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Quote of the Day – Getting the Dev’s Attention May 15, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, Quote of the Day.
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I may just end up kicking Titan rank to 600 simply because Shoogie suggested it and his reasoning looks sane.

-CCP_Greyscale, post in the EVE Online Forums

That isn’t really the quote I wanted to use, but everything I did want to use was so long and interconnected that I would have to reprint the whole post to get what I wanted.  So I’ll do that too, but further along.

This was the end result, on page 49 of a thread, when Patri Andari up and asked three questions:

1. No one has ever proclaimed the criteria a post requires to get a response, yet this “good post” rises to the top and is responded to fortwith. I would love to see an enumerated guide on how to get a response from the devs.

2. Why have so many other posts which bring up even more important circumstance gone ignored?

3. Is it required that one post in a way that rubs a dev the right way to be considered a ‘good post’? If so, how do you like to be rubbed?

I am sure we have all asked ourselves how we can post something on the forums that will get the attention of development.  And, judging by what I have seen in the past, at least a few people have decided that being as angry and as insulting as possible (I always love when somebody calls developers lazy, as an example.  No better way to get somebody on your case than calling them lazy!) must be the key.

Maybe this will get those people to reconsider.

I am putting CCP Greyscale’s response after the cut.  It is long, but I think it is worth a read (and preserving somewhere I can find it easily) even if only to see how one developer views player input in the forums.

Hat Tip to CSM9 member Sion Kumitomo for highlighting this post on Twitter.

Lots of text after the cut.

CCP Greyscale post, found here:

Yeah ok, this is a reasonable question.

Preface: I am British (as evinced by the fact that I spell my name the way the Queen intended when she invented the English language), so all my expressions of emotion are compressed around the midpoint. To translate into eg American, exchange “good” for “excellent”.

1. Here’s the general guide, in approximate order of importance from my personal perspective

- Be calm and reasonable. Angry posts are harder to process, both because the actually worthwhile bits tend to be broken up by the angry bits, and just because it takes additional effort to filter out the negative vibes while you’re trying to extract the useful information.

- “Show your working”. The single most useful thing you can do in a post is to explain, in as much detail as possible, why. Simply stating things you believe to be true is somewhat unhelpful, as it’s incumbent upon us as developers to be able to explain why we are making changes, and also to filter out things that players are saying because they are true from things that players are saying that they mistakenly believe to be true from things that players are saying that they know are false but hope will sway development decisions anyway. For both of these reasons, an explanation of why you are saying what you are saying is the biggest thing you can do (in combination with the previous point) to get a developer to make changes based on what you’re saying. A lot of people seem to be under the misapprehension that simply stating their opinion should be enough for developers to change their mind; this isn’t viable for a number of reasons, but the most obvious one is that any given thread will generally have multiple players stating mutually contradictory opinions. We have to be able to pick between them somehow, right?

- Be specific. I love players who actually present numbers rather than just saying “that is too big”, because it makes it very clear what they’re actually hoping to see, and gives context for what they find reasonable.

- Consider the whole picture. It’s very easy to express an opinion about things that affect you directly. It’s much rarer for people to consider how the changes they’re suggesting affect other players, particularly those of different playstyles or levels of experience. As developers, we have to consider everyone, and that often involves tradeoffs. Your common-or-garden post says “this is what *I* want”, and we have to then synthesize all those different points and figure out how to balance competing interests. Showing at least an awareness of this, and better still actually accounting for it in your working, is a good way to make a post more useful to a developer.

- Have a good, short opening paragraph. If your post starts off badly, I will jump through it quickly looking for anything that sticks out, because I have lots of posts to read and other work to do. If you catch my attention with your opening, I will read it carefully. Note here that I’m not saying it has to make an effort to be catching or provocative, just that a clear, well-written paragraph which meets all the other points in this list suggests that it’s a post that’s probably worth reading slowly.

- Be novel. Posts bringing up things that haven’t previously been mentioned in the thread are generally more useful than posts repeating the same thing that’s been mentioned twenty times. I want to properly clarify this: I’m *not* saying not to repeat points, or even that doing so isn’t useful. Seeing the same thing brought up multiple times is a good indicator that there is a broad concern about a particular thing. It’s not as powerful as a single post laying out succinctly and convincingly why a particular thing is problematic, but it’s still useful information!

- Be nice to read. If you can be gently witty, or format and punctuate your post so it’s easy to read, that will always score bonus points.

2. Nothing in this thread has been outright ignored. With fifty pages I’m happy to hold up my hand and say that some posts I skim-read because, as above, I have other work to do too, but I have read every post for some definition of “read”. I have not replied to every post raising an important point, for a variety of reasons:

- In many cases a reply doesn’t really add anything to the discussion

- In some cases that you are considering important posts, I probably simply didn’t find the points they were making particularly compelling. YMMV, obviously :)

- I can’t reply to everything, both because it would take forever and because it would destroy the rhythm of the thread.

- What a developer does and doesn’t reply to tends to, over time, influence the character of the forum. I am less likely to respond to a post which makes good points in a bad way, because while good points are good, bad presentation is bad. Conversely, people making really good posts I will go out of my way to reply to, because I would like to see more posts like that.

3. This is kind of repeating the first question, at least in the case where I take it seriously rather than snarkily. I’m going to use this opportunity then to say why I replied to Shoogie’s post:

- He starts off by giving a suggested rank for Titans. I am immediately reading this post carefully. There have been a lot of posts saying “caps take too long to research”. Here is somebody actually proposing a solution. Excellent. (Yes, I note that he said the same thing earlier, I guess I didn’t catch it the first time round? Sloppy reading on my part, sorry.)

