Managing Developer and Customer Expectations

FYI, there’s a TL/DR at the bottom. Feel free to scroll. :slight_smile: Also guessing this topic doesn’t get a ton of traction, but who knows.

I’m typing this in no small part because I don’t want us to become one of those frustrated fan bases that heaps demands on a developer, becoming continually more hostile, all while having little knowledge of what’s happening behind the curtain. I see a ton of good people here and a lot of nice devs who take far more time to interact with us than other companies devs tend to.


Anyways, so Keits had a series of tweets last night that started with “I’m stunned to this day to see people say they would prefer additional backdrops with no gameplay effect over new playable content.”

Thing is, I tend to wonder how many fans know that this is a choice that they even need to make. I mean, fans want more skins, more alts, more accessories, more stages, retro stages, more characters, more dojo lessons, retro music in the dojo, retro music in the rest of the game, more Shadow Lords content, more story content, Shadow Lab slots, touch ups on retros, touch ups on the UI, touch ups on animations, touch ups on faces and hair, ultimates, a tag team mode, an arcade mode, a full story mode, a comic, more seasons, a sequel and other stuff that I can’t even think of off the top of my head.

Keits also said that he doesn’t begrudge anyone for wanting characters AND stages, but doesn’t get wanting stages more, which I understand. But also says (presumably regarding stages) “when is it enough?” Personally, when you have a large fanbase and everyone wants something, I think the easy answer is that for some, it’ll never be enough, for some, it’ll never be “complete.” Not when you have a good thing. Look at every TV show that goes 5 seasons longer than it should. If people like something, their natural inclination is to want more of it.

He goes on to say that “players not understanding what game dev really is, or how any of the business works, is a huge part of the disconnect. But it’s not that complicated. Go to the store and you have enough money for only 2 of these 3: Bread, peanut butter and Jelly. Gamers will say 'I’ll have all 3 or the sandwich isn’t complete. It’s just not how it works.”

Again, the problem I have here is that I don’t think most fans are aware that this choice exists and more importantly, to what extent the choice exists. How many fans know that this is the choice the dev has to make and what actually represents bread, peanut butter and jelly? Is bread a new character, is peanut butter one stage? Five stages? Is jelly ultimates? Stage relighting?

Now, I’m not asking Iron Galaxy, a private company, to open their books to us or give us numbers. Nor am I asking Microsoft to give us an income and expense report on how much they put in to KI and exactly where that money goes or even how much everything costs in dollars. I’m not THAT entitled as a gamer, I swear. :slight_smile:

But I think that managing expectations can be communicated a bit more to the point where, well, we’re still asking for the world, for all of those things I listed above and more, but maybe were not as surprised or even put off a little when this bug still isn’t fixed after X number of updates or that gold mine of costume opportunities still isn’t being capitalized on or why Mira or whoever still doesn’t have a stage or why ultimates still aren’t in the game and what not.

Some fans are forgiving and understanding and some fans just want what they want and who cares what anyone else says or what realities the developer faces. To the latter people, you’ll never please them. It sucks, but it’s true and I’m sure the devs know that and accepted that a long time ago.

But for many of us that come here, and I don’t want to speak for them, but I’m just going off of what I’ve noticed, I like to throw ideas out there because this game stirs my imagination. I love the characters, the stages, the story bits, the modes… It’s one of the best games I’ve ever played, so it’s only natural that I not only want more OF it, but I want more FOR it.

I want as many people playing it as possible and I want this ride to last as long as possible, which means more content, as much more as the devs can possibly handle. So I ask for more of everything, for everything to be my own narrow definition of perfect for existing characters and content as well as future content, but I also accept the fact that the devs can’t meet that definition for me or anyone else. They can only try.

