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Default Bethesda Softworks - Do Developers Listen to Gamers?

December 17th, 2007, 11:19
Games Radar has an odd article that asks Bethesda's Matt Grandstaff if developers really listen to fans. I say "odd" because without prejudicing Matt's replies, it seems unlikely any developer would answer with anything other than a polite "of course". Anyway, here's a taste:
GR: Do developers really listen to gamers? Or should gamers stick to gaming and leave developing to developers?

Matt: The folks at our office definitely listen to what the fans have to say. On any given day, you'll even see devs actively participating in discussion within our own forums or commenting on our blog. Additionally, I spend a lot of my time informing guys of any feedback, good and bad, that I feel the developers should be aware of.
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December 17th, 2007, 11:19
Not just Matt, the other pages interview Sam Van Tilburgh and George Kelio for Lionhead and Rare, Brian Jarrard for Bungie, Jeff Morris for Epic.

And yes, it is a really silly question to ask a community manager. It's like asking a corporate representative "are your company's products any good?"

Open door, anyone?
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December 17th, 2007, 13:04
I suspect it's just down to the individuals ideals on how they want to work.

Some probably do some don't, and just because they listen doesn't mean that they'll act upon.
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December 17th, 2007, 14:57
I suspect some of them listen to gamers too damn much. Really good games require a strong vision from the team that's making it; trying to develop to the diktats of an amorphous "community" will only lead to mediocrity.
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December 17th, 2007, 15:27
To be honest I suspect most devs are just doing what they are told to do.
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December 17th, 2007, 15:41
Originally Posted by Prime Junta
trying to develop to the diktats of an amorphous "community" will only lead to mediocrity.
Got any examples of that, it's not like NOT listening to supposed "amorphous community" could lead to mediocrity, *cough* oblivion.

Damn that page with the info, Fallout 3: A Post Nuclear Blog, is very biased sort of like propaganda, not to mention no equal time rebuttals. Get a load of the, In Defense of bethesda, post linked on the left. Well I hope we at least have a more skeptical eye on bethseda's PR this time out.

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December 17th, 2007, 15:49
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
I suspect some of them listen to gamers too damn much. Really good games require a strong vision from the team that's making it; trying to develop to the diktats of an amorphous "community" will only lead to mediocrity.
While this is technically true, I always feel this is used too much as a tool for "just shut up and buy our games."

I mean, we're consumers, though whether or not people giving feedback are representative of the consumerbase is an open question, of course they have to listen to us. It's a market, not an art show sponsored by some rich geezer.

But a game does need a strong, single vision. But it's precisely when you have such a strong vision that you should have no problem discussing and adapting your ideas with the community. If something simply doesn't fit, fine, ignore it, but the feedback can point out things you've missed or mistakes you're making.

I suspect that most companies that look down on their consumers (see: Bethesda) are just trying to cover their lack of vision.
Damn that page with the info, Fallout 3: A Post Nuclear Blog, is very biased sort of like propaganda, not to mention no equal time rebuttals. Get a load of the, In Defense of bethesda, post linked on the left. Well I hope we at least have a more skeptical eye on bethseda's PR this time out.
That…well…that's an interesting take, certainly.
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December 17th, 2007, 16:20
Whenever someone mentions "Gamer Feedback" I can't help but remember the catastrophic consequences such feedback can lead to. Back in the days of Quake 1 when Id Software discovered and fixed a bug in their code involving a missing reset of the X-axis speed when jumping right after another jump (the infamous Bunny Jumping bug), the tiny yet VERY loud group of hardcore morons … erm I mean … Fans, yes fans … pheew, almost blew it there … anyway, the tiny group of hardcore fans bitched and whined so loud that Id Software give in and put the bug back into the code … and the rest of us suffered for that horrible mistake for many years afterwards, given how many games was subsequently based on Id Software engines, where the bug was never removed.

Yes, it is nice to listen to feedback from your customers. Just make DAMN sure that what you're choosing to listen to is representative of the ENTIRE customer base, and not just a small though loud group of hardcore fanboys.

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December 17th, 2007, 16:32
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
While this is technically true, I always feel this is used too much as a tool for "just shut up and buy our games."

I mean, we're consumers, though whether or not people giving feedback are representative of the consumerbase is an open question, of course they have to listen to us. It's a market, not an art show sponsored by some rich geezer.
I disagree this whole customerbase thinking. Developers make games not cars or tvs. A computer game is a form of art just like movies, music or books. If you want to be a good artist you must be a dictator of your own work. The hour when your fans start developing your games is the hour when you have sold out your vision. Ofcourse the community may have good ideas and it won't hurt to discuss them openly, but listening them too much waters down the game to a point when its a medicore mix of everyone's ideas.

