Ok, disclaimer. At time of writing this I’m ill which turns me into a massive drama queen so all the little things that aren’t really that bad become apocalyptic, catastrophic, calamities and that’s where this post is coming from. Enjoy the over-exaggeration!
I’m a fan of the Mass Effect series and being one of those mental arty fans, I came up with a few ideas of characters for the Multiplayer component of the game. For a bit of cheap gratification, I decided to throw up the designs on the Mass Effect forums which sparked a flurry of creative character design from the community and a fun time was had by all.
In the mist if the merriment, someone made a joke about adding a Volus biotic god. Quick bit of context. In Mass Effect, Volus are dumpy little comedy relief aliens, Biotics is basically space magic and the whole joke was a reference to this scene in Mass Effect 2:
And I had a good laugh at this, the first time. By the 8th time someone said it, the joke was starting to dull a bit. By the 26th time, I was starting to get the feeling that people weren’t actually joking. After a quick search I found out that people had been asking for this for a while. They wanted characters that are essentially fat Umpa-Lumpa’s that sound like Eor with a cold adding to a fast-paced multiplayer game, which seemed a bit silly. Not that this mattered, these were just the words of forum members, not designers. It’s not like this character was going to be added to the game…… So then the character was added to the game and this is when a touch of concern for Bioware’s decision making processes started to creep in.
I’d usually just assume this was a happy coincidence and the developers had decided on this character on their own. A bit odd adding a comical character to a multiplayer that they’ve been playing straight so far but whatever, they’re the developers. I wound usually assume this but considering the degree to which Bioware has flip-flopped in the past, I think it’s safe to assume that there’s a correlation.
And if that’s true, it effectively means that they’ve added the equivalent of a Ewok on the basis of a situational joke from the last game because the fans thought it would be awesome. No matter how I try to spin it in my head, listening to the fans in this case doesn’t seem like a good idea.
I’ve said on numerous occasions that you have to respect your fans, which will always be true but you also have to keep in mind that your fans are a group of individuals. Individuals that aren’t necessarily all games designers or story writers. They don’t all care about playability or balancing, a many of them will only care about what they personally want to see in the game.
Ignoring a vocal minority of your fans doesn’t make you a bad artist if those fans ideas aren’t good from a game-play/storyline/established-cannon point of view and doing every single thing that they say isn’t gonna make things better in the long run.
Yes, you should listen to your fan base, just remember that they’re not you design team.
Alright, bitching accomplished. Now I’m going to go pass out.
See you next week!……… maybe. I might still be asleep.