Listening to player feedback: a double-edged sword?

Trion Worlds has gotten a lot of good press from the fact that, throughout their beta process (we’re up to Beta 5 at the time of this writing) they’ve listened to player feedback and made changes accordingly. This feels like a real breath of fresh air to disgruntled MMO players who never feel as though they’re being heard by the devs of whatever game they’re playing.

But is this always a good thing? When does “We respond to player feedback” become “Ours is a game designed by committee”?

I’m not saying the sky is falling and I don’t think Trion has gotten to that point yet, but I have been vocal about my enthusiasm for playing these beta sessions because I fully expect Rift to continually move closer and closer to “Generic Fantasy MMO #78” as the signature system of the game, rifts and invasions, get modified in response to player feedback.

Let’s face it. Players, or at least vocal players, taken as a unified voice, generally tend to want things easier (and then complain when a game ceases to be challenging). Rifts and Invasions can be damned inconvenient. To me, that’s what makes them so freakin’ awesome. For once the world doesn’t carefully operate around you so as not to get in your way. Quite the contrary.

But of course this inconvenience isn’t always popular with players, who expect Things to Work The Way They Did In That Other Game I Played.

I haven’t played Beta 5 yet, but I was concerned by these lines in the patch notes:

* Invasions which succeed will now despawn after 10 minutes, or 3 minutes if left out of combat.
* Invasions no longer aggro as a group and can be split.

Both of these changes appear to be ‘nerfs’ to invasions (I’ll be delighted if we discover that I’m totally wrong about that). I’m not entirely sure what they mean by “succeed” in that first line. Does that mean take down a Wardstone? I’ll assume it does since I can’t think what else marks ‘success’ on the part of an NPC driven invasion.

Combine that with the ability to ‘pull’ invasion members one at a time, and no longer will players have to self-organize into groups to drive off invasions and restore quest hubs to their working state. Instead, players will avoid the invasion force and let it kill the Wardstone asap so it’ll then despawn in 3 minutes. Pity the player who initiates combat with the invasion, thinking he can pull a single and defeat it, as s/he will be shouted down by those impatient for the invasion to go away.

I see this as another step towards the game I played in early Betas going away and Rift becoming much more generic. These changes appear to ease the pressure to join forces with your fellow player, and that’s a shame. (And this coming from a confirmed Soloist.)

I’m also on the fence about the new public group system. I understand how healers struggled to see who needed healing (though I generally healed ‘through’ mobs when I played a healer) and I understand the benefits of the system, but now you’re really going to have to join these public groups when rifting. In early betas, everyone helped everyone since no one was grouped. Once we’re in a group, though, we all tend to have tunnel vision and only help fellow group members. The player who chooses not to join the public group will be ostracized, whether deliberately or by circumstance. Honestly if they’re going to have public groups at all, they ought to just make them totally automatic. (As I said, I’m still on the fence about this system since the benefits to healers might outweigh the downside of the end of solo rifting.)

While I’m on a roll, I’ll also voice my disagreement with giving everyone all 8 souls so early in a character’s development. I’m not sure any character should have access to the entire palette of souls available for their class. I think the game would be much more interesting if Cleric A had access to souls 1, 2, 7, & 8 and Cleric B had access to 1, 4, 5 & 7. With everyone having access to all 8 souls, “flavor of the month” builds will blossom even more swiftly than they would have with limited souls. If you’re playing a level 20 Cleric and aren’t specced just so, expect to be shouted at. I’ve already seen a bit of this in earlier betas.

Don’t read this and think I’ve given up on Rift; that’s certainly not the case. But I hope somewhere in Trion there’s a core group of developers with a vision that they’ll hold true to, regardless of what the players want. Players don’t always want what’s best for them in the long run. I really hope they don’t nerf the rift system and keep the world dangerous forever. Yeah, you might log in and be in the midst of an invasion… tough. Life is hard and chaotic (and let’s face it, death penalties in Rift are pretty light) in the world of Telara. I hope that never changes.

5 thoughts on “Listening to player feedback: a double-edged sword?

  1. I second your concerns! I’m pleased to see the devs responding to feedback, but I’m a little worried about some of the changes. I don’t like either of those changes to invasions.

    I keep hoping that they’re just making things easier for beta. I assumed that we wouldn’t have all 8 souls available so early at release. During the earlier betas, there was placeholder text that said something about making you do an epic quest to get a new soul, but for now, you can just have it. In the last beta, that was changed so that we’d have to bring an item to the quest giver, but it was still ridiculously easy.

  2. From what I’ve observed, an invasion succeeds when it has destroyed the target wardstone and replaced it with their planar foothold. Despawning the invasion prevents the problem of having multiple invasions milling about around the targeted wardstone after it has been converted. This used to be a problem in Argent Glade where one of the wardstones would be replaced by a fire foothold with half a dozen invasions milling about ready to pwn anyone that tried to clear it.

  3. Its not up to you to decide where player requested changes occur. Its entirely up to the developers and their managers. If Trion has so little faith in the unique aspects of the game they developed that they will make it the same as other MMO’s due to feedback, there’s nothing you can do about it. What the Trion developers really need to do, in an ideal situation, is decide “What makes our game, OUR game?!”; i.e. what makes Rift something different worth playing that seperates it from the pack? Then don’t change that. Tweak it sure, balance it definitely, but leave the mechanics of these features the same, and take every suggestion by players with a pinch of salt. Players often don’t know what they want they just think something sounds great when in fact if it was implemented would be a bad idea.

  4. Gareth, thanks for the feedback. I’ve listened to enough interviews with the devs to have faith in them, but I worry about their managers, or maybe their managers’ managers. Seeing all the positive community feedback to the changes made in response to player feedback, won’t it be tempting for the bean counters to pressure the team to go with that plan?

    Certainly nothing is up to me to decide beyond whether I decide to play or not (and for the record, my pre-order copy direct from Trion is already paid for), but this blog is part of the community, too, and I wanted to publicly “vote” for the devs following their own vision and not being swayed too much by the community.

    The first couple of beta sessions seemed more challenging, and thus more interesting, to me. Of course changes we’re seeing now might be reversed, too. I know the team is watching things far more carefully than I am.

  5. You solved your fears in your last paragraph. What you call nerfs are gameplay adjustments that make sense. Some changes in beta need to actually look like they came from player feedback. Trion is doing great. Calm your fear, it will all be okay.

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