Influencing The Industry

I received a very nice email from Jeff Martin at Company of the Wolf a couple of weeks ago asking if I’d like to do an interview with him for his blog. I was thrilled and flattered so of course jumped at the chance. What totally surprised me though (so much so that I didn’t quite believe him until he posted more details when he published the interview) was when he said he knew that people from Blizzard and Turbine read my blog. Huh? Ex-squeeze me? Bacon powder? People from those companies MY blog? How bizarre.

But then it’s not really that strange when you think about it and no doubt all sorts of folks from all sorts of MMO companies read all sorts of MMO blogs. It makes sense. They like the industry and they want to follow what people say about it and what their reactions to events are. It’s all part of that thing called community which can help establish a very successful playerbase. Some developers and designers, like Brian Green, Steve Danuser, Wolfshead and Eric Heimburg (apologies to anyone I’ve missed), even keep bloggy-wogs themselves and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

Thing is though, does all our blogging actually carry any weight where it counts? Does the guff that we write about day-in and day-out across all of these hundreds of MMO blogs actually affect anything in our game’s production and development? Do all of our comments and opinions influence MMOs in any way whatsoever? I’d be thrilled if it did but I’m not so sure that any of it does.

I never actually set out to change the world or shape or influence MMOs when I started blogging. I just had a bunch of word-monkeys jumping around in my head constantly and I wanted to evacuate them onto my keyboard as quickly as possible. I’ve never written an article with an ulterior motive in mind or an agenda to either get into the game’s industry or actually change the way the games are designed and created. Of course it would be nice to think that my thoughts somehow carry weight but, at the end of the day, I’m just a spectator and bystander of the MMO industry and I’m neither qualified nor inclined to alter it.

That’s not to say that all of the MMO blogs and sites out there don’t carry merit in their articles but I would hope that any developers reading them take things with a pinch of salt. There’s probably some golden ideas lurking admist the see words but ultimately these things are all expressed as opinions with heavy slants in one direction or another. That is, after all, what makes blog fun to read.

I’m probably a great example of this because even though I often use World of Warcraft in a lot of my MMO discussions (it’s the most popular one and thus the easiest example for people to associate with) and heaven knows I like to complain and moan about it but ultimately I’m still currently subscribed to the game and play it regularly. If I honestly didn’t like it, I wouldn’t play it. Of course writing luvy-duvy articles about it everyday would be darn boring so don’t expect me to heap it with it’s  – well-deserved in many areas – praise. No, I’d rather poke and prod every aspect of it, and every other MMO out there, in great detail and minutiae, critiquing every last tiny part of them all. Call it blogger’s prerogative.

Still, if any developers or designers out there are enamored with my thoughts on permadeath, travel, community, localization, more community, the multicultural aspects of MMORPGs, zombies or how I think MMOs are like women then feel free to utilise any of them. Just send me an email and I’ll let you know where you can send the royalties cheque to.

Anyhow, you find my interview at Company of the Wolf here. Feel free to have a look around the blog whilst your there, it’s a great site.

-Gordon

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37 Comments

  1. Dresdor says:

    When starting my blog I never thought people would read it let alone developers. I muse about different video game topics and elements, and should anyone actually use any of my advice I would be shocked.

    Anyway, good luck with the influencing the industry thing, I can relate to the word monkeys as well.

    Cheers
    -VG

  2. Note that being read by the industry and influencing the industry are two different things. ;)

    And, really? Padmé over Leia? Even though you said you liked coke, too! ;)

  3. Pitrelli says:

    Nice one :)

    Well deserved piece of recognition and it must certainly be a boost to know your blog is getting read where it matters in the inner circles (not that us average joes dont matter ;) ), cant say Im surprised mind you as you do cover very thoughtful topics well and have a nice writing style – being one of the ‘big hitters’ in the blogosphere which I would say this blog most definately is I would have more faith in how far your readership may branch out :)

  4. Stabs says:

    Good stuff. I used to post a lot on a Diablo 2 site called the Lurker Lounge and we came to suspect we were quite extensively read by the developers. I even may have got an overpowered game feature nerfed by blogging a little too enthusiastically about it there. I think the forum understood the game mechanics better than the developers did and I’m sure they came sometimes to try to work out how their game worked.

