Well, I’ve finally given in and decided to start blogging. It’s something I’ve tried to resist over the years. I’ve also not posted directly on the forums, and it’s mainly because it takes so much time. Many of the issues discussed on the forums are deep and complex, and the arguments well put and compelling. Writing considered and persuasive responses that really deal with the issue is time consuming, and that is time I can’t spend working on the games.
So it’s a choice – fix stuff, or talk about fixing stuff. Seems like a no-brainer, but things have changed. I can now add more quality to the games by talking to the community than I can by fixing issues.
Quite simply, the quality of what we produce depends directly on how much we get to spend on developing them. How much we spend depends directly on how many people buy the games. The user feedback on sites like IGN directly impacts sales, and that impacts how positively our publisher views the future of Total War, which determines how much we get to spend on the games.
Normally it’s a virtuous circle, and that’s allowed us to be very ambitious with what we try to deliver. We were not entirely happy with the state of Empire: Total War when it went out, and are only now getting to a point where we are broadly speaking happy with the game. Our own threshold for how we’d like the game to be is much higher than the commercial threshold required by our publisher. We are, like our community, hardcore fans of our own products, and any imperfections drive us nuts.
With Empire: Total War, the virtuous circle turned a little vicious. The community used user ratings and user comments on sites like IGN and Metacritic to highlight weaknesses in the game, to try to encourage us to fix existing issues before working on anything new.
I’m not saying that we didn’t deserve to have a fair number of verbal bricks thrown our way.
However overdoing the criticism (For example I think a 67% user score on Metacritic is unfair), has the opposite effect to what is intended. Gamers (and reviewers. retailers, marketeers and publishing execs) will be put off Total War. That could mean fewer sales and less money to spend on adding quality to the games.
And so I find myself blogging. The aim is twofold. Firstly, I want to explain why we do the things we do, and also a little more detail about what we’re spending our time (and your money) on. That should give the community a much better starting point for discussing issues. Secondly, I want to prove we listen to the community by directly addressing the big issues. I’ll be as honest as I can be without getting sued or fired.
Anyway, I started this by saying I’d rather be fixing the game than talking about it. That’s true, but talking about it is a pretty good second best. I’ll start with the 1.5 patch and AI on the next update, and then go on to talk about Napoleon – what it is, why it’s the size it is, how that affects the price.