Facial Recognition

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It’s been a bit over 24 hours since Wildstar threw the switch to convert from subscription only to free to play with subscription option. This would be more newsworthy if the folks at Carbine had zero issues in the process, and were just waking up for another hum-drum day herding rowsdowers by the time you read this post, but history tells us that even the most prepared team is guaranteed to run into problems when enacting a change of such magnitude. Things rarely go “by the book”, “according to plan”, and almost never never never go as smoothly as the most vile mouth-breather on the forums insists it should.

We as a collective consumer base have gone through many F2P transitions over the years — DDO, LotRO, EQ2, TSW and a whole host more — so this is not our first rodeo. We know that things don’t “just work”, and that there’ll be problems during the transition. For Wildstar, this has amounted to frequent server bounces, lag, and probably a whole dump-truck worth of bug reports that we’re just not privy to. All in all, a “typical” conversion day scenario from the consumer perspective.

That doesn’t stop some people from whining and complaining and insulting and demanding and proclaiming. A lot of people blame anonymity for bad-behavior, but we should also blame the usual impersonal interactions that the Internet affords us as well. These are the official channels that are useful for ensuring that the flow of information reaches it’s intended targets, like bug logs and Twitter accounts which let us know what stage of progress we’re currently experiencing, but we rarely get actual insight into what wrangling these monumental processes look like.

Like this:

and this:

and this

Many folks at Carbine have been posting live updates from their offices while they worked the weekend and the launch day. It’s kind of a rare, live look into an industry that, despite the kind of interaction that social media has allowed producers and consumers to have, is still pretty much a black box to the majority of those outside of it. For many, game development and studio operation is just magic: an announcement is made, updates are teased, and one day the product shows up on shelves or auto-downloaded to our hard drives. It might as well be sorcery for all the rank and file gamer knows about how the industry operates on a day to day basis. Most of the time, it’s probably not that exciting, but such insight allows us to humanize the process.

Remembering that there are people working on these products — not just remembering, but understanding what that means — should bring us a sense of gratitude. I mean, we should have that sense anyway. These folks could be working in less stressful environments, but choose to work in an industry that they enjoy, that we enjoy and that many on this side of the screen would profess to wanting to be a part of, all despite the drive-by vitriol that they receive when things don’t go well for the consumer. In these linked Tweets and the Tweets of other Carbine employees, we see people preparing their office for the long haul with food and drinks, and how they’re setting up their conference room to facilitate communication for rapid response. We see them working, and not just “assumed to be working”…actually working on the problems that so many people are complaining about like there’s no consequence. And even though they’ve been at it for several days now, you can see that these Carbine folks mean business, and that they get great satisfaction from when things go well, and from making things that suck, suck less. I wish more studios had the kind of culture that allowed for the reality of their day-to-day operations to seep through to the consumer base, so we don’t end up thinking of them just as Twitter bots or specially colored names on the forums.

Thanks to you, Carbine folks, for being transparent and keeping us in the loop. We know that you don’t like problems any more than we do; all we can do on this side of the screen is wait helplessly, which for some translates into impatience and anger, but having a window into the world of an operations center in the middle of this difficult time makes me (at least) feel satisfied and in some ways in-touch with the real people who make our entertainment possible.

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