Overwatch's Jeff Kaplan Explains Why It's "Scary" For Devs To Post Online
"[T]here are some pretty mean people out there."
Making and maintaining a game like Overwatch is no easy task. But even something like discussing the game in public can be a challenge for a variety of reasons, a subject that Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan recently discussed in a lengthy forum post.
Kaplan shared his thoughts in a thread where players--citing the lack of forum posts from Blizzard developers--questioned if the Overwatch team has enough people on it. According to Kaplan, the development team has grown from 70 at launch in May 2016 to just over 100 now. "Even though I wouldn't say we're necessarily a 'small' team as modern development standards go, we're certainly not an overly large team either," he said.
"We view ourselves as artists and craftspeople and we like to avoid that feeling of being 'cogs in a large machine.' We like the fact that we own Overwatch together as a unified team with a shared, collective vision. There is not one person--or select people--who dictates what we do. We're not peons of some visionary--just implementing his or her vision--and we're certainly not beholden to any corporate 'overlords' telling us what we can or cannot do. We are 100+ game developers who absolutely love playing and making Overwatch."
Kaplan admitted that the team has made mistakes but noted that Blizzard tries to speak directly with fans using their real names, rather than using aliases or communicating through community managers. "And if you'll allow me to speak openly for a moment--it's scary," he said.
"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 oftentimes get personally attacked and threatened. Most great developers I know just love being heads 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. As a result, there are a small few of us who do most of the posting here."
"It's not exactly what I would call a safe environment for creative people to openly express their thoughts and feelings."
Although he doesn't state it explicitly, Kaplan's latest post feels like a call for players to remember that developers are human beings who don't have unlimited resources. "If we post, 'We're talking about Mercy,' immediately there is an expectation that she is going to be radically changed in the next patch when the truth is, we might just leave her how she is for a while," he said. "We're not allowed to post that here without our bosses (and I am talking literally here) receiving emails from some of you demanding we be fired. It's not exactly what I would call a safe environment for creative people to openly express their thoughts and feelings."
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