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Open letter to Eric Musco and EA

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > PvP
Open letter to Eric Musco and EA

ParagonAX's Avatar


ParagonAX
04.18.2013 , 08:31 AM | #1
Dear Eric, and staff/executives of EA,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a senior consultant in strategy consulting, from a top tier international consulting firm. I specialize in consumer business. I provide strategic management advice to consumer business companies for a living.

Why am I introducing myself this way? Not because I am trying to toot my own horn, but because:
  1. Iíd like to establish at least a small amount of credibility, amongst all the troll posts on this forum and other social media avenues.
  2. Top-tier consulting firms would be very reluctant to provide advice for anything less than $100k, depending on the specific assignment.
  3. More importantly, because they are getting paid for the job, consultants more often than not end up saying what clients want to hear, not what they need to. Because you donít know me nor my employer, I have no such hesitation. The advice Iím about to give is sincere and heartfelt.

Iíve been playing SWTOR for about a year now, and have seen many ups and downs of this game. Credibility is due where good work was done, so Iíd be first to admit that although not perfect, the SWTOR team has done many things to improve this game and make most people have a genuine fun time playing this game.

That being said, the release of 2.0, specifically the bolster system, has been a disaster. There is no other way to phrase it. The system is broken, exploitable, and has caused the PvP community to be severely disheartened. Iím sure you can see how your customers are responding to this in a negative way, from the plethora of threads on this forum. And no, itís not just forum QQ either. Coming from the best PvP guild on my server, there has been few other topics but bolster in our Mumble, for the past week. The same could be said of general chat in fleet or in warzones, where people are confused about what is going on, and what to do.

Although the bolster debacle is far from over, there are some important themes we should identify, in order to find a solution and prevent problems like this.

Theme one. The simplest solution is the best solution.

ďI choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.Ē Ė Bill Gates

In your post here, you stated that the PvP team is actively working on a solution on bolster, which by your own admission is a complex system. You also stated that you will soon provide a ďmathyĒ post explaining bolster.

My question to you is, do you think the majority of your customers care about ďmathyĒ explanations? Do the majority of your customers even bother reading lengthy posts? What do these ďmathyĒ explanations achieve? An even better question to ask is, why does bolster need to be so needlessly complicated?

Truth be told, consumers, of any product, just want something that works. Do you think Apple is successful because their products have the best hardware or software? No. Itís because they are simple and elegant. They just work.

Look at the original iPod instruction manual for instance.

Step 1. First, you have to connect your iPod to your computer (picture of an iPod connected to a laptop via USB).

There is no step 2.

What's the lesson here? Customers want something that just works. Something that doesnít need to be explained in lengthy posts or patch notes. Something that wouldn't be mistranslated and misunderstood by gamers getting their information from a variety of reputable and less than reputable sources.

Iíll leave finding the elegant solution for you and your team, but hereís just one suggestion.

Theme two. Underpromise, overdeliver.

One of the biggest failures about the bolster debacle is how it was handled. From way back in 2.0 PTS, many testers have repeatedly pointed out the bugs with the system, and how easily exploitable they were. We were promised that the system would be fixed, and that it would work for 2.0 release.

It wasnít.

Instead, the well-documented ďnaked bolsterĒ bug once again appeared.

So you promised that the team is looking at this, and that the system will be fixed in a maintenance patch.

It wasnít, again.

Exploits involving removing enhancements/mods/augments surfaced, problems that once again were well-documented on PTS discussions.

How could the PvP community not be discouraged?

If I worked for a company that released half-baked products on a regular basis, Iíd be ashamed. Donít you guys have a Quality Assurance team? Are they doing their job testing unfinished products, at all?

Maybe Iím too hard on the developer team. The root of the problem is that 2.0 was released way too fast. This is something that came from the executive level. You guys simply did not have enough time to polish 2.0 before it was released. The QA team did not have enough time to review the product before it was released.

But why didnít someone stand up and say something? Why didnít someone say, ďHey, VP of Game Design, the timelines you provided are unrealistic, we do not have the confidence of making sure the product is ready.Ē

So maybe this is a theme that your executives could heed. Always promise less than what you think you can deliver. In other words, overdeliver. Surprise your customers with pleasant experiences they were not expecting to receive. Don't provide them with disappointment after disappointment of not delivering what was promised.

Theme three. Engage your customers.

As a community manager, your job is, presumably, to monitor social media channels for customer feedback, and relay the feedback to your developer teams.

In many of your posts, you have stated that you will pass on issues reported by the community, or ask the developers for explanations so you can relay to the community.

But why arenít the developers engaging the community themselves?

If every single one of your design / development team spent 30 minutes each day visiting the forums and looking for feedback, would that be time wasted?

Even CEOs of retail giants visit their own stores on a constant basis to engage customers. Why canít the development team do the same?

The keyword here is engage. Simply relaying information is not enough. One post per day is not enough. Tell us what your plans are for bolster, before implementing bolster. Let us provide sincere feedback on your ideas. Let us share our ideas with you. Use the ideas from the community that are good, and integrate them into your design. More often than not, you will be surprised at the caliber of ingenuity the community can provide, because these are the people that play your game, day in and day out.

