I like WildStar a lot. You knew from an early time that I liked the game’s aesthetic and sense of humor, and as time went on it became clear that I also liked the mechanics and the approaches it has toward an endgame. When I finally got my first hands-on playtime with the game, I liked that, too. What I’m getting at here is that WildStar is currently fighting with Final Fantasy XIV for the title of my absolute favorite MMO, and they both coexist in a space of I want to play you both all the time.
But some people aren’t in that boat. Some people aren’t that wild about the game, even some people whom I work alongside. And that is totally fine.
Last week’s events made me decide to do one of my periodic column-topic-switches to discuss the fact that there is going to be bad press about WildStar out there, sometimes even bad press that complains about things that you don’t think are relevant. And the best thing you can do is be cool.
Games are the same way. The notes that WildStar hits are aiming at a really strong emotional connection, and for some people it’s not going to be there. I look at the game and I see a meeting of Firefly and Pixar wrapped up in an active engine with a really dynamic class setup. Those are all things that sound cool to me. Some people look at that and feel like it’s the exact opposite of what they want, and they move on to play something different.
Could the game aim for the middle of the road? Of course. But then it would deplete my positive reaction just as surely as it would ameliorate the negativity.
I can’t find the quote, unfortunately, but there was an interview in which the Mystery Science Theater 3000 writing staff was asked how they approached putting in obscure references. The response was that the team didn’t ever worry that not everyone will get the joke; the right people would get it, and they’d be thrilled to get an obscure reference. If you try to make something that appeals equally to everyone, you end up with something that truly appeals to no one.
Some people aren’t going to like WildStar. And if we, as a community, turn on them with the fury of a thousand suns, it doesn’t make the game look better. It makes us look like a bunch of screaming idiots who can’t handle the slightest bit of criticism, which is far worse for the game.
Why? Well, to start with, no one who is on the fence about trying a game wants to look into the heart of the community and see a bunch of screaming idiots. More to the point, if you see a lot of people getting really sensitive over criticism, your first instinct is that someone must have hit a nerve. Overreacting to negativity actually makes it look more accurate, not less.
Instead? Just shrug. Everyone’s entitled to different opinions, even if you’re of the mind that those opinions are kind of dumb. Not everyone has to like WildStar, and it’ll say more if we as an aggregate can just smile and move on if someone complains. Good feedback makes the game better, even if that feedback is mostly negative.
Why? Well, let’s start with the basics: It’s not your job to defend the game.
I don’t mean that in the sense that you aren’t employed by Carbine Studios. (Disregard that if you are, in fact, employed by Carbine Studios. Hey, guys. My ankle’s all better.) I mean that in the sense that the real defense of the game should come from the game itself. If you’re trying to mount a long-winded defense about how a game’s problems aren’t really problems, you are essentially playing the Xbox One game, in which you tell a room full of unhappy people that they’re not really unhappy.
“But that’s not relevant,” you say to your monitor, fully cognizant that I should not be able to hear you. “This is criticism or whatever about something that’s inaccurate, so surely the person leveling criticism just didn’t do the research!”
Sometimes that’s an excuse, but sometimes it’s accurate. But if that’s the case, you really don’t need to jump in with a pedantic explanation of why someone doesn’t know something. If someone is complaining that the game makes it too difficult to dye your gear when there’s an NPC five inches from your starting position labeled “Gear Colorist,” a correction is pointless. And if it’s not obvious, even if it’s a silly criticism, it’s one that should be leveled.
Beyond all of that, though, is the simple fact that some people are just not going to like the game. Some people are, in fact, going to give silly reasons for not liking the game that are just there because there has to be a reason, and it’s sometimes difficult to articulate what you dislike about a title.
And that’s fine. Even if the game is the best it can be, some people will dislike it.
The thing is, good design is also partly about knowing that some people are going to dislike your design. When I write an article that I’m really happy with, I know the sort of person who’s going to like it, and I know that some people who regularly read my writing will really dislike it. But if I only wrote columns that everyone liked, I couldn’t ever do a column that some people will love and some people will hate.