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Old 06-26-2009, 08:32 AM   #1
Masaq
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Post Project Reality - Responding to Feedback, Developer's Intent, Moderation

Dear Community,

Recently there has been a rise in the number of comments from community members expressing a belief that the development team (Devs) should respond with greater warmth and speed to suggestions and feedback from the playerbase.

Please allow me to explain why even suggestions that have the unanimous backing of the playerbase may not automatically get included in a future release of Project Reality, and why the Devs have rejected the view that they should respond to whatever changes are backed by the majority of the viewpoint. Included in this response will be the role that moderators play in the community and why the Dev team so rarely comment in public as to what they are planning to include in future releases.

First, let me explain where the teams standpoint does not come from. It does not come from a belief that only the Devs 'understand the game', or that the Devs 'know best' about everything. The Devs have made some mistakes before now, and we'll make them again in the future - that's what humans do. Please be aware however that many of the Devs have now been working on PR for several years, playing PR for a couple more, and some of us have been playing on the BF2 engine since release. Some are professional developers, some are studying game design (or have studied it already) at degree level. We don't know everything, but we're not completely green, either.


Armchair Development
Secondly, and let's be clear about this, we don't barr anyone who has the serious intent of helping the mod from doing so. There are a wealth of ways in which people can help develop the mod's future, and as the saying goes - those that can, do. No-one in the current Dev team got their position simply by posting criticisms; each one of us has contributed in some way to furthering and bettering the mod. Whether that's through sitting down with BF2Ed and creating a map or through spending time and energy on behind-the-scenes management or simply through playtesting and stresstesting, everyone here has tried and become involved through graft. This is why the team can appear to be a little bit impatient with the armchair-developer brigade. It can be extremely galling to spend days, weeks or even months' worth of man-hours on a project to have people state that you've done it wrong or badly, without even an acknowledgement of the work that's gone in. If you want to change the mod, learn the skills that are required and come argue your case from inside the team, and show us how it can be done.


Responding to Community Feedback
Let's explore why the team don't immediately leap on every suggestion or item of feedback that garners a large amount of community support and then promise to make the change or introduce what's been suggested.

For a start, had we followed this path some of the features that are most praised by the community now would never have entered the mod had we responded to the feedback we solicited prior to implementing them. Hell, if we'd taken the feedback on board immediately after implementing the changes, many of them would have been taken out in the next release. The removal of the GPS for infantry, the removal of the auto-spotting system, the removal of Squad Leader spawns... people were dead-set against all of these by an overwhelming margin! They're also some of the features that are now most-loved and hailed as being the innovations that really set PR apart from BF2.

So, pretty clearly, the Dev team have to be willing to step outside from the simply majority-verdict and sometimes go with a hunch. Sometimes that decision might still be contentious - the automatic RP destruction by nearby infantry, for example - but sometimes (minimap removal being one) they're just great.

On the other hand, it's not like we completely ignore community feedback either. Look at a system like deviation - an incredibly complex issue for all kinds of reasons, and one that people can either love or hate... but we haven't just implemented it and then ignored everybody. Over the past four-to-five public builds it's been tweaked each time, always in response to community feedback. It's taken a long time but we've finally got to the point where have something that isn't universally hated and seems to be welcomed by most. That takes time!


Responsibility to the Community
This is sometimes bought up in threads, usually by people who have been told that their particular viewpoint isn't the one held by the Devs. It usually runs along the lines of "We play the mod, so you should listen to us".

This is a mixed issue, and one I'm going to try and treat tactfully.

The fact is, any one person's viewpoint is just one person's viewpoint. We can be ignoring you but still be doing "right" by everyone else. For a current snapshot of what I mean by everyone else, for most of this month (June 09) there have been around six thousand individuals playing PR each day. May, the last full month we've got figures for? Just over 27,000 players in total over the month. Over 70 thousand players so far in 2009.

So yes, we have to listen to each individual who makes the effort... and then we have to weigh up their opinion against the 'best interests' of 69,999 other players.

The other point to consider here is that the Dev team have never set out to make a populist mod. What do I mean by that? Well, PR runs on Battlefield 2, and BF2 is aimed at mass-market appeal. We have always tried to be something other than mass-market, and that's a game aimed at a specific kind of player - basically, us. The Devs basically want a game that they enjoy playing because most of us found BF2 to be pretty weak beer in terms of our needs. DICE made a good game, but not for our needs.

