The Ignorance Of Crowds: Why Open Development Is Crap

No wisdom here.

Open development is just about the worst idea for games.

People like to think they’re pretty special. And people do tend to have a habit of thinking what they think is right, and those who disagree are wrong. In my case it’s actually true, but unfortunately that’s not always the case for others. And really, honestly, the very last thing I want is other wrong people to be influencing the games I’m going to play. Developers have to stop asking other people how to make their games.

One of the biggest mistakes of the caring, sharing internet ways of the 2010s is the idea that if you’re creating something for someone, you need to get those someones’ approval as you create it. I can assure people, based on the last few thousand years of creativity, that this absolutely isn’t the case. In fact, it can only lead to stifling creativity, and deepening the ruts of gaming. Why? Because people don’t know what they want.

People know what they already like. They will inevitably ask for more of it.

Turns out he isn't an idiot - plays chess aged 7 now.

This is partly the equivalent of the child who will only eat sausages, because he’s not tried fish fingers or spaghetti bolognese. He doesn’t want the unknown. A good parent will respond by telling that child to shut up and eat his fish fingers. A bad parent will say, “Well, you know what you like, I suppose,” and feed them nothing but sausages for the rest of their childhood. I don’t want to only play sausages. I want to taste games I’ve never even heard of, games from exotic locations, to eat mysterious new combinations of games that no one’s ever tried before.

And it’s partly because it’s very hard for people to say, “I would like this game to include this fantastically original new feature that you need to come up with.” And that’s precisely what I want my game developers to be doing, on their own, in private.

I’m not arguing that all open development inevitably leads to mediocrity. But I’m saying it bloody well asks for it. Asking people to tell you the sort of thing they already like, or giving them the chance to tell you to change something different into something they already like, is one hell of a shove toward a bland, beige middleground. Player feedback sounds so great, so all-inclusive and community friendly. But I’ve a thought exercise to argue otherwise:

Photo by Vladimir Kirakosyan

Imagine if I stopped all the people in the supermarket while you were shopping, and told them to come to a consensus and fill your cart for you. And remember, this isn’t some fantasy supermarket in Dreamland where there’s the possibility of anyone else there not being a screeching arsebucket who leaves their trolley diagonally across the aisle while they fart into their mobile phone and knock over the milk.

So as these lumbering Homo ergaster attempt to process the instructions, and then begin bawling their likes and dislikes at each other while likely throwing vegetables, what do you imagine is going to be providing your dinner options at the end of this exercise? It’s going to be frozen chips, isn’t it? And sure, you like frozen chips – you’re not mad. But you’ve eaten an awful lot of frozen chips over the years. An awful lot.

World Of Starwarcraft.

The wisdom of crowds, as first observed by eugenicist Francis Galton, argues that “the many are smarter than the few”. And the argument is well made. Because it’s based on averages. The larger the number of people guessing at something, the closer they get to the truth when their answers are averaged out. And that’s the key. Averaging. And we don’t want that from creativity! It’s the death of creativity. When it comes to the creativity, crowds are about the least wise mass imaginable. Crowds should be avoided at all costs. In all senses.

One of the most stark examples of this I’ve seen was The Old Republic. I played the game a few times during its years of development, and saw its erosion to mediocrity at the hands of crowds. The first time it was talked about and shown, it was so promising. That mantra, that line they repeated far past its being true, that this was to be “KotORs 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7” was meaningful at one point. They were hoping to take the magnificent Old Republic universe online, and create a story-driven MMO. Each time I revisited it that goal was being further abandoned, the game becoming increasingly generic and unoriginal, and each time the developers explained, “When we’ve beta tested, these are the features players have been demanding.” What was once going to be the continuation of Knights Of The Old Republic online, through the ignorance of crowds, became World Of Warcraft with Twi’leks.

People wanted raids! People wanted guilds! People wanted customisable pets! People wanted more of the MMOs they were already playing because they knew they already liked those! People are idiots! We shouldn’t ever listen to people!

All of the people pictured are idiots.

I’m not saying that games shouldn’t be playtested. Of course they should. A developer can get too insular, fail to notice the mistakes they’re making and end up developing them into the core of the game. Valve’s model of bringing a person in every week to play a build of a game, and observing their playing, is a splendid one. They don’t then fawn all over that person, asking them what they should do next. They see what does and doesn’t work by the player’s reactions. They mould their vision to fit reality. That makes sense. But “open development”, that’s abandoning your vision to appease the masses. And the masses are so often massive idiots.

