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The Division 2 Devs' Response To Crunch And Player Feedback Is A Game-Changer

Massive Entertainment explain the value of transparency in The Division 2's development, how to manage player feedback, and how to maintain a constantly evolving online game.

Many gamers can point to studios who've lost their trust or respect, whether as a result of implementing brutal crunch periods, misleading players, or communicating poorly. But some studios are trying to do things differently, even if that means admitting mistakes and making big changes based on player feedback.

In a new GameSpot video feature, Jess McDonell dives into the story behind a studio doing just that with The Division 2: Massive Entertainment.

With the advent of the internet, we live in a world where consumers are clued in, wise to technology, and deeply aware of what they want. In the realm of gaming, inviting player feedback can bring about a better product, or simply earn goodwill and show transparency to a loyal playerbase; a currency that is worth quite a lot, especially for ongoing games that hope to retain their players.

In the video feature, Jess speaks with Massive community developers Petter Martensson and Christoph Gansler about how they engage with and incorporate player feedback with the live service game.

Check out the full video above, and come back soon to see our full Q&A with Martensson and Gansler.

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Avatar image for dynamotnt

massive haven't handled division 2 well at all.

the game came out great, and by april 5th it turned into anthem, and it just got worse from there, console fanbase dropped off, on xbox alone it went from 450 gamers on average looking for members to 70. was like that for 3 weeks and untill they announced a raid.

normally a raid is released around the time that the dedicated players have geared up for it, yet with every patch through may the goalposts were moved in some subtle way and by the raid launch some people had to entirely reinvent their build, from whatever diversified character they had, to a nothing but pure dps/damage to elites build.

because by nature, assault rifles are great in all ranges, they massively tuned the rng on them, so you could play for 600 hrs and find nothing but shit.

doing matchmaking on the game, you spend 100% of your time carrying noobs. it's completely dire.

if you have to get this game, pc only don't bother with console.

Avatar image for cappy

@dynamotnt: your entitled to your opinion of course. And you make some good points about the Raid. But, the Division 2 turned into Anthem? I don’t think anyone is going to take you seriously after reading that unless you specify. Division 2 with an 84 metacritic rating and 7 user score turned into Anthem with like a 57 metacritic rating and 4 user rating? Maybe you just mean it turned into it because the player base dropped? Not sure what it is now but seems really healthy. I don;t have to wait more than a few seconds to do any matchmaking missions or bounties.

I just have to ask, how many hours have you put into the $60 game? I think most players feel they well got their monies worth. Do you think the same can be said for Anthem? It’s just a really inaccurate comparison.

Yes, the endless end game still has problems, few Devs have really cracked that nut yet. Personally I still enjoy it but I only get to play video games a few times during the week and some on weekends.

Re: the Raid, I should add that. The YouTube vids of the raid all have said it is really well designed, with many giving kudos to the systems.

When dishing out criticism, I think it is important to set a reasonable standard by looking at what is possible, what has been done. What Devs in your opinion has nailed the endless PVE end game model? The only one’s I can think of are Warframe and maybe Destiny. So Division 2 May not have cracked that code yet, but just because it isn’t as good as the only 2 other Devs who have, doesn’t mean they are bad, and certainly not equal to the possibly worst Games as a service to ever launch I.e. Anthem.

Avatar image for dynamotnt

@cappy: i enjoyed the game allot, played fairly evenly to prevent burn out. april 5th patch comes out, with wildly tuned rng on drops, almost like they listened to some sort of expert on how best to throttle their games to keep people playing and spending in the store.

the game had a few bugs at launch, revive hive etc none of them bothered me, loved the game anyway, april 5th patch comes out, in an effort to slow peoples progress they did the drop change as I mentioned earlier, but also added a bug that gave you specialisation points as a reward over and over from just normal matchmaking, by the end of april 6th i had maxxed every spec, so they try to slow it down, and inadvertantly speed it up.

to combat their incompetance, and just after radically tuning drop rate, they disable matchmaking lol... for over a week it wouldn't even set you up. you had other bugs that would pin you in place, and it only annoyed me because when that bug happened, and the revive hive bug it would literally mean i'd have to cancel any solo mission, many at the end of a solo challenging run.

then with the announcement of the raid, the goalposts start to move because they're terrified of making another game breaking mistake that might inadvertantly make the game fun.

then shortly after the raids' launch they say it didn't sell to well on consoles, and have no plan to tune difficulty seperate for the console audience that simply can't track targets like u can on pc. no matter how good you are.

Avatar image for cappy

@dynamotnt: i’m not sure if it is that you and have had different experiences for if I just don’t see those issues as very bad. If the second case, I certainly wouldn’t say my opinion is right, and yours is not. Might be just subjective.

