Ask a Game Dev 2022-04-12 19:03:54

There’s a few reasons we don’t do this. Let me try to break it down for you.

1. Because fans don’t always have the context to understand our decisions


Many decisions are made because of multiple factors. The team’s expert on combat mechanic design could be completely tied up with another feature that we haven’t announced yet, or maybe the programmer we planned to assign this task to left the team to go to a different company. Maybe we tried prototyping the feature, but the leadership decided that we’re planning on redesigning the entire system anyway in next year’s expansion pack, so fixing it now would be mostly wasted effort. This all requires understanding things within a much greater context than fans know (or are even allowed to know, for marketing and business purposes). And no, we’re not going tell the fans about all of those things in order for them to understand the decision. We’re not going to throw away our marketing plans and potentially hurt future sales just to appease an angry fan as to why we made a design decision they didn’t like.

2. Because time spent explaining to (and arguing with) fans is time spent not working on the actual game


Developers are humans too. We work only so many hours in a day. It takes time to write out detailed explanations on our decision-making process and then get those words vetted by leadership, marketing, and legal to make sure we don’t say anything we shouldn’t. Normally, this is why we employ community managers - they interact with the community and collect feedback for us, as well as collect our responses and provide them to the fans. However, this also adds an additional layer in between the fans and the devs - it takes more time for the community manager to collect the feedback and questions, present them to the devs, for the devs to formulate responses, and for the community manager to collect and edit those responses for clarity and context, and present them to the fans. In the meantime, we’re still working on the game - often on stuff that is still months (or years) away from seeing the light of day. If we have to spend the time to write detailed explanations for the decisions we’ve made, that’s time spent not fixing bugs and not building new features for future content updates. Scheduling dev time for “explaining ourselves to the fans” is not something most producers are keen on.

3. Because fans who are angry won’t really accept our explanations anyway


Anger is an emotional reaction. Our human brains are very good at making up reasons to be angry. If we provide our reasons, it just invites more argument from the angry fans, such as “WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU TRY THIS THING?!?” This goes back to the “lacking context” problem - we often did consider the thing they suggested and it was found lacking for whatever reason - scheduling/resource constraints, doesn’t necessarily fit in with the other features or things we’re working on, etc. - but this doesn’t matter to the fan because they tend to jump to “well you didn’t try hard enough”, or the next idea that they had  that we probably already evaluated and passed on for whatever reason. Even if we were to explain everything to the angry fan, the chances are still very good that the fan would just come up with more reasons to be angry at us for not doing what they want, especially if that reason is “the number of players who care about this is very small”. I’m fond of saying “players would rather believe their own made-up numbers than our real ones”.


It’s important to remember that [the vocal fans in the community represent the 5% topmost deeply entrenched players]. These players are not representative of the player base, they are the most extreme fans. As such, the things most important to them are often not the things most important to the overall player base. As much as they might wish otherwise, fans are not part of the dev team and don’t get the full context of our decisions or the decision-making process. It is up to the dev team leadership how the team interacts with the community and how many resources are dedicated to it, but it is almost certainly never going to go into as much detail as the most entrenched fans wish we could.

Further reading: [Do you think the industry is too secretive?]

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