It's a weak argument I know, but there it is... in our eyes, games like BF2 are what you get when your development team are asked to make a game that appeals to as many players as possible. We're not after that, we're after a game that we want to play - and if you want to play it with us, that's great. If you don't like the overall direction or new developments that come into the mod, well, we're not claiming that everyone should like it!

This isn't being rude, or elitist, or anything like that. It's simply a statement that not everyone likes the same things, and since we're the guys making it - we get to make what we want to play. If you want to make something different; make it yourself. If you want to play something different; play POE2, AIX, FH2, BF2. If you want to play PR but slightly different to the way the Devs are developing it - learn the required skills, make the changes and show us how you'd like it. We might agree and welcome you on board to make changes elsewhere, too... but we do want to see that effort being made, because that's what we had to do.


Moderation
So having explained a little further where the team are coming from in relation to some of the issues that come with feedback and suggestions, let me explain why the forums are moderated as they are.

First and foremost, as has been said before, a lot of work goes into PR. You don't have to like the work, you don't have to personally like the team's members - but we do ask that on our forums, you show a little respect. Not flaming the team, bitching, sniping, snide remarks or just generally not trolling us is simply courtesy.

It's also the same rule in place on most other online forums. Don't roll up to the Penny Arcade forums, or the BBC message board and troll and expect them to behave any differently. If you post rude or abrasive messages in most forums, you'll either get your posts deleted, some kind of AWS system warning, your account banned or told to shut the hell up by a moderator there, also.

Secondly, remember "netiquette". Posting the same thing over and over in different threads promoting the same point of view isn't good forum conduct. It's repetetive, boring and not helpful when others are trying to discuss certain things. That's why we object to people pushing an agenda across the boards.

Yes, we reserve the right to "censor" your comments. Again - see the bit about netiquette and respect. That goes towards respecting other forum members simply as humans, for a start.

You agreed to us holding that right when you joined the forums. It's in the forum rules, and if you're being blatantly rude and abrasive towards the team, why shouldn't we exercise the right that you gave us to censor you? We have an 'ideal' for these forums - which isn't that all criticism of the mod is banned - but simply that when people are posting their concerns, they do politely and in a constructive way. If you can't be constructive, we don't have to listen to you ranting.

Finally, we 'censor' people for another reason - inflammatory remarks tend to get flamed back, which leads to a spiral of argument between community members. We tend to 'censor' (delete or prune) posts that cause or are likely to cause an argument, because again - these are our forums and we don't like seeing people use them to hurl personal insults and abuse at each other.

Behind the Scenes
What should also be considered is that just because we're not publically responding to feedback or suggestions, that doesn't mean it's not seen and taken on board. There are vast tracts of the forums that are never seen by most forum members, and even stress testers and beta testers see less than half. A great deal of discussion goes in to each new release - the direction it should take, the areas for improvement. More discussion goes into each new build - exactly what needs fixing or tweaking, and what doesn't.

Sometimes, suggestion posts are lifted directly out of the forum and taken wholesale into an area of the Dev forums with "Can we do this?" posted underndeath from an interested Dev. Sometimes it's not that graphic but some posts on a subject are enough to get someone thinking - then the relevent post will usually start with "I've seen a few posts on this, and I've been wondering if...".

What I'm trying to say here is that you shouldn't always expect (or need!) to see a direct response along the lines of "Oh golly, you ARE a smart guy - we'll certainly do this!" in the public section of the forums. We are influenced by feedback, we do take it on board, and it is considered. Sometimes it's considered and rejected - but that doesn't mean that it's been outright ignored.


In conclusion
I've taken about fourty-five minutes to write this post explaining our position, and I shall be copying it across the Feedback, Suggestion and General Discussion forums. The copy in the General Discussion thread will be left open, so that people can discuss and debate the contents. I will endeavour to ensure that some feedback to the debate comes from other Developers as it progresses. I will, of course, be closing the thread if people get out of hand or overly rude.

I will also be asking my fellow developers to take care to look at how they deal with the community and to try and hold themselves to the "respectful and polite" line that we ask of you, the forum-using community. Anything more than that - well, see above. We're not here to make the game you, as an individual community member, want.


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"That's how it starts, Mas, with that warm happy feeling inside. Pretty soon you're rocking in the corner, a full grown dog addict, wondering where your next St Bernand is coming from..." - IAJTHOMAS
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Last edited by Masaq; 06-26-2009 at 08:53 AM..
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