Responsibilities of the Player

chore1With all the frustration that I’ve been feeling over WAR of late, I’ve been browsing the forums a lot more than usual. I’ve always been a crazy forum addict, and every game I’ve ever played, I’ve at least had a mild interaction with the community via the forums. WAR is the first game that ever got me off my ass and into writing, and plunged me even more-so into the community that was there. To me, it’s always amazed me when people report that less than 10% of the games population uses the forums regularly. They have always been a wealthof information, a place to vent, a community to share with, and a great ground for initiating gameplay. All of the benefits of the forums help ensure my own willingness to stick around for the long haul.

While burning through all the posts on WHA and the officials, I got to thinking about what the role of the player is when seen in regards to the development of the game. There are tools in the game to do bug reports, and to report cheaters/hackers/botters/etc… Official forums are a good place to set up communication between players and those who have a line to the ears that need to hear what the players are saying. So we have a few different tools at our disposal to TRY and get information to the people that play the games we love. However, has anyone stopped to ask why? Why should we do all this? When did it become our responsibility to do work to enjoy a game?

In all hobbies and forms of entertainment, the people who partake are going to work to get good at them, to perfect their craft, and do their utmost to enjoy their time. If I go to a movie theatre, I am not going to sit quietly if some 14 year old thug and his girlfriend are talking on their cell-phones the entire time, kicking my seats, or being disruptive. If at the movies, I’ll try to get there early so I can have good seats, don’t have to wait in long lines, and I always try to make sure that I have the snacks I like. Personally, I prefer a flask of The Captain from my cargo pants pocket, and a big glass pop, but to each their own. Similarly, if I’m partaking in a hobby, say, painting Warhammer 40k miniatures, I’m going to make sure that all the parts are there first. I’ll make sure I have my water cup, that my paints are still in good condition, and that my paint brushes haven’t deteriorated beyond use. I’ll go through all the steps necessary to make sure that I’ve done my due service as the consumer to enjoy my chosen leisure activity.

What I won’t do in either of those cases, is call the movie company if I didn’t like the film. I won’t try and call Warner Bros. if I think I could give a few pointers to the actors on how to better convey whatever scene they were in. Or try to tell them how to better film each shot to pull the most out of their sets and time. I’m not going to tell tell the film studio that the seat in isle 5 had a broken arm, and so I had to move. As a movie-goer, it’s not part of the social contract to correct the mistakes of the theatre, or the film company. At most, I might complain to the actual theatre itself if something is wrong with the physical location I’m at, but that’s on the outside.

If I’m painting my latest Daemonhunter, and I find out that I got shorted a left arm, I don’t immediately call up the manufacturing company, and tell them to hold the presses, because they have an error in their distribution. I’m not going to go trying to tell them how to correct their sorting and shipping processes. Hell, if I find there’s too much flashing that I have to shave away from each figure, and don’t like that, I’m not going to give them tips on how to preserve raw materials by improving their molding process. As the consumer, that’s not my task.

So why then, do we as gamers, have the conception that it’s our job to report game bugs. This goes back to many conversations that have been had, by many bloggers, about why we don’t expect finished products anymore. As MMO players, we expectthere to be a slew of glitches, errors, and downright broken systems that we have to find, test, and suggest solutions. This is a screwed-up deal on our end. When the hell did it become the task of the consumer to find the flaws of a product they are taking part in. Not just find the flaws, no, we’re expected to prove it’s existence through our own time, and report it. Often times, it’s expected for us to offer a conceptual solution to the trouble as well!

The more and more I think about this, the more angry I become at the situation as a whole. Game companies are using us to test their products. I’m getting worked up by this for a couple reasons. Firstly, the task shouldn’t fall upon our shoulders to do this. I know, I know, MMOs are dynamic, and ever-changing, and as such, we should help where we can. Yes, we all want to make the hobby as great as possible, but the degree that we have to do so in some games is just outstanding! Secondly, and more importantly, we’re not professionals! Yes, even the well-versed, hardcore, uber-dedicated players of the game are not professional testers. We don’t know all the ins and outs of the game, we don’t know how some of it’s mechanics function. We aren’t playing in a controlled instance of the game. We can control some variables with cooperation from other non-professional gamers, but overall, we can’t do a proper job of testing this game. Why are we expected to be able to preform a task, without all the proper tools to do so. It’s akin to being given a rock-hammer and asking us to dig our way out of prison (just had to watch it for the 50thtime for one of my classes).  It’s not something any sane person, with other options to do would partake in.

So where did this paradigm come from? What caused the gaming companies to see us as un-paid game testers that lets them use us for mediocre, unreliable play testing in lieu of paid professionals? In the long run, using your own controlled groups of testers will create a better game and cause less frustration, and cost, than expecting us to do the work for them.

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About Shadow
Making serious business out of internet spaceships.

5 Responses to Responsibilities of the Player

  1. Kash says:

    If an MMO ever was made with the ‘no bugs’ policy the expense would be astronomical to the end user (us) as the development costs would also skyrocket.

    Developers make the best they can with the price that users will accept. Im sure that demonhunter figurine could be made almost seamless but it would be costed out of the market.

    • slurms says:

      I agree with you COMPLETELY. But, I think its a problem with the industry.

      If you look at manufacturing plants like the companies who make the molds and pump out the figures you spoke of, they have been perfecting their art over many years. Did the figures always look as detailed and clean as they do now? Heck no. But they’re still not perfect. Unfortunatly in game development, or any big software based business, the money at stake is so huge that the production companies become less patient for results. Add onto that the huge turnover rate at studios, its no wonder games come out half broken, or not complete.

      I think its something we have to just deal with right now and decide if we want to partake in it or not. I, personally, dont. If I feel a game is broken and the bugs outweigh the fun, I wont play it. In the MMO business this is going to become more vital as these smaller niche titles start making WoW bleed subscribers.

      • shadowwar says:

        @Kash

        I agree that there is a point of terminal cost. Where the expense outweighs the benefit. What I think is probably the heart of what I’m trying to say, is that, the situation where the player is the tester has become the accepted norm, as opposed to the surprising exception. How many games, now close to a year out, are STILL dragged down by game-breaking bugs and poor design choices? This is a problem.

        @Slurms

        I hope it is just a matter of time before the genre as a whole is able to perfect its art, and smooth off all the rough edges. Like you, I’m becoming less and less inclined to stick around for bothersome, annoying game-play.

  2. Radishlaw says:

    Commercial software is still a very young industry (versus 100 years of auto industry), and so far no one has created a fail-proof model of development. Lack of a common protocol is one of the problems: unlike cars you don’t have standards, you don’t have widely-agreed design philosophy, and you don’t have the physical world to limit certain things for you. Most of all, a mistake would kill anyone.

    All these translate to a lot more things that can go wrong, and did. I am not sure if we will see a “standardized” procotol in our lifetime, but it is getting close with nearly everyone using well-known game engines.

    In conclusion, don’t get your hopes up for all upcoming mmos to be well polished.

    • shadowwar says:

      This is very true. I know that games like Aion are useing the Crysis engine, which is proven software. And games like Star Wars: The Old Republic, is useing a game engine designed by a company who purposely marketed it as an engine for MMOs (after realizing they’d get more business for that than continuing along their own game production). Things like those two examples lead me to believe that there is most definitely a market for companies who want to do business designed on creating game production engines. This way, MMO companies can choose one that best fits them, and lets them design their world and focus more on the other aspects of game creation.

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