Thing is though, most of us as fans honestly have no idea how deep the divide is between what we want and what MS and IG are actually able to do. We assume that IG isn’t a massive dev team, we assume how much MS is supporting the game financially and we assume all of that to the level that we know KI isn’t a AAA title like Halo with a AAA budget, but I don’t think that many of us really have a handle on just what MS / IG are able to do, how much it costs beyond “stages are expensive,” or how fast this content can be churned out and even what prices are reasonable.

So I’m throwing this out to the fans and developers alike:

-How do we manage expectations as a community?

-How can a developer communicate what it’s capable of doing without sharing more than they feel compelled to share or disappointing fans to the point of discouraging them?

-Do fans fit in to this process beyond simply content feedback or asking for more stuff?

-Would being more informed as far as what the dev can and can’t do help or hurt?

-How do fans learn not to ask for that which a developer has no hopes of delivering, thus avoiding the inevitable “why can’t they just do this?” disappointment loop that any dev faces?

TL/DR: I want to be 100% clear: I’m not trying to shun fans for asking for stuff just as I’m not trying to come at the developer with some uber-snotty “customer is always right” or “we deserve to know” crap. I’m just trying to find out if there’s a mutually beneficial way to align fan expectations with the realities the developer is working with so maybe the dev is slightly less weighed down by our demands and expectations and we don’t feel frustrated or ignored. Also curious if that’s a good road to go down and if so, how we take the first steps.

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I made a thread a while back asking people “what is enough” I made a joke asking if we really needed 8000 skins, and a few hundred stages.

From the replys that I got, it seemed that all most wanted was a stage for each character, and that was it as far as stages. People felt like the characters without stages were “homeless”, and made them look like less of a character “which they are not”.

The skins were different. People that replyed wanted as many as they could get. I don’t understand why we need so many skins, because even if each character had 100, people would still only pick the 4 or 5 best looking ones. Tekken has several accessories for each character and 90% of them are to stupid to even use.

I really can’t complain. All I have ever wanted from KI was to have all of the orginal cast back, and I have it now. Anything beyond that is a pure bonus.

On a side note, Level 257 was a great place to eat, and I loved all the old games that had that you could play :grin:

Glad you liked it!! I’ve only been a few times, but I enjoy it. :slight_smile:

Yeah I see a divide here. I’ve heard both Adam Isgreen and Keits both say “how much is enough?” where it comes to stages.

I think that’s the hard part of managing expectations though. I mean, KI always had a character linked with their own stage. Happened in KI, KI2 and seasons one and two. So how does a developer say “okay, we’re not doing that anymore” in a way that can make fans okay with it to the point where they’re not asking for those stages?

Is it a matter of giving “homeless characters” an alt version of a current stage ala Shadow Tigers Lair? Is that feasible? Is it possible to sell stages individually? If so, how much would they cost?

I think there’s a tendency among fans to just wave their wallets around and say “if you build it, I will buy it” as some sort of magical request that allows developers to suddenly do anything and everything fans want and clearly it doesn’t work that way. But again, I think the problem is that many fans don’t know how it works. Not because they’re willfully ignorant or selfish or uncaring (though some are), but because we simply don’t know what’s feasible and what choices have to be made.

The developers ultimately make the game and they decide what goes in and what doesn’t. I get that and I respect that. They give us surveys and they read these boards and that’s how we contribute. But as fans, we still have no idea what choices the developers have to make, or we don’t want to know, and even if we did know, I’m sure some fans would ask for everything regardless.

So I’m trying to find out here if there’s a better way to help align things, not so fans are steering the ship on what content happens and what content doesn’t, because again, that’s the developer’s decision, but so we fans have a more pragmatic view of what we can expect, what’s too much to expect, and what wanting one thing (like more stages or retro stages or whatever) actually means for also wanting this other thing (like ultimates or X number of characters or dojo lessons or skins).

For the season 3 stages, I think they tried to say "we can’t do stages for everyone because we decided to do the stage relighting and (eventually) shadow lords. But we still have no idea if that’s a one for one thing. Does three stages equal relit stages and giant new mode and if so, what does that mean in relation to other content? Does this mean that stages are prohibitively expensive to sell individually? Like would they have to charge, I dunno, $10 per stage? $20? $30? More?

