I do love it when the Gurus answer our questions on Twitter and the occasional post on the forums. That’s where we find Graham today. You can find his entire post below, just click more!
Some interesting posts in this thread… I thought I’d jump in and give my own personal perspective on a few things, although I can’t respond to everything for what I hope are obvious reasons. The other challenging thing to address is that people always want answers about why certain things are the way they are, and there’s no all encompassing answer I can give you; for every compliment or complaint you can levy at the game, there’s a unique reason why each aspect of it is the way it is.
First off, people shouldn’t think of the Ideas & Feedback section as some corner of our forum that never gets read. It’s one of my favorite places to check, the name alone is indicative of exactly the type of posts I find helpful to read around here. Just to give people a general idea of what I personally do, I browse through the forums at least once a day. I like to read this board, the board of the most recently announced product to see people’s reactions (aka Sweet Treats), and the board of the most recently released product to see what parts of it people enjoy or what they’re struggling with(aka Showtime). On a less frequent basis I also check out the General board, the Technical Discussion board, and the boards that focus on player creations.
That being said, I don’t post here too often. It isn’t that I want to avoid chatting with Sims fans as that couldn’t be further from the truth; it just isn’t practical a lot of the time. As some in here have pointed out, I (along with other gurus) enjoy using Twitter to chat with fans. Ultimately, it’s just much easier for me to see a tweet notification pop up with a quick comment, and immediately write a short reply to it. Those tweets can be anything from chatting about the game, trying to help someone who is having trouble, talking about upcoming Sims stuff, or just discussing various aspects of game design and development. Alternatively, it’s a much larger time commitment to come and post on the forums. Coming hear means looking at the different boards, sifting through the various topics, determining what’s new and what I’ve read before… and then if I want to respond it means writing a somewhat substantial post; and making the commitment to respond to the inevitable ten additional questions that will get posted in response to what I say. Then people wonder why I respond to some posts and not others, or misinterpret what I say, and it can all get to be a bit much All of that eats into my time, and I don’t get a break from my development responsibilities to come post on here. What I’ve come to learn is I can’t do everyone’s job, but when you’re a more public figure for the game people will throw every manner of topic at you and expect you to respond. For example, when people have a problem with the game… I’d love to help, but I just don’t have that level of understanding of the game. I’m not a programmer, so I don’t know what might be going wrong in the code – but I can recognize a problem and bring it to others attention to make sure it gets addressed.
I find it difficult to respond when people say that we don’t listen to the fans. When we talk about the “fans” and “community”, a lot of the time that’s in direct reference to the people who frequently post on these forums; you’re our most vocal subset of fans. In reality though the forums are a fraction of our overall fan base, and we have to take everyone into account when we develop products and respond to consumers. Even within these forums there may be a majority consensus, but that doesn’t mean it’s what everyone wants for the franchise. You can look at our most popular expansions – Pets is always a theme that tons of people want – and you’ll find those who have absolutely no interest in adding that to their Sims games. Quite frankly I think that’s perfectly alright. The Sims encompasses a ton of diverse themes, and each one will appeal to people in different ways. When we announced a pack like Pets, nobody says… “oh, they’re listening to what the fans what”, they say “oh well that was their plan all along”. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are a lot of different things that impact the decision of what to make and when to make it, far too many to go into detail within this post, but everything is done for a reason; we don’t haphazardly decide on things. Over the course of Sims 3, we knew there were some things we wanted to do like Pets… other expansions were more of a direct response to player feedback. We knew Pets was a theme that everyone wanted, yet it ended up being the 5th expansion, and people say… why did we have to wait so long? To be honest, it would have been impossible to do Pets as the first expansion, it had significant technical hurdles to overcome for that expansion to exist. And that’s just an example of one expansion; each one we release has its own challenges or oddities that made it make sense to release when it did. Look at Generations… it was made directly in response to a lot of what the community was asking for with more social interactions, more emphasis on families, more content across all age ranges, etc. That one was a challenge for our marketing team, but we were really happy to get to do that theme for our fans. Look at the most recent release of Showtime, it’s packed with a lot of fun interactive objects that fans have been asking for for a long time. Elements of fan requests show up in every single game that we release. Anavastia mentioned how you haven’t seen many new rabbitholes lately. She’s right, that’s a direct response to fan feedback, and I do hope we’ll have the chance to open up more of them. We have to walk a fine line sometimes though. A lot of people here really love Sims 2 (and that’s awesome if you do!), but we’re not trying to release the exact same game with Sims 3. We incorporate elements from the past, but we’ll continue to evolve and refine them, and hopefully add fun new aspects to them in the process. We’ll do familiar themes like Pets, and brand new things that you’ve never played in The Sims before like World Adventures.
