Asheron’s Call Interview, Part One

Warcry had the chance to talk with Jason Booth, technical artist for Turbine Entertainment, about the now 4-year-old Asheron’s Call. An excerpt:

Q: MMOGs like Asheron’s Call are played both through the game and on message boards and fansites by their fans. There have been some epic dust ups on message boards over changes that have gone on in Asheron’s Call. As a whole what was your take on the fans? Where they a help or a hindrance?

A: I don’t post on message boards anymore. The fundamental problem is that I have total consequence for anything I post, and it will be archived, where anyone else has no consequence for what they say or do. This creates a huge behavioral problem, where one group feels free to behave at the lowest common denominator of human standards when dealing with me, yet I have to be held up to the highest pedestal of perfection. I’m the kind of person who likes to talk straight to people, doesn’t like to beat around the bush, and doesn’t take crap from anyone. That said the message boards are a very important part of the community. They are a barometer for reading the effect of changes you make in the game and cannot be ignored. What you listen to has to be filtered very carefully though; as the information can be both a help and a hindrance. Often fans spend a great deal more time than you ever could playing your game, and know aspects of it which you cannot. However, they will often ask for things and then complain when you give them exactly what they asked for. For instance, in AC1, there was a huge outcry to increase the effect of specialization on your skills. After a lot of debate and warning people that this would cause problems down the road, we raised the effect of specialization an amount which many people complained was “not enough”. Two months later, the very same people asking for the specialization increase were complaining that they were gimped and that specialization was the only option, thus they had to re-roll, which is exactly what we had warned them about. This is, of course, the trap of the message boards. The whim of the tide can pull on your decisions, and cause repercussions which they, or you, didn’t expect. I can’t really say I know how to filter all the info that comes in, or that there’s any way to correctly filter it. I think what I’ve learned over the years is that you have to listen to the information being provided, trust your own instincts, and never make a decision in haste.

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