SOE: Developers Feel Demoralized When Fans Level Extremely Harsh Criticism

As reported by Polygon, Sony Online Entertainment's director of global community relations, Linda "Brasse" Carlson, gave an interesting talk about balancing developer relations with its various online communities, while tamping down abusive behavior by users. Carlson detailed the process the company uses to handle all these different issues during a presentation at GDC Europe 2013 today.

Carlson said during her presentation that developers need to be consoled and protected in the face of strong user backlash. She also said that developers are generally terrified of players – particularly when there is vocal disdain for updates or changes that can have a dramatic effect on gameplay. When fans are particularly angry, developers can come away from those interactions feeling "severely demoralized," according to Carlson.

"Players think developers are sharks who think they are out to ruin gameplay and dumb it down," said Carlson.

Carlson emphasized the importance of community management's role in bridging the gap between players and designers, and in protecting developers when things get hot. This requires an "increase in reports of verbal and written threats and attacks against devs, a practice of zero tolerance of abuse, punishment by withdrawing participation, the guarding of developer's personal information and by consoling the devs," says Carlson.

But even in the midst of all the troubles that interacting with a community can bring, Carlson strongly believes that developers need to know how to communicate with the fanbase.

"There's no such thing as too much information," said Carlson. "There's an assumption that players won't understand or aren't interested. Players appreciate the information, it makes them feel a part of the process."

Carlson also reminded attendees of the presentation of the aftermath of a 2005 patch to Star Wars Galaxies called the "New Game Enhancement." This major update to the popular MMO simplified gameplay and features, which fans did not like. SOE ignored negative fan reaction, believing that it was a temporary attitude on the part of players. It was not.

"It was a stunning lesson in how not to do things," said Carlson. "It was too much change. It was brought in all at once. Even after the event there was an idea that it would blow over [among the developers], but it didn't. There was so much anger. You cannot hide from these events."

Carlson points out that SOE "is still getting hate mail for the NGE update in Star Wars: Galaxies."

At the end of the day her point is that the company has learned a valuable lesson about communication from the whole SWG affair.

Source: Polygon

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    MechaCrash says:

    The NGE is honestly kind of amazing for how it managed to fuck up everything. The article also doesn't really convey how drastic the change from NGE was. This wasn't changing and simplifying some systems, this was a ground-up overhaul to turn it into a drastically different game (which was, of course, very badly done).

    This wasn't turning Civ4 into Civ5, this was turning Civ4 into Command & Conquer.

  2. 0
    Thipp says:

    Ah the NGE, to this day I have zero faith in SOE after how badly they mishandled that whole situation. Sometimes the developers and publisher absolutely deserve strong and negative fan reactions when the company clearly misunderstands what the player base wants from the game.

  3. 0
    Rawle Nyanzi Lucas says:

    Like I said, who is a "jerk" is entirely subjective and completely dependent on the listener. Encouraging people to whine every time they're mildly inconvenienced by someone else is exactly the wrong way to go; it does not encourage any kind of improvement in performance or behavior. Instead, it gives people an incentive to levy punishments on those they just don't like very much.

    So yes, it behooves people to not crumble at every adverse word.

  4. 0
    Rawle Nyanzi Lucas says:

    "…no matter what the facts are if a person feels harassed, than its harassment."

    Sickening. You won't know if a word or action breaks a rule until after you say or do it. What a bunch of oversensitive stupidity.

  5. 0
    GrimCW says:

    It's already happening actually.

    I actually worked at a place that fired about 6 people for simply "being mean" to others.. not to a single person (obvious harassment) not even constant, most was even made up. But people lost their jobs over it… 

    In fact, had to sit through a harassment training thing where it outright stated that no matter what the facts are if a person feels harassed, than its harassment. Or in its words "Its always in the eyes of the victim".  Running by that logic any interaction that people disagree with is harassment, no matter how mundane or unintentional it might be. As long as someone feels hurt by it, than it counts…. I seriously have no way to even respond to that… But seriously…. I mean SERIOUSLY….. WTFH?! 

