So over in PAYDAY 2, the developers of the game have gone and announced some rather surprising things, namely microtransactions. Overkill kept this all secret and let it all go as a giant day one surprise for Crimefest. It’s sparked outrage in the community, especially since Overkill originally said they’d never introduce microtransactions on multiple occasions. On top of this, awkward silence has ended up killing the dedicated modding community, particularly ones like GoonMod (since everything was against AI enemies, what your gun looked like never bothered anyone) and PD2STATS, a major community-run site, has shutdown.
While PAYDAY 2 explodes and collapses in on itself, the rest of us are somewhat worried. This could happen to anyone’s favourite game. In some cases it already has, with game sequels alienating fans and balance changes screwing things over. We saw how the Skyrim community blew up when Valve and Bethesda announced paid mods. That was thankfully overturned, but not after everyone screamed and shouted and stamped their feet in unison. It was a surprise announcement and it screwed them over.
Exactly the same thing happened to Loadout, when Edge of Reality announced they were switching from a PvP custom weapon spamfest to a much more PvE orientated style, resetting everyone’s weapons and basing everything on Borderlands-style loot. Edge of Reality paid for this big time, losing pretty much their entire PC community in the process. While the PS4 lumbers on, the PC version is pretty much dead.
Then there was Diretide, Dota 2’s yearly Halloween event. Valve said they planned to cancel the event, to make way for bigger and greater things. The uproar was horrific and ended up dragging in the car company Volvo, who couldn’t have cared less and just wanted people to stop posting bollocks on their social media pages and making unfunny jokes about the two companies’ names both having 2 Vs and an L in them.
Even here on our little island, Team Fortress 2 has had its own surprises. Gun Mettle’s change to allow people to pick up weapons were a pleasant surprise until suddenly out of the blue you could pick up Medi Guns with uber in them. This caused anger among the TF2 competitive community but they simply banned it, so expect the problem to come up again when official matchmaking comes out.
We also had End of the Line, the community-driven update that overhyped itself, and the Uber Update, which made TF2 free to play forever. Both were very sudden announcements that left people unsure how to feel. Thankfully though these were mostly net-positive, since Snowplow was added to the game officially and going free to play means TF2 has managed to live far longer than expected and still makes plenty of money.
There’s one key ingredient here in most of these situations though. The community wasn’t warned. They were surprised. These things often come out of nowhere and can either generate a good reaction or a bad one. Good ones will simmer away and be forgotten eventually, but bad ones can quickly escalate into insanity. And because the changes that stem from these updates are huge, developers are often unwilling to change their minds and go back on themselves.
The problem is with all this is that these events could have all been avoided if the developers had spoken to the community. Of course you’re never going to please anyone, but a giant rabble of angry people, gamers or otherwise, will quickly calm down when a person of authority explains their thoughts and is willing to communicate. Even when they do communicate, it’s often way too late. Overkill didn’t really communicate their thinking at all when cosmetics-that-affect-gameplay were added, and them adding drills to open the safes to the possible loot from doing heists didn’t help matters since they left that until day 6 of Crimefest. Bethesda and Valve had to do a 180 and flat out removed the paid mods, reimbursing everyone who was stupid enough to buy a previously free mod.
It seems so silly that these situations could have all been avoided, yet these companies went ahead with it all anyway, without talking to the people who buy their products. Left 4 Dead 2 had the right idea, Valve added a poll on the home page every week, so they could gather data from players about to start a game. Imagine how much data they would have received if they’d done the same with with CS:GO or TF2 or on the Steam Workshop.
The Diretide fiasco though was a load of bollocks. Pathetic.