Kickstarter is making this so much worse. This ghastly expectation backers now have that they should have some influence over the game itself: NO. NO NO NO. You’re a wallet, and that’s it. Hand over your money, accept the sheer unbridled stupidity of developers then showing all their promotional materials only to the people who already bought the game, and keep your mouths shut. If you’ve got some incredibly brilliant ideas for making a video game, then here’s an idea: go make a video game. But you don’t – you’re just going to loudly crap on about how important it is that there’s crafting. So shut it.

Developers! Stop listening! And damned well stop asking! I have no idea what started this colossal crisis of confidence amongst the development world, but good gracious, could everyone get a hold of themselves? You’re the CREATORS, so get on with CREATING. Have some bloody convictions! You want to make a great game, so go ahead and make it, and stop thinking you have to pander to loud-mouths back-seat-developing your game for you. LISTEN ONLY TO ME.

Gosh, games are going to be so much better now everyone’s agreed to all this.

234 Comments

  1. xfstef says:

    People are idiots. Want proof ? Some of the most successful games out there right now, or of all time, are moron level connect 3 and virtual life simulators.

    Not only are people idiots, but publishers are even bigger ones. I can and WILL blame publishers for destroying the RTS and TBS genres when 3D shooters started to become so popular that no one would freaking finance ANYTHING within the games industry UNLESS !!! it was going to be 3D. What was the result ?
    – HOMM became a slow pos that annoyed anyone who had to stay there for minutes at a time while waiting for a freaking computer AI to make its move.
    – StarCraft 2 came out in perfect 3D after possibly a decade of work on it and spendings of over 200 million $ (Can you count to 200million ?!?!?!). Do the people use ANY of the 3D features ??? NO ! Great job idiots !
    – The C&C series got progressively worse as well.
    – Don’t even get me started on Caesar 4 and how much of an epic pile of horse shit fail that was. To fans of the series it was unplayable.
    – Civilization also made the jump but at least Sid Meyers was intelligent enough to tone down the graphics just enough for the game to still run smooth and be playable for anyone interested in it, regardless of their hardware.

    The list can go on. Why did the publishers go for 3D in strategy games ? Because of playtesting, asking opinions and making market trends analysis. Who were those studies made on ? IDIOTS ! Idiots that played CS and Battlefield and because they liked the 3D aspects of those games, the only thing they could babble out of their mouths was 3D. Oh and by the way, just for the people who don’t actually understand what an idiot is, it’s a person who mainly has and acts upon a very limited amount of ideas. The plebes, the dirty-casuals … the whatever you want to call them, people who truly have little or no creativity at all, but still wish to get more of the delicious stuff that, just as the article points out, they previously liked.

    I totally agree on this one with John, and even though community driven games might not “suck”, they will never be hits. They will never take gaming to that empirically unproven and unbelievable “next level” which everyone truly desires.

    I do enjoy however how many “people who think they are right” have commented until now, trying to somehow defend their probably personal conviction that they could be game designers and good ones at that.

    Here is something from my life experience. This is how I motivated not doing my math homework in high school: “I didn’t do it because it’s boring and it would have been a waste of time. I can do it, I just didn’t want to”.
    My teachers response: “No you can’t do it ! You are not capable ! The truth right now is that you didn’t do it ! That’s it, there are no explanations. If you could have solved it, you would have, shut up and sit down !”

    • namad says:

      homework problems are sometimes quite simply a waste of time. that is actually a true fact. some schools and teachers try to work with this fact by doing things like pre-tests or letting students test-out of certain things. your analogy is pretty pointless. I agree that the theoretical open development john walker proposes is bad.

      the real open development though that really exists? is stuff like EQnext and MMXlegacy. In EQnext the devs open up a thread for discussion on a topic. Then the fans all say they want X. Then the devs post a youtube video explaining why X is awful and the fans won’t be getting it. So yeah. That is the reality of 2014. Do some research john walker.

