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On developer interaction and behind-the-scenes info

Anne Stickney

There's an interesting thread going on right now on the official forums, concerning the possibility of an ongoing series of interviews or video content exploring the behind-the-scenes at Blizzard. CM Zarhym chimed in with a mention of the A Day in the Life series that was released during Blizzard's 20 year anniversary celebration. But more importantly, he noted that it takes a lot of resources to put that kind of feature together, which is why Blizzard tries to pair things like interviews and behind-the-scenes info with big announcements.

And that's completely understandable. It takes time, effort and resources to put together a feature -- time and resources that could be spent on better things, like improving and working on that game we love to play. But after many other inquires and suggestions on the subject, Zarhym shared another, longer post that made everything just a little more clear -- and raised some good points about developer interaction in general.

After reading some of the follow-up responses to Neth's and my posts, I have a slightly different, more personal angle on this discussion I want to share!

Posted by Oratory:

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in a developer meeting where various things are discussed and ideas thrown around brainstormed. And probably get bored after realizing it's not as exciting as I imagine it.

Maybe I'm being xenophobic here but I think the high production values of things Blizzard puts out with all the translations hampers the ability to do more things. Quality over quantity is usually ideal but raw dev notes would be pretty cool.

I totally understand this desire you and others have expressed. I kind of relate it to desires I have to know more about how bands I listen to get along outside of playing music (social dynamic, if you will), what their rehearsals are like, how they collaborate when writing, what their production process is when making an album, etc. I have the same kinds of curiosities about movies and the actors/staff making them.

It's pretty analogous across all arts and entertainment industries, and I think it's because the overarching goal is to create an extremely polished piece or product that moves, inspires, and/or entertains people. The audience is usually not given much of a view into the nuts and bolts of any particular project though, unless some sort of behind-the-scenes feature is released. But even then it's generally not raw video footage, or some producer's diary made public. In whatever format it's delivered, it's scrutinized, polished, and packaged for public consumption first. And that's really what I was getting at in my initial posts, including why it takes resources from around Blizzard to create any such behind-the-scenes material. Profits and revenue aside, employees are resources, of which there is a finite amount, who have any number of day-to-day tasks to keep this ship sailing. :)

Maybe this is getting too esoteric or abstract... I believe that those who pour blood, sweat, and tears into creative endeavors to ideally entertain the masses want to have a lot of control over how information about the work and its creators is presented. The process of completing the work might sometimes be boring, or even dirty, and if an audience gets to peek behind the curtain too much it might irrevocably change their perception of the finished product -- not necessarily because the revelation is damning, but because it takes impact away from the intended experience of the creation itself.

And, all that said, we still want to share with you what we can when we can, because World of Warcraft is ultimately an ongoing collaborative endeavor, in which having an engaged and informed audience providing input is incredibly important. That's why we talk everyday with the public on the forums and social media. We can talk more candidly without necessarily showing you all the nuts and bolts we use to generate the 1.21 gigawatts necessary to keep the mystery and the history unfolding. WHAT.

Zarhym makes an excellent point here about the nature of behind-the-scenes content -- the whole point of it is that it's offering a glimpse of what goes on in the process of creating that thing we love. But at the same time, that kind of material can't just be footage of someone sitting at a desk programming lines of code -- it has to have some kind of entertainment value. And that takes time and effort to put together and produce.

In this day and age, interaction is an instantaneous thing. Because of this, it is easier than ever to actually talk to and hear back from writers, artists, actors, game designers, and whoever else happens to create the things you really, really get behind and love. But that in and of itself is a double-edged sword -- while most creators enjoy the fact that they can give and receive feedback in a lightning-fast fashion, at the same time spending hours poring over things like the forums or Twitter takes time away from actual development of that product you really, really get behind and love.

And beyond that is that nebulous gray area of expectation and delivery. Just because we can talk to the people who make those things we love, doesn't mean that they're obligated to respond. Just because we offer feedback on a product doesn't mean that the designer of that product is somehow obligated to take it. We're fortunate that the developers take time out of their day to listen to what we have to say -- it's not something that companies normally do, not in the instant-access kind of way that Blizzard offers.

Because of that unique, different nature of interaction, the line between too much and too little information isn't really clearly laid out. But I think we can trust in the fact that the CMs and the development team are definitely speaking up when there's something cool to say. While it'd be cool to see more behind-the-scenes information, I think I'd rather have Blizzard working on making the game I love to play than talking about making it. For more on the discussion, be sure to check the forum thread on the subject -- it's a fascinating read, almost a behind-the-scenes of behind-the-scenes features.

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