Posted in EverQuest

The Sony Principle

“Try not to judge until you’ve read it all. It’s definitely going to make a few of you think about wearing a troll costume, but if so, please keep in mind that this is just an idea. It’s a discussion. That’s all. I am serious that I’m asking for feedback.”

~ Dave Goergeson

I don’t think there’s anything quite as disquieting in the online world as when a developer of one of your favorite MMOs starts publicly speculating about making massive changes in the game.  Dismissing for a moment what the topic is about, it’s not a lead developer’s job to solicit direct feedback from the playerbase in the form of a “Hey guys, what if we just turned the game upside down?” hypothetical question.

Is there any wonder why a lot of the discussion around this proposed instant-max level EQ2 character freaking people out?  When you read Dave Georgeson’s post, it almost comes off like he’s directly needling his own community: “I know this is going to rankle a lot of people — but hear me out!  What if!”

It’s even better when this comes from a company with a rich history that boasts one of the worst mid-stream MMO course corrections ever made.  Because now SOE players know that these whimsical musings could indeed be made reality, so it’s no longer a discussion so much as people being freaked out for no good reason.

Players like stability; players freak at instability.  This is not Georgeson projecting stability.

Was there anything beneficial that Georgeson thought might come out of this discussion?  Did he think people would be all sorts of cool with suggesting such a radical change in a game’s design?  It doesn’t even matter as much to me about the specifics of this issues so much as how inappropriate it comes off for Georgeson to post this — and the tone of his post as well.  That’s why you have marketing, polls, people in lesser positions feeling things out.  People tend to take what the big cheese says as iron-clad law, and if Georgeson doesn’t know this, then he’s got no business in MMOs.

I’m all for level-headed discussion, but a lead developer saying outright in the post that it’s going to upset people just to mention this, but if you’re really a cool kid, you’ll get over it?  Huh.  Well, no, sometimes it’s appropriate to be unsettled, even if you’re told you’re “putting on your troll outfit” for having a strong adverse reaction.

13 thoughts on “The Sony Principle

  1. Excuse him for trying to have an intelligent conversation with the community. I’m sure this is exactly the kind of talk that goes on behind the scenes that Dave Goergeson thought might be interesting to expose to the public. I guess he learned.

  2. A parallel to this would be last years F2P wars. They way you react to max level 90s and the arguments people gave were similar to the whole “against F2P” thing. I wonder how it will go.

  3. The odd thing is, I’m not sure why anyone finds the idea radical.

    A large portion of MMO players – and I would hazard that the VAST majority of those who frequent the forums – think the game starts at max level anyway. Everything else in between is just an annoying grind to get to the real game.

    We’ve had a number of discussions here where Tesh has suggested that once you get a character to max level you be able to change them to any class you want, to basically remove leveling of alts. I’ll freely admit I don’t like his idea, but nobody’s ever really come out against the idea as the death of MMOs, and it’s a matter of leveling up once vs. zero times. Not that big a difference.

    But you’re right, he really shouldn’t have been surprised.

  4. Ah… feedback such a wonderful thing… except that it goes TWO WAYS.

    Let me do a biz translate from EQ2 land… Folks it’s bad really really bad. SOE has given us 6 months to get stable revenue to costs or EQ2 is dead… THATS RIGHT DEAD. – So get your thinking caps on start thinking outside the box. Because if you don’t there will be no box to think in.

    Is that clear for all the buttercups out there?

    I know it’s a surprise to think that other people in the dev business are anything but blithering idiots that can’t fix pesky bugs. But indeed most devs are extremely intelligent and quite a few are business savvy.

    So the only way to explain this EQ2 Dev post is within the “Rome is actually BURNING” paradigm. THEY ARE IN FACT DESPERATE. And… forum feedback is cheap market research.

    Of course he knows the EQ2 Timmys will go ape crap.
    Of course he knows 90% will threaten subscription cancellation.

    But… like all devs he sees numbers there is a 1000 to 1 ratio of blissful ignorant players to avid forum posters. No offense but a post on a forum does not even register in anyone’s world… even if it get’s picked up by massively. [remember when Wow wanted to use real names… they didn’t really get excited UNTIL – BBC online ran a story…. THEN the marketing types got REAL INTERESTED!!… nothing like bad press going viral to wake up everyone!]

    Anywho… where was I oh yeah EQ2 is doomed… and this was yeah a death rattle marketing ploy… Ah well I don’t play EQ or EQ2 so I’ll go back to Rift.

  5. He was just asking about the option of providing a free max level character as an incentive offering to former EQ2 players, so that they could potentially play directly with other friends and players who are now at max level.

    I do not really see anything wrong bringing that up as a topic for feedback. Obviously it would be better to fix the design of the game so something like that would not be necessary, but that would likely cost much more effort and time than they may have available to them – and that would probably have been done a long time ago if it would have been easy/feasible.

    Hopefully he got some good constructive feedback (positive or negative) and not just cries of doom.

  6. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, to quote Bart Simpson. I think Dave Georgeson’s been doing a pretty good job on EQ2 and as an EQ2 player I like his open stance on communication. We’ve had producers who went the other way and on balance, I prefer to hear about things even though they might not happen rather than to log in and find they already have.

    It’s a modest proposal to seed the ground for some fairly substantial changes to come, I’d say. Can’t see it would affect most people in any substantive way. Discussing it certainly can’t hurt.

  7. Discussion is good. Floating ideas is not inherently bad. But a senior developer has to know that their words, and the tone they use, carries significant weight, and has to be wielded carefully.

    I’m not even touching on the specific discussion so much as the tone of his post and (in my opinion) the inappropriateness of a senior developer soliciting direct feedback about a major change in the game. This is why you have CMs and polls and surveys. The forum-using playerbase usually isn’t calm enough for discussions about radical ideas, especially when presented by the top dog.

    But, sure, I’ll certainly give points to the effort of “open communication,” because I’d certainly rather have that than none at all.

  8. I was considering going back to EQ2, actually. Then Rift added a wardrobe mechanic on their test server, so I waffled some more.

    When I read this, I decided to run for the Rift hills and never look back again. Another NGE inc.

  9. I think the damage was done when they put EQ2X on a separate server, effectively strangling the in-flow of new players to the main game.

    Of course this makes sense having done that because no casual person is likely to take the sub route when you can try for free. Leading to deserted leveling zones and a non MMO feel to leveling.

    I would argue that they made a mistake with the EQ2X separate server but now they’ve taken everyone’s money it’s too late to undo that.

  10. I have to say I have mixed feelings about this announcement. Instant cap characters smacks of serious dumbing down. Also it’s one thing for the players to say the leveling game is irrelevant, it’s something else for developers to sanction this view.

    Personally I hate end-game grinds in any game, so leveling *is* the game for me. This type of offer means fewer people leveling and fewer group opportunities at least in WoW, LoTRO, Rift etc. It’s yet more of a drive towards teleporting hub based gaming.

    As for the tone of the post I agree with Syp that it was provocative. I think that officials on forums should not indulge in sarcasm or baiting language – it’s plain unprofessional.

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