      • xfstef says:

        My analogy was supposed to tell your inner idealist child that this world is not a perfect one, and he’s not capable of actually contributing in a meaningful way to a domain in which he’s got only the experience of being part of the audience.
        It also tries to state that those few people who can, do. No hidden philosophies, no extra strings attached. If you can, you do, you make it happen, you score the goal, you get the job, you get the woman. It’s hard, cold, realism.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        “the real open development though that really exists? is stuff like EQnext and MMXlegacy. In EQnext the devs open up a thread for discussion on a topic. Then the fans all say they want X. Then the devs post a youtube video explaining why X is awful and the fans won’t be getting it. So yeah. That is the reality of 2014. Do some research john walker.”

        John is referring (mostly) to Kickstarter projects that give too much creative control to backers, or outright look to backers for specific input on important design decisions. This is also my experience, and it’s one of the reasons why a lot of KS projects fail to fund: because the backers realize ahead of time that the team lacks confidence in their vision, or even lack a complete vision at all.

    • Shuck says:

      Actually, there are perfectly good development reasons for doing things in 3D, even when the gameplay takes place entirely on a single plane. The only reason the original Starcraft wasn’t in 3D is because the technology wasn’t there. If they had had that option, they would have used it. This is, of course, one of the reasons why open development is problematic – players not understanding that there are good reasons why things are done particular ways that aren’t obvious if you aren’t a game developer.

    • Cinek says:

      What’s so wrong with 3D again? The best strategy game of all time – Homeworld – was done in full 3D.

  2. namad says:

    This is quite possibly one of the least well written and most pointless articles I’ve ever read on RPS. Don’t do this again or I will be forced to go back to ign.

  3. Wulfram says:

    SWtOR still has KotOR 3-7 in it. The storylines contain some of Bioware’s best writing of recent years. I think the need to write stories where you’re on the baddies side helped bring a bit of freshness.

    I mean, they’d be better if they weren’t trapped in generic MMOness, but they’re still there, and they’re definitely good value for money at Zero to Three pounds.

    Though I don’t know if a lot of the problem with SWtOR wasn’t as much from above as below. It needed to be a WoW killer to be considered a success, and that was why it wasn’t allowed to take risks and deviate from the WoW formula – the thinking was WoW + better story + Star Wars licence = loads of money. But I have no insider knowledge, I’m just speculating.

  4. Caiman says:

    The problem comes down, as it usually does, to money, specifically the need to make as much of it as possible. Hence you have to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and hence any individuality in your game is unlikely to survive the peer review process.

    The less the need to make money controls our lives, the more likely we are to see things with vision, things that are unique, divorced from this powerful influence to please everyone.

  5. who_me says:

    Simon Roth, developer of Maia has wrote a piece in response to this article. You guys should read it. John W., you should read it too. A few times probably:

    IN DEFENCE OF OPEN DEVELOPMENT

    • subedii says:

      The foundation of Johns complaint is that a democratic development process cannot work, because the input from ill-informed people will lead the developer astray. Here’s the thing: Open development is not democratic, only the developer is holding the wheel.

      Open development is about providing the users with the information they need and communication channels required to allow them to critique your work. It is not about compromising the design process in an effort to pander and please.

      I believe this is probably the crux of my disagreement with the RPS article, and succinctly put.

  6. Jac says:

    Could not agree more (with John, just noticed above post from who_me – will read now).

    It’s like political parties holding referendums when they are in power. They are paid to make these choices so Joseph/Josephine public does not have to and should only make their choice when they vote. No point in them existing otherwise. Same with game developers – outline your vision and let people buy into that rather than polling ideas to please people who just want what they already know.

  7. lithander says:

    Developers fear Metacritics which boils the quality of your game down to a single number and rewards mass appeal. If players are risk averse and there’s a crowded market you better don’t take too many risks because no one is giving you the benefit of the doubt.

  8. caff says:

    This article has been an interesting read,. It’s stirred up a lot of comment & emotion, which is good – because after all, we should love and care for our games. Regardless of whether we are players, contributors, backers or developers.

    Whilst reading the above, the thing that stuck in my mind is that good developers intrinsically know what makes a good product. Regardless of crowdfunding or public perception, they will rise above this with an inbuilt desire to make something that appeals – whether it plays good, looks good, sounds good, feels good.

    I think 80% of the games I’ve loved in the last year or so have been indie titles that have held true to their creator’s vision. I’m even more glad that RPS have recognised their ambition and given them their deserved recognition.

