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More on Realtime Worlds

September 18, 2010

I’ve been reading all three (one, two, three) of the interesting posts about the fall of games developer Realtime Worlds.  There is nots of learning to be had in the post-mortem of the company.  Here are a few lessons that truck me.  First about engaging with users – this should be development 101!  It seems that a Realtime this may have not been the case

Let’s start with our attitude to the outside world.  Here we were, supposedly trying to build these great online games, but we were stunningly inept at outside interaction.  There were some high-profile release window gaffes – like attempting to BAN THE INTERNET FROM REVIEWING APB for a whole week – and then telling the world that they just didn’t understand our game – but it’s what we didn’t say that was most harmful of all.  We had this incredible secrecy around everything we did.  I liked this approach for early development – no point boasting about stuff that’s not ready – but at some point, with an online product, you have to engage your users.

Another is that feedback is a vital process to good development – and you need it, and need it to be honest (though at the time nobody – me included – really wants to hear it!)  We just have to deal with it – and those people who take the time to read it (and write it) are providing a valuable resource;

The really sad part is that, more often than not, we prevented or discouraged such people from helping out by building these bizarre internal divisions between groups.  I think this was a misguided attempt to imitate how other big online games run things.  For example, I once heard one of our fine QA staff being berated for – wait for it – emailing a summary of forum activity around QA.  This guy had gone through every single forum post looking for complaints that might signify bugs, and summarised it in a plan of action for the QA team to investigate further.  Commendable stuff indeed, but here he was, being told that ONLY OUR DEDICATED COMMUNITY TEAM were allowed to summarise forum activity for others (usually in the form of a number from 1-100 representing how favourable forum feedback was that week.  Never found out how they computed that or what we were supposed to do with it.)

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