Again, I’m not trying to get anyone to open their books because I don’t think that we’re even remotely entitled to that information.

But I’m curious to know if there are ways in which players and developers can come to some sort of understanding that informs the players on what’s possible, what’s not and why without the developers having to reveal more than they’re comfortable with. Because I don’t want my imagination or love for this game to become someone else’s burden, frustration or bad day, just as I don’t want fans to become frustrated or dissatisfied with the game because they feel they’re not being listened to or they’re not getting the content they want.

If there’s even the slightest way to bridge the knowledge gap and if doing so lightens the load of player expectations for devs slightly while helping players adjust what they want, perhaps both sides would be happier with what can be done, and what we get? I dunno, just theorizing, but still.

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IF you could pick ONLY one thing what would pick:

Playable content (Characters/modes)

non playable content (stages/skins)

What would you pick?

No exceptions. Only or the other.

Me. I would ALWAYS pick playable content over stages/skins.

And I don’t think the Community agrees with me but whatever :confused:

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I think there is indeed a big disconnect between fans and developers in terms of expectations, trade-offs, business realities,etc. I don’t think fans have the knowledge of everything that goes into making content, such as time, budgeting, etc. A lot of tough choices have to be made. There are a lot of unreasonable requests, but there are also reasonable ones.

However, on the topic of stages vs characters for this game, at this point in its life I feel like there is a big disconnect between the developer and casual audience if one would be stunned that fans would prefer a home stage for each character over characters.

Given the precedent this game has set up for itself, each main season character had a stage and theme going into season two. It should not be shocking at all to someone making the game if people want that pattern to be continued. These are video games, after all, and a big part of the appeal are audio and visual elements that are not “gameplay”. Heck, just look at what Mick Gordon’s music has done for the game. They could have used any music, which would not have affected gameplay, but it was a huge part of the appeal. Would KI have made such an impression without the audio and its announcer? It’s arguable, and that’s not really gameplay. KI, especially, is a fighting IP where the audio and visual package has historically been such a big part of the appeal.

You could ask how much is enough in terms of stages, but you could also ask how much is enough in terms of characters? At what point does it become too overwhelming to player to learn matchups, especially when there are so many attack animations to learn for breaking. We’re not really talking about a bare-bones (no pun intended) cast at this point in KI’s life at the end of season 3. It’s feels like it’s in a very good place in terms of the roster size, and many would feel it’s complete without being overkill. If we didn’t get three more characters, I think most people would probably be fine as-is.

So, that line of tweets did very much feel to me like a disconnect between a “hardcore” player vs the “casual” audience. I think both preferences for the type of content is fine, just a preference. However the thing that was odd to me was being stunned that one would prefer stages for this game at this point in its life, which I think is an important nuance not to be overlooked in this case. I don’t think you can look at it as “gameplay” vs “aesthetics” in a vacuum.

I was jarred too. I still look at Mira, who’s one of my favorite characters, and I wonder what her stage would’ve looked like. Same goes for Eyedol.

While I agree that the characters without stages lost a little, unquantifiable something, you stopped playing the whole game because of what was, by your own admission, slightly chipped away? Imagine if players felt that strongly about other issues with the game. I mean, how does a developer keep everyone happy? I’m not saying you’re wrong to feel that way, mind you. But still.

Let’s not call names here or assume things about complete strangers. I think none of those things about you. While I think that “KI magic” is a very difficult concept for a developer to grasp because it varies, sometimes wildly, from person to person, I totally get why visuals and sound design are important to you. They are to me as well.

