May 18, 2007

Developers Are Not Our Friends

It’s a good thing that I got a bunch of sake from Fandango recently, because after all the recent Vanguard news, I think I need it! By the way, the sake from Tanvu also gives the “cool sit” graphic, which is also appropriate these days, since the Vanguard playerbase seems to be witnessing a modern day Greek tragedy.

I’ve found myself shaking my head at the irony of it all. I used to be more of a hardcore player, and witnessed server and guild drama that could outdo Dallas, 90210 and the OC all together. (Trying to connect with all generations here, work with me!) I finally reached a zen state of tranquility, running a mellow, drama-free guild (still recruiting btw!), and getting to know some great guilds, thanks to the efforts of Zorus, from Sacred Haven, who put a lot of work into opening up communications among the guilds of Thunderaxe.

How hilariously sad and ironic that the source of the drama now is from Sigil itself. Monday was the weirdest day of gaming I have ever experienced.

The events of this past week are a reminder of the unique intimacy between game developers and their playerbase. It’s unusual to see consumers have such an emotional and personal connection, not only with the game, but also with those who created it. It’s not uncommon in today’s gaming world to see posts that not only demand a change, but actually call out by name the developer they expect to carry it out. And when something isn’t meeting with approval, the criticism is sometimes stunningly insulting and personal. The respectful distance between consumer and provider has all but evaporated in the online gaming industry. It’s like following home the Burger King drive through employee to demand an explanation for your screwed up order, and then hearing a long litany of sob stories and intense regret over your ruined dining experience.

To be fair, there have been many heartfelt posts made by players to those who lost their jobs this past week at Sigil. At this point, though, the posts and interviews from Sigil staff are too personal, too emotional, and reveal more than we should know. I am concerned that the game wasn’t straightened out, but more concerned that, from the sounds of it, there are people who need to get their lives straightened out, and not just the people who are out of a job.

Dvelopers are not our friends. There’s something to be said about professional distance between game developers and players. In the case of Vanguard, it was obvious that there was a strong desire to gain the endorsement of the Fires of Heaven community. But by bending over backwards to respond to the FoH community, Sigil lost not only their respect, but also the respect of the affiliate sites, who jumped through all the required hoops only to be largely ignored. It’s no different than a teacher-student relationship. It’s important for a teacher to listen to his students, but in the end, the teacher has to keep clear the line of authority – teachers who try to be “friends,” can’t command respect later on when push comes to shove. In Vanguard’s case, where “viral marketing” was apparently the only marketing plan they had, the word-of-mouth lack of respect towards Sigil and towards the game was devastating.

I like Vanguard a lot, but it desperately needs to be fixed. The Vanguard community can, and should, play a strong role in providing input on how it can improve. I’m very optimistic about the future health of the game, because while Vanguard has had a wealth of creative talent, it seems to have suffered badly by poor management and lack of leadership. SoE has both, and they already took a big step with the introduction of the official Vanguard forums as well as Brenlo, an experienced community manager.

It’s time for some results.

Posted by jayernh under Archive,Gaming Commentary | Comments (2)

2 Comments »

  1. wow that was REALLY good. I wonder why we expect them to be best buds with them and demand personal answers and such. For it really hit home when people were discussing the jeff butler divorce thing.

    Comment by navid — May 19, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  2. I agree… good blog, you raise an idea that I had never even thought about.

    Well, regardless I’m still eager to see what Vanguard has in store for the future and for now it is still my choice of the many MMOs out there. (Honestly there is just nothing else but Lineage 2 that I’m interested in at the moment)

    Lets see what sony does! :) You can bet changes are coming!

    Comment by Cow Nose The 50 Pound Cat — May 22, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

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