As a customer I have a right to get a clean bug-free game and I have a right to get technical help in case of game not working properly, however i don't think its my right to tell them how to make games. devs are already listening too much suits, fanboys, pr-people, and journalists…Thus we'll see so many crappy games without depth these days.
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December 17th, 2007, 16:58
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
While this is technically true, I always feel this is used too much as a tool for "just shut up and buy our games."
That's true. But then the opposite is true, too: IMHO Oblivion is a prime example of what happens when you "listen to the gamers" too much. Successful, too.
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December 17th, 2007, 17:22
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
I disagree this whole customerbase thinking. Developers make games not cars or tvs. A computer game is a form of art just like movies, music or books. If you want to be a good artist you must be a dictator of your own work. The hour when your fans start developing your games is the hour when you have sold out your vision. Ofcourse the community may have good ideas and it won't hurt to discuss them openly, but listening them too much waters down the game to a point when its a medicore mix of everyone's ideas.
Yes. I fail to see how you're disagreeing with me when you're saying the same thing I just said. Discuss feedback within the framework of your own vision

(I never said game-making wasn't art, but people do need to make the distinction between free art you can do with your own time or art for commercial purposes. Gaming is generally the latter)

IMHO Oblivion is a prime example of what happens when you "listen to the gamers" too much. Successful, too.
Oblivion is pretty contentious on whether or not they listened to "fans", and more precisely, to "which fans". If you ask me, they listened to all the wrong advice, and ignored the good advice.

Weak vision.
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December 17th, 2007, 17:35
I think Bethesda were trying to correct some of the general criticism they got from Morrowind. Level scaling was a direct result of that I'm sure (too easy after some leveling). The ease of finding quests (arrow - because some people couldn't even find Caius) are just examples. In some ways Oblivion is better than Morrowind - but not for me. It depends on what you are looking for in a game.
Last edited by woges; December 18th, 2007 at 02:13.
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December 17th, 2007, 17:43
I think they listen, but all depends on whose suggestions actually make it into the game. Do you take to heart the suggestions of the hardcore RPG crowd, or do you heed the advice of as one infamous poster terms them, the "shitbox kiddies"?

I think they do focus groups of both types, and glean as much as they can that way. However, what sounds good on paper doesnt always translate to good real-world results, due to just bad idea or unrealistic expectation altogether for either technical, budgetary, scheduling etc reasons. See Peter Molyneux
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December 17th, 2007, 18:28
Originally Posted by Brother None View Post
Not just Matt, the other pages interview Sam Van Tilburgh and George Kelio for Lionhead and Rare, Brian Jarrard for Bungie, Jeff Morris for Epic.

And yes, it is a really silly question to ask a community manager. It's like asking a corporate representative "are your company's products any good?"

Open door, anyone?
LOL, yeah, as if they'd really say "no, we never listen, cause players are dumb as toast." heh

But really, I guess its a matter of corporate culture. Some may listen to feedback, but personally I think players dont themselves always really know what they like or not. So listen to them can be quite a two-edged sword.
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December 17th, 2007, 18:44
It depends on how a company views its customers and their opinions as to whether or not they actually listen. Some customers just don't get it, after all. But at the very least developers should be aware of what their customers are saying.

It's not hard to figure out how Bethesda sees it. Look at the answer to the first question and how Todd Howard described Matt Grandstaff's function to him as community manager. Bullet Shield. That says it all.

These were great questions that were put to the wrong person (the worst, IMO). The right person would work in product management or development. Honestly, I would value the candid opinions of Bethesda's receptionist more than the ones expressed by its Bullet Shield.

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December 17th, 2007, 20:58
I definitely think that devs should be in tune with the fan base before and after release. I think that many great ideas come from listening to fans. The problem is that for every good idea posted, or at the very least a realistic one, there are ten others that say something to the effect of "I want more boobies!" and "It should have voiceovers where everyone says my real name and I can develop a character with six arms and I can be a chaotic priest dwarf warrior mage and the story will still bend itself to my will…"

I can imagine sifting through forums posting fan ideas would get old very quickly.

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December 17th, 2007, 21:26
Apparently, as long as the gamers are new school fans of cutting edge eye candy, click-heavy action, and general FPS-ization, the opinions will be incorporated.
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December 17th, 2007, 22:39
Strong vision— specs must not change mid-project, or project fails. Seriously, I doubt that the average gamer has any insight into real game design. Going on that and the fact that there is a chosen market for any game these days, which must be an average, and the devs just have to listen to the feedback that they agree with and can work with. Listen to your customer, someone who most of the time doesn't even know what he wants (and if he does, can't communicate it properly) too much and it only spells out doom.
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December 17th, 2007, 23:33
Originally Posted by Thaurin View Post
Strong vision— specs must not change mid-project, or project fails. Seriously….
Are games really that easy to make? If so, then that sounds great.

In the world of hardware, it works pretty much the opposite way. At some point someone will start soliciting feedback to hone the product strategy, conduct ongoing market research, monitor competitive activity and identify customer wants and needs. They'll see to it that the product is designed and manufactured to meet evolving market requirements.

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December 18th, 2007, 00:13
Originally Posted by Acleacius View Post
Got any examples of that, it's not like NOT listening to supposed "amorphous community" could lead to mediocrity, *cough* oblivion.

Damn that page with the info, Fallout 3: A Post Nuclear Blog, is very biased sort of like propaganda, not to mention no equal time rebuttals. Get a load of the, In Defense of bethesda, post linked on the left. Well I hope we at least have a more skeptical eye on bethseda's PR this time out.

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