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Lessons Learned While Working at BioWare

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Lessons Learned While Working at BioWare

Editorial - posted by VentilatorOfDoom on Wed 27 April 2011, 11:38:51

Tags: BioWare

Daniel Fedor, a former BioWare employee, describes some of the lessons he has learned during his work at BioWare in this guest-post on Rampant Coyote's blog.

You can’t please all the fans all the time

BioWare wants to do right by its fans. It really does. Many of its employees (if not most, nowadays) are former fans of BioWare games. So they have an inherent interest in making quality games.

The trouble is, fans. Yeah, that isn’t a complete sentence. Its incomplete for a reason. “Fans” means a lot of things. Take a look at TV Tropes’s list of fandom sub tropes. Reading just a few of those will alternately make your heart soar, or harden like stone. It’s hard to summarize the effect fans have on game development in one word or sentence. When one creates a work that becomes popular, there are a lot of people watching you closely to see what you make next. And not all of these people want the same thing. So when your next product inevitably lands slightly outside their circle of expectations, they become disappointed. And often vocal.

I can’t tell you how many times we, as employees, scoured the internet for reviews, forums, anything to tell us what the world thought of our work. Did we do right? What can we improve? You have to have a thick skin to deal with what you find. There’s a saying. I’m not sure who said it first, but I first heard it while at BioWare. It goes, “If we could give people a magic hat that would create for them the exact RPG experience they’d always dreamed of, they’d complain about the color of the hat.”

That about sums up where most employees arrive after reading too many forums. You just lose heart, and stop reading forums. There are a few who soldier on, taking the flak, and trying to get to the bottom of the feedback. There are even those BioWare hired to do so. But most devs eventually lose heart and just tune it out. Which is probably a good thing, frankly. Because if everything you do is going to piss someone off anyway, you might as well do what feels right. You’ll be more engaged in something you believe in, and probably make a better product for those who actually want it.

Pesky fans. Why don't they just shut up and buy the next DLC?

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