I think you might be setting yourself up for disappointment then, which is unfortunate. Just as people get angry when a character doesn’t get a trailer or any other number of changes… I get that some changes can be tough or maybe even seem unnecessary, but at the end of the day, we’re still getting new content, even if certain things have to change at times. It’s unfortunate that some of these changes damage your hype for something really cool, but you seem hyped for Kilgore at least, so that’s good! :slight_smile:

If that’s the choice… I dunno. I mean, what constitutes “playable content” exactly? Is it more Characters? More Shadow Lords stages? More Shadow Lab slots? More modes? What else falls under this heading?

Sometimes I feel like I’d choose characters and sometimes I feel like I’d want aesthetic stuff. Sometimes I’d like to see some new looks for characters or new stages. Sure, they don’t add anything to the gameplay, but it’s also something new for my eyes to look at and appreciate.

Sure, the novelty is fleeting, but you could say that about anything. Plus, everyone sees value differently. For RGL above, he sees a lot of value in the visuals and the sound / music and what not and let’s face it, KI as a series has been known for those aspects.

I dunno, I tend to want more playable stuff, but I also want more aesthetic stuff. As a fan, it can be difficult to reconcile the idea that wanting one can sometimes mean sacrificing the other, especially if I don’t know what items are on either part of the scale at a given time.

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Taken from a thread that was discussing stages and i think it’s pretty relevant here…

Far as connecting developers and consumers, this is my thought and i have to draw a parallel to explain it. I work as a Chef in real life. So my general job duty is to cook for a customer. Much like a developer creates games, a chef creates food. A developer (i think) has tons of job freedom to make a game so long as a consumer buys it, same with being a chef; make whatever you want as long as people will buy it. You get the general idea.

So how many times have you been the guy or girl, or seen a guy or girl go to a restaurant and say “i’d like a steak, but can you add some of the stuff from this other dish to it?”

Certainly it can be done. But what get overlooked is how much that one dish change derails the flow of everything else that the restaurant is producing. I feel like it’s something similar to game development, yes, IG can make more stages, but for them what is going to produce more money/customers/interest?

I’m not sure of a means to fix that, however. If anything, i’ve relied more on a compassion and understanding from a consumer than any outright communication.

I can answer the question of how many stages is enough. 2 more eyedol and Mira are the only real cast members without stages. Guests and clones can deal with not having one ;p

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Agreed. I wish that more fans understood this and I wish that we all had a greater understanding of what some of those trade-offs are so that maybe, just maybe, our requests become slightly more reasonable or at the very least, our expectations can be adjusted, at least in theory.

I’d imagine that Keits comes at it from a specific perspective given his job and his experience. I’m sure he respects the other aspects of the game as well, but yeah, “stunned” kinda surprised me a little.

I was going to bring this up as well, and you said it perfectly. Thing is, I LOVE the characters in this game and I think that the gameplay team does a phenomenal job with these characters. give me ten more, twenty more, I don’t care. I just want to see what cool, crazy things they can come up with and I can’t wait to take them in to battle.

But that’s me. There are others out there that are exactly as you describe. So how do they go about making both sides happy?

It’s entirely possible that a hardcore player might want more that they can play, but I don’t know that it’s just characters that he’s referring to when he says “playable content.” I don’t know if I leap to that assumption, so how much it’s hardcore versus casual, though that could certainly be a part of it.

Either way, I think that it was more geared toward that which can be continuously interacted with and actually experienced versus that which can be seen. I interpret that as the value of interaction versus the value of aesthetics and his view of where the long term novelty is at. I also think he tends to view the idea of a game being “complete” differently, and I do think there’s something to be said for what people view as complete or consistent and how much value is placed therein.

I for one value consistency a ton. If one character has 9 colors and 20 accessories or whatever, then I’d like to see all of them have that, because why should a player that loves Omen have less options than a player that loves Jago?

Again though, is the choice between having colors and accessories for Omen and having, say… a background for Mira? Or Kilgore? Or music for a character? Or something else? I’m not saying we deserve to know or anything along those lines and maybe if we knew, we’d still want what we want simply because that’s our preference. I just think that there might be some benefits for both sides to try and bridge the gap a little. Who knows.

