Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
Do you have to main X to develop X?
I addressed a question earlier today about whether designers should “main” the characters, classes or champions (depending on the game) that they work on.
This topic got a lot of traction, at least on my Twitter feed, so I thought I’d explore it a little more.
I phrased it as a question back to players: do you want designers to be objective or subjective about character design?
Someone commented that they wanted the designer to be objective about data (say win rates) but subjective about class design.
I had always assumed objectivity is the right way to go. This doesn’t mean a designer has to be clinical or cold-hearted or unempathetic. But it does mean they should view things from an impartial lens. I sometimes get suspicious when a designer is too close to her design. There is a risk she may want players to like her design at all costs. (For example, if her champion in LoL is hard to counter, that may increase play rates and even player affinity for that champion.) Maybe she gives her character special perks or content that others don’t get. Maybe she just sets expectations with players that she’s personally looking out for their character, so they feel that much safer.
Is this a good thing?
I feel like the player experience when discussing their character, at least on social media and forums, is often adversarial to other players. You might feel like your character got the raw end of the deal, but they feel their character got the raw end of the deal. I wonder if that’s why there’s such a strong sentiment about having a developer in their corner who players their character.
But as a developer, ideally the way we view characters, classes or champions is not adversarial. They are all our children, and we want to see them all succeed. I played a warrior and priest the most in WoW. I worked on death knights a lot, but never spent that much time playing them. Hell, if anything I felt like I should spend my time playing on a different class so I would learn a class that I didn’t know as well.
I feel like what a lot of players are saying when they want a developer who mains their character is they want someone who understands their problems, because the dev has experienced them first hand. That makes some sense. But if all design problems were so intuitive to designers, then we wouldn’t need player feedback, because we wouldn’t make mistakes in the first place.
I think as a dev you definitely need to understand the problems, or you may underestimate (or overestimate) the severity or maybe even try to fix the wrong problem. I’ve seen this happen before - hell, I’ve done this before. You need to understand your game at a pretty detailed level to be effective at working on it, and yes this can be a challenge when working on very large games. I’m still not sure that means that somebody on the development team needs to main the character they are working on.
(As an aside, I’m strictly talking about the design work itself that goes into character creation, not whether or not the designer in question is active on forums, Reddit or other social media specifically addressing your concerns or answering your questions. That may be a problem, but I think it’s orthogonal to this one.) (Source