    Just as an actor looks in the mirror so do game designers look to fan’s sites. We’re their mirror in which they can see how their game looks. Fans also can put an incredible amount of time in to very small aspects, I remember manually making a swing then noting down the results for several variations with 1000 swings recorded per variation to establish a minor point of data.

  5. Jestor Rodo says:

    Holy Bungholery Batman,
    What a self-serving piece of dribble that I have witness in interviewing in quite some time.

    Jeff just wasted your time , Gordon. He was gone out of his way to get the attention of yours truly ,
    and my fellow vets on MMOFringe.com. The only reason is that we have an open forum and he is jealous while his blog is Closed comments. Its his Psycho way or the Hi-way. He lies about everything and has no creditability whatsoever and this coming from your self proclaimed Clown Prince of MMOS, I would have to say that is pretty damning.

  6. Jimsixx says:

    Awesome Interview Gordon I especially Liked the whole Bamboo cage thing but Pepsi over Coke?

    I think Jeff has been around as long or longer than Lum the mad, I remember reading his Living city pieces in the RPGA newsletter back in the early 80’s and he was a fixture at Eric Noah’s site before it became EN world. I didn’t know his wife contributed to his blog as well…she’s kinda hot in a Sara Gilbert kind of way. :P

  7. Richard Cody says:

    I do think that mmo blogs are a mirror, and that developers smart ones at last look into that mirror as often as possible and honestly in many cases what we read can influence design philosophy. I know that I personally keep up with about a half dozen blogs including company of the wolf, we fly spitfires and wolfshead online. if there are issues or trends amongst gamers you can pretty much bet it is going to be blogged about, it’s just another outlet for the developer to gather feedback.

    Richard Cody
    CCP North America

    • Tesh says:

      Speaking as a game developer (though just a mere artist with delusions of design grandeur) *and* as a gamer, I can see where digging into blogs can be a useful research tool. I love to read insightful commentary (or listen to podcasts) about our games. We’ve certainly taken user feedback into account on our current project, a sequel to a game that we’ve had success with.

      It also strikes me that blogs are more useful than fourms, official or no. Or, perhaps, useful in a different way, as the format differs and frankly, the writing quality tends to vary as well, usually with blogs being better and easier to read.

      As for what my own blogging tends to do, well… Psychochild comments on occasion, which is nice, but the bulk of my page hits are still random people coming to see the Avatar movie review (meh) or Allods commentary (for a game I’m not even playing any more). The game design ideas and articles that I agonize over and feel represent my most useful and well crafted work… well… they just kind of slip on by. I’m probably too much of an outlier… and I don’t write about WoW enough.

      Sure, I wish that my articles would kick some MMO devs into gear, but hey, mostly I’m writing to get those word-monkeys to shut up. If something good comes of it, well, that’s a bonus.

      • Tesh says:

        Oh, and I only mention Psychochild as a commenter I appreciate because he’s one of those official guys inside the sausage factory. I have a handful of other regular commenters that I greatly appreciate, and for the vast majority of the time, conversations are much more pleasant than I tend to suspect the Internet of being capable of.

        One more for blogs over forums, hm?

      • Gordon says:

        “Sure, I wish that my articles would kick some MMO devs into gear, but hey, mostly I’m writing to get those word-monkeys to shut up. If something good comes of it, well, that’s a bonus.”

        Exactly. I don’t profess to being a games designer or a developer or that I’m qualified enough to create or improve MMOs. I just write my opinion, inject some humour and chauvinism, and hope that people don’t crucify me for it all :P

    • Gordon says:

      It’s definitely another outlet :) I wonder if developers get upset or annoyed if someone complains about their game though? Or do they just roll with it and put it down to blogger’s opinion/rantings?

