I normally don't go through with actually posting this, since I don't feel it adds much to the conversation, but... I really admire this whole system. Developers who are super easy to contact and give feedback to that is actually seriously considered. I've submitted an issue in mantis and seen it resolved 2 minutes later. You guys are seriously crazy awesome and I only wish there were more like you.
On that topic though, I always thought "Why isn't Arcen very well known?" and such. But then I think, "Well if they were, it wouldn't be very reasonable to expect them to read every single thing posted." and thus it would be much harder to get your feedback noticed. Such a situation seems pretty much like what other companies often do. It always makes me sad when I see a forum full of ideas and long overdue balance changes, but the developers don't even so much as respond to discuss making any sort of change. I don't have any doubts that Arcen would still find time to read and respond to most of the feedback somehow, though... Anyway I had to stream my thoughts into a post for this one, just tired of always wondering about this and coming back to the same conclusion every time. Not sure how posting it will help but maybe it could spark discussion.
Thanks for that, I really appreciate it. In terms of the amount of developer interaction, however, I don't think that's a function of community size. I used to think that was true, but I no longer do. I think it's two factors and two factors alone:
- People on the Internet are generally harsh, especially at first.
- Most companies seem to build up their workload to the point that they can barely sustain it.
The first factor means that its really damaging to the egos of artistic people to go on forums or similar and read people bashing their stuff. The more people there are in a community, the more chances there are for someone to disagree with you, and on the Internet that can degenerate very quickly. So most developers, once they pass a certain point, seem to wall themselves off. Or the developers were around since before the Internet existed in its current form (aka, before the "blogosphere" happened), and they were inherently used to being walled off to begin with.
On the flipside, some companies that start out really involved with their community really drop out of involvement as they grow, but I don't think that has to do with the community. The more well-known you get, the more business people randomly start contacting you with these or that opportunities. The more people want you to hire them for art or music or whatever, out of the blue. The more paperwork you have to do for staff, and the more overhead in general there is just to get everyone organized. If you take on several simultaneous projects, then the complexity is almost multiplicative. Thus all these other activities take the place of the community interaction.
Arcen has seen a lot of growth in the last three years; several notable jumps in community size, in particular. For the first six or so months of Arcen's life, I responded with a greater than 1:1 ratio to the entire rest of the forum. In other words, anyone who wrote a post I responded to it, and I also wrote original posts (informing of releases, etc). This lasted for maybe 8 or 9 thousand posts on my part, I can't remember. Maybe as high as 12 thousand.
Then we got a lot more well known, and suddenly my response rate dropped to being more like 1:2 or so. But we also took on some more staff, and they made up for the gap some. We've had three or four other big bursts of community size growth, and after the most recent one (AVWW 1.0) I think I'm lucky if I'm 1:10 in terms of responses. If even remotely that. But Josh and Keith are also here, and Erik is mostly the one focused on twitter and reddit and facebook and such, and between us we're able to keep tabs on things and respond to things as a group as they need to be responded to. If I miss something that somebody says that is important, that's okay because some other staffer -- or even other community members -- can bring it to my attention.
As part of this whole sort of shift, there is a lot more cross-talk between players themselves, rather than everyone just talking to me in a public-but-individual fashion. You folks often will have a conversation about one of our games that I'm not involved in at all, and that's as it should be. Sometimes I'm just, frankly, not needed. And that's what makes this into more of a community, rather than just a wheel with players at the hub with spokes all leading to a tiny staff in the middle. Instead it's more of a sea of points, and we float among you, commenting as we can and need to, and reading pretty well everything between the core three of Keith, Josh, and myself.
If the community grew 100x larger, then obviously the three of us wouldn't be able to maintain that level of reading-everything. But there are always community leaders who step in to fill that void, especially with a community of that size. And the important interactions and feedback would still rise to the top, even if we could only personally respond to one post in a thousand, or one post in a million.
Think of it this way: could any one of us here on the forum, as an individual, go looking through the feedback on the Call of Duty forums and determine what their feedback constituted? Of course not. But if we had mantis set up there, with a system for voting, then we could distill what the most urgent/interesting/popular suggestions and bugs were, and act accordingly. That's kind of the idea of representative government, just applied to business: and I'm sure it would have all the same challenges of ensuring minority rights in terms of opinions and so forth. But with good community and company leadership, I think it could be done even on a scale of millions of people.
It wouldn't look or feel remotely like the Arcen forums, but it would accomplish much the same sort of thing. I dunno; I think there is some naivete in my arguments there, based mainly around the effectiveness of what could easily become a bureaucracy. Among other ills. So maybe for Call of Duty it just really couldn't work perfectly, I don't know -- but I do think it could work better than it does now, and I think that on a smaller scale as Arcen grows, we'll be able to keep something along the lines of what we have now. That's my dear hope.