But what if we get brand new characters? Will they also have to have new stages? :slight_smile:

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I don’t know. It’s tough. KI kinda painted itself into a corner by making the stage and music such a big part of each character. It’s very much appreciated, but yet does feel odd when the trend breaks, especially when you’re a big fan of the character, like Mira. I do think they have done a decent job of explaining the design trade-offs they made, though. I guess it might help by reminding people every so often that a lot of trade-offs have to be made? I could see how that could be frustrating for them, though.

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I mean honestly if you want stages for Mira and eyedol I have a solution that would take maybe 8 hours for them to do. Mira’s stage is easy, take the chair and the back wall out of saberwulf stage. The background art is a castle and graveyard let that be open more and boom castle stage. For Eyedol take kan rahs stage keep the portal open and take all the background items and throw them around so the room looks completely trashed.
Once that’s done you have two new stages and in level select make it a button press to switch between saberwulf and Mira’s etc.

My other issue is ok fans want this or that why can’t Ig be straight up with us and say here are the things we can and can’t or here’s what we need from you to do x,y,z. It’s clear as day we have no issues doing a community fund.

While I am hoping for a reskinned/recolored home stage for those characters without one as a decent trade-off, the bolded is also a pretty good example of the expectation disconnect we’re talking about.

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I think that there is understanding on the part of KI fans. Well, maybe not after the initial reduced stage news dropped. But outside of a few particularly embarassing blow ups and some toxic streams, I’m not aware of any developers getting harassed ad nauseum or threatened or worse about any development aspects over the history of this new game, though who knows, maybe that’s how Keits tweets came about. lol… Keits tweets. Sorry. Moving right along. :slight_smile:

I just wonder if there’s any way to help better align what they can do with what we expect them to do. If there’s a better way to do it that helps fans and developers alike, that perhaps goes beyond relying on our compassion and understanding.

As far as what you quoted, I think it does a good job of illustrating the fact that different opinions abound. Of course they’re not going to please everyone. I love SL, but perhaps having SL means that the guy who thinks SL existing means they can’t move on until they “finish what they started” is upset.

Maybe they can’t please that guy. Maybe all the communication and clarity and whatever won’t help because to that guy, we always got X and we should continue to get X because who cares about getting Y or Z when we don’t get X.

But at the very least, it might help some to know what can happen and what can’t. What’s possible now or down the road and what’s not and perhaps why. Or what choosing one thing means for other things. Perhaps that doesn’t stop people from wanting stages, but perhaps some might say “well, I really want stages for Mira, Eyedol the other homeless characters, but not if it means I can’t get A, B, C, D, E, F AND G. I don’t care about B, E and F, but I like G and C and I’ll be damned if I choose stages over A.”

I personally want stages for Mira and Eyedol, but what if they got altered versions of existing stages, does that mean we can still get A, even if it means losing B through G? Again, I’m not saying fans should steer the ship. But maybe it would help both sides be happier with the content that’s delivered or not delivered if the expectations could be more accurately aligned? Just a thought.

I’m not a developer, but do you really think that would only take eight hours? Would there be lighting involved or new textures that would need to be added anywhere? Plus wouldn’t it take time to animate a new version of the stage thumb?

I like the idea of a castle for Mira. I also love that background part from Sabrewulf’s stage. It’s actually my favorite part. I just wonder how much altering a stage and making it complete would actually take. Eight hours seems like an awfully short amount of time, but I really have no context, so I wouldn’t know. :slight_smile:

Yeah, that’s kinda where I’m at too. I would love to see altered versions of existing stages for Mira and Eyedol if it meant still be able to get other stuff, but I don’t know what the trade-off actually is. Simply recoloring Jago’s stage for Shadow Tiger’s Lair sounded like a very involved proposition when Adam Isgreen brought it up and that didn’t even involve moving around any assets, so who knows.

