Jeff Kaplan on the Overwatch team’s size and dedication
In response to a forum thread asking if Overwatch needed more developers to speed up their response time, Game Director Jeff Kaplan popped in to not only answer the question, but discuss topics ranging from work ethic to harassment. It’s a lengthy response, but we’re only going to discuss some of the particulars. If you’d like to read the full thing, head over to the forums.
What stood out to us most is Kaplan’s explanation for why the developers don’t post more often:
Our passion and love is for making and playing Overwatch. Things like posting on the forums — for many of us — is not a normal or core part of our job. From Day 1, we felt like we wanted to be a development team that communicated more openly with our player base. We tried to make as many posts on these forums as possible. Our intention — more than anything — was show a presence and let you know that we’re listening. We’re not naive enough to think that we can sufficiently address each player’s concerns here. But we do want you to know that we — the OW development team — are here with you, listening.
We try to do other things to let you know that we’re part of this community as well. We make Developer Update videos so we can talk directly to you and explain what we’re doing and why we’re making decisions. We do not hide behind online handles or layers of Community Managers and PR Spokespeople.
Developers speak to you directly, using our real names.
And if you’ll allow me to speak openly for a moment — it’s scary. Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there. All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it’s extremely intimidating and/or time consuming. It’s very easy to post the wrong thing and make a “promise” to the community that no one intended to make. Once we say we’re working on something, we’re not allowed to “take it back”. It’s set in stone.
Also, because we are open with you and do not hide behind an anonymous handle (like all of you have the luxury of doing), we often times get personally attacked and threatened.
Most great developers I know just love being head’s down making or playing games. The “public speaking/posting” part of the job is downright scary and intimidating. It often feels like there is no winning.
If you’ve spent any time at all in the gaming community, you’ll know his point is reasonable. Any misstep — and sometimes merely letting your existence be known — is almost inevitably met with harassment and personal threats. When the outcome of updating your game’s community on its development will result in stalking, doxxing, and death threats, it simply isn’t worth it. His point isn’t a new one, either. It’s been a topic in the gaming industry for years now, and just earlier this week, designer Charles Randall tried to explain how gaming’s toxicity prevents developers from being candid about their work.
A developer’s silence, at this point, should surprise no one. Nor is it an indication of whether or not they’re actively working on or developing a game or any of its lingering issues. Sometimes, a developer would rather develop than voluntarily stick their neck into a guillotine.
Jeff Kaplan’s commentary on the Overwatch team’s work ethic drew our attention, too.
The day we announced/launched/put OW into Beta, the game belonged to a large community. And we truly do see ourselves as the custodians — not overlords — of the game and community. With that said, something that no one can ever take from us is that the 100 or so of us on the team created something together that we truly believe in and stand behind. We have poured our hearts and souls into a game that we believe is special. We’ve staked our names and our careers on it. We try — every waking hour — to show how much love and magic we believe Overwatch can represent.
Since the day we have launched, we’ve only increased our efforts and dedication. Overwatch is a 24/7, 365 days a year affair for us. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s 5 o’clock on a Friday evening. Overwatch doesn’t stop because it’s our kids’ birthday.
Part of this, we hope, is metaphor and hyperbole rather than a literal description of the development team’s efforts. Much like the gaming community is plagued with toxicity, the gaming industry is notorious for its long hours, especially the demon known as crunch. We can see how these would feed into each other: gamers demanding more from developers, and well-meaning developers buckling down and putting in more hours to get it done.
We hope the Overwatch team isn’t willing to harm themselves just to squash one more bug — and they aren’t actually skipping or ignoring their child’s birthday. No one, neither player nor developer, should be skipping their kid’s birthday for a game. Overwatch is great, but it isn’t worth a Cat’s in the Cradle situation.
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