Sunday, August 13, 2006

Developer Arrogance

There is no other profession that offers the same exhilaration as game designer, especially MMORPG designer. Your thoughts and dreams become seen and experienced by thousands if not millions of players. In some ways, it is similar to the script/screen writer or even the director of a movie, but where the movie patron is passive in the experience, the gamer is interacting with your vision.

Under these conditions, it is little wonder that game designers often develop a horrible condition known as “developer arrogance”. This disgusting malady drives away paying customers and frustrates those that remain.

What is Developer Arrogance? Well, it is a condition where a designer stops having any type of internal or self-criticism for their own work. It is the belief that their work, no matter how bad, no matter how foul, is the best in the world. Those suffering from this condition believe, quite strongly, that their creations, theorems, algorithms, and concepts are beyond inspection. They have stopped creating imaginative designs and no longer think about what they are creating because they firmly believe that all that spews forth from their mind is perfect, beyond belief, and awe-inspiring. Worse yet, the long time sufferer of this infection starts to have a low opinion of the paying customer and the scum who have the audacity to criticize their work.

So many games have been corrupted, if not destroyed, by Developer Arrogance. Games loaded with poorly thought out ideas because the lead designer never paused for a moment and thought things through. His arrogance blinded his viewpoint. Instead of good concepts, we get junk.

Perhaps the best example of Developer Arrogance run amok is Star Wars Galaxies. It’s a shame that I have to keep beating on the same MMORPG for bad examples, but SWG is loaded with so many choices made out of arrogance, it's hard not to. In SWG, before saner heads prevailed, the lead designer’s planned path to opening up a special option of a Jedi character was starting, mastering, and then abandoning several professions in the hopes of discovering the six randomly selected professions. It was arrogantly thought that the professions were so well designed, so wonderful to behold, that players would be unable to contain themselves from wanting to experience the width and breadth of the various professions that a Jedi would emerge in only a mere three months. Developer Arrogance at its finest.

In a worse case scenario, you would have to start, completely master, and then abandon 144 professions (the 24 professions 6 times). When 6 months came and went with no unlocking a Jedi appeared, players became to complain that such a thing was never really part of the game, it was nothing more than a trick to entice players. To offset this bad press, designers introduced ways to speed up the process. Through the use of special devices in game, players could discover 5 of the 6, but they would still have to cycle through every profession until they discovered the last random one. More details regarding this can be found found here.

Game designers, especially lead designers, should remember some ideas, even theirs, are not ALWAYS the best in the world, Instead of arrogantly believing that every single idea is beyond belief, a good designer should retain a certain amount of modesty and self-reflection. Nor, should designers believe that the paying customers are mindless, marching morons willing to salivate at all their creations.

No comments: