[MUD-Dev] Changing Midstream (SWG's New Look)

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Tue Feb 21 06:18:04 New Zealand Daylight Time 2006


I'm sorry to pick apart your message like this. It seems like I'm being
overly mean, but I find the response to the NGE absolutely amazing. I used
to run a daily comic strip that featured a similar outlash when I changed
directions, and it has fascinated me to no end how strong communities can
dissolve into anarchy over change. Please don't consider this post a flame
of your opinions, but rather someone who is interested in picking them
apart with little to no tact.

"Ken Sewell" <sewellkr at earthlink.net> wrote:
> I think the NGE was more of a shift in the target demographic than a
> recreation of the game.

I'm not convinced that's true. I think SWG has always been a heavy sandbox
game with a do what you want attitude - except it was always so unbalanced
or broken that there were only a few activities that were actually
worthwhile. Combat and PvP were desperately in need of help for those
players who desired it (both are a core function of the license, and thus
should be the primary focus of a "Star Wars" game).

Entertainers and crafters are still there. Entertainer has always been a
bad idea from the start (a mmorpg with a half dozen LARGE planets where
you sit in a single room the entire time?) and crafting, which was fun, is
essentially the same gameplay-wise (the changes to combat and PvP have
changed the market a bit).

> The main change is who SOE wants as their customers.

I'm pretty sure that SOE wants everybody for their customers. I don't
think that SOE intended to change the demographic. They just
underestimated the effect that such significant changes would have on
people who dislike change, and thought they would have more vocal
supporters than they got...queue Machiavelli quote:

"And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in
hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success,
than to set up as the leader in the introduction of changes.  For he who
innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the
existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might
be better off under the new."

> So you know where I'm coming from, let me point out that I am a male,
> aged 30, married, one child on the way.  I joined the game several months
> pre-CU and found a very enjoyable game.  But more than that, I found
> much in common with my fellow player.  Many were married with families
> and of a similar age group.

Surely, you have to admit that on a server with thousands of players, they
can't all be like you? I think people have a selective memory when it
comes to that sort of thing. People remember the hits and not the misses.
They become isolationist and even xenophobic to the point where they start
believing that they are literally the only ones who exist within the game.

I think that when a change hits as big as the NGE, the people who feel
most put off over it band together into cliques. They feel some sort of
ownership of the game and community that they, in reality, never owned.
It's a brotherhood of perceived victimization and, in a very real way,
arrogance. I mean, I see people attacking the NGE all the time because it
removed the Bio-Engineer class, but they never played one or knew anyone
who did. If one person was put out, they were ALL put out. It's a
brotherhood.

Now, the thing I'm curious about is whether or not this sort of thing is
inherant to an online community or not. Whenever a change happens,
somebody is going be offended (see above Mac quote) and there's going to
be a victimization feedback loop that feeds off itself. But I've noticed
this kind of thing happening over game features. For instance, I've seen
Paladins band together into victimhood over on the WoW forums, and I've
seen anymosity between different brands of crafters in EQ2.

Could it be that our gameplay decisions have the defining control over our
online society than anything else, including age, sex, education, or
skill?


> That and the complexity of the game were what kept me playing.

I keep seeing people talk about the NGE and they say the same things over
and over again without seeming regard to individual involvement. I've
already noted the victim feedback loop, but there's got to be some sort of
subconscious reason that the same elements constantly get pulled up as a
defense. I mean, you can't all be saying the same thing because you all
agree (you can't even get universal agreement over whether chocolate ice
cream tastes good over the internet).

The two things I constantly hear in defense of the "old ways" are that it
was the community that kept you playing (and the NGE brings in illiterate
12 year old l33t haxx0rs) or it was the complexity that kept you playing
(and the NGE dumbed the game down so that 12 year old l33t haxx0rs would
like it - there's always an enemy to be victimized by). You've mentioned
both things so far. It's amazing that an effort like the anti-NGE movement
could develop talking points.

The complexity thing is essential a claim to superiority over those who
you feel will be replacing you. You are smart and like complex games,
while they are dumb and like simple twitch games.

The victim complex is based on a few basic statements surrounding a sort
of paranoia. Rather than change happening for technical, financial, or
social reason, it is a "slap in the face" and a personal slight. It
revolves around being a victim to so some unquantifiable enemy ("them"),
and thus a defense is based around how you have suffered, how you are
superior to your enemy, and how you are in the majority and thus right
even when you are wrong. Feel free to compare the stuff you wrote below
with an article about some other vicitim complex, like the War on
Christmas.

> I no longer play because I am not part of the demographic that the NGE
> now targets.

(vicitimhood of self)

> Instead of a complex RPG the game is now a simple FPS.

(denigration of perceived enemy)

> I'm also not sure that SOE/LA has thought about how fickle the new
> target demographic tends to be.  They may all flock to the "star-warsy"
> NGE, but they are also very likely to quickly abandon it for the next
> hot game.

(denigration of perceived enemy)

> There is also the subject of income.
> The monthly fee to an adult is not a big amount, to a teenager working
> minimum wage it can be alot of money.  It seems risky to me to throw out
> most of your established userbase in hopes of attracting a new one.

(victimhood of community) AND (denigration of perceived enemy)

> The pre-NGE customers wouldn't have felt betrayed and the NGE sequel
> could attempt to attract the twitch gamers its designed for.

(victimhood of community) AND (denigration of perceived enemy)

> I think you can see this mentality on the SWG forums.  They are
> definitely split.  Some like the NGE and (it seems) most prefer the
> older version.

(appeal to majority)

> Only SOE has the data to determine the numbers, but alot of threads are
> begging/asking for a pre-CU version of the game (well until the threads
> are deleted that is.)

(appeal to majority) AND (victimhood of community)

> But the quests have little to do with the change to FPS.

(I'm superior than my perceived enemy - assuming you meant the inaccurate
description of a FPS to be a slight against the integrity of the game, as
you used it earlier)

> I and my gaming group of friends are still searching for a MMORPG that
> has the depth and complexity that SWG used to have.

(community + complexity)

Again, I don't mean to be rude or somehow undermine your message. I'm sure
you absolutely do feel like you've been the victim of change and the
frustration and anger that you feel over such events shouldn't be made
light of. I just found it interesting that rather than just saying that
you dislike the NGE, your word usage and defense is entirely based around
being a victim. Your anger and frustration are real, and though I don't
share in them, I understand. However, your attempts to rationalize them
and put them into a defense are a bit less than effective.

I mean, I could write pretty much the same things you did, but with
different words and come across with a fairly reasonable defense (or even
a damning offense). For instance, rather than a lot of people posting
threads in the forums begging for a pre_CU version of the game that were
deleted, I could write that the forums were overrun by a vocal minority
spammers DEMANDING an unreasonable rollback, and had their posts removed
due to not adhering to the posting guidelines of the forum. The same event
happened, but the spin is entirely different. When the spin is obvious in
either direction, it makes it difficult for anyone to get past that and
into truly helping you deal with your frustration.

I think understanding this brotherhood of victimhood is vital to
introducing changes to an established game with positive approval. I see
it when it is already formed, but I don't know the warning signs or how to
predict when it will happen (other than, of course, change). I mean, for
example, would it help to introduce a "bad" change along with the good to
focus people's anger, then revert it making it seem like you are listening
to them? I'm not particularly fond of manipulating people, but it seems
like they will manipulate themself if given the right circumstances.

- Sean

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