Sunday, May 31, 2009


Design vision and player wishes often seem to clash. Sometimes it's a minor difference in opinion/expectation, sometimes it's fairly significant. And that can be seen in some of the heated posts on game forums. Players wonder why the heck we don't just give them what they want. Some designers will take the "cuz I said so" approach while some will take the "there's a good reason, just trust me" approach.

I personally believe in the honest, open dialog approach. But I understand why so many don't. Frankly, players chew you up regardless so it's reasonable to ask yourself: why bother?

As designers, we have to strive not to fall into the: I'm gonna do this because I can, I got the power and because that's what "I" like. Which is somewhat paradoxical as I also consider designers to be artists and I do not believe an artist should bastardize his art to please others. He should be true to his vision and let others discover its beauty.

But then, we're not truly artists, are we? I guess we're more like scriptwriters on a TV series who have this (hopefully) awesome story to deliver in so many episodes. Sometimes we need to adjust some characters or events based on our audience's response. I remember thinking that when I watched the cast interviews of Battle Star Galactica before the finale. They were saying how Anders (who was only meant to have a small 2-3 episode role) was turned into a main character in reaction to the fans hating him so much for hooking up with Kara (I hated him for it too and ended up loving him by the end of the series!).

Like scriptwriters, we cater to an audience that gives almost instant feedback throughout the creation process. Sometimes our response will go against their wishes and still work out for the best (as in BSG) and sometimes it won't. But invariably, the fans' voices will influence the direction we take, sometimes steering us in a different path than originally intended.

In UO, I've been facing that same dilemma, namely with the gardeners. My vision as a designer, which was also shared by many on the team, isn't shared by quite a few of the gardeners. A bug introduced a way for players to grow some plants in hues we didn't want them because frankly they are an eye sore. While the bug was quickly fixed, we decided not to revert the few "ugly plants" they had obtained during the bug, since we figured that would be the end of it. But turns out players remained with a number of colored seeds that allow them to keep growing those horrors and cross-pollinating them, which makes me cringe beyond words.

So I looked into the code on how to revert all existing ones and neuter the remaining offensive seeds. Once I found the solution, I went to the gardeners forums to make a post telling them the fix for these abominations was on its way! But what I found was a really long thread of excited players sharing their experiments results, building up cross-pollination charts, giving each other tips on how to achieve certain hues and certain breeds. It was like watching a bunch of kids in a toy store. I had this strange mix of major annoyance, amusement and pride at how nice the kids were playing with each other.

And I just didn't have the heart to post... After thinking about it long and hard, I just reverted the "fix". It's still a hard to swallow humble pie but if it doesn't create imbalances and is just a matter of personal preferences, sometimes it's ok to let design vision take the backseat.


Uriah Heep said...

And we thank you for listening and realizing that sometimes it's the simple things we really enjoy.

DevilsOwn said...

Sakkarah, those colors would not be so awful, I think, if the plants, all plants, were properly hued. Perhaps after SA rolls out, successfully!, you could get some interest going on working on that.

John said...

*mwah!* Me and my plants love you Sakkarah!
See, most people think the colored plants are hideous and have no purpose other than to be an eyesore, but that's because most people are rather unimaginative decorators. Colored plants, while less versatile than the plain ones nevertheless have very functional purposes.
White red and green plants make great decoration for Christmas. White specifically works great for any snow-themed house. Blaze, Orange, and Black work great for Halloween. The purple and bright blue plants make a good contrast for Marble houses. All the colors work for a house designed based on a color-scheme.
These plants should be treated more as blotches of color than as plants. Think of them as different brush-strokes of color.
Since UO has few decorations readily available, the creative people create their own decorations from a mixture of different items. Grand Pianos and Aquariums are the best known examples, but the creations are limited only by our imaginations.

Take this picture for example of a Wedding I decorated:
Note that only the plants and rocks, and chairs functioning as they were designed.

/end spiel

Keep up the good work not fixing those bugs! :-D

Heather said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your decision. These plants have really revitalized the art of gardening... and yes, some are pretty hideous, but frankly, some are quite nice!

Flora Green said...

Thank you a thousand times over, Sakkarah. I am absolutely thrilled with your decision. You've made some people very happy. :)

Regine "Sakkarah" Abel said...

LOL I had not noticed all the recent replies to this.

John, you'll get no arguments from me about that. I have used plants in the funkiest ways myself and countless of other random items to create decorations for my houses. I mostly have issues with the neon and really bright, over the top colors. I think there could have a been a much better set of hues chosen for the plants. Bright orange didn't have to be so bright. And the purple? GAH! Even the bright blue makes me want to cry. (Btw, I like your waterfall)

DevilsOwn, I've been preaching about that myself before I joined the team. I dunno that changing the current plants will happen (though I'm still hoping) but this will definitely be taken into considering going forward.

John said...

I've just had an epiphany! You know why no one uses the colored plants as it it? They're packed too densely.

I'm sure you've heard of all the gardeners who put for the idea to have only the flower of the plants hued a distinct color. This is the same idea, just simpler. If we could get some of the naturalist quest colors onto the scattered plant graphics, we could simply just stack plants for the same effect.

As colored plant currently stand, they're basically just big lumps of color. The colors aren't the problem, but their density.