Let me start by saying that I absolutely get why people think this site is the hideout for villains, quitters and naysayers. It’s because a good bunch of the posts are indeed negative, complaining and hinting at game mechanics that need improvement. While we still see ourselves as mostly informative and a valid resource, and by the way the only fansite that manages to put out at least one game-related post per day, we also understand opposition as necessity to provide an equally strong and unfiltered opinion to the official information that PWE provides and tolerates on their subreddit and arcgames forum.
Reading the latest developer blog about the state of the game by executive producer Rob Overmeyer, I however also wondered why they make themselves so easy targets sometimes. Maybe it was me and my silly expectations, but clicking the link I thought I’d find a post that would be mostly defensive and apologetic.
2015 in my eyes was a rough year for the game. It started with some pretty severe layoffs that cut the Neverwinter team by 30%. No matter how dedicated you are, that hurts and is not really an indication of your business running well. Elemental Evil was first postponed and then probably still the worst release to date. Tons of stripped content, mobs too hard, content more repetitive than ever, not enough story to cover all the way from 61-70, downgraded ALT play and on top of that a class with the Paladin that’s still hella broken until today.
[su_quote cite=”Executive Producer Rob Overmeyer” url=”http://www.arcgames.com/en/games/neverwinter/news/detail/9811113″]The Neverwinter team, and Cryptic as a whole, has a pretty exciting history when it comes to tackling big things that seem impossible at times. This made us confident that even the monumental tasks we were facing with Elemental Evil were possible for our team.[/su_quote]
Yeah. Except that it’s pretty clear today that they… weren’t?
Strongholds also had more downs than ups. The social concept, if it ever was a part of the design anyway, hasn’t worked and the PVP map is as far away from guild vs. guild battles as the 76ers from winning the NBA title this year. Maybe the new queue system will change that, but I highly doubt it until they fix the lag and all those balancing issues. Essentially the Module has just released a guild-sized grind on top of the solo one. I do actually like Underdark a lot, although it has fails as well (replayability anyone?). It however draws most of its strength from dealing with the issues Elemental Evil caused.
It’s not that I generally disagree with what’s being said in the post. The devs deserve praise for their hard work, we know they are on a tough schedule and that tweaking certain areas simply takes time. But the overall sentiment that Rob is trying to sell here still doesn’t fit the state of the game one bit. “Amazing”, “determination”, mastered “monumental tasks”, “excited”, “exceeding expectations”, “stronger than ever”, “lessons learned”? I mean wow! I get that running a project you sometimes get excited over little things, but that feels too much like blatant propaganda.
Granted, he acknowledges the two most obvious current flaws, which is the Elemental Evil campaign and balancing issues, but well hidden inside a massive wall of praise you get the idea that those are pretty small compared to the overall state of the game. Which of course they are not. It’s ok they focus on the things that went right, but in times where the devs have to regain the trust of the community, he should have been a little bit more appreciative and discreet instead of padding their back in every paragraph. I can also relate to the people taking exception to the fact that he repeatedly states how serious they take player feedback, but that’s again more of an issue of resources on their side. I think they indeed listen, but it can take months to take effect.
My second main feeling while reading the piece was that it’s classic corporate bullshit. He writes a lot and reveals few, which makes the whole piece longish and boring. Two-thirds consists of the mentioned ‘Did I already tell you how great we are?’ followed by Sir Sorry-Can’t-Spoil-A-Lot. Even the things he tries co explain in-depth are so cloudy. Take the Leadership example. He reiterates that the changes contributed to a more stable AD economy, but what does that mean? I personally think they want to artificially cap AD earnings like they artificially cap progression everywhere and then balance the economy around the fact that everyone can only get 36k per character per day. But what the heck do I know, it could be a thousand things. And if there were good reasons, why wouldn’t he tell?
You gotta give them that they really did lower AD prices across the board over the months, but it’s still valid that players have to invest more than ever to progress their characters while the sources of AD have constantly been decreased. And on a more general sense, the less information you share, the more you make yourself prone to speculation, conspiracy and negativity. If nobody understands, who is going to be able to appreciate?
It’s too easy to be disappointed with the post. Not because you might be one of the doomsayers, but because I think the community these days is more than ever looking for some clear-cut information: This is where we are, this is where we want to get and this is how we plan to get there. Unfortunately Rob offers none of that and puts out a blown-up post with goofy explanations and in-house praise that feels awkward at this point. There’s one thing to agree on though: Let’s hope 2016 is indeed going to be a great year for the title and the franchise!
What’s your take on the State of the Game dev letter? Share it in the comments or visit the corresponding forum thread!