  9. BlackAlpha says:

    I don’t really agree with the article. I look at Planetside 2 as a great example where the public shaped the game, that started off as being merely decent, and turned it into something that is completely awesome.

    No offense to the game designers, but some major decisions they made about the flow of the game were really, really crap. It was the public that came up with the right ideas that have shaped the game into what it is today. Now of course I don’t know if the game is currently the way it is because the game developers ultimately came up with the same ideas or if they actually took the feedback from the public into serious consideration, but I just mean to say that if you look at how the game currently is, the public had those ideas waaaay back then already, and there were a lot of people backing those ideas.

    So I feel the public contributed enough there to say that without the public’s input, the game would’ve been way worse.

    I know, you can give opposite examples where the public influenced a game into a crap direction. So you can conclude the public makes good and bad decisions. But so do game developers, they sometimes make bad decisions, and we probably have more bad games than good games as proof of that – don’t forget that!

  10. quijote3000 says:

    “People like to think they’re pretty special. And people do tend to have a habit of thinking what they think is right, and those who disagree are wrong. In my case it’s actually true, but unfortunately that’s not always the case for others” Getting angry?

  11. Syra says:

    staring eyes. Staring eyes! STARING EYES JOHN!

    Also you’re getting hella old and grumpy aint ya.

  12. drvoke says:

    Hopefully the self-rebuttal I expect to find here tomorrow will help clear this up for those actual developers who were accidentally trolled by this and are otherwise unfamiliar with John’s writing.

  13. Shooop says:

    John, this isn’t so much the fault of the crowd as it is the developers not having a clear goal in mind for their games.

    Asking the players what they’d like out of it isn’t a bad idea, it’s implementing ideas that completely fly in the face of the game they’re making that’s a bad idea.

    Planescape Torment settled on turn-based combat instead of real-time with pause because of the crowd remember? That wasn’t a horrible decision was it? Now if they had listened to someone who asked for slow-motion door breaches and QTEs THAT would have been a horrible decision.

    Developers don’t need to shut out all input from potential buyers. That’s what Rocket does and look what his DayZ turned into – a half-assed FFA deathmatch with some survival elements tossed in. Developers need to have a very clear plan for all the big decisions they’re making about their game. Torment will probably turn out OK because the team already decided exactly how they wanted the story, characters and other essential parts of the game but were just unsure about one part of it that wouldn’t fundamentally alter their creative vision for it.

    • subedii says:

      IIRC the Project Eternia specifically went for things like TBS combat and no voice acting at the request of the audience. Which you know, the devs were happy to oblige to, largely because the reasons behind them made sense (particularly the latter one). It’s hard for me to call those decisions ones designed merely for coolness or idiocy. Or even the devs pandering without thought.

    • Cinek says:

      Torment is probably the best example of what’s wrong with taking community feedback (even if it’s not a real open-dev project) – they took “torment” name and every single time they take community feedback into account – game moves AWAY from what Planescape: Torment was. In the end we’ll have some generic turn-based RPG that belongs to times long gone. Rather sad story, especially for people like me who backed the project because it was suppose to be modern-day Planescape: Torment, something unique and different even to this day – and it seems like new Torment won’t even come close to the uniqueness of original.

      • vorkon says:

        The Torment devs made it clear from the start of that poll that they thought turn-based combat would fit their concept better, and that was the main reason most people cited for voting for it. Sure, they were willing to try a real time with pause combat system if enough people wanted it because it better emulated the original Torment and because they said the specifics of the combat system were mostly irrelevant to their vision anyway, but the fact that they went with what their guts told them to go with is hardly an example of the kind of “slavishly following feedback watering down the final product” that this article describes. It might still be an example of bad use of community feedback, but only because they bothered doing the poll at all instead of saying, “we want to do turn-based, fuck all y’all” and leaving it at that.

        Mind you, I’m also apprehensive about the quality of the game in relation to the original, but that has more to do with Numenerarararara being so much less interesting a setting than Planescape.

  14. thefinn says:

    I have to laugh at a story like this with a comments section giving feedback by the very masses you’re writing about.

    The very first comment is so ignorant of anything that’s happened in the games industry in the past 15 years it makes you want to cry.

