy here. But they are here to play, not to analyze industry. When they see a statement by ‘Company Employee’, they see a statement by ‘Company’.

The solution seems simple enough: Together, the producer and the community manager can iron out what they want “the dev team” to say and then work with people until everyone gets the message. It isn’t hard … unless you ignore the problem.

Even Producers

But there is another aspect to this that I as a producer find particularly painful.

No matter how much you may want to explain that the reason “the dev team” did the stupid guild thing was that the CEO insisted on it even though everyone else on the team knew it was stupid, you can’t do that.

And not just because it would get you fired. Even if you go rogue and explain the whole thing – the internal politics, the trade-offs, the business deals – it won’t help. You can’t tell your players that your team knows what it’s doing even if the CEO doesn’t because on an emotional level you and the CEO are the same entity: “the dev team”.

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3 Responses to “The Dev Team” Footprint

  1. Tiber says:

    “Players aren’t stupid. They have some notion of the relative hierarchy here. But they are here to play, not to analyze industry. When they see a statement by ‘Company Employee’, they see a statement by ‘Company’.”

    To some extent, I think we just figure that the employees know enough to not say they’re going to do something when they’re not. I also think how much we think of the company as a monolithic entity is proportional to the amount of interaction the PR people have with the community. If you treat them as drones who do nothing but lock threads and post patch notes, how else are we supposed to see them?

  2. Tinman_au says:

    I guess I’m a bit cynical when it comes to “the dev team” saying they’ll do something in/to a game after 10+ years of playing MMO’s, but I don’t trust even a lead saying “This’ll be fixed/added/removed next patch/on release” and take everything with a grain of salt. Heck, it’s always the producers fault if that doesn’t happen, so it has to come from him/her before I’ll even half believe it ;)

    I do, however, become concerned if some one doing the PvP skills (or “insert MMO part here”) starts posting that they don’t like PvPing….but that’s just common sense isn’t it?

  3. Tinman_au says:

    I guess I shouldn’t have hit “post” so soon, but I also think (again, it’s pretty cynical) that folks aren’t as dumb as they seem and really do realise the difference between an artist commenting on skills and say the class lead commenting on them. People just see the artists comments as an opening to start the QQ “But “the devs” said…” attempts at getting “their” class/race/whatever an edge.