Posted by: L1H | April 7, 2009

Tin Man vs Scarecrow

I’m usually an emotionally driven person.  I shoot from the hip and go with my “gut feeling” more often than I logically weigh the facts: more of a Captain Kirk than a Mister Spock, more heart than brains.

Life gets complicated, however.  I’m constantly reminded how important it is to not only have goals but to have clearly defined methods for tracking your progression so you don’t get lost: so your perception stays in alignment with reality.  

For a passionate person like myself, I have to remember that statistics are neutral in valence, neither positive or negative, and I have to just take the numbers at face value and use them to make informed choices.

Numbers don’t lie, but people do.

Brief story:

A coworker of mine had the reputation of being unreliable, excessively tardy, and she was hazed for years (usually behind her back) for it.  

One day she snapped and produced a calendar wherein she had been documenting everyone’s missed days over the past 90 days.  Every employee’s missed days were clearly totaled on the back of the calendar in different color ink: she had been busy.  Everyone shifted in their chairs.  Management was gobsmacked. 

Turns out she wasn’t even on the top of the list, hardly the unreliable employee her reputation suggested, and actually there were five other employees that had missed more days than her.  She insisted that the comments about her work ethic, about her dedication to the job, should cease, because the facts contradicted the reputation.

This lesson of perception versus reality is often played out in politics, business, and yes even MMO games – especially in a competitive game like WAR.

What’s amazing is that even presented with cold hard facts that contradict a person’s position, they won’t give up their “opinion”, they won’t concede.  They have an emotional investment in the “truth” that they hold and nobody is going to be able to make them cave.

A recent interview with Mark Jacobs that you can watch here really showcases how MMO players get very emotional about their experience of class balance, even if it’s less than accurate.  Mark states how important metrics are to Mythic, how they have the data us players can only speculate on, and if there is an “overpowered” class or ability, they will adjust things to balance them.  He admits that these changes don’t happen fast enough for the community, but it’s all well in hand.

I believe Mark’s message, but I can’t help but wonder how insanely complicated the process of interpreting the data is for Mythic.  Lets say one realm starts to dominate – how the frack would you diagnose the culprit?  How do you single out the guilty ability or synergy of abilities from a systemic realm advantage?

What program interprets the data Mythic collects?  Who wrote the code for the program?  Who watches the Watchmen?

That being said, the Captain Kirk in me is screaming, “What about gameplay, Spock?  You can’t fit the human experience of gameplay into a calculator – metrics be damned.”

I can’t imagine anyone would want to be a part of a game company, a developer, if they weren’t passionate about what they do.  Every day they have to try to reconcile the artistry of game design with the logic of statistics, metrics and emotions, perceptions and reality, business and integrity.  

 To think what it would be like to have to serve so many masters every day: I could never do it.

“Working as intended” could be code for: Help – I’m trapped inside a game company!

We hear you!  We’re coming to help!


  1. […] 1 Human has a simple request: give MMO companies a break, unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes and typed 100 wpm in their wrist […]

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