So, three small pieces of advice. Take from them what you will. I know you will read this Eric, and hope you take them seriously. I also hope you can pass along the message to the powers that be in EA.

Treat your customers with respect, and they will return in kind. Thatís not just how you build a successful game, but how you build a successful company.

Sincerely,
Party Time Viperin
GM of <Triumph>

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Kirtastropohe's Avatar


Kirtastropohe
04.18.2013 , 08:48 AM | #2
kind of a long read, but some good points there.

ArchangelLBC's Avatar


ArchangelLBC
04.18.2013 , 09:07 AM | #3
Well said overall.
In update 2.9 the game will simply uninstall itself for you.

-Wnd

TheronFett's Avatar


TheronFett
04.18.2013 , 09:21 AM | #4
There is one inherent flaw in your (well constructed) post:

BioWare does what BioWare wants to do. Period.

Like a great many others here, I've been a gamer for a long time (about 12 years). I've been a beta tester for several games, including SWG, EvE Online, LOTRO, and SWTOR. Customer feedback on MMO forums is often in the form of disgruntled and uniformed whine threads, even during beta and on test servers. However, there is also often genuine and valuable feedback.

I've learned one universal truth about SWTOR, and that is that this development team places near zero value on customer feedback.

EvE Online developers and community managers post DAILY on their forums, as have devs from many other MMOs. With SWTOR, there is a huge disconnect between what the developer's vision for the game is, and what customers are wanting/willing to pay for. As such, many changes to the game equate to being blindsided by a mugger in a dark alley because the PTS is a pointless exercise in quality control. In short, while I agree with your assessment and can appreciate what you're saying...it falls on deaf ears.

It frankly blows my mind that not one, but TWO game developers have managed to screw up the best-selling franchise of all time. I used to be vocal on the beta and PTS forums. After playing beta, pre-ordering the Collector's Edition, and leveling 8 characters to 50, I unsubscribed on the eve of my 1 yr anniversary and sat on the sidelines for the last 4 months. Now, returning to check out 2.0, very little has changed and probably never will.

TUXs's Avatar


TUXs
04.18.2013 , 09:25 AM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by Kirtastropohe View Post
kind of a long read, but some good points there.
No doubt...at 1st I was gonna be all like "uh huh, you tell em Mr. Professional PR dude /rolleyes"...but...it was actually a very good post
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Joesixxpack's Avatar


Joesixxpack
04.18.2013 , 09:27 AM | #6
Long yeah, but unassailable content. It's hard not to get the impression with this game that too many goals are tied to an anvil and dropped from above instead of being pushed up by the people doing the work. An unfortunately common scenario. Might be wrong, but why's there such a long list of QA people in the expansion credits? /2cents.
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PROPHECY OF THE FIVE

Cretinus's Avatar


Cretinus
04.18.2013 , 09:35 AM | #7
Quote: Originally Posted by ParagonAX View Post
Dear Eric, and staff/executives of EA,

Allow me to introduce myself. I am a senior consultant in strategy consulting, from a top tier international consulting firm. I specialize in consumer business. I provide strategic management advice to consumer business companies for a living.

Why am I introducing myself this way? Not because I am trying to toot my own horn, but because:
  1. Iíd like to establish at least a small amount of credibility, amongst all the troll posts on this forum and other social media avenues.
  2. Top-tier consulting firms would be very reluctant to provide advice for anything less than $100k, depending on the specific assignment.
  3. More importantly, because they are getting paid for the job, consultants more often than not end up saying what clients want to hear, not what they need to. Because you donít know me nor my employer, I have no such hesitation. The advice Iím about to give is sincere and heartfelt.

Iíve been playing SWTOR for about a year now, and have seen many ups and downs of this game. Credibility is due where good work was done, so Iíd be first to admit that although not perfect, the SWTOR team has done many things to improve this game and make most people have a genuine fun time playing this game.

That being said, the release of 2.0, specifically the bolster system, has been a disaster. There is no other way to phrase it. The system is broken, exploitable, and has caused the PvP community to be severely disheartened. Iím sure you can see how your customers are responding to this in a negative way, from the plethora of threads on this forum. And no, itís not just forum QQ either. Coming from the best PvP guild on my server, there has been few other topics but bolster in our Mumble, for the past week. The same could be said of general chat in fleet or in warzones, where people are confused about what is going on, and what to do.

Although the bolster debacle is far from over, there are some important themes we should identify, in order to find a solution and prevent problems like this.

Theme one. The simplest solution is the best solution.

ďI choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.Ē Ė Bill Gates

In your post here, you stated that the PvP team is actively working on a solution on bolster, which by your own admission is a complex system. You also stated that you will soon provide a ďmathyĒ post explaining bolster.

My question to you is, do you think the majority of your customers care about ďmathyĒ explanations? Do the majority of your customers even bother reading lengthy posts? What do these ďmathyĒ explanations achieve? An even better question to ask is, why does bolster need to be so needlessly complicated?

