"terrified of players," referring to the surge in 'toxic' feedback and personal attacks.
It leads to "severely demoralised" teams when an update displeases the community, causing volatile threats. However, she says, some of this is partly their own fault.
While some may see devs as "sharks" out to destroy fun, conversely, teams assume players "won't understand or aren't interested" in development.
While SOE is stepping up its protection of developers, such as enforcing zero tolerance against those who launch personal attacks or 'toxic feedback', they are also examining the way teams communicate with fans.
"Players think developers are sharks who think they are out to ruin gameplay and dumb it down," said Linda Carlson during her GDC 2013 keynote. Making sure there's an open line between designers and the community is vital, but so is keeping their staff protected at all stages - especially in safeguarding their personal lives.
There needs to be 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." Developers have experienced their own lives threatened, including their children.
"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."
She cites Star Wars: Galaxies as a primary example of what happens when you don't engage with the community. The MMO underwent a significant gameplay overhaul with the 'New Game Enhancement' update which radically altered combat mechanics to make it more fluid. A huge backlash occurred and eventually the MMO shuttered.
"It was a stunning lesson in how not to do things," she continued. "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, but it didn't. There was so much anger. You cannot hide from these events." To this day SOE is "still getting hate mail for the NGE update in Star Wars: Galaxies."
Today SOE is running Planetside 2, DC Universe Online and is currently developing EverQuest Next.
Sony Online "still getting hate mail" for Star Wars: Galaxies NGE update
19 August 2013 | By Simon Priest
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