In response to those who want changes to already released expansions, and to have more changed based on your feedback… well, it’s something I’m pushing for. I have my own list of things that I take directly from these forums, and when we have small gaps in our schedule or a little extra time, I try and get some of those things in there. It’s an ongoing process and it won’t happen all at once, but over time I hope you’ll see more things get addressed. Things on my list range all the way from adding new options to opt out of the celebrity system, to something as mundane as tweaking the ice cream truck so it doesn’t show up at 3am. We don’t go out and talk about this sort of stuff commonly, because as soon as we say something about it there’s an implied expectation that we will change it, and I can’t promise you that. Sk8rblaze you mentioned Vampires previously… it’s another thing that’s on my list, but I honestly can’t tell you what will happen with it. It’s something that we technically can change, but I don’t know when we’ll have the chance to change it, and that’s why you don’t specifically hear about it. It’s the same reason we don’t talk about patches in advance; game development in the Sims Studio is a very fast paced and fluid environment. Plans can and will change, and we don’t like to discuss things until we’re 100% sure we’re going to deliver on it; you’d be amazed at some of the last minute emergencies that can disrupt the best plans at times I can assure you that myself and others are paying attention though and do what we can to improve the game while creating great new content as well.
It’s also difficult because people have the expectation that something should be a simple change or an easy fix, and that often isn’t true or we would have done it. The mod community can skew these perceptions as well… people think, well if a modder can do it, why can’t EA? Ultimately, someone creating a mod doesn’t have the same responsibility that we do when it comes to implementing and testing changes, and doesn’t have to deal with scheduling, budgeting, and the wide variety of people’s work that is impacted by any change we decide to make. That’s not an excuse, but it is a reality of what we do. In a perfect world, I’d love if people felt they only needed to get mods to add content to their game, and not need to get mods that changed aspects of the game we created that they don’t like. It’s something I think about often when we’re implementing new designs (what can we do to provide players options where they feel they don’t need to go get a mod to change it).
It’s always interesting to me when people say that we don’t care, or that we’re only out to get your money. I really have to thank SimGuruShannon, because she was one of the first to step up and get more actively involved in reaching out to the community directly, and that came from a desire to open more communication with fans like the Sims team has had in the past. It sparked my interest in it as well, and I love interacting with the community. Personally I love to see our games sell well because I’m proud of the products we put out – there are a lot of talented people on the team who go above and beyond with personal effort to do amazing things. I think many devs who are used to traditional game development would find it very challenging to put out the amount of content we do at the pace we do to keep up with continued demand for more things from awesome fans like all of you. As Jarsie so aptly pointed out, there’s nowhere in my job description that says I need to interact with the community or post on the forums; it’s my own personal choice to get involved (along with the other gurus you see on the forums and twitter) because it’s something we enjoy. I wouldn’t be reading these forums and writing a long post on a Sunday if I didn’t have an interest in what I do that goes beyond my paycheck. I make games because it’s something I’m passionate about, and I want to make games that people are thrilled with – and that’s a sentiment shared by many members of the team.
I know this post is long, but hopefully it didn’t ramble too much. What I really enjoy is being able to have conversations with Sims fans, and openly discuss some of the things that are interesting to you all… not just as a company rep with an official response, but as people who enjoy the Sims and want to know more about what goes into it. At Gamescom this past year I had the great chance to just converse with some Sims fans at a party, and it was really nice just having a frank discussion about the game. I like that about twitter as well, where we can be a bit more casual. So please… come talk to me on there, I respond all the time. You’ll see me on the forums as well, just less frequently. And I can’t prove it to you, but I promise myself and many others on the team are reading your posts here as well
One final note; I’m totally welcoming of constructive criticism. It’s an opportunity for us to learn as developers and make better products before we release them, as well as improve the games that have already come out. As players of our game, I feel like all of you have every right to voice your opinions of the game. Thank you to those of you who take the time to write posts that go beyond saying you do or don’t like something, but also explain why you feel that way.
Thanks to iSims for the tip!