    The only way to stay out of trouble anymore is to be a complete drone. I've seen this message in a few dif vids from a couple different jobs. 

    tis a  sick sad world  (pun intended), and its sinking in its own BS so fast its unbelievable…

  6. 0
    Rawle Nyanzi Lucas says:

    But what happens when everyone claims "bullying!" when they hear something they don't like, or something that wasn't said delicately? We cannot live in some criticism-free bubble where we have to constantly watch our words and act passive-aggressive because some people might be too sensitive.

    No one's saying to torment or threaten someone; however, just because someone said something that made you feel bad about your actions or your work doesn't mean they were bullying you. And shielding people from any kind of harsh words only makes them that much more fragile when they finally receive real criticism. This creates learned helplessness instead of adults who can stand up for themselves.

    The world isn't a kindergarten.

    Rawle Nyanzi — Read and be informed.

  7. 0
    Neeneko says:


    There seems to be this attitude that once you reach a certain age bullying simply 'shouldn't matter', and that anyone who is still impacted by should just 'buck up'.   In a way it is the same attitude many people have about kids too, but they get less backlash for it.

    I have known plenty of adults bullied out of communities, some to the point of nervous breakdown or even attemped suicide.  People usually respond with 'well, it just shouldn't matter, be an adult!', but it never helps and all it really does is give the bullies and abusers a pass to behave the way they do.

  8. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    Did you just seriously justify being nasty to people?


    If anything all this behavior will do is show potential devs that they'll be nothing but punished and should not even try.

  9. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I think the problem is less people taking criticism poorly, but taking abusive behavior poorly (btw, not sure where you are getting that 'introverts take criticism poorly' crap from).

    Though one piece is, when you are just a member of a community or someone lurking around a board, abusive behavior has a certain emotional impact but leaving is not too hard.  When it is part of your job and professional identity, the barrier for getting away from your tormenters can be a lot harder and the feeling that your company is not doing anything about it can be pretty frustrating.  It is similar to when you have an abusive coworker yet HR will not do anything about them, you can end up making your work environment feel unsafe and hostile.

    Which, ironically, is something introverts tend to cope with better then extroverts.  Extroverts tend to be far more impacted by hostile communities then introverts.

  10. 0
    -Jes- says:

    I think the real problem is, as Grim pointed out, that most of the critique actually belongs to the publishers and other executive personnel.


    I know several SWG devs who hated the NGE well before it was released.

  11. 0
    Sleaker says:

    I don't think the developers necessarily deserve all of the criticism.  Maybe they get a little feature drunk when making large changes, and they forget to stay in touch with the consumer base.  I can't really fault the developer for this, it's the responsibility of the higher ups that manage the projects to get with Community managers etc and get an actual reading of what people think of the games.

    I think most of the blame is on the company structure, and management not keeping the focus, or listening to criticism properly.

    A great example of this is Flagship, I pretty much blame Bill Roper for most of the companies problems/demise.  Whereas the developers directly, not so much.  And yet the game they produced was really buggy.

  12. 0
    Rawle Nyanzi Lucas says:

    While the violent threats certainly need to stop, developers don't need to be shielded from harsh criticism of their work; they just need to know what to take seriously and know what to walk away from.

    Rawle Nyanzi — Read and be informed.

  13. 0
    GrimCW says:

    "Players think developers are sharks who think they are out to ruin gameplay and dumb it down," 

    Nah, I think that usually thats the publishers call in order to rake in more cash. The devs just get stuck in the middle. A terrible terrible middle.

    Sadly most do accuse the devs. And to some degree it is their fault, but not most.

  14. 0
    Kajex says:

    Carlson said during her presentation that developers need to be consoled and protected in the face of strong user backlash.

    Not that I don't think that most communities can be unnecessarily volatile, but I'm assuming that these developers are adults.

Leave a Reply