    Games that have obliterated themselves due to listening to the morons are all over the place. It’s not like they put up a sign “We dun fucked it up cause we listened to our community.” No, they don’t – that would lead to questions regarding management – noone does that to themselves.

    A great example is world of warcraft and its’ relevance. They listened, god knows they did. Their forums were rampant with “more raiding” back in vanilla, so they did just that… and I really do mean JUST THAT AND ONLY THAT. Their battlegrounds turned into moba style arena’s without the fun. And then the grind began.

    Take a look at eve online – a game that started around the same time as WoW but with a lot less fanfare. They have continually improved over the years, and while they listen to their fanbase, I can assure you as often as not they completely ignore their ideas for the game. The game is still completely relevant and growing. There’s always something new to do in that game.

    Most of us really don’t want “more of the same” we want “new and interesting” – even enthralling.

    • subedii says:

      The very first comment is so ignorant of anything that’s happened in the games industry in the past 15 years it makes you want to cry.

      It’s funny you say ” No, they don’t – that would lead to questions regarding management – noone does that to themselves.” That’s kind of the point I’m making. Good game design is knowing when to take feedback and how to interpret it. It is most certainly NOT ignoring it all because you’re a special auteur. And like I said, maybe I’m backing the wrong projects if I haven’t seen it myself. Because most of what I’ve seen is devs canvassing for a tonne of feedback, but also holding firm lines on what does and doesn’t “make the game”.

      I apologise, I can’t say that making you weep was the core goal of my post.

      Still, I’ll consider it a bonus. :)

  15. Lanfranc says:

    So this is sarcasm, right?

    I mean, this

    Gosh, games are going to be so much better now everyone’s agreed to all this.

    has got to be sarcasm, doesn’t it?

  16. racccoon says:

    WOW! I amazed! fantastic article! I agree Totally!! :)
    I loath this asking and begging!
    Its like they decide to be a “Game Development Company” but have no ideas nor do they have any capital to form the business in the first place! Why start?….Well they start because so many mugs are now out there willing to give money and think they can contribute ideas to a cause.
    The reality is they are just falling into the TODAY’S Game Developers Loophole. A massive great chasm of no shame just take! take! take! Not even an idea is original as its taken hook line and sinker from a crowd funderer idiot of 2014.

  17. MadTinkerer says:

    ” NO. NO NO NO. You’re a wallet, and that’s it. Hand over your money, accept the sheer unbridled stupidity of developers then showing all their promotional materials only to the people who already bought the game, and keep your mouths shut.”

    HALLELUJAH PREACH IT BROTHER!!!!!

    To my fellow wallets: if you are offended by this, you are part of the problem. Stop Kickstarting, please. KS needs quality backers who know what being a backer means. While most of the things I’ve backed have been smaller projects that none to few idiots have involved themselves with, some of the larger projects comments sections have been embarrassing because a few vocal numbskulls decide their “problems” . SHUT UP AND LET THE DEVELOPERS DO THEIR JOB. Unless you have a real technical issue, or appropriate feedback.

    Your money entitles you to nothing other than the backer rewards IF the project is successful. Other than that, you are a wallet and should act like one.

  18. guardian_@ngel117 says:

    Do any if you have any idea what any of you fuclers are talking about do your research come back and try again , also this anti freedom of speach “policy” is a constitutional right violation..

  19. MadTinkerer says:

    Oh, hey: Deus Ex 2.

    I realized that should probably be mentioned since some people somehow doubt this is a problem. But yeah: Deus Ex 2. It was a while ago, but that’s pretty much what happened, and that’s why there’s a decade plus gap in-between Deus Ex and Dishonored.

    • Muzman says:

      Except in the case of Invisible War they were taking the advice, not of the audience, but of other developers.
      Other developers well and truly in the thrall of trends at the time to streamline the hell out of games because “The PC is Dead. Consoles Are the Future!”

  20. Wurstwaffel says:

    Didn’t some famous writer once say something to the effect of

    “If people tell you there’s something wrong with your work they’re almost always right. When they tell you how to fix it they’re almost always wrong”

    I guess that’s the crucial point here. People may be able to tell you how they feel when playing the game, but that’s how far they can go as uncreative types. Sadly most people don’t possess humility to recognize that and will throw dumb suggestions at you all the time. A seasoned developer however should be able to discern that, I suppose.