I’m not just guessing I’ve worked with many ingame engines and hoping to release my own game one day but if they kept the lighting and just moved a few things around with a talented team like that an easy 8-10 hour project for like 2 team members to tackle.

Lighting is where everything gets super complicated due to it affecting everything in the stage. If they simply took out the chair and back wall to show the background probably take like 5-6 hours for two team members to take and the portal staying open is just a recoding of the level and since it’s all background items moving them to a knocked down position shouldn’t take more then another 5 hours so let’s say 12 hours with two stage designers who really know what their doing.

I can understand why people want new stages, but to me, the value of a stage isn’t that great compared to other things. After taking in the scenery a couple times, I start to drown out the background.

Kilgore will give me a lot more enjoyment than all four of the “missing” stages. With Kilgore, I have a new character to learn and about 25ish matchups to learn for him. Stages don’t really add more replay value to a game than actual characters do.

Then there’s the argument to give Mira and Eyedol stages only. Knowing how stuff works, IF we get them, we’ll probably see a lot of, “Arbiter got a stage, but the other guests didn’t! Give us RAAM and Rash stages!” It’s a shame not everyone got a stage, but we were never promised a stage for every character this season, so I don’t feel cheated. At this point, I think it’s better to keep the game alive and growing with new fighters.

What about testing and certification? Design discussion, approvals, etc? That still seems like a huge underestimation considering the scale of the project and audience involved.

What I’m trying to get at is if they really wanted to remodel two stages to give Mira and eyedol a stage they could with minimal costs.

Personally I love the way IG communicates with us, they are like the only devs that actually do.

Ed Boon drives everyone nuts with his trolls and teases, personally I find it annoying, cheap way to spin the hype.

Capcom does not communicate at all, SF5 suffers crippling issues that community is vocal about on any kind of SF medias, yet Capcom does not even bother acknowledging these issues, skins wont sell by themselves.

I think keeping customers informed is a good thing, they have more clue what to expect, how game and content developing works, they know when its fair to complain and when it is not.

I was very active on MKX forums during PC abandonment case, and amount of misinformation about anything (why guest chars? Why abandonment? Why crappy port? Why it takes so long? Why bad netcode? Why Boon wont tell us anything? etc.) back there was off the charts, all because WB did not bother to inform community about anything, so everyone had their own vision of answers.

I think developers should stay in contact with community to build trust and give message that given game is more than just a product to push out and forget about it, players have to feel passion from the game:

When you hear KI soundtrack, you know Mick Gordon was passionate about it and contained essence of each character in their themes.

When you see how varied cast is visually-wise and gameplay-wise, that each character has unique playstyle and mechanics (unlike many FGs when u have buttloads of characters and all are rushdown for example), you know that Keits and combat design team actually have a vision and know what they are doing.

Managing expectations is difficult inside of a community, IMO most of these expectations have source from looking at new game through lenses of existing content and previous installments.

Until S3 every character had his own stage, so people got kinda worried when they found out some characters wont have home, these are consequences of raising bar highly.

KI1 and 2 had those various finisher moves, so people are wondering why KI2013 does not have them and to be fair I think they are kinda reasonable, there is no excuse for KI2013 to not have them.

As for Keits tweet, I just hope he is mindful that casuals always want more characters but do not see big picture, they will try new flashy characters for week or two and move on to another minecraft letsplays or whatever. Personally I want more stages/finishers/cosmetics because I am scared that too many characters would cripple balance, and I wont learn them all in a lifetime anyway (I dont like to mess around, either im fully commited to character or I dont touch him). If devs can assure me that balance is not problem for them, I`m all for new characters.

EDIT: As a side note, my suggestions for Mira and Eyedol stage would be:

Mira: Maya`s stage at night with bats and big moon. Context would be like she wants to invade Maya or something.

Eyedol: Astral Plane with purple floor or some background alterations. (I would prefer some gladiator-style arena but we are on budget here)