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JE Sawyer Speaks Out

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JE Sawyer Speaks Out

Community - posted by Exitium on Thu 23 September 2004, 21:11:23

Tags: Josh Sawyer

JE Sawyer of Midway Games, the lead designer various Black Isle Studios games, and of the now defunct Van Buren and Jefferson titles has decided to voice his opinion on the Obsidian Entertainment forums on the subject of the reactions to Fallout 3 and how he thinks the fanbase could use a lot of maturity if they ever wish to advance their cause. Here are a huge, interesting snippet from the thread on the subject of fans and their behaviour towards developers and what he thinks about it:

And hey, you can sit back and speculate on their motives all day long. They're greedy. They're jerks. They're idiots. They love games that are the antithesis of everything you love in the original games. They rape puppies. Go to town, man. Respond with hostility to developers who express a desire to do something with the game that you don't like. Insult their intelligence, make up clever nicknames for them, use Photoshop to put them into demeaning situations. Stew and chuckle and growl in righteous indignation. What did you accomplish? I mean, other than polishing your E-Sheriff badge and feeling like an internet hardass.

I can tell you from my personal experience that I care about the logic of an argument, not about how loud one or two guys yell or how many different ways they can insult me in one paragraph. As a developer, almost all of the times I've changed my mind based on user feedback, it's been from relatively unassuming, conversational suggestions and observations. If a developer is open to your idea, he or she is going to be more likely to accept it if it's not presented with a punch in the face.

I mean, do people think this sort of thing actually works in real life? Do you go into stores and shout insults at people because they don't have something in stock that you want? Don't get me wrong, if the store wants your money, they better have some stuff that you want to buy. But do you really think you're more likely to get what you want with hostility than with a plain-old sensible suggestion?

Be realistic about the situation. Bethesda has the license. They're probably going to try to make a game with it. You can be quiet, you can yell at them, you can try to be conversational with them -- take your pick. Short of going down to their offices and going on a killing spree, you're probably not going to prevent them from making the game. But, if you want to have any influence over the game, I believe you are far more likely to convince them with firm, serious arguments than with hostility and insults. You don't have to kiss their asses. Be as short and terse with them as you want, but understand that it's the internet, not a boxing ring. If a reader wants to get out, they can simply close the browser. It doesn't matter how incredibly witty your sarcastic comments are. If the person doesn't feel like they're gaining anything out of talking with you, they'll just drop out. And at that point, if it's the developer who just dropped out of the conversation, you've just lost any power you've had to affect their decisions about the game.

Let me be perfectly blunt here. In Black Isle, the vast majority of devs (who will remain unnamed as individuals) stopped reading fan feedback entirely because, whether it was right or wrong of them, they didn't feel like it was worth enduring the hostility. I guess you could pat yourselves on the back and nod at how much you "owned" them, but they're the ones who made the games. You could have offered the best ideas in the world the very next day, but it wouldn't make a bit of difference because no one on the team saw them.

The bottom line is that if a lot of fans are hostile towards developers, what they are going to get is another game that they won't like at all. If you are firm and debate things to the point where you feel like you've made as much progress as you can, you're likely to get a game that you'll like more. And if you think it's a lost cause, then why waste your time on it at all?

Be sure to check the whole thing out. There's more. I'm sure Vault Dweller and Volourn will find this pretty interesting.

Thanks for the heads up, Odin.

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