Alex’s Analysis – Complimentary Call To Arms

posted by on 12th April 2015, at 7:03pm

Is there any greater feeling when you, as a game player, get recognized in some way by the developers from your favourite game? Whether it’s considering your idea, displaying your fan-art to the public, or even using your character avatar name somewhere, your character (and by extension; you) has basically been heard by the Gods of the game. Heard, acknowledged, and in many cases, publicized. You are special! You have some something that very few others have done.

It’s the same concept as having a rare one-of-a-kind item in-game that you like to show off. That feeling of power, of possessing something rare, or being able to offer something that no other player can. That feeling of uniqueness… come on, I’m sure you know that feeling. If not, then I advise the next time the company of your favourite game lets out a competition or something like that, you put your heart and soul into it, because such a feeling itself is very difficult to obtain.

If you remember how I talked about party hats a while back, you might remember how I talked about losing that uniqueness that the majority of us like to strive for by making it available to all. Making a rare item common satisfies several, for example, but it strips the lucky few to have it of that status. This will come up again later on, but is not the basis behind what I’m about to discuss.

Instead, I’d like to extend on that. With all things, there’s a balance. It’s fine to experience and offer time and time again, but to do it too much can be very detrimental to the concept. When something hard to obtain becomes a lot easier, its worth does go down, but at the same time, we’re left with a larger majority of people who still feel like it’s worth something pretty big. For example, rares in Old School Runescape. They are made available every holiday, meaning that pretty much every player has a couple dozen or so, but they’re still worth a considerably large amount of coin if you want to trade them. But now we’ve got lots of players with the opportunity to sell their rares for a large amount of money. As such, the economy must re-stabilize to account for that, either by lowering the cost of rares, or increasing the cost of everything these people want to buy with said money.

The theme here is volume. Giving a lot of people power as opposed to only the ambitious and devoted (and perhaps, in some cases, absolutely crazy). If you give a lot of people power, they will abuse it. Maybe because they feel it’s worth a lot more than it should be. Maybe because they think since they’re a small part, that it won’t make a difference. Maybe because it’s just too fun to mess with other people trying to make an honest living.

What the good folks at Jagex have been doing nowadays is giving the player base the power to influence their decisions. Offering players a great many opportunities to experience this recognition, either by competing in contests, voting on the player power polls, or even submitting ideas to the RuneLabs that, surprisingly enough, appear to be taken quite seriously. They claimed they had ideas to last them until 2020 only a while ago; why are they taking in new ones so easily?

At one point, this backfired. A while ago, we were given a poll to vote for new skill cape models. Looking through the supplied images, the vast majority of us voted to add them in. Once that was done, there was a riot and a lot of retaliation on the forums, and the poor designers at Jagex were forced to start working on interchangeable models.

Why, you may ask, was there such a negative retaliation against something that the players themselves voted for?

There were three things that caused this.

One: Poor Planning. This one is actually the designers’ fault. The main issue with the new skill capes were the colors. While the colors were the same, their hues and saturation were considerably different to the originals so much so that they no longer matched popular uniforms like defence cape with runite, or thieving cape with Torva. We, as players, value how our characters look, after all. If the colours were exact to the older capes, I imagine there wouldn’t have even been a riot. I mean, the capes look fantastic. Props to the designers for making something so comparatively simple look awesome.

Two: Enabling. Riots have worked in the past. Forum petitions have worked in the past. The folks at Jagex are so humble that they’d undo whole updates if there was enough of a negative retaliation against them unless it was something they really believed in. The history that we know we can tell them “no” and they will listen, coupled with the promise that we, the players, hold the power to influence changes, cause this to happen. Again, I don’t know what the reasoning is half the time; it’s hundreds or people, after all, and therefore, hundreds of reasons. The harsh reality, though, is that many of these people like to exercise their enabled power, so they support these things even though they don’t fully believe in them. All to achieve that feeling I described at the start of this article.

Three: The Voice. There’s a saying in business, that if you treat a customer fairly, they will tell their friends, but if you treat a customer poorly, they will tell everyone they can. That’s what happens here. Usually, with an update, 90% of all players are either happy with it or indifferent, and only about 10% disapprove. The problem here is that if the players approve, they have no reason to say anything about it. Maybe a “hey, thanks” on the update post in the forum, or a few complimentary comments on an article written about it, but that’s about it. The 10%, however, have plenty of reason to scream. They hate it, they won’t stand for it, and they will yell and scream and use this update as an excuse to get attention. It’s so darn easy to get attention if you yell and scream, after all. It may not be good attention, but do they care?

These 10% of people can fill 90% of the forums with rants, so much so that it would sound like the “majority” of the player base doesn’t approve of it. Truth is, we do approve; it’s just that they’re louder.

Believe it or not, Jagex are quite aware of this. Remember all those polls they used to send, asking if we liked recent updates? That was an attempt to get a more accurate response to the real number of players who liked and disliked the updates. Again, though, content and indifferent players wouldn’t vote in the poll nearly as avidly as people who had a problem with it, who will claw and scrape at just about anything they can to make themselves heard.

So what can we do? Or rather, what can the content management team at Jagex do?

Well, if I may be so bold, the simple suggestion it to not listen to the majority of them. It’s your game, and it’s your updates. You’re not obliged to anybody in the player base. You’re merely offering a service. They don’t like it, they can leave. Simple as that.

Who you should listen to, instead, are people who actually believe in their rants. They are the ones that, yes, rant a bit, but as you read their ramblings, you actually start to think differently about the idea yourself. They don’t use foul language, nor do they type in all caps… heck, they aren’t even very negative! They don’t say things like “I’m disappointed” or “this is a terrible idea”. They say things like “here’s my opinion”, and “while this and that are okay, here’s a way to improve it even better”. Then they give a suggestion to fix this issue. Eg: there is no need to change the capes altogether or toggle them; just change the colour hues to match the originals. Simple!

Another idea would be to give players’ forum posts a “reliability” status, but I would be careful about this one. Basically, a way for other players to vote on a players’ credibility and reputation based on what they write on the forum, and depending on their level of credibility, they can either only write so much on the forum at any time (eg: player with high credibility can post every 5 minutes while player will low credibility can post every 30) or the posts themselves are coloured to reflect the common vote (eg: green for a good, credible post and red for a dumb all-caps rant). Again, though, remember that content players won’t bat an eye on it, and crazy players will create new dummy accounts just to spike a post up more, so a player’s level of credibility should also influence how much they can vote on a post. Bit of an exponential effect there.

For now, though, I would like to ask you all to give them a break, all right? If an update is release that you don’t like very much, either just give them the scoop on what exactly you don’t like about it and a suggestion to change it rather than outright remove it, or adjust. Find something else that works for you. The World of Runescape is a big one, after all. Who knows, you might find an alternative ten times better than you’d have ever thought was possible!

Until next time,

Cheers, cannoneers!

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