Truth be told, consumers, of any product, just want something that works. Do you think Apple is successful because their products have the best hardware or software? No. Itís because they are simple and elegant. They just work.

Look at the original iPod instruction manual for instance.

Step 1. First, you have to connect your iPod to your computer (picture of an iPod connected to a laptop via USB).

There is no step 2.

What's the lesson here? Customers want something that just works. Something that doesnít need to be explained in lengthy posts or patch notes. Something that wouldn't be mistranslated and misunderstood by gamers getting their information from a variety of reputable and less than reputable sources.

Iíll leave finding the elegant solution for you and your team, but hereís just one suggestion.

Theme two. Underpromise, overdeliver.

One of the biggest failures about the bolster debacle is how it was handled. From way back in 2.0 PTS, many testers have repeatedly pointed out the bugs with the system, and how easily exploitable they were. We were promised that the system would be fixed, and that it would work for 2.0 release.

It wasnít.

Instead, the well-documented ďnaked bolsterĒ bug once again appeared.

So you promised that the team is looking at this, and that the system will be fixed in a maintenance patch.

It wasnít, again.

Exploits involving removing enhancements/mods/augments surfaced, problems that once again were well-documented on PTS discussions.

How could the PvP community not be discouraged?

If I worked for a company that released half-baked products on a regular basis, Iíd be ashamed. Donít you guys have a Quality Assurance team? Are they doing their job testing unfinished products, at all?

Maybe Iím too hard on the developer team. The root of the problem is that 2.0 was released way too fast. This is something that came from the executive level. You guys simply did not have enough time to polish 2.0 before it was released. The QA team did not have enough time to review the product before it was released.

But why didnít someone stand up and say something? Why didnít someone say, ďHey, VP of Game Design, the timelines you provided are unrealistic, we do not have the confidence of making sure the product is ready.Ē

So maybe this is a theme that your executives could heed. Always promise less than what you think you can deliver. In other words, overdeliver. Surprise your customers with pleasant experiences they were not expecting to receive. Don't provide them with disappointment after disappointment that what they were promised was not delivered.

Theme three. Engage your customers.

As a community manager, your job is, presumably, to monitor social media channels for customer feedback, and relay the feedback to your developer teams.

In many of your posts, you have stated that you will pass on issues reported by the community, or ask the developers for explanations so you can relay to the community.

But why arenít the developers engaging the community themselves?

If every single one of your design / development team spent 30 minutes each day visiting the forums and looking for feedback, would that be time wasted?

Even CEOs of retail giants visit their own stores on a constant basis to engage customers. Why canít the development team do the same?

The keyword here is engage. Simply relaying information is not enough. One post per day is not enough. Tell us what your plans are for bolster, before implementing bolster. Let us provide sincere feedback on your ideas. Let us share our ideas with you. Use the ideas from the community that are good, and integrate them into your design. More often than not, you will be surprised at the caliber of ingenuity the community can provide, because these are the people that play your game, day in and day out.

So, three small pieces of advice. Take from them what you will. I know you will read this Eric, and hope you take them seriously. I also hope you can pass along the message to the powers that be in EA.

Treat your customers with respect, and they will return in kind. Thatís not just how you build a successful game, but how you build a successful company.

Sincerely,
Party Time Viperin
Eloquent you surely are, Padawan.

Even so, the parts "I'm a senior consultant ..." and "Coming from the best PvP guild on my server ..." make me want to ask you to check my sig. The iPad, iPod and iWhatever religion part is insupportable.

But if one generously disregards these three, you have a point or two.

Peace, Padawan.
nerf operatives

ParagonAX's Avatar


ParagonAX
04.18.2013 , 09:41 AM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by Cretinus View Post
Eloquent you surely are, Padawan.

Even so, the parts "I'm a senior consultant ..." and "Coming from the best PvP guild on my server ..." make me want to ask you to check my sig. The iPad, iPod and iWhatever religion part is insupportable.
But if one disregards these three, you have apoint or two.

Peace, Padawan.
Fair points. Nice sig, btw.

Not going to argue to your first two points. As for Apple though, it's not about iReligion at all. Personally, I use a whole range of products, from Mac to PC to Android to Apple to BlackBerry on a daily basis. However, anyone in the business world who doubts Apple is successful is simply delusional.
GM of <Triumph>

BubblŽs | Missbehavžn | Stormrayne | Firerayne | Radžance | Ggclose

The <Confirmed> Legacy

Consider supporting me and Triumph by clicking my referral link here

Kovaos's Avatar


Kovaos
04.18.2013 , 09:44 AM | #9
Articulate and well written. I agree with all the major points. I love the BIll Gates quote and it is one of my favorites. Simplicity wins.
"my friend said he got a pack of level 50 armor and all i got was level 47 pants."

Riggz's Avatar


Riggz
04.18.2013 , 09:47 AM | #10
Very good read



No one is happy with bioware and their devolpers right now. They seem tired and annoyed with the game instead of being passionate and excited


This game has so much potential and still does, but they are pissing it away with poor choices and like you said, over promising and under delivering
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