I have encountered a few bugs, almost all for me were fixed in the first or second patch. I still get stuck on a piece of environment occasionally but just have to dive to break free.

Re: the RNG, I’ve found it pretty good. I’m not trying to get the perfect build though, just one good. So far, without any sense of “ endless grinding” but just playing for fun, I’ve had no trouble gearing up for world tier 5 challenging (which is the second highest difficulty). Have not tried heroic difficulty yet, but my hope is I can just about do it with a decent group.

I do ‘t Think there is anything in cash shop except cosmetics, so I don’t see how they could tune the game to push you into cash shop.

Really my only complaint is that the end game doesn’t seem to be endless for me. I think I will need more pretty soon. Hoping the new DLC, which is all free, will extend it well enough. I still enjoy enough to play 5-7 hours a week still, after 150 hours spent on the game.

Avatar image for cappy

One of my favorite Devs. The first huge sign I saw of Massive’s pro-consumer stance was when they continued to support Division 1 after it already had good sales. They launched a PTS server and just dug deeply into understanding what the player’s wanted. They game got steadily better, ended in a great place, and the Division 2 launch was great partly because of this.

One of the amazing things Massive has learned and implements is how they make player requested changes while still sticking to their design vision. Case in point: signature ammo. There were many requests to make it drop more frequently. But that would have lessened how “special” it was. Instead, massive found another way to make signature ammo drop rates more fun: they made it less a mystery on how and when you get those drops by adding a counter that, once full, drops the ammo. I have not tried it yet, but on paper it sounds like an elegant, fantastic solution. If in practice it doesn’t work, they will try something else. But just making it more frequent seems like it would take that needed tension and strategy out of using that ammo wisely.

Avatar image for dynamotnt

@cappy: they continued to support it, because it was a games as a service model.

Avatar image for cappy

@dynamotnt: Destiny is a games as a service model too, but Bungie didn’t invest in getting and acting on player feedback they way Massive did. Bungie did fix the game, but they have not spent the resources and time making the many, many incremental fixes based on and in service of player feedback.

Remember, Division 1 sold well, they had made considerable money, but it was a PR nightmare. Players were totally pissed, some calling the game unsavable and players left the community in droves. Massive could have cut their losses and left. But they believed they could use player feedback and testing to fix and improve them game. That’s the only reason to launch a PTS. Their businesss model is built on listening to community and being more transparent than any other dev I know of. They deserve credit for that, and they have my support as long as they continue down that path.

Avatar image for dynamotnt

@cappy: in all fairness. Destiny, it's dlc, and destiny 2 were initially all meant to be 1 game, that activision later butchered against the advice of bungie's several head staffers, marty mcdonnel was another, the composer of the music was let go because he was outspoken against butchering the game, so it could make them money over the 10 years.

if you think back, to what game destiny 1 was at launch, the polish the feel of the gunplay. Bungie didn't need help, they didn't need feedback, they were a trusted dev with a vision, trusted to deliver that vision, it only sucked because of activision's scumbaggery.

you may or may not like halo but bungie are a great team, their only problem now is many who left due to activisions initial involvement were creative leads, who have since joined rockstar and others.

Massive on the other hand, they are good devs i've played the games they've made before division 1 and 2, but when it comes to online action rpg mechanics they struggle. and division 1 was forgivable, it was the first but you'd think after getting it to a great state where it's at now, division 2 wouldn't be so hard..

Avatar image for cappy

@dynamotnt: good points, i’ve never read that all of Destiny was supposed to be one game. But even so, story wise, I don;t think it would have fixed the mechanics of the game, like drop rates and how weapons worked re: regular/elemental, etc) which Bungie had to tweak consistently, and how the endless game modes worked.

Regardless, all we are left with is: Maybe Bungie could have done what no one else has done, and produced a perfect endless looter/shooter, if their publisher was not in the picture. But the fact is it took them many versions and years of tweaking to get it right. Two versions of the game in a row.

I mean, Destiny q ended in a great place, but Destiny 2 repeated many of the same mistakes Destiny 1 did and it was only with Forsaken that the game got back to being good.

Division 2 on the other hand seemed to have learned a ton from their previous game and It launched way better with many lessons ,earned and a whole new level of depth and brand game systems.

Of course it’d be silly to argue which Dev is “better.” I think they both rock in different ways. To me, Massive has proven they learned a lot from their mistakes, though they have not quite figured out the endless endgame thing yet. But they are doing it in a hugely transparent way, with things like the state of the game announcements. And even if you are not 100% happy with the outcome, you gotta give them that.

Avatar image for tempertress

@cappy: This is really interesting to hear. I've definitely seen evidence of this too. Thanks for sharing!