      I’m aware that some of the stuff I write can be a bit negative towards certain games sometimes (I love picking on Blizzard :D ) but, like I said in my post, the proof for me is always what I subscribe to and play! I think blogger’s opinions, although possibly valuable, need to be taken with a grain of salt sometimes :)

      • Stabs says:

        “I wonder if developers get upset or annoyed if someone complains about their game though?”

        Of course they do. Even designers are human. You have very rare ones like Ghostcrawler who aren’t bothered but generally I’ve found games designers just as sensitive as other creative types like artists, writers, actors, etc.

  8. Boogie101 says:

    That was a really great interview Gordon you don’t see those much anymore, I really like that site some good articles over there I have been looking for more mmo blogs for ahwile and didn’t know about company of the wolf… just like l heard about spitfires through a friend.I really wish good blogs like that were easier to find. I miss the old days of web rings :(

  9. sofaking says:

    I think or fear that maybe Bloggers have too much influence on the industry. Let me splain…no that would take too long let me sum up :P

    Back in 2008 I was at Blizzcon and on the last day of the con devlopers were roaming about talking to folks I noticed that most folks got a hi how are you or maybe stopped long enough to ask a question But when two of the devs got round to a very prominate blogger it was a complete smooze fest… I have to ask myself is that really what we want…devlopers coding to what they read on the popular blog dujour?

    Don’t get me wrong there are many blog I think are really good We fly Spitfires, wolfshead and company of the wolf being my top three favorites, but I don’t agree with all of thier opinions, nor do I think that devlopers should look to them on how to steer the industry.

    thats my two coppers

    • Gordon says:

      I completely agree, actually. I don’t think developers (or readers) should always feel that need to agree with blogger’s views. After all, it’s just one person’s opinion and sometimes there’s a lot of humour or emotion behind it, warping the context. I think so long as blogs are enjoyable and the readers of them taking things with a pinch of salt then everything is fine and dandy :)

  10. darknina says:

    I loved the interview, I wish more blogs would things like that. I actually met Rebecca and Jeff at Dragoncon a few years back they are both really nice (Rebecca is hilarious!) and are extremely knowledgeable about gaming, really just quintessential gamers; through their blog I have found sites like Wolfshead and this site which has become one of my favs (Gordon rocks!!) It’s just really great when bloggers support each other like this I think.

  11. boatorious says:

    I was going to post something, but instead I’ll just paste something Ghostcrawler said the other day about user feedback on the forums.

    “I try and advise players when giving feedback to imagine that we are making bullets on a list of things to discuss in a class design meeting (because honestly that is often exactly what happens). If I go into a meeting and say “Some players said they were bored by the talent trees,” the other designers might ask “What do they mean by that?” and I would have to answer “I don’t know.” On the other hand, if I go into a meeting with a 20-page list of someone’s redesigned talents, we’re not going to make a lot of progress either. If I say, just to give a couple of examples, Subtlety rogues are worried that the tree is changing focus, or Combat rogues think they don’t have any cool, new mechanics, then that’s the kind of thing that can launch a brainstorming session.”

    Developers, I think, are not always going to be interested in the solutions players propose, because players often propose bad solutions. But they will almost always be interested in problems players have, because they represent itches that the game should strive to scratch.

  12. A fellow blogger interview..what a neat concept! I have been a strict we fly spitfires devotee but I am branching out thanks Gordo for hooking me up with Wolfshead and now Company Of The wolf looking through the articles you are right is is a good site I especially like Jeffs “Crazy bitch” article on AoC Good stuff that.

    And yes G man people in the industry do hit your blog. I’m surpised that you’re surpised.

  13. Shadow-war says:

    Reaffirmation of our efforts is something everyone desires. Being recognized and acknowledged as making a contribution, in some way, is what humans strive for in general I believe. I don’t think that any of us bloggers expect it to every actually come, especially from the professionals in the industry so many of us arm-chair comment about, but when it happens, it’s, well, nice.

  14. [...] had a field day with that one guys…so thanks. Gordon added to the interview with a smashing Blog about influencing the industry, if you haven’t read it yet please do [...]

  15. [...] Gordon’s “word monkeys”, the thoughts and ideas that are prompted by the education represented by consuming those books [...]

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