- Good paragraph length, well written, clear, not angry. Good.

- Shows his working for what factors he’s taking into account, and covers some edge cases (Hyasyoda lab). Lovely.

- Considers that his suggested number might be too low. I love posts which consider the possibility that they might be wrong, it shows great awareness of how balance actually works and suggests that the author is carefully considering their suggestion.

- Frames things in terms of typical player reactions, this is both a sign that the author is thinking about things from a good perspective, and also allows us to figure out where they’re coming from and what other assumptions are being made.

- Thinks about new players in a way that’s not transparently just about advancing their own interests. Rare as hens’ teeth.

- Writes out a goddamn table, I love this, saves me doing math :)

- Thinking about interesting decisions, which suggests a decent understanding of game design principles.

- Considers the impact of other changes happening at the same time, which has been surprisingly uncommon in in the discussion of industry changes as a whole. (Also doubles down on this in the post about job costs a few posts further down.)

- Wraps up with some other suggestions for changes, and also mentions things he thinks seem reasonable as-is.

You’ll note in my response that I don’t agree with everything suggested, specifically with regard to T1 ammo. But the post as a whole is an excellent post that hits a whole lot of “good post” checkboxes at once, and as a result is really damn useful to me as a developer. In the absence of anyone else’s input, and given that such things are within certain bounds largely arbitrary anyway (ie, there’s no obvious compelling reason to home in on any specific number from a balance perspective), I may just end up kicking Titan rank to 600 simply because Shoogie suggested it and his reasoning looks sane.

Hopefully that answers your questions? Is there anything else you want to know about this stuff? I’m always happy to put in the effort to explain things if I think it’ll result in better posting in future :)

Comments»

1. bhagpuss - May 15, 2014

That’s a really interesting dev post, much of which is inarguably and self-evidently true, not that that would stop any number of people arguing with it and denying it has any validity whatsoever, of course. The main problem I see with it is that for any halfway-populated MMO the chances of any given dev happening to read any given post must be vanishingly small, regardless of how well-written and argued it might be.

Back when I was on EQ2’s Test server, for example, the traffic through the appropriate sub-forum was so inimical to reasonable discussion and made it so hard for devs to find useful information that they added a hidden sub-sub-forum for Testers to which you needed to be invited either by a dev or a mod or be given access by one from the recommendation of a player already so invited. And even then serious, gameplay-affecting issues reported there would frequently go unresponded-to for days.

That was a few years back and devs in general seem to have become a lot more responsive and present on all kinds of forums, but the signal to noise ratio must still be immensely higher than they can meaningfully decode. The upshot of which is that I think CCP Greyscale’s advice is excellent and certainly should be taken to heart but even following it to the letter I still wouldn’t count on getting anyone who can actually do anything to pay attention to anything I say!

Or use Twitter. That seems to work.

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2. kiantremayne - May 15, 2014

All good advice from Greyscale, which applies to blogging or in fact any form of communication – I’ve had an experience recently where I found that talking calmly and reasonably to local authority bureaucrats on someone’s behalf got a lot more results than they’d managed for themselves with incoherent ranting.

The other piece of advice I would add is to drop the sense of entitlement. Putting “DEVS READ THIS!!!” in your post title isn’t going to make a response more likely. If anything, it’s the opposite. Especially because if the devs did spend their time answering everyone who demanded it on the forums, someone else would complain that they were spending all their time on the forums instead of fixing the damn game.

Incidentally, I’m calling Greyscale out as a fraud. WE say “maths” over here, not “math”, presumably because we’re better at it and do more sums :)

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3. Matt - May 15, 2014

Some of it seems pretty commonsense (don’t rant and rave, don’t be boring) but:

He starts off by giving a suggested rank for Titans. I am immediately reading this post carefully. There have been a lot of posts saying “caps take too long to research”. Here is somebody actually proposing a solution. Excellent.

If they do want their players to solutionize, then that’s their business, but my experience is that feedback is best when it sticks to the problem. You (hopefully) don’t need your customers designing your product for you. If a suggestion is made, it should be general (reduce time to research caps).

But maybe I’m missing something from the context.

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4. Haly - May 15, 2014

@Matt Eve is a bit different than most games in that Devs sorta need player input. It’s so huge and interconnected that it’s flatly impossible to see every repercussion coming.

I’ve been playing Eve a long time. Years even. I’m well on my way to the Phd area of time spent on the mastery progression of the subject. And yet, not a week goes buy I don’t learn something. Every few months I hear about whole new professions and activities in the game I didn’t even know were possible.

So, no. general suggestions don’t work in Eve like they do elsewhere. There are literally, not figuratively, thousands of things that one change can have on the game. Professions, plural, will spring up around that one database change.

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5. SynCaine - May 16, 2014

@Matt I understand where you are coming from, as in my line of work we always draw a line between explaining the issue (the requirement) and telling us how to solve it (designing the solution). For many the two are the same, and a lot of people have trouble separating the two out.

Haly makes a good point though; it’s hard even for CCP to be completely knowledgeable of something so complex, and depending on the item, sometimes a very smart and dedicated player might indeed be more of an expert than a dev (at least prior to coding considerations and such).

EVE is a rare beast in that regard.

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6. sid67 - May 16, 2014

Seems like a really lazy response to me…

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