The 'One Man Army' balance issue in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 has caused a lot of strife amongst their veteran community recently, which is lucky for me, as it has provided the perfect case study for this post. For anyone unfamiliar with the MW2 world, MuzzaFuzza of Machinima (who make a lot of great MW2 based content on YouTube) put up a video a few days ago called 'A Message to InfinityWard', outlining and demonstrating the issue:
If you can ignore the ranting and the drifting off-topic at the end (I understand the frustration, but it doesn't really help his case) this is a really strong example of how to give feedback: It's a compelling argument that doesn't drag on too much, it demonstrates the issue entirely, and a handful of reasonable solutions are suggested. It also splits the issue away from the snubbed feeling community, onto more approachable neutral ground.
Traditional forum based feedback has its place with providing a platform for debate, but there are tendencies towards band-wagoning, trolling, and ridiculous walls of text, all of which can cause many developers to shy away from drawing conclusions there - and rightly so. Community managers can and do filter a forum more effectively, and it's probably the most common avenue for feedback, but it's not the only one.
I don't want to sound like I am advocating that fans strong-arm developers with viral 'OMG UR GAME SUX' videos. The point I'm trying to make is that 'community' is much bigger than forums these days, and you throttle your ability to communicate if don't grow with it.
Every year we do something special on GuildWarsGuru (and now GuildWars2Guru) for April 1st. We've had mass bannings, novelty avatars, mandatory IQ tests, forum renames... This year we decided to step up our game, with a play current events in the MMO world: A micro-transaction based forum, in which we nickle and dime members for every last feature! The reception was fantastic; swaying between total outrage and genuine approval.
The prank included announcing that the site would be down for some maintenance the night before, then opening it up with the announcement notice, new usergroup titles for 'BASIC MEMBERS', and forum sections marked as having an unlock fee.
All together, I think this has been one of our most successful April Fools jokes, and I like to think it's pulled the community a little closer together...
...The ones that didn't abandon their accounts in a fit of rage, anyway.
Click the image to see full size:
This testimonial alone made all the planning and preparation worthwhile (including crawling out of bed at 7:00AM this morning to put the changes live, and monitoring the server for 40 minutes to make sure rebuilding 200k user titles didn't crash it):
Can I just say that I look forward to this site's April Fool's almost as much as Guild Wars. Last year with the avatars was fantastic. I remember hearing about the year everyone showed up as banned on the site and the initial outrage and lulz that happened. Changing the forum names to what they actually represented such as Riverside Inn to QQ Inn. Pretty sure I forgot some.
Good job on this one as well. Had me going for just a split moment as I started reading. Nice parody on all the microtransactions that are happening with games out there. Bravo. [source]