Uplink Analysis: Transparency

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on July 06, 2012

WildStar Uplink is a weekly conversation we hold with our fans about MMO design, philosophy, and news. The main goal of these conversations is to gauge how important certain issues are to the WildStar community. More than just a simple conversation, we ask questions about topics that are important, and we share your responses with the development team directly. Want to participate? Follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter for the weekly question, participate using #WSuplink, and keep an eye on the community team (@CRB_Atreid, CRB_Aether, and @CRB_Scooter) to interact with us throughout the discussions.

This week's discussion was about the concept of transparency between a game and its players. The question we put to you was:

The word "transparency" gets used a lot these days. What does it mean to you for a studio to be transparent?

Our favorite part of the conversation was that most people approached it from different angles. Is it about patch notes? Social media? Website updates?

Zaprobo: For me, transparency is keeping open lines of comms to the community and regular "State of the Game" updates
NoorElBahrain: Transparent studios to me mean a studio who is connected to the community through forums, social media etc.. & easily accessible
Mmo_pinion: Simply, don't treat every basic reveal as if it's some sort of competitive trade secret. Talk like normal humans not PR :)

Is there anything transparency doesn't include?

Sydk: It does NOT mean discussing features that are not locked in for ship. Discussing reasoning behind design decisions, tho, is cool.
CRB_Scooter: I have conflicting opinions on that. Seeing early unfinished stages can sometimes be enlightening, but also frustrating.

The conversation also branched into certain common phrases that players hate hearing:

Reignguild: When dev divulges at least some info about what's being worked on/planned. "We can't talk about it" is old & frustrating.
CRB_Scooter: Is it more frustrating to hear that or "We're making Feature X" and then later "Changed our minds, doing Feature Y"?
Reignguild: That's where community involvement is appreciated. "What are your thoughts on X system? What could we do to innovate/improve?" Said a better way, 'What's important to us?" <- a question that devs seem to try to answer on behalf of players too often.
CRB_Scooter: I'm curious to see what @CRB_Aether's thoughts are on "We can't talk about that yet."
CRB_Aether: I agree, it's tiresome. For us, and for you. We're trying to find the balance between too much and not enough info. Our policy of not sharing until we've got something to show can be challenging as well. I think you can see by the recent uptick in info that we are picking up the pace. There's more real info to come.

Of course, we also were asked to explain how WildStar fits into this conversation, which Community Director Troy "Aether" Hewitt was more than happy to do:

CosmicDebris1: I have a Q, how far do you expect to be transparent? eg: Only when you are sure or pretty certain of the issues?
CRB_Aether: During MMO development, you can't be always be pretty certain. And we'll do our fair share of speculating. So yes, we'll share ideas and concepts and ideas under iteration from time to time.

One big discussion was in regards to being transparent with game changes:

jleithart: Being open enough to explain/state bug fixes/changes is a huge part of transparency
CRB_Scooter: Would you want, in addition to patch notes, something like a blog post explaining the major changes and reasons?
Zaprobo: For a major system change, sure! But generally, come live, perhaps a line with every change as a short explanation?
Jleithart: I think that would be cool, but not everyone is into the development decisions as I am, I'm mostly referring to patch notes, where some companies have hidden changes that are figured out by the players
CRB_Scooter: I can almost guarantee you that's never ever malicious. Going through thousands of lines, there's always a few that'll be missed.
Jleithart: I agree, but if the perception of "jilted" gamers is that the company is trying to hide something, that's a symptom
CRB_Scooter: Yep, and it's one of my biggest pet peeves. Though I'm amazed at how quickly players can crowdsource missed notes these days.

And finally, Troy wrapped up the conversation with his closing thoughts:

CRB_Aether: We're honest people doing something we enjoy. We think you'll like what we are working towards, so we don't mind sharing... If we can share why, we will share why. If we can't, we'll say we can't.
Afterlifelegion: that's imo always the best way. I know from experience sometimes you can't let the rabbit out the box until it's got ears on
Afterlifelegion: If anyone see's a rabbit missing ears pls return to @Carbine_Studios ;-)

This week's discussion was less focused on game design, but was still an extremely important topic to anyone who's ever been a part of an MMO community. We really appreciate everyone taking the time to share their thoughts on transparency, and we look forward to chatting with you next week on a new topic! Remember that you can always join in the conversation: follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter and keep an eye on the #WSuplink hashtag!

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