  21. CilliaBlack says:

    What exactly qualifies as “open” development? I don’t really believe that most of the things this article cites as being open development actually are. They’re just slightly less closed development, or perhaps not even that.

    So-called open development is usually just a dev team which is much more open and outspoken about encouraging feedback. Even with things like Kickstarter, those aren’t really (usually) open development either. The things presented as open development are usually just a list of design document choices that the developers have made for the contributes to vote (whether with their money or their votes) on which they find most appealing. But the choices are still from the devs. The mob mind didn’t make them, they’re just picking them. This is an extremely huge difference.

    What is really being discussed here is what has always been discussed with games of quality. The difference between good developers and bad ones. Good developers know how to take the feedback they are given, what to pay attention to, and what is clearly a mash of pandering nonsense to be written off as the gibberish it so resembles. Bad developers want to appease the fans as much as possible, without regard for anything else, so that they’ll purchase or stick with the project.

    This isn’t to say I believe that fans always know what they want, I just don’t really think we’ve entered into some new awful age of so-called “open” development. It is the same as it has ever been. Kickstarter allows for a lot more input from individuals, but it’s still ultimately up to the developers to put anything at all on the table for design. The masses didn’t develop Broken Age. DoubleFine did.

    The worst you can say for Kickstarter is that a developer will be less likely to scrap an idea that doesn’t end up working in the final game if the backers had voted on it or it was a tier reward. Which is a legitimate potential issue, but hardly the disaster described in the article.

    As an aside, it’s difficult to compare the “open development” of an MMO or moba to a regular game which is developed (usually in semi-secret) and then released and then maybe patched a bit. MMOs and mobas are always in development. Feedback, and the need for feedback, never stops. New content is always needed, and gameplay balancing is similarly constant. (balancing a game well, by the way, is 100% impossible imo in a developmental vacuum) But it’s still up to the designers to go through all that feedback and take what is important and ignore what isn’t.

    Also, hearing people talk about the “vision” of game designers makes me slightly sick to my stomach. It just reminds me of how David Cage doesn’t believe that other people should have any influence on his work. That’s worked out really well for him so far. A couple of games with some neat ideas executed to mediocre or outright bad results. Nothing good ever comes out of a vacuum, people.

    • Cinek says:

      Well, open development is when devs build the game “with” a community – regularly giving them insights into development, asking for feedback, and making decisions with the community.

      • A Grue says:

        Honestly I would love to know which games have been completely hivemind-designed, because I can’t think of very many at all. John here seems to be implying that any Kickstarter-backed game is ready and willing to drive itself into the ground if they allow backers to have any influence whatsoever. It’s just not how it is.

        Like I’ve said, don’t fault the hammer, fault the idiot who flung it through the window.

  22. princec says:

    Well done John for saying this. I am so sick to the back teeth of people telling me how to improve my games. Or worse, to make a sequel, with blackjack, and hookers.

    To these people I would kindly invite them to fuck off, and make your own fucking game. That’s why I started.

  23. GepardenK says:

    I very much agree with the general point John is making. This is why the first original of a movie series is almost always best and why small indie developers often make games that are more FUN to play than most AAA developers. They don`t care what other people think, they just want to make an awesome game/movie. Once the product/developer is poppular they are easily corrupted by the perceived opinion of the masses

  24. qutayba7 says:

    If you’re saying fans/players should be able to dictate design choices, I’m behind you 100%. But if you’re saying designers should ignore outside criticism, including critiques from fans/players, then I’d say you’re bonkers. Even the most experienced of authors, artists, architects, etc. seek the opinions not just of other artists, but also from their intended audience. It doesn’t mean they have to do everything the critics say, in fact, usually they probably take up very few of those ideas, but sometimes the outsider sees things the insider can no longer see.

  25. Tony M says:

    You should use the word “visceral” more in this article. Also, put a score out of 10 at the bottom. If you could rework the article into a Top 10 list, that would be ideal.

  26. Muzman says:

    It’s a little late, but this seems like a stirring speech on the hustings about some vague thing we’re all against and we applaud loudly and in fulsome agreement. But you have to wonder why it came up because there’s not a lot of evidence it actually has any real influence.
    But let’s all just enjoy being against it! Hurrah!

    I’ve never heard of Open Development being a literal thing outside of mods and Linux. Not videogames in general though. I’ve heard of developers taking audience feedback and using it in the making of their games. I’ve heard of them making mistakes doing this. But that’s not the same thing at all.
    So I’m not really convinced the problem is real, let alone prevalent.

    Additionally I think The Old Republic is a terrible example. That was a very expensive MMO project that was bleeding subscriptions like crazy. They were up against it from the outset and like a dying cancer patient they were going to try absolutely any quack remedy they could get their hands on if it might give them a few more days.

  27. mod the world says:

    The problem is that video game devs get their feedback from the most retarded demographic anyone could imagine: people who play video games…

  28. Bury The Hammer says:

    Okay so – disclaimer – I work in software development, but not in games.

    The problem you seem to be describing in the article is just ineffective filtering. Someone on the dev/design team (if you’re working AGILE, then likely the product owner) needs to learn to say no and have confidence in what they’re doing. You can’t just turn open development into a crazy democracy. Your end consumer sometimes doesn’t always know what they want until they’ve got it. But striking a balance between implementing feedback and going your own way is very hard.

    I know some people will disagree here, but Blizzard are pretty good at this. They don’t always get it right, but they strike the right balance of “give us feedback of your experience” with “this is our game to design, not just the loudest people on the forums”. They have a reputation for stubbornness, though removing D3’s auction house is one of the more remarkable u-turns I’ve ever seen in videogames.

  29. theponja says:

    I’m totally agree with you and here a quote about the subject:

    “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
    — BusinessWeek, May 25 1998

    That’s the point: a lot of great games in the past are just bud ideas if you think it:
    A game about a post apocalyptic world with drugs and sex: Oh no!!! The teenagers are going to use drugs and know about sex!!!
    Result: Fallout 1, 2
    A game about to be the boss of a mafia gang and dominate the world through: intimidation , murder , rape. Oh my god no!!! This is going to create murderers and thief.
    Result: Syndicate.
    A game about be the bad guy for the mafia gangs.
    Result: Grand Thief Auto
    A game about to be the bastard child of an important man in the community. You’ve to came back and fight against your own father. Use of drugs and lolitas everywhere.
    Result: Bioshock

    And so on. I really want more creative games not the same again
    Regards
    theponja

  30. sophof says:

    Many comments, so it may already be in here somewhere, but in this TED talk by Malcolm Gladwell discusses more or less exactly this, but then applied to food. Both people’s inability to identify what they want instead of what they know and the undesirability of a ‘perfect’ middle ground.
    link to ted.com

    I wish more Kickstarters understood the concept of patronage, but I assume it really is just a matter of time.

  31. Meneldil says:

    It’s a broader problem, that started to plague internet and now plagues every aspect of our life :

    “We should listen to people”. Yeah. Whatever. Who decided anyway?

    When I was studying to become a journalism (not too long ago), information websites were on the rise. Any redactor, journalist, chief of publication, editor and their mum kept saying “We have to talk with our readers, we have to let them voice their opinion. Internet is a wonderful democratic tool”.

    Meanwhile, I was foreseeing the catastroph: left-wing people hanged out on left-winged website, right-wing people read only right-wing website. And, as time went, those people got more and more radical. Since they all share the same opinion and can hide behind a nickname, they just kept yelling louder and louder.
    The wonderful democratic tool actually created an army made of endless ranks of trolls, cowards and morons.

    Add to that the fact that, nowadays, every random dude can suddenly become an expert. Who cares if he’s got no idea as to how Things Should Work. He can voice his opinion, on a shitty blog, somwhere on the internet. Thus, his opinion is valuable. He can hardly spell correctly, or add 2 and 2, but heh, he’s on the internet, so he must be important.

    This is the same stupidity that led all newspapers to chose a free economical model ten years ago. They just went with the flow, and now have to make a complete U-turn.

  32. KenTWOu says:

    I just don’t understand what that Open Development really means. But I think, there are tons of nuances in communication between developers and their fans, sometimes their feedback is really valuable, that’s why I’m pretty sure that so-called Open Development could save few controversial games like Hitman:Absolution, for example, and significantly improve others.

  33. A Grue says:

    What this is saying, essentially, is that a hammer is stupid because you could hit yourself in the head with it. Open development is a tool, in the end, and it